Paper bags and potholes by Clara Vulliamy

 

Paper bags and potholes by Clara Vulliamy

Clara Vulliamy is an author and illustrator who has children’s books running through her blood. As it turns out even her jokes have a literary twist. The daughter of Shirley Hughes (who doesn’t own Dogger or an Alfie book?) Clara chose to follow in her family’s footsteps with a career in illustrating and writing children’s books. Hugely successful, she has trodden her own distinctive path. You will know her as the illustrator and writer of many well-loved book series including Dotty the Detective, Mango and Bambang, and Martha and the Bunny Brothers books. Just don’t ask her to go potholing (or look in a paper bag), OK?

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Clara Vulliamy: I only ever wanted to be an illustrator, possibly running a kitten sanctuary on the side.

BCLF: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

CV: I’m not sure it’s the best but it’s the strangest: my mum told me never to look in a paper bag, and that her mum had told her the same. But WHY?! I love paper bags, and they often have good things in them.

BCLF: And the worst?

CV: ‘Don’t marry an artist.’ This advice was given to me by an artist, actually. Well, I did, and 30 years later I have no regrets. Plus if you run out of Cerulean Blue in the middle of the night there’s always someone to borrow from.

BCLF: Favourite book as a child?

CV: My favourite books were the Mary Plain stories by Gwynedd Rae, and I’ve loved them ever since. My dream came true last year when I re-illustrated them in a new edition.

BCLF: My favourite word is…

CV: Today it’s aposiopesis – suddenly falling silent as if unwilling to go on.

BCLF: My greatest fear is…

CV: Small spaces. Pot-holing would be my worst nightmare.

BCLF: My hidden talent is…

CV: Since Polly Faber taught me how, I can now imitate a sad tapir on the swannee whistle.

BCLF: Who is your favourite literary villain? 

CV:

Miss Slighcarp from The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken: brilliantly, unforgettably horrible. Anyone yet to discover this series is in for a huge treat.

BCLF: If you could ask another author a question, who would you ask and what would the question be?

CV: I was recently marveling at and wondering about William Nicholson’s Clever Bill, a sublimely perfect picture book. So I would go back to 1926 and ask, ‘Mr Nicholson, this book has so few words and these illustrations seem so swiftly made: did you put it all together very quickly? It’s been said that Clever Bill paved the way for the modern picture book – is that what you thought you were doing?’

BCLF: Tell us a joke…

CV: Oh dear I’m not very good at jokes! Okay, here goes…

The past, the present and the future walked into a bar. It was a bit tense.

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