In today’s spotlight feature, Amanda Addison tells us about the inspiration behind her debut picture book Boundless Sky and her writing journey.
Title: Boundless Sky
Author: Amanda Addison
Illustrator: Manuela Adreani
Nobody knew, nobody dreamed, nobody even considered the possibility that a bird that fits in your hand might fly halfway around the world looking for a place to nest…or that a young girl from northern Africa might flee halfway around the world looking for a place of peace. This is the story of Bird. This is the story of Leila. This is the story of a chance encounter and a long journey home.
As soon as Lantana announced this book on social media, I knew it was going to be a special book, and it really doesn’t disappoint. Not a single moment for beautiful storytelling has been missed. Even the end pages of this book are spectacular, showing the bird’s migration journey.
Not only do the words and pictures marry together in this book, but so the two dual storylines. We first see bird greeting Leila, but on its return journey Leila is gone. Then finally, we see Leila in a new home.
My two favourite spreads in the story, are complete contrasts. In the first, Manuela has created a beautiful, colourful scene of Bird travelling through the jungle.
In the second, Manuela has depicted the harsh reality of Bird’s journey. This is an example of where we see the two story lines come together, and Leila’s journey to find a safe place to call home.
The combination of Manuela’s moving illustrations and Amanda’s cleverly crafted dual narrative has created a truly masterful picture book which has a powerful message of hope, life, struggle and new beginnings.
I am delighted that Amanda has offered to share more insights into how this wonderful book came about. And so, with no more ado, over to Amanda…
Hi Amanda, can you tell us a little bit about the book and the inspiration behind it?
Boundless Sky was inspired by several things coming together to form the seed of an idea about migration. Mark Cocker, (co-author of Birds Britannica) lives in a neighbouring village. When I read Crow Country there were so many amazing facts about bird migration that it sowed the seed of an idea to use bird migration in fiction. My first exploration of the idea was in connection with nomadic peoples and yurts in my textile-inspired novel, Laura’s Handmade Life.
Then I was asked to make a piece of artwork for a Bird themed exhibition – birds and migration was circling around in my head! If I had a super power it would be to be able to fly.
And that was my ‘light bulb’ moment of telling the story of a migrating swallow from its own Bird’s eye view of the children it meets en-route.
Bird’s journey can be seen as a metaphor for coming together under the same boundless sky.
In the book’s dedication you call Norwich a City of Sanctuary. Could you tell us about the City of Sanctuary UK movement?
Norwich joined the City of Sanctuary movement in 2016. It is a coalition of local refugee support groups and community representatives. An example of this is where women may come together to share diverse craft techniques while developing English conversation skills. I was invited to visit such a group and shared a textile workshop with them. There is a thriving network of Schools of Sanctuary as Norwich has a long tradition of offering sanctuary to people displaced by war, famine, intolerance, economic and political upheavals and more recently climate change.
A well-known example is the Flemish weavers who came in fourteenth century to escape religious persecution. They were given sanctuary and invigorated local textile industry. Most recently Syrian refugees have been welcomed in the city.
My own earliest personal memory of Norwich as a City of Sanctuary was back in the early 1980s when a school friend’s mother hosted a Chilean refugee family in their home.
I’ve always liked the environmentalists’ saying, think globally, act locally. I wanted to highlight the work Norwich City of Sanctuary is doing by including it in the dedication. Clive Lewis, the Norwich South MP will be speaking about this at the local launch of Boundless Sky. Norwich people, despite their natural reserve, have reached out, seeing it as a mark of civic duty to welcome those who are displaced.
My heart especially goes out to children caught up in these conflicts. In Boundless Sky, although Leila is very much a character in her own right, I also wanted her to be able to reflect many children’s journeys to sanctuary and hence using Bird as a metaphor for some of her journey.
However, there is still work to be done in extending people’s intellectual and emotional empathy around this issue and my hope is that Boundless Sky will be part of that change.
Did you always want to be a writer?
No! But I did always want to work creatively. My first degree is in illustration (Chelsea School of Art). Later, I completed an MA in Writing the Visual and started to explore ideas through words, rather than pictures and found it gave me greater scope to express myself. I still lecture in art & design and also work with illustration and animation students to develop their own writing. I guess I like to have ‘foot in both camps’!
What are your favourite picture books?
My early illustration work was mixed media and very much inspired by Eric Carle’s, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. When my children were younger a favourite read aloud story was One Snowy Night by Nick Butterworth. Perfect for snuggling up on a cold winter’s night! And like Boundless Sky speaks of hospitality and welcome.
But the author/illustrator who is my absolute favourite is Shaun Tan. Not only do I love his illustration style of bright, sumptuous colours, but he also comes at his story lines from an unusual point of view and lets the reader see things differently and never in a didactic, preachy kind of way.
Can you share some insights on your writing process?
On days when I’m not lecturing in Art & Design/Creative Writing I usually get up early and go for a walk or run (we live in a village in the Broads – so always inspiring whatever the weather!) before returning to my desk. I work on writing projects for a couple of hours. I also keep notebooks and sketchbooks as you never know when a view, a snatched conversation etc will form the seed of an idea.
What’s next for you, in terms of writing?
I seem to always be circling around the idea of home and away as a theme. Last year I wrote a flash fiction piece which was selected to represent the English language on the theme of Home. I am taking this story and home and away ideas further for both adult and children’s fiction in-progress.
What advice would you give to someone trying to publish a picture book?
The best picture books are those where text and image work in partnership, where they complement each other, thus adding more to a story line. So, let the images and text have space to do their job! Keep it simple! And don’t underestimate your audience! As I said, I think Shaun Tan does this extremely well.
And finally, don’t give up! It’s often a matter of finding the right agent/publisher to champion your story.
Thank you, Amanda, for sharing your writing journey with us and the story behind Boundless Sky.
Boundless Sky is available in hardback Buy Now!
Publisher: Lantana Publishing
Publication date: 6 February 2020
About the Author:
Amanda Addison work is inspired by the natural world, travel and textiles. She has been long-listed for the Commonword and Virginia Prize and holds an MA in Writing the Visual. She combines writing, making art and teaching. She currently lectures in Art and Design at City College Norwich and Creative Writing at Anglia Ruskin University and the Castle Museum Norwich.
Amanda’s writing both for adult and children continues to explore themes of home. Her debut novel for adults, Laura’s Handmade Life, was published by Little, Brown. Boundless Sky, is Amanda’s first children’s picture book.
I am very grateful to the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy of this book. This feature contains my honest opinion on the book.