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PAM ROYDS 1924 - 2016

Pam Royds on Grasmere , 1971 with Sally Christie, children’s author and daughter of Philippa Pearce. I was just twenty two when I fir...

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My blog is about writing and illustrating children's books which I have been doing since 1974. www.gillianmcclure.com has all my books. I also have another blog: www.paulcoltman.blogspot.com where I publish my father's poems.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

PAM ROYDS 1924 - 2016

Pam Royds on Grasmere, 1971 with Sally Christie, children’s author and daughter of Philippa Pearce.

I was just twenty two when I first met Pam Royds, a year after this photo was taken. Pam was the children’s book editor at Andre Deutsch and she was working with me on my first picture book, The Emperor’s Singing Bird. Not having known any editor other than Pam, I took for granted the two decades that I enjoyed her kind and intelligent guidance, believing all editors to be like her – nurturing and patient; allowing an author/illustrator to make mistakes and develop. 
   I accepted as normal, back in 1972, the invitation to come to her house for a bath and breakfast when I stepped off the overnight bus from Edinburgh for our very first editorial meeting at the Deutsch office in Great Russell Street. I didn’t argue, when my first child was born and Pam wouldn’t allow me to take part in the wonderful Book Train event, saying I should be at home feeding the baby. And at the various awards ceremonies, over subsequent years, Pam was always by my side, giving advice on  how to lose gracefully and pointing out the authors behaving badly when they didn’t win.
    It was a sad day when Andre Deutsch sold their children’s list to Scholastic in the early 1990s but Pam made sure she was there helping her authors and illustrators make the transition. At my first meeting with my new Scholastic editor, Pam was hovering within earshot and when the meeting took a turn for the worse and the Scholastic editor said that, after all, he would not be taking me out for lunch, I remember Pam emerging forcefully from her office and saying, “Well if you won’t, I will,” and marching me off.
Oh dear, how naïve I’d been to believe all editors were like Pam; that all publishing houses were like Andre Deutsch.

And now she's gone: a beloved friend and much missed editor.

Friday, 22 April 2016


My new picture book Dog on Wheels, to be published by TroikaBooks in September 2016, has a landscape of pavements – rather dull I thought, until I discovered the effect of dropping rock salt crystals into very wet watercolour washes. At first there appears to be nothing happening. However, if you leave the wash to dry naturally and then leave the salt to do its work over many hours, the big salt crystals dissolve into much smaller crystals, picking up pigment and giving a sparkly, grainy, stippled effect – just right for pavements.
  It wasn’t without its problems, though. I now had a strongly textured background which was causing a messy outline when I came to paint the foreground objects. So to avoid this and keep a clean edge, I masked all outlines before the salt wash.
I also discovered it was difficult to apply further washes over the texture without lifting it, so I put the pigment on very dry and then it would adhere and colour the crystal stipple.
    The more I worked on this book, the more I discovered about pavements. Walking slowly and looking down at them as if from a dog’s or a very small child’s viewpoint, I suddenly started to see all the amazing drain cover patterns; circles, triangles and rectangles with elaborate geometric  designs.

And as well as all these patterns there was all the information in the form of lines, arrows, signs and even shadows. Suddenly pavements were not dull at all!

Friday, 11 March 2016


Going through the list of School Library Services in the UK can be a heart rending process as so many of them no longer exist. However, there is one county defying all the cuts and austerity – Norfolk. This very rural county has a dynamic School Library Service and, living in Cambridge where there is no longer one, I was happy to be put onto the Norfolk list of authors who go into schools and have them organise both bookings and payment, just like the good old days when the Eastern Arts Association offered this service.
  On 10 March I attended a Norfolk SLS ‘Language is Power’ conference in Norwich where the audience of primary school teachers, school librarians and authors were challenged and inspired. Key note speaker, Tanya Landman, 2015 Carnegie Winner, (Buffalo Soldier)set the tone for the day when she described the appalling library cuts in this country as the equivalent to the burning of books by unsavoury regimes.
And, Martin Illingsworth, author of Creative Approaches toTeaching Grammar, did not let his audience sit back complacently either, but shook everyone out of their comfort zone with his approach to teaching grammar. Education Secretary,Michael Gove would have squirmed in his seat or left after these two sessions.
But it was the three pupils from Litcham School, the 2014 Kids Lit Quiz champions and their presentation that really showed the impact a forward-thinking School Library Service with a belief in the power of language can have on rural state schools.

