Ever wanted to write for children? Here’s how Gail Aldwin went about creating Pandemonium a picture book for children from 2–7 years.
As a child, I remember being scared half to death by (and thrilled with) Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are. Later, I was given The Tiger Who Came to Tea which charmed and fascinated me. I revisited these classic children’s picture books when my son and daughter were young and loved the experience of sharing a precious book from my own childhood with them.
Following twenty years of working with young children in a variety of educational services, I thought I had enough experience of picture books to try my hand at writing one. I designed a template and set about drafting a story with a central spine relating to identity which held the other elements together. I entered an early draft of Pandemonium into a competition run by the Winchester Writers Festival and although I didn’t win and wasn’t placed, I received positive feedback on the language choice and arc of the story. At the time, this wasn’t enough to convince me to invest more time in developing the picture book. I had other writing projects to complete including Paisley Shirt, a collection of short fiction which was published in 2018.
A year later when my debut novel The String Games was in the editing phase with Victorina Press, I was put in touch with Fiona Zechmeister to liaise on the cover design. Fiona is a talented illustrator and had worked on two children’s books for Victorina Press. When I saw the quality of her illustrations, I decided to revise the manuscript for Pandemonium and submit it to Victorina Press. Once a contract was offered, I was asked to work with Fiona on the final product.
The collaboration with Fiona began when we talked through ideas for a visual storyline to dovetail with the words on the page. The illustrations tell a slightly different and nuanced version where the images fill in the blanks created by use of minimal text. Tension is achieved when this dual storyline approach is used in children’s picture books. Fiona then created thumbnail sketches and used water colours to give the pandas movement and personality. Sometimes the text needed to change to suit the images, at other times adjustments to the illustrations were necessary. Fiona brought many fresh ideas to the story and showed me how light and shade work through the illustrations to enhance the story. It was by committing to a strong collaboration including open conversations, flexibility and sensitive criticism that Fiona and I were able to bring Pandemonium to its final draft where the illustrations are a combination of traditional and digital watercolours. Even in the pre-Covid days it was interesting to note how much could be achieved through emails and Skype. Fiona lives in Austria and although I’m based in England, for a few months of our work together I was volunteering in Uganda.
Fiona and I have been delighted by the early reviews of Pandemonium which will be released on 1 December 2020.
Peta doesn’t look like other pandas in the toy department because of her purple coat. This provides camouflage and enables her to get up to mischief. When an assistant spots Peta this puts an end to her tricks. Peta must learn more about herself … but does this stop Peta’s fun? Of course not!
About Gail Aldwin
Novelist, poet and scriptwriter, Gail Aldwin’s coming-of-age novel The String Games was a finalist in The People’s Book Prize and shortlisted in the Dorchester Literary Festival Writing Prize 2020. The idea for Pandemonium came to Gail when she was teaching a module on writing for children to undergraduates at the University of South Wales. Gail lives with her family in a house that overlooks water meadows in Dorset. Find out more about Gail on her blog: https://gailaldwin.com Twitter: https://twitter.com/gailaldwin Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gailaldwinwriter/
About Fiona Zechmeister
Fiona holds a degree in Visual Communication and a Masters in Publishing from the University of Derby. She works as an illustrator creating book covers and children’s books. Pandemonium is the third children’s picture book Fiona has illustrated. The others are I am Adila from Gaza and Songo. Find out more about Fiona on her website: https://www.fionazeich.net Twitter: https://twitter.com/fionazeichnet Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fionazeichnet/
As a child, do you remember building a fort with pillows, or using blankets to create a den under the kitchen table? Did you play make believe with imaginary tea parties or perhaps become a pirate fighting off villains? Wasn’t it a wonderful escape to be somewhere you created in your mind, another world made up that you narrated and could invite people into, and allow them to join in and play?... to read more click HERE