Welcome to this issue of my newsletter focussing on writing for children – but with some information relevant to other genres, too.
For those who have been subscribers for a while – many thanks for your patience! I hope this edition is worth the wait.
People who have recently subscribed will soon realise that your inbox will never be flooded with emails from me! This newsletter is not sent out regularly - just as time allows and things come to mind to share.
I hope you found the previous editions in the archive. They're still there!
The Art of the Story Archive
No matter if you are a seasoned professional writer or illustrator, a beginner aiming for publication or a young person enjoying stories, writing, drawing and craft activities, the aim is always to include
...something you'll find useful
...something you'll find interesting
Topics in this edition are...
• Keeping The Story Going
• My Favourite Illustrators - 'Mustard George' & George Cruikshank
• For Fun - Have a laugh at my expense!
• Top Tips
• Writing Industry Business
I'll appreciate any feedback you can give, questions you'd like me to answer (or find answers to), and suggestions for future editions...
This is just the third edition that I've written. I'm hoping to produce a new one about every 6 weeks – but the actual time will vary.
57 Remick Street
Queensland 4053 Australia
Keeping The Story Going
Have you ever tried to write a paragraph but found the words just wouldn't flow?
Sometimes I've sat and looked hard at the screen for ages as if hypnotised. I've sat on the sofa with paper and pencil. I've tried to work out what's wrong while out walking - but all to no avail.
Now I do something different.
As soon as a pragraph gets hard to write, I look at the previous one. That's the one that usually needs a change and polish to make it lead naturally to what follows next.
My Favourite Illustrators - 'Mustard' George & George Cruikshank
In all editions of 'The Art of the Story' I feature a section on 'Early Illustrators of Books for Children'
This edition of my newsletter is sent later than I hoped because I got a bit carried away researching this section. I've enough notes and pictures now for the next three editions and more.
Ralph Caldecott (1846 – 1866) was one of the finest illustrators of children’s books, and in his day, one of the most innovative. His pictures are noted for the life he breathed into them, and because they filled in parts of the story that were not provided by the words, and so enlarged it.
Caldecott planned his books as balanced entities. They were the first to blend pictures and text as a flowing design continuing from cover to cover, and they were unusual at that time because some pages only had one or two words on them, or even none at all where the picture was telling part of the story.
For these reasons, Caldecott is considered the founder of ‘modern’ picture storybooks, and illustrators of books for children still follow many of his design ideas.
His books were also new in concept in that lots of pages were printed in colour and all pages had printing on them. In earlier times the reverse side of a ‘picture-page’ was left blank.
I will discuss Caldecott’s life, illustrations and influence in greater detail in a forthcoming edition of ‘The Art of the Story’ Newsletter, for though his children’s books were conceptually new, he was not the originator of combining pictures and words.
Ribbons and scrolls added words to pictures in 12th century manuscripts, and various designs of speech bubbles have been used in works through all centuries from that time onwards.
Stories with comic-style illustrations drawn in boxes, with captions under them, have been published for children since about 1750 – though not many 'fun' ones were printed before 1800. Some were produced as single sided broadsides which looked like mini-posters, while others were in book form. One of the earliest cartoon stories on sale was ‘Old Mother Hubbard and her Dog’. In these early publications for children, however, the pictures simply illustrated the text.
In Issue 1 of 'The Art of the Story' Newsletter, I described how Hogarth told stories for adults by painting series of pictures which were also published as engravings. In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, cartoons of ‘The Caricaturists’ such as Thomas Rowlandson, had added visual information or ‘background stories’ to accompany captions. It was ‘Mustard George’, George Moutard Woodward (1760 – 1809), Rowlandson’s drinking buddy and sometimes collaborator, who was the first, I believe, to blend pictures and words as strip cartoons. By doing so, he thus laid at least part of the foundation not only for Caldecott’s and our present day books designed for children, but also for all strip cartoon stories and elements of the latest ‘graphic novels’.
The link below will take you to a picture of Woodward’s strip cartoon story “14th September or City Sportsmen” published in 1798.
Telling stories with sequential art may go as far back as cave paintings, Egyptian carvings, Sumerian cylinder seals and designs painted around ancient Roman and Greek pottery, or in relief – followed by medieval Bible illuminations, frescos and fabrics such as the Bayeux Tapestry. None of these, however, were specifically produced for children, though I’m sure children would have seen many of them – particularly the biblical stories painted on church pillars and ceilings.
Similarly, in the 1700’s and early 1800’s, prints like Woodward’s ‘City Sportsmen’ cartoon story were for adults, but would have been seen by children walking past ‘print shops’. A picture of Hannah Humphrey’s shop window display appears in Gillray’s “Very Slippy Weather” cartoon, which you can see along with Woodward's work on the
Woodward's Illustrations Page.
In the late 1820’s too, George Cruikshank was producing ‘child friendly’ cartoon books for adults.
Though large numbers of people were still desperately poor in Victorian times, it was an era of increased prosperity for many, and family life contained more elements of fun than in previous periods of history. Games of ‘forfeits’ were played by adults. Word play using puns formed an everyday element in the pattern of speech in England.
