Monday 29 June 2020

Adapting to picture book life online

With events in book shops, libraries and schools cancelled, I’ve been curious to find out how some of my friends and colleagues have been adapting their picture book lives.

Pippa Goodhart

Pippa’s been wearing her fantabulous empathy glasses for Empathy day online events.

 She’s also busy reading stories including Daddy Frog and the Moon as part of a project with Cambridgeshire Libraries.

A bigger picture book online project was taking part in Puffin Random House’s Big Dreamer Festival that ran for a full week online. " Nick Sharratt was the artist in residence, every day drawing big dream ideas sent in by children. The first session of the festival gave the world premier of Nick and my You Choose Fairy Tales which was to have been published in March, but is now scheduled for September. But if anybody wants to see it all, and to hear Nick and my choices for each spread, here’s the link

Abie Longstaff

Abie’s made the move to live online events.

“I’ve done a few live events now. At first it was surprisingly stressful, more stressful than a real life reading. I think the worries about the tech and broadband signal were factors, but there was also the feeling of talking into empty space that was initially very intimidating. In a real life event you see the children laughing or nodding along, and there are so many opportunities for interaction. With a live event on for example, Facebook, you can't see your audience and that makes it hard, particularly when your books are aimed at little ones. I've finally got into the swing of it now though and I really enjoy them. It's lovely to have the events stored online, and it means that far more people can see your event. I've had people emailing from all over the world who would never normally be able to come to a Fairytale Hairdresser reading. The online events feel more inclusive - people from all backgrounds and abilities can attend and it's lovely to be part of a movement like that.’"

Here's a link to her Book Nook Q and A

Garry Parsons

"I've been spending more time online than ever before. Launching a picture book during lockdown requires almost immediate responses, so I find I'm constantly checking and updating, which at first was distracting but now feels like a new normal. I'm not a natural with social media so it has been an interesting learning curve, finding ways to interact and get attention online and I've spent a lot of time making things to be downloaded.  I'm used to talking and drawing at live events but that has changed to attempts at recording myself (awkwardly) talking to camera, announcing drawing prizes and taking live drawing sessions on Zoom. It feels like the picture book has evolved a necessity to have a multi-media and multi-sensory experience attached"

Natascha Biebow

Since the beginning of March, I've done many more virtual school visits and have become more confident about my presentations, even when tech fails and I have to resort to show and tell. Some of these had over 100 second and third graders! It is really fun to interact with them and to be able to feel that maybe your book is connecting with young readers stuck at home.
SCBWI was quick to respond to the needs of teachers, librarians and parents at home, creating a huge pool of online resources by published members: SCBWI Connects. As well as submitting existing resources to this initiative, I also created new ones, prompted by online initiatives that I could link up to, like  Outdoor Classroom Day.

Inspired by fellow SCBWI members, who created the fabulous Our Corona Diary project, I made a video about how to make a Crayola Doodle Keepsake Diary.

 Possibly my biggest challenge was to create an acceptance speech video when THE CRAYON MAN was awarded the Irma Black Award for Excellence in Children's Books in early May.

It was so exciting, but sadly the awards ceremony in NYC had to be cancelled. It turned into a three-day video project which I filmed and created with the help of videographer son who was fortuitously, well, AT HOME!  Filming in your garden with ever-changing light and cheeping birds is one thing, but there's no accounting for the 'studio quiet' you need when the other stay-at-home neighbours are doing PE homeschooling next-door.... And the dog decides to walk into the frame also.

Gareth P Jones

"This year I have done lots of new things. I’ve uploaded interactive short stories, readings and virtual festival performances. I’ve found that those connected with existing events (Camp Bestival, Wychwood & The Summer Reading Scheme) have fared better than those I did independently. I am gradually moving towards virtual school visits. My assemblies were always based around questions from pupils so I have been asking schools to send me questions. Then I record a rambling reply to all of these, which is working OK. But my favourite online project has been a collaborative song performed with authors around the UK in support of bookshops."

Clare Helen Walsh 

Clare has had not one but two picture books published during lockdown, and says she’s been forced to think more creatively about how she ‘launches a book’ and interacts with little readers and their families. For the publication of ‘How Selfish!’, Clare planned a virtual duck race! And for ‘The Perfect Shelter,’ people were invited to post photos of their dens and take part in a community collage.

If you’re inspired to hold your own virtual event, you can find out more information here and here Clare says that working digitally was a challenge at first, but definitely means more people have been able to join the fun!

Lucy Rowland

Lucy did a Skype visit with a school in Switzerland. 

She says "Benji slept best when he was on me at that time so I had him in the carrier. It all went really well except that Benjamin was sick all down my top but the teacher assured me that the class didn't notice! Phew! "

Addy Farmer

I’ll leave the last words to Addy Farmer, a picture book writer, mentor and a Local Network Organizer for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).
"Before the lockdown, most of my writing interactions were with my physical SCBWI group. In the PPE (pre pandemic era) we met once a month at the University of Lincoln for book chat and to critique picture book texts and writing for older children and it was lovely and supportive. Now, we still meet once a month for book chat and crit but the fact that it's online has somehow endowed it with added support - maybe it's the fact of being alone but together. 

There are drawbacks to meeting virtually; not everyone enjoys using the technology or even being seen on screen; the technical hitches; the getting used to talking in turns rather than the more free flow conversations in 'real life'. I'd recommend Google meet over Zoom simply because the former has no time limits. Once we got over the initial technical hitches and established talking protocols, the virtual get-together has worked well.

In the PPE, I started meeting my picture book crit partner, Liz Miller, online. Back then, it was a fantastic boost to my writing - in terms of upping the quantity and quality of my picture book texts. Now, it is also even more of a joy to meet and talk texts. If you can get it, this close writing support is a treasure beyond measure.   

So, whatever happens, find your people and enjoy whatever means of talking you can; even if it means that you spend the entire session upside down. Critical friends are good for your writing and your heart, especially now."

Absolutely, Addy! Keep well y'all x

Jane Clarke's been reading her picture books online for her granddaughters, contributing a fun Al's Awesome Science session for the Silly Squad Summer Reading Challenge, and has been so busy Zooming, Skyping, WhatsApping and Facetiming, she's been finding it hard to get any writing done :-)

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