ILLUSTRATION EVENTS Picture Books! Discover and Be Discovered

A special highlight in the recent series of SCBWI Pulse events was a talk on breakthrough picture books, promotion and rights with US writer/illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky, our own Candy Gourlay, and UK agent Hilary Delamere. Trish Phillips gives her impressions of the day.

24th March was a sunny Saturday, and I was pleasantly surprised at how quick and easy it was to reach The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) from Waterloo station – it took all of five minutes. Notebook and pen to hand, I was prepared for an interesting and informative afternoon but not prepared for how much fun it would be or how much cake I would eat!

Paul O. Zelinsky kicked off the event, talking of his art in school when he was young, in particular, a painting he was doing where he had deliberately left the sky white. A battle ensued, with the teacher almost exploding with rage because of his refusal to conform and ‘colour in’ the sky blue. Needless to say, he won in the end, and has continued his life with that same premise - having confidence in his convictions.
Three Paul O. Zelinsky books in very different styles, his landmark picture book The Wheels on the Bus, now celebrating 25 years in print, Z is for Moose, words by Kelly Bingham, and the Caldicott Award winning Rapunzel.
He has never had an agent, and words he used to describe how he works were ‘flavours, colours and feelings’. He uses many mediums but his mantra is ‘it is not about him, it’s about IT’, (meaning the story) is the most important thing, so he uses the medium that gives the right ‘flavour’ to the work, but still his voice is evident.

Candy Gourlay, who has a big and beautiful voice (and I don’t mean in a loud way, but a literary way) gave an enthralling and often hilarious talk on marketing yourself as a writer/illustrator to be discovered. She talked of knowing who your audience are and categorising them, for example, there are those who know you, and those that don’t – they need different pitches otherwise you might alienate them. She also talked of the different platforms available; blogs, websites, social media – there is an awful lot of work that goes into it, but she makes it look fun. Candy has written three books and now her first picture book is soon to hit the shops – Is it a Mermaid?, illustrated by Francesca Chessa. Take a look on her author page, it is gorgeous – and I got to ‘touch’ her copy!

Candy’s agent, Hilary Delamere from The Agency, then followed. She gave us a valuable insight as to what publishers are looking for and what she, as a Literary Agent, is interested to see in an author. It is not just about the story, but also about who you are as an author and your presence.

Submissions need to be simple and stand out. What is the hook? It needs a brilliant title, a good opening line, and a good ending. Publishers are all looking for different things at different times, so there is no exact science or answer for the perfect submission. Hilary answered many, many questions, and authors and illustrators alike left feeling satiated, having had a three-course banquet of publishing and, hopefully, well on their way to finding their voice.

A big thank you to Paul, Candy and Hilary, and all who helped to organise the event.

Photo credits: Trish Phillips


Trish Phillips is an author, illustrator and paper engineer, her website is
Twitter: @trish_again
Blog: biglittletale

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the write-up, Trish! It was great fun ... and thanks to the CLPE for the magnificent array of cakes!


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