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Illustration Know-How / Keeping Creative During Recovery

April 16, 2020


Having recently emerged from injury rehab, here are my tips on how to stay creative during recovery from illness. 

Breaking a finger is distressing. When you are also an illustrator it is highly challenging. Keeping a positive mental attitude during the six weeks or so recovery is incredibly important to the healing process; as is finding a way to keep on using your illustrator brain!


My tips:

  • Accept fully that during the recovery time you cannot carry on as usual: reschedule stuff, and take your time. Rest LOTS. Ignoring your injury and carrying on regardless is a recipe for associating your craft with pain, as I learnt the first time I broke a finger.
  • Think about and enjoy what you CAN do.
  • Find ways to continue using your favourite techniques and materials: think outside of the box – what could be do-able, with some help? For example, using a sketchbook of pre-printed storyboard templates, and weighting it open with drawing board clips (make sure they are the good ones which close tight!) Or asking someone else to draw you some templates.
  • Search online to find ideas from others who have experienced similar set backs.
  • Set yourself a challenge – something you will love to do, and will be fun.
  • Have a plan to do something every day – and post it online – Inktober-style. Say you are going through recovery from injury – use a hashtag. This is encouragement for anyone going through a similar challenge who does a search. It is also a great way to track your recovery.
  • There are lots of daily drawing/painting challenges out there to provide prompts: find one you like.
  • Look at what other illustrators are doing on Instagram for inspiration: John Shelley’s 365 days of 1’’ drawings inspired me to do my tiny ink drawing a day.
  • Find a way to continue doing the other creative stuff you do, too! For example, one row of knitting, or planting one bulb, and increase the amount you do as you recover.
  • Read up on athletes etc who have gone through injury and recovered.
  • If meditation appeals to you, Head Space app has a pack on Rehab within the Sport section: this is great for the daily reminders to take your time and allow your body to heal.

This article was first published in Words and Pictures, the SCWBI British Isles online magazine.



Clare Clarabelle Tovey has focused on her life-long passion for drawing picture books and stories, from being an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and Islington Writers for Children Group. She lives in London with a playful young cat, surrounded by piles of sketchbooks, books and crafting materials. Best place to see work is currently @clarabelledraws on Instagram.

2020 NSW Premier’s Booklist

March 14, 2020


I’m honored to learn that Arabella and the Magic Pencil has been included in the 2020 NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge Booklist.

The NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge is an Australian program that aims to “encourage a love of reading for leisure and pleasure in students and enable them to experience quality literature”. The accompanying booklists give children a wide range of quality books to choose from as they attempt to read 20-30 books, depending on age, between March – August 2020.

For more information about the challenge or to see the official booklists by age group, visit the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge website.

2020 NSW Premier’s Booklist — Stephanie Ward



Sea of Poppies

March 11, 2020
I am involved in a Book Club event at The Wallace Collection on Monday 30th March in conjunction with the extraordinary Forgotten Masters: Indian-Painting for the East India Company exhibition.

The book chosen is Amitav Ghosh’s stunning novel, ‘ Sea of Poppies’. The evening will include a chance to see the exhibition, talk with a curator, share a glass of wine and chat about the book. This is a new venture for The Wallace Collection.

Please forward details on to anyone you think will be interested if you wish!


Female characters – picture books

January 23, 2020

EILEEN BROWNE (guest post)

Female characters – picture books (work in progress)
Autumn 2019

After discovering that only one in three picture or baby books in the UK (and USA) has a female lead, (and only one in five with animal characters), I began compiling this list.

All books on the list are ‘a good read’, with either female protagonists, equal numbers of females & males or no gendered characters.

All are paperback fiction, unless otherwise stated. 

Books published in the last four years have the date in bold.

If titles are out of print, they can often be found in libraries or on line.

Until females and males are equally depicted in children’s media from birth onwards, there’s little chance of gender equality in adulthood.

 BAME (Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic) titles are indicated with an asterisk*.

© Eileen Browne 2016



Aargh, Spider! 2-7 yrs
Lydia Monks
97814 05210 447 – Egmont 2013 (2004)

Abracazebra 3-8 yrs
Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty
97814 07145 389 – Alison Green Books 2015

Ada Twist, Scientist * 4-8 yrs
Andrea Beaty & David Roberts
97814 19721 373 (hbk) – Abrams (USA) 2016

All Fall Down * 0-3 yrs
Helen Oxenbury
97814 06382 402 (board bk) – Walker Books 2018 (1987)

All Mine! 1-4 yrs
Zehra Hicks
97815 09817 757 (board bk) – Two Hoots 2016 (2015)

Alphonse, That Is Not OK To Do! 2-7 yrs
Daisy Hirst
97814 06373 134 – Walker Books 2017 (2016)

Alphonse, There’s Mud On The Ceiling 2-7 yrs
Daisy Hirst
97814 06374 759 (hbk) – Walker Books 2019 

