We are delighted to join author / illustrator Paul Morton’s blog tour to celebrate publication of his second early reader, Bug Belly: Froggy Rescue. The first in the series, Bug Belly: Babysitting Trouble, was published during lockdown last year and launched online. We hope that this year Paul can have a proper real life book launch for this very funny, action packed adventure.
The Story: Splish, Splash and Splodge are having a sleepover with Uncle Bug Belly. The day after watching shooting stars, Splodge finds ‘a shooting star’ at the bottom of the frog pond. But when a magpie sees the shiny ‘star’ he steals it and Splodge too. Bug Belly plans a three part rescue plan and together with Splish and Splash he sets out on a mission to rescue Splodge. It’s a rescue fraught with danger – they have to contend with owls, snakes and baby magpies. But where has the magpie taken Splodge?
Bug Belly: Froggy Rescue is a hilarious, fast paced adventure with a colourful cast of characters. We laughed at their use of glow worms, Bug Belly’s disguise and the stinky rabbit poo. And we love Paul’s cartoon style illustrations, they’re so full of humour and the characters’ expressions as they navigate different situations convey their emotions brilliantly.
Paul is an active member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and his involvement with SCBWI played a part in Bug Belly being published. It’s a really inspiring story to give hope to aspiring authors and illustrators...
I can say without doubt that I wouldn’t have had my Bug Belly series recognised and published had it not been for SCBWI. I joined maybe 12 years ago. The local networks were my first involvement, attending workshops and socials. Just mixing with others that lived and breathed children’s books was a wonderful revelation.
When I first summoned the courage to share some of my ideas and get insightful feedback, I realised just how important this was going to be. There are lots of lively critique groups across all regions. The conferences and retreats are invigorating. You get to meet, chat with and learn from published and unpublished authors, commissioning editors, publishers and every industry professional you can imagine.
You learn the essential mechanics of preparing your book for submission, what is expected by the publishing house and just as importantly, what NOT to do. There are lively Facebook, Instagram and Twitter groups and SCBWI’s own web-based Words and Pictures magazine which is always on the look out for new features from new authors and illustrators. Plus, there are Masterclass workshops where you can learn the nitty gritty of writing and illustrating, led by top names in the industry.
I first presented Bug Belly as a picture book live on stage at the SCBWI Winter Conference in Winchester, at an event we’d called The Hook (after The Voice). Editors, agents and publishers were on stage to vote on their favourite idea. Of the six that presented I wasn’t a ‘winner’ but an editor in the audience saw the potential and approached me to envisage Bug Belly as an Early Reader book. Initially I was horrified. After ‘distilling’ my picture book story to 650 words she was asking me to stretch it out to 2,000, and with 96 pages of illustration!!
The more I thought about it, the more ideas I had, and when I actually got down to the writing I really loved it. The Early Reader format allows deeper development of characters and extended plots and was tremendously satisfying. Especially when it was accepted by Five Quills and published in April 2020. The second book in the series, Bug Belly: Froggy Rescue is published today – I’m so excited!
Aside from helping me to create books, SCBWI has also taught me ‘how’ to be an author illustrator. “The hard work starts AFTER publication” – I always thought this was a rather trite in-joke. But boy is it true! Establishing a presence on the internet and keeping all the publicity and social media plates spinning can easily be a full-time job (and obviously is for the marketeers employed by very busy top book creators).
I’ve been on the illustration committee for SCBWI for a few years now and help to organise various events but in particular, the Picture Book Retreat. This is a stimulating 4-day event taking place on the banks of the river Avon in an idyllic country house with beautiful gardens. There has always been an air of magic about the Picture Book Retreat and many successful books have been conceived and developed from there.
The pandemic forced last year’s Retreat online and this year we are trying something a little different. Still taking place on Zoom it will be the ‘Creation of a Picture Book’ from start to finish, with input and insight from each creative professional along the route. Featuring top author illustrators to editors, agents, publishers, publicists, marketeers, booksellers etc. Bookings are now open for the event in September (2021). It’s going to be a treasure trove of information and gives me a thrill working on the organisation of it.
SCBWI also run a Bootcamp for debut author illustrators and I’m giving this yet another hearty recommendation. It is essential to learn how to go about school and library visits, book shop launches, collecting PLR payments, creating engaging web sites with exciting resources.
I’ve taken the advice to heart and if you check out www.bugbelly.com you’ll see the all resources I’ve enjoyed creating and sharing that are hopefully going to help make Bug Belly a household name in children’s book characters.
Thanks you so much for this fantastic insight into your publishing journey and your involvement with SCBWI, Paul, and congratulations on publication of your second Bug Belly book – we hope you have cake! We’re looking forward to seeing what Bug Belly, Splish, Splash and Splodge get up to next 🙂
About Paul Morton
Paul Morton is an exciting author and illustrator with lots of stories to tell. He studied graphic design and illustration and has worked with a broad range of national and international clients on advertising campaigns, packaging design, branding, games and more. He has produced dozens of children’s board games, including some for Disney and Pixar, as well as artwork for educational books. Bug Belly is Paul’s first book series with Five Quills. He is passionate about working with schools to deliver educational and inspirational workshops to children and is currently a Book Pen Pal to several schools in the north of England.
Thank you to Catherine Ward PR for sending a review copy of this fabulous Early Reader. You can read more about Paul and Bug Belly on the other blogtour stops;