'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Guest Post - Four Books In A Year?

When we invited author/illustrator Lenny Pelling, author of the fabulous Pen Pals Forever series for beginner readers, to do a guest post for Kids Book Review, we knew it would be hilarious. We were right. Enjoy this wonderful insight into Lenny's journey to becoming a published author and illustrator (and a peek at her draft illustrations!), with a huge challenge ahead of her - producing four books in one year.


December 2008

Dear Diary,

I am so excited to being going on this trip. I haven’t been anywhere like it before. It’s really kind of scary to be doing it all on my own, but I can’t wait.

I wonder if it’ll be just like I imagined it.

Anyway, first things first:

Socks ü
Toothbrush ü
Extra undies, just-in-case ü
Pencils and Paints ü
Ideas. Hmmmmmmmmmm ü

First stop…… no, not the airport, or the train station, or the bus stop.

This trip won’t take me any further than my desk in the spare room. The greatest adventure of my life so far will start with me looking for a sharpener or a 2b pencil. How did it get all the way over there?

Pass the fridge. Do not stop. Do not collect that packet of Tim Tams.

I am on my way to being a published author.


Early January 2009

Dear Diary,

I’ve made a terrible mistake! What possessed me to agree to write and illustrate four books in a year? I can’t think of a single thing to write.

I know. I’ll start by writing a letter to my publisher, from Timbuktu, or the moon, or from a cave in the middle of the deepest, darkest jungle. Dear Publisher…


A bit later in January 2009

Dear Diary,

Well, I didn’t go to Timbuktu or hide under the bed, or escape to the moon.

But I did write a letter, from one friend to another. Polly and Jez (and I) were having fun getting to know one another. We told each other everything about our families, our friends, our hobbies, our pets, and our shared passion for scooters and chocolate bickies.

Once I’d started the girls on their journey and their friendship, the words seemed to come along too. Phew!


March 2009

Dear Diary,

With the writing bit done for two of the stories, I can finally dust off the pencils and have some fun. What will the girls look like? Will they be princesses, or tomboys? Will they be short with freckles or skinny with nobbly knees?

One thing was certain, they were both cheeky and bright and lots of fun.

They would have to have adventures and be brave and learn all sorts of stuff along the way.

And they would need to feel real and honest and sometimes silly, just like you and me.

After hours of hand-cramping hard work and secret visits to the Tim Tam packet, Polly and Jez came to life.


May 2009

Dear Diary,

I’ve forgotten what my friends look like. I’ve been inside for days drawing, writing, drawing. I have developed a hunch and a permanent, pencil-shaped dent in the fingers of my right hand. My diet consists of cereal, coffee and daytime TV.

And. I. Love. It!


July 2009

Dear Diary,

So the insides of the books are taking shape, but what about the outsides?

Should the covers be…

Cool, Fun and Fabulously Groovy ü
 Should they tell you all about the story ü
  Should they leave parts to your imagination ü
   Do they look best in pink, or yellow or mint green or purple ü
    Do they look too unusual, are they too much the same ü
     Will anyone see them on the shelves and want to take them home ü

That trip to Timbuktu is looking tempting again…


May 2010

Dear Diary,

Wash, rinse, and repeat… Lots of writing, masses of drawing, several packets of Tim Tams and two more books make four.

What an amazing journey that was.

The travel time to my desk each day was short but I went a very, very long way in my imagination (I have the jet-lag and blisters to prove it). I might just set the next Pen Pals book in Timbuktu so I finally have a good reason to go and see it.


Want more?

Visit Lenny Pelling's website

See our reviews of the Pen Pals series:
Pen Pals Forever 1: Summer Days
Pen Pals Forever 2: School Days
Pen Pals Forever 3: Olden Days
Pen Pals Forever 4: Pyjama Days

Check out our interview with Lenny Pelling