Christmassy feelings


I can’t believe I haven’t written in sooooo long! Apologies for that. I’ve had a pretty good excuse though, what with uni being so intense and everything else in my life having to squash up and shift around to fit in with it.

It’s my last day in my first term and I’m currently sat alone in the studio. I’m usually the first person in and normally I use the time to grab a cup of tea and crack on with work, but as it’s the last day before the holidays I’m taking the time to throw all my thoughts into this blog post and hope I can make sense of some of it.

This term has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life (not including being a mummy, obviously … that trumps everything!) Maybe I should have said “one of the most amazing experiences of my artistic life”. Yeah, we’ll stick with that.
I’ve learnt more about creativity and visual communication than I ever learnt at school, (which is handy, considering the vast quantities of money I’m essentially handing over for this experience) and my brain actually feels as though it’s been thrown at walls and beaten to a pulp. I am mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted, but it is so worth it. It’s worth it for the experiences I’ve had, for the incredible friends I’ve made and the people I’ve been lucky enough to work with and learn from. It’s worth it because it’s made me realise just how special my children are and how much I cherish the limited time I’m spending with them right now. It’s worth it because I finally feel as though my life has an exciting direction and I have a path that I want to follow.

It’s just awesome.

I finished my first project on time and without too much stress, and got a merit for it, which I was over the moon with, (The scale goes: Commendation (1st), Merit (2.1), Pass (2.2), Borderline Pass (3rd)) and I had some great feedback with some handy criticism to help me progress on the second module.

final piece

This is the end product of the weird bluebottle jellyfish/fly hybrid project.

I was happy with my final image, apart from the body text down the right hand side, which could have been smartened up a bit. I was really happy with the Daily Fail and particularly the emblem that I played around with.

The second module we’ve been working on is to do with sequencing and narrative, so naturally we’re working on picture books, which is quite possibly the best thing ever!!!
We’re working with the very talented Emma Carlisle (who has her first picture book coming out next year, published by Macmillan) and Rose Forshall, illustrator of the Pirate Gran series and Howl on the Wind.
I’m finding the module really stimulating and it’s really pushing me further than I thought it would. I’ve even started teaching myself how to use photoshop so that I’m not limited to just traditional media.


Thumbnailing design for a page that I’m illustrating from a text called “Mo’s Moustache” by Ben Clanton


Character design on Photoshop for the main character, Mo.

Sequencing. Based on a video by some researchers that found several cases of seals copulating with penguins, and titled "Worse things happen at Sea"

Sequencing. Based on a video by some researchers that found several cases of seals copulating with penguins, and titled “Worse things happen at Sea”

It feels great to slowly be getting my head around Photoshop and InDesign – to have those tools at my fingertips is very handy.

Another awesome thing in my life at the moment is the proof copy of The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith that I’ve managed to get my hands on. It’s not being published until March and I’m only really able to read it on the bus to and from uni every day as that’s the only time I have free at the moment, but even though I’m reading it fragmentedly (yes that’s a word!) it’s still bloody amazing!!! And it’s only taken me about four weeks to get halfway in. Yes, I read slowly. When I told Andrew Smith that I’d managed to get the proof copy he told me to be on my guard as it’s pretty gruelling, so I’ve promised to send him a bottle of my tears after I’m done with it. I intend to stick to my word :D

As for my children, they are growing too fast and I’m feeling like I’m not there to see it. I can’t get rid of this constant niggling feeling of doubt and guilt. Doubting myself and feeling guilty because I spend 8 hours away from them every day. I know this was my choice, and it was totally my decision to pursue this avenue, but it doesn’t half sting when the baby tries to go back into the childminder’s house when I go to pick her up.

And now, despite the incredible time I’ve had for the past three months, I am so looking forward to three weeks off. I get three whole wonderful, magical weeks with my beautiful daughters and the rest of my family, and I will spend every second of it snuggling with them all and being grateful for everything I have in my life.

Uni Week 2


Last week was amazing!!

We were asked to bring in a massive bag of rubbish, which most of us did, then we were told to choose a nickname out of a hat and build a character head out of the rubbish, based on this nickname.

I picked out the name Bluebottle.

