Arts

Maghera childminder secures international book deal

Creating weather characters to amuse her children has taken a sunny turn for Maghera childminder Yvonne Fleming who talks to Gail Bell about her book deal with Tiny Tree Children's Books

Maghera writer, Yvonne Fleming – my boys are too old to read children's books now but they give advice on storylines
Gail Bell

CO DERRY childminder Yvonne Fleming has been happily walking around with her head in the clouds this summer and it's all thanks to Colin Cloud, a soon-to-be-famous member of her fictional Weatherbie family.

After signing a worldwide deal with Stockport-based Tiny Tree Children's Books last year, the mum-of-two is delighted that her third story in the Weatherbies series, Colin Cloud Is Making Shapes, was selected for release last month – bringing her weather-themed characters to a new international audience.

"I have a collection of stories, but they picked Colin Cloud and I'm delighted," says the 48-year-old from her home in Maghera. "It was very exciting to sign the deal last year and to know the book is now released throughout the UK and available through a name like Waterstones.

"It is a stamp of approval by the industry and that is important."

Having formerly self-published her first two books – Sammy Sun is Coming Out To Play and Rosie Rainbows Recycling Day – Yvonne got chatting to Tiny Tree representatives at London Book Fair, with the deal finalised in October last year.

But the idea took root several years ago and evolved from reading made-up stories to her own children – and also, from a lifelong interest in the environment and how it affects the weather.

"I was always fascinated by the clouds when I was a child and, like many people, would make shapes out of them as they moved across the sky," she says. "When I was growing up, there weren't so many electronic games and we made our own fun. For whatever reason, I was always looking upwards and was amazed by the clouds and the sky; I would doodle a lot, creating pictures from my imagination.

"Later, when I was looking after children, I wanted to make the weather fun and interesting for them, so that is how the Weatherbies started to take shape."

Yvonne had created some basic artwork for her characters who all live in fictional Skytown (above Earth's ozone layer) but, because she wanted to be able to "make them move" at some stage, advertised online for a professional animator.

"In the end, I was really impressed by the style of work created by James Salenga from the Philippines and I am delighted with the new images he created for the book," she says.

"We are in regular contact via email – I sent him my basic visuals and scribblings and he created a professional storyboard. It has been a fascinating process, to see the the Weatherbies come to life.

"Most people are working in 3-D now, but I loved the 2-D style created by James. I think we have lost a wee bit of simplicity of design with 3-D animation."

Yvonne Fleming's book Colin Cloud Is Making Shapes, which was released in August

Translating the Weatherbies from page to screen is her next goal and a five-minute pilot programme is currently under way with Holywood animation company, Flickerpix, with the hope that this will eventually lead to online and television transmission.

For now though, the writer is keeping her feet firmly on the ground with ongoing childminding duties – she looks after her brother's children three days a week and writes and reads her stories around the busy family schedule.

"My boys, Steven (18) and Shane (14) are too old to read children's books now, but they are still great at giving advice on the storylines and are very much involved in the enterprise," she adds. "I also get good feedback from young readers when I visit various nursery and primary schools to give readings.

"Children really are the best critics; they're like little sponges, soaking everything up. It's great to see them interested in recycling and how the weather is affected by various environmental issues.

"I hope the books become a good educational tool in this way and with the Weatherbies experiencing similar everyday problems to us, they are designed to help with problem-solving and social skills as well.

"Colin Cloud brings weather to life and hopefully makes learning fun."

:: Yvonne's next reading takes place at Whiteabbey Primary School on September 17. Colin Cloud is available for sale through Tiny Tree Publishing, as well as Waterstones (online), Crawford's, Maghera, and the Weatherbies website – www.theweatherbies.co.uk

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