Welcome to the fourth post in a regular series where we're going to be inviting members of our team to talk about One Cool Thing (not necessarily from games) and if/how it influences/reflects on their work. While we're not able to talk about the exciting things we're working on right now, we hope this will be a nice little series of introductions to the interests & practices of our excellent new team.
One Cool Thing: Mundane Magic (and why I love Joana Choumali)
"Finding the magic in the mundane" is a possibly a trite and overused phrase,
but I love it. It's an ethos, tool and technique I use frequently.
In the stories I write for children, the characters find themselves in incredible, hopefully-unlikely situations, but their motivations, actions and conversations in those moments are very much rooted in the real. What would they actually do? is a question I always ask myself when working.
When I'm not writing, or, more specifically cry-typing towards a tight deadline, I'm most likely visiting a school, which for me, is the most rewarding part of being a children's author. At the Q&A, the second most popular question (after "are you rich now, Miss?") is where do you get inspiration? What do you do to find it?
My answer is to always look and listen around you, wherever you are.
The things you see and hear around you can be inspirational, rich and seriously great starting points for your stories.
Listen to conversations on the bus. Who are they talking to? Do you think they're going to break up? Where's she going if she gets off at the next stop?
Look at your neighbour out of the window. What's under the patio? Why do I never see her wife? Why do they only water the plants at night?
Whether the children are in South London or Scunthorpe, it's not a barrier to their creativity. The stories around them count, and they should tell them in ways that work for them. Take the time to look, take the time to feel, then turn it into something beautiful.
This is why I find Joana Choumali's work – and her process – delightful, inspiring and comforting.
Between five and seven each and every morning, Chomali walks around Abidjan, her city in Côte d'Ivoire with two cameras. She uses as DSLR to take images of landscapes and buildings, and her phone's camera to take snapshots of people she sees on the streets.
She works at this time for practical reasons – she has a family and this is the only time she can carve out for herself – but she's inspired by and loves this time of day. It sits between night and day, dreams and reality and past and present. Between the movements of the early risers and the latecomers, Choumali believes she sees the true beauty of her city. She takes the time to look.
Choumali creates embroidered photographs. She collates and prints photographs onto canvas and adds fabric to recreate the morning mist. Then Choumali undertakes a lengthy (it can take many months) process of weaving her emotions into the work with bright threads. She doesn't plan or design, she's guided by her initial photographs. She takes the time to feel and absolutely creates something beautiful.