Monday, 30 January 2017

The World of the Weird Versus The Weird in the World - Timothy Knapman

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had much time for the kitchen sink.  By “kitchen sink”, I don’t mean the sink-shaped thing you find in a kitchen with taps, plughole and draining board attached.  I’m a writer, after all.  I drink tea.  Lots of tea.  From mugs.  Mugs that need – eventually – to be hosed down and scraped clean so they can contain yet more tea.

No, I mean naturalism, realism, whatever you want to call it: the attempt to create in art a faithful replica of the surface detail of real life - the sort of thing “kitchen sink” novelists and playwrights such as Alan Sillitoe, David Storey and John Osborne were doing in the 1950s.


John Osborne’s “kitchen sink” drama “Look Back In Anger” – though perhaps it’s better described as an “ironing board” drama

I admire the skill, of course - and the compassionate and campaigning impulses behind it - but a bit of me is always thinking: why should I go out to see a play about alcoholism, despair, poverty and unemployment? I can get all that at home. 

(I feel much the same about 3D movies.  Why should I pay extra for a 3D movie? I get 3D all the time! Life is in 3D! It’s 2D that’s the novelty! But I digress...)

As a child, I was always drawn to the strange, the funny, the macabre – in short, the weird.  I loved Doctor Who and Star Wars and Monty Python: aliens, robots and Terry Jones showing his bottom.  So when I started writing for children, of course, it was the fantastical, the odd, the bizarre, that I wanted to write about.

The anxiety of influence: Terry Jones’s bottom

And children are the perfect audience for fantasy because not only do they spend a lot of time in their own imaginative worlds, they are also untouched by the deadening effect of experience: the knowledge that things simply “aren’t like that”.  In a child – especially a child of picture book age – however much they might protest that some things “couldn’t happen”, there is a residual suspicion that, you know what, they just might.  The barrier between the real and the imaginary isn’t as clear, or as strong, as it is in grown-ups and so the potential to get lost in a created world is much greater.

It’s the haziness of that barrier that was the subject of my Mungo books.  In each one, Mungo is reading a different kind of story and then something goes wrong.  In Mungo and the Picture Book Pirates, for instance, he reads his favourite book so many times that the hero becomes exhausted from having to repeat his acts of derring-do so often and goes on holiday.  Without the hero to stop them, the book's villains start to take over the story, so Mungo has to jump into the book to save the day - and the book.

Mungo saves the day

But just because anything can happen in a picture book – anything a writer and illustrator can imagine, anyway – doesn’t mean that anything should.  I think total fantasy – fantasy that is completely unanchored in the details of lived experience – doesn’t work because it’s arbitrary.  There are no restrictions and it’s restrictions that create good art.  For fantasy to captivate the reader – especially if that reader is a young child – it needs to rub up against the solid fact of the real world in some way.  It’s that friction - between our world and the fantastical one - that strikes the spark of a really enjoyable story.

A writer has two ways of using fantasy.  She can either set her story wholly, or mostly, in a made-up environment – what I am calling The World of the Weird – or by she can introduce fantasy elements into familiar settings – what I am calling The Weird in the World

In general, The World of the Weird stories appeal more to children who are old enough clearly to delineate between the real and the fantastic, and who are therefore able to enjoy the detail of the imagination with which the stories are told.  Just think of the geekish glee with which fans of Harry Potter seize upon – and argue about – the minutiae of JK Rowling’s wizarding universe.  Part of the pleasure of her brilliant books comes from finding in them a place that has been so completely imagined by the writer that you can imaginatively occupy and explore it yourself. 

Hogwarts – a fantasy world full of imaginative detail

(It’s easier to do that sort of thing in books – where the writer has more space and time to lay out every detail of her world – than in, say, movies.  The reason why George Lucas’s Star Wars saga began in the middle – with “Episode Four” of a supposed six-part story – was so that he wouldn’t have to explain how everything in his “galaxy far, far away” worked.  Because movie-goers were coming in halfway through the story, Lucas reasoned, they would just have to pick things up as they went along.)

Tolkien and Lewis

The level of detail in the imagined world is important here.  Rowling spent years constructing hers, so did JRR Tolkien, whose Middle Earth exerts a similar fascination for its fans.  Compare that with Tolkien’s friend CS Lewis.  He jerry-built his Narnia books from pre-fabricated fantasy elements – Greek mythology, King Arthur, Christian allegory and the 1,001 Nights.  I don’t think is a coincidence that the Narnia books inspire far less immersive geekiness than the Middle Earth books – or that they are aimed at younger readers.

