Thursday, 25 July 2013

Summer on Picture Book Island by Malachy Doyle


6 a.m. Cat whinges at kitchen door. Writer goes down to feed it.  Also two more cats, and two dogs.  Writer watches the sun rise over the mountain, and thinks.

7.30 a.m.  Artist awakens.  Writer brings her a cup of tea.  Senior cat, waiting outside the bedroom door, goes in for a cuddle.

8 a.m.  Computer on.  Writer goes over the picture book he's been working on for the previous two days.  Changes ‘said’ to ‘asked’.  Removes ‘and’ at the start of a sentence.  Then smiles.  Brings Tea Two to artist.

9 a.m.  Writer lets out ducks and one-eyed rooster.  Two eggs.  Artist appears downstairs, in dressing gown.


10 a.m  Writer takes story up to the booley hut to read it out loud. Changes ‘And you!’ to ‘You are too!’  Changes ‘way down’ to ‘deep down’.  Realises the story is a distillation, in a strange sort of way, of his first published picture book and of three recent near-misses.  So he's actually been working on it for eighteen years...  


10.30 a.m. Writer takes three runner bean plants from the nursery on the balcony, and adds them to the teepee.  He adds two courgette plants to the raised bed where the surviving purple-sprouting broccoli live. (The snails love this bed, so he is not very hopeful of success, but neither he nor artist can be bothered digging a new patch).

11.a m.  Writer changes ‘they’ to ‘the bears’.  He adds ‘It’s hot out there!’  It is.  Hotter, for longer, than it has been in the six years he's lived on the island. 

11.30 a.m.  Artist is off to her print workshop.  Writer and dogs cadge a lift to the mountain.  No mud on the bog as they start their walk.  Amazing.


12.30 a.m.  There's cloud at the top.  The only cloud in the sky.  Writer doesn't mind.  He knows the view so well - down over the lake, out to the islands - that he can see it in his mind.  Hatches a plan to climb this mountain every birthday until he can no more.  Good plan.      

1 p.m. Mobile phone punctures his reverie.  (Writer was under strict instruction to keep it on, which he would never normally do on a walk)  Artist is heading home early.  Someone is coming to view her paintings. Writer abandons plan to climb second hill.

2.45 p.m  The someone admires house and paintings.  Leaves with one (painting, not house).  Artist is happy.  Writer is happy because artist is happy.  Dogs are happy chewing a shoe.

3 p.m. Artist, writer and dogs walk to the beach.   They swim.  The water is surprisingly warm.

4 p.m.  Artist and writer have siesta in writing hut.  Writing hut has many uses. 

5.30 p.m.  Writer changes ‘asked’ back to ‘said’.  Writer is now content.

6 p.m. Writer waters flowers and vegetables.  Most years the salt wind makes growing anything difficult, but this is a special year.  A very special year.       

7 p.m. Writer adds an illustration guide to the top of the story, and decides it's ready.  Story wings its way to agent.  Writer smiles.  Artist also smiles.


8 p.m. Writer and artist watch three episodes of The West Wing.  Writer and artist have never watched The West Wing before.  Aren't they the lucky couple?

11 p.m. As the light fades over the sea, writer takes dogs for nightwalk.  Writer remembers something.  He has a blog to write for the Picture Book Den.  It is due to be published the following morning...         




Malachy's picture book The Snuggle Sandwich, illustrated by Gwen Millward and published by Andersen Press, is now available in paperback.

25 comments:

  1. Dream day, and a good plan for your birthday, Malachy - And a very beautiful picture of the mountain. Is that by the artist? She's very good, too! There's creative magic in them there hills.

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    1. Yip, that's one of the artist's, Moira. And she's somewhat peeved that I cut off the top of the mountain!

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    2. Thanks Moira! (From the artist)

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  2. This is a lovely post Malachy - it made me laugh but it also has a simple beauty about it. You have captured the final editing process so well! Often with picture books, where every word matters, it is just a case of tinkering and tinkering with it. I imagine it's a bit like clipping Bonsai. Although the entirety of my knowledge of Bonsai comes from that scene in The Karate Kid...'Trust the picture' 'But how do I know if my picture is the right one?' 'If it comes from inside you, always right one.' Very profound for a Thursday morning.

