I am keen to collaborate on projects both within the children’s book world, and outside of it, and I’m happy to be commissioned to write stories.
Life as a writer involves working closely with other highly skilled people. Once a publisher buys a story from me, Editors help to fine tune and make the best out of my writing. Illustrators add ideas and create a visible landscape and characters, often giving my story many more layers, even telling their own stories alongside mine. Designers make sure the books look great, particularly the front cover. Someone even writes a blurb for the back cover - and someone else sticks a price on it!
People often ask me if I would rather do the whole thing myself - write my stories, and make them into books without so many other people getting involved. Hmmm...
My only answer to that is that I like working with other people, pooling ideas and coming up with the best possible book at the end of it. And I have been lucky, because almost without exception, after editing, illustration and design, my books have turned out to be far better than I ever expected they would be.
A few of my books have been written on commission. I won’t tell you which, but you might be able to guess.
A publisher will often start things off by showing me an illustration of a character or two (one time it was a cat and a dog; another time a bear looking bored). In another case, I was given the title and general idea for a book. I loved the title, and the story I wrote is possibly the best I have written.
Although a commissioned story doesn’t start with my own idea, by the time I’ve written it, it feels like it did. Commissioned books are no different to me than books I have sweated over for a long time before showing a publisher - in the end, the working process is the same. My name is on the front of the book because it’s my story. The End.
I have written one story that didn’t have my name on, though I wrote it entirely myself, from mainly my own idea. This was a commission from the Department of Health, for the National Fruit and Vegetable Scheme. The book, GRUB, was sent to every Primary and First school in the country. I’ve seen it knocking around when I’m on school visits.
I am currently working with a composer on some ideas to add original music to the mix of text and illustration that work together in my books. To have my words interpreted by a musical score as well as by an illustrator is going to be a real treat, and I’m sure it will be an education in storytelling for me.
When I was a scientist (see my Science page) I was always hearing about grants available for scientists to work together with artists. Money was being offered to help bring science closer to the arts, with the idea of using the arts to better communicate to everyone else what science was getting up to. And that is an extremely good idea.
As a writer I use very different skills to those I used as a scientist, and I think putting the two together seems natural. So if any scientists would like to collaborate and have just heard about one of those grants, and have a project in mind, then please let me know.