Because younger readers aren’t interested in fantasy worlds in the same way as more mature readers are: for one thing, they’re not old enough to enjoy the imaginative detail.  They want a story they can navigate without having to learn the rules of an alien world first.

“It went thataway!” The Kiss That Missed

Of course there are plenty of picture books that are set in imaginary places, but the picture book writer isn’t inventing an internally consistent other world that the reader can explore.  Instead, she is more often than not portraying our world dressed up in funny clothes.  Take David Melling’s wonderful The Kiss That Missed.  It may look like it’s set in a world of castles, knights and dragons, but we don’t need to know about any interesting or innovative “rules” this world might have because they’re not important.  This is a sweet, domestic tale, a clear metaphor for something that happens in our world, somewhere or other, every bedtime.  A busy father (in the story, the king) has been too preoccupied properly to say goodnight to his child (the prince).  His loving feelings (the runaway kiss) are true and powerful, but he has been too busy with other things to express them properly. 



The most common kind of World of the Weird picture book is the anthropomorphic animal story.  From Aesop to Mr Toad and on, animal stories aren’t about animals or their world; they’re about us.  One of my favourites, is Martin Waddell’s Farmer Duck, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.  Not only is it about things that young children will instantly recognise – unfairness, and the need to put things right – it’s even a version of another animal story that is, itself, really about our world: George Orwell’s Animal Farm.  (Check out the last illustration, where the once put-upon duck is now in charge of the farm.  You’ll notice an imperious pointing of the wing: like the pigs in Orwell’s story, the duck is now the oppressor.)

 Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

For all these reasons, I think fantasy works better in picture books if the stories are of the Weird in the World variety.  Like their World of the Weird counterparts, they can involve animals.  The most famous is probably Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came To Tea.  But there’s a difference.  These are not always metaphorical stories.  Kerr herself has been very clear that the tiger – who consumes all the food and drink in a suburban home before disappearing, never to return – is not in any way a representation of Hitler, whose rise to power forced her to emigrate from her native Germany. The pleasure of her tale comes not from “decoding” it, from working out what she "really" means, but simply from its oddness.

The Tiger Who Wasn’t Hitler

Weird in the World
stories often use the juxtaposition of real and fantastic for comic ends.  Think of the elephant you can’t take on the bus in Patricia Cleveland-Peck’s book, illustrated by David Tazzyman.  Or Not Now Bernard, by David McKee – a funny, but very dark depiction of parental preoccupation in which a monster eats a neglected child and is unthinkingly pushed into taking his place by a mother and father who are too interested in other things to notice.

Monsters, children – what’s the difference when you're trying to read the paper?

Sometimes, picture book characters will pop in and out of fantasy worlds.  The most famous is Max, whose temper tantrum carries him “through night and day, and in and out of weeks, and almost over a year, to where the wild things are”.  But it’s the domestic details that bookend the story – the mischief of one kind and another at the beginning, the supper that’s still hot at the end – that makes his journey interesting.  By contrast, the arbitrary dream logic of Maurice Sendak’s subsequent In The Night Kitchen renders that story random and inconsequential.


Ten years ago, I wrote a book that was an attempt to mix a Weird in the World story with a World of the Weird one.  Guess What I Found in Dragon Wood was inspired by a picture the illustrator, Gwen Millward, had made.  It was a beautiful study of a boy and a dragon, playing together in the boy’s room.  The two were obviously friends but Gwen couldn’t find a story there.


My suggestion was that, instead of the dragon being in the boy’s world, the boy should be in the dragon’s – at least to start with.  So the book is told from the dragon’s point of view, and is all about his new discovery: a strange and magical creature called a “Benjamin”.  We’re in a weird world all right – the dragons eat worms and stinky fish, and go to school to learn how to sit on a volcano – but there’s something weirder still in that world: one of us.

Seeing the Benjamin through the dragon’s eyes, I hoped my young readers would understand (even if it was only without realising) how odd and fantastical – how weird - our world is.  And I hoped the story would help them enjoy the closely imagined fantasy that we call “real life”.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Beyond the Doughnuts by Nicholas John Frith (Guest Blogger)


Published in the UK
by Alison Green Books, 2016
Welcome to our guest at the Picture Book Den: author and illustrator Nicholas John Frith. His first book, Hector and the Hummingbird, had us grinning and won the Klaus Flugge Prize for most exciting newcomer to picture book illustration in 2016. Now Nicholas muses (or in his words, ‘brain spews’!) on his second book, Hello Mr Dodo!

