Jackie Morris/ website etc
Things I love
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- Artique, Tetbury. A small piece of India in the Cotswold Hills.
- Bears: 30 years of painting them.
- Book List.
- Books in their natural habitat.
- Day of the Desk.
- Exhibitions and Festivals etc.
- Fishing in a river a thousand miles away.
- My paintings in their natural habitat
- The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan.
A year ago, almost to the day, I began to write a book which was at the time called The Boy Who Loved Music and Hares. In about an hour I will have finished the last piece of painting for the book. Last week it had its first big outing at Bologna Bookfair in Italy and I am waiting to hear how well the book performed.
In the meantime on Saturday, 6th April, I will be painting in Seaways Bookshop, 11 am -3 pm. I will also, on request, read from my books, or The Golden Hare, and new work. There is limited stock of East of the Sun available so if you are coming and wish to buy a copy please call them to reserve one.
Below are details and full spreads from the last pieces of work, the font and back endpapers.
Recently I did a masterclass in writing and illustrating books for children for Cardiff Lit Fest. The first thing I did, to this group of writers was ask a question.
“Are there any independent bookshops in Cardiff?”
The reply surprised me. ” What is an independent bookshop?”
My answer was, ” A shop that sells books that is not part of a chain or franchise.”
Their answer was, ” No.”
There is a Blackwell’s University Bookstore at the Uni. There is also a second hand bookstore in one of the lovely allies in Cardiff. There is a Waterstones. There is at least one indie left, in Wellfield Road, The Wellfield Road Bookshop, and judging by the reviews on YELP it needs someone to love it! To criticize the prices in an indie is so wrong. If you want to buy your book from Amazon, who pay low wages, get massive subsidies from our government and don’t pay their corporation tax, who demand such a high discount on books that the publisher gets a poor deal and the creator an even poorer one then fine. If you want to support a network of individual bookstores that not only sell books but also act as a window into some of the best books of the day as well as supporting the backlist of many publishers, who know their customers, have a passion for books, pay real wages to real people and their rates and tax, then support your local indie by shopping there.
A real bookshop gives so much more. You can see the character of the book seller reflected in the books on the shelves. You can ask advice. ( One of my best book buying moments was when I asked the assistant at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath to give me something beautiful. ” To read or to look at?” he asked. “Both.” I am greedy for beauty. He handed me The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw which fit the bill perfectly.
Here are 5 of my favorite indies. Please add yours, with links in the comments below, and say why.
This is unique. A gallery/bookshop, emporium of delights. They have a small selection of eclectic beauty, all chosen because they are loved by the owners. More than a shop, it is an experience, and reminds me of what shops were like before they became ‘customer focussed retail outlets’.
One of the first shops in the regeneration and re-invention of the indie as we move away from chain stores and into a new age of bookselling. I loved Mr B’s from the moment I first walked in. Their staff are passionate about connecting readers to the right book, and when they have something they love they know how to sell it. It is their interest in their customers that I love. Real customer focus, not marketing jargon. They love books, they love readers. Simple as that.
They also do The Best Present Ever: Mr B’s Year of Reading, where you buy, for yourself or someone you love, a book a month. The person the books are ‘gifted’ to has a conversation with, or fills in a form about, the kind of books they like. Sort of a ‘book counselling session’ and then they are assigned to a staff member who picks out books for them and packages with brown paper and string so every month you are reminded that you are loved! Bliss.
Run by Hereward Corbett and his team I think these bookshops have some of the most beautiful hardbacks I have seen in a shop. Hereward is a wonderful character who seems to have stepped out of a book himself. Great shops to browse, I can’t decide which I like most and I love Louise too who works there, who I first met in Ottaka’s in Cheltenham. Again they really know their books and can always pull something off the shelves that will surprise.
Simply the best.
