Monday, November 30, 2009

very pleased with myself

I am terribly excited. Without meaning to, I have ended up inside a children's novel, one of my own making - no, mine and Annie's.

At an exhibition here in Eastbourne, there were half a dozen paintings by local artist Annie Hayward. 'There's a story in those paintings,' I said to Richard the Rona Gallery owner, but one especially grabbed me by the hand and ran away with me. The next day, out walking with the dog, it wouldn't let go. I kept trying to engage with the scenery, ponder the adult novel, put one foot in front of the other etc, but the story was persistent and rather rude.

I saw Annie and I told her what was happening, and she said 'You're telling me the story of my childhood'. At first I thought we had a picture book on our hands, but then I started writing it down and after 1,000 words I knew it was something else. But what? I wanted Annie's paintings as illustrations, they had to be there, and an intrinsic part of the book, not extras. Suddenly, I remembered this.



I'd never read it, but I'd noticed it at the bookshop. So I raced in and bought it and sat down and read the story in a gulp. It starts like this:

Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, and for good reason: he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who treated him with the utmost care and adored him completely.


And then, one day, he was lost.

It's a wonderful old-fashioned tale with lyrical language, a surprising protagonist with a vivid point of view, gorgeous colour plates and line drawings, and exquisite production values. Annie has it now. We're using it as a template for the shape and look of our book. I've written three-thousand words - about a third of what I think I need - and Annie already has three illustrations. Most importantly, the protagonist has been sketched. Today I think. Yes, today.

Annie and I talk regularly about what our story is actually about. She feeds me stuff, I feed her stuff. It is Annie's childhood first and foremost, but it is also mine, and my children's childhood, and her children's childhood. It is surprising where it's taking us. I love writing it. I love the collaboration.

It fills me up.

10 comments:

Fifi Colston said...

this is the penulitmate way to create a picture book! I can't wait to see the result (you will have to show it to a certain local publisher who specialises in art and writing colliding auspiciously)

Mary McCallum said...

Thanks Fi! Remember my story about the snail? Hmm might dust that off after this one. I must say writing children's books compared to adult books is the same but different. Different things surface through the sub-conscious ... along with some of the same old. But overall I feel less restrained and more joyful doing it ... might be the fantasy stuff...or perhaps it's delving into childhood agaain ?

Elisabeth said...

hi Mary McCallum. I'm new to your blog via Gondal girl. I'd like to follow your progress but can't see how.

I'm interested in literary non-fiction with its moments of non-fiction that blogs enable.

Pen said...

The Miraculous Journey of Eduard Tulane is a wonderful story. It brings tears and smiles to old and young alike.

Glad you found it. And your story sounds delightful. All the best bringing it to life.

Rachael King said...

I had a similar moment of epiphany while walking with baby #1 around the south coast of Wellington. I am one chapter and a synopsis into a children's novel and it will probably be my next project.

Rachel Fenton said...

These "unintentional" stories are often the best. Good luck with it - sounds wonderful.

Mary McCallum said...

Hi Elisabeth. Thank you for visiting. I've read your blog with interest via Gondal-Girl from time to time. To follow my blog, you just pop to the bottom of the page and you can click on the Atom feed. I just tried it and it seems to work. Perhaps there is a better way to do this? If so, please let me know! I don't know much about feeds....
And Rachael, I remember you talking about a children's novel now. It's a different way of writing/being isn't it? I am still surprised by it.

Gondal-girl said...

Mary - so glad you are fired with a children's tale. I have got one baking in my brain just waiting for the pen to be picked up and spurted out. I have written a few in the past, there is nothing so magic as a story for a child, so glad you are inspired. I think it is ok to attend to the story that is yelling the loudest to come out into the world, the novel will still be there when the other story is out...

Have been reading about the other Kate diCamillo book, the Magician's elephant which is on my Xmas list, must add Edward Tulane...I have only read a few pages in the past, was captivated by the pictures...

Kayla Graham said...

Is the book out yet? I would love to get a copy, it sounds interesting and exciting. contact me at kaylanpeter@yahoo.com.

Mahalo from Maui, Hawaii

Mary McCallum said...

Oh Kayla it's not! We're nearly there - your comment has spurred me on. I will email you as soon as it's out. Thank you. M