A change of direction

This week I am mostly sketching on a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, but I know I can’t keep drawing the same old sea view. Downstairs from the apartment where I’m staying is a ‘Hundred-year-old Olive Tree’. Well, that’s what they call it here. It just means it’s so old that nobody really knows how old it is! I decided it might be a good subject for a sketch but felt self-conscious about drawing ‘in situ’ so I took a photo with my phone and returned to the safe confines of my balcony. This is the result. 

100-year-old olive tree
I then had a couple of busy-doing-not-very-much days before revisiting cartoons. I’d really enjoyed doing the faces a few days ago and decided to challenge myself even further by looking at the whole body. As usual, there was plenty of advice on the Internet so I had a go with a couple of the sites I found.

My first attempt was not very successful but I’m showing it to you, anyway, just to prove I’ve been trying!

cartoon boy
I did a bit better today, I think, even though the legs are a bit wonky (wonkiness seems to be my style!) and even managed to adapt the drawing to represent one of the characters in the Agnil’s Worlds books! Can anyone guess who it is?

Which elf?
I do have a bit of a problem. My eraser/rubber is almost worn out! I must be able to buy one around here!

A mixed bag

Continuing with my drawing diary inspired by Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell’s, Five Point Plan, again proved a little tricky over the past few days…but I’ve kept going, albeit not every day. 

 

Five Point Plan

Chris Riddell’s Five Point Plan


My first drawing is one that I set as a challange to myself. I have a friend who, along with his partner, keeps alpacas in the province of Cordoba in Spain. I wondered if I could draw one…here’s the result of that little experiment. A decidedly pensive/angry alpaca! 

alpaca 

Since the last time I posted, I’ve transferred to Spain for a holiday so my second offering is a sketch of the view I have from the balcony. The view is quite beautiful and I’m not sure that without colour I can entirely do it justice. I have simplified what I can see just a little bit, it’s not quite to scale and, like most of my other drawings, it’s a bit wonky! 

Cala Salions 

Yesterday, we were invited to lunch by some friends and the effects of a huge lunch, one or two drinks and the heat meant that the drawing of this ‘rustic’ chair is probably more ‘rustic’ than reality! Another decidedly wonky sketch! 

chair 

Today I decided to try something a bit different.  Having unsuccessfully tried to draw my granddaughter’s face and abandoning the attempt, I Googled ‘drawing cartoon characters’ and came across the TutsPlus web site. Following some very simple instructions, I managed to draw these two characters! I did have fun drawing these but I don’t think any of my illustrator friends need feel threatened!

boy  old man 

Life gets in the way

I started this project fully intending to draw every day. I haven’t. The past couple of days have been quite hectic for me and I wasn’t able to sit down and sketch on those days. Life gets in the way sometimes and I know I mustn’t feel guilty about this. It’s a fun project and if guilt taints the fun, it just becomes a chore instead. I did have some time today so I’ve done two to atone for my ‘sins’!

The first one, a pair of scissors, continues my earlier still life drawings but I was starting to get a bit bored of doing that.


When Lou mentioned drawing with her eyes closed, I decided that I needed a little injection of that here too. This is a frog. I used fingers of my left hand to help guide and gauge where I should draw. The only slight cheats happened when I realised I’d forgotten to give the frog two eyes. I closed my eyes again and drew the second eye. Because the lines were quite feint, I went over them again with my eyes open to make sure they could be seen clearly. I promise I didn’t change the position of anything!


Today I’ve attempted something a bit different. A few days ago I found some very old photos I took in Spain around 1970. They record a Spain very different to how it is today. I’ve tried to reproduce two of those photos as sketches. This first one shows the end of the road where my uncle lived in a village in Navarra called Murchante. There was no tarmac, just a dust track leading into the fields and a man riding a donkey approaches. I have to tell you it’s a donkey because I don’t think it’s very recognisable! Even though the it was only a small element, it was very hard to draw! 

The last of today’s sketches shows the village of Vozmediano in the province of Soria around 1970. My aunt and cousins lived there at the time. Again, there were no tarmacked roads here nor any running water, apart from the River Quieles which has its source here. Vozmediano is a tiny village. I just read on Wikipedia that in the 2004 census there were only 45 residents.

