Wednesday, 19 March 2014

March Dare

Andrew Weale

We welcome picture book writer Andrew Weale to Words & Pictures with some excellent advice. Over to Andrew...

I’m a March baby, by star sign a fish. This traditionally means that I am creative, and my head is usually to be found somewhere in a cloud. However, I’m not all fluffy. I have a daring, determined streak too.



 At the beginning of my career, I enrolled on a children’s writing course at the City Lit in London. One of the first things I was told by a tutor was to stay away from rhyme and not to write a counting book. This is where my creative and daring sides met, got married and quickly had an offspring.

One morning (a little while later), dressed in shabby pyjamas and holding a chipped mug full of coffee, I was standing in my living room when a verbal picture popped into my head: one newt in a suit. It had a lovely Dr Seuss ring to it, so I sat down on the crumbling divan and thought of more possibilities. In five minutes I had a list including cockatoos in high-heeled shoes and bats in black top hats. After another five minutes, I had the idea of binding the animals together with numbers. After a day I had my first commercial picture book, One Newt in a Suit: a counting book in rhyme.

Horror! I had broken not one but two ‘rules’. However, my message here is: follow your creativity (wherever it might take you), and be daring (don’t be deterred by so called perceptions about the publishing market). In short, write what your heart tells you to write. If you write from the heart, a publisher is far more likely to sit up and take notice than if you write to order for ‘the market’.

Creativity and daring also came into play when I wrote my second picture book for Hodder, Dinosaur Doo. Yes, it’s a book about dinosaurs and poo. The idea this time came from a conversation with Sue Buswell, in which she told me how Aliens Love Underpants had come into being: a couple of editors simply thinking of things that children love and putting them together.

On the train home that evening I did the same thing and came up with dinosaurs and poo. After a manic google (picture books+dinosaurs+poo), I couldn’t believe that nobody had thought of putting them together before. I had the first draft written, in verse, on the one and a half hour journey from London Victoria to Seaford, Sussex. Again, I was breaking a ‘rule’. You know, the one about parents not caring much for books about the dreaded ‘p’ word. Luckily, I didn’t care much either, because I was having such fun with my scatological dinosaur friends, and my editor at Hodder had a lot of fun too when she read that first draft.

So, I’m a March baby: creative and daring. I write what comes from my heart, and I try not to worry about ‘the rules’. The rulebook is there to be ripped up, and that’s what creative people are on this Earth to do!



Andrew Weale is every mother's nightmare. As well as being a writer of children's books, he is an actor and singer. He lectures on picture books at Winchester University and coaches corporate clients in presentation skills, so his mother does manage to catch some sleep at night.


Born in Brighton and educated at Eastbourne College, he won a Classics Scholarship to Trinity College, Oxford. Having rubbed shoulders with the likes of Boris Johnson and Niall Ferguson, he decided to change direction completely and learn how to act at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. After far too many years of education he set up a theatre company that went on to win a Fringe First Award at the 1991 Edinburgh Festival. At the Award Ceremony he got to make a speech and kiss Emma Thompson.

Andrew's company was the first to tour Romania after the revolution, having been invited personally by Ion Caramitru, head of Bucharest's Bulandra Theatre. The company also toured in New York and Hong Kong.

Andrew has worked as a freelance actor and singer since 1997, when he played Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. Other highlights include working with Sir Alec Guinness and Janet Suzman. He has had roles in Kevin Spacey's film Beyond the Sea and Peter Sellars' production of The Rake's Progress at Paris' Chatelet Theatre. Recently he played the lead in the Theatre Royal Bath's Dangerous Obsession opposite Liza Goddard.

Andrew has always been involved with books. He worked with Kathleen Tynan and Allegra Huston on The Kenneth Tynan Ketters and Nick Hern on The Honourable Beast (the posthumous autobiography of English theatre director John Dexter). In 2010 Hodder published Andrew's first children's picture book One Newt in a Suit. Since then he has written four more for Andersen Press, Random House and Hodder. He has spoken at many festivals, including the Imagine Festival on London's South Bank, and the Oxford and Hay festivals.





4 comments:

  1. Great Andrew! You are an inspiration. Always enjoyed hearing your stories as they developed at the City Lit class. Love the message about following your heart.

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  2. The rulebook is there to be ripped up, and that’s what creative people are on this Earth to do!

    I may print this as a banner! Thank you.

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  3. Yay! I'm all for breaking rules (as long as you're breaking them for a good reason). Stories that slavishly follow the rules are soooo predictable.

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  4. While I really like the notion of being daring when creating, I'm not sure there's any other way - it's always a leap into the unknown or that Indiana Jones (and the Last Crusade) step of faith.

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