I’m not entirely sure where the idea, for my latest picture book, Hello, Mr Dodo!, came from. But it was all in there somewhere, when I was reading a newspaper article about the discovery of a flightless bird, in New Zealand, that had previously been considered ’extinct’; watching 'The Hunter', the Willem Defoe movie, about the rumour of the last Tasmanian Tiger and the planned exploitation of it; growing my interest in birds and the natural world; and reflecting on my own childhood summers.

Hello, Mr Dodo! is pretty new to the shelves, but I am pleased when I hear people are noting the underlying themes of the story, beyond the bright doughnuts and advertised ‘friendship’ tale. Many of those themes were influenced by my thoughts on the material listed above and are what really drove the project forward within me.

“Martha was cuckoo about birds.”



That’s how the story begins. And from the very first draft, that’s how it always began. I love a bit of word play. At one point there were a good handful of bird-related puns in the text. Although they didn’t all make it past my editor (Alison Green), it was a still bit of a lark!

The story didn’t change much during the process of making the book. It always began and ended pretty much the same way as it does. With only the timings of when Martha realises the bird is actually a dodo, and the where-and-when of the secret being let slip, shifting in the narrative.

As I dug deeper into the history of the dodo, I realised just how little was known about them. How much of it was vague, and how almost mythical they were. And therefore, how interesting liberties could be t
aken with the dodo, without stretching the truth too far.

They didn’t have to be living in Mauritius – as they had been put on boats by the Dutch. They could love eating doughnuts – as no one can disprove that they’d love these sweet fried treats! 


One thing about the dodo ‘character’ that was paramount to me though, even within his friendship with Martha, was that ‘Mr Dodo’ remained a bird, an animal. Despite Martha’s engagement.






With the artwork, I wanted to embrace the opportunity to use bright spot (pantone) colours again, as I had with my debut, Hector and Hummingbird. And the summer setting was perfect for this. The dodo was a joy to draw too and I’m particularly pleased with his partially vacant demeanour.

When I start imagining the artwork for a book, I start imagining the entire book. The endpapers, the size, the paper type, the layout, the title page, the typography, and the extras. Extras that add another dimension to the book (and the story), like the KNOW YOUR BIRDS page at the back of Hello, Mr Dodo! or the SPOT THE JUNGLE ANIMALS in Hector and Hummingbird.

And I try to think of the feeling I’d have if I were holding the final book in my hands. 


Endpapers: Hello, Mr Dodo!
I strive to put across this importance, of the book as a whole. About how it makes us feel, as well as the story in the words.

If it were up to me I’d love it if the ‘lead’ edition of my books were always hardbacks.

Talking of hardbacks… Hello, Mr Dodo! will be published (in hardback) in the USA later this month, by Arthur A. Levine Books. Which I’m excited about.

Anyhow.

Thanks to Picture Book Den for the opportunity to brain spew (my words, not theirs) on their blog. It’s really just been snippets of reflection on my latest book.
Cheers
Nicholas

One last thing… A good friend of mine recently mentioned that, since reading Dodo, his young son now starts on, incessantly, about wanting doughnuts each time he sees an image of a dodo! So, I’m sorry, if this happens to you too. But the fact is, dodos love doughnuts! Ask Martha, she’ll tell you the same.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Why I hope the 10th Children’s Laureate will champion non-fiction • Jonathan Emmett


If past years are anything to go by, BookTrust will soon be encouraging people to suggest candidates for the next Children’s Laureate.

The current laureate Chris Riddell has worked wonders in the role, energetically waving the banner for children’s literature with one hand while deftly drawing an endless stream of characterful illustrations with the other. When Riddell first took on the Laureateship he announced that his focus would be to “use the immediacy and universality of illustration to bring people together and lead them all into the wonderful world of books and reading, whilst championing creativity in schools and beyond”.

Illustration was also the focus of Quentin Blake and Anthony Browne’s laureateships, while other laureates chose to focus on other areas that play a key role in engaging young readers including poetry, storytelling, performance, the importance of libraries, daily reading and parents reading aloud. However one key area of children's literature that has yet to be championed by a laureate is children’s non-fiction. So I’d like to suggest that the tenth Children’s Laureate should be a non-fiction author or illustrator.

Some of the non-fiction books that helped turn me into a lifelong reader.

