Tag Archives: Ross Collins

Off the Page 2017

If there is one thing that I have against Stirling’s Off the Page libraries book festival, it’s that it’s so hard to find the information I want online. I follow links to pages that aren’t the right ones, and then I swear a bit. Luckily the Resident IT Consultant brought home the printed programme for me, so I have finally been able to catch up with what will be on.

And things are on, so that’s good. Some of them not terribly convenient, at the further away libraries, which just proves what a large catchment area it is for Stirling. But there is good stuff.

Teri Terry is back (I mean, will be back, as this is in early May), but only for a school event. I’m guessing they like her there.

Alex Scarrow is coming, as is Ross Collins and Chae Strathie, whereas Craig Robertson is already here, being local. James Oswald is semi-local.

The names above are the ones I’ve highlighted for my personal interest, but there are many more. The Grandmother’s pal Crawford Logan is appearing at the Smith Art Gallery and Museum, for instance.

My track record for attendance isn’t terribly good, I must admit. I’ll have to see what calamities will prevent me from seeking these various libraries out next month. I hope none.

And ten years on…

Ten years go so quickly, don’t they? While the fresh-faced Bookwitch looks good for ten, that other, tired witch propping her up is certainly showing her age. I reckon she thought she’d still be 29, ten years in. Whereas it’s more like, well, at least 49.

Meg Rosoff and the ALMA award, with Alice Bah Kuhnke and Katti Hoflin

I’ve often wondered if I’d last this long. The next wondering has always been whether to give it up. You know, nice round figure (and I don’t only mean me) to end it all.

Philip Pullman

But when I voiced this thought to Ross Collins last month he seemed shocked (and I’m not fooling myself into thinking he’s been here for the duration), so I immediately retracted my threat.

Julie Bertagna, bookwitch and Neil Gaiman

Ross then said I must have ‘got’ a lot of authors in that time, so I sighed deeply and said yes. He seemed concerned that I wasn’t sounding happier, which kicked me out of my morose state of mind. Yes, I do ‘have’ lots of authors, and I love every single one, and treasure them, and this is a cause for celebration. Not sighing. But you know, when you’re 49 sighing comes easily.

John Barrowman

In the last few days I’ve been in email conversation with someone else, about books and publishing and all that kind of thing, and I realised I’ve picked up quite a bit over the years. Not just authors, I mean.

Gordon Brown and Nick Barley

Actual knowledge, except it’s more like English grammar; I couldn’t tell you what it is. I just feel it.

So don’t ask me anything. I don’t know.

Philippa Dickinson and Terry Pratchett

There have been many absolutely wonderful books. And some less so. There have been really fun and interesting events, many of them in unusual places I’d not otherwise have got to visit. And those authors. Oh, those authors.

Steve Cole

Thank you.

(That’s the ‘I will go on for many more years’ thank you. Not the farewell thank you. I hope.)

Sara Paretsky

Bookbug and the Bookwitch

You know it’s bad when you spy someone like Ross Collins across the room, and instead of scurrying over to say hello, you remain seated, because you’re so knackered that nothing will make you give up sitting, now that you have bagged a chair. (Not literally, I hasten to add. I have every reason to believe the chair is still at the National Library of Scotland.)

The Bookbug Picture Book Prize 2017

It was the very first Bookbug Picture Book Prize last night, and despite my home town throwing heavy-ish snow at me, I made it to Edinburgh, where they had no snow at all.

All three shortlisted authors were there, Alison Murray, Ross Collins and Nick Sharratt. There was mingling – or there was sitting on a chair, in my case – over wine/specially ordered tap water for me – and canapés. The nice men who were offering round the eats almost became my bffs through their sheer insistence that I have another one. And another one.

Bookbug mingling

Spoke to a very nice librarian who had come much farther than I had, and also through snow. We talked about how wonderful it is that all P1 children in Scotland have been given their own copies of all three shortlisted books. She asked which was my favourite (none of this bland ‘have you read any of them?’), and luckily we agreed on which one was best (out of three very good books).

Nick Sharratt, Alison Murray, Ross Collins and Bookbug

Then there were speeches, and after that the prizes were handed out, with Nick Sharratt being the overall winner with Shark in the Park on a Windy Day. Bookbug himself arrived and seemed really pleased to see us. Nick had to make a speech, which he claimed made him nervous. He did well.

Nick Sharratt, Ross Collins, Bookbug and Alison Murray

Vivian French was in the audience, and I made a special point of going over to introduce myself after all these years. She’s not so scary after all.