Monday, 18 January 2016


Exciting news, the latest edition of Selkie has been published by Troika Books. 

This will be followed by my next picture book to be published in 2017. I’m busy working on the colour artwork but won’t say what it’s about as I want it to be a surprise. It does have dogs in it.

Sunday, 20 December 2015


From Mario's Angels 2006

Wishing friends and colleagues and all children's book lovers a very happy Christmas.

Thursday, 26 November 2015


3 November
The CWIG AGM followed by a talk on Non Fiction. I remember the very first time I went to one of these meetings at Drayton Gardens, back in the late nineteen eighties. Clive King was on the committee and was looking after the new members. I felt very over-awed at meeting the author of Stig of the Dump. Tonight Caroline Royds of Walker Books, daughter of my first editor, Pam Royds, was one of the speakers talking about the high production trade non fiction books that are being marketed to schools.
A First Book of Nature written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Mark Hearld was an example held up.
Before the meeting I’d visited the House of Illustration which is conveniently close to Kings Cross station. The illustrator whose work I’d wanted to see, Laura Carlin, wasn’t showing but I saw the EH Shepard’s wartime cartoons and Lauren Child’s Dolls House.
4 November
I had to give a WI talk on Christmas books; Mario’s Angels and The Christmas Donkey . WI audiences are always appreciative and I can sell books after my talk.

10 November
This evening there was a social of the local SCBWI group in the Norfolk Café. An opportunity to meet local authors and illustrators.
13 November
A school visit with a water theme. Today it was a big junior school in Norfolk and quite a challenge to keep the attention of a year group of over eighty pupils in a school hall. I have several books with a water theme but this school wanted Selkie. I suppose because the Norfolk coast and seals are nearby. I did workshops where the pupils used puppets to help create their own watery seal story.
 14 November
Today I did a Waterstones signing in Bury St Edmunds. I had a display of artwork for customers to look at which works well and I sold 27 of my picture books.
18 November
 A visit to an Infant school. I was able to do four different workshops for the different age groups with a signing at the end of the day.
20 November
Another school visit - my last this autumn. It was another junior school linked to the one I’d visited on 13 November but not so large. This one also wanted a water theme, so I repeated my Selkie workshops and it was all a bit easier today as the numbers were more manageable.
22 November
The SCBWI Winchester conference.

I took part in a two hour panel,‘Top Tips for Self Publishing’ alongside Larisa Villar Hauser and Sarah Towle. I’d met Sarah at the 2014 Booksellers conference when she’d told me about her crowd- funded Time Traveler Tours. I always enjoy taking part in this conference as there’s such a friendly atmosphere. 

23 November
A party at the House of Commons to celebrate the 10 year Anniversary of Seven Stories, the wonderful children's book centre in Newcastle.

I traveled there with Sally Christie, Helen Craig and Adele Geras who had all donated work to the Seven Stories archive. We arrived early and were shown to the Jubilee Room which was quite small. There was time to leave our coats and bags and go into the Strangers Gallery of the House of Lords and watch a bit of the EU debate. 

At the party we were all given a copy of Drawn from theArchive. Hidden Histories of Illustration by Sarah Lawrence. Helen and I both had work we’d donated featured in the book; Helen’s Angelina Ballerina illustrations and roughs and my illustrations of Tog the Ribber. Other contributors were also at the party; among them Michael Foreman, John Lawrence, Angela Barrett and Pat Hutchins.

I’ll be returning to the House of Commons next week for the ALCS All Party Writers Group winter drinks reception. But that's in December so I’ll get this November Diary posted now.