Monday, 9 December 2013

Weasels getting ready for the the Roald Dahl Funny Prize

Tomorrow is the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and my book Weasels is up for it! The Weasels are busy getting ready for the ceremony and I must say eye-patch weasel is quite the snazzy dresser. The less said about Dave the better.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Father Christmas Activity Card

I finally got the samples of a Christmas card/activity book I did ages ago. IT HAS STICKERS! I may have just spent a happy 10min doing the activities myself. It's available from here.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

World Domination Machines

The Just Imagine Story Centre ran a competition with Elsenham Primary school for the kids to design their own World Domination Machines much like the one from Weasels. There were some particularly brilliant machines with a range of features, aside from the usual switches and buttons, including Sky TV, a collection of trophies, some kind of homicidal dog and a cosy little bed and breakfast. Here are the finalists:

And here's the most excellent winner by one Josiah. It seems to have both a quiet area and a pitch n' putt. Congratulations Josiah!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Weasel nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal.

To celebrate my book Weasels being shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal (these are both rather good things in the heady world of children’s books) I’ve created a montage of my favorite bits from the book. If it's a little small here there's a bigger version here on my tumblr.

Want to know what on earth any of this is about? Well you can get a copy of Weasels from here, here and here.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2013

Weasels has been shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2013! I'm crazy excited and a bit bowled over by the whole shebang. 

It's a bit worrying though. Now that I'm officially funny does it mean I'm under pressure to say amusing and witty things? I think from now on I'm just going to be very, very serious so here a link to today's stock prices.

But if you fancy reading Weasels and not stock prices you can peek inside here:

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Nuts in Space!

Finally, the time has come! I can talk about my next book Nuts in Space!

A fearless crew of woodland creatures have traveled to the far reaches of deep space to retrieve the LOST NUTS OF LEGEND, a fabled snack rumoured to bestow incredible benefits upon the bearer. Now all they have to do is bring them home, if it only were that easy...

I don't want to give the game away too much but I can tell you it features this Beaver:

This Moose:

A hovering turtle:


And an awful lot of angry monkeys:

It's out April 2014!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Vote Weasels for the People's Book Prize!

The Weasels are out in force today because they've been shortlisted for the People's Book Prize and they need your vote today! They're hitting the campaign trail hard so if you'd like to vote for Weasels just click here.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Where I work.

A little while ago I wrote a post for the Nosy Crow blog as part of their series 'Where I work' about the workspaces of their authors and illustrators. I've replicated it here for your reading pleasure.

When I’m writing or illustrating I’m wisely banished to the shed in the garden so that the other occupants of my house are not bothered by the occasional shouts of ‘mwaha! I am a picturebook genius!’ when I think things are going well or the sound of gentle weeping when things are not.

If I’m honest it is a fairly palatial shed and the weeping is only very occasional. I have tidied my desk (yes this is tidy) for the sake of this blog because if my mother sees it in its usual paper and cake crumb covered state I’ll be in trouble. As you can see I have various essentials surrounding me such as the ubiquitous flashy laptop and graphics tablet, many hundreds of coloured pencils and mini henry hover. It is also important to note that in an arrangement that I believe conforms strongly to the rules of feng shui the tea point is directly behind me so I don’t need to get out of my swively chair to concoct a hot beverage.

Essential to the creative process as all this is it pales in comparison to having certain friends and supporter around to aid me. Before I continue I think it’s important to point out that authors and illustrators inevitably spend a lot of time alone and essentially make stuff up for a living. Therefore, firstly you can go many hours without seeing a real person and secondly I dare anyone to live this lifestyle without becoming a little odd.

So without further ado I’d like to introduce you to my posy. 

On the left meet Sargent Dave: Military Monkey seen wearing his medal of honour.  He is my enforcer and main source of motivation. Never have a missed a deadline under the watchful eye of Dave.  Next  you can see Jumper Monster on the right who’s more louche attitude reminds me of freedom of creativity and provides both comfort and solace. He’s also really, really furry. Lastly in the foreground there’s the Rainbow Dinosaur Parade who, frankly, are there just for fun.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Fan mail!