Highs and lows

A few days ago I decided to sketch daily for a month, inspired by Chris Riddell, the new Children’s Laureate and his Five Point Plan.

Five Point Plan - Chris Riddell

When my friend, Louise, started sketching daily along with her family, I decided to join this interesting journey.

I’m not going to blog daily but every few days I will upload what I have done.

The first sketch, the Love-in-a-Mist, I posted a few days ago so here are the rest I have done since.

My second attempt was another flower, a little viola picked from my garden.

viola

Pleased with my effort, I decided to tackle something more ambitious and remembered my beloved teddy bear. As old as I am, worn and scruffy, one eye missing and the stuffing falling out of his feet, this bear has been with me all my life. Overall, I’m quite pleased with it even though the proportions aren’t quite right, the head is a little too small, one leg is longer than the other and one foot larger.

teddy bear

My next sketch nearly got the better of me. This shell was a real challenge, even more so than the bear. The curves and angles were difficult and I hope it looks 3D. I sweated over this one!

June14

Today I decided to try to take a step back. I started one sketch and was very unhappy with it. It sits abandoned in my sketch book. I found instead a small glass tea light holder. Again, it was harder than I thought and it came out wonky. I’m a bit disappointed but I’m showing it to you anyway. It’s all about the journey for me, not so much the end result. This one shows that things don’t always turn out the way you hope, even when they appear straightforward.
I won’t give up though!

June15

Inspiration

Inspiration is an elusive thing; a will-o’-the-wisp that dissipates as you approach. But this week I feel like I’ve won the jackpot as I’ve managed to grab hold of that bright light not once but twice!

Tulilautta3

When I wrote my last post about attending The People’s Books Prize Awards, I said that I came away itching to start writing again. Well, it didn’t happen for a while. Maybe I needed to come down from that euphoric cloud I’d been on.  I’ve been researching my new book for a long time but the story and the characters have been trapped inside me not knowing how to find their way out. I was worried it would never happen. On Tuesday I went into Cambridge to do some more research. I came away not having found what I’m looking for, which is quite frustrating. That afternoon I heard a voice in my head – the voice of one of my characters! I knew who it was and I was shocked by what he said but I knew I had to write it down. The first 350 words tumbled out onto the screen. I’d made a start. The saying goes, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’. I have several tens of thousands more words to write, but now I’ve ‘met’ my characters and know who they are as people, I can move forward and plan things out a bit better. I ought to say at this stage that it’s not another book in the Agnil’s Worlds series this time but something completely different. I shan’t give away too much right now as the seed is only just germinating.

The second inspiration came from the blog of my friend, Lou Minns, who, along with her family, is taking up an idea from author/illustrator, Chris Riddell, the newly announced Children’s Laureate in his ‘Five Point Plan’. Lou and her family are planning to do a daily drawing which she will upload to her blog for the period of a month.

Five Point Plan - Chris Riddell

Chris Riddell’s Five Point Plan

I haven’t picked up a pencil in many years but I do have drawing materials around the house left behind by my three highly talented and artistic children when they left home. When I read Lou’s blog I immediately dug out a sketchbook and discovered I had a beautiful chunky sketching pencil. What to draw, though? I happened to be sitting in the garden eating breakfast at the time so I headed straight for one of my favourite flowers, Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella). In the past I have loved photographing this amazing flower and have a whole set of them on my Flickr photostream. This is the first one I ever took.

Love-in-a-Mist

They self-seed like a weed around my garden but I leave them as I love them so much. I picked one and brought it over to the bench where I was sitting. Half an hour later I had drawn this.

11th June 2015

11th June 2015

Can I pledge to do a drawing a day for a month… or more? I don’t know, but I’m going to try. It’ll be difficult to post them every day so I may only do that once a week or so. It’s very therapeutic and a great incentive to move away from the computer screen for a while each day… though not for too long as I have a book to write! :)

The People’s Book Prize

After my very exciting day yesterday, attending The People’s Book Prize awards ceremony, I’m really very tired and perhaps I should be taking a nap rather than writing this blog post. The invitation had made it clear it was a ‘Black tie’ event, so I dusted off my best frock and matching bolero for the occasion. I don’t often get the chance to dress up for a formal event but always enjoy it when I do. On this occasion, however, it did feel slightly odd travelIing on the London Underground all dressed up in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday!Susan Navas at The People's Book Prize
I was the first to arrive ready for the official photographs and dress rehearsal. My feet were already hurting by the time I arrived as I’m not used to wearing high heels. After a short rest, I was led up some stairs in the beautiful historic building of Stationer’s Hall in London and had my photo taken, holding up my book. The holding up of books was a feature of the whole evening as were supposed to carry them around with us at all times!

