Meet The Leaflings…
It was Niamh who discovered the leaflings.
When we came up with the notion of working together, we would go to a coffee shop here in Skerries where we live, and armed with our laptops and notebooks, we’d spend an hour or so in a huddle over our picture book ideas – coffees going cold.
The idea generation stage in making a picture book is perhaps the most exciting part of the process. There are no boundaries – the ideas don’t have to conform to anyone else’s expectations or fit within a marketing paradigm. And let’s face it, this part of the process requires the least amount of work.
We found that we could come up with any number of ideas together. Niamh is an old hand after all, having written and illustrated over ten books – some of them award-winners, at least according to her Wikipedia entry.
It made us wonder why we hadn’t put our heads together in this way before. So having been married for twenty years we began another venture together, and Niamh started to assemble some dummy books to present at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.
A Field Guide to Leaflings wasn’t one of these dummies.
The leaflings had been waiting for us in an old dog-eared sketchbook of Niamh’s – wide eyed and minion-like creatures, hands spread in a gesture that said: Ta-dah! Here we are. Make a world for us to inhabit. It had been a long wait. But we still hadn’t quite figured out what this world would look like and how it would function when Niamh landed in Bologna.
Even though the idea wasn’t more than a glimmer – some typed pages and conceptual sketches of what these creatures might look like – the glimmer attracted some attention.
The leaflings had enough charisma to pique people’s interest and there was still space for an editor or designer’s imagination to add something to the mix.
And so, the number of collaborators grew. It takes a team to make a picturebook, something I hadn’t given much consideration to before – the collaborative nature of the job.
A book needs a home, and we found the perfect one with Templar.
It turned out that the world the leaflings needed to inhabit was our own. They’re out there now – so keep a close watch and an ear to the ground. You don’t have to go far to find leaflings. Your own back garden is probably teeming with them. Your local park might well be Leafling Central.
A Field Guide to Leaflings created by Owen Churcher and Niamh Sharkey will be published by Templar Books on 21st October 2021.