In a delightful end to the week I have received what I suppose is fan mail from Abi, who seemed to enjoy Weasels. Excellent floating mouse.

Friday, 28 June 2013

The Animal Ruskin Library

One of my library colleagues left yesterday to go onto bigger and better things. I was asked to do her leaving card and got a little carried away. It's rather filled with library in jokes but I thought I'd put it up here because it features a grumpy panda and what's not to like about that? It's important to note that none of these animals are based on actual people, not least because one of them is a pig in a tutu. 

Here's the front:

And here's the inside:

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Robot City

In the book I'm currently working on I had a robot city but it alas got cut. I was so fond of it though I couldn't quite let it go. So, here's an edited version of it for no better reason then I love robotic metropolises.

On the subject of the new book I am loving working on it and can't wait until I can actually show people. It's still top secret for now though, shhh!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

My first school visit.

Not long ago I did my first ever School visit at The Vine School just outside of Cambridge. I was really keen to get out do a school visit because I really wanted to actually meet the people that read my books and also as an author/illustrator it’s pretty thrilling just to get out the house. Despite this in the days running up to the event I was TERRIFIED. I had horrifying visions of being lynched by hundreds of disgruntled children because they weren't suitably entertained. I counteracted this by practice, practice, practice. I read my book, Weasels, to the spider in my studio over and over to get it right and bought my self a flip chart to practice drawing on. I rounded off this intense regime of training by making my boyfriend act like a 7 year old while I did the whole event at him. He was unnervingly convincing.  

My preemptive panic was unnecessary though because I think it went rather well. All the kids seemed really into the book and were keen to answer questions and point stuff out. The bit that really went down a treat though were the drawing activities where the children would tell me what they wanted to see and I would draw it. As the book features a huge world domination machine the first thing we did was design our own world domination machine. You can see it below but don’t judge me too harshly, I had to draw this very quickly while 100 children shouted at me to use more purple so it was pretty challenging. 

Now this machine has a range of excellent features and I’ll talk you through some of my favourite. You can see from the chimney and furnace that this machine is steam powered. There was one girl though who was concerned about the safely implications of this so she requested the warning sign above the furnace. One boy had the brilliant suggestion of adding ‘A MASSIVE LASER’ which I naturally included with gusto. The next boy wanted a fuse box, which is a little different from A MASSIVE LASER but who I am to say no? It’s also important to note he wanted the new sort of fuse box with the switches, not the old fashioned ones where you plug the fuses in. Not being that handy round the house I wasn’t too sure how to draw a fuse box from memory but I did my best. Other things you’ll find on this machine are a start button, heavily lobbied for purple buttons, cctv, a computer, an exit door, radar, a handle, a drill, an arial, a sky dish and various wires.

Once we’d completed our machine we needed some weasels to run it. So, I took requests as to the sort of weasels we’d need, what they’d be wearing/doing etc and then I drew them to order. The first one we did was Hazmat Weasels (see below). He handles hazardous substances but only in the appropriate safety clothing. Now you may wonder how we ended doing a hazmat weasel and I can tell you that this is because one boy from year 2 said the exact words ‘Can you do one in a hazmat suit please?’. Now I barely know what a hazmat suit is (let alone how to draw one) so I was deeply impressed by this boy and his knowledge of the safe handling of toxic material.

Next we did Dr. Weasel who’s there just in case someone has an accident with the furnace, despite the warning sign. He has a lab coat, a stethoscope and a smug look because he has a medical degree. 

Lastly you’ll see Security Weasels who’s there to make sure everyone behaves. He’s chunky, wears a bulletproof vest and sunglasses (so that he looks tough) and has a guard mouse as opposed to a guard dog.