After a dress rehearsal where we had to line up in our category groups in the correct order (alphabetical by book title), we were eventually taken down some steps and through to another very grand room where we had drinks and could mingle for a while before dinner.
We had to keep very strictly to timings as we’d been told that the ceremony was being filmed and broadcast live by Sky News, so when we were called into dinner, nobody lingered… we all followed each other, like a flock of sheep, into the dining room and sat down at our allocated places. I was lucky enough to find myself at a table of three women and six men – a very good balance of numbers, I thought!

photo 2I was the only female author at the table,  the others being: Joe Stein who was up for the fiction prize with his book, ‘Through Another Night’; Kevin Price with his children’s book ‘Curious Creatures’, Quentin Smith, another fiction author with ‘Huber’s Tattoo’; Rob Jones with his children’s book, ‘Bernard’, and, last but not least, Tim Wotton, who had written a memoir about living with cystic fibrosis called ‘How Have I Cheated Death?’

Beautifully presented and interesting dishes were presented to us, starting with pea mousse served with a sliver of air dried ham. You must understand they weren’t just any old peas and ham, the menu proudly announced the provenance of the two main ingredients – “Kentish Peas” and “Cumbrian Ham”.

photo 4For the main course we had Gressingham duck with fondant potato, cherries and glazed cabbage. The most creative course was the dessert which was a de-constructed trifle consisting of a sheet of Pimms jelly, blobs of lavender custard and mint and cucumber sorbet.

photo 6Waiters hovered, filling up our glasses at the first sign of a drop in the level of wine held within them. Throughout the meal I chatted with the others at the table, discovering a local connection with Rob Jones who happens to know a friend of mine. It’s certainly a small world! I had a lovely conversation with Tim Wotton and through the course of the evening was mistaken for both his wife and his mother!

photo 10As Frederick Forsyth, Patron of The People’s Book Prize, was unable to come along in person he had sent along a short video message wishing us all a fun evening. We watched and applauded politely.
Promptly at 8:20pm, the non-fiction finalists made their way to the stage, standing in their rehearsed positions as the camera panned along the line. Tension mounted as the presenter tore open the envelope. The winner was announced, “Grumpy Old Menopause” by Carol E Wyer!” Carol stepped up to the podium to receive the beautiful crystal trophy and give her little speech. It really was like the Oscars, only on a smaller scale.
Next up were the children’s finalists. Three of us from our table got up and followed the others onto the stage. My heart was pounding so loudly I was worried the microphone on the podium would pick up the sound and it would be broadcast across the nation!
Once again, the camera panned across as our names and book titles were read out and the presenter of the children’s book award ripped open the envelope.
“The winner is… Bernard by Rob Jones!” I was so delighted that someone on our table had won that I really wasn’t upset at all it hadn’t been me.
The fiction awards came next following exactly the same pattern, apart from having to wait while the adverts were on TV! Some of the people at the table had been following Sky News on their phones and so far nothing had been broadcast. This was to change with the fiction category. You can see the back of head at 3:24 on this video.

After coffee and some rather yummy chocolates we had to perform The Loving Cup ceremony. Rather than attempting to explain what we had to do and why, here’s a short video that shows it.

By that end of the evening, none of us were too certain what we had to do but we all helped each other along – symbolic of the camaraderie I felt and experienced throughout the evening.

I want to thank all friends of Agnil who have supported me and voted for the book in this competition. I would never have even been in the finals without you all! I didn’t win but I felt so privileged being there among such lovely people, breathing in the ambience. I came away with a renewed enthusiasm for writing and itching to get started on my next book. Perhaps I’m a winner after all!

photo 7

Last chance to vote!

I got back from holiday a few days ago to find my invitation to the awards ceremony for The People’s Book Prize waiting for me. It’s so exciting to even be a part of this! Next Wednesday, the 27th May, I will be heading to London in my posh frock, carrying a copy of The Rise of Agnil. invitationAs you can see the awards are being broadcast live on Sky News, starting at 20:20.

