There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.
- Lord Byron
Unfortunately inspiration for mere mortals happens in the most ordinary of places. Everything else is “sleight of mind” performed by pen and paper illusionists - PR copywriters!.
So for all aspiring children’s book writers/illustrators here are my top tips on how to be ordinary:
“Under Your Nose”
The best characters can be right in front of you. “Too” was born from watching sparrows in the back garden. They reminded me of mischievous little children and one in particular was far worse than the rest. He had a tuft of feathers that looked like a mohawk and he was so rambunctious that the character “Too” was almost a life study.
“Wheels On The Bus...”
There is nothing wrong with clichéd stories, especially in children’s books. There’s a reason why Dr Seuss, AA Milne and Roald Dahl are still successful (apart from being brilliant!) - children don’t change. Everyday is a mixture of adventure, imagination and learning.
“Two plus two...”
Experimenting with characters and underlying themes is great but as I discovered sometimes it’s best to play safe. For example “Too’s” name was initially spelt “‘Too” as in Cockatoo (don’t ask) which is why his mohawk was yellow but one day I heard a child say “Me Too, Me Too” the rest was history.
“Sleep On It”
This is the best timesaving advice I can give. When you become frustrated, don’t try to carry on working because everything you do will end up in the trash.Trust me I know!
One last thing, enjoy what you do because there is no greater reward than a smile or laugh from a child. It’s the only spark that really matters anyway.
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