Every year, Bath Spa University Writing for Young People MA students create an anthology to showcase their work. The 2010 anthology will be published in May, and all of the extracts and illustrations will also be available on a website (here's last year's anthology, Making Waves). The publication will culminate in a launch party in London with numerous agents and editors (yes, strangely enough this will be my second London launch party in two years).
I haven't blogged about the anthology before, perhaps because it seemed such an ephemeral, distant thing. But I have been quietly busy doing final edits and copyedits on my first two chapters of Project Sparkle, writing an author bio, and a brief back cover-type blurb. Given my love of cover art, I also volunteered to be a cover editor, and to help with coordinating illustrations for each extract.
So last Tuesday I was invited to visit Bath Spa University to meet with the art students who were in the midst of illustrating our anthology. The students had not been allowed to chose which piece they worked on, but rather their tutor had assigned an extract to each student, trying to match the artist's style with the writer's content, themes, and genre. The tutor explained that while the students had been shown our blurbs, they hadn't even read our extracts, as he didn't want them to get bogged down in specific scenes or character details, but rather to try and capture the novel as a whole.
We found a quiet space in the back of a busy art studio, and each student presented their work. They each explained their understanding of their author's story, and what details struck them. Many of the students discussed their research and thought process, and flipped through their sketch book to show the different elements they had considered. Then they presented their current work in progress.
I was absolutely blown away. I was expected to critique each design, considering the author's piece and intentions, and how well the illustration meshed with those. And I managed to point out a few elements. But mostly I was in awe. Somehow, without reading our novels, let alone our extracts, these students had managed to capture the novels' souls. I kept looking back at the blurbs they were given, wondering how they had jumped from a single sentence to understanding and illustrating the most important theme in a classmate's book.
This blog is called "Critically Yours" for a reason. I always have something to say. For that reason, I was quite nervous about this meeting, nervous about criticizing young art students. I needn't have worried. They had captured every single one of my classmates' novels closely and beautifully.
Even Project Sparkle. Perhaps not surprisingly, I was assigned a fairly gritty photographer. He's using a technique I had never seen before, illustrating my novel in a way I hadn't considered. But it fits the book perfectly. I can't wait to share it with all of you.