A Weekend With Dame Lynley Dodd

Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Dame Lynley Dodd, at three different events at the Bundaberg Art Gallery.

Friday night was for educators and parents. In a relaxed conversation with curator Penelope Jackson, Lynley shared snippets of her life story in a chat that was both entertaining and enlightening. Some little treasures I took away;

On language and word choice: “It’s about introducing them in the right place and having fun with it. Context makes meaning. And I’m not at all repent about that.” (Hear, hear!)

Lynley shared two anecdotes where children have adopted her rich vocabulary. When out at the shops, and asked what he would like for tea, one young lad replied, ‘A snippet of veal.’ In another instance, a couple were having a disagreement, when their child piped up, ‘Stop that cacophonous noise!’

“Unless your name is Julia Donaldson, Lynley Dodd or Dr Seuss, never write a story in rhyme.” Mem Fox

Between 1982 and 2010, Lynley completed one book per year. (Hairy Maclary has got to be a bit big for his boots, and now takes some managing – and time –  which has meant a drop in productivity.) In January, she starts perusing her ideas folder, for inspiration. During the ‘writing’ process, she balances words and illustration – visualising what the artwork could be. By August she has a small dummy to send to her publisher. September she starts final artwork for a December completion.

To be honest, I was most impressed (and encouraged) by that first six months! We all know how effortless Lynley Dodd’s rhythm is – but perfect rhythm and rhyme is a craft and it takes time to get it right. Even Lynley Dodd has to work at it!

On Saturday the families were out in force, for a festival fun day in the gallery park. There were so many there, when Lynley moved inside for the book signing, the queue meandered throughout the whole lower floor of the gallery.

On Sunday Penelope Jackson lead a small group Writing Masterclass, with Lynley adding the following snippets of wisdom throughout the afternoon.

What Makes a Good Story?

  • When writing a PB, you have to go down one road to the end, with no diversions.
  • A read-aloud needs to have flow and resonance – it needs to be singable.
  • Everyday stories are often the best ones – relatable and realistic.
  • Five Comfort Elements of a good story:
    1. Rhyme
    2. Rhythm
    3. Humour
    4. Suspense
    5. Home

Lynley says all writers need an ideas notebook/folder. A lot of Lynley’s inspiration is drawn from newspaper clippings. When discussing the legality of writing other people’s animal stories, Lynley said, ‘change them – make them your own.’

Lynley emphasised that her stories always start with 6mths thinking/tinkering time; marinating ideas. ‘I’m a firm believer in putting things aside and coming back to them.”

Illustration:

  • The last picture is very often the one Lynley thinks about first.
  • Visualises images whilst writing text.
  • Sends a detailed dummy in August – doesn’t change much after dummy stage.
  • Pencil rough at final stage – including the cover. (Lynley does her own lettering.)
  • Uses a lightbox to transfer pencil roughs to final artwork.
  • There was a discussion about the difficulty in finding good quality paper these days, that doesn’t dry too quickly and take the colour and life out of an illustration.
  • Uses gouache pens and fibre-tipped waterproof pen.

“It can be a bit soul destroying, sometimes, when the proofs come back and they’re not the colour you’d envisaged.”

We were all delighted when Lynley read her latest picture book, ‘Scarface Claw Hold Tight!’ – with beautiful pausing and expression.😻

To view this week’s #PoetryFriday link-up, (and some lyrical pi-ku) visit Margaret, at Reflections on the Teche.

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10 comments

  1. Fascinating! I love the dedication and thought she puts into her work. (Anybody who says “It can be a bit soul destroying, sometimes, when the proofs come back and they’re not the colour you’d envisaged” cares about what they are doing!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, my goodness…thank you for taking notes! What a productive time of learning you had with a master. I’m a bit jealous…but more grateful for your sharing. I’ve never been able to sketch out a picture book idea that I wanted to seriously develop. I wonder if I just followed the advice above I could change my fate? Perhaps! Great post this week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am still hunting my ‘Hairy Maclary’, Linda – and I’ve been searching for 20 years! But inspired all over again after the weekend that was. The one thing she kept emphasising was the ideas notebook. You forget, otherwise.

      Like

  3. What a treasure of a weekend, Kat! This is an author who is new to me. I will see if I can find some of her books, or at least some poetry online. And it’s wonderful that she does both writing and illustration! I appreciate your sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, definitely hunt her up, Linda. She has been my biggest inspiration as a rhyming PB author. An author who uses ‘bumptious’ and ‘cacophonous’ in delightful context – and makes no apology… 😍 (Kids love them!)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I imagine Dame Lynley Dodd has the perfect accent to match her picture books. What a planned out process. I tend to be a pantser. I love learning how others process.

    Liked by 1 person


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