Tag Archive: enid blyton

  1. “Don’t abandon. Never go back. Write the same amount every day. Put down a sentence and see where it takes you.” #BathKidsLitFest Day 9

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    It’s another great night at the The Telegraph Bath Children’s Literary Festival thanks to the appearance of Andy Mulligan (author of Ribblestrop, Trash, and The Boy with Two Heads, amongst others) and John Boyne (whose novels for children include The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Noah Barleywater Runs Away and Stay Where You Are and Then Leave), brandishing books so hot-off-the-press they’re practically smoking.

    Both Mulligan and Boyne had careers before they turned to writing full-time: Mulligan worked in the theatre for about a decade, “very unsuccessfully” before being made redundant “thank goodness!” while Boyne spent seven years at Waterstone’s in Dublin.

    The aggressive boys’ grammar school in London that Mulligan attended when young – “a place of extraordinary cruelty” he muses ruefully – informs his fiction, if not consciously. He’s interested in psychological torment and friction between characters, but also the enduring power of deep friendships. Next week, for the first time, he’s going back to his old school. “You might come across the very toilet your head was thrust down,” offers John McLay, artistic co-director of the Festival, who’s in the red chair tonight.

    Boyne also had a fairly miserable time of it at school and his experiences fuelled the writing of A History of Loneliness, an adult novel. He was an avid reader as a child, taking out three books a week from his local library. Like many writers, he’s a book fetishist, loving the paper, the typeface, the physical handling of a book in printed form. Put him in a stationery shop and he’s in heaven.

    For Mulligan, the works of Enid Blyton were a childhood delight. “Mallory Towers was beautiful,” he says wistfully. But he still recalls the moment of realising that no member of the Famous Five ever got hurt when deep in adventure, and then he just sort of lost faith. “Their life was too sunny. I wanted menace.” It wasn’t until he read Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr (published in 1958) that he got what he’d been thirsting for.

    Boyne has some good advice for aspiring writers: “Don’t abandon. Never go back. Write the same amount every day. Put down a sentence and see where it takes you.” Mulligan seconds that, adding that, ”Writing a book is a marathon. The best advice I was ever given is to just finish it. Even if it’s no good, you’ll have the experience of shaping something.”

    And so to their latest novels: Mulligan’s Liquidator is a thriller that has an addictive energy drink, a clumsy 14-year-old doing some work experience, and Machiavellian corporate shenanigans at its heart. Boyne’s The Boy at the Top of the Mountain follows the orphaned Pierrot from Paris to Germany in 1935 and imminent war. The house where Pierrot ends up is no less than the Berghof, the home of Adolf Hitler.

    Why write, asks McLay. “I really couldn’t do anything else,” answers Boyne. “It’s part of my psychology.” And for Mulligan? “The pleasure. It was my hobby. It remains my hobby.”

    And what next? Boyne’s on the second draft of a book set in Ireland, spanning 70 years. And Mulligan is writing a book about a dog with an identity crisis who just wants to be a cat.

    Claudia Pugh -Thomas was at Writing YA: John Boyne and Andy Mulligan at  The Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival 2015

  2. Lois Edwards (Age 9) Questions Shifty McGifty illustrator Steven Lenton: On Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton & Judith Kerr

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    In the run up to the 2015  Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival which starts tomorrow, Monkton Combe Prep School in Bath, held a workshop with Steven Lenton, who is famous for illustrating the Shifty McGifty books and lots of other stories.

    By Lois Edwards (Age 9)

    The workshop started with him reading a few stories to us and then he taught us how to draw some of the dog characters from the stories.

    I thought it was very good because he showed us a really easy way to draw the characters and I have been drawing them at home on my own too. Afterwards I was lucky enough to be able to spend some time with Steven and ask him some questions about his illustrations.

    Lois: Was art your favourite subject in school?

    Steven: It was. I really liked writing and drawing at primary school and secondary school, so yes art was definitely always my favourite.

    Lois: Are you working on a book at the moment?

    Steven: Yes, we’ve just finished Shifty McGifty 3 and we’ve just started on Shifty McGifty 4

    Lois: Do you keep an ideas book for doodling in?

    Steven: I do. I keep a small sketch book on me at all times, because I might wake up at midnight with a really good idea or I might be on the bus or the train or in the car (not driving of course!) and come up with another idea and want to write it down quickly. So having a book with you all the time to make notes is a really good idea.

    Lois: What other illustrators do you admire?

    Steven: When I was growing up I loved Quentin Blake who does all the Roald Dahl book illustrations like the BFG. There’s also a lady who I really like, who designs a lot of Disney books called Mary Blair. I also really like Judith Kerr who did the Tiger who came to tea, she’s going to be at the Bath Literature Festival this year. That’s probably enough isn’t it. I could go on all day! (On Thursday 1 October Bath Festivals is auctioning over 60 original, unique, illustrations by Bath Children’s Literature Festival illustrators including Axel Scheffler (The Gruffalo) and Chris Riddell (Goth Girl) click here for more information)

    Lois: Did anyone inspire you to become an illustrator?

    Steven: My teachers at primary school did. Mrs Wood who was my very first teacher was very good at art and I’ve had really good teachers all through my life. So yes teachers really are the main influence. And then I like to read up about other artists in the library and I used to enjoy watching animations on tv, and I knew I wanted to create my own characters so anything that involved characters I liked.

    Lois: Do you prefer to draw with a pencil and paper or on a computer?

    Steven:  Well I use both. It’s funny you should ask that because I always start off with a sketch book with pencil and paper and then I scan it into the computer and then I colour everything in. So everything you see in colour in my work is all done in photoshop on the computer. So I use a really good mixture of both

    Lois: Do you just illustrate books or do you draw other things too?

    Steven: I do draw other things too. I still do bits of animation and I design characters for TV commercials as well , I also design greeting cards and advent calendars. So yes lots of other different things that i try and do in between doing the books.

    Lois: If you were writing a book would you start with the story or the drawings?

    Steven: I would say neither, I start with the idea. So if you get an idea and it’s easier to explain it and write it down first then it would be the words but if you come up with a really good idea for a character it might be quicker to draw the character first. So it depends on the idea but the idea comes first.

    Lois: If you could illustrate any book in the whole world, which would you pick?

    Steven: Hmmm, well there’s a book with lots of dotty dogs in it and that would be my dream job. I think I’d like to design a really nice big book like Peter Pan, a real classic. I love the Far Away Tree books too by Enid Blyton, I’d love to illustrate those, or Alice in Wonderland as well would be really nice.

    Lois: I can see you like drawing dogs, do you have a pet dog?

    Steven: I do have a pet dog, she’s a Jack Russel and she’s a rescue dog called Holly. She’s getting on a bit, she’s 11 or 12 now and she can be quite grump

    Shifty Mcgifty illustrator Steven Lenton is appearing with Tracey Corderoy at the Festival on Sunday 27 September at 10.30am at the Mission Theatre in Bath to book tickets click here

    To see the full 2015 Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival programme click here. Bath Box Office 01225 463362