A couple of things have come together recently to inspire this post, which I hope is going to be the first in a series. First of all, as part of my 100 books challenge, I was sent Cub’s First Winter by Rebecca Elliott, from Top That! Publishing. As a result, I found one BecElliott on twitter and got chatting.
Also on twitter, there’s a meme called FridayReads hosted by TheBookMaven. I got to thinking, wouldn’t it be cool to do a FridayReadAlouds – picture books, chapter books, books to share with families, books that need to be savoured.
So here you are, just squeaking in on a Friday, the inaugural FridayReadAlouds post, and I’m starting with an author feature on Rebecca Elliott. Rebecca has three picture books out atm, and more in the pipeline, and her books are absolutely luscious, the pictures just welcome you in and envelope you.
The stories are simple, but the use of language eloquent – I particularly like the narrative in Just Because, narrated by a little boy, about his very special big sister and her special chair. It’s a sensitively told story about a little girl with special needs and is a wonderful introduction for children who might not have come across this type of situation before.
Milo’s Pet Egg is beautiful too, though the story is not an unfamiliar one. I enjoyed the illustrations a lot, and I’m guessing Smallest did, as I had to read it three times in a row the first time I picked it up, and several times since too.
And so to the interview – as I had quite a few questions, I’m going to just give you a couple here, and finish the rest off next week. If you’ve any questions you’d liked to put to Rebecca, please stick them in the comments box.
Jax: How did you get into illustrating/ writing – was it a lifetime dream – did you want to do this as a little girl?
Rebecca: A recently unearthed school project entitled â€œAll About Me’ which I created at the tender age of 6 has in it the not unpretentious line â€œWhen I grow up I want to be a writer and a artistâ€. I remember endlessly boring my long-suffering family with stories I had written about rabbits wearing flat caps and aliens flying around in suitcases. This ambition never truly died, although it did take some knocks along the way, and now, many years later, I find I have to pinch myself because it seems this long running daydream of mine is finally coming true.
It was by a rather scrappy route that I find myself here though – I’ve met many illustrators who, fresh out of their Illustration degree were picked up by a publisher at their final degree exhibition and go on immediately to big things in the picture book world. Not me though, my degree was in Philosophy. Why? Why not. And indeed it’s that kind of insightful clever reasoning that got me through the degree. Anyhoo, at University I also took some â€˜wild’ courses in digital design, which in turn got me into designing the university magazine, which in turn got me into using Photoshop and Illustrator, which in turn got me into digital artwork. Soon enough I found that childhood ambition rising in me again and I spent hours and hours trawling the internet for advice on putting together a children’s book illustration portfolio.
I graduated and started working in an excruciatingly dull office job which served to fuel my ambition to break out of the bland and into the world of children’s illustration. So I continued to work on my digital illustration style and sent off various book ideas and samples to publishers. When I look back at these embarrassingly inept samples now it’s so very very painful – not to mention inexplicable that I considered them publishable. The publishers I sent them to, of course, shared my current opinion that they were, at best, laughable excuses of incompetent daubings and I have a file full of rejection letters to prove it. But I didn’t give up and slowly my samples got a little better and eventually some work for a couple of mass-market publishers came trickling in.
Luckily I’m married to an extremely supportive husband and a year after graduating I gave up the dull office job and went full-time freelance. I meandered along for some time with my mass-market work but it was without doubt my partnership with the then fledgeling Bright Agency a couple of years later that finally gave my career the push it so desperately needed. With their help I worked and worked on my style and eventually gave up the digital illustration in favour of getting down and dirty with some real paints.I’ve been illustrating books now for around 9 years but my true ambition of writing the books as well as illustrating them only became a reality last year when three of my books were published in August – Just Because, Cub’s First Winter and Milo’s Pet Egg. I have two more coming out in May/June this year and more in the pipe line. I am one extremely fortunate lady.
Jax: Were you good at art at school?
Rebecca:I’ve always loved art – as did my two siblings although it’s a little inexplicable because neither of my parents were at all arty. And because I drew all the time, in school and out, I guess I was pretty good at it. My artwork at GCSE level was quite strange though, when my parents walked in to the final exhibition show the teacher sidled up to them and said, â€˜Just look for the weird pictures’ – and sure enough amongst the gentle paintings of flowers and sparrows were my disturbing offerings involving tree-like hands growing out the ground holding bulging eyeballs. I clearly have issues.
It’s amazing how many people I meet now who tell me they used to love art at school but haven’t done it in years – and I never understand why. Don’t let the kids have all the fun – if you loved art at school chances are you still would now so go pick up a paintbrush, do that potato print, make something out of a toilet roll. Go on, you know you want to.
And it’s me again. That’s fabulous advice to end with for this week, whether you loved art at school or outside of it 🙂 I’m going to leave the interview here for now, but please, I’d love to know what you think of Rebecca’s work, and of this series, and most of all, I’d love to know what you’re reading aloud to your children. Please let me know – comments box, via twitter, or on your own blogs, and drop me a link.
small print – affiliate links in this post are assigned to the 100 book challenge fundraising account. And if I can track down where we’re up to, I’ll add these two books to the list! ETA These are books 72 and 73 🙂