Fellow Twitter educator and book fanatic, Nigel Lungenmuss-Ward is also a published author with his son Robbie as illustrator. I love to support new authors, especially ones based in East Anglia and I was thrilled to send some questions along to Nigel about his latest book, What’s That?
Nigel, Thank you for taking the time to answer these! I loved reading your answers and look forward to reading more from you!
You and your son are working together on your books- how do you manage your time and work together?
It can be a little tricky as sometimes we have deadlines to meet, and we have to prioritise book related activities over other things. Robbie can sometimes need a little jog to get off his phone, but in general Robbie and I love working on the books. I always try to make it seem like fun rather than work. Luckily, he loves drawing and illustrating on the computer so there is no conflict. I always try to keep the pressure off him and just ask him to do things with plenty of time to spare.
Where do your ideas come from?
The inspiration for this book came from a game I used to play with my class during transition week each year. After reading some research on developing divergent thinking within the workplace I created The Imagination Game to promote divergent thinking within my classroom. I would find a warm sunny spot on the playground and present the class with a random object. Once, I used my lunch box and, after a brief introduction on convergent and divergent thinking, I asked them, “What’s this?” The first couple of children would usually stare blankly at me until someone raised the bar. One child described my lunch box, whilst giving a physical demonstration, as a potty. After this, the divergent thinking would rapidly become more fantastical. I loved this activity as it offered me a gateway into each child’s mind and, more importantly… it was also extremely fun!
Who is the bossier one to work with?
Unfortunately, I think that would have to be me. Although, I would say that neither of us are that bossy. I am a big believer in feedback, as an educator you get very comfortable with it, and I often give Robbie my opinion on his drawings, which is mostly, ‘WOW! That is AMAZING!’, sometimes I challenge him to do something again as I know he can do better. I think he may see this as me being bossy.
What have you learned about publishing that you didn’t know already?
Wow! So much! One thing that I really enjoyed was looking at was the thickness of the paper and the type of finish of the final book. Before having a book published my thinking on this matter was limited. Now, I enjoy discussing the nuances between a 300gsm cover with a matte lamination or a 350gsm cover with a silk lamination. I realise that this is quite a niche conversation, but one I am now able to have based on the publishing process.
What tips would you offer other writers?
I would say finish something! I am an ideas guy. I have ideas for stories every day. Some stick and others don’t. I try to make sure I finish a first draft of a narrative when I feel strongly about an idea so I can come back to it later with fresh eyes. That is where I start the editing process, which for me is the best part of writing. Once I have a first draft, I like to play with it to make it the best it can be. Until I finished my first book, I didn’t view myself as an author. It was the process of getting my first picture book published which boosted my confidence. I can now listen to someone describe me as an author without bursting out laughing. I feel the act of finishing a narrative and stepping back from it, knowing it is the best you can make it, is an incredibly liberating experience and one that serves to fuel writing even more.
How do you balance writing with work and family commitments?
This one is very difficult. In fact, I am sure I am failing on some front every day. I find it very hard to switch off from work and have to make a real effort not to let it creep into my family time. I am always thinking of stories or ways in which I can be a better educator or how I can help my football team be the best they can be. I wake up every morning awash with ideas that I want to put into action straight away. I am trying to overcome this by implementing a piece of advice I heard on a podcast: try to live in the moment and focus on completing the current task with the same passion as any other. So, the washing up gets the same attention as being in a school delivering an author talk or playing cars with my son. It is a work in progress.
Do you have more books planned? Anything you can share?
We do, as I said earlier I have quite a few first drafts written for me to pick back up later on. My vision is to release a book every year, which will serve as a timeline of Robbie’s drawing development. I believe that the illustrations for What’s That? are a vast improvement on the illustrations in Freddie’s Impossible Dream. Firstly, I write to entertain children because I believe that reading is the best hobby anyone can have. Secondly, I write because I want to inspire and educate. Freddie’s Impossible Dream was all about dreaming big and chasing your dreams; What’s That? is about using and developing your imagination. Fingers crossed I have achieved with both aims.