Bob Graham, author of our very first picture book picnic pick of 2012, A Bus Called Heaven, has just been shortlisted for the 2012 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, congratulations! Here he gives us an insight into where he got his inspiration for his beautiful picture book, A Bus Called Heaven...
It's difficult to tell just when a picture book idea starts. Most often I go through a mysterious process of sitting at my desk, pen in hand, gazing out over the buildings opposite, watching the clouds roll over and the jets make their approach to Melbourne airport. I find that if I sit there long enough, that I will be making a series of little scribbly drawings and sometimes a few words and sentences thrown in for good measure.
What is that then? Is that ‘imagination’? For me, imagination has it's feet firmly planted in my memories, things that have happened to me or someone in my family, something I saw on the bus, or something my dog told me. Or it could be something going on right outside my window, right now if I only cared to look down out of those clouds. For example, our little dog Maggie, lying on the cane table asleep in the sun, with her nose twitching and her paws making little running movements.
Small things like that are interesting to me.
So A Bus Called Heaven is full of a lot of small things that I have seen and found interesting- a little girl not unlike my granddaughter Rosie who rescues snails, people made tiny by the factories and skyscrapers under which they live, small birds, wild birds and animals living in the city.
Big things too. The city in which Stella lives has not just massive buildings but has people from all over the world come together and, like every big city, it has people in it with not enough time to talk to each other.
Each morning I take my dog, Maggie, for a walk. Often I am in a hurry. I need to be somewhere else or to be getting on with my work. But Maggie likes to take her own time- dogs aren't concerned with human things. Maggie likes to stop and sniff bushes, gates and lampposts. She is not on ‘human time’; she is on ‘dog time’. So, in a way, I have tried to slow my city down in places to ‘dog time’ and to bring people together a little.
So there you are! When I start thinking of these things, my pen starts moving, I am no longer looking at the clouds and I might be patching together a story in words and pictures and feel too busy to take Maggie for her afternoon walk. But she stands there looking at me until I have to do it. Then I am back in ‘dog time’, and I think I am feeling better for being there.