Born in Notting Hill, London, quite a while ago.
I’ve been drawing since forever – there’s never been anything else I wanted to do. Just possibly it runs in the family. As a child I didn’t notice that that my Mum was (and still is!) Shirley Hughes. To me she was just my Mum.
She did her work on the living room table, and simply pushed it to one side when we needed her. There was no closed door, no
‘Shh! Mum’s working…’
I would use up the paints on her palette at the end of the day, all those lovely colours… My Dad was a brilliant artist too, here’s one of his prints….
Art was all around us but very relaxed, no big deal.
This is one of my early efforts at writing a story.
I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a work of great genius.
a narrow escape
I did go to university to do a proper brainy subject (history). I lasted three days and never even unpacked my suitcase.
First I illustrated for newspapers and magazines, including a weekly cartoon for the Guardian with Mark Haddon. I started doing books for children when I had a family of my own, and when my children grew up somehow the books never did. I’m absolutely hooked on children’s books.. It’s the most amazing piece of theatre, where words and images play merrily together and anything is possible.
I live in Twickenham with my husband and two grown-up children, and I work in a room at the top of the house overlooking the treetops and back gardens. Here I am, drawing and painting and cutting and sticking, or staring out of the window dreaming up stories… it’s very quiet and peaceful, which I love – except when I accidentally rustle a plastic bag, which sets off a cacophony of squeaking from the guinea pigs who also live here and think everything is a lettuce.
In my imagination my workroom is neat and perfect, with impressive bookshelves and beautifully arranged arty things. That’s because I live in a dream world. In reality it’s very messy, with coffee cups, overflowing waste-paper-baskets and boxes bursting with STUFF.
how I make a book
1.over-sharpen pencils while trying to think up an idea
2. stand by kettle wondering why – like an eagerly awaited parcel from postman – idea hasn’t arrived yet
3. scribble scribble, a character, a name, maybe I’m onto something??? (what is it about the back of envelopes, with all those nice expensive sketchbooks left untouched?)
4 start collecting some bits and pieces to get a sense of the LOOK of the book
5 plan out the story in small thumbnail form
(beginnings and endings are difficult, middles jolly tricky too)
6 get the story rock solid, polish every word until it’s shiny, and then – hooray! – paint the pictures.
My books are all about children – whether shown as real or in animal form – and the dramas, the funny things and the worries they encounter in day-to-day family life. If my readers find in these stories a little bit of cheerful encouragement, and something to smile about, that makes me very happy.
I really like lists. I also like
- chocolate buttons
- train journeys
- paper bags