Balancing a small container of lettuce and prawns with tiny plastic spoon, I made my way over to Ross Collins, who I’ve emailed with but never met. He took my presence well, and he could chat while holding not only his own prawn thing but a glass of wine and his prize and an envelope which he hoped contained money…

As I did my last turn round the room I happened upon Scottish Booktrust’s strawberry milkshake Beth, so we chatted about her next book van passenger, who just happens to be Nick Sharratt, who will be driven to Liverpool. Where, he told me when I caught up with him, he’s never been. ‘My nice librarian’ got to him first, and had her photo taken with Nick, who was wearing an arty combination of three-piece tweed suit with orange tie.

Nick Sharratt and librarian

After this I Cinderella-ed myself away, since the trains still are doing inconvenient things like not running late enough. Walked past my cathedral which, even if I say so myself, looked splendid in the dark, with the moon hanging over its shoulder.

St Giles' Cathedral

And there was still far too much frozen snow when I got home.

Nick Sharratt and Aoife (3) read Shark in the Park on a Windy day

3 bookbug picture book treats

Alison Murrey, Hare and Tortoise

It will always be the first time for someone, even with a well known tale like the one about the Hare and Tortoise. I like the version by Alison Murray which, along with the other two books mentioned below, has been shortlisted for the Bookbug Picture Book Prize.

The illustrations are both sweet and funny, and there is something satisfyingly endearing about the silly hare and the hardworking tortoise. It works every time.

Ross Collins, There's a Bear on my Chair

In Ross Collins’s There’s a Bear on My Chair I didn’t predict what was going to happen, which made it much more fun for me. The pictures are lovely on their own, or you could just ‘read’ without reading if you wanted to. The poor little mouse who has to think of ways to get silly big bear off his chair. It’s poetic, too, and reads rather like a Dr Seuss story.

Lovely book.

Nick Sharratt, Shark in the Park on a Windy Day

With Nick Sharratt’s Shark in the Park, on the other hand, I could see exactly how it must end. It’s the cry wolf scenario. You keep thinking there’s a shark in the park, and then it turns there isn’t.

Until, well, until there is.

As always, cheery colours, in that loveable style Nick has. Just watch how you go in the park. It might even be preferable to have a bear on your chair. Or to be the silly hare.

Little Bookbugs

FREE TO USE - Kids in Scotland Illustrate a Love of Reading with first-ever Bookbug Picture Book Prize

Can you tell what this is? Dear reader, below you have the happy faces of three illustrators whose books have been shortlisted for the very first Bookbug Picture Book Prize, set up to celebrate the most popular picture books by Scottish authors or illustrators. It is run by Scottish Book Trust with support from Creative Scotland.

Ross Collins

Alison Murray

Nick Sharratt

Ross Collins, Alison Murray and Nick Sharratt are the worthy hopefuls. The winner will be announced on 12th January next year. Shortlisted authors and illustrators receive £500 per book, and the winner will receive £3,000.

Ross Collins, There's a Bear on my Chair

And there’s even more to smile about, as all three books will be handed out to every child in Primary 1 during Book Week Scotland in November. Long may this continue! (With new books every time. Obviously.)

Alison Murrey, Hare and Tortoise

Nick Sharratt, Shark in the Park on a Windy Day

I just don’t know which cover I like the best, as they are all rather sweet and funny. Best shirt prize will have to go to Nick Sharratt, however, and that’s not counting the chair back that gets me every time…

(Bookbug photo by Rob McDougall)

The #19 profile – Ross Collins

Scotland is sending some of its best authors and illustrators away. But don’t worry; it’s done with the best intentions. Next week Scottish illustrator Ross Collins will take part in the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour run by Scottish Book Trust, sharing his top tips for illustration with more than 900 pupils in Nottinghamshire. So it’s a little too far for me to tag along, which is why I twisted his arm and made Ross answer some questions instead.

Here he is, and using my best judgement, I’d say he’s mostly telling the truth. Probably.

Ross Collins

How many books did you write before the one that was your first published book?

I’m slightly ashamed/delighted to say that the first book I wrote was published. I entered the MacMillan Book Prize in my final year of Art School with my book The Sea Hole. I was lucky enough to win the competition and the book was published. It was a great door opener with publishers, and kick started my career.

Best place for inspiration?

Inspiration tends to come anywhere at any time, when you are least expecting it really. I have had a couple of bits of inspiration when I’ve been dog walking alone in the countryside when I have space to think. The idea for the Elephantom (what would it be like to be haunted by an elephant?) came to me walking up a hill by Loch Lomond with my lab Willow.

Would you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Perhaps you already do?

I don’t think so. I’m not sure what the point would be – unless I was sent down for crimes against humanity and couldn’t get publishers interested in my picture book ideas anymore.

