Hoorah for Marchant and Meddour and Their Unusual Partners


This week we celebrate two new books from a pair of unusual writing partnerships and discover how they hooked their agents.
Jackie Marchant and  Dougal Trump launch  I'm Dougal Trump...Where's My Tarantula?  and Wendy Meddour and Mina May prepare the way for Wendy Quill is a Crododile's Bottom in May

Dougal Trump literally dropped into Jackie Marchant’s life – at least a bin liner full of his stuff did -  when his mother  threw it out of the window  as Jackie walked by. The bag split open to reveal, amongst other things, four old plaster casts, a deflated dog-chewed football, several notes from friends and family written on homework sheets that should have been handed in, a threatening note about a creature in the shed and the start of the last will and testament of Dougal Trump.
Dougal Trump: Life in a Bin Liner

Officially that's how Jackie met Dougal Trump.  Unofficially, there's another story. Jackie's son asked her about writing a will, which led to Jackie standing  knee deep in the mess of his bedroom, tempted to throw the lot out of the window and wondering what he’d leave to whom in the  will he was thinking about. Jackie wrote 500 words of the will, called her character Dougal Trump, entered a competition and forgot all about him, until she was at the Annual Writers Conference in Winchester. Jackie was very surprised to  come second in the competition she'd forgotten all about. 

Approached by an editor Jackie was asked how much children’s writing she’d done.
‘Er . . . ' she said, '500 words.’

She was persuaded to write the rest, did so and sent it to Alice Williams at David Highams Agency. Alice took Jackie on, she says:

Jackie’s wonderfully inventive plotting and Dougal’s fresh, funny voice stood out immediately. Who would have thought there’d be such comic potential in writing a will!

But there was still a lot of work to be done before the book was taken on by a publisher, and more work before it was ready for publication. I've been in a critique group with Jackie for a long time and it's fascinating how much the book has grown  from draft to published copy - a  real testament to everyone who worked on the book. It's positively alive.

'I’m Dougal Trump . . . Where’s my Tarantula?’ was published on Thursday, 25th April by Macmillan Coincidentally, Wendy Meddour and Mina May appeared on Radio 4's Woman's Hour on the very same day discussing their new venture.

Mother and daughter Wendy Meddour and Mina May were already very much together before they became writer and illustrator for Wendy Quill.

They're both a bit Wendy Quill - they have the same sense of humour, love being slightly silly and are EXTREMELY close - but Mina May is 'artistic'. In other words, she works when and how she likes. If Flamenco dancing in the kitchen or practising her backwards crabs seem more urgent to her than illustrating, then the illustrations simply wait. But they've never missed a deadline and when the illustrations flow, they flow! Fortunately, Mina May draws to relax. And she likes 'relaxing'. So illustrating never has to wait long.

Wendy and Mina's working partnership began when  Mina May was three. Principally Chief Stapler, Wendy also wrote down the words as Mina May dictated them. 
Mina May was funny. Her words made me laugh. A lot. Without her, I doubt I'd have become a children's writer. 

When Mina May  was about seven, Wendy got the confidence to write some of her own words and draw some of her own pictures. Wendy's agent Penny Holroyde  didn’t hesitate about taking her on. 

Penny says...

"Wendy's approach letter was exemplary, she had been recommended by one of my authors, and her writing immediately stood out for being warm, and funny and perfectly pitched to the age group. She also told me she was committed to this career path. Then when I met her I was hooked. Here was a clearly accomplished and intelligent woman but she also had an ingenuous manner about her that was irresistible. She has such a brilliantly funny and self-deprecating narrative style when she speaks and such an elephantine memory for events of her childhood that I thought she absolutely couldn’t fail to make it as a writer for children. She talked about putting some of these childhood memories into a piece of very young fiction and as soon as I saw it, I knew she had nailed it – managed to convey her personality to the page in a truly effortless way. I was hooked again."

Wendy  was supposed to illustrate Wendy Quill.  The book actually went to auction with Wendy as the named author/illustrator. Then Mina passed Wendy some character sketches she'd done on the family iPad. With a pang, Wendy realised they were vastly better than hers.  What would her agent think?

Here's Penny again...

"I was excited to submit Wendy Quill is a Crocodile’s Bottom and was on the verge of doing so when Wendy sent an email with an attachment that were her daughter’s illustrations. Mina was 10. Not only that, but that she really did want me to submit them with the text – she wanted me to submit them as a mother and daughter team. I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a bit of a heart sinker. It’s a little bit tantamount to saying your mum loved it plus everyone knows that publishers don’t want to be dictated to about illustration style. So it was with some trepidation that I clicked on that PDF.  However there, writ large, stood Wendy Quill Wheezy Bird. And Miss Pinch. And the Girly Gang getting scared by Kevin. And, of course, Wendy Quill as a crocodile’s bottom. Again I was hooked.
I made the submission and within the hour Jasmine Richards from OUP was on the phone…."

Oxford University Press wooed them with hand-written felt tip scrolls, a hilarious puppet video of a crocodile, some home made cookies and an AMAZING  offer for a series. How could they resist? 

Ah I love a happy ending - hoorah for unusual partnerships: passersby and untidy boys; mothers and daughters;  crocodiles and bottoms !

Kathy Evans is Celebrations Editor for Words & Pictures. She is South East Network Coordinator with Mariam Vossough and is represented by Sophie Hicks at Ed Victor.


  1. Thank, you Kathy, it's really lovely to celebrate with everyone. Wendy, I'm really looking forward to reading about Crocodiles and Bottoms!

  2. Writing our two books was great fun! And you should have seen Jackie's face when Ida (that's my spider) ran out of the bin liner!

  3. What lovely things to say! Brought a tear to my eye. Thanks Penny :) (And great way to start a book - knee deep in rubbish, Jackie ;) )

  4. I love Dougal Trump so feel for him Jackie and so glad you found him. Congratulations!
    Wendy, Mina's doings are fabulous and I love your story. How wonderful to have been on Woman's Hour - the interview was great. I'm picking up the latest Dougal Trump and Wendy Quill next time I'm in a book shop - shouldn't be long.
    (Errr...I'll also be paying for them:)

  5. Two lovely stories. Congratulations to you all.

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