This love of the pun fostered imagination in illustration to highlight differences in meaning – another foretaste of children’s books of today in which illustrators provide images contrary to those that might be expected from the text alone.
Below I'll provide a link to examples from George Cruikshank’s ‘Scraps and Sketches’ of 1828 – 1832.
From the same book I am intrigued by his creativity in giving personality to everyday inanimate objects and I am hoping someone more learned than I will tell me when inanimate objects were first personified, and by whom.
George Cruickshank was also a painter. From his artwork, Rapahel Tuck produced a series of paper 'scraps' (in the 1880's?) suitable for children to paste into 'scrapbooks'. They provide the story of people going to 'The Derby' horse race, in England, the event and what happened on the way home.
Though captions have been added underneath, they are not necessary. The story can be enjoyed through the pictures alone - but many captions do add some extra fun through word play.
In one of the scenes you can see that Cruikshank painted the illustrator 'Phiz'. I'll feature his work in a later Newsletter too.
Here are pictures of
George Cruikshank's Illustrations.
Have a laugh at my expense! (This is true - I've writen it as an article to submit to magazines.)
I’ve picked them up from antique shops, garage sales and won them at auction on eBay – though I have made errors. Particularly on eBay. The ‘top of the range’ Bang and Olufsen ear-phones I purchased there, for a tenth of the Australian list price, are probably worth less than the envelope in which they arrived from China - but you should see my bargain buys! ‘Good investments’. And there are so many of them on eBay, if you’re careful.
As an author and writer, I enjoy talking about the history of books. At seminars and school visits I can now let people touch and pass around cuneiform sales dockets from 2000BC, handle 13th century manuscript pages and dozens of treasures from my collection. Last month I bought 6 handwritten sheets of medieval Russian music for $12, a ‘sutra leaf’ and two ‘pages’ from a palm-leaf book for even less. Yes, eBay’s wonderful most of the time, and I enjoy the adrenalin rush in the closing seconds of bidding more than bungee-jumping.
No, I’m not addicted. I’ve got a ‘wanted list’. It contains an ancient Greek pot fragment with added writing, an ostracon, so that I can talk about the process of ‘ostracising’, and also some early Egyptian artefacts – something written on a fragment of papyrus and an object with hieroglyphics.
Just before Christmas I was watching a set of four Egyptian Canopic jars from a tomb. The kind of jars that stored body parts. 1500BC, hieroglyphics – I couldn’t believe it, they appeared to be going for only $58.
My wife, Heather, and I went to a function with her work colleagues, and when we returned just after midnight, the jars were still at that price and there was half an hour left on the auction. Heather was calling me to come to bed. Should I make a bid?
I typed a number in haste and hit ‘confirm’.
Oh, no! Oh, help!!! Doom!! Doommm!! DOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!!!! Instead of typing $71.89 I’d entered $7,189. The ‘current price’ rose rapidly …$85 …$105 …$205. This was appalling! A hundred was about my limit. My heart raced and pounded more than felt healthy as I clicked feverishly all over the eBay site to find out how I could retract a bid. It wasn’t possible! What could I do? What could I do? Pacing the floor didn’t help ease the pounding in my ears and I felt as though boiling water had been tipped all over me.
I emailed the vendor, caring little about the string of typos. The price continued to skyrocket …$400 …$580. With heart beating still faster, I sent another email. The item description said they were worth $2000 - $5000US. This was torture! There was still another 10 minutes to go. I couldn’t afford $7,000!!!
"Yes dear, I’m coming to bed."
With my stomach in knots, I crept out from the sheets half an hour later to discover the damage. I’d won them for $850US! How could I explain that on my credit card statement??? But it could have been so much worse. I could actually pay that if I had to. Sleep was possible. Just.
The next day the seller was very kind and assured me he quite understood. He would offer them to the other bidder or re-list them. Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!! But $850 still seemed reasonable. In some ways I now wish he’d made me complete the transaction. They were very nice!
Now, there’s another set on sale with a current price of $66 and 5 days to go…
(Keep it quiet! Heather still doesn't know about the first ones.)
Just before Christmas I played with Winsor and Newton's 'Graulation Medium'. It gives watercolours a grainy feel. You can see the result as the background to my Christmas Card, which is still on the website. I was really pleased with the result - although I went a bit overboard.
I mixed the paints with the Medium instead of using water, I used the roughest and heaviest watercolour paper I could find and moistened that with the Meduim before painting the wash, then applied Medium over the whole thing while it was still wet.
In particular, Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson gave a spectacular result and wonderful purples.
Writing Industry Business
I was given a reality check this week when I read some advice that Di Bates, a well known Australian author, gave in a newsletter to a beginning writer. Di has had over 90 books published over her 25 year writing career, plus plays and hundreds of articles and short stories. She wrote:
"...In 2006 I made a total of 235 manuscript submissions - 50 more than in 2005."
Hmmmm. So that's what a professional does!
I've also, several times, been given the recommendation that I should always have 13 manuscripts circulating publishing houses. (But there'd be no point in doing so if they were not absolutely the best work able to be produced. 'Submit in haste and regret at leisure!')
More in the next edition…
That's it for this one.
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