Letter 1: A good walk
Welcome! And thank you for reading my first ever newsletter!
You may have heard that my first picture book, ‘Little Echo’ will be published next month. On June 17th to be exact. I'm very excited for Little Echo to head out into the world -- it's a truly wonderful and lucky thing to get to share this story, so in this first letter, I thought I'd tell you a little bit about how the very first inklings of the story started....
Me and my good friend, Eric, were on a long walk across some hills in the Lake District, which is in the North West of England. This is what the hills looked like.
It was a great walk.
There was a blizzard. There was a ton of snow. There were sweet little streams and curious sheep.
This was the view during the blizzard.
And this is a curious sheep.
And this is us by the fire on a clear night.
But on day 3 Eric had to go. He was due back at work. So we hugged goodbye at a lake called Sickle Tarn (it is very magical). He jumped on the bus, and I kept walking.
Now, as you know, walking by yourself is a very different thing to walking with a friend. You notice things differently. You smell things differently. You go at your own pace and can stop whenever you want to. And sometimes you simply dream, while the path ticks by.
That night, after putting up the little tent and cooking some sort of delicious just-add-water meal that comes in a bag, I looked at the map and saw I was very close to some caves. I made a plan to head that way first thing in the morning.
The next day, before even breakfast, this is what I found.
I loved the cave immediately.
I loved the stepping stones, and the water, and the textures of the rock. I loved the rippling plops and the constant drips and the smell of mossy damp. I loved going as far in as I dared, and all the big dark space. I loved how my eyes got used to it. How before long, things that had been vague fuzzy shapes, could be seen in a completely different way. I loved thinking about stalagmites and stalactites, and being unable to remember which was which.
But most of all, I loved the sounds.
A little shyly, I half-shouted: echo!
A delicate but beautiful echo sparked briefly in the darkness.
I tried again. But this time, I actually shouted. LOUD:
I carried on happily until a family showed up. And they were all yelling echo too.
And as I was leaving the caves, I dreamt of an Echo creature at home back there, whose job it was to echo all the noises around her.
I dreamt of a boy called Max hopping across the stones, and entering the cave with his dog, and hearing this wonderful noise bouncing around, just as I had.
And then I dreamt of Max spotting THE Echo, who did not want to be found. And chasing after it.
That was my first dream of the story that became ‘Little Echo’. I scribbled all these things down, while I had breakfast. Then I shut my sketchbook and sipped my coffee and looked at my map, and didn't think too much more about it for some time.
I will tell you the next part of the story another day, because a lot happened between that walk and finally finishing the book last summer. But that's how Little Echo's story started, and I really can't wait for you to meet her properly next month.
I think in the next letter it might be fun to talk a bit about how Little Echo's character and appearance grew as the story developed, so remember to subscribe and in the meantime let me know about your best walks, or anything else, in the comments! Or send me a drawing of a walk you loved (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I might share it in the next newsletter!
Before we go…
My friend Adam Beer’s amazing book ‘MAMMOTH’, comes out next week! Adam has illustrated a wonderful story by Anna Kemp all about a Woolly Mammoth who wakes up from a very long nap, in New York City. It’s funny, big hearted and very beautiful, so please show Adam and Anna some love!
The Folio Society have just published a beautiful edition of Agatha Christie’s, ‘Crooked House’ with stunning illustrations by the incredible Sally Dunne. I can never get over Sally’s gorgeous artwork and it’s just a joy to see them accompanying this Agatha Christie story so perfectly.
I am very excited for the art galleries to reopen, but also excited and delighted for all the students who will hopefully get to exhibit their work at real life degree shows this summer. I am particularly happy for Cambridge School Of Art’s, Children’s Book Illustration gang, who have just sent out a save the date. Their exhibition will be between 4th - 8th of September at Candid Arts Gallery in London. Congratulations to everyone and we’re very excited to come and see your wonderful work!
Much love and looking forward to the next one,
P.S. Please consider pre-ordering a copy of Little Echo! I thoroughly recommend seeking out your local independent bookshop and pre-ordering from them, but you'll be able to find Little Echo wherever you like to buy your books!