I’m principally a fiction author but, like many children of my generation, non-fiction played a critical role in establishing my reading habit and turning me into a lifelong reader. When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s the children’s sections of bookshops and libraries were as well stocked with non-fiction titles as they were with storybooks. Mainstream publishers like Ladybird excelled at publishing books that reflected the most obscure childhood interests and enthusiasms, from crochet to car mechanics. By responding to the breadth and diversity of children’s interests in this way, non-fiction books were often able to engage the reluctant readers that fiction could not reach.

From crochet to car mechanics, publishers like Ladybird excelled at reflecting the breadth and diversity of childhood interests.

The children’s book market has changed a lot since then. It’s now far bigger, and far less balanced in terms of fiction and non-fiction. While children’s books about crochet and car mechanics are still being published, a child interested in either – or any other non-mainstream non-fiction topic – is far less likely to discover them in a landscape dominated by children's fiction. Non-fiction has become the Cinderella of children’s publishing and many children who might otherwise have become readers are turning their backs on books because of this.

There is a growing acceptance of the need to redress the balance and promote children’s non-fiction more effectively. Campaigns like FCBG’s Non-Fiction November are already helping to do this, but there is still a long, long way to go. Appointing a non-fiction author or illustrator as the next Children’s Laureate would provide an invaluable boost to the profile of children's non-fiction and represent a huge step in the right direction. And many children that are initially hooked into reading by non-fiction go on to become avid fiction readers, so appointing a non-fiction Laureate could benefit children's fiction too.

I’ve been asking around for the names of non-fiction authors and illustrators who might make a good Laureate and some of the suggestions I received are shown below. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive list and I don't know if any of these people would be willing to take on the role, but I'm hoping it will help to set the ball rolling on a debate about who might fit the bill.


Catherine Chambers enjoys writing about history, cultures and religions, and reckons that sport can satisfy all three. Her books include Stickmen's Guide To The Sky - Uncovered and Goal! How Football Conquered the World

http://www.lovereading4kids.co.uk/author/Catherine-Chambers/gd/Catherine-Chambers.html 



Nicola Davies is a zoologist and one of the original presenters of the BBC children's wildlife programme The Really Wild Show. Her books include A First Book of Nature, illustrated by Mark Herald and Poo: A Natural History of the Unmentionable, illustrated by Neal Layton.

http://www.nicola-davies.com 



Anita Ganeri is the author of the award-winning Horrible Geography series including Planet in Peril which won the Blue Peter Book Award - Best Book with Facts 2009. Her other books include The Explorer’s Handbook: How to Be the Best Around the World.

http://www.anitaganeri.co.uk 



Richard Platt is the author of Pirate Diary, illustrated by Chris Riddell, which won the Blue Peter Book Award - Best Book with Facts 2003Incredible Cross Sections, illustrated by Stephen Biesty, was selected by the Guardian as one of the three greatest children's books of the 90s.

http://www.richardplatt.co.uk



Tony Robinson came to fame playing the role of Baldrick in Blackadder. He has won the Blue Peter Book Award - Best Book with Facts award twice, for The Worst Children's Jobs in History, illustrated by Mike Phillips in 2007 and for Weird World of Wonders: World War II, illustrated by Del Thorpe in 2014.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Robinson 



Andy Seed is the author of The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff, illustrated by Scott Garret, which won the Blue Peter Book Award - Best Book with Facts 2015. His other non-fiction books include The Anti_Boredom Book of Brilliant things To Do, also illustrated by Scott Garret.

http://www.andyseed.com




If you have any more suggestions, I’d love to hear them in the comments box below. You might find some names you'd like to suggest on the NIBWEB children's non-fiction website. If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, you could also tweet your suggestion for a possible non-fiction laureate using the #NonFictLaureate hashtag. With a bit of luck, we might just persuade the Laureate selection panel to appoint a much-needed Fairy Godmother to this Cinderella of children’s books.



UPDATE 20/1/17: The suggestion that the next Children's Laureate be a non-fiction author or illustrator has had a good reception on social media. You can read some of the responses in the Twitter collection here. And here are some more non-fiction authors and illustrators that have been suggested (either on social media or in the comments below) in response to this post:



Although Jonathan Emmett has written a few non-fiction books, he is very lazy and so tends to write books where he can get away with making things up. His latest picture book Prince Ribbit, illustrated by Poly Bernateneis the entirely fictitious story of a non-fiction-loving princess and a very cunning frog.

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.