Amazing Grace * 4-10 yrs
Mary Hoffman & Caroline Binch
97818 45077 495 – Frances Lincoln Children’s Books 2007 (1991)

Animal Boogie, The * 2-7 yrs
Debbie Harter
97818 46866 203 – Barefoot Books 2011 (2000) + CD rom:

Anna Hibiscus’ Song * 2-7 yrs
Atinuke & Lauren Tobia
97814 06338 416 – Walker Books 2012 

April Underhill, Tooth Fairy 3-8 yrs
Bob Graham
97814 06339 604 – Walker Books 2012

Azzi In Between * 6-11+ yrs
Sarah Garland
97818 47806 512 – Frances Lincoln Children’s Books 2012 (graphic novel + non-fiction notes) Read more…

Taking a Moment

January 9, 2020


Illustrations by Shaney Hyde

It’s been a whirlwind six months of promoting my picture book Arabella and the Magic Pencil that was released in September 2019. I’ve been thinking about, talking about and obsessing about it for what seems like an eternity. From drafting a marketing plan to visiting bookstores and shipping review copies, I lost touch with how I ended up here in the first place. I actually got a bit sick of seeing my own face and the book I was so proud of splashed across social media. But in the quiet days after the holidays, in a fog of jet lag, I took a moment to sit down with the book I’d been shamelessly promoting to simply read it for myself.

First, I gazed at the cover and end pages. I traced Arabella’s steps as she waltzes in her whimsical world and noticed how Wish, a sweet little bird that was an invention of the illustrator, hops along the inside cover beckoning readers to follow.

Flipping through the pages, I giggled at the hidden details — Stephanie’s Story Tent, Arabella reading her own book and a banner advertising “Magic Happens” that I hadn’t actually noticed until now. And I couldn’t help but laugh at the flashy flamingoes who flamencoed as Word still insists that it’s not a word!

I remembered how feedback from my critique group changed a boring page turn to a dramatic moment with a well-placed ellipsis. Then I quietly observed Arabella as she stands with her back to me drawing with her magic pencil.

I marveled at my physical reaction to the change in color palette when Arabella realizes what she has done. I flipped back to the bright pages that conveyed her happy life and found myself searching for colors on the muted pages that follow.

Finally, I stared wide-eyed at Avery’s dinosaur — not the one that I imagined when I wrote the story, but the one the illustrator painted that just happens to be my favorite.

I find that I’ve been smiling the entire time I’ve been reading. Am I fan-girling myself? No, not really. This isn’t my book. It may be my story, but this thing in my hands has been created by many. People around the world now experience my words together with expressive artwork all wrapped up in a perfect package.

What once was just an foggy idea is now an actual book that will live on bookshelves and archives long after the marketing fervor has died down. It was nice to remember that I still love the story that I originally wrote so many years ago, even after reading it for the gazillionth time. And that seems like a pretty good reason to savor the moment.

via Taking a Moment — Stephanie Ward

What Agents Want

October 3, 2019


Jottings following the SCBWI Agents’ party 2019

I have listed below some of the points raised by the nine agents who were present.  As you will see, it was clear that different agents have different wish lists. It seems to me that the trick is to hit lucky, without knowing exactly who would like what!


 Different agents look at different parts of the submission. This can be:

  • The cover letter – to see if the agent warms to the author and could ‘get on with them’.
  • Synopsis – Some do NOT want to read the end!! Most DO.
  • The HOOK is vital for some.
  • A “Cracking Opening” of book = Vital
  • First 3 chapters. Because some go straight to the manuscript.
  • Don’t be self-deprecating in letter.
  • Do research on website about each agent – sometimes they need a change if have had a lot of one kind (g. One now has enough “funny”)
  • Cover letter should be short.
  • Even picture books and certainly MG can tackle big issues.
  • Voice is SO important.
  • Be concise and clear.
  • Why my voice is different from others – make it clear.
  • Give the setting.
  • Motivation of why wrote book. Why writing. Story behind the story.
  • Show you can be flexible when editing is asked for.
  • Timing is vital. . . g. if another publisher is publishing a book that is very similar. OR if there is a need for a change.

However, there are some things agents have in common. They all mentioned “be clear and concise”.  They recommended studying each agency’s submission guidelines really carefully.  Apparently sometimes a female agent receives a letter or an email prefaced by “Dear Sir!’

I liked the agents who said “Just send me your work. Sometimes I receive something I had never thought of and it turns out to be just exactly what inspires me to say YES.”

Good luck everyone!

