Ben’s Art Book 1 – Progress Report!

A project that I thought would take a week has taken several months – what with so many other distractions in my life – but we are nearly there! And the book is looking goooooood! I’m optimistically estimating that I’m 85% of the way to the yearned for (by me) release day.

A fascinating few specs…

My 94 illustrations have been split into ocean- and land-themed images (some pictures could have landed in either pile). Book One will be about the ocean.

I’ve checked the scans (300 dpi), and cleaned, resized and optimized the images. Half the scans for Book One (title reveal coming soon!) are now in the Word document that will soon become a…book. The portrait:landscape ratio is about 70:30. The text that accompanies the pictures (text on left, image opposite) just needs final editing and is comprised of (hopefully) interesting facts and personal experiences.

Most of the illustrations are traditional dark(er) images on white paper but (what I like to call my) Twilight Worlds series are white/grey images on black paper for a powerful and spooky effect.

How long does one drawing take?

I’m often asked how long a picture takes me. When I started this project, it’s fair to say I couldn’t draw – at all. Any skills I’d developed in my youth had long since evaporated through decades of non-use. But I didn’t realise this..

I embarked enthusiastically on the first picture and was horrified when, after a few hours, it bore no relationship to the image I had in my head. So, I tried again…and again… Some of the earlier pictures took many attempts before I was reasonably satisfied. Dozens of completed illustrations were discarded when finished and typically, each iteration would represent twenty or thirty hours work.

The reason they took so long is I work very, very slowly: planning, visualising, sketching, outlining, amending, filling, contrasting, completing. Revisiting short-term. Revisiting medium-term. Then, over the coming months and even years, I’d look again and find myself dissatisfied with this or that detail – and go back to work on it.

A 100 hours work per picture

I think it’s fair to say that many of the more complex pictures each represent maybe 100 hours of work…and the entire collection required several years of my time. More than a decade. But it’s nearly done! I’m looking forward to your thoughts on the collection when it is released.

Sign up to be the first to know when it’s released. Or keep an eye on the blog for updates. It’ll be announced here soon…

Turns out I’m British too…

Although I’m American, by birth and by blood, I’m also something else too: my mother was English.

I recently applied for a British passport – and was approved! Joint citizenship for Americans is now allowed, so I can carry both. It means, in a few weeks, a second passport will be winging it’s way to me. I’ll be the bearer of not one passport, but two!

How did this happen? After filling in many forms and providing much data to show 1) I am me, and 2) I am related to my mother, I was granted approval to ‘naturalise’ as a British citizen. Yesterday, I attended the all-important naturalisation ceremony to receive a shiny new paper, confirming the same.

It was a lovely event, with a prominent citizen from my locality addressing and welcoming us all, cups of tea and biscuits afterwards, and a view over a verdant park. A quiet day to reflect.

Has this changed me at all? In a bureaucratic sense, possibly. Both halves of me are now recognised by relevant bureaucratic powers.

And yet fundamentally, there is no change. I am who I am, one man from two sides of a very large pond. I savour cool Jack Daniels as deeply as a room-temperature Glenmorangie. I drift away to Hotel California as effortlessly as I do to Stairway to Heaven.  And I enjoy Hemingway and Proulx, as much as I admire Austen and Conan Doyle.

These halves of me – they’ve been here all along.

Receiving my British Citizenship Certificate from Lady Arnold

 

 

 

Bestselling Author Alice Kuipers on her new release!

Bestselling and award-winning author Alice Kuipers took time out from her busy schedule (which now includes a monthly literary segment for CTV Morning Live!) to answer a few questions for us about her new release Me (and) Me.

Welcome Alice! What’s your newly released book about?

Me and Me is the story of seventeen year old Lark on the day she has to make an impossible choice. Because she can’t decide who to save–her boyfriend or a young child-her life splits into parallel lives with huge consequences.

Who will it appeal to?

So far teenagers and adults have been warmly responding to the book–I love to write for Young Adults, but I think a lot of adults enjoy reading YA novels and so this book might appeal to them too.

What’s the “story behind the story”? (How did you come up with this idea?)

I started writing this story twenty years ago when I was first attempting a novel. I wrote it about me–or, rather, a version of me who split into two. It was only when the character of Lark Hardy came into my head that I realize the story I’d been trying to tell for years could finally be told. Lark is feisty, fun, cool, and yet paralyzed by the choice in front of her. She was the perfect character for this book.

