It can feel a bit like being in a AA meeting when you stand up and say,
‘I’m an adult and I love picture books!’
I’m definitely not ashamed to say it, and through making contact with inspiring people on Twitter such as @pbooksblogger, @playbythebook, @ReadItDaddy, @minervamoan, @maybeswabey, @BookMonsterAlly, @BookLoverJo and @BookBairn, I discovered I was not alone. However, I am an old-fashioned sort, and like to meet people in real life and stroke actual books.
How could I meet other people who love picture books and find out more about children’s publishing? I decided to set up a club for grown-ups who love picture books. I didn’t think about it too much which was probably a good idea as I might not have done it otherwise. I just went ahead and started stalking authors, illustrators, agents and publishers on Twitter (in the nicest possible way) to see if I could convince them to come to a completely untested new club in deepest Berkshire for very little money. I decided to try and bribe them with the offer of cake and this seems to have been very successful. Books and cake are a winning combination!
In the spirit of ‘if you build it, they will come’, with fellow author Kate Poels to hold my hand, Picture Book Club started in October 2016. We decided to meet on the second Tuesday of the month and, with the generous support of Waterstones in Windsor and Reading, secured a free venue with a ready supply of books to stroke. The model was to have a speaker each month and then eat cake and gossip about picture books.
We made a charge of £5 per attendee to cover speaker expenses and cake ingredients. We put the word out on Twitter/Facebook and I handed out a lot of leaflets in Windsor. Our first speaker was the author/illustrator Sophy Henn and I will be forever grateful to her for having the faith to commit to something totally untried. She was absolutely brilliant. Attendees included writers, aspiring illustrators, librarians and teachers. I had many messages afterwards saying how people had been inspired to start writing or drawing again after meeting her. This is what Picture Book Club is about; bringing people together and inspiring them, spreading the joy and craft of picture books. Since then we have been very lucky to benefit from the expertise of Nicolette Jones, Mat Tobin, Meg McLaren and the team at Andersen Press and, most recently, James and Lucy Catchpole of the Catchpole Literary Agency. We’ve been ‘on tour’ to Oxford and have a summer visit to Plymouth planned. We now have an official logo (thanks to the talents of the wonderful @BookMonsterAlly) and a really exciting program planned right up to Christmas 2017! Other developments include the launch of a South West chapter in May 2017. The picture book joy is definitely catching!
Details of forthcoming Picture Book Clubs can be found at www.fionabarker.co.uk or you can follow club news on Twitter by searching #picturebookclub.