Reading + Art at Keats Library

September 22, 2019


Bring the kids for a reading of the newly released picture book, Arabella and the Magic Pencil. Then, stay for an arts and crafts activity. We’ll be making magic pencils and designing paper dolls of Arabella and Avery. The event is free and will be held at Keats Community Library on the 28th of September from 1:30-2:15PM. See you there!

via Event: Reading + Art at Keats Library — Stephanie Ward

Booking Around the World – King’s Library Tower

August 24, 2019


The nearly impossible to photograph King’s Library Tower at the British Library

I love to travel and I love writing books, so whenever I’m in a new place, I seem to be looking for a bookstore (and a coffeeshop or restaurant, but that’s another post!). I’ve found some amazing places and bought lots of children’s books in languages I can’t read. So now, I’m on a mission to highlight all of the wonderful books, bookshops and bookish images that I have discovered on my travels.

Since I currently live in London, it’s fitting to start with a classic image from the British Library. The King’s Library Tower sits smack in the middle of the British Library. It spans six stories and is covered with glass making for a stunning spectacle from any angle. The books contained inside are actually the collection of King George III and include over 65,000 bound copies.

I’d highly recommend popping in the British Library for a peek of the King’s Library Tower when in London.

British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB

Malaika Rose Stanley obituary (Guardian)

August 6, 2019

JO BROADWOOD Fri 2 Aug 2019

Malaika Rose Stanley drew on her own experiences of motherhood in her books for children

My friend Malaika Rose Stanley, who has died of cancer aged 65, was a pioneering children’s author, educator and activist. Ros, as she was known to her family, was forthright, funny and fierce, and she made an important contribution to children’s fiction at a time when there were few black female writers being published.

Man Hunt, 1996, and below, Dad Alert, 1999, two of Malaika Rose Stanley’s series of books about Max’s search to find a man for his single mum

Her first book, Man Hunt, was published in 1996; Max is a mixed-race boy on a quest to find a man for his single mum. Told with humour and subtlety, it draws on Ros’s own experiences of motherhood and is laced with references to her local football team, Arsenal. At the same time it addresses serious themes and in particular celebrates a black child’s perspective on the world. Ros went on to establish herself as a popular and prolific author whose work ranged from picture books to pre-teen fiction.

The sequels following Max’s adventures, Operation X (1997) and Dad Alert (1999), were particularly popular, as was her series of “Spike” books, including Spike and Ali Enson (2010) and Spike in Space (2012). Dance Dreams (2013), about an aspiring ballerina, and Skin Deep (2016), the story of a young Brummie girl’s beauty contest ambitions, also found a wide readership

Ros was born in Selly Oak, Birmingham. Her white birth mother, Marina Stanley, had been detained under the 1913 Mental Deficiency Act for being unmarried and pregnant by a black man and was immediately encouraged to give her baby up for adoption. After a series of short-term foster placements Ros was found a loving and stable home with foster carers, Fred and Jean, who she came to refer to as Mum and Dad.

Growing up in the 1960s as a mixed-race child in a mostly white suburb Ros was subject to the casual bigotry of the times, eloquently described in her 2016 memoir Loose Connections. It was not until she attended further education college that she began to explore her black identity. She recalled hearing the song Young, Gifted and Black on the radio for the first time as an epiphany. “My new afro was so much more than a fashion statement,” she wrote. “I was black and proud.”

Ros first trained as a teacher, at Dudley College of Education, which enabled her to indulge her love for travel. Fluent in German, she lived first in Zambia and then in Germany, returning to London only in her late 20s to settle and have children. She had already begun writing when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 39. The news prompted her to dedicate herself full-time to pursuing her dream of becoming a children’s author.

She was a founding member of Islington Writers for Children and the Black Women Writers Group and featured regularly as a speaker at British Council and Black History events and children’s literature festivals. Ros was also a regular visiting author in schools in Islington, north London.

Ros was modest about her courage and determination in overcoming the challenges of her childhood to live a full and adventurous life. She was surrounded with love from a close-knit community of family and friends, and is survived by her sons, Garikai and Danjuma, and grandson, Luca.

Link to the original article:

Handa’s Noisy Night

July 23, 2019

posted by JOHN O’LEARY

Former member and friend of IWFC Eileen Browne has a new book coming out in September. Some of us remember the early drafts of Handa’s Surprise, the book which can now be found in practically every school in the country.

The latest installment of the acclaimed Handa series is a warm, funny story about night time fears with a cast of nocturnal animals and an Kenyan setting.

The Walker Books website says the following:

When Handa has a sleepover with her friend Akeyo, the girls are allowed to spend the night in a little hut near the house. They’re excited to be on their own, but as they get ready for bed, Handa feels more and more nervous. She keeps hearing things – strange snorts, chitter chattering, a big thud. Akeyo says it’s only her noisy family, but on the opposite page the reader sees the nocturnal animals who are really making the noise – and while some of them are familiar, others are very peculiar-looking indeed! With rich, night-time illustrations, sound effects, and plenty of curious animals, Handa’s Noisy Night demands to be read aloud and shared – whether in the classroom or tucked up in bed at home.

We look forward to reading it in September.

For readers aged: 3+
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781406320015
Published: 05 Sep 2019

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