I grew up the daughter of a draughtsman so the smell of paper and pencil is in my blood. I still have one of his bakelite triangular rulers. I begin a new story in pencil on scraps of paper that I keep in a file. Writing by hand helps the story emerge and seems more tactile. The pencils I use are matt black on the outside… even the wood is black and they are tipped with a jewel-like stud that makes me smile. I buy them in large quantities from the V&A.
I used to be a travel writer so keeping a travel journal is second nature. I use Muji notebooks… blank paper ones with a black spiral. I like the tactile feel of them and their boards are strong. If I want something smaller to carry around I use Moleskin ones but they get a bit expensive. For the notebooks I use a black Uniball pen.
I also make special handmade notebooks for some of my picture book stories. I put the pictures, or postcards that have helped build the story in them and often use glassine paper & envelopes as they have a lovely milky opaque look that seems secretive.
Making the notebooks is pure indulgence and there are all sorts of lovely tools like bone folders that are part of the ‘playing’. I love browsing through the papers and binding materials at shops like Shepherd’s, 30 Gillingham Street, Victoria or Stone and Green in the King’s Road Chelsea.
If I need an eraser I use a STAEDTLER Mars plastic. It comes with a cardboard wrapper so I can watch my progress as it gets unpeeled. I like using them until they are nothing but a little stub and usually have about three on the go. I always carry a pencil and eraser and sharpener with me, and sometimes a few coloured pencils that I know will be the tones of the place I’m visiting. I use a metal Muji pencil box that’s light and carry my business cards in a thin Muji metal case as well. There’s something very streamlined and practical about them. Even my purse is a silver metal case but not Muji.
My latest picture books are:
The Glassmaker’s Daughter, which was illustrated by Jane Ray, is set in Venice. Glassmaking recipes were highly secret but when a young boy makes a piece of reflective mirror, it has a strange affect on a rather unhappy girl, who no one else can make smile.
Published by Frances Lincoln, October 2017.
Zeraffa Giraffa also with Jane Ray, was produced as a play at the Little Angel and Omnibus Theatres.
And My Daddy is a Silly Monkey, which tells of a single father who brings up his daughter amidst much chaos, is also recent.
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