Monday, 15 October 2018

Your Procrastination Shield –What is it actually protecting you from, and how do you lay it down so you can get on with your writing? by Juliet Clare Bell.

Do you ever put off writing? Can you find really plausible excuses not to sit down and get on with it? I suspect if we pooled all our excuses for putting off writing (and, of course, many other things) there’d be a lot of overlap, but I also suspect there are some excuses that are more specific and personal to each of us, the ones that we’ve managed to craft carefully, often unconsciously, to fool ourselves as best we can… After all, say Jane Burka and Lenora Yuen (authors of the book, below), “it’s your procrastination” and we can each find our own special ways of making those excuses, the ones that will work best on the person it needs to work on: us.

I was always a terrible procrastinator, but I’ve actually found a book that has had quite a remarkable impact on me and I feel that if it can work for me, then there may be hope for other procrastinating writers out there, too. And here’s the book:

Procrastination. Why You Do It, What To Do About It NOW by Jane Buerka and Leonora Yuen (2008). 

It’s not a new book (it was fully revised and updated for its 25th anniversary –ten years ago, but it’s new to me and I have a feeling that it would help a LOT of writers (and everyone else). So I’m going to write about it and describe a week-long writing experiment I did based on the book, and how I wrote more in that week than I had written in the three months before it, in the hopes that it might be of some use to other writers.

I’ve known for a long time that I’ve procrastinated and I’ve kind of described myself as badly organised and thinking I need to get better at time management, and I’ve enjoyed reading books about managing time more effectively (probably as a way of procrastinating and not doing what I should have been doing). I guess I’ve not felt too bad seeing myself as someone who isn’t great with time management… but this book doesn’t see procrastination as a problem with time management as much as with emotion management...

                                                                (Me being fearful)

 And that is harder –for me, at least (though I suspect, many of us)- to feel ok about. As a writer (and former psychologist!), I like to see myself as being pretty self-aware, so this book was challenging for me, and it may be challenging for you, too, should you choose to read it, but I think it’s a challenge well worth undertaking.
Jane Burka and Lenora Yuen talk about procrastination as a shield:

“In one sense, procrastination has served you well. It has protected you from what may be some unpleasant realisations about yourself. It has helped you to avoid uncomfortable and perhaps frightening feelings. It has provided you with a convenient excuse for not taking action in a direction that is upsetting in some way, (p137).

“For procrastinators, avoidance is the king of defences, because when you avoid the task, you are also avoiding the many thoughts, feelings, and memories associated with it,” (p93).  

So this book encourages you to be honest with yourself about things that you may not have thought about for a long time in order to recognise what is happening to you when you reach what they call a ‘choice point’ –the point at which you are coming up with excuses not to sit down and write (in our case), where you need to decide whether to go with the excuse, or carry on with the activity (writing) anyway.
At least, then, if you still conclude “…therefore, I’ll do it later”, you’re being more consciously aware of your procrastination. But once you’re aware, you may well choose to over-ride the desire to put it off, and do it anyway.

The authors talk about physiological fear responses, and how for example, if you’re touched unexpectedly, that fear response (and the body’s reaction) will occur before you even feel the touch. 

                                                       Goosebumps / goose pimples

And they relate it back to procrastinating: 

"By the time you think about doing a task you’ve been avoiding…, your body has already reacted with fear. No wonder you put it off,” (p92).

And so the book encourages us to identify (with useful lists) what triggers our own task avoidance and for us to observe our reaction kindly and without judgement as a step towards overcoming those physiological reactions we may feel when confronting ourselves with something we’re trying to put off.

So what’s holding you back from writing that story? Could it be

Fear of failure?

Did people praise you for writing as a child? Was that part of your identity? Does it feel dangerous risking people’s (or your own) perceptions of yourself in case you don’t get that publishing deal or the story isn’t as good as you thought it would be? Is it safer not to do it?

                                         A tiny proportion of my picture book rejection letters

Procrastinating leads us to do things last minute, where we can avoid testing our true potential (and risking our sense of self by what we might find) –so the final piece of writing is not a reflection of your true ability but what you can do under last-minute pressure. Are you so frightened of discovering that you’re not what you think you are/want to be, that you’re willing to slow down so much and be last minute in order to avoid your best work being judged?
Procrastination allows you to believe that your ability is greater than your performance indicates –you never have to confront the real limits of your ability.


Perhaps people didn’t have confidence in your writing when you were younger (or people don’t now) –and if you did write something, might you be worried that those people may be proved right?
Or could what’s holding you back be a

Fear of success?

