This year I have six books out. Four are re-issues, two are new.
On Monday I will be at Edinburgh Festival with James Mayhew for the launch of Mrs Noah’s Pockets. This is a book I wrote, and it is illustrated by the wonderful James Mayhew. Originally it was to be published by Frances Lincoln, but the company was sold, Janetta, my editor there moved on to start her own publishing house and it was with great generosity that the editor at the new company, Quarto Kids, allowed the book to travel with her to Otter-Barry Books.
It was an honour and a privilege to watch as James worked, taking my words and putting flesh on the bones of my story. I love Mrs Noah. I am hoping she is going to be part of a series of books. She has a quiet kindness in her bones, a love of life, a sense of humour. You can read more about the book on another page of this blog. The book grew from a performance at Tewkesbury Cathedral, and there’s a wonderful film of James and the children on my blog, if you follow the link above.
The second of the new books is The Lost Words, published by Hamish Hamilton. This is written by Robert Macfarlane and illustrated by me, and what a joy it was to work with this man’s words and the wonderful team at Hamish Hamilton to craft a book together.
It has been a long journey and a great deal of time since Hay Festival in 2015 when Robert announced to a rather large crowd that we were working on this book together. At that time the book had no publisher, and as it was something so outside the realm of the wonderful novels published by Hamish Hamilton we did wonder where our idea would set seed. ( Hamish Hamilton have four novels on the Booker longlist, don’t publish illustrated works, or children’s books) However, Robert wrote a proposal for the book, I did a sketch or two, both were presented to Simon at HH by Jessica Woollard, our agent and within twenty-four hour of this we learned that indeed, Hamish Hamilton would love to help us realise our vision for the book.
It’s not a ‘children’s book’. It’s just a book. Large format, immersive, a soul song. It’s changed so much since first we played with ideas for the book. This was one of the first sketches I did, for ‘acorn’.
Once Robert started writing it became clear that something much cleaner, less fussy, was needed. The words sing off the page. Spells, incantations, for bringing back to common usage words which once were so everyday, before our lives grew urbanised, technologically focussed. Words to summon a different focus, on to the every day wild.
Both books are now available for pre order from Solva Woollen Mill, and on their page for The Lost Words you can read more about the Pembrokeshire focus of The Lost Words.
Here’s a link to all my books on their site. Solva Woollen Mill provide the most wonderful service in enabling me to sell signed and dedicated books to anywhere in this wide and beautiful world, though if you are ordering from outside of the UK you will have to email them. The first 150 copies of The Lost Words will also be signed, via a specially designed bookplate, by Mr Macfarlane also.
There will be a launch on 28th September at Solva Woollen Mill, for Mrs Noah’s Pockets, The Lost Words, and also the reissues in large format luxury editions of the Icebear and The Snow Leopard by Graffeg. This is a week ahead of the launch in London at Foyles, and pembrokeshire in early autumn does wear the most beautiful cloak of wild, so do come. There will be seal pups around. Falcon Boats will still be on the water and we may be able to arrange a special storytelling boat trip if enough people are interested.
Illustrating and writing books is a passion for me. I’ve moved over twenty five years from contract to contract, working all through holidays, bank holidays, Christmas, Easter, trying to meet deadlines. Working with Hamish Hamilton has been a joy, but it was a fierce deadline, to get the work done in time for the publication on 5th Oct, exhibition at Compton Verney, also in October. As a result I have decided to take a rest from publishing for a while, to gather my strength, reassess my work.
I guess that is what you might call a Sabbatical. When I told someone this they asked me ‘who has given you a Sabbatical?’ Well, I’ve been self employed all my life, so I guess the answer is, me.
I should have called this blog post ‘Write, illustrate, rest’. I’m spending my time painting, writing, working with some interesting people, like Colin Riley, and soon also Fay Hield. I am working on a novel which needs unpicking, reweaving and crafting, but my head is filled with hares, fish and a desire for letterpress. I want to get ink under my nails with lino, and maybe take up an offer to do some etching, if the offer is still there. And I want to read.
I’ll be out and about a good deal in autumn, sometimes with Mr Macfarlane, sometimes alone. From London to Cornwall, The Lake District and who knows where, so keep an eye on the events page.
And thank you. It’s your support over the years that has enabled me to continue in conversation with paper for all these years. Hope you grow to love Mrs Noah, and find The Lost Words.