So I thought of the obvious – a fly. But I didn’t just want to make a character out of a fly; that would be boring. I had a little poke around on t’internet and found a type of jellyfish called a Bluebottle (which, incidentally, isn’t an actual jellyfish but a collection of four different organisms working in harmony with one another) and then looked at the individual words – Blue, Bottle – and what sprang to mind was WKD Blue and Bombay Sapphire.

I came up with an Alcoholic Flying Jellyfish who feasts on the discarded booze of sailors and drunkards.

Phase 1 - just starting.

Phase 1 – just starting.

Phase 2 - almost finished.

Phase 2 – almost finished.

Phase 3 - finished! (will be adding tentacles at a later date)

Phase 3 – finished! (will be adding tentacles at a later date)

Bluebottle fly. Copics and fineliner.

Bluebottle fly. Copics and fineliner.

Copic and fineliner sketch of some Bombay Sapphire.

Copic and fineliner sketch of some Bombay Sapphire.


I feel like I learnt quite a lot last week – the most important of which was problem-solving. Having a big pile of crap in front of me and having to assemble something out of it felt like a mammoth task for someone as un-3D-capable as me, but I had a rough idea of how I wanted it to look and the finished article came pretty close to what I imagined. The project helped oil my creative cogs and I didn’t feel quite so precious about it as I do with my usual work. Experimentation has never been my strongest asset but I feel like it’s flourished in the last week or so.

As with anything, there are parts that I can improve on and re-work, but for the time being I’m happy with my outcome. Next job is to get back into the swing of keeping my workbook up-to-date. All that stuff seems to have fallen out of my head since I finished my A-levels.

This week we’ve been given tasks B and C, which involve some creative writing (woooo-freaking-hooo!!!) and drawing faces showing different emotions.

We’re also going to London to visit the House of Illustration (Quentin Blake exhibition!!) and if I have time I’ll visit the Illustration Cupboard to visit the Shaun Tan exhibition (SQUEEEEE!!!) so life is very exciting.

Anyway, it’s past my bedtime so I’m off.

Peace out!

Fresher’s Week.


I’ve made it!!!!

I’ve had my first few days at Uni and so far it’s awesome. In fairness, it’s only been three days, and I know there is much hard work to come but just actually being there is an incredible feeling, one that I’ve waited a long time for.

There have been a few sessions that were a little more boring than I’d like to admit (general housekeeping, figuring out how everything works at Uni etc) but the past two days we’ve been flexing our creative muscles and giving our brains a workout.



Walking around with paper bags on our heads.

Firstly there was the ice-breaking session where we walked around with paper bags on our heads (very slowly, I might add ..) we then partnered up with the first person we touched and one of us took the bag off and painted the bag on the head of our partner, and then we switched and the other person painted our bag. (We found out today about a guy called Saul Steinberg, who does a lot of paper bag art)


Saul Steinberg’s paper bag masks



The finished project looked like this:


My painting on Sophie.

Sophie's painting on me.

Sophie’s painting on me.


The finished articles on display.

Today’s task was a lot of fun, too. We were asked to get a huge piece of paper and tear it into pieces of various sizes. We were given a mirror and lots of different media to work with (charcoal, chalk, dip pens, indian ink, sponges, paintbrushes, pencils, fineliners) and told to work on one part of our face at a time.

This was mine:

My mixed up self-portrait.

My mixed up self-portrait.

And I’ve made some great new buddies, which is fantastic as that was probably the bit I was most afraid of. We all seem to be on a similar wavelength, all creative thinkers and a little bit crazy, all with different opinions and individual aspirations, hopes, dreams, but all equally wonderful. I know it’s early days but it really does feel so good to be doing this, aside from the stresses of student finance, sorting childcare and trying to make work fit around everything. And aside from the fact I have to leave my beautiful girlies for so long. That is a huge sacrifice, but for a very good reason.

I’ll update again soon with my progress, and maybe I’ll even get some writing done soon, too!

Peace out.

An interview with Andrew Smith



If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

So I asked Andrew Smith (thank goodness for Twitter) if he would do an interview for me and he only went and said yes!!