Monday, 9 January 2017

Celebrating Birthdays from Many Cultures • Chitra Soundar

I was born and raised in Chennai, a coastal city in South East India, in a very traditional family. We did not have TV until we were 14 and other than the BBC World Service and a bunch of Enid Blyton books that sounded magical, we were largely untouched by western influences until the late 1980s.

My birthdays were always celebrated in a traditional way. That was nice because I was able to celebrate twice – once on the lunar calendar based on the original lunar month and birth star in a Hindu calendar and once in the Western calendar 9th January (Yes it is today! Happy Birthday to me!).

I got to put on a new dress, my Granny would make an Indian sweet (whatever I asked for the previous night), I would be blessed by everyone in the family (we were a joint family – so uncles, aunts, cousins) and my Dad would give me a small extra allowance which I would cherish and save so I could buy stationery. (You can take the girl out of the stationery shop, but…)
That's me on the far right kneeling in front of my Granny
If the English birthday (ie, the one on the western calendar) happens to fall on a school day – I would be allowed to ditch the uniform and wear my new dress to school and I was expected to take a bag of sweets into school for the children and teachers.

First birthdays are celebrated with ceremonies, prayers, a big feast and the entire clan turning up. Here is an invitation from 1972 inviting our family and extended family to my first birthday celebrations.



And here is a photo of my sister's first birthday in the traditional way with priests, ceremonies and a lot of smoke.

Sorry Sis!

My nephews who are of mixed-race, have a bit of both worlds. We travelled to India and celebrated their first lunar birthdays in the traditional way with invitation and all. And they got their cake and party here in the UK with friends and family in the UK.

That's cake with my nephew's favourite car in the world - Lightning McQueen

What has all this got to do with picture books you wonder? Well, I’ve been trying to get a picture book for my nephews (who are 4 ½ and 2 and are of mixed-race) that shows them what birthdays are for Indian families – not just the cake, the presents, the party with balloons and hats, but the quiet wisdom of elders, the whisper of a blessing, the touch of grandfather’s hand on his head wishing him every joy in the world forever and ever!

Unfortunately there are very few picture books currently in print, published in the UK that have another culture represented. Thanks to Frances Lincoln (and Janetta Otter-Barry) we have one from the amazing South African writer and illustrator Niki Daly.
Niki Daly (Author and Illustrator) Published by Frances Lincoln in the UK
Tamarind Books published Kay's Birthday Numbers written by the wonderful Verna Wilkins (illustrated by Elaine Mills) in 1987 and I hope Verna brings it back as part of FireTree Books.
Verna Wilkins (Author) Elaine Mills (Illustrator) Published by Tamarind Books in 1987

Another out of print birthday book is Gail's Birthday written by Katie Teague published by Magi Publications in 1995.

It is sad that there is so much choice on birthday books overall but so little that are diverse. The US fared a bit better. They do have a handful of Asian and Spanish birthday celebrations in picture books for children that grow up in those cultures.

Monica Brown  (Author), Sara Palacios (Illustrator) Published by Children's Book Press
Pat Mora  (Author), Cecily Lang (Author) Published by Prentice Hall &IBD

Shan-Shan Chen (Author) Heidi Goodman (Illustrator) Published by Tuttle Publishing


The Latin press Arte Publico has a children's imprint called Pinata Books for Children. It has published two birthday books in Latin families.



Spelile Rivas  (Author), Valeria Cervantes (Illustrator) Gabriela Baeza Ventura (Translator)

by Diane Gonzales Bertrand (Author), Robert Trujillo (Illustrator)

Then I found a non-fiction one from a long time ago, that celebrates birthdays around the world. Sadly I think it is out of print.

Mary D. Lankford  (Author), Karen Dugan (Illustrator) published by Harpercollins

And finally here is a very new one from  Nigeria, which I was happy to find and hope many more books come out of countries and communities with an inspiration to reach children of all backgrounds.
Mylo Freeman (Author) Published by Cassava Republic Press

So I had accidentally stumbled into a gap which I had hoped would not exist. What should I do? What would any writer do? Fill it, of course. I've started dreaming up stories that are set in mixed-race families (that are part-Indian) that celebrates birthdays in a unique way - in a way that celebrates the customs and traditions of both the cultures these children straddle.

However I'm worried, I might have missed wonderful books that might have been published or translated into English. I'm not infallible, neither is my God - Google. So if you find any that I might have missed, please do share below.

I solemnly promise to create a list that I will share with librarians, schools and parents so that all children can read about birthday celebrations of their neighbours, friends and children across the world. 

