Nikki Slade Robinson
I love writing and illustrating picture books! I have a studio that is surrounded by a small area native forest and lots of native New Zealand birds including the endangered flightless 'weka', and even a kiwi! In our paddock there is our goat, Moon, who is one of the stars in my 'Muddle & Mo' series. He's a darling and especially likes banana skins. And our two cats often, er, 'help' (!?) me with my work. I create books that value the environment, that are about caring and friendship, or cherish our local culture and language.
'The little Kiwi's Matariki' won Best Picture Book in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults (2016) - two languages are woven together in a book celebrating Matariki, the Maori New Year. Other titles have gained Storylines Notable Book awards. I hope you enjoy my creations as much as I have enjoyed creating them for you! Happy reading, hugs, Nikki :-)
The best job ever: My job as an author-illustrator!
When I was five, I decided I was going to MAKE KIDS' BOOKS when I grew up. I had never met a grownup who had such a job. But that didn't discourage me. I wrote and drew and doodled and created anywhere, everywhere, all the time. My parents are both creative so I had plenty of encouragement to just 'be', and to create freely.
I took art and technical drawing (that's like architectural and survey drawing) at high school. I then went on to train as an illustrator at Wellington Polytechnic, New Zealand. It was fantastic - three whole years of just doing art!
After graduating, I became a freelance illustrator, doing both commercial and publishing illustration.
Over time I began submitting manuscripts to the publishers that I was already illustrating for. And I became both author and illustrator! Woohoo!
I don't have a typical work day. I get up, and feed the animals, and that's where the routine ends! If I have to illustrate final illustrations, I work in my studio. If I am editing I prefer to work in my studio... but I am also a mum so sometimes I am editing or doing rough sketches while out and about. That's the wonderful thing about an imagination - you generally store it in your head and your head is generally quite portable! I often work really long hours so am sometimes up quite late at night. But that's ok because I am doing something I love.
Books are fabulous things to climb into or snuggle up with. My first favourite books were the 'Miffy' series. I still have most of my favourite books and they have quite a bit of tape on them to hold them together as I have read them so much. I still like to go back and read them. I was lucky to receive a subscription to 'Cricket' magazine for many years and that opened up a world of opportunity to read quality writing, and see quality illustration, from all over the globe. I still have each and every issue, and I have no intention of getting rid of them!
I find the best ideas explode into my head, kaboom! It is SO exciting when that happens. I have to catch the idea and pictures from my imagination before they try and run away - so I scribble it down on anything that I have handy. Sometimes that is a supermarket till receipt in the car. From there I edit and edit the words, and do lots and lots of rough sketches. I think in pictures, and words often feel a bit like they have a three-dimensional shape to them too, so it's like building with lego blocks... they either fit together nicely or they don't. I show my draft words and sketches to my publisher, sometimes we tweak and tuck before I move on to doing final illustration artwork. Then it all goes off to my publisher, and some time later I get printed copies in the mail!
I can't really imagine not having a creative job. However I think my second choice of career would be in a conservation type of job, being outdoors working on restoring natural environments and working with birds and other native creatures. Even if that was my job I'm sure I'd still be drawing and writing in some form though.
My family... my long-suffering, good-natured patient family, in particular my husband. They are very good at reading my words and looking at my artwork critically and telling me straight-up where the wonky bits are. And that's good because then I can fix up the wonky bits. If they just said 'oh, that's nice' it wouldn't be very helpful. So I do really appreciate their help.
I hope they really enjoy snuggling up and reading the books, or having the books read to them. I hope it my books become favourites, I hope they become so loved that they need taping up just like my favourite books. I hope they get filled up with happy-reading time memories! I hope they make people laugh, and smile. And I hope they make people care more about each other and the world they move in.
Have lots of books around. Make reading times loving happy shared times, not a chore or an 'educational' task. Enjoy reading yourself, be a role model. Cherish libraries and the wonderful passionate librarians in them. Make your own books with your children - put them, their photos, their experiences into the stories. Use your voice - make up silly words together, make up silly rhymes, play with the language! Perhaps turn a blind eye sometimes when you know a torch and book are being secretly read after lights-out bedtimes!