This may seem less obvious but the authors talk about this:

·       Do you sometimes slow down on a project that’s going well?
·       Do you feel anxious when you receive a lot of recognition?
·       Are you uncomfortable with compliments?
·       Do you worry about losing your connection with relatives if you’re successful?

And perhaps…

·       You fear/believe success in writing will demand more of you than you’re willing/able to give (many of us know successful writers who are now extremely pressed for time in the writing and personal lives).
·       You’ll turn into a workaholic; people will become obstacles –success will mean loss of control and loss of choice in your life
·       You may be considered selfish or full of yourself
·       You may get hurt –do you really want to be judged by your readers/reviewers? –bad reviews/low sales figures can be extremely demoralising.

There are lots of reasons explored in the book, and identifying your own personal reasons will help you take practical steps towards writing and stopping putting things off.

The book also helps you identify your own procrastination style

Mine (when I should be writing)? -reading emails, surfing the web, looking on Facebook, working on something less important, sitting and staring, going to sleep

Your own physical feelings when you’re meant to be starting something but are considering procrastinating:

Mine? –a feeling in my chest and tummy; feeling light-headed

And your own excuses?

Mine? I’ve got to get organised first; I don’t have everything I need; I don’t have time to do it all so there’s no point in starting; it might not be good enough; I’ll wait until I’m inspired; I don’t feel well; I’m too tired right now; I’m not in the mood; I’ve done the worst part of it; the final bit won’t take much time so I can do it later.

And the book encourages you to monitor what’s happening for a week and try an experiment… which is what I did.


The authors recommend that you

·       Select a single goal –with a desire to learn from both success and failure (think like a researcher gathering data rather than a critic passing judgement) –I used to be a researcher so this appealed to me and made it seem like it was less personal;

·       List the steps (and do a reality check –can all those things be done in the time you have?) It was going to be full-on, but yes, it was realistic –if I didn’t procrastinate;

·       What’s the very first step? –write it down; should be small and easy;

·       Get feedback from others –perhaps other writers- about the achievability of the goal;

·       Consider the feelings you have now you’ve got your goal –excited and scared;

·       Could visualise your progress; optimise chances (where you work and when, etc) –this one is never going to work for me as I don’t visualise, but it could help other people;

·       Stick to the time limit;

·       Don’t wait until you feel like it –this was going to be a challenge, as not feeling like I’m in quite the right mood for writing is one of my biggest excuses.

And this is what they suggested you do during the week:
          Watch out for your excuses –an excuse means you’re at a choice point: you can procrastinate or you can act (so go from ‘I’ll do it later’ to ‘I’ll just to fifteen minutes…’ (and think –how do I feel?) –I kept a journal for the week, writing at the beginning and the end of each day, saying how I felt before I started, and then commenting on the day at the end of each day.

·       One step at a time (not the whole picture book/novel) –I had a list of exactly what I needed to do each day.

·       Work around obstacles

·       Reward yourself after progress

·       Be prepared to be flexible if necessary

·       It doesn’t have to be perfect

At the end of the week, assess your progress

·       Examine your feelings

·       Review your choice points (at least you’ll have procrastinated more consciously)

I     Identify what you've learned.

Now I chose a really big goal as my children were going to be away for a whole week and I really wanted to finish the novel I was working on, even though I had about 30,000 words left to write. It really doesn’t have to be that big at all (and it was only possible because I was going to have a whole week without any responsibilities, so I was in an unusual position).
I went through the list of scenes I had left to write and calculated how long I thought each scene would take, realistically if I didn’t procrastinate at all, and then worked out how many I’d have to write each day in order to finish the book. This worked out at about six hours per day –IF I didn’t procrastinate at all but just wrote.

And then I kept a journal for that week and just did exactly what I had said I’d do, thinking of myself like a dispassionate researcher, monitoring how I felt and what I did when I felt like I really didn’t want to write a certain part (or any part).


    (Shame that I accidentally forgot to colour in three of the scenes on the final day but I did finish them. Honest)

I finished! I wrote more than 30,000 in a single week!

