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Saturday, 1 February 2014

Books with Pictures - Meet Cathy Brett.


The first time I met Cathy was at an authors' event at our local bookshop, Bartons, in Leatherhead, Surrey. I was very impressed by her amazing ability to sum up a face and sketch a convincing likeness in the time it takes most people to sharpen a pencil. When I got to know her a little better, I discovered that she's not only an accomplished artist, but also a talented author of young adult and graphic novels, who uses her gifts to help 'reluctant' and Dyslexic readers in Surrey schools as well. I’m delighted that Cathy's agreed to come and talk to me today about her work - so, over to you, Cathy.
 
 
I'm a frequent visitor to secondary schools, which is great because it gets me out of the studio, but also a humungous challenge - as anyone who spends most of their time in quiet, creative isolation will understand! Schools are noisy, scary places. Especially for shy artists!
 

I recently published two new books so I’ve been bracing my self and visiting schools again, running workshops – one dealing with teenagers in the First World War and another for ‘reluctant’ and Dyslexic readers. Both workshops are hard work but enormous fun, and you may be surprised to hear, the ‘reluctant’ readers are my favourite audience. Why? Two reasons.

I know how they feel and…

I sometimes prefer drawing to writing.


If you’d told me in Year 7 that one day I’d be a published author I’d have rolled my eyes and grunted a sarcastic, ’Huh! Yeah, right.’ I might even have offered a heart-felt, pre-teen reason why you were so very much mistaken. ‘Duh! Authors are clever people who know loads of clever stuff, and I’m not and I don’t. I’m rubbish at lessons (except art), I can’t concentrate, I often drift off into daydreaming and I doodle all the time. I mean, I didn’t even learn to read ‘til I was 8. There’s no way am I gonna be a writer.’ Then I’d probably roll my eyes again and maybe add a stubborn pout.

 

This is how I sometimes start my workshops with ‘reluctant’ readers (not with those exact words, but they get the idea) and they are ASTONISHED. Clearly, they are under the same misapprehension that I was. ‘Actually,’ I explain. ‘Authors don’t have to be clever or pass oodles of exams or go to university. They just have to LOVE daydreaming and making stuff up. Like me. And maybe like you.’


Then I talk to them about drawing. I tell them I was an artist first, long before I began to write. I explain that it’s OK to like books with pictures (all my books have pictures in spades) and that adults are wrong about books with pictures being for babies. I tell them that they are a ‘visually sophisticated generation’ so they deserve lots of visually stimulating, age appropriate illustrations to enhance their reading experience.
 

 
Once again the pupils are ASTONISHED. They have been led to believe that the sooner they move on to ‘real’ books with nothing but boring old text, the better. I smile to myself and imagine them taking a stack of Graphic Novels home from the school library and telling their parents that an actual, real, published author told them to read them 
 
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I haven’t convinced many adults yet, but I’m working on a couple of YA/crossover novels with age-appropriate ‘visuals’ and hope to launch them on an unsuspecting adult readership in the near future.  Wish me luck. x Cathy.
 
Cathy's wonderfully zany and colourful blog is at cathybrett.co.uk, where you'll find details of all her books and lots more. If you live in Surrey, sign up to be notified of events at Bartons Bookshop that she'll be taking part in and come and meet her in person. You might come home with a masterpiece. peter@bartonsbookshop.co.uk