Gillian McClure: writing, illustrating, publishing

Anthony Haynes writes: At the National Association’s of Writers in Education’s annual conference, I co-presented a session on self-publishing. My fellow presenter was another Cambridgeshire author and publisher, Gillian McClure. I invited Gillian to write a guest post for us about her work. Here she kindly — and splendidly — obliges.

Gillian McClure writesPlaister Press  has just published a new title: We’re Going to Build a Dam. Cover Dam for AmazonThe text is written in dialogue with a refrain in the narration, ‘Two boys etc…’ The boys are not named; it is as if they are one identity, both involved with the same task; building a dam on a beach.

However, the reader will be able to distinguish small differences of personality coming through the dialogue; for one is more dreamy and imaginative and the other more practical; pushing forward each new stage of the build.

DAM 1The layout of the page is a face-on orientation so that the reader can see clearly how the dam is being built up, giving a factual slant to the book. 

Alongside the dam building there is a dog sub-plot that can be read in the pictures and this adds some humour to the narrative. The reader sees, but the two boys don’t see, what the dog is doing when its favourite stick is used to build the dam. It’s the dog, in the end, that causes the dam to break upDAM 2

The illustrations are painted in watercolour with a strong ink line that is matched by the typeface, Compendio, which has a rough, broken line.

I had a lot of fun with the typographic design of this book, bringing about an inter play of text, image and typeface that feeds into the overall narrative.

In two other Plaister Press books, The Little White Sprite and Zoe’s Boat a more delicate typeface, Nara, is used.

SpriteCover ImageThe Little White Sprite is another book that appeals to boys and also has a little dog playing a role in the narrative, but it has a very different tone to We’re Going To Build A Dam. It’s more contemplative and mysterious.

It’s a story about a child going through a hole into a magical world (in the tradition of Alice in Wonderland), having an encounter with a mysterious little creature and then having to return safely back to the real world. Sprite Image

The story is written in the first person and this helps break down the barriers between the character in the story and the reader who is drawn into the feelings explored in the narrative.

Zoe Cover ImageZoe’s Boat, the third Plaister Press title, is a story about a feisty little girl who wants to sail down the river to the sea. Again, there’s a dog in the story; a large, shaggy old dog, this time, who doesn’t want to go to sea with Zoe. The story, an adventure in a boat, explores the ups and downs of friendship between Zoe and her dog.

In this book I wanted to introduce the very young child to graphic story telling while at the same time offering a good read-aloud text. So the pictures are in frames that have to be read with the correct left to right eye movement.Zoe Image

Finally, Plaister Press offers a picture book for slightly older children, Selkie.

Selkie cover imageThis is an original version of the selkie seal legend. Selkie is rescued from the nets of an oysterman by a boy named Peter. She thanks the boy by teaching him the secret language of the sea. When I wrote Selkie I had only the following definition: “A selkie is a seal that turns into a girl when she takes her seal skin off. A selkie knows the secret language of the sea”.

I built my story around this definition, using the gift of the secret language of the sea to lessen the feeling of loss always found at the end of a Selkie story.Selkie Image

I set my story on the Isle of Colonsay where I had many family holidays.

Only when I had written it did I discover there were many other selkie stories. I was surprised and relieved to find that mine fitted in with them; the difference being that I had created a girl selkie instead of an adult selkie.


About Anthony Haynes

Director, Frontinus Ltd Communications Associate, FJWilson Talent Services

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