I had never written anything like the amount I wrote that week. And I am convinced that I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the procrastination book. But the most interesting thing to come out of it for me was that the excuse I’ve used so much as a writer:

I’m not in the right mood

was irrelevant to what I wrote. When I feel like I’m not in the mood (or when I use that excuse), I often find some other work to do instead of writing. But this time, I didn’t. I just monitored how I was feeling, acknowledged it, and then did it anyway. And what I found from my notes on the experiment was that the times when I did it when I wasn’t in the mood, I was just as productive as the times when I did feel in the mood, and having read all those scenes now (as part of the whole book), there is no difference in how good those scenes were. This is probably the most important thing I’ve learned from the whole process: I did genuinely think that there were times when I was going to write better and times when I was going to write less well (or not at all) because of my mood –but it really didn’t make a difference –

as long as I made myself do it.

I have had to abandon my romantic notion of the muse being present. It really was –for me- just a case of showing up and doing it. And I genuinely didn’t quite believe that –until I did the experiment.
I should just point out that this related to writing ‘up’ the novel once I’d done all the creative plotting, which I couldn’t work on in this way of a certain number of hours a day for a week, at all –not yet, anyway… But once I’ve worked out a structure for a picture book or a novel, I know now that any excuse that I am just not in the mood, is exactly that: an excuse.

There’s a lot more useful stuff in the book, which I can’t go into now as there’s no time, which includes suggested techniques to reduce your procrastination, like: using little bits of time (check out their unscheduled on page 198); have an accountability partner (I have for writing, and it’s great); work together (for example, like we do in our local SCBWI group, weekly, where we write alongside each other); say no to e-addictions/have a low information diet; do more exercise, and take exercise breaks; be realistic about time; just get started; use the next fifteen minutes, watch for your excuses and use your procrastination as a signal. In the end, it’s your choice:

You can delay or you can write

 -and you can write even though you’re uncomfortable.

I really couldn’t recommend this book highly enough -for picture book writers, novel writers, everyone. And if I can identify why I’m coming up with excuses and learn to put those thoughts and feelings aside and write anyway, then you can do it, too.
Huge thanks to my wonderful friend and former partner-in-procrastination Caroline Keenan for recommending this book to me. You know me well!

Do you have any tips for beating procrastination? Have you read this book, and if so, how helpful did you find it? Please do reply in the comments, below…

Thank you –and happy writing –even if, or especially if, it’s uncomfortable!

Monday, 8 October 2018

Humour in Picture Books by Liz Brownlee, Poet

Louis Franzini PhD, in his book Kids Who Laugh, identifies 13 categories of humour which children recognise – I calculated once that 10 of them are already being used in books meant for pre-schoolers and infants. Which has to point to the fact that humour is very important to humans. This conclusion is certainly borne out by numerous studies Franzini cites into how having a sense of humour is linked to higher levels of intelligence, creativity and flexible thought processes, and is also associated with higher self-esteem, good self-control and a sense of empathy. 

Other research (despite a new study showing that virtually everything about us is governed by nature not nurture) shows there is good evidence that a sense of humour is acquired as a child, so it’s jolly lucky it sells both picture books and poetry! 

So – I can hear you wondering what those 10 types of humour are, and frantically totting up types on your fingers. Verbal wordplay such as I have just used is one… alliteration fills this job nicely. Children’s poetry and the poetic language in many children’s picture books employ this simple way to make the text fun to say, fun to listen to, and to help with the humour of what the words are saying. Language in everyday life is logical, orderly, and usually unrhythmic, without sentences ending in rhyming couplets, so it is made funnier to children when they do. Lynley Dodd’s picture books are wonderful examples of both alliteration and rhyme – here’s a page of Schnitzel von Krumm’s Basketwork:

Surprise is number two in my list. Laughter is an automatic reaction to the release of tension. In Colin McNaughton’s ‘Boo’, Preston the Masked Avenger piglet goes round town shouting ‘boo’ unexpectedly and gets his come-uppance when he does it to his dad pig, and dad pig sends him to his room and does it back. 

Number three is slapstick. Number four is absurdity. ‘Funnybones’ by Janet and Allan Ahlberg was a book that never failed to have my 4 year old son helpless with laughter. The book is also full of alliteration. A big skeleton, a little skeleton and a dog skeleton who live down a ‘dark, dark cellar, down a dark, dark staircase’ etc. go out at night to scare people, but mainly end up scaring themselves. The big skeleton throws a stick for the dog skeleton. The dog skeleton jumps for it and bumps into a tree, and ends up as a little pile of bones. The big skeleton and the little skeleton try to put him back together again, but get his skeleton all mixed up. The dog can only say ‘WOFO’. They try again, and this time he says ‘OOFW’. Then ‘OWOF’ and ‘FOOW’.

