On Wednesday 24th April, we hosted the latest in our series of You Can Now talks in the YCN Shop & Library.
Over the course of the evening, we heard from speakers working within the world of children's books about how they came to be published, whilst the Made in Me team introduced an opportunity for illustrative storytellers to see their work published as a Me Book.
Our first speaker was Rachel Bright, a self-proclaimed "wordsmith, illustrator and eternal optimist", who discussed the somewhat indirect route she took to becoming a published children's book author. After graduating from the Graphic Design course at Kingston University, she was hired as a Junior Designer at London-based luxury stationery company Smythson of Bond Street. A three-hour round trip commute to work everyday provided Rachel with the perfect opportunity to develop her writing, and it was on these journeys that the first of her stories began to take shape.
A string of other jobs (including air hostess, landscape gardener and an extra on Doctor Who) followed before Rachel moved to Bristol to work as a copywriter, whilst simultaneously studying on the MA Printmaking course at the University of West England. It was specialising in copperplate printing and experimenting with typesetting in the letterpress room here that helped inform and develop Rachel's signature style.
Rachel stressed the importance of showing your work to whoever will look at it, remembering how exhibiting her own illustrations led directly to a meeting with the Commissioning Editor at Puffin. She also spoke about the benefits of always trying new things, using her recent switch to the solar plate etching process as an example.
Finally, we were treated to a sneak preview of Walter & the No-Need-to Worry Suit, one of two titles by Rachel which will be published as Me Books next month.
Next up was Benji Davies, an illustrator, animator and author of the upcoming picture book The Storm Whale. He presented a number of projects he had been invoked with over the last 10 years, including around 20 publications for the likes of Macmillan, Usborne and Nosy Crow.
Benji then showed us some of the artists he looks to for inspiration, from the energetic and atmospheric illustrations of Carl Giles to the "incredible draughtsmanship" of Gustaf Tenggren. He proceeded to highlight some of the picture books in his portfolio, including On The Moon, which combined hand-drawn illustrations with real photographs of the lunar landscape from NASA and Hodge the Hedgehog, the first children's book he worked on.
To conclude his talk, Benji showed us some spreads from The Storm Whale, which is to be published by Simon & Schuster in August. The idea for the story came from an animation entitled A Bowl of Soup, which Benji directed during his final year at university. He outlined some of the challenges he had encountered in adapting the short film into a story book, such as adding words to an otherwise silent narrative.
Our last speaker was James Huggins, Co-Founder and Director of Made in Me. Like Rachel, James took a roundabout route into the industry, beginning with experimenting in digital art and design in his spare time whilst studying Philosophy and Psychology in Edinburgh. This evolved into an interest in visual effects, which ultimately led to helping establish Escape Studios in 2002.
Following on from this venture, James set up Made in Me with his brother-in-law in 2009. Aspiring to bring the picture book format into the digital world, the team developed The Land of Me, a fully-interactive early learning adventure for children. Whilst the project was well-received in the industry, its limited exposure meant it failed to make as much of a commercial impact.
With the arrival of the iPad, James found the perfect platform through which to achieve Made in Me's vision. The team set about developing Me Books, a new product that could be seen by more people than its predecessor by being sold through the App Store.
We learned how James wanted to recreate the playfulness of reading a picture book in real life as an interactive experience. Rather than reading the book from start to finish in the conventional way, young readers are encouraged to play with the words, draw over the images and record new audio to sculpt the narrative.
These titles are sold through the app, which James likened to an online book shop. Not only is the selection of titles incredibly diverse (everything from Tiger-pig to Peppa Pig is on there), it creates an even playing field, with titles from large publishers such as Penguin sitting alongside independent publications written and illustrated by recent graduates. There are no charges involved in selling a title through the Me Books store, with each author receiving 50% of all profits.
Made in Me are always looking for new titles to be published as Me Books. With this in mind, James ended his presentation by extending the opportunity to YCN members. If you have a picture book you would like to see sold through the Me Books store, then you can submit your title for consideration by sending a finished .pdf to firstname.lastname@example.org
We would like to thank all of our speakers for their inspiring presentations, and Vita Coco for providing the refreshments.
Location:72 Rivington Street,
London, EC2A 3AY,
Start:24th April, 2013 at 6:30pm
End:24th April, 2013 at 8:00pm