Overall I had a wonderful time and the kids were brilliant and staggeringly inventive. I can’t wait for the next one!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Association of Illustrators Awards

I was rather thrilled to find out this weekend that I've been shortlisted for the AOI Illustration awards. Hurrah! I entered a few images from my book Weasels which is a body of work that has rarely failed me when it comes to competitions. To celebrate, here's a snippet of Weasel action from said book: 

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Weasels is out today!

At last, the Weasels are here! Today is the official publication day of my first book, Weasels, and to celebrate there's a 'making of...' post here on the France Mckay Illustration blog. Also I hear rumours that the Weasels have taken over the @NosyCrowBooks twitter so god knows that they're doing to that.

If you fancy owning your own copy of Weasels you can buy it here, here, here and at many other most excellent bookshops.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The Bologna Children's Book Fair 2013

Last week I was at the Bologna Children's Book Fair. It's the third year I've been and I'm starting to feel like I've got the hang of it so I've decided to pool my minimal Bologna knowledge and give you Bologna 101: What Elys has learnt.

1) Everyone needs a Frances. Frances is my agent and she's a force of nature. She sets up meetings with everyone worth seeing before hand, tells me who I should come along and meet, tows me along to see the great and the good and then tells them how brilliant I am. People who wouldn't even look at me twice on my own will pour over my latest dummy after an introduction from Frances. She pretty much means my bologna is sorted before I even get out there and all I need do is show up. Get yourself a Frances, but not this one, she's mine.

2) Never eat any of the food at the fair apart from the pizza from the pizzeria next to the authors cafe. The pizza from any other outlet is like a block of chalk with melted cheese on top. Pizzeria pizza is genuine Italian brilliance and is even made in front you by someone's terrifyingly busty traditional Italian mother. The mothers will shout at you if you don't understand the queuing system or order more pizza then they think you need but it's worth it for a decent lunch.

3) Wear thick socks and comfy shoes. You will end up walking miles and your feet will hate your for it. You'll be able to tell that they hate you from both the way that they feel and they way that they smell.

4) Three of those tiny coffees in a row will make you feel like you're about to have a heart attack.

5) Buy LIMONCELLO, not LIMONCETTA. The former tastes like a delightfully refreshing sherbert lemon tipple and the latter tastes like value vodka mixed with bleach. If you do accidentally buy lemoncetta and all the illustrators you're staying with regard you with disdain you can make it palatable by mixing it with lemon soda.

6) On the Cambridge School of Art stand the person holding the pink book has all the power.

7) If you're standing in a queue and shout 'oi, you, PUBLISHER!' everyone will turn round. Won't they Sarah Whelan?

8) Don't get too worked up about the whole thing. If you start to feel that you might go mad if you see another picturebook leave and get yourself some gelato.

On reflection and after rereading those bullet points I think it's fairly obvious I don't really have a clue what I'm doing there but if you're an illustrator and thinking about doing it next year I'd say go, but not on your own, try and set up meetings before hand and don't put too much pressure on yourself. Oh, and always lemoncello, never lemoncetta.

Here's a few photos of the fair and the CSA stand. They don't really convey the scope of it but alas I wasn't very on top of the pictures this year.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Weasels book launch!

My first book, Weasels, is being launched at Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge next week! It's a signing event with three other incredibly talented Cambridge illustrators, Marta Altes, Nicola Killen and Courtney Dicmas, on Thursday 21st March at 6.30pm. It should be a fabulous evening not only because you'll be surround by excellent children's books but also because the wine is free. Everyone's welcome so if you fancy getting your hands on one of the first copes of my whimsical tale of woodland creatures, machinery and megalomania come down and I'll happily draw a little weasels in the front of your book.

If you can't make it then never fear you can still get a copy of Weasels here or here and at many other wonderful booksellers.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Around the World in 80 Days

I've had a yen to do some chapter book-esque illustration for a while so I've had a shot at a few images from Around the World in 80 Days and in the process I have discovered there a few finer things to draw then elephants and moustache.