Writing Process Blog Tour

I’m taking part in a Writing Process Blog Tour this week, which I was invited to join by writer, illustrator and SCBWI buddy Katherine Lynas.

Without further ado here are four questions, complete with four answers…


1)    What am I working on?


Illustrations for the third book in the series ‘The Misadventures of Edgar and Allan Poe’ by Gordon McAlpine. Book 2 was published by Viking Children’s Books last month and book 3, the final in the trilogy, is due out next year.


Illustrations for a 2-player board game called ‘Stormy Weather’ involving two scientists going head-to-head to control the weather in an increasingly chaotic bid to win a gardening competition. We launched the game on Kickstarter last month and, by the time you read this, will have about one day to raise about £9,000. We’re going to need all the help we can get so if you fancy finding out more click the link above for a peak.


I am also working on writing and illustrating a new picture book, which will hopefully be out in 2016. More details to follow as soon as official announcements can be made…


2)    How does my work differ from others of its genre?


It is the only work to come to you direct from inside the head of Sam Zuppardi. There’s nothing else out there that can claim to pull off quite that same trick.


3) Why do I write what I do?


I write and illustrate children’s books because childhood is a fascinating time, because we never quite leave it behind and so thinking about childhood is always interesting and arresting. Thinking about childhood is a way of thinking about our selves, about how we build our identities, and the implications and consequences of that process. It’s an important time and writing and drawing about it feels like time well spent. Children need interesting and thought-provoking things to read from as early as possible. I like being involved with providing that.


4) How does your writing process work?


Well this is how things tend to work when I am writing a picture book:

I start with an idea for a story. Having an idea is about fostering a state of mind in which you are open to ideas, where ever they might come from. I write down the idea as quick as possible, even if it’s just a couple of lines or a random sentence. Sometimes I’ll sit and draft out an entire picture book and it all flows out beautifully. Other times it just stays as a line or two. I write on my computer, in sketchbooks, on the back of envelopes, whatever is to hand. The important thing is to get SOMETHING down in writing so I don’t forget it. Don’t kid yourself you’ll remember an idea you’ve just had. It may feel vivid and amazing and brilliant at the time but in a day or two you’ll not be quite sure whether you’ve remembered it correctly, and you’ll kick yourself. Also, it may not be as amazing and brilliant as you first thought. But if you haven’t written it down all you’ll have left is that memory of how amazing and brilliant it was and you’ll wonder if you’ve remembered it right. If you have it there in black and white you can reassure yourself it actually was a pretty lame idea after all, and move on. Even then you might find something new and exciting develops out of what you’ve written. Just get it in writing. You don’t want to be chasing the memory of how amazing the idea was, like a dream you can only half remember.

After the idea is written down I put it aside and think about other things for a few days or months or years. Letting things brew is really important. The ideas that have yielded the stories I’m most pleased with in the past have been the ones that have grown and developed naturally, without feeling forced. That said, you want to strike a balance between letting things brew and forgetting about them. You have to be able to hold stuff in mind without feeling something has to be done with it immediately. You have to trust in your mind’s ability to think while you’re not watching it. If you put an idea aside but allow it a corner in the back of your mind where it stays alive, your mind does incredible things. It stays with it like a puzzle and works at unfolding and developing it, until something clicks. When I feel that click I go back and write some more, add to the original stuff I wrote and see how it feels.

Finally, when I have draft I’m happy with, I leave it aside again and work on other things. The picture book world moves at a leisurely pace so there’s no rush. When the moment is right, I’ll send it off to my agent. From that moment the writing process becomes collaborative. Other people get involved – agents, editors, art directors. So from that point on it’s a whole different kettle of fish, and almost a different process altogether… I’ll tell you about it sometime.


If you’d like to follow the blog tour on from here, here’s where to go next:


Paul Morton is an illustrator, graphic designer and the creative force behind Hot Frog Graphics. With 33 years in the graphic design business he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to every new project. CLick his name to visit his blog.

Mike Brownlow is the writer and illustrator of many children’s books, including the Little Robots series and Ten Little Pirates, which came out last year and has recently been shortlisted for the Nottingham Children’s book awards. Click his name to find his website.


Both Paul and Mike will be posting their tour entries some time next week or the week after so stay tuned. In the meanwhile, thank you for stopping by here.

The Solar Wind Tunnel

This week’s weather machine, from our board game ‘Stormy Weather’, is The Solar Wind Tunnel: for when your sunny day just isn’t burning hard enough.

Visit our kickstarter page for more.

Solar Wind Tunnel

The Solar Wind Tunnel is definitely one of the more evil and preposterous looking machines in the game, and yet for all that it’s also the only one I based on something that actually existed.


The ‘war tuba’ was built in Japan in the 1930s as a kind of acoustic location device intended to detect aircraft in the days before radar. It’s a reminder that if you’re looking to create something that looks bizarre, ridiculous, dangerous and downright insane you have to look no further than the things people have actually attempted.

ps – The shortlisted entries in our competition to come up with two new mad scientist taunts to include the the game are here! Visit our facebook page to cast your vote.

The Light Sharpener

I’ll be posting a different weather machine from our board game ‘Stormy Weather’ each week for the next few weeks. Here’s one of my favourites – The Light Sharpener.

