Transcription of BWT podcast: Oundle Lit Fest (March 2011) – Day 2 of 5

The eighteenth special episode of the Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast was released on 9th May 2011 and featured the second day of five as a volunteer at Oundle Literature Festival here in Northamptonshire, England. The content has never been released other than website links (on my website

Thursday 17th March: Sarah McIntyre, Children’s Illustrator & author

Introduced by Committee Member Leigh Giurlando, she explained that Sarah’s London studio, based in London, was a former police station which Sarah renamed The Fleece Station after her love of drawing sheep. Sarah initially talked about her children’s book ‘You can’t eat a princess’, featuring Princess Spaghetti, which she read out to the wonderfully enthusiastic audience of Years R, 1 and 2 (5-7 year olds) alongside projected stills of the book. Every few seconds she’d ask the audience questions and each time dozens of hands went up in the air. Looking around the room, all eyes were on Sarah in her colourful pink dress, furry bolero and jewelled headdress, especially captivated when she imitated voices of the characters including aliens, monsters, Princess Spaghetti and her father King Cupcake.

Sarah explained that she has been drawing since she was a toddler and professionally since she was the same age as the children she was speaking to, carting the pictures around her neighbourhood selling some for 10c. Other slides included early sketches of Princess Spaghetti and her father (which looked nothing like the finished characters). The rear inside cover of the book has about a dozen of nameless aliens so the next few minutes were spent with the children naming them with suggestions including Giggly, Jemima Cupcake, Greedy and Mr Five Eyes.

Sarah then drew an alien on a flip chart starting with a basic semi-circular body shape and three feet, each with three toes. Next she asked for a number of eyes and ended up with nine; one close to the body and eight on long stalks. With help from the children, she gave it a huge open mouth with five triangular teeth then added long lashes to the eyes. Giving it fish breath (delightfully depicted by a curly line with a fish at the end of it) and then seven arms, one holding his favourite food: poo ice cream. A long stripy curled up nose then followed just before another arm held a pen flavoured hot dog, topped by delicious blue mud. He was then given seven spiked hairy ears, pink pointy punky hair and a large pink moustache. Finally two of the children added some facial hair and suggestions from the children lead him to being named ‘Silly Bogey Rudra’. A poo tree was then added to the picture.

Pencils and pre-printed sheets with the original body shape were then distributed to each child who took to drawing their own alien with help from their teachers the festival volunteers. I was on pencil duty until everyone had them so I joined in providing limb suggestions.

Sarah then moved on to drawing a spaceship which she did again with initial suggestions from the children, allowing time for the children to draw their own on the reverse of their sheets while she continued hers.

Mentioned briefly at the start, Sarah’s other books include ‘Morris and the Mankiest Monster’ and ‘Vern and Lettuce’, and all three were available for sale at the Oundle Bookshop stand.

Once the spaceships were drawn, it was time for a Q&A session:

She was first asked whether she enjoys drawing, to which she asked the children whether they had enjoyed drawing your ship? (a resounding yes) and replied “Well, that’s the fun I have all day”. Next Sarah was asked whether she draws flowers and she showed us a mouldy flower she’d drawn in one of her books. She was then asked what it’s like to be an author? She said, “it’s really fun – I get to go places like this and I get to work with other authors, she then mentioned that one of her friends draws for the Beano but then said that sometimes it’s hard work.

To the question of what her drawings look like, Sarah explained that the initial drawings often look quite different to the finished version, as we had seen earlier with the Princess and King pictures. She was asked how much did she have to pay?

First of all I had to pay for printing, ink etc but then when you get successful people pay you. The final question was ‘How do you make the front cover?’ to which Sarah explained that she sometimes has to paint (ink and watercolour) the cover two or three times, although she said the ‘You can’t eat a princess’ book was right first time.

After the book-signing the children were then escorted back to their coaches and I was incredibly impressed at how organised they were, walking hand-in-hand, in pairs, out of the Great Hall in small, but uniformed, regiments.

Thursday 17th March: Literature quiz

I arrived back at the Great Hall after spending three hours wandering around the town (including a trip to Oxfam where I bought a notebook and DVD) and found that the hall was filled with tables in preparation for the evening’s literature quiz. Events Manager & Committee Member Simon Price, some of the other volunteers, and I then covered them with tablecloths while Community Events & Committee Member Paula Prince covered the main top table with a variety of wrapping paper, shoe boxes and other oddities. With a few minutes to spare before people arrived for the quiz, I was able to chat to Paula which was recorded as the first half of special episode no. 12, released on 22nd March.

As I was there in the capacity of paying member of the public, Paula wouldn’t let me in on any of the secrets (rightly so) and I’m glad she didn’t as not knowing made it all the more hilarious when she gave us the instruction to make her a present and wrap it in the shoe boxes. Two of my team mates were artists so made her a fantastic pair of biscuit and wool earrings, beautifully wrapped in a bowed box. In between the tasks we had rounds of questions on a variety of themes, during one of which we could play a joker. We decided to play it on the children’s round which turned out to be our strongest and I learned the next day that although we’d not won (the team who had, had won the previous year) we had in fact come second.

So, that’s what happened on day 2 out of 5 – links to the transcriptions of the other days will put listed on when they’re posted.

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