Tag Archives: Jackie Morris

What you are

Unless I believe that it would be better – for insurance purposes, say (I have heard that writers are riskier people) – not to be a writer, I now have the temerity to call me a writer. I have done for some time.

Don’t misunderstand me; I don’t go round daily patting me on the back, crowing over how wonderful I am. But the whole idea came back to me when reading the thoughts of Jackie Morris in the comments section of my interview with her Australian colleague Shaun Tan yesterday. (For some inexplicable reason WordPress have removed the comments from the right hand bar on the Bookwitch home page, meaning browsing guests won’t immediately find it.)

Jackie wants to be seen as an artist, not only an illustrator. She is right. She is entitled to want to be seen as one, and I reckon she definitely is an artist. I suppose I don’t feel that to be an illustrator is bad either, but I know what Jackie means. Shaun is a modest man, but he is obviously also an artist.

What you are has little to do with whether you earn money from doing what you want to be. I write every day. Hence I am a writer. I don’t have to be chosen by anyone to say that. Not by a publisher. Not even by readers.

When I was younger I always wanted to be a writer. I also wanted to be bilingual; and guess what! I am. It doesn’t mean a person is 100% perfect at two or more languages. It means that someone uses those languages in their daily life. It probably doesn’t mean you are 50% in both, or 30/70. Most of us are likely to be 150% when both languages are taken together. Perhaps. Good. Adequate.

(For obvious reasons I don’t generally think of myself as a dishwasher-filler. But I’d be entitled to, unless ten minutes a day is too brief for name-calling.)

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Save Cardiff

It’s time to write more letters. Love letters, even.

We were successful in Liverpool. Enough people did enough good things – including writing love letters – that the plans to close a dreadfully large number of the libraries in Liverpool got changed. It didn’t make the protesters terribly popular with the Mayor, but who cares?

Now it is Cardiff Central Library which needs your help. It is shrinking, as parts of the library are closed and turned over to other local council offices.

This is bad in itself, but what has particularly shocked me is that library staff are not allowed to speak publicly about this. When did freedom of speech end, resulting in people fearing for their jobs if they talk about what’s happening? Closing libraries is bad. So is people being made redundant. And to top it all, they are forbidden to speak about it.

I am no expert on library closures, and I know very little about what is going on in Cardiff. Author and artist Jackie Morris has a better idea, and here is her blog post about it. There are names and addresses of who to write to, but you have less than a week in which to do it.

Please write if you can. It might annoy the recipient. And it might mean libraries will still be here for the next generation. To be really optimistic, even the generation after that. People will be able to [learn to] read. To make use of their rights in society. To write letters of protest when things are wrong. (You can see why the politicians might not be in favour of that though.)

Happy New Bear

We all – well, most of us – have, or have had, a bear in our lives.

In Something About a Bear Jackie Morris uses her customary fabulous art to tell the reader about bears. It’s not so much a picture book as art, really. (With a bit of reference on the side.)

On eight double spreads, Jackie introduces the reader to eight different wild bears, shown in what I take to be their natural habitats. And at the end of the book she has written eight short paragraphs of facts about these beautiful creatures.

But as she so rightly points out, we generally have a bear that is most special to us; our very own teddy bear. That is the best bear of all.

Jackie Morris, Something About a Bear

Friday the 15th

‘As usual’ I had a quick rest on Willie Johnston on my way to Charlotte Square. I can see that he – or more accurately his bench – and I will be seeing more of each other.

Zeraffa Giraffa

I had a carefully compiled list for Friday, in order to fit as much as I could in. Finding a mutually convenient time to have a spot of lunch with wonderful publicist Nicky proved just about possible. Her charges were busy all day, and first I went to find Jane Ray – who is very good with giraffes – at her signing. She had been making giraffe masks at her event, and the shop was full of tiny human giraffes. Very nice to meet publisher Janetta Otter-Barry (hers was a regal sort of presence…) who was there to oversee the proceedings.

Jane Ray

Nicky gave me lunch in the authors’ yurt, and we had a little chat about families as well as about books. I came away with two new books, and having surprised her with my weird interests, there might be more. (I now have a flag sticker book!) In return I tipped her off that Craig Pomranz (of Raffi knitting fame) was due a photocall session after lunch.

Debi Gliori, who was next on my list, popped in for a cuppa before her event, and was slightly disturbed to find I’d be there to heckle from the back. But as long as I vote the right way in the referendum we are fine…

Speaking of politics, by the time I’d decided I could tug on Peter Guttridge’s sleeve (as instructed by himself), Paddy Ashdown ‘got in the way’ and there was Ming Campbell and many others whose names could be dropped. So, no sleeve-tugging. Yet.

Ever the involved publicist, Nicky has taken up knitting to join in with Craig’s and Raffi’s scarf making. But the biggest help had been a very, very young girl in the audience who spontaneously organised Craig’s event for him.

Debi Gliori

I went off to get to Debi’s event on time (more of which in separate post), and after it I trailed her to the bookshop where she doodled for her fans for about an hour and a half. One of her talented picture book colleagues, Jackie Morris, was busy painting in the grown-ups’ bookshop all afternoon.

Jackie Morris

Then it was time for Craig Pomranz to sign after his second knitting event, and he unravelled (no, I don’t mean that… he got out) Raffi’s actual scarf and proceeded to wind it round a couple of small fans.

Craig Pomranz and Raffi's scarf

Me, I went back to the yurt and waited for Gordon Brown. There was some discussion between two people as to whether we were about to get the former PM or the Scottish crime writer. I knew it was the politician, and they rather hoped it would be.

We were lined up at the front of the yurt long before the ’round-the-square’ queue for Gordon Brown’s event with Alistair Moffat had even begun to move into the main theatre. Authors and others who actually had to pass us looked disconcerted, apart from the ice cream man and Tom Conti. And that other Scottish Italian, Debi Gliori.

Debi Gliori

This time it wasn’t the police so much as Men In Black who milled about. James Naughtie was there. So was insect repellant. There were also midges. Even after the spraying.

Alistair Moffat and Gordon Brown

And at last he came. Mr Brown, as they addressed him. He went on to his event, and I waved to Willie Johnston on my way home. It’s nice this. I’ve never gone home from the book festival before.

I am Cat

When is a picture book really art? Always? Or just quite often? And if it is art, is it still a book primarily for small children?

I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. But Jackie Morris is a real artist. No question about that. And her new book I am Cat should be treasured for the sheer magic of her cat pictures.

Jackie is something of a cat lover, and whereas I don’t share her sentiments, I can only love I am Cat. It is so beautiful.

Jackie Morris, I am Cat

Every page has a new cat, from tabby to tiger and all the rest. With each page (=piece of art) we get to share the thoughts of its cat. About their identity. At the end of the book is a couple of pages of cat facts.

So it’s not a story as such, but I could see this would work, reading to a child. And any child would surely love pictures like these!

A must for cat lovers.

(The book is not officially published yet, but Jackie tells me she is selling them at Art in Action this weekend. And then she has a book launch at Solva Mill on August 8th.)