10 August 2015

My notes from Guardian Masterclass

On Saturday I headed over to the Guardian offices at Kings Cross for 'Getting started on your children’s book with Laura Dockrill and Alex T. Smith'. My overall summary of the day is that interesting people write interesting books, and I say that because there was not a dull moment.

It was a brilliant day with so much information to take in that I decided to go back through my notes and map them out to help digest it all.

First up was Laura Dockrill who got us all relaxed and then asked us to close our eyes and remember what it felt like to be a child. We then did a quick bit of creative writing some of us read there's out (I didn't because I felt like a fraud) but there were some fab stories with lots of details that resonated with childhood - dens, toys 'matted with love', secret notes, getting told off... Laura proved that the best writing is based on what we have experienced and feel, and encouraged us to try out ideas and share them.

Then Hayley Long talked about how you can tackle big meaty issues in children's books, why it can be important to do so and the things you need need to keep in mind. My favourite quote from her about writing a book is 'If it is not impossible, then it's possible, right, so what's the problem?'

Fresh from Claude's window tour was Alex T Smith, who, to be honest, was almost the entire reason I signed up for the class in the first place. Alex talked about what inspired him to become an illustrator (we have a lot to thank his Grandad Sid for) and about how adding humour and not getting bogged down by reality can lead to great stories. We all learnt how to draw Claude with instructions like add a floppy sausage for a beret and half a banana sticking out his bottom for a tail. It was great. Also important - Alex had the most amazing spiky shoes on!

Liz Pichon talked about being an author illustrator too. Advice she gave, that really stuck with me, was about creating the kind of work you want to be hired to do and make sure you are sharing your best work - these things combined lead to more success. Her Tom Gates books were based on doodle style books she loved as a child, an idea she shared with her agent that really took off.

The day ended with James Dawson who was very entertaining although not feeling his best. He talked through planning plots and characters that keep readers engaged - avoiding the murky middle that can happen between great beginnings and ends. He made the acurate point that starting to write a book is easy, it's finishing it that is the challenge. His poor dog was not allowed to join us, which was mean, he had to wait on the other side of security.

On my way home, I sat on the train buzzing with ideas. Every one I met was lovely and I will certainly keep an eye out for some of my fellow class mates to see what they come out with.

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