Meg McKinlay & Leila Rudge – from words to pictures

Meg and Leila have collaborated on 3 books, Meg as author and Leila as illustrator.  The books are “Duck for a Day”, “Definitely no Ducks” and “No Bears”.     Even though Leila and Meg have collaborated since 2009, they only met last Tuesday.

Meg talked about how she got inspired to write “Duck for a Day”.  She was watching an interview between Andrew Denton and Micheal Leunig.  They were discussing the use of a duck in an international sporting event being held in Sydney.  People were in an uproar, asking what did a duck have to do with Australia.  Leunig answered, “I think a nation is in trouble if it can’t accept a duck”.  This was the beginning of the story.  Meg talked us through the development of the story, including editorial feedback and altering the word count.

Leila was next with an amazing story of how she came to work on this book.  Leila had submitted a sample sheet to a number of publishers.  On the sheet was a very small picture of two ducks.  On the day that Sue Whiting from Walker Books received Leila’s sample page, she had been reviewing Meg’s story.  Fate had intervened, Leila was taken on as the illustrator for the book.

Meg and Leila co-told the story of how they worked on the story and illustrations.  Meg told us that she received the character studies the day after she received her contract, and that this really helped her as she revised the story as the characters were real.  She hung the character studies in her writing area to inspire her.  Leila gave some very technical examples of how she went about fitting the illustrations into the typeset book.  It was really helpful for me as an aspiring author to learn about the production process from the perspective of a team consisting of an author and illustrator.

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Both agreed that working on “No Bears”, a picture book, was very different.  Meg was sick of working on duck stories, so she wrote “NO DUCKS IN THIS STORY!” across a page.  The story went into development, featuring a young girl telling a story about a story she was creating.  Meg said that she put in illustration notes only because they were instrumental to the story.  Authors are generally not encouraged to put in illustration notes.

Leila told us about her involvement in the book.   Leila received the text, with the text allocated to page numbers.  Leila had hoped to have an easy, childish book to illustrate as her first picture book but found this one really challenging.  She was worried, but Meg was very supportive and incredibly encouraging.  Leila gave the tip that some people feel intimidated sketching in journals.  Instead, she buys A5 ring binder folders and files all manner of paper in them, from receipts to proper sketching paper.

Leila talked about the importance of using a storyboard to gauge how the story will fit into the picture book format of 32 pages.  She said they are essential for working out the layout of each double page spread, ensuring that the illustrations and words work well together.

We were lucky enough to see a number of the original sketches and page layouts from “No Bears”.  I have never really thought about the illustration process, so it was incredibly interesting to hear Leila talk about the process in such detail.

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Leila told us that she has a pretty average scanner.  But as it is hers, and she knows it back to front, she loves using it.  She said that having the best of the best is not always necessary, as long as you know how to use it.

Leila and Meg gave us a great insight into the publishing process from the perspective of an author and illustrator working together.  For that we are all very grateful.

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