Cherie Zamazing paints pebbles at Nottingham book event!
Tell us a little about the Waterstone’s event – did you enjoy meeting your fans?
Waterstone’s was so much fun! They asked me to come in to read my story to children (and paint pebbles with them) after they heard about an event I ran at the Lowdham Book Festival, back in July . The event sold out of my book and the pebble painting was a big hit with the children! I hoped Waterstone’s would be just as busy, but since it was a rainy day in November, I wasn’t sure how many people would have ventured out to paint pebbles! I was, however, pleasantly surprised. I had only just begun to set my table up with pebbles and paints when a queue of children started to line up all smiley-faced and ready to paint!
It remained busy all day long; I didn’t even get chance for lunch! We set up at 10.30am and by 4pm all the books had sold out, which was a shame as I still had a steady stream of children all wanting to “paint a pebble like Peter” and get a signed copy of Peter’s Pebbles.
Doing an event like this was so rewarding to me. Being an illustrator, I don’t tend to get much time to interact with people, and very rarely get to see children’s reactions to my books. Reading the story to them, watching their little faces light up when they see the pictures and having them call out about what they think might happen next has to be the best thing about my job. I love to feel like I have managed to capture their imaginations. What is so lovely about doing the pebble events is that after listening to the story, they are all fired up and inspired to paint their own pebble! Its great seeing what they come up with!
One little boy didn’t have time to paint and was very shy. His mum bought him the book and he reluctantly came up to me to ask me to sign it for him. Inside I wrote a little message: “Paint some pebbles and see what you can create!” I think his mum wanted him to have the book more than he actually wanted it himself. However, the following week my mum (who teaches the little boy at school) said he brought Peter’s Pebbles to school with him. He was showing all his teachers and friends the story. He came to my mum and told her he loved the story and was sorry he had not painted a pebble yet, but was excitedly telling her his plans to! My mum told me he is usually a very quiet little boy who they never normally hear a peep out of, but that day he was quite the little chatterbox! That made my day.
Where did you get the idea for Peter’s Pebbles?
Whenever I try to come up with a new story, I always start by gathering ideas around the kitchen table with my mum over a nice cup of tea. Together, we let our imaginations flow and come up with all sorts of possible avenues for stories. With Peter’s Pebbles, I started off thinking about what I used to enjoy as a child. One thing I used to do a lot was painting pebbles! I’d gather my friends together during the school holidays and we would dig up the garden, collecting as many pebbles as we could find. Then we would draw a picture of planet Earth on them with the words “Save the World” neatly coloured in with felt tip pens. We would then set up a stall either at the front of my Nan’s garden or the top of my street, and sell the pebbles! All the money we made would go to different charities (hence the “Save the World” slogan). We spent many happy summer days raising money with our “Save the World Stones” for charities including Help the Aged, The Donkey Sanctuary and The Penguin Appeal.
Painting pebbles is such a fond memory, not only of mine but of all the friends who had helped sell the “Save the World Stones” with me all those years ago. When they heard about my book, Peter’s Pebbles, it brought back those memories for them too and many of them have now bought the book for their children!
Do you want to do any more signings after your success in Nottingham?
Yes! In fact, after we sold out of books, Waterstones asked me to come back before Christmas to do the event all over again. This time, however, I’ll have to work on making it a festive-themed Peter’s Pebbles! Maybe some snowman and Santa pebbles will need to be painted… Also I was invited this week to Brookhill Leys Infants School to run the ‘Peter’s Pebbles activity day’ with four classes. I had the most wonderful time! I started by reading my story to the children who were an amazing audience full of excitement and enthusiasm. After the story, they were eager to start painting their own pebbles, so we had lots of messy fun creating all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures complete with googly eyes! Check out Brookhill Ley’s blog HERE.
When I wrote Peter’s Pebbles I never imagined it would lead to doing activity days like these, but I’m so happy that it has. After a long day at the school I realised that my favourite part of my job isn’t drawing pictures or thinking up stories or even seeing the books in print, it’s seeing the reactions of children, inspiring them to be creative and being surrounded by their energy and ideas! To be able to be such a positive part of childhood memories gives me the biggest job satisfaction I could ever wish for.
How did your publishing career start?
Well, since I was a little girl I have always loved to draw and write stories. I wanted to have a career in art for as long as I can remember, so after school I went to Loughborough Art College to do a foundation art course. It was there that I decided what direction I wanted to take my art. My drawings have always had a strong narrative quality to them, so I felt it lent itself well to telling stories! Therefore, after college I embarked on an Illustration degree at Loughborough University. After leaving Uni I started working for a company designing greetings cards, bags and wraps. After three years I decided I wanted to return to my first love of storytelling, and in 2008 I joined Bright and started my career as a children’s book illustrator… and now an author too!
What books inspire you? Can you remember what you read as a child which captured your imagination?
There are so many books that captured my imagination as a child! One that really stood out was Where the Forrest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker. It is such a unique book and I don’t think I have ever seen illustrations quite like it. She uses mixed media to create images with so much depth and texture it looks like you could actually reach out and feel the plants and the trees. Amazing art!!
I also remember being at school and discovering The Stinky Cheese Man by Jon Scieszka. I loved this twist on the tale of The Gingerbread Man and Lane Smith’s darkly surreal illustrations!
The Adventure of Tinker the Hole-Eating Duck by Patrick Woodroffe is another book I love for the beautiful illustrations. As an illustrator today, I love it when I get the chance to create magical worlds that are more traditional in their style with wonderful depth and detail.
The Gift from Winklesea by Helen Cresswell is another book I enjoyed. We read this in class in Junior school and it has always stuck in my mind. I loved the idea of finding an egg shaped pebble in a seaside gift shop, only to later find it hatches! Maybe this memory contributed to the inspiration for Peter’s Pebbles!
Lastly, I used to love any book that was illustrated by Stephen Cartwright. I was inspired by his soft illustrations and always wanted to draw like him. I used to love searching for his trademark duck in every picture!
Are you hoping to produce more books like Peter’s Pebbles?
Yes! The last page of Peter’s Pebbles ends with him finding a “very strange shaped pebble” (which looks like it could be a dinosaur). Every time I read the story to children they all “Roaaahh” at the end and shout out “A dinosaur! A dinosaur!!” The children at Brookland Leys school wanted me to continue the story at the end, and one little boy suggested I write a new story called “Peter’s Pebbles Dinosaur Throws!” Another boy then suggested that instead of writing a new book, I could just add some more pages into the back of ‘Peter’s Pebbles’! I do plan on writing a follow up book, especially after being inspired by the children’s thoughts!