Archives for June 2017

June 16, 2017 - Comments Off on Super Scoopster Edie interviews awesome author, Peter Bunzl

Super Scoopster Edie interviews awesome author, Peter Bunzl

On my! We have a HUGE treat for you today. One of our super Scoopster readers recently interviewed author Peter Bunzl at the fantastic Pickled Pepper Books. Over to you, Edie …

Peter Bunzl is the well-known author of Cogheart and Moonlocket. At the moment he is writing his third book. He told us two possible names for it, but they are TOP SECRET for now. He came to Pickled Pepper Books in Crouch End for their book group and I asked him some questions.

What is your favourite book that you have written and who is your favourite character?
My favourite book will have to be Moonlocket because I finished and published it a few months ago, and I had to cut a lot out of Cogheart so I put a lot of the story into Moonlocket. My favourite character is Malkin. He is funny, helpful and always there when you need him. When I was writing Cogheart he was going to be a cat but it did not feel right so I thought about what other animals get chased and a fox seemed obvious. So I worked on adding foxy features to him.

What other time period would you like to set a book in?
I would like to set a book now. With kids who have magical powers, but not like Harry Potter.

When did you start to write?
I started to write when I was ten or eleven. I wrote my mum, dad and my sister a fourteen-page story and I was very pleased with myself. It was about a boy who travelled to an island and met magical, mythical creatures.

When you made your first book did you know it was going to be a sequel?
No, I didn't really know because when I first thought of the idea Cogheart it was going to be a comic strip. But lots of ideas had to be edited and it did not really work so then I tried writing it and it worked!

It was an amazing experience meeting an author of a bestselling book and I'm really looking forward to the new one being published.

For more information about Peter and his brilliant books, head over here.

June 12, 2017 - Comments Off on Presenting Ben Dix, the inspirational founder of Why Comics?, and our global comic competition

Presenting Ben Dix, the inspirational founder of Why Comics?, and our global comic competition

In our current issue, we’re delighted to have joined forces with Why Comics? and Common Everybody to offer an amazing global competition. We’re asking Scoop readers to write a 500-word story about a special journey. There are two categories – one for Years 5 and 6, and one for Years 7 and 8 – and the winning story from each will be transformed into a comic by Why Comics? and featured in our birthday issue in September. A pretty amazing opportunity, don’t you think?

Head here to find out the full details, and read on to discover more about Ben Dix, the mastermind behind Why Comics? and PositiveNegatives.

 Please can you tell us about your background?
I was a photojournalist in India when the 2004 South Asian tsunami occurred. My friend from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) was working in the Tamil Tiger-held area of North Sri Lanka, called Vanni, and he called me on the night of the tsunami and invited me to help him. I left for what I assumed would be a ten-day trip to Sri Lanka, but ended up staying four years.

The first time I used animation and illustrations was when a Norwegian NGO (Norwegian People’s Aid) employed me to develop and run a tsunami education programme in Vanni to educate survivors about the science behind a tsunami and help dispel rumours and superstitions. I worked with the Royal Geographical Society in London and we developed a 3D, semi-animated PowerPoint presentation. We would string up bed sheets between the palm trees on the pristine beaches and present to hundreds of people in the evenings. We did the same in the schools and delivered it to 55,000 people. I realised then that animation and illustrations were wonderful tools for explaining complex issues.

As the conflict between the Tamil Tigers and the Government of Sri Lanka began to escalate in the north, I joined the UN in Vanni as a Communications and Liaison Manager. We spent many hours in our bunkers under air and artillery attack and one day I read a copy of Art Spiegleman’s Maus. I hadn’t really read comics before, apart from the odd copy of Calvin and Hobbes and Asterix as a child, but I found it wonderful how the complexities of identity, memory and trauma were presented so simply in Maus. I remember thinking how the rebels, civilians, government forces and the UN all sitting in this jungle would make a fascinatingly powerful graphic novel.

Later, my surviving Tamil friends and old colleagues from Sri Lanka began to contact me, mostly through Facebook, to say that they had come to London, Zurich, Oslo and Chennai as asylum seekers and refugees. I went to visit them and began to record their stories. I then remembered Maus and decided that this would be the graphic novel I wanted to produce – that dealt with conflict, migration, asylum, memory, identity and many other complex issues.

I met a fantastic artist, Lindsay Pollock, and we began to conceptualise the story. The responsibility of story I was aiming to tell, and the ethics involved of turning that story into a visual narrative, then really dawned on me, so I enrolled in a PhD in Anthropology. Fifty per cent of my PhD is the Sri Lanka comic, called The Vanni.

Why do you think comics are such a powerful means of communication?
One of the best things about comics is that incredibly sensitive issues can be told anonymously. Comics also humanise and present complex issues in a way that a general, non-academic international audience can engage with.