My son could not read, so it fascinated me that the idea that the dog’s ‘WOOF’ was the wrong way round struck him as so funny. Clearly the word sounds are being listened to along with the meaning by this age This must help with the acquisition of reading skills. Alliteration, wordplay, slapstick, absurdity and the realization that letters in the wrong order say something different, all in one book. No wonder it is still on sale – my son is 26! 

Human predicament is my number five. Obviously the predicaments available to picture book authors are narrowed to those that are pertinent to the very young, and a book we bought in Canada, I Have To Go!, by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko shows this one perfectly. Andrew is asked by his parents if he needs to go pee before setting off on a journey; “No, no, no, no,” said Andrew. “I have decided never to go pee again.” Obviously five minutes into the journey he has to go, very urgently. Later he goes to play in the snow at Grandma’s without having a pee first, and his snowsuit has 5 zippers, 10 buckles and 17 snaps. 

Everyone has to pee. The child being read to knows this. The humour for the child is in the knowledge and having this knowledge, and knowing what is going to happen fosters empathy (feeling for the child) at the same time as self-esteem (knowing he knows better) and the ability to foresee the logical conclusion to a train of events.

Six, defiance, and seven, incongruity are ably illustrated by David McKee, in his book Who’s a Clever Baby Then? “Who’s a clever baby then?” said Grandma. '“And where’s my oofum boofum pussy cat? Say ‘cat’, Baby.” “Dog,” said Baby.’ Saying ‘No’ and getting away with it, being naughty, getting one over on a parent, brother, sister or friend, is extremely appealing to a young child who has little control over their own life. The incongruity of the baby saying dog instead of cat is also funny to the child listening. 

Two monsters by David McKee uses mainly violence, type number eight. The two monsters argue over whether day is disappearing or night is arriving – as they live on either side of a mountain they cannot see what the other monster can. 

They end up trading very funny insults and then throwing rocks at each other until the mountain is destroyed and the truth that they are both right is revealed. Their argument is resolved – hopefully revealing that arguments are often absurd and a happy resolution is possible. Incidentally I am convinced David McKee has listed types himself as I found loads of his books each of which mainly used one category of humour.

Exaggeration is number nine and of course ten thousand times more important than any of the other categories. It is often paired with absurdity. Carl Norac’s ‘My Daddy is a Giant’, illustrated by Ingrid Godon, is a gorgeous example of exaggeration.

The exaggerations are affectionate, funny and descriptive.  ‘When the clouds are tired, they come and sleep on my daddy’s shoulders’.

Simple puns is the final category. These are not usually used until the child is older, but can be used when the text is helped by pictures which helps the joke easy to understand. TWO CAN TOUCAN  by David McKee uses a pun. It’s about a plain black bird without a name. He goes to seek his fortune. Because of his big beak, he’s useless at most jobs -except carrying two cans of paint.  

All these picture books are fairly old as they are the ones we had when my children were small. But any I’ve bought or read since have all employed a mixture of the above types of humour. I’m a poet, not a picture book writer (yet!), but of course all these tools and types of humour are used in poetry too, for ages 3 up to 7 – and how remarkable is that? 

Liz Brownlee, National Poetry Day Ambassador, 
Liz's personal blog:
Liz's blog for all things poetry related:
Reference: Dr Louis Franzini, PhD. Professor of Clinical Psychology San Diego University Ca. Kids Who Laugh, New York, Square One Publishers, 2002 

Monday, 1 October 2018

Following The Logic, by Pippa Goodhart

I do love a simple story that makes logical sense in the barmiest of ways.  Some of my favourite picture books take an idea and follow it to a logical, very funny, conclusion that still manages to surprise.

Here are three prime examples, and I’d love to know of more –

In Oliver Jeffers’ ‘Stuck’, Floyd’s kite gets stuck in a tree, so he does what many of us have done in the same situation, and he throws his shoe at the kite in the tree.  But it doesn’t dislodge the kite.  It, too, is stuck in the tree.  

Floyd then throws up more and bigger things of kinds we perhaps haven’t yet tried throwing into trees, such as a whale and house.

How does Oliver Jeffers solve this situation?  Floyd suddenly thinks of using a saw.  We assume that saw is going to be used to cut down the tree  … but, no!  Floyd swerves away from that, and chucks the saw into the tree … and at last the kite falls out of it.  So silly, and yet so wonderfully logical!

