Spotlight on: Lynne Rickards
'Spotlight On' gives you the chance to learn more about the work of Bookbug Co-ordinators, publishers and illustrators connected to the Bookbug programme. This month, Lynne Rickards, author of Pink! and I Do Not Eat The Colour Green answers some questions about her work.
Tell us a little bit about your work
I am a picture book author who grew up reading Dr Seuss and AA Milne, so I have a tendency to write mostly in rhyme. I have nine picture books published so far, with my tenth due to be published by Hodder in 2014.
What is your earliest reading memory?
The first book I remember reading was One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr Seuss. It was full of silly characters, like Ned who was too big for his bed, Mr Gump with his seven-hump Wump (a sort of camel) and the Yink who liked to drink pink ink. The illustrations were great fun too.
Who or what is your biggest influence?
As well as Dr Seuss, I have always liked the poems of AA Milne, particularly from When We Were Very Young. His scansion is impeccable and often quite complex and he also uses clever internal rhyme. Much later I discovered the crazy, irreverent poems of Shel Silverstein.
Are there any contemporary picture books you wish you’d written?
When I was younger I wanted to illustrate children’s books, so I am very envious of those authors who can do both! I studied illustration at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto and did publish one book, but I decided being an illustrator was much too hard. Editing and improving a text is no problem, but redoing an illustration you’ve spent ages creating is quite discouraging! If there’s one book I wish I’d written it’s That Pesky Rat by Lauren Child. It’s a favourite of mine because I actually had a pet rat called Whiskers.
Aside from the wonderful world of picture books, which genres or authors do you like to read?
I have recently been reading the complete works of Shakespeare on my Kindle and I have lined up all of Dickens as well (rather ambitious, I realise!) At university I studied French and Quebec literature, so I have a lot of catching up to do in English. More contemporary novels I have enjoyed recently are Andrea Levy’s Small Island and Sarah Winman’s When God Was a Rabbit.
Briefly describe your typical working day.
I get my sleepy teenagers up and off to school, then spend the morning at my computer answering emails, planning writing workshops, organising visits to my Patron of Reading school (Comely Park Primary in Falkirk) and keeping up my Twitter presence and my blog for kids. When a brilliant idea comes to me I’ll start a new story, and most of the time I like to write at the keyboard. I like to take advantage of the silent, empty house to be creative. I can’t listen to music when I’m writing because rhyming needs silence, so when the kids come home again I switch to the household tasks I’ve been ignoring all day!
How do you get out of a creative rut?
I am lucky to have a fairly even temperament, so although I get discouraged sometimes it doesn’t tend to last very long. Writing for children is so much fun that I’m soon back at it, trying to think up the next bestseller. Maybe one day I’ll crack it!
What is your top tip for budding authors?
I think the Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook is the best place to start. It is full of valuable information on publishing and inspiring advice from successful writers. The second important tip is to spend lots of time in a library or bookshop just browsing the children’s section. Know your market and study the format of a standard picture book so you become an expert in the field!
You’re currently involved with the Writer in Residence programme. Could you give us a bit more information about that project?
I was delighted to be given the opportunity to work with the Early Years Team at Scottish Book Trust and Home-Start in Fife to create a picture book on the subject of healthy eating. I have been collaborating with a great group of women in Methil who meet up on a Tuesday for literacy classes. We spent nine weeks doing creative writing exercises and a bit of food art, working together on a picture book text that would eventually be published and distributed to every toddler in Scotland through the Bookbug scheme. Over the summer the rhyming text of Never Bite a Tiger on the Nose was approved and an illustrator, Angela Rozelaar, chosen, so it’s getting very exciting! It has been a great experience working with so many inspiring book lovers and I couldn’t have dreamt up a more perfect job! We run a weekly blog, The Methil Makars.
Finally, tell us a random or surprising fact about yourself.
The 'About Me' page on my website says that I love dark chocolate, fresh fruit and crunchy organic carrots. After an author visit to St Matthew’s Primary in Glasgow, they presented me with a big bag full of all my favourite things!