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?
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.