Leapfrog early reading book ‘Little Joe’s Big Race’, written by Andy Blackford and illustrated by Tim Archbold, follows the logic of an egg and spoon race.  Joe, egg and spoon in hand, races, coming last but keeping on racing, on and on.  He races so far over so long that the egg hatches a chicken!

The chicken grows, and Joe grows too as he runs, until he finally circles the earth to end up back at school sports day.  We already know he didn’t win the egg and spoon race.  But it turns out that he does win the chicken and spade race! Hooray!

‘Professional Crocodile’ by Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio is a wordless picture book. It shows the Crocodile getting up and going to work in a very human way.  

Its only on the last spread that we finally find out what he work is.  We see him arriving at work, then undressing and putting towel around his middle before finally appearing … as a ‘naked’ crocodile on display in a zoo.  Of course! You didn’t think a crocodile would be a teacher or something, did you?!  Well, yes, of course we did, given what’s gone before.  But it’s a delight to be fooled in this way.

What other logical sequences to fun conclusions in picture books can you think of?

Monday, 24 September 2018

🎶 ALL TOGETHER NOW! 🎶 Picture books adapted from songs • Jonathan Emmett

Although some people will only know We’re Going on a Bear Hunt as a picture book by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, the text is adapted from an American folk song and many children of my generation will have known it as a scout and guide campfire song long before the picture book was published.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is one of the most celebrated examples of a picture book adapted from a song. Song lyrics often need some authorial tinkering to make them work well as a picture book text and the onomatopoeic sounds in the book (Swishy swashy! Splash splosh! etc.) and the verses about the forest and the snowstorm are both Rosen's invention.

My picture book She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain, illustrated by Deborah Allwright, was also adapted from an American folk song.

When an editor asked me to adapt the song a few years ago, I decided that the first thing I needed to do was reduce the repetition. While a degree of repetition is often encouraged in picture book writing, I felt that having the same phrase repeated five times on every spread would become a little tedious, so I replaced two of the repeated phrases in each verse with a rhyming couplet.

So this first verse of the original folk song:
She'll be coming ‘round the mountain when she comes,
She'll be coming ‘round the mountain when she comes,
She'll be coming ‘round the mountain,
She'll be coming ‘round the mountain,
She'll be coming ‘round the mountain when she comes,
Became this in my picture book version:
She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes,
She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes,
Yes, she'll whistle like a train,
As she speeds across the plain,

She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes,
I also replaced most of the folk song's later verses – including the ones about sleeping with grandma and killing the old red rooster – with new verses. The new verse where the cowgirl paints the whole town purple was a cowboy-hat-tip to the Clint Eastwood western High Plains Drifter, in which an enigmatic cowboy literally paints a whole town red.

One of Deborah Allright's spreads from She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain (now out of print).

Song often make it onto the page without any authorial tinkering. There are plenty of picture book adaptations of Over in the Meadow and Old MacDonald had a Farm that feature the original lyrics …

… but there are also quite a few adaptations that have been re-written to include a more exotic, mechanical or flatulent cast of characters.

While all of the above examples are adapted from folk songs, picture book adaptations of contemporary songs have become increasingly common in recent years. One of the first examples I remember seeing is this 2007 adaptation of the Peter Paul and Mary song Puff the Magic Dragon illustrated by Eric Puybaret.

Since then, contemporary songs by Bob Marley, Dolly Parton, John Lennon, Kenny Loggins and many others have been adapted into picture books.

Illustrator Tim Hopgood has produced a series of picture book adaptations of classic 20th Century songs.

As picture books adapted from songs have become increasingly popular, the interval between the song coming out and the picture book being published seems to be reducing. Last year’s picture book adaptation of When I Grow Up, illustrated by Steve Anthony, was published just seven years after the song first appeared, in Tim Minchin’s Matilda the Musical.

And the picture book version of Pharrell Williams’ Happy! (illustrated with photographs) came out only one year after the song was released!

So if you’re a picture book author or illustrator looking for ideas, you might try flicking through an old songbook or switching on the radio. If you’re lucky, you might discover the inspiration for the next We’re Going on a Bear Hunt!

In the meantime, if you know of any good picture book adaptations of songs, do tell us about them in the comments section below.

Jonathan Emmett's latest book is Alphabet Street, a spectacular lift-the-flap alphabet book illustrated by Ingela P Arrhenius and published by Nosy Crow. Although it's NOT adapted from the Prince song of the same name, it is written in rhyme and has all the makings of a toe-tapping global smash hit if anyone is interested in buying the song rights.