Here we go:

Certain parts of the male anatomy (namely testicles) have a recurring theme in your novels. In your experience, do they take up a lot of space in the mind of a teenage boy? 
There are all kinds of reasons why balls occupy so much space in a teenage boy’s mind. First, they are uncomfortable and get tangled up and pinned in awkward positions quite a lot. Also, they release a constant supply of a powerful hallucinatory chemical that makes guys insane. Nobody tells you that stuff in biology class, but it’s true.
Homosexuality is explored in both Grasshopper Jungle and Winger. Can you tell me what inspired you to write about this topic?
There are gay people everywhere in my life–in my family, in my community, people I work with, friends, and students I teach. Why wouldn’t I have gay people in my stories? The only time a gay character should be avoided is when he or she is being used as a SYMBOL of gayness–when the sexual identity of the person becomes the main element of that character’s relationship to the arc of the narrative. That’s a shitty and dehumanizing thing to do to any group in society.
Grasshopper Jungle is a pretty zany, imaginative book. Where did you find inspiration for it? 
This one I honestly don’t know. I just started writing and it came out. I knew I wanted to write about the end of the world and adolescence, though, because I’ve always been fascinated with how adulthood and settling into one’s role (whether that role is defined internally or imposed on you by society) is really similar to the end of the world.
How was your experience of high school? And do you think your experiences had an impact on the topics you now choose to write about?I was a total outsider/loner/never-fitting-in type dude in high school. I wrote a lot then, too. I think that my teen experiences surface in just about everything I write, particularly in WINGER, since, like Ryan Dean, I was much younger than my classmates. That sucked.

Can you describe your writing space?
My writing space is an office on the second floor of my house. It is an absolute mess, full of boxes and books. My desk is so cluttered I can’t do anything on it except use my keyboard.
Do you listen to music while you’re writing? If so, what do you like to listen to? 
I love music, but I never listen to anything while I’m writing. I need absolute silence.
What would your advice be for budding authors like myself?
Stay away from the internet. Don’t watch too much TV. If you know more about the characters in Doctor Who or The Walking Dead than you know about the characters in your community, then give up now. You’re not going to be a writer.
I took part in a fiction writing short course in which we were encouraged to write in a notebook every day. Do you carry a notebook with you? What do you write in it?
I have one small notebook. I write one sentence in it every day. That’s it. Just one sentence. Some of those sentences have become bigger things.
Are your characters inspired by people you know? Or people you notice on the street? Or are they completely made up from scratch?
All of my characters are people that I’ve encountered in the real world, to some degree or another.
I LOVED Joey Cosentino as a character. Have you ever met a Joey in real life?Yes. Joey was a real kid that was a friend of mine around the time when I was in college, about 20 years old or so. That’s all I’m going to say about him.

Who is your favourite author and why? Favourite book?
My favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut because he was a literary badass who obviously wrote exactly what he wanted to write–none of his work was contrived or a mash-up of publishing trends. I can’t stand seeing books like that. My favorite (sorry, I’m American–feel free to add that extra vowel) book is Breakfast of Champions.
What is the best thing about being a published author?
Tough question. There are lots of things about being published that give me stomach aches. I truly enjoy meeting other authors, editors, agents, and the people involved in publishing. I love the travel. I get to see so many parts of the world that I would never have gone to without the doors that being a published author has opened for me.
Cuss words feature quite a lot in your books (Grasshopper Jungle in particular.) Have you had many complaints about this?
I get hate mail for every book I’ve ever written. One particularly nasty letter came from a mother who “discovered” one of my books in her 15-year-old son’s school backpack. What a lousy mom. I looked her house up on Google Earth, just so I could see what kind of place such a hateful, mean woman would live in. Kids cuss when they talk to each other. No big deal. It’s part of the wonder of human communication. These people who get bent out of shape because I use a word like “fuck” in my novels probably never stop to consider how very damaging words like “fat” or “ugly” or “stupid” can be to other people, but I bet those words come out of their mouths, because at least they can brag to themselves how they never say “fuck.” Fuck that.
You must hear almost constant praise about your books. Have you experienced any negativity towards them and how do you deal with it?I don’t take negative comments well. I’ve never had a negative review or comment from a legitimate review source, though–only from internet crackpots who are brave behind their keyboards. I never read reviews on places like Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble because there are too many idiots who post on those sites, and I don’t have time for that.