Could leave it at that, but, if you want a bookshop that is almost bursting not only with the latest titles but also as much of a backlist as publishers will keep in print these days, a bookshop where the staff have such a knowledge of books that they can sort you out with THE BEST BOOK for you, a bookshop that can sort out lists for a terms worth of work and beyond, a bookshop that is just such a reflection of the owner of the shop that it makes you smile the minute you walk in, a bookshop where if you are lucky and can drag your eyes away from the books for a moment and look out of the window you might see deer or hares, a bookshop with cats, then this is the one for you.
Marilyn has the energy of 10, the knowledge of an ex librarian and the work ethic of, well, someone who just wants to put books into the hands of readers. ( And she likes a glass of wine at the end of the day)
She once beat me about the head with Tender Morsels by Margo Lannagan and made me go away and read it, because she knew better than me that I would love it. I did. Just brilliant.
Situated on an industrial estate near Oldham this is a warehouse of picture books and books for children. I love working with the staff here because they know how to work with an author in schools, because they know so much about books and again because they have a passion for putting the right book into a child’s hands to encourage them to love reading.
People travel from miles away to go to this centre. Again they put together sets of books for schools as well as teaching notes. Love browsing through their shelves to see what they have in and i love the Ralph Steadman teddy bear print that hangs in the loo.
There are so many more really good indies. They need to be loved, celebrated and supported. So if you have a favorite please comment below with a link. And if you don’t know if you have an indie near you you can have a look here at the Independent Newspaper’s Top 50 bookshops in the UK, or try the Independent Bookseller’s Association website.
Here are a few more that I love.
Alison’s of Tewkesbury- can’t find a website for them but they have a wonderful shop with a great section on poetry and they also have music. Upstairs is wonderful. Tewkesbury is one of those towns that still has ‘real’ shops despite supermarkets etc.
So much to write up and blog. For now here is a snippet of what went on in Dulverton. For beautiful images take a look at Number Seven’s blog.
1. Sometimes questions are difficult to answer.
I did an interview on skype for a school in Colchester and the children all had interesting questions that made me think. But one girl asked ” What inspires you?”
When ever I do a Q&A someone will always ask, “Where do you get your inspiration?” This question demanded a different answer.
What inspires me? Things like this, a review for East of the Sun, West of the Moon on Amazon:
“Myself and my 11 year old daughter are huge Jackie Morris fans, I think we have nearly all her books and love them all dearly just like old friends. We were lucky enough to buy East of the Sun, West of the Moon at its book launch and our copy is signed by Jackie herself. We were beginning to bicker over who should read the book first so it was decided that we would read it together, this is something I hadn’t done with my daughter for years and its wonderful. On page 22, Jackie writes of a breakfast which we both yearned for, bowl of deep red cherries, peaches and plums, a jug of warm milk and another of cream, crisp, warm bread and a pot of aromatic tea; so, on Mothers day morning I woke to this very breakfast which my lovely daughter had painstakingly put together as my surprise! It was wonderful, I don’t drink tea so coffee was used as a substitute! We have not finished this book yet, we are very choosy when to unwrap the next layer, we may take it with us onto the cliff tops on a crisp windy day, or wait for peace and quiet with the cat in front of the fire, however it may be, we are as excited as a child on Christmas morning to see what happens next, I have said it often but again Thank you Jackie Morris for this sprinkling of magic.”
How could something like that fail to inspire me?
2. Finishing a book is perhaps as difficult as beginning one. I now only have the endpapers to work on and then Song of the Golden Hare will be finished. But what a difficult day yesterday was.
3. There are as many different ways of interpreting art as there are people who experience it. And sometimes things come to light at just the right time.
Browsing facebook I found this, via Rachel Rooney. My next book has silence in it, a prince, a girl, a task and a journey and some swans. Silence is beginning to intrigue me. This is fascinating and beautiful and she looks just a little as if she stepped out from one of my paintings.
4. Dormice need to have wooden gates so that they can move along hedges and spread their populations and survive. Not metal gates. Wooden ones.
1. When a bookshop calls to you, especially one that sells second hand books, go to it, take time. There is something that that you need.
