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International Author Series - Lucy Cousins by Georgie Donaghey
Lucy Cousins the author and illustrator of the much loved Maisy books was born in 1964 and attended school in Kent, UK. After doing a foundation course at Canterbury College, Lucy did a BA Honours in Graphic Design, followed by a postgraduate degree at the Royal College of Art. Maisy, the famous mouse, "drew herself" one day, when Lucy was doodling various animals on a piece of paper, looking for inspiration, and the first Maisy book was published soon after Lucy left college.
Maisy, who also stars in her own television show, has become one of the best-loved characters in children's books, and is recognized the world over. Lucy won the Bologna Ragazzi Non-fiction Prize 1997 for Maisy's House and has been Highly Commended for the National Art Illustration Award 1997 for Za Za's Baby Brother, images from which were also used in a publicity campaign by Tommy's, the baby's charity. Jazzy in the Jungle won the Smarties Book Prize in 2002. Hooray for Fish!, published in 2005, is a celebration of life under the sea. Lucy lives in Hampshire with her husband and has four children.
Lucy finds that illustration comes more easily to her than writing, which tends to work around the drawings. "I draw by heart," she says. "I think about what children would like by going back to my own childlike instincts." And what instincts they are! Lucy now has sold more than 31 million books in worldwide, including picture books, sticker books, cloth books, colouring books, board books, pull-the-tab and lift-the-flap books, three-dimensional play sets, a clock book… Where does the prolific Lucy – a mother of four children – find the energy? "I'm quite disciplined," she says of her productivity. "If I'm having an 'ideas' day, I just sit at my desk and draw and write until I feel something is happening – though I admit that this is usually helped by a cup of tea, some lively music, and an abundance of sunshine." As for outside inspiration, she says she's sometimes influenced by the work of other artists, as long as those artists are children. Says the author-illustrator, "I get more pleasure and inspiration from walking around a primary school than from any art gallery."
1. What five words best describe you?
Colourful, childlike, scruffy, creative, peaceful.
2. What prompted you to sit down and write your first story?
When I was at the Royal College of Art, I entered a competition called the Macmillan Prize. It is for art students to write and illustrate a children's book. My book Portly's Hat won second prize which was really exciting, and then I was hooked.
3. What comes first in your creative process: illustrating or writing?
Usually the illustrations come first. I grew up in a very artistic family, and spent 6 years at art college, so I feel that I am more of a visual person than a word person. The stories tend to follow the pictures.
4. Is there any part of the creative process you don't like?
I don't like it when I get stuck. If I'm not happy with the work I am doing, but can't figure out a better way of doing it, it is frustrating.
5. Are you a plotter or a panster? (Plotter =Plotting out your manuscript before you write it. / Panster = Putting pen to paper and plotting as you go along)
Plotter. First I plan a beginning, middle and end, then work out what needs to be said on each page, and lastly work on the detailing of the words.
6. How has Maisy changed your life?
Maisy is like a member of my family. The first Maisy book was published when my daughter was born, so she has kind of grown up with my kids. The success of Maisy is incredibly rewarding and exciting. It means that I get to do things things like this trip to Australia.
7. What's the funniest thing a child has ever said to you during a read aloud session?
"Are you married to Maisy?"
8. What's next from Lucy Cousins?
I am just finishing 'A Busy Day for Birds.' I've had a lot of fun painting different birds, all very colourful, quirky and characterful. I have a nine-month-old grandson, Gabriel, and I enjoy looking at books with him. He responds so positively. So I think my next books might be some very simple board books for my youngest readers.