For the next few months I'm going to be running a weekly blog Celebrating Children's Books. I want to showcase the wonderful work that children's authors and illustrators do, not the big names everyone knows but lesser known authors and their brilliant books. There's a lot of amazing talent out there and I'd like to give it a shout out. And for the very first blog I'm delighted to welcome author/illustrator team - Colleen and Zed Jacey.
A mother and daughter team, Colleen and Zed have self-published the picture book Odd Job Frog. Colleen did the illustrations and Zed wrote the story. Colleen studied art at college and subsequently completed a specialist course in illustration and design before turning to teaching. Now retired, she has over twenty years’ experience teaching 3-7 year olds. Zed Jacey is the pen name for Zoë Cookson (her initials Z J C). Zoë runs her own public sector management consultancy business. She is also a part-time lecturer in creative writing at the Heart of Worcestershire College, a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and a part-time MA student in ‘Writing for Young People’ at Bath Spa University.
Tell us a bit about Odd Job Frog, Zoe (Zed)
Odd Job Frog will make a perfect gift or souvenir of a visit to London or the United Kingdom. An exciting story with an unexpected twist, it is simultaneously entertaining and educational. Gorgeously illustrated with full-colour pictures, Odd Job Frog is suitable for children aged 3-7, both as a bedtime story and for older children to read themselves.
Here's the cover and a sample spread.
“I’m bored,” said Frog. “Bored, bored, BORED.”
Frog wants his life to be more exciting
but all the things he wants to do cost money.
Where can he get some?
Are there jobs for frogs in London?
Doesn't it look fun?
You can buy it here: Matador
I asked Zoe to tell us more about their partnership.
A mother and daughter team is unusual. How and why did you decide to work together?
We started working together on school plays when Mum was a Headteacher. I would write the scripts while Mum designed the costumes and directed the productions. When Mum retired and took up painting, this naturally transferred to picture books. I write the words and Mum does all the artwork.
Whose idea was Odd Job Frog?
The spark for a story about a frog who wants a job came from a joke in a Christmas cracker. This led to the title and we developed the story from there.
Do you have a strict working routine?
Mum likes to paint in a morning because the light is better. I don’t have a routine and have to fit in writing around my other commitments.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of self-publishing a picture book?
Don’t underestimate the amount of work involved! Also, find someone who can give you an independent view. We’ve found working as a team has really helped. Mum will tell me when the words need re-drafting and I’ll tell her when the pictures don’t work. For example, there’s one picture of the zoo animals in ‘Odd Job Frog’ that Mum painted three times before we both agreed it was good enough.
Can you tell us a fun fact about yourselves?
When my nieces were younger, we used to dress up in Stourport-on-Severn carnival. Mum and I made the front page of the local paper the year we were dressed as Cinderella’s ugly sisters. Were they trying to tell us something
What’s your top writing tip for new writers?
The best ideas come when you’re not expecting them so always carry a notebook. Mum and I usually have our best ideas when we’re out walking together and it’s maddening when we don’t have a piece of paper to hand. We had to write one story idea in teeny tiny writing on the back of a receipt.
What’s your favourite movie?
I love tongue-in-cheek action adventure films like the original Star Wars, Back to the Future or Kingsman: The Secret Service. Mum’s not big into movies but enjoys TV, particularly Strictly.
What do you like to do to relax?
Mum likes to garden while I love travelling and drinking white wine.
What do you like to read?
I’m addicted to reading children’s books, particularly middle grade action/adventure stories. Mum prefers to read non-fiction although she is regularly forced to read the manuscript I’m drafting for my MA.
What’s the best thing about seeing your book in print?
It was thrilling when the first copies of Odd Job Frog appeared just in time for the London Book Fair. We weren’t able to go but several friends tweeted us pictures.
We’ve also really enjoyed sharing the book with children in school and library events. We’ve developed a programme for visits to local primary schools with a lively story telling session for Reception and Key Stage 1, and an interactive session on how we wrote and illustrated our book for Key Stage 2.
You can follow Zoe on Twitter
It all sounds very exciting, Zoe. Thanks for dropping by to tell us about Odd Job Frog.