What would you never write about?

Probably religion.

Through your writing: the most unexpected person you’ve met, or the most unexpected place you’ve ended up in?

I met the pope at the Linlithgow librarian’s conference once…

Which of your characters would you most like to be?

That is HARD! I could be a vampire, a germ, the thing under the bed… so many possibilities.

I once wrote the story of Medusa when she was a little girl, dealing with school life. It was called Medusa Jones. Being Medusa would be kind of cool, she had a hard life in my book but at the same time she did have snakes for hair, could turn people to stone (even though her mum said it was rude to do so) and had a puppy Cerberus. Probably the most interesting thing would be being a girl. I’ve never been a girl.

Do you think that having a film made of one of your books would be a good or a bad thing?

I’ve had lots of my books optioned for film but it’s a hard thing to make happen.

I guess the closest thing I’ve had to it was when the Elephantom was adapted for the stage by the National Theatre’s War Horse team. That was probably the most magical experience of my life. I was really lucky though, because I was working with the best of the best who completely honoured my book so I had nothing to worry about.

Having your book made into a film would probably change it beyond all recognition which would be difficult, but I think if you accept that early on, then it would be a fun ride to go on.

What is the strangest question you’ve been asked at an event?

As a children’s author you get asked lots of very strange questions that don’t really seem to relate to anything you’ve been talking about. You forget most of them.

Last year in Melrose I was asked by a wee girl if I’d ever bled out of my eyes. It turns out that she once had a nosebleed that wouldn’t stop so she started to cry and the blood came out of her eyes. She was immensely proud of this fact. Her mother less so.

Do you have any unexpected skills?

I can remember the lyrics to hundreds of really awful songs when they come on the radio – much to my partner’s dismay.

The Famous Five or Narnia?

The Northern Lights Trilogy.

Who is your most favourite Swede?

It’s shallow, but Anni-Frid Lyngstad was a very early crush. (I should really say some notable chemist shouldn’t I?)

How do you arrange your books at home? In a Billy? By colour, or alphabetically?

My partner Jacqui is in charge of that – she has a serious book collection and everything is alphabetisized. Occassionally she allows me to add my books which I just put into three categories, Art, Film and Children’s books..

Which book would you put in the hands of an unwilling eight-year-old boy reader?

This sounds like a shameless plug, but I’m being honest when I say one of my most recent books, The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones, by Will Mabbitt. It’s about a wee girl who is kidnapped into a future populated by animal pirates. I only read the first chapter before I signed up to do the illustrations.

It’s probably the funniest book I’ve ever worked on – it’s funny, it’s dark, it’s icky – it’s everything an eight year old boy would love. I’m delighted to say that I am currently working on the third of her unlikely adventures. In fact I really should be doing that now…

If you have to choose between reading or writing, which would it be?

That’s like asking whether you would rather lose your arms or legs – what a horrible question.

I’d hate to give up reading as it’s such a pleasure visiting the worlds that other people create. I suppose if I gave up writing then at least I could keep illustrating which I’ve done since I was three so it wouldn’t be that bad. Just don’t try to take illustrating away from me!

He’s a rebel, that Ross. I like him! His choice of Swede is pretty good, too. Correctly spelled, even. (That’s early love for you, I suppose.) And the whole thing leaves me still as unsettled as far as Linlithgow is concerned. Now maybe Loch Lomond, too.

Best Scottish

Oh, how I wish I could have been there! Now that I’m finally here, I mean. But I gather that the 2015 Scottish Children’s Book Awards managed without a witch (this one, anyway) and celebrated the three winners in style on Wednesday, at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh.

With three categories, there were three celebrations, and three shortlisted authors for each (except Alexander McCall Smith who’d gone off to Dubai).

Ross Collins and Sean Taylor

The Bookbug Readers were lucky, in that picture books being relatively short, all three books could be read out on stage. There was also live drawing on stage, and singing. Very jolly. And the winner was Ross Collins, for his illustrations of Robot Rumpus, written by Sean Taylor.

Alex McCall

Robots are clearly the thing, as the winner of Younger Readers category, first time novelist Alex McCall won with Attack of the Giant Robot Chickens. He’s only 21, and looks, well, younger still… There was a book quiz to entertain an audience (and I’m sure I’d have won that. If I’d been there) of visiting school children from all over Scotland.

Cathy MacPhail

The winner of the Older Readers category was Cathy MacPhail with Mosi’s War, which didn’t surprise me at all. Cathy wins a lot, and for a good reason. Her audience were also treated to a book quiz, which I’m sure was great fun for all those involved.

I might as well say this again; I feel Scotland is very lucky to have the Scottish Book Trust.