Comics can easily transcend time and space, and we can easily go into people’s memories, dreams and spaces, like torture cells, where other media like film makers and photographers cannot go. The media is full of 'othering'. It's easy to see a photo of a refugee and think ‘that's sad but it's not me – they don't look like me’. But with a comic there is a simplicity to the illustrations so we can see ourselves in the illustrations. The simple illustrations of a face and especially as we keep our comics black and white transcend race and ethnicity, and are presented as human. Again, other media can struggle with this.

Also, for the younger generations who constantly interact with the mix of visual and textual information on social media and the world around, the comic sits perfectly as a form of short blocks of text intermingled with the visual without undermining the gravitas of the complex issues they discuss.

 

Can you explain how you research, write and work with artists to illustrate the stories?
The main format is that I approach, or am approached by, an organisation that will fund a project. I then work with them to conceptualise the story we want to tell we've covered issues of sex trafficking, drug addiction, smuggling, refugees, conflict, torture, identity, modern-day slavery, mental health, security and radicalisation.

I then begin to interview people about their lives and stories concerning the issues we're aiming to tell. Usually, I spend many days immersed with the individual and/or community. I record life histories and try to gain a sense of them as an individual. Next, I write an outline of the story as a comic book script. I base all the issues covered in the script on exact descriptions from the interviews, but I have to fictionalise the story to allow it to flow as a story, and to anonymise the individual.

The important step in the process is where I sit back down with the respondents and read them the story. I give them editorial control to make sure they are happy. This is very important as it is their story I'm just telling it. I've found that all the people I've interviewed love having their story told as a comic book. There's an excitement that I've witnessed that I haven't experienced when making documentaries or photo shoots. As I don't have to film, I can simply sit in someone's home, or under a tree, and chat and listen to them I never have to do a retake or worry about fading light etc. It's a very comfy and organic medium to work in especially with such sensitive topics.

Then, I try to find an artist who is appropriate for the particular project. I work closely with the illustrator and animator with the testimonies and the photos to sketch out a storyboard. We then take the storyboards back to the respondents and again ask them to comment on the illustrations. Does the comic look like their story? Once everyone is happy, we ink and finish the comic.

What's your long-term vision?
I would like to develop a community where we are bridging school students in the global north and south through comics. Since comics can be hi/low tech and in multiple languages, I think there is the potential and ability to engage students together from varying backgrounds and global locations.

I'd like PositiveNegatives to be a space where artists from all over the world can upload their stories of their world realities, and audiences can read them through our platforms.

And what’s next on the horizon?
I'm beginning to work on another very difficult story on the rehabilitation of female child soldiers in the DRCongo. I worked in South Sudan for a while and interacted with child soldiers and found it a deeply disturbing experience. I think the comic format will really come into its own to highlight the trauma, memories and experience of what children have gone through in armed groups in DRC. The comics will also have a way of showing their dreams and aspirations for the future.

 

June 5, 2017 - Comments Off on Gift of the GAB – the inspirational Give a Book charity

Gift of the GAB – the inspirational Give a Book charity

Because reading matters: this central philosophy behind the incredible Give a Book charity is very close to Scoop’s own heart, and so we’re delighted to host the following piece, which explains what they do, and why. Huge thanks to our friends at Give a Book for taking the time to write this for us.

Give a Book is a UK-based charity set up in 2011 with the simple aim of giving books where they will be of particular benefit.

Our core belief is that to pass on a good read – to give a book – is a transaction of worth. By working with schools and local communities, and partnering with other organisations, we facilitate the provision of books for a variety of projects. We have seen that there are many different situations where the gift of a book at the right time can really have a positive impact. And as Walt Disney said, ‘There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island.’

A lot of our work is focussed on getting books into schools that need them – where they can help to promote literacy and encourage an enjoyment of reading. We often work directly with schools and specialised organisations such as Hop, Skip & Jump, getting them the books they need; not only to help foster a love of reading but also to have a great impact on mood and outlook – good things happen when you read. We are in contact with some wonderful school librarians, who know what their libraries really need in order to engage pupils.

We partner with a range of organisations to enable further children’s projects. In 2013 we started working with Magic Breakfast, a charity that provides nutritious breakfast food for children in primary schools. We established Magic Breakfast Book Clubs so that children could have a book along with their breakfast, and have so far set up clubs in twenty-three schools.

We also work with Doorstep Library, a charity committed to improving literacy in economically disadvantaged families. We provide books for Doorstep volunteers to take to families around London, engaging both children and parents in the value of reading for pleasure and education. We also provide books for their Read in the Park events across London.

The wonderful feedback we receive from all those involved in our projects encourages us to continue reaching out to new schools and partners. We believe that all children should have the opportunity to discover the pleasure of reading, and continue to support projects that enable this.

You can find out more about the variety of projects we are involved with on our website: giveabook.org.uk/