Light Sharpener

There are only 24 days left to get hold of a copy of the game before our Kickstarter campaign ends. Click on the image to visit our page and sign up for one, and do share with anyone you know who might be into board games. Or mad science.

We are also running a competition inviting you to share your best mad-scientist-style evil taunts. Evil taunts form an integral part of the game and the winners will be added into the game itself. So put yourself in the shoes of a thwarted mad scientist about to unleash one final, vindictive, table-turning bombshell against your opponent. What would you say?

Click here for more details on how to enter…

How to Control the Weather

Stormy Weather

Stormy Weather is here!

Our 2-player boardgame is launching on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter.com today.

Involving two retired mad scientists who go head-to-head to win a gardening competition it features over 40 individual weather machines, designed and created by my good self. If you’ve ever wondered what a machine for magnifying mist might look like, or how you might go about dispensing typhoons, your search is over.

As well as the game itself you can sign up to get all kinds of other freebies, including limited edition postcards of the game art and the chance to be transformed into a mad scientist and actually featured as one of the characters in the game (best hurry for that though, places are very limited and going fast).

Head on over to our official page for more details, and do share it with anyone you think might be a closet insane evil genius. We made this for them. Kaboom!

Storm Clouds a-Gathering

I’ve been busy designing Weather Control Machines  for a board game involving two mad scientists going head-to-head to win a gardening competition (behold the terrible majesty of the Rain Magnet below). Stay tuned for more soon, or if your appetite for mad science, weather control and gardening have been whetted, head over to our Facebook page. There you’ll find more machines and neat little video… Start practicing your evil cackling now.

Rain Magnet

Tell-Tale Start Competition Results!

Well, it’s Halloween, and the closing date for my Edgar and Allan Poe Trick or Treat competition.

To recap on the task:


In the book the Poe twins, Edgar and Allan, play a spectacular Halloween prank on the local bullies, turning their home into a haunted house and inviting the bullies round for a terrifying party.

Your task is to create and draw your very own Halloween trick or trap – it can be as crazy, complicated or simple as you like, but it has to get me cackling evilly.


I’ve had some brilliant entries sent in, outlining some truly fiendish Halloween traps, and there has been much evil cackling. Thank you also to everyone who sent in a letter with their trap, it’s always nice to get a letter. Choosing the winners has been really difficult but after much sifting I am pleased to showcase 6 entries that particularly stood out (and on the basis of the terrifying imaginations at work here I have decided not to set foot outside for any trick or treating of my own tonight). Click on the images to enlarge.

1. Liam

Trap 1

Liam has booby-trapped his entire house with  a range of traps, from the state-of-the art (lasers at the windows) to the tried and tested (a lit fire in the grate to catch anyone coming down the chimney). Nice work Liam!

Letter 1

2. Catherine

Trap 2

Catherine’s trap involves a trapdoor and a sticky gloopy mixture. I liked the recipe she included for how to make the goo, and the extra details like the Pumpkin moon. Nice touch!

Letter 2

3. Natalia

Trap 3

Natalia’s trap came on a huge unfolding poster and I loved that sense of scale, not to mention the escalation of chaos that followed anyone caught up in the mischief: ghosts, shark’s skin and vampire teeth – truly the stuff of nightmares.

Letter 3

4. Max

Trap 4

Max made a strong case in his letter for why he should win, and he also gave my artwork a generous score out of 10 – a sure-fire way to gain favour. The sheer ingenuity and complexity of his trap appealed no end, I could almost see it unfolding before me.

Letter 4

5.  Simon

Trap 5

Simon also had some encouraging words for me and my artistic aspirations… His trap features gloop, ghosts and tripwires – a deadly combination. And I loved that Edgar and Allan themselves are there in the middle, overseeing the fun. Thanks Simon!

Letter 5

6. Monica

Trap 6

The effort that Monica has put into her trap is plain to see, as the letter she wrote highlighted. I thought the 3D collage elements were great and I certainly wouldn’t want to get caught at the wrong end of that giant boot…

Letter 6

Very very well done guys,  signed copies of The Tell-Tale Start are on their way to each of you, along with my hearty congratulations and cautious respect – we clearly have some fiendish geniuses in the making out there.

Happy Halloween!

funEverse – First Guest School

Thanks to everyone at Saltburn Primary School who took part in the funEverse project! Saltburn is the project’s first guest school and the children there have been busy writing poems and making pictures inspired by my illustrations and the poems of the funEverse poets. There’s some brilliant  work here and, for an illustrator, seeing children engage with their work and using it to inspire their own creativity is one of the nicest things to see. You can check out their fantastic contributions here.

Princess Stew

A poem by Lauren – Inspired by the princess illustration.

The funEverse

I’ve been invited to be the first guest illustrator on the funEverse, a brand new blog developed as a free online resource for schools by a group of writers who  love to write verse for children. Each month the site will host a guest illustrator and use a selection of their pictures to inspire poems. Schools can sign up to get involved, with children posting their own poems in response to that month’s pictures. It’s a fun way to get children writing and I can’t wait to see the things they come up with. It’s so interesting to see how people interpret a picture, and the story they build around the image – sometimes quite different to what I had imagined as I was drawing it. The funEverse poems are a great way of sharing those different interpretations, and of getting children to think creatively about what they are looking at. You can find out more about the funEverse, and read the poems so far, by clicking here.