Which was your favourite book to write? 
I truly enjoyed writing Grasshopper Jungle, Stand-Off (which is the sequel to Winger), and, especially The Alex Crow (coming in March from Dutton/Penguin). Those books were fun to write.
I can safely say I feel thoroughly privileged to have done this. Huge thanks to Andrew Smith, both for the fantastic books and for doing this for me.

Some books I love … #11



Andrew Smith has done it again. For the second time in my life he has toyed with my emotions, given me a million laughs and entertained me in the most wonderful fashion.

After reading Grasshopper Jungle* I hoped more than anything that he’d written something else, and much to my delight, he had! This!! (he’s also written a series called The Marbury Lens and a novel called 100 Sideways Miles but the only way I can get hold of them is through Amazon as Waterstones can’t get them. Cue major sadface) Anywho, I was not disappointed. In fact, I was so far away from disappointed I couldn’t even see disappointment on the horizon. To borrow an idea from the book, it was five out of five beautiful-leather-bound-volumes on the Laura Hole book-lust scale.

Ryan Dean West is a fourteen year old in eleventh Grade (meaning he’s been bumped up by two years because he’s so smart) at a boarding school for naughty kids. He’s also a talented Rugby player and plays Wing on the school Rugby team (hence the nickname Winger) and he draws comics in his spare time. Things are pretty bad for him in the first few chapters:

1. He’s been moved to the even-naughtier-boys dorm, called Opportunity Hall (or O-hall) and is having to share a room with a hulking great bully called Chas Becker, who also happens to play on the Rugby Team.

2. His best friend, Annie Altman, thinks of him as a little boy.

But then he makes a string of awful decisions (getting drunk on the night before term starts being a prime example) that get him into some big shit with lots of people. (I spent a lot of time thinking, in the most motherly way: “no Ryan Dean!! Don’t do that, you silly boy!”)

What I loved about Ryan Dean is that he more than makes up for his “skinny-bitch-ass” build by making big-ass choices that ultimately lead to him winning over the girl he loves and fighting his demons. He’s a boy of two halves; on the one hand, he’s a little boy who’s in love with a girl and can’t help himself around other girls (namely his room-mates girlfriend) who’s afraid of creepy Mrs Singer, one of the teachers who lives in O-hall. On the other, he’s courageous – he isn’t scared to kick ass, even if that ass belongs to one of his best friends. He isn’t afraid to stand up for himself when he’s threatened. And as Winger, he spends a lot of time being threatened.

Written in first person, and with such authenticity (I’m pretty sure Andrew Smith knows what goes on in the mind of a fourteen year old boy) and with the perfect degree of teenage colloquialisms, Winger is engrossing, mesmerising, and ultimately a very believable coming-of-age story.

The book is full of moments that are spread out like a spiderweb. Time is linear, but moments from the start of the novel have an impact on future events. I know, I know, that’s exactly what happens in real life – everything has a knock-on effect – but what I love is that Smith is constantly reminding us of how Ryan Dean got to where he is. He brings past moments into the present and gives them meaning. Its like being on a rollercoaster (sorry for that massive cliche, but that really is the perfect simile) and it ends with a horrible twisty drop that made me bawl like a baby until I was practically dehydrated.

I really did love this book. Like, almost enough to stroke it and call it my fluffy bunnykins or some other hideous pet name. I might even marry it! (let’s face it, I’m closer to marrying this book than I am to my fiance mwahaha) But seriously, it is sky high on my recommendation list, I cannot praise it highly enough. Bravo Andrew Smith … for the second time in my life, and hopefully not the last, I salute you sir.




* see my blog review here:

Some books I love … #10




Prior to reading Neverwhere I am ashamed to say I was a Neil Gaiman virgin. It’s not that I didn’t want to read anything by him, it’s just that I didn’t get round to it until now. But by golly, am I glad I’ve popped that particular cherry!! 

The story follows a normal, everyday guy called Richard Mayhew, who lives a normal, everyday life with his snobby fiancee Jessica (not Jess … Jessica) working in a normal, everyday office that he’s made a vain attempt at livening up with the addition of those awful troll dolls. Walking to dinner one evening, he notices a girl lying unconscious on the street, so, like any good samaritan, he offers his help, much to Jessica’s disgust. She offers him a snobby ultimatum (“if you help that girl, we’re over!!” or something to that effect) and to her even greater disgust, Richard picks the broken girl up and carries her back to his flat, leaving Jessica to go to an important dinner with her boss by herself. 

