10 Questions: An Online Interview

Diane Tullock (AKA the Patient Dreamer) is a passionate bookie and avid blogger. She recently asked me if I'd like to do an email interview with her about writing and stuff to which I said sure thing! Diane has kindly allowed to me to post the interview here...

Click to read more ...


Thank you Maurice

“I would like to do away with the division into age categories of children over here and adults over there, which is confusing to me and I think probably confusing to children. It’s very confusing to many people who don’t even know how to buy a children’s book. I think if I have any particular hope it’s this: that we all should simply be artists and just write books and stop pretending that there is such a thing as being able to sit down and write a book for a child: it is quite impossible. One simply writes books.”

– From Questions to an Artist Who Is Also an Author: A Conversation between Maurice Sendak and Virginia Haviland (a public interview at the Library of Congress held in 1971) Died on Tuesday in Danbury, Conn. He was 83.

Thank you Maurice - an inspiration.


Random thought

“Love is like a muddy puddle – you’ll never know how deep you'll get until you step into it.”


Dear Mr Sommerset

Got a stack of letters from the kids of Owairaka School after my visit last month with Tamati and the TVNZ breakie crew. Often the kids are a little shy and don't say too much in person but their letters are cracking good fun. Here's a sample letter of sentences compiled from all the lovely messages I received...

"Dear Mr Sommerset, 
thank you for wasting your time to visit us today. You are a stupendous author. When I saw you you looked pretty young because you didn't look like you had any wrinkles or pimples. Listening to you read your books made me feel young again. One of my favourite stories is Baa Baa Smart Sheep. It was awesome because it's a story about an animal eating poo without knowing. It's an interesting and happy story to read if you are sad because it fills me with happiness and laughter. I laughed so hard my eyeballs nearly popped out! It's sad you didn't get to live your dream as a rugby player but hey - I'm short! People think I am 6 but I'm 10! Can you write a story about me, I’m handsome AND cool. Thank you for donating some books to our school. I can see some joyful faces. I liked it when you said dreams can come true. And thank you for making our school famous. I really hope you have an excellent life."

Yours Sincerely, the kids of room 20 Owairaka School.


Two Little Bugs, one White Raven

Two Little Bugs has been selected as a 2012 'White Raven' - one of 250 outstanding children’s books published around the world last year!

“White Ravens” are selected by the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany as "examples of extraordinary and innovative books for children and adolescents." White Ravens "inspire and provoke, set new trends, and are of the highest quality in terms of language, content, and artistry. They indicate children's books that deserve worldwide attention on account of their universal themes and their unique and innovative style."

Of the thousands of titles submitted, Two Little Bugs was also awarded a “special mention” by the International Youth Library committee – an honour reserved for only a handful of titles. As a result of its selection Two Little Bugs will be showcased at this year’s Bologna and Frankfurt book fairs alongside two other NZ novels for Young Adults, The Traveling Restaurant by Barbara Else and The Scent of Apples by Jacquie McRae. Yay! To see what the IYL had to say about Two Little Bugs, The Travelling Restaurant, and The Scent of Apples, click here.

The International Youth Library is the coolest kids book library in the world. They have a unique archival collection of almost 600,000 children’s books in over 130 languages! All titles held at the library can be accessed by researchers and visitors from all over the world. What a place to visit for booklovers! - Definitely on our ‘must do’ list... and look! It's in a castle!


To find out a little more about the International Youth Library click here 



Out for a little sunshine

Some ideas and characters seem to get shelved away for such a long time. Here are two friends that haven't had a book built for them yet, they have been very patient. They are also very understanding that their own books may not even come to pass. But I still love to look at their faces, so I thought I would take them out for a trip to the blog so they might see a little sunshine......


My Bird Friend

I recently re-read ‘The Secret Garden’ (first time as a grown-up) - and all I can say is I suffered ‘couldn't-put-it-down-itis’ ...... but this isn't a book review. It left me thinking about something that happened in our garden about 8 years ago....

It was my first vegetable garden, actually it was my first garden ever. On this particuar day the garden was still young, freshly turned and planted out with young seedlings and I was set to spend the day there tending its needs. It wasn't long before I noticed I had a companion. About a metre or two away a small sparrow watched me as I worked. As I got to know him I realised he seemed old. His feathers where ‘fluffed’, in a kind of unkept way and he moved quietly. I even thought maybe he was getting ready for something.

He stayed by me for a couple of hours. I introduced him to Mark, who noted his comradship and even felt we should take his photo, so we did.

We decided perhaps he needed some lunch, so we prepared him a snack of seeds, honey, bread and a little water. My day in the garden carried on cheerfully when I noticed my friend slowly hopping towards me. Now, you know when time slows down, slow-mo style, well it did just a little bit right here.... As he was coming towards me I got the direct feeling he wanted to hop into my hands. Checking with myself as to how I could know such a thing and in order to be sure I wasn't just being wishful, I decided to cup my hands near the ground in the opposite direction so he would have to deliberately chart a course to hop in.

And he did. He did just that. He hopped right in my hands and I lifted him up. We just sat there together for a moment taking a rest. Then after a bit I placed him down in the nearby shade of a bush and he slowly hopped off. He remained there for a little while and I continued with my gardening and after some time he just slipped away. I didn't see him again.

For a time I wondered why he made such a bold, brave move. Was this one last thing on his 'bucket list', a last fear to overcome, to be held by one of those strange large human animals? Or was he just saying thankyou for spending his last few hours with him and wanted a little cuddle. That I don't have a direct feeling about. But that quiet, sunny moment is one of the most magical things I have experienced.

Maybe that's why I was so gripped by ‘The Secret Garden’ because having had this experience, its story about the magic in the world, in nature, and in our minds felt very real and very true.


Behind the Leaf

Here is a bit of a look at some of the inspirations and ideas used in the design of Two Little Bugs...

After reading Mark's first draft of Two Little Bugs, I quickly got excited with the idea that the page could be the leaf itself, with a bug on each side. But how could I get Little Bug Red and Little Bug Blue to talk to each other and connect emotionally when they were on different pages? Holes of course!

So while I was working on how exactly to do that I kept a pile of books that use clever production techniques close by to help fuel and inspire design ideas. Some of these were......

LOVE by Lowell A Siff / Gian Berto Vanni.

Not long before I started work on Two Little Bugs I blogged about my love for LOVE - a beautifully constructed book from the 1960's that uses lots of cuts and holes that look through to lower pages. After love-chucking all over the blog about it I came away feeling “Gee, I'd really like to have a go at doing a book using more production techniques”. Mark had just finished his idea for Two Little Bugs, it was a perfect timing.


Big-time fan of all of Oliver Jeffers work and this pop-up edition of The Incredible Book Eating Boy has got all the bells an whistles. It was a great resource while I was considering paper-engineering, diecuts and production techniques.


With Two Little Bugs, I wanted the paper techniques used to be integral and enhancing to the idea of the story itself. I thought Emily Gravett's, Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears was a good example of this.

.....another big inspiration is the work of Japanese Artist KATSUMI KOMAGATA. The elegance, simplicity and layering does it for me!

When it came to creating the shapes for the holes Little Bug Red makes, I went on an expedition around our garden collecting samples of different types of holey leaves. After considering all the subtleties of bug mastication and dentition I settled on Kawakawa leaves. They're a bit of an over achiever in holey-ness and had just the right blend of simplicity and chew-factor I was looking for. After scanning the leaves, I traced a whole bunch of hole shapes to work with. I like knowing that every hole in Two Little Bugs is based on a hole a real little bug made.

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