If like me, you're inspired to write a story of your own, that resonates with your extended family, a student in your school, a new neighbour from another country, here's something to start you off - a link that lists traditions across the world - http://www.birthdaycelebrations.net/traditions.htm.
(Be cautious, do verify them, it is after all "The Internet" where dubious trumps hang around!)

And here is one from the definitely-not-dubious but very amazing John Green on his Mental Floss channel.



And now please join me in singing Happy Birthday (in 7 different languages) to everyone celebrating their birthday on 9th January -  Kate Middleton (you know her, right?), Morris Gleitzman (Australian children's author), Farah Khan, the Bollywood choreographer extraordinaire and of course me.




Monday, 2 January 2017

Agonising for Authors - by Michelle Robinson

Has anyone else been indulging in a bit of Agatha Christie over Christmas? Crikey, that lady could plot. She wrote close to one hundred books and she made it look so easy. It's not. In her autobiography, Christie said, 

Agatha, hard at it.

"There is no agony like it. You sit in a room, biting pencils, looking at a typewriter, walking about, or casting yourself down on a sofa, feeling you want to cry your head off."


Tell it like it is, Aggie. Every word that makes it into a book has been carefully considered, handpicked and polished to perfection. Choosing the right words isn't the only part of writing that involves decision making. Here are just a few of the many things we writers will most likely be agonising over in 2017.


50 AGONIES √† la AGATHA

  1. Is my opening sentence strong enough?
  2. How is my story arc?
  3. What is a story arc?
  4. Is my latest idea even slightly original or have I inadvertently rehashed an episode of SpongeBob?
  5. Which publisher should I target?
  6. How many months until I get a rejection?
  7. What’s the elevator pitch?
  8. How many elevators do I need to take before I find myself riding with someone even remotely involved in publishing?
  9. Should I write my next book in the first or third person?
  10. Should I invent a completely new narrative form instead?
  11. If I do, will I win a prize?
  12. Did that last sentence really need a comma?
  13. Why are the voices in my head all telling each other to shut up?
  14. What are the rules of my new fictional world?
  15. Is my email even working? *refresh, refresh, refresh*
  16. Where does the action take place - do I need to draw a map?
  17. Why didn't I pay more attention in geography?
  18. Do I own an eraser?
  19. Do cats die if they swallow erasers?
  20. Am I showing or telling - and which is the good one, again?
  21. Surely there’s an app that writes bestselling novels?
  22. If I invent the app will I win a prize?
  23. Where did I leave my glasses/pen/notebook/laptop/valium?
  24. Does Googling my own name go toward my word count?
  25. Admin, research, reading or Netflix?
  26. Why does the doorbell only ring when I'm in my pyjamas?
  27. Why are my deliveries always for the neighbours?
  28. Which cardigan is my lucky cardigan? 
  29. Can I afford to go to my publisher’s summer party?
  30. Can I afford to put the heating on?
  31. Are Tesco’s recruiting?
  32. Tea or coffee?
  33. Toast or ice cream?
  34. Scrape the mould off the bread or walk to the shop?
  35. Are cardigans tax deductible?
  36. May I punch the next person who assumes I want to be ‘the next JK Rowling’?
  37. May I punch the next person who tells me they have a great idea for a children’s book?
  38. May I punch the next person who says must be nice, having a hobby that pays’?
  39. May I send a computer virus to the next person who emails me expecting a free professional critique?
  40. Which chat show do I most want to appear on when I win the Carnegie?
  41. When will I have my own dedicated shelf/department in WHSmith?
  42. If Blue Peter knew about me would they give me a badge?
  43. If I nominated myself for children’s laureate would my mum vote for me?
  44. Will my next book be the one?
  45. Which window is best for staring out of?
  46. Does JK Rowling still stare out of windows or does she pay someone to do it for her?
  47. If I bump into JK Rowling at my publisher’s summer party might we become pals?
  48. Is it too early to go back to bed?
  49. Are there prizes for that?
  50. Am I a figment of my own imagination?
Michelle Robinson has 13 picture books due for publication in 2017. Naturally she took a while deciding which one to tell you about. She eventually picked 'Monkey's Sandwich', illustrated by Emily Fox, publishing with HarperCollins in January 2017. Michelle wrote this in her pyjamas. 

Read more from Michelle at www.michellerobinson.co.uk 

Quote: 1977, Agatha Christie: An Autobiography by Agatha Christie, Part 9: Life with Max, Quote Page 458, Dodd, Mead, & Company, New York.