Richard is unaware when he picks up this girl that by doing so, his life is about to turn in a very unexpected direction, one which involves danger (lots of that), rats, angels, unheard-of underground stations and many, many doors. Incidentally, the girl he so graciously picked up is named Door, and she has the gift of opening doors. She is a wonderful character, beautifully portrayed as one who is strong-willed and sure of herself, but one who has suffered an inordinate amount of pain with the murder of her whole family. 

She is just one of a large cast of amazing character charicatures, each totally unique and wonderfully crafted, and each with an extraordinary name (the Marquis De Carabas, Hunter, Hammersmith and Anaesthesia being just a few). 

The journey Richard takes through London Below (and some of London Above) is fraught with danger and near-misses and adventure. It is a winding journey of epic proportions, weaving upwards and downwards, upside-down and inside-out, and sometimes even back to front, and it is as brutal and gruesome in places as it is gentle and humorous in others. Despite the fact it took me a good few weeks to read (it’s been a very busy few months for me) every time I picked it up I was instantly transported to this wonderful, weird world full of oddities and trinkets and quirkiness. 

Gaiman’s writing feels of a similar quality to J. K. Rowling, which is high praise in my world (being a humongous fan of Harry Potter) but with a bit more bite and many more swearwords. The imagination in this man’s head is just awesome, there is no other word for it, and I would kill to have just a tiny slice of it for myself. (I wouldn’t actually kill …)

Neverwhere is a superb read, one which made me feel hundreds of different emotions and unlocked some that I’d never even felt before, some that I can’t even properly describe. It has given me a huge, deep respect for Gaiman and sparked a flame of curiosity and intrigue that makes me want to read everything he’s written. 

The question remains: which one do I read next? 

Laula “Freshman” Hole.


It’s official … as of September I will be studying Illustration at Plymouth Uni. 

I am so, so unbelievably happy about this, my heart is singing. I had confirmation via UCAS today, after a bit of a hiccup with my application. Originally my application was declined and withdrawn automatically as the Uni hadn’t made a decision about my application by the deadline date. So after a bit of digging around and phoning the admissions people (a supremely helpful bunch, I might add) I found out that it’s because I hadn’t replied to an email asking to send in my portfolio (an email that I never received!) so I quickly put together a dropbox folder of all my show-off pieces and sent it to the course leader. After a bit more ringing around a week or so later the admissions team emailed to say they’d like to offer me a place but I had to go through clearing (check me out! No interview or anything …) so I sorted out my clearing choice but had to wait another week until UCAS was back up and running (something to do with Scottish results or something) before everything was made official. 

Which leads us to today, when I finally got proper UCAS approval. 

So now I have just less than seven weeks to sort money, childcare and my head out and actually try to get into a learning frame of mind. To tell the truth I’m actually bricking it. I’m nearly twenty-five, I feel like an old fogey compared to eighteen year olds and I’ve got two children. I feel like I’ll never fit in but I’m sure I’ll find a friend. I can be painfully shy in new situations and I stare at people a lot, which may not help my situation. To overcome this, I’ve joined the Illustration BA facebook group to try and get to know some of my fellow freshmen before I start. 

I’m also a bit worried about being bottom of the class. In school I was always “the arty one” and people would ask me to draw them, but now I’ll be hanging out with a load of other artists and I can only imagine how inferior I’m going to feel. Some of the students have posted their work on the facebook page and I’m already feeling a little intimidated. I guess I’ll just have to keep practising … I know I can draw but I lack ideas and I can only see that as a bad thing. 

Nevertheless, I am so totally overwhelmed and buzzing – the future feels exciting and scary in equal measures and I’m going to put every last ounce of effort and strength into Uni that I have. Having my girlies has given me a kick up the bum to get myself into a career where I can actually provide for them. It’s given me life experience and a drive and determination like nothing else can. I may not have gone to Uni straight after school but I’m glad I gave myself the time and the space to reflect on what I want and what I need from life and I feel pretty certain this is what I’m meant to be doing. 

Wish me luck!