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Update - Winners Announced! Celebrate Let's Laugh Day with Howard McWilliam PLUS a 20-Book Giveaway!







Update 4/2: Thanks again to Howard, Flashlight Press, and all of you who read along with us.


The winners of the COOL 20-Book Giveaway, who will receive a hardcover copy of Just SNOW Already! are...







1. Leslie Tayloe

2. Zabbity

3. gustafson1

4. Janet Sheets

5. karenkovach

6. Lindsay Moretti

7. Ashley Sierra

8. jkspburg

9. Gayle Krause

11. Robin Currie

12. Lisa Finburgh

13. Barbara Gruener

14. Sara Kruger

15. ryann.jones117

16. katieleereinert

17. hilarymargitich

18. Kim Larson

19. lena_luo

20. Sandra Chambers


Congrats to all - #SeasonsOfKidLit will be in touch with the winners shortly with more details. If you didn't win this time, stay tuned! We have more interviews and giveaways with Flashlight Press and their amazing creators later this year.


 

3/19/2024


Hello, readers, writers, and everyone who loves to laugh as much as we do at #SeasonsOfKidLit. Today is a very important day - it's National Let's Laugh Day. What better way to celebrate than with the extremely talented and humorous Howard McWilliam, author and illustrator of Just SNOW Already!. When the weather calls for snow, a little boy is thrilled. As he patiently waits and focuses all of his attention and frustration on the delayed snow, he misses quite a show outside - one including firetrucks, clowns, and escaped monkeys - oh my! Will he ever get to have fun? Want to know more about Howard, his hilarious new book, PLUS want a chance to win your own copy of Just SNOW Already!? Read on...



Q: Thanks so much for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit! We’re thrilled to host you, and to hear all about your new book, Just SNOW Already!. Please share your inspiration for this book, as well as a little bit about where you lived as a child. Is the child a version of you? What experiences did you draw upon for the book? What did you make up? What gave you the idea for the monkeys – so fun!


A: You guessed right: the little boy IS me! I’ve loved snow since I was tiny, and the magic of it has not diminished one bit now I’m an adult with my own kids. It doesn’t snow very much in southern England — where I grew up and still live now — so when it does it’s very special. I keep an obsessive eye on the forecast when the conditions make it a possibility, just as I’d look up to the sky waiting for those first flakes to fall when I was young. The difference a couple of degrees makes, between a winter wonderland versus grim rain, has always been felt so keenly by me. 



I thought I could turn this obsession into a story, about missing everything else that might be happening because you’re so focused on just one outcome. This led me to imagine all the outlandish things that might be happening in the street as a chain of escalating events (unleashed by the boy letting his dog run out the front door). I thought it would be nice to feature as many animals as possible, and came up with the idea of a safari park truck somehow being made to stop on the street and releasing its inhabitants. While it would have been fun to feature some big things like elephants or zebra, the logistics seemed impractical. I thought you could fit a lot of monkeys into a truck (though maybe not quite as many as the 150 I drew on the final spread!), and they could get up to a lot of mischief for kids to spot. Funnily enough, in January 2022 while I was well into working on the book, a vehicle carrying 100 monkeys DID crash (in the snow!) in Pennsylvania, and four of them escaped. Suddenly my scenario wasn’t quite so outlandish as I’d thought!





Q: We really enjoyed your engaging art! Did you doodle as a child? When did you embark upon the path to be an illustrator? How long was your journey? 


A: I’ve enjoyed drawing ever since I could hold a pencil, and it’s always been a joy to create something from nothing in this way. My first illustration jobs were for dry articles on tax and law for trade magazines (when I was a journalist myself in London) — conjuring a visual metaphor to engage the reader in the content. Not a million miles from doodling animals and dragons from my imagination as a child to make a blank piece of paper more interesting. While I’d wanted to be a cartoonist or illustrator for as long as I can remember, the route was winding. I gave up my college art training two years in because there wasn’t enough emphasis on drawing and painting for my tastes, as opposed to conceptual art. I switched to a degree in English Literature instead, which was how I ended up as a journalist. But working in publishing and getting to know editors turned out to be the perfect route into freelance illustrating on the side, albeit not always on the topics I might have chosen! 


Readers, check out all of these FUN images by Howard!


Images provided by Flashlight Press.



Q: Your first Flashlight Press books were written by Amanda Noll and illustrated by you. Please share a little bit about this process. Did you work with art notes? 


