06 September 2018

#WriteCBC: Writing AND Illustrating – tip and task from Sarah McIntyre & David O’Connell

Author-illustrators: David O'Connell and Sarah McIntyre
by Anna Davis Events, Writing Tips

This month’s #WriteCBC has an extra twist: As a special one-off, you can choose whether you want to write or DRAW in response to the task being set! In the hot seat for today  6th September  I’m delighted to welcome writer-illustrators Sarah McIntyre and David O’Connell.

Sarah McIntyre has written and illustrated some fantastic picture books for young children, such as the The New Neighbours, published earlier this year. She also illustrates books for older children, working with writer Philip Reeve – and their latest, The Legend of Kevin is out this week! Sarah also runs a campaign for better credits, recognition and terms for professional illustrators – Pictures Mean Business, and tweets daily drawing challenges on @studioteabreak. Sarah is the tutor of CBC’s brand new Illustrating a Children’s Picture Book online course, launching in October – and teaches the illustration element of the Writing and Illustrating a Children’s Picture Book course  with David O’Connell teaching the writing element.

David O’Connell is also a popular author-illustrator of children’s books. He collaborated with Sarah on the picture book Jampires  and unusually both of them worked on the illustrations AND the writing (it’s more common in a collaboration for one person to work on the writing and the other on the art). David has written picture books for young children, such as When I’m a Monster Like You, Dad (with Francesca Gambatesa), and books for older children, such as The Chocolate Factory Ghost, which came out earlier this year. He’s the tutor of CBC’s Writing a Children’s Picture Book online course, starting next month …

So, to business! Here is the writing/drawing tip from Sarah and Dave:

When you’re stuck for ideas for your writing or art, try using prompts (there are lots online), asking ‘what if…?’ questions or people-watching. Don’t just sit staring at a blank page or screen – look around for inspiration

We all get stuck in a rut sometimes – as both writers and artists. And we’ve all been told it’s a good idea to step away from the project that’s really blocking us – or indeed from the empty space where we want a project to come to life. But it’s STILL sometimes easy to forget, in our real working lives, that we should stop banging our heads against the desk and find ways to recharge our batteries creatively. This tip serves as a reminder about that: Writers – limber up with some automatic writing when you sit down – or just take yourself out somewhere and scribble in your notebook about what you can see around you. Artists – don’t get yourself all trapped in trying to make perfect drawings which get tight and impossible. Go and sketch something loose and fun and different to what you’re struggling with. Experimentation can be so refreshing – get out there and play.

And with all this in mind, here’s Sarah and Dave’s writing/drawing task:

Write a mini-story/scene OR draw an illustration which uses this prompt: “There was nobody at the door, but someone had left a large box on the step.” Writers – kick off your story from there. Artists – what’s in the box?

So … If you’re a writer, use the prompt as your first line, and continue the story. You can give us a whole mini-story in a tweet or a fragment of a story if that works better for you. (You don’t need to tweet that first sentence that we’ve provided  just kick off with the next one). And by the way, this story can be for adults or for children – you choose.

If you’re going to draw for us, we’d like to see one picture (which can be black and white or in colour). We’re interested to know what’s inside the box … Take a photo of your picture and tweet it.

Whether you’re writing or drawing, make sure you use the hashtag #WriteCBC and tag us @CBCreative. Here’s a blog with some more info about prizes and how to join in.

One winner who has written their response to the task will get a free place on one of our six-week online novel writing courses (you choose which course you’d like to take) – and we’ll also be picking a winner who has drawn their task response to get a free place on our Illustrating a Children’s Picture Book online course. We’ll also be giving out some course discounts for use on the six-week courses.

Hope you have fun with this, and we’ll be back online at 11am on Friday 7th September to announce a winner and runners-up …


My goodness this has been tough – what an amazing set of stories and pictures. But here are the results of the WRITING part of the competition:

WRITING WINNER – Jayne Marklew @jayneoffood: A box of sheet music, spidery scrawls dancing soundlessly on nicotine pages; a white note in familiar cursive: ‘Al, this was your dad’s. Klaus was a fire of a man. I wish I’d told you.’ Silent semiquavers, full of undelivered promises; and in neat German, an address.

We felt fully immersed in this scene from the off. The tweet-story carries the music that’s on the sheet paper – we have characters already, and a real story, and I want to know how it will continue – Al’s father seems to be dead, but the address at the end gives an opening for Al to find out more and start on a journey …

Well done to Jayne, who wins a free place on one of our £200 online courses. We’re also going to give £50 discounts on any of our 6-week courses out to the following brilliant entries:

Amanda Davison, Stewart Martin and Daniel Aubray.

AND we’ve decided to give some £50 discounts that are specifically applicable to the Writing Children’s Picture Books course with David O’Connell to these great entries: Anita Frank, Stuart Hughes and Janette Hill

ILLUSTRATION WINNER – Michael Reilly @_Monkel_ 

Michael Reilly, Box IllustrationMichael Reilly, Moon Illustration

We were completely charmed by this imaginative 2-part illustration of the girl looking in wonder at the box which is full of holes with light shining out through them – and then the picture of the moon in the bottom of the box, whispering “Are you my Mum?” SO much story conveyed in those two pictures and just a tiny amount of text.

Michael wins a free place on our £200 online course in Illustrating a Children’s Picture Book, with Sarah McIntyre – congrats! We’re also giving runner-up £50 discounts for the Illustrating a Children’s Picture Book course to: Elizabeth Garner, Helen Lang, Sandra Russell, “J” (@jayceek33), Gershamabob and Karin (@Karinfloh)

Brilliant work, all – BOY did you make our judging process difficult this morning. If you didn’t get a prize or a mention this time, PLEASE do come back and join in again. We do this every month …

We’re back on Thursday 4th October for another #WriteCBC – so see you then, I hope.


back to Blog

Our Courses


Write to the End of Your Novel

18 Sep – 30 Oct