Find out more about Jonathan and his books at his Scribble Street web site or his blog. You can also follow Jonathan on Facebook and Twitter @scribblestreet.

See all of Jonathan's posts for Picture Book Den.

Monday, 17 September 2018

From redundancy to award-winning picture book • Guest blog post by Kate Milner

Huge congratulations to author illustrator, Kate Milner, who last week won the prestigious 2018 Klaus Flugge Prize for the most exciting and promising newcomer to children's book illustration.
In her guest blog post, Kate takes us behind the scenes of her award-winning  My Name is Not Refugee. We see illustrations that didn't make it into the final picture book, and discover why they were left out.

When my job was replaced by a machine at our local library I decide to take the chance to do an MA in children’s illustration at Anglia Ruskin. I had wanted to do the course for many years but it felt like a huge risk to step out of the labour market when I had commitments. There was so much excitement and so much fear wrapped up in returning to education in middle age.

I had done some work in editorial illustration when I was younger and I have always drawn and written stories for adults but it was working in the local library which showed me all the possibilities in children’s publishing. I also, of course, met a lot of readers. It was an excellent education.

I came up with the idea for My Name Is Not Refugee at the very end of the course when I should have been finishing off a piece of work for presentation. It was born out of anger at the debate in the press about the march of refugees out of Syria. They were being described as a zombie army, shuffling towards us, and it felt important to me to explain to children why these families had no choice but to leave their homes. It was crazy to start work on this idea a few days before the end of the course but that is what I did, presenting at the final crit a scrappy, half-finished picture book, with no cover. We all agreed it had no chance of commercial success. 

All the steps which have taken me from that crit to winning the Klaus Flugge Prize feel as if they are nothing to do with me but all the wonderful tutors, fellow students, agents and publishers who have picked it up and run with it. When people congratulate me I always say that I have been very lucky. Being polite they generally then say something like, not luck but talent; but, without any false modesty, I know that it takes collaboration to get a book into the hands of children and I have been very very lucky in my collaborators.

Unlike others below, this is an early illustration
that did make it into the final book.
From My Name in Not Refugee by Kate Milner
Published by The Bucket List (Barrington Stoke), 2017
Some of the spreads in the final book have hardly changed since I first drew them. The illustration showing people sleeping on the station platform is an example (see above), it is almost exactly the image I made as soon as I had the idea. Some spreads, on the other hand, have gone through a lot of changes and below are three early illustrations which have not made it into the book.

1) We'll hear words we don't understand.
This was the first example of the idea. I was trying to get the feeling of not understanding anything around you as a child might who finds themselves in a strange country. It’s not just the people who are speaking a strange language, it’s the radio, the dog, the street signs and the magazines, everything is different. Although I still like this image I can see it didn’t fit in with the rest of the book.

Early illustration idea on language, Kate Milner

We'll hear words we don't understand, from the final book
My Name is Not Refugee,
Kate Milner

2) We'll see lots of new and interesting things.
Here is  another spread that went through many many changes. The little boy at the centre of the book is basically a cheerful, curious character so, to give a change of mood, I wanted to show him excited about something new. But what should the new thing be?

Early illustration idea on seeing new and interesting things, Kate Milner

This was one idea which came from looking at pictures of refugee camps on the internet. I could see temporary shops being set up with items for sale wrapped in plastic bags and hung from washing lines. I found this visually very interesting, the sweeping curves of the washing lines, the distortion of the objects through the plastic; I got a bit carried away. Again I like this image but I can see why it hasn’t made it into the final book. It’s my idea of what is interesting, not a small boy’s.

We'll see lots of new and interesting things, from the final book
My Name is Not Refugee,
Kate Milner

3) Sometimes we'll wait by ourselves...
I like this image, probably more than the illustration in the final book which is a return to my original idea. However, I can absolutely see why we decided not to use it.

Early illustration idea on waiting, Kate Milner

The heart of the book is the relationship between the mother and her little boy. On nearly every spread of the final book they are touching, or close to each other, or looking at each other. If she is there he is safe and can look out at the world around him. This illustration does not show that connection between them.

Sometimes we'll wait by ourselves, from the final book
My Name is Not Refugee, Kate Milner

Kate Milner
Thank you, Kate, for this wonderful insight into your new picture book, and for showing us that redundancy can be an exciting catalyst to something new.
Follow Kate on Twitter @ABagForKatie

My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner is published by The Bucket List (Barrington Stoke), 2017
Klaus Flugge Prize 2018