How long did it take to write?

Twenty years! Well, from the first idea to getting the book on the page it was twenty years, but there were lots of books in between. I stopped writing this book for many years and when I got back to it, the book took about two and a half years from first sentence to published book.

Was there anything unique about your research or work method for writing this particular novel?

I had to learn a lot about the passions Lark has–she’s a singer songwriter, so I interviewed singer songwriters, and listened to a lot of music, and Lark is also interested in parkour. I asked the local parkour community lots of questions, watched them, and immersed myself in YouTube videos of people doing parkour.

How do you see media handling of novels evolving these days? Is there anything different about the way you communicated this novel to your audience compared to your previous works?

A local filmmaker made a book trailer for this book. I noticed that lots of people viewed this and shared it on their social media streams. A book trailer is a glimpse into what the novel might be like and what interested me was that the filmmaker cast Lark and Alec so perfectly that it made me feel like the characters had come alive.

I’ve also done more media than I have done in the past for this novel, which has been fun. I worked with a local publicist which was a great way to connect with people in my home town of Saskatoon. Normally I work with publicists located in Toronto or New York, who have less time to reach out to the prairies.

Which Hollywood stars would you like to see in the movie version of this novel? (and why?)

I think, if a movie were to be made of this book, I’d like to see unknown actors take on the roles. The book is about how we make choices–and I think that is something all of us have to deal with all the time. Who would we be if we’d done one tiny thing differently? What would it be like to encounter ourselves if we could cross into our parallel life–if there were one? I’d like the movie to reflect that everyone/anyone feel of the novel.

What are you working on next?

I have a YA novel that I’ve just finished that’s being edited right now. I’m launching an online course for people who want to write Middle Grade or YA novels. I’m writing a memoir of Toronto teenager Carley Allison. I’m finishing edits on the second chapter book in my new chapter book series coming out with Chronicle Press in the spring of 2018.

I’m surprised by all the projects I have happening, but the way the publishing industry works for me seems to be that–while it sounds like I’m doing ten things at once–each project gets the time it needs. Some are slow, some are fast. Some have deadlines. Some don’t. All of it falls into place. I share updates about my writing life, and tips about how other people can get writing too, through my newsletter and free online course. Find all that at alicekuipers.com

Where can we get a copy?!

At Amazon!

***

Kuipers has recently released Me (and) Me in Canada, and it’s set for release outside of Canada in Fall 2018. It has received accolades in the Canadian media.

“Haunting and mysterious, this is a powerful book about love, life and choices. Both page-turning and thought-provoking, Kuipers deftly tells a lyrical tale that’ll keep you questioning reality right up to the very end.”
Arthur Slade

***

AliceBestselling author Alice Kuipers has published five award-winning YA novels internationally, most recently, Me and Me, described by Bif Naked as mesmerising. Her two picture books feature twins Violet and Victor, and she has an upcoming chapter book series with Chronicle Press. She is writing a memoir about teenager Carley Allison with Kids Can Press. She has had stories produced for CBC and essays published in Bristol Review of Books and Easy Living magazine. She blogged for Today’s Parent, and The Huffington Post. Alice’s work is published in 34 countries. She has four children.

Alice’s website is full of tips and hints for writers. Find her here: www.alicekuipers.com or online.

Coming Monday: Bestselling Author Alice Kuipers on the story behind her new release!

Alice

Bestselling and award-winning author Alice Kuipers joins Ben’s blog – next Monday!

Kuipers has recently released Me (and) Me in Canada, and it’s set for release outside of Canada in Fall 2018. It has received accolades in the Canadian media.

“Haunting and mysterious, this is a powerful book about love, life and choices. Both page-turning and thought-provoking, Kuipers deftly tells a lyrical tale that’ll keep you questioning reality right up to the very end.”
Arthur Slade

***

Bestselling author Alice Kuipers has published five award-winning YA novels internationally, most recently, Me and Me, described by Bif Naked as mesmerising. Her two picture books feature twins Violet and Victor, and she has an upcoming chapter book series with Chronicle Press. She is writing a memoir about teenager Carley Allison with Kids Can Press. She has had stories produced for CBC and essays published in Bristol Review of Books and Easy Living magazine. She blogged for Today’s Parent, and The Huffington Post. Alice’s work is published in 34 countries. She has four children.

