Thursday, February 08, 2007

Word Art

Though now writing fiction and non-fiction for young children and mid-grade, my first books were non-fiction for adults - 'The Australian Manual of Calligraphy', pub. Allen and Unwin in 1987, and 'A Manual of Calligraphy' pub. Unwin Hyman / Harper Collins in the UK and NZ. I have more non-fiction for adults planned too.

My calligraphy tutors have included the world's finest - 'The Queen's Scribe' - Donald Jackson, Thomas Ingmire, Michael Gullick, Kennedy Smith, Gaynor Goffe and many more.

I'm just writing a proposal to perform at the Queensland Poetry Festival in September, but I'm not sure if this is what they have in mind:

I'd like to spend the 3 days of the Festival working on a large roll of paper, writing poetry in calligraphy as word pictures, starting with one poem and then adding and interweaving lines of onlookers' choice, so that in the end, a large scroll is produced.

Throughout this time of demonstration I would be able to talk to bystanders about design, layout, texture, scale and materials – and provide advice. Thomas Ingmire said:

“It is only the expression of the words, the conviction, the passion, the love behind them, which gives them meaning.”

Here's the result of my recent experiment to visually interpret parts of 'Relearning the Alphabet', by Denise Levertov.

In the beginning was delight. A depth
stirred as one stirs fire unthinking.
Dark dark dark . And the blaze illumines

Vision sets out
journeying somewhere,
walking the dreamwaters

Better get back to the proposal!

Peter Taylor

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Cruikshank, Phiz and 'Mustard' George

On my website is the facitilty to sign up for my newsletter, 'The Art of the Story'. Whatever your interest in writing for children, or illustrating, I hope there's always something of interest.

It has a section that features the work of early illustrators of books and work that children would have seen - though not necessarily work produced with children specifically in mind.

The last edition (January 2007) features the world's first 'strip-cartoonist' - 'Mustard' George Woodward and provides pictures of one of his prints published in 1798.

I've also included some pictures from Cruikshank's 'Scraps and Sketches' album of 1832. In this book he gave personality to inanimate objects. Can anyone tell me who the first illustrator was to do this?
I've always thought of Cruikshank engraving and producing black and white prints, but I have a series of coloured Victorian "scraps" produced, presumably, from Cruikshank's paintings of 'The Derby' horse race. These show getting there, the event, and the journey home. One scene includes and names 'Phiz' - who, like Cruikshank, illustrated books for Charles Dickens. Does anyone know if Cruikshank and Phiz were actual friends?
You can find this and previous editions at 'back-issues'.
I hope you'll enjoy them and want to subscribe - they're free!
Happy writing and illustrating!
Peter Taylor

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Tip for Writers

Professional writers for children belong to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators - SCBWI. To become a Full Member, you have to have had a children's book published.

Editors receive manuscripts from authors and all kinds of 'wanna be' writers, and can get jaded reading dozens of unprofessional letters and stories with no potential.

Even finding out about the Society and paying the fee to become an unpublished 'Associate Member' shows that you are serious about the craft, and many Associate Memebers have had books published for adults but not yet for children.

After considerable recent discussion amongst members of the Yahoo Children's Writers forum (thanks everyone for your input and advice!), it was generally agreed that:

By mentioning SCBWI on the outside of your submission envelope, whatever level of your membership, you give an editor an expectation that the contents will be professionally presented and could be worth reading, and may just encourage them to spend a little extra time considering what you have written - enough to make the difference and eventually send you a contract to sign. Before joining SCBWI, writers at least will have probably had professional tuition through a course, and the chances are that a member will belong to a critique network and have worked on their manuscript for a considerable time and noted the insights and advice of their writer buddies.

If a member, it is suggested that you write in the bottom left-hand corner of your submission envelope:

SCBWI Member


SCBWI Full-Member

or, if the editor gave a presentation at a SCBWI event and said they would read material from attendees:

SCBWI Member

Attendee July 2006 Queensland Conference

Of course, the envelope could just be ripped open by an office worker and discarded before being read by an editor, so I usually put something about SCBWI membership early in the cover letter too.

If you are a serious about writing for children, I suggest you research and join the Society.

(You're still allowed to give your manuscript a hug for 'good luck' as you drop it in the mail! Luck can always play a part in acceptances - but you might find my cover letter recipe useful too.)


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