East of the Sun, West of the Moon has the four winds blowing through the book as characters. My next book has swans in it, swans who can only visit their homeland on Midsummer’s Day when there is enough daylight for them to fly home. In the bookshop, on the Pebbles I found this beautiful book about artist, author and bird loving man, Peter Scott who had a passion for swans so much so that he founded Slimbridge.
Inside the book, which was printed in 1961 was a note written on the endpaper:
I was born in 1961.
There were other books too that sang to me and wanted to come home to my shelves. Morning Flight is full of pictures. Not a first edition, but a rare wartime edition published in 1944, May, seventh impression, printed and bound in Aylesbury, England in the days when we still had a publishing tradition of books being made in the UK instead of the madness of shipping them from China and Singapore.
Anyone who has ever stood and watched swans fly over the sea will know how time seems to stop and ride on their wings.
2. That there is a bat in the UK called Bechstein’s Bat, or there was in 1953. They are now classed as a vulnerable species.
There was something else that I learned yesterday, but for now it escapes me in an elusive way. When it comes back to mind I will add to the list.
Chris also has two astonishing books on Amundsen. Absolutely amazing. He let me have a look at one. Beautiful shining gold edges on the paper. There are two for sale on ABE. Both very expensive. Sometimes there are such treasures in unexpected places.
Dear Year Two, St Thomas’s Primary School.
Thank you so much for all my pictures of dragons and mermaids and tigers and letters that you sent me. I collected them when I went to pick up my friend, the dragon, who had spent some time in Cover to Cover in the Mumbles. She said she loved it there and had many visitors.
I am really busy at the moment, finishing a book for my publishers. It has to be finished by a certain time so that it can be designed ( by the designer, Judith Escreet) which means that the words are all place in just the right position, and then sent off to be ‘proofed’, so that we can see what it looks like when the words and the pictures are joined. Also so that we can make sure that all of the spellings are right. Anyway, this can’t be done until I have finished all the pictures, but I am waiting for some paper to dry so that I can do the next picture, so I thought I would reply to some of your questions.
But first let me show you my studio: this is my desk, where I paint, waiting for the paper to dry so that I can begin. A stuffed owl watches me while I work.
Below are three views from my studio windows. The morning started gloomy, with rain. Now the sky is blue, though taking a photo into the sun bleaches this out. When I took the photo out of the other window you can see what a beautiful afternoon it is. Soon those bushes will be busy with birds and white with blossom.
So, let me answer some of your questions.
Kayla, Kara and Poppy asked what my favorite book that I wrote is. This is always either the one I am working on or the next one that is just the tiny seed of an idea. I find these more interesting as there are many questions to ask myself about them and to try and find the answers for.
Jojy(?) and Natasha asked whether I enjoy writing the books. Well, yes and no. I enjoy chasing an idea and trying to give it a shape and make it work.
Madison asked if being an author or illustrator is hard work and I would say yes, and also no. My uncle worked in an iron foundry. He shovelled coal and carried great heavy bags of coal and it was hot and dirty and a different kind of hard work. What I do takes hours of patience and thinking and working which is hard, but also very fulfilling. My uncle loved his work too. He made things that are still in use years after he has died. Whenever I see one I smile.
Maddson Moore (?) asked where I get all the books. Not sure what this means, but my books are all printed in China, about 2 000 of them to begin with. Some are translated into other languages and it is lovely for me to think of my stories being read in France and Spain and Netherlands and Denmark and USA and Greece and Korea and China and Japan.
Lucie and Connor asked how many books I have written. About 10 I think. When I was at school and used to write stories I would hand them to my teacher or my parents and they would hand them back and tell me that I had spelled lots of words wrong, so I thought I could not write. Obviously my spellings were more interesting than the stories I wrote. I thought writing was something other people did. Then I began to write because I couldn’t not write. I love all your letters, the fact that some are written so beautifully and clearly and others find drawing more easy than writing. And I love that some of you have spelled picture “picktch” and “picchus” and I know what you mean and it doesn’t matter!
