There was a real buzz in the Bath Waterstone's this Saturday. Lots of children (plus the odd adult) were eagerly awaiting Michelle Robinson for a wonderfully messy and creative session involving socks!
Full of fun and wonderful ideas, Michelle entertained and enchanted her audience who left happy and delighted with their creations! We managed to catch Michelle as the room cleared and invited her for tea, cake and a chat!
Once we had debated the finer points of various types of cake, made our choices and poured the tea, the questioning began!
When asked how she came to writing, Michelle told us that she used to write as a small child, convinced she would one day be an author. Having lost sight of this during her teens, she found herself working as a copywriter- a job she laughingly described as 'soulless!'- when she remembered her dream and felt she had to try.
'My dad always said you could do whatever you wanted if you worked hard enough so that's what I did.'
Having attended some Arvon writing courses, her confidence grew. On one course, Michelle was tutored by Vivian French and Malachy Doyle, who told her when she was ready he would be happy to send her work to his agent.
So work hard she did! Getting to work early, Michelle would put in hours on her writing before doing her day job, but it got to the point where the writing started to take over! When the call came from her agent, who was at the Bologna Book Fair, saying an offer had been made on her book, she was delighted- and hasn't looked back!
One reason for Michelle's success- and popularity- must be due to the fact that she is incredibly productive, having a great number of projects on the go at once! Some things are top secret and could not be discussed (for example, working with Anderson Press on the best story about processed meat EVER!), but there was still a staggering list of current books Michelle could tell us about!
The 'Beginners' Guide to Dino Spotting' is being illustrated by David Roberts at the moment. Sharing Michelle's enthusiasm for his work, we chatted about his illustrations and how exciting they are. Michelle's son is very interested in dinosaurs and so it was really important to get the details right. The book had to be accurate and is a mixture of fiction and non-fiction.
Other delights on their way include a sequel to 'Chicken Nugget' (Penguin) with Tom McLaughlin, 'Little Monster's Guide to School' (Scholastic) with Sarah Horn and 'The Forgetful Knight' with Fred Blunt.
Michelle is also working with a new illustrator, Robert Reader, on a book called 'The Hat That Zack Loved' and a book with Sergio Ruzzier, an American illustrator, which will only be out in America (I will have my brother tracking this one down!).
Hearing Michelle enthuse about each of the illustrators she works with was wonderful. She sees their work as a 50/50 deal and loves the surprise of seeing the pictures they come up with inspired by her writing.
We asked if there was anyone she hadn't worked with that she would like to.
'Quentin Blake...Helen Oxenbury... Gary Parsons...Chris Mould...Sophy Henn...'
We'd love to see her collaborate with any -or all -of the above!
When we asked whether she had any thoughts of writing novels rather than picture books, Michelle said she thought she would stay focused in the one area.
'My brother is 10 years younger than I am so I was able to carry on enjoying picture books for longer through reading to him. Everyone likes an imaginative idea, a really good, satisfying story and really great pictures. A picture book fulfils all of these things!'
We chatted for a long time about reading, writing, illustrating, her favourite books (Charlotte's Web', 'The BFG' and 'Hop on Pop') and how she feels before doing events (nervous!). Generous with her time, her praise for others and her enthusiasm for life, Michelle is certainly one of the nicest people we have met in a long time- and she writes great stories too!
A huge thank you to Michelle for agreeing to talk to us. See you at Salisbury Literature Festival on the 3rd June.