Saturday, 13 April 2013

An interview AND and an event with Jo Empson!

On Saturday 13th April we welcomed fantastic picturebook author Jo Empson to our store. Jo read her book Rabbityness (more than once!) and then helped young book lovers to create magical musical instruments. It was rather a grey day outside, but there was lots of sunshine inside!


Rabbityness was Jo's first picturebook and she has since published her second book Never Ever. We love her work and we're not the only ones - this year she was short listed for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize!
We wanted to find out more about this wonderful new author and we thought you'd also like to see some pictures from Jo's event!


Jo, Rabbityness is a really touching story - where did you get your inspiration?
Thank you, It's a book very much from the heart and a lot of love and emotion went into creating it, so I hope that's why it seems to speak to adults and children. As you will see at the beginning of the book, the dedication is for my big brother David, who I sadly lost very suddenly and unexpectedly. We were very close and his loss was immense.  He was a very creative, warm and giving person, who always encouraged and supported me so much in all my creative endeavours. Creating 'Rabbityness' helped me through a very difficult time, the obvious connection with Rabbit and my brother David made me feel very close to him again and expressed the legacy he has left behind. I was asked to write an article for a magazine about the inspiration for 'Rabbityness' which I have put on my blog if you would like to read more joempson.blogspot.co.uk


Rabbityness also has very distinctive artwork - different to anything else we've seen. How did you arrive at this particular style?
Ooo that's a good question. I think it was the very nature of the story and the character of 'Rabbit' which led me to the slightly chaotic, energy filled, exuberant colourful artwork. As 'Rabbit' is so unusual and loves doing unrabbity things such as painting and making music, I wanted the illustrations to have a real quirkiness and vibrancy about them along with a fluidity, which I hoped would reflect Rabbit's personality. Right from the start I knew I wanted colour to be key in expressing the narrative. You will see that in the beginning of the book when Rabbit is doing 'rabbity' things (everyday things) the colour palette is limited to just two colours, the proceeding pages where Rabbit is doing 'unrabbity' things the pages explode with colour expressing his zest and happiness, which he spreads through the woods whilst his rabbit friends catch his happiness. When Rabbit suddenly disappears leaving his rabbit friends sad and bereft the woods are grey and colourless, in contrast the woods are filled with vivid colour once again when the other rabbits remember Rabbit with their own unrabbity talents.



 
Tell us about being shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize!
Sooooooooo exciting! When the shortlist was announced for the Waterstones Book Prize I was absolutely over the moon that 'Rabbityness' was sat amongst the small selected group of very talented Authors/Illustrators. A lot of the chosen shortlisted books were already my favourites and sat proudly on my bookshelf. One of the best things about being shortlisted is that your book gets to be in a prominent place in all the Waterstones stores, this for a new author is a great privilege and fantastic exposure for your book. It has also led to some really interesting opportunities such as magazine and radio interviews, book shop events and literature festivals.


You started as a graphic designer - when and why did children's picture books become your passion?
As a child one of my most favourite places was my local library, I absolutely loved spending time there, I thought books were the most magical thing in the world. They swept you away to imaginary worlds both through words and pictures. When I had my daughter Sophie I think this opened my eyes again to the wonderful array of children's picture books. 
My background as a graphic designer has had a great influence on my illustration work, I have always been drawn to children’s books created by ex-designers, such as the Eric Carle, Bruno Munari and Herv√©Tullet.  I now really enjoy designing my own picture books and creating handrawn type. As a designer I always had a passion for illustration and whenever the opportunity arose I would create illustrations for packaging design projects. After many years of designing I decided I really wanted to persue my dream to be an illustrator. I began mainly illustrating editorial briefs which I enjoyed, but then discovered the MA in Children's Book Illustration course at Anglia Ruskin University. This was, in my view, my dream course and I was thrilled when I was excepted on the course in 2009. I haven't looked back, it was the best thing I ever did!




What does the year ahead hold? Your second picture book Never Ever is out - any sneak previews of future books!?
I have a lot of  'Rabbityness' events planned during this year which is very exciting. I would 'love' to do a theatre production of 'Rabbityness', I have a wonderfully creative friend Liza Smith who makes wonderful puppets, so we'll see! I am also hoping to do some book events for 'Never Ever' in the form of creating animal masks with children and also making pigs fly! I'm working on a couple of new book ideas, one of which is about a migrating bird with a terrible sense of direction, as with my other books this is from personal experience, I have the most appalling sense of direction, I have been known to attempt to walk out of a room only to find myself in a broom cupboard! I have very patient friends and family! Here's is a little sneaky peak at a sketch from the book.



And here are a few pictures from our event with Jo!




Thank you to all of you who came and thank you Jo!


Waterstones, 14 Cricklade Street, Cirencester GL7 1LL
01285 658998



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