Lalce ( ?) asked if I enjoy making the pictures and i would say yes. I love moving paint around with a brush, and I love making a picture appear on a white piece of paper.
Jasmine asked what my favorite book is and I would say it is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
Jack asked how many books I have read and I would say not enough. There are so many brilliant books and more being written all the time. I love reading, and take a book everywhere with me. And I love being read to.
Josh asked why I decided to be an illustrator, and in a way I would say that an illustrator decided to be me. I always drew and I realised that I might be able to make a living by drawing. I have been very lucky and I have spent my life drawing and now writing. Also it is because I can’t do much other than draw.
And Madison Sharper says would you like to come to our school and I say yes. That would be lovely. Perhaps I could read you a book?
Thank you for your letters. I must go now and see if my paper has dried. Also the dogs want to go out for a walk and the kittens want to play.
Invited to Hatchards Author of the Year Reception I looked on the web to see what kind of event I was accepting an invitation to. This is what I found, on the website of Terence Blacker:
“The Hatchards Author of the Year Party.
Once a year, the bookshop Hatchards distributes joy or despair among the ranks of authors by conferring or denying them a place at their annual party. Invitations are extended more or less randomly and then, just to make the whole thing more fun, are frequently sent to the wrong address. As a result, guests have to pass through heaving ranks of the uninvited who are pleading their literary credentials to a stony-faced Hatchards bouncer. Sweeping past these also-rans, fanning oneself with an invitation, can be one of the highlights of the literary year.”
This is ‘Literary event no 10. There are 9 other ‘literary events’ not to be missed listed on the site. I have been to none of the above. Does this mean that I am an unambitious author? Or now that I have fast tracked to number 10 could this be a breakthrough?
Whatever, I will enjoy browsing the shelves of a wonderful bookshop and discovering new delights.
It is always good to get a review. To get a starred review from Kirkus is like a small piece of gold.
“EAST OF THE SUN, WEST OF THE MOON [STARRED REVIEW!]
Author: Jackie Morris
Illustrator: Jackie Morris
Price ( Hardcover ): $14.99
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-1-84780-294-1
Reimagined for the 21st century, a familiar folk tale becomes a haunting love story and a reminder that first love may not last a lifetime.
The traditional Scandinavian tale relates the attraction between a great white bear and a young girl, her betrayal, and her subsequent journey to find him and free him from his enchantment. In Morris’ telling, the ending is modern. The story begins in reality. She’s the eldest child of immigrants seeking asylum and struggling in a new country. Even those readers who don’t know the fairy-tale background will know that fantasy is coming from the very beginning, when a polar bear performs a feat of magic on a gritty city street. But while the girl loved the bear, the woman, grown and given a name—Berneen—has more complex emotions. Modern references appear occasionally throughout the text, but this is folklore world, with a splendid variety of landscapes. Watercolor paintings between chapters show fields and forests in several seasons, a southwestern desert and the icy wastes of the frozen north. There are spreads showing the girl, the bear and the castle as well, and tiny vignettes throughout indicate breaks in the action.
This leisurely, lyrical, romantic and realistic version is one to savor and to read aloud, and again, and again. (Fantasy. 11-15) ”
Thank you so much Kirkus. I cannot tell you quite what it feels like to make a book based on a story that is so close to your heart, to wrap it up in ways that bring it closer to your soul, thread it through with your blood and your bones and then send it out alone to cope in the world. To realise that someone has understood, to get a review like this from such a respected magazine. Well, sometimes words just fail me. But it gives me courage to write some more. And it does take something like courage to write. So thank you.
A while back I was asked if I would do an interview for a blog called Playing by the Book. The blog is a fantastic resource about books and reading and children, so I was delighted to say yes, and the post goes live today. It is mostly about East of the Sun, but also about who to invite for supper, and a little about madness. You can find it at Playing by the Book.
And here is one I did a long time ago with Seven Impossible Things.