The Lost Words has been out in the world for a while now. Both Robert and myself were delighted when we heard that it was shortlisted for The British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year, alongside Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls and Philip Pullman’s glorious La Belle Savage.
I was not so delighted with the press coverage.
Good to know the press have judged it to be a ‘face off’ between Walliams and Pullman and the rest of us are also rans.
Anyone spot the missing illustrator?
It’s hard to say any of this without sounding petulant. At the end of the day it comes from the same source that sees men being paid more than women for the same jobs. At least the authors of Rebel Girls get a passing mention. I spent almost two years illustrating The Lost Words. It is a partnership of image and word, worked together by both myself and Robert. ( can I just add that Robert wanted me to have a larger % of the royalties for this book, the first time any author I have worked with, as he said he recognized the difference in time spent painting and writing for this book. I refused to accept. Words and images in partnership, always 50/50).
So, here I feel I have been hit with the double whammie of sexism and word over image.
The first person to really pick this up in public was the wonderful woman who runs the incredible @womensart1 on her blogged review of The Lost Words, which I think is worth a read. In the research for this she was shocked at the lack of my voice on the making of the book. It was almost always only ever there in the form of the images, often lavishly used with only a micro-credit. It seemed no one was particularly interested in my speaking voice, apart from Elementum and Artist and Illustrator.
So, is it sexism, or is it the way that word is valued over image?
There’s a campaign called #PicturesMeanBusiness that tries to campaign against this in the world of publishing. The campaign was launched by Sarah McIntyre and James Mayhew and has been championed by The Bookseller. I think we still have a long way to go.
I’m told by a spokesperson from the The Bookseller that the original press release sent out about the awards from the press office at The Bookseller included my name as illustrator of The Lost Words. Somehow these words, my name, then became lost words themselves as the press release was syndicated to many magazines and journals.
Philip Jones of The Bookseller said “I’ve asked our PR the same question: they think the original piece was written by the Press Association and syndicated to the other newspapers, so it was one error being repeated. We’ve asked the PA to correct this. I’m very clear that we always credit illustrators in the magazine, and on our awards materials.”`
I first spotted the article when I found it on the website of our local newspaper and couldn’t believe that they had taken my name out of the article, while copying the rest word for word.
Anyway, some time ago Robert and I were accused of sexism also. It’s not a pleasant thing to be on the receiving end of. We had been included in a list of best selling books that contained not one single female character. And while it was lovely to be included in a list of best selling books of the year, it was far from the mark. Via twitter I catalogued for the author of the piece, from acorn to wren, the female characters in the book. Both in word and in image this book contains both male and female creatures and beings. And is this important, well, yes, but the article was flawed by the wrongful inclusion of our book and we were grateful to receive the apology printed at the bottom of the piece.
So, where is this all going? Well, I would like to know why words are still given dominance over image, when all words are is a collection of images, 26 of them. And images are easier to translate into other languages. I would also like to know why, if my name was on the original press release, it was the only name removed by the Press Association. Seems like a curious piece of editing to me.
And why does the Press Association think in the 21st century that this is a good piece of writing, or even an acceptable piece of writing, to put out and syndicate?
I only hope it wasn’t written by a woman.