Friday, 27 November 2009

Debi Gliori: Newcastle Tour

In October Jasmine and Heather embarked upon Scottish Book Trust's very first tour to England. Joining them on this most exotic of adventures was author and illustrator Debi Gliori. Jasmine and Heather had a fantastic time, but what did Debi think of her week long tour to Newcastle?...

We parachuted in as a triad: three women, a ton of books, and in my case, enough moisturizer to rehydrate a pharoaoh. We came, we saw, we talked, we drew, we signed books , in and out of the SBT people carrier, past the security sign-in at all of the schools, across playground war-zones and into tiny classrooms.

Reading picture books is sheer delight when you're reading with and to a very small group of children. It's a rare privilege to be allowed into the imaginations of the very young and I count myself blessed to be able to do what I do for a living ; making picture books for our smallest citizens. It takes me, on average, about six months to conceive, develop, rough out, write and paint a picture book. However, with the best will in the world, it rarely takes more than ten minutes max to read a picture book. The picture book word-count is short, the children's attention spans, since the advent of PS2's and Wii's, even shorter. These facts notwithstanding, some years ago, a close relative of the Marquis de Sade decreed that it would be a Jolly Good Idea for writers to read one picture book for an hour to a group of anything up to two hundred children of various ages and abilities.

This, compadres, takes cojones of steel. Hence the need for Zen-like detachment prior to these sessions. To offer up your very best work, your newest and best baby, to a group of children who've never met you before, you have to dig deep. It's not simply a question of reading the story and pointing out salient details in the pictures ; you have to be able to capture and hold the attention of a group of small strangers, to dodge and weave around the bletherers in the front row, to make sure that the children at the back can actually understand anything you're saying, to ignore the clamour of dinner ladies banging pots and pans in the background, to talk and draw and field questions all at the same time like some multi-armed Buddhist deity, to stretch a short story out, waaaaaay out beyond the bounds of credibility, to ignore the hisses from teachers trying to control their classes, and to smile, while inside you're measuring out the hours between you and that first cup of mint tea...

Normally, I do these sessions on my lonesome; that is, after I've spoken with assorted groups of children, I return to my hotel/b&b/train unaccompanied, eat a solitary dinner, make mint tea in my room and fall into bed. This time, on tour with Jasmine and Heather, we had drinks, conversation, debriefings, gallons of mint tea and above all, we gave each other support. It didn't feel like a solitary mission into uncharted territory; it felt like teamwork. So many, many thankyous to SBT for inviting me to tour with them, to Scottish Friendly for continuing to support our endeavours and thankyou to Seven Stories for hosting a lovely family event and for organizing schools, books and directing us to the best Japanese restaurant in the Western world.

Other News:

We are really excited that Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell have a new book coming out next May called Wyrmeweald! It’s a Wild West adventure with dragon-like beasts featuring heavily – partly inspired by our Scottish Friendly Children Book Tour to the Highlands last September! Watch the tour video here: And watch out for the book next year!


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