By Holly Henderson
Don’t trust words
Last week we went to a talk on the relationship between author and illustrator.
Before arriving we had expected something corporate and modern, based on the ad on we had found online. The reality was totally different. We arrived at a university in Euston where we were greeted promptly by a man with a clipboard who looked unmistakably like a teacher.
We were ushered like ‘students’ in single file into a classroom, lined with parallel desks, a whiteboard at the front, harsh white lighting and those squeaky chairs. An environment that was like a second home about 5 years but now felt foreign and uncomfortable.
After battling against the instinct to fall into our previously conditioned behaviour of students in a classroom, we met B & H.
H had just finished writing her latest novel & B was a German illustrator who described herself as having a muddled tone of voice. She expressed that she hasn’t been in the UK long enough to feel fully confident speaking English, but she had been away from home long enough that she no longer felt fully comfortable in her native language, which is why she found her confidence in communicating visually.
The book had become a collaborative piece of work because H’s main character, Enid, who held the narrative ‘didn’t trust words’ and therefore her thoughts and stories were told with help from B through illustrations.
Without B Enid’s character would never have evolved the way it did. B asked questions like
‘What did her hair look like when she was young?’ B thought about every detail, down to how Enid would take the paper out of her bag. H thought about who she was and how she was, while B thought about how Enid acted, her mannerisms and her style. They thought of Enid as a friend that just wasn’t there. They both knew her so well, even though she was purely fiction.
I loved this event because this was a place I would never normally find myself in, people I would never usually meet. It was a combination of people and conversations that couldn’t have happened anywhere else.