Tuesday 31 January 2017

New Year Reflections on 2016

Well it has been three years since I actively started blogging and as it is January it is a time for reflection upon what I got up to in the last year.  In general I have blogged less this year, probably due to returning to the world of work after an extended maternity leave, but I have still endeavoured to become a picture book Author and Illustrator, which is what my blogging aims to document.

So this year I started my Instagram account after hearing that it is how a lot of illustrators get spotted by agents.  I like it as a platform and it brings my work to a new audience judging from the likes and follows.  I treat it as a sketchbook showcase and show different work from what I show on my Facebook page and Twitter.  I’ve have not been approached by any agents yet though.

Speaking of agents, after going to the brilliant SCBWI Workshop; Getting Your Picture Book onto the Page with Elizabeth O Dulemba, I chatted with Sheila Averbuch about how she found Writer’s Digest Webinars (the live ones with access to editors and agents) very valuable in her path to publishing.  So I decided to try one and bought How to Write a Picture Book That Sells complete with a critique from a US agent .  While I found the webinar itself to be just okay (useful content but delivered by reading from slides) I was more interested in getting a professional critique on my current ‘best’ manuscript.  For the money I paid, I was initially disappointed with the four lines of feedback that I received.  The first two lines were positive and then I read these comments;

“I wish there was more of a story, though.  The picture book market is so competitive 
that I wonder if this story has enough in it to make it stand out from the rest.”

I couldn’t believe it, especially as I had just added more conflict to my latest draft, in truth I felt a bit despondent and stopped writing for a little while.  A few months later there was an opportunity to have a 121 session with Skylark a UK literary agency, organised by SCBWI BI NE.  So I got that manuscript out and read it again, I still thought it was good until I analysed it using Alayne Kay Christian’s Art of Arc self-study exercises .  The agent was right there wasn’t actually any story there at all.  It was a bittersweet moment of realisation that I need to revise that manuscript more before I can send it out for submission again.

So I didn’t submit this Picture Book manuscript to Skylark as it obviously wasn’t ready and because they are mainly Young Adult and Middle Grade agents.  Instead I decided to submit an old comic script that I had recently re-drafted.  And I was very surprised to get great feedback from Joanna Moult. Find out what she said here in Em Lynas’s write up of the event.  So I now feel encouraged to continue working on the both the comic a bit more and the picture book.

This year I have increased my volunteering duties for SCBWI, not only did I hang the SCBWI Illustrator Showcase in Seven Stories again, I am also now co-Network Organiser for the North East alongside Marie-Claire Imam-Guitierrez.  You can read an interview with me about the role in SCBWI's Words and Pictures, online magazine.  So far I have learnt a lot from watching Marie-Claire organise the wonderful Creating Believable Characters Event and I will be organising an Illustration event in the next few months.

The SCBWI BI Illustration Showcase at Seven Stories

My artwork output has diversified this year and now includes Caricatures and Comics!  Both as a result of doing Inkotber. I’ve done three Inktobers now and for Inktober2016 I wanted to do something a bit bigger to grow my audience.  I thought I’d draw and ink a page of my comic manuscript everyday but realised how ambitious that would be in the timescale of a month.  Instead I adapted Kate Bush’s song Under Ice into a 16 page, one panel per page, minicomic.  I am a massive fan of Kate Bush and was lucky enough to go to a concert of hers during her 2014 residency at the Eventim Apollo.  Under Ice is a song from a suite called the Ninth Wave on her 1985 album Hounds of Love.  It is a very visual suite of songs that I interpret as being about a woman falling overboard a ship and slipping in and out of consciousness before she is finally rescued.  Each song is either a dream or an account of what is happening.  As you can see from my  drawings, I imagine the song to be about Kate skating on a frozen river when it cracks and she falls in the water and dies, the ending sequence is her seeing herself under the ice and emerging as a spirit.

So did this grow my audience?  Yes it did!  And if you follow this blog you will find out when my next post is live, and I will tell you how.


  1. Thanks for this, Claire. I have the same experience as you, thinking I'd finished a story then discovering, a short time later, that there's still a long way to go. Good luck with the adventure.

    1. Thanks Candy, yes it sounds like it's a big part of the process. It's just happened again with the latest redraft. I know to keep persevering!

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