A: Amanda Noll’s “I Need My Monster”, the first children’s book I illustrated, was offered to me because of one of the images I’d created for an article about pension investment, of all things. It was of a monster frightened by a mouse, and I’d posted it on a portfolio website where it caught the eye of Flashlight’s editor. It was very exciting to have a whole book to work on — this was something I’d wanted to do for a long time, to develop characters across a full story rather than a one-off image, and the process was a joy from start to finish. There were some basic art notes at the start, but I was able to interpret the monsters however I wished, and had free reign on the text layout and design of each page. As we went on, my drawings would inspire great ideas from the editor, and this spirit of thoughtful and playful back-and-forth has continued ever since in all the books I’ve worked with Flashlight on. One of the visual challenges of “I Need My Monster” is that it all occurs in the same setting of Ethan’s bedroom, so I had to push different and extreme viewing angles as much as possible to keep it interesting. For added variety I also came up with the notion of having the monsters affect the lighting on each page, so that when a new monster appears they alter the light cast in the room to reflect their own colour and personality. 


Q: What advice do you have for writers who aren’t illustrators? What do you feel is the best way to convey their vision without stepping upon the illustrator’s toes? 


A:  I think if a writer has a strong vision for how a scene should look, it helps to communicate as much of this as possible. As an illustrator I’m happy to have strong guidance in this way, as much as I’m happy to have free reign if the story is right for it. It helps to give some consideration to HOW something might be made visual — occasionally I’m asked to draw something intangible like a personality trait. In illustration, character often needs to be demonstrated through actions, and you might sometimes need multiple pictures to do this. 


Q: What great advice - thanks for sharing! In addition to illustrating children's books, you also illustrate for magazines, too. How is illustrating for magazines different from children’s books?


A: Half of my week is dedicated to magazine work over a range of titles, but especially The Week, for whose UK and US editions I’ve painted over 900 front covers since 2007. Keeping on top of current events and caricaturing politicians is a pleasing counterpoint to the slow and steady development of a picture book story. It also sharpens my skills at working fast and and meeting deadlines, not to mention being able to change direction suddenly when the news or the editor demands it, something originally hammered into me as a journalist. I think this all feeds back into my children’s book work. Occasionally there’s a more direct crossover, when I’m asked to parody a children’s style to give a particular spin on the news — for example placing the politician within a nursery rhyme, or a Looney Tunes or Disney cartoon, or making them look just like a little model Thomas the Tank Engine train. These are some of my most enjoyable covers! 




Q: BONUS QUESTION: We must know: What's your favorite thing about snow?


A: Aside from the thrill of activities like sledding, it’s the sheer sparkling beauty of it. The way it covers everything in a pure blanket of white to make the familiar world brand new again. To bring it back to illustration, Calvin & Hobbes expressed it beautifully as like being handed a fresh, blank sheet of paper to draw a whole new adventure on. Yes please!





Thanks again for joining us, Howard! It was such a treat having you and getting to know you and your work more!


Readers, want to know what we thought of Howard's book? You can find our reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.



Q: Would you like to leave a treat for our readers?


A: YES! Flashlight Press is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, and I’m thrilled to share that they would like to gift hardcover copies of Just SNOW Already! to 20 lucky winners! 


20 books is AMAZING! Thanks SO much, Flashlight Press!


Giveaway Instructions: Readers, to enter this giveaway please 1) like and share/RT this post on social media and 2) thank Howard and Flashlight Press for stopping by and for their COOL treat! Snowy GIFs are appreciated and welcomed, too. ;)


Giveaway winners will be drawn and announced on or about 4/2.


Note: Books will be shipped in the US only. Winners must have a US address.


About Howard McWilliam:




Howard McWilliam left his career as a financial magazine editor and journalist in 2005 to concentrate on illustrating. He is cover artist for The Week in the UK and US and has worked on many other magazines including Highlights, Emmy Magazine, Moneyweek and The Times and Telegraph newspapers in the UK. He has illustrated dozens of picture books and chapter books, including John Cena’s NY Times bestselling Elbow Grease series and the award-winning I Need My Monster books. “Just SNOW Already!” is the first book he has written as well as illustrated. He lives in Cheltenham, England, with his wife and three young sons.


For more about Howard, check out the below links: 


Instagram: @howardmcwilliam (featuring most up to date work plus time-lapse videos of my process).


For more about Flashlight Press, check out the below links:




To purchase Howard's books on Amazon or to leave a review for them, click here.


 




440 views

29 Comments


Howard is the BEST (just sayin')!!! Loved learning a bit more about the brilliant man who brought our sweet Dragon to life. Hope you don't have to wait too long for the next snow, Howard. ❤️

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Looks adorable, Howard! Can't wait to read it! And thanks to you, Flashlight Press and Lynne for the wonderful opportunity!



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Howard, I can't wait to read. your book. I love the illustrations! Best wishes.

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This interview was not only fun, but very informative for anyone who didn’t grow up with snow. Many thanks to Howard and Flashlight Press for their generosity! I liked and shared to my IG stories.



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 Thanks for the pointer...I think if a writer has a strong vision for how a scene should look, it helps to communicate as much of this as possible. Reposted on X, followed on X and Instagram.

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