Alice’s website is full of tips and hints for writers. Find her here: www.alicekuipers.com or online.

Business or Casual?

I have signed up as a supporting artist (formerly known as a (lowly) extra) and need to post more photos on my casting agency profile page that will get me noticed!

Why Choose a Profile Pic?

The agency says my profile pics need to include formal, sporty, business or casual choices to make sure I get put forward for the greatest range of roles.

Business or casual—what’s best?

The Suit

A classic British pinstripe in dark grey squeezes into a dark back corner of my closet.

Old fashioned cut but classy, I like to think. A suit that says: This guy is serious…knows his stuff. Which was important when my Herculean efforts made no discernable impact on the world of finance.

And I have a black one, (hiding in a plastic clothes bag, sprinkled with mothballs), for the meetings I used to hate: when I had to play the gun-slinger. The tough guy… fortunately, I only wore that one occasionally.

There’s one more suit, however, that I prefer above all others. Light-weight, flexible, durable, well ventilated… A suit that’s been loyal and served duty in several shining corners of the world.

And it’s in my favourite colour too! If the agency lets me sneak this photo in… well, with the addition of a pair of flip-flopswhat better work conditions could one possibly hope for?

Just Jeans

But I’m a writer and artist now. Nothing beats jeans (501s in blue, black or tan) and a fleece. I feel more authentic in these. In fact I always did.

Which reminds me: my denim shirt (an obligatory component in the writer’s wardrobe) is falling to bits. Time for a new one.

Business or Casual?

What do you feel most comfortable in?

Please help me choose which is best? My new career depends on it!

 

Plastic Ocean Festival near Paddington

On sunny Tuesday, July 18th, I visited a Plastic Ocean Festival event near Paddington station, London. Located on the Paddington canal system, charity stalls and free outdoor movies promoted awareness of the overwhelming amounts of, and intense ocean and waterway ecosystem destruction caused by, plastics.

I met with enthusiastic representatives of two outstanding charities, Thames 21 and Thames Estuary Partnership, that are both working hard to reduce plastics in our water systems in different ways. This event was one in a series of events run by the creators of  A Plastic Ocean movie.

Thames Estuary Partnership

Kim Ferran Holt, Marine Litter Coordinator for TEP, explained that the group is currently working with partners to run a One Less Bottle Campaign – encouraging people to refuse single use plastic bottles and carry a refillable one. You can follow their campaign under at onelessbottle.org and . Other exciting projects (among many) that TEP is partnering with include a Thames Lens Photography competition and an around Britain sailing eXXpedition that Kim will join, with 14 women sampling waters for plastics and toxins as they go.

TEP is “the only non-campaigning organisation looking after one of the world’s premier rivers…provide a framework for sustainable management of the Thames.” Their “mission is to connect people, ideas and the Thames landscape…by raising awareness of estuary issues”.

Thames 21

Nick Anthony explained Thames21’s vision is to put healthy rivers back at the heart of community life, with a four-pronged approach including clean ups, education, research and advocacy.

The charity also provides free training on Leading a Waterway Cleanup and gives guidance and support afterwards if you decide you’d like to lead your own cleanup at a waterway near you. Or you can just join in a project already organised in their events calendar. Every contribution helps!

Thames 21’s tagline says: We reconnect people to nature by helping them enjoy, protect and enhance their local rivers.

A Plastic Ocean – the movie

This compelling and informative documentary, A Plastic Ocean was shown on the outdoor movie screen on the building next to the festival area . Stomach-wrenching to watch, this high definition and well researched film delivers a strong message: The health of our oceans is not going well.

If you’d like to get involved and be part of the solution, here below is the contact information of two charities that are doing some great work:

Thames 21

Stay in touch and find out more about opportunities to help out and training at Thames 21 events on twitter, facebook and at Thames 21’s site. You can also contact them at info@thames21.org.uk or at 020 7248 7171.

Thames Estuary Partnership

Find out more about Thames Estuary Partnership on twitter, facebook and at their website. You can also contact them at tep@thamesestuarypartnership.org or at 020 7679 8855.

Plastic Ocean Festival

For more Plastic Ocean events, visit the Plastic Ocean Festival site. For more information on how you can help out, check out What I Can Do.

Ben Performs Live at the E. Dulwich Literary Festival

Ben performed A Surprising Encounter live at the

East Dulwich Literary Festival

at The Ivy House, Dulwich, UK, on July 17, 2017.