Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Here be dragons - Josh Lacey

It's seven o'clock in the morning and I'm just about to leave the house to catch a train to Essex, where I'll be visiting schools, talking to kids about my new book. 

But today will be slightly different to my usual school visits, because I won't be alone. I'll be working with Garry Parsons, the illustrator. 

While I'm talking and reading from the book, he'll be drawing dragons, gorillas, iguanas, ice creams, ballerinas and more dragons, plus whatever else emerges from his imagination and the imaginations of the children watching us. 

Garry illustrated The Dragonsitter, which was published a year ago, and The Dragonsitter Takes Off, which came out last week, and we've done a few events together. 

That's a picture that Garry drew on the wall at Kingham Primary School during the Chipping Norton Festival. We've also done a couple of events at the Roald Dahl Museum together, and today and tomorrow we're going to be in Essex, on a mini-tour organised by the Just Imagine Story Centre in Chelmsford.

We've gradually evolving a nice routine. He talks and draws; I talk and read. 

Writing is lonely, solitary and terribly slow. You have an idea. You think about it for a long time. Then you spend even longer sitting at your desk, spinning words. Of course I think it's worth explaining this curious process; but any explanation is necessarily a bit detached, and requires a leap of the imagination which can sometimes be difficult for a twitchy kid sitting on the floor of the hall, looking at the sun flooding through the big windows and smelling the lunch bubbling away in the kitchens. 

An illustrator's work is far more immediate. Here's a blank piece of paper. Here's a pen. And here - scribble, scribble, scribble - is a gorilla riding a unicycle. Or a grumpy ballerina. Or a big hungry dragon flying through the air. 

Talking about writing is like asking someone to believe in magic; whereas drawing a picture is like doing the magic right there in front of them. 

I'm not sure what Garry and I were expecting when we decided to do these events together. Slightly to my surprise - and, I suspect, to his too - we've discovered that working together like this, author and illustrator standing side by side, reading and drawing, is the perfect way to introduce children to a book.

Josh Lacey


Lari Don said...

Oh, I'm so jealous! I would love to do events with the illustrators of my picture books, but they all seem to live very far away from me, and often very far from most of my readers too(eg France or the Canary Islands...) It sounds like an ideal way to show as well as tell kids about the creative process, so I do hope you keep enjoying working with Garry!

Lynda Waterhouse said...

I love the Just Imagine story centre. It is a wonderful place

Ann Evans said...

That sounds a lovely way to work, I can just imagine how excited the children would be to have both author and illustrator in class. Long may you continue.

Linda Strachan said...

It is so much fun working with an illustrator. I've done a lot of events with Sally J Collins who illustrates our Hamish McHaggis books. We, and hopefully the audience, have a great time. Lots of fun and laughs and her lovely illustrations, as you say, magically appearing in front of their eyes!

Sumon Chowdhury said...

Beautiful work of illustrator, very funny.