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    1. Aw, thanks Abie. I'll order The Karate Kid for when we've exhausted The West Wing!

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  3. What a lovely post in the inimitable Malachy rolling, lilting,not-one-redundant-word style.

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    1. How sweet of you, Anthea. (And congratulations on your Guardian pick!)

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  4. Love this post, Malachy. It has the feel of a picture book about it.

    'Distillation' I think that is what picture books are all about.

    Enjoy The West Wing!

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    1. Thank you Linda. Yes, the similarity between picture books and fine whisky / whiskey hadn't occured to me before. Perhaps that's why I'm drawn to both...

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  5. What a lovely day and a lovely post. And I really like the artist's picture of the mountain. The siesta sounds fab, too.

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    1. Thanks Clare. Artist (Liz) is enjoying the response, too.

      Not every day's a dream day, of course. Today I can't write a thing, and because my bike had an unexpected puncture, I missed out on a boat trip to the outer islands. I think I'll go and sleep it off...

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    2. But the good news is agent liked Little Bear, and it's winging its way to a publisher as we speak.

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  6. Adore this post, Malachy, though it brings out wistful brooding on my part (my own fault!). Sounds like an idyllic life (most of time) and I love the way you show us the tinkering of a manuscript and that in a roundabout way it was 18 years in the writing (it's always hard explaining that to people). And good luck, Little Bear.

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    1. Oh we have our moments, Paeony. And, as Jonathan suspects below, the long wet stormy winters can be a trial. But I wouldn't live anywhere else. Or do anything else.
      Little Bear says thank you.

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  7. (On my first attempt I said something to the effect that...) I loved every word of that blog, I'd buy it if it were in book-form, it's so poetic and beautifully written. And I said how I particularly loved it having just visited your gorgeous house, with Liz's incredible artwork all over. --- I've told so many people about your house, even people in Anagaire who hadn't realised they had two artists living on Cruit. You are very very lucky to live where you do, but you translate the beauty of your surroundings into work we can all share. [God, I think I might be coming over all poetic myself!]

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    1. Oh Liz - I'm so glad you made a second attempt at posting. That was a very lovely, very moving response.
      And it was delightful to see you the other day - my Liz was particularly pleased!

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  8. Lovely post. I'm jealous.
    Do you know the painter Sean McSweeney's work? From Sligo. Just down the road ;-) That mountain painting just brought him to my mind, not sure if his work is all that similar but I recollect some nice semi abstract bogs and the like in his work.
    You must write a contrasting post for mid December, I bet the weather is a bit different ;-)

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    1. Yes, I really like his work, Jonathan. He captures the colour, the moods, the wildness of his little piece of Ireland quite superbly.

      You're right, of course - winters can be long, wet, dark and stormy. Thank goodness there are seven series of The West Wing, never mind Breaking Bad and all that other stuff we've never watched, to tide us over.

      The wild weather has its attractions, though (if you've a warm house to come back to, or to watch it from). And there's not many places wilder than Donegal.

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  9. Malachy, nach iontach an saol atá agat. Tá mé in éad leat.

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  10. Loved this ... it described what many of my writing days involve ... changing one word at a time to a different word (and re-reading the same paragraphs repeatedly!). I'm so glad to hear I'm not alone!

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    1. You work and work it till it's perfect. You work it and work it till it reads so easily, so smoothly, it feel like it's tripping straight off the tongue. That's why people think writing picture books is easy - because, when they work, they feel easy. They're not - but they feel it.

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  11. Beautiful and evocative post. Who wouldn't want to be a picture book writer after reading this, Malachy!

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  12. Wonderful stuff! What a very nice stage of life this middle-aged part can be.

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  13. : ) : ) : ) : ) : ) (Pippa and Jane)

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