The voting session for finalists has now begun and ends on Wednesday the 27th. Even if you voted in the first round, you can now vote again on the special finalists page of The People’s Book Prize web site . You will be directed to register on the site and sent a password. The whole process is fairly painless and should only take a minute or two of your time. I’d really appreciate the support of all friends of Agnil. Please help her to win this important book award! It means a lot to me too. :)

Free till Saturday!



This week is Children’s Book Week in the USA and today also happens to be ten days before the final voting session opens for the finalists of The People’s Book Prize. As you all know, The Rise of Agnil is among those finalists. In celebration of both those events, I’ve put The Rise of Agnil on Amazon free from today, 5th May, until the 9th May.

The Rise of AgnilIf for some strange reason you haven’t read it yet, download it now! If you already have it please let all your friends know. :)
http://smarturl.it/AmazonAgnil1

World Book Day in Spain

signing

I was very lucky to be invited to Sage College in Jerez de la Frontera for World Book Day last week . The children were involved in book related activities all day. Sage College is a British school with a majority of Spanish pupils being taught in both English and Spanish. Years 5 and 6 had been reading The Rise of Agnil and all of Key Stage 2 had written fantasy stories for a competition. I had to judge the stories written by upper Key Stage 2. It was quite a challenge as the native English speakers clearly had an advantage both grammatically and with the range of vocabulary that they were confident in using. How could I judge a story written by an English speaker against that written by a child for whom English was not their native tongue? The ‘teacher’ in me discussed things with the ‘author’! I decided I would have to choose the winners based on the story idea and shape as well as effort, and that little spark of indefinable something that caught my eye. All those shortlisted had the dubious pleasure of having their photograph taken with me.

All the stories the children wrote were presented as little books and put on display.

The winners!

The winners!

Out of those shortlisted it was even more difficult to choose the winners, but in the end I did and on the afternoon of World Book Day I gave out the prizes – books, of course!

Year 3

My first ‘duty’ in the morning was to lead a workshop on characterisation for the Year 5 & 6 children. They played Character Trait Charades, where each small group was given a character trait which they had to act out for the other children to try and guess the word they had. The complete list was displayed on a slide for them to refer to. They had to use action, behaviour, expression and speech to explain the word, but they couldn’t use the word itself. After the game they created Wanted posters for two ‘criminals’ whose pictures I displayed on another slide. This is a simple activity I would have normally used with younger children in the UK, but it was appropriate on this occasion, given the level of their English.

Workshop with Years 5 & 6

Workshop with Years 5 & 6

After break the Years 3 & 4 children were brought in and I read them the first chapter of The Rise of Agnil. This was followed by a question and answer session. I was impressed with their confidence in asking really interesting questions, some of which really made me think!

In the afternoon, once the prize-giving was finished, the children were all involved in putting on short plays based on well-known fantasy stories which they performed in front of their parents in the patio of the school. It was incredibly well coordinated and everything ran like clockwork – no mean feat – all credit to the wonderful teachers there that worked so hard to pull the day together.

A view of the patio at Sage College.

A view of the patio at Sage College.

Watching one of the performances.

Watching one of the performances.

While all this was going on I was left to sit on the throne they’d prepared for me, signing all their copies of my book!

My throne for the day!

My throne for the day!

A pile of books to be signed.

A pile of books to be signed.

Visiting the school and working with their lovely children was a wonderful experience. I’d like to say a huge thank you to all the staff for making me feel so welcome and special thanks to Emma Bell, the teacher that invited me and organised everything.

Happy 1st Birthday Kid Literature Authors!

Not long after I started writing children’s books, I came across the Kid Literature Authors page on Facebook and joined the team as a contributor. It’s been an exciting journey for the team seeing the page go from strength to strength. My own writing journey has also been an exciting echo of this success. Just over a year ago I had published two books – I now have double that number with the fourth book just published. The first three all have Readers’ Favorite five star reviews and the first book, The Rise of Agnil, has been a finalist in The Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards and is also a finalist in The People’s Book Prize.

I’m sure the Kid Literature page will continue to do well, bringing together all of us who love children’s books and have a determination to do everything we can to increase an awareness of the importance of children’s reading.