At our last #AskSwanwick chat before this year's Summer School, we welcomed Curtis Jobling as a guest on our virtual couch. Many of you will remember Curtis's fabulous talk and course last year and how he generously gave the School the drawings he'd done during his talk so we could auction them and raise funds.
If you missed the #AskSwanwick chat, here’s a glimpse into what went on:
A: Most editors WON'T look at unsolicited manuscripts, they expect you to be repped. I'm lucky. With my background in animation and picture books, that was enough to get past the gatekeeper and speak direct with editors ;-)
A: Speaking as a 1st time round DM aficionado (and owner of genuine toon memorabilia) I wouldn't go near a 'reboot' of that show. Leave it alone and create something NEW for criminy's sake!!
Q: There's been a lot of debate about the future of children's television. Do you think it's under threat?
A: So long as folk keep remaking old shows and not producing anything new, I think kids’ TV can grow stagnant. I work in creative industries because I want to create, not rehash. There's some stellar stuff being made out of the UK but most of the best toons do come from the US.
Q: Some of the stuff you write is pretty scary. Are you easily scared yourself?
A: I'm a huge horror fan, but it's more monster horror as opposed to what passes for horror these days in cinema. I do write scary stories. I LOVE a good fright, and it's something that gets levelled at me by parents and librarians. Should kids be scared by books? YES. It's the best way to experience fear, vicariously through a good book. It won't make you jump out of your seat, and if it's really scary you can throw it in the garage chest freezer.
Q: Did you enjoy drawing as a young child?
A: LOVED drawing as a kid, and have Mum to thank for encouraging me whenever chances arose. This was alongside reading and making up stories (imagination and RPGs). They're the building blocks of imagination.
Q: Any useful tips for budding children's writers on how to survive school readings?
A: If an audience scares me, I always find asking them to imagine me naked helps to relax me. Oh, hang about... School audiences (primary) are a forgiving and loving bunch. They won't mind if you're nervous, and may not even be able to tell you're scared. You have to remember you're a storyteller. That's close to being a rock star for kids, so go have a blast. I was terrified the 1st time I spoke to kids. It gets easier though ;-)
Q: You work for children but with adults. In what field of your work do the adults show more insight for children?
A: Adults in publishing (editors etc) strike me as more intuitive. In TV, there are a LOT of suits who crowd the room, providing little of value. Execs who feel the need to chime in. I've been there. It ain't pretty.
Q: How do you go about creating your characters (particularly in the YA)? What sort of process is involved? Do you find there are some helpful ways to bring them to life for you?
A: Not sure what makes a character believable in a fantasy novel. They need to be human(e) I guess. I'm going with WWCD in this instance - What Would Curtis Do? To get an authentic voice, an author has to get inside/under the skin of their character, put themselves in their shoes. There's the voice.
Q: What prime rule would you give somebody who wanted to break into animation or start into children's/YA writing on the way?
A: Want to break into animation, keep working on your craft, have a sketchbook handy and get used to drawing anything and at all times. Keep CREATING. Want to write for children/YA? Three words of (corny but true) advice: read, read, read. You'll have to write as well, of course, but be aware of what's out there and what's gone before.
Once again we’d like to extend our thanks to Curtis Jobling - please follow him (and us!) on Twitter - and to all the tweeters who took part in the discussions. The chat was moderated by Karin Bachmann. We hope you can join us for our next #AskSwanwick session on Tuesday, 16th September, with novelist and writing tutor Sue Moorcroft.