About The Author
Polly Faber read English Literature at Oxford University. During her time at
university she performed comedy and appeared in shows at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Upon graduating, Polly trained as a midwife which she worked as until she had her
own children. Polly is a volunteer reading helper through the charity Beanstalk. With her family, she looks after her very own tiny free library outside their house in North London. Visit Polly’s website www.pollyfaber.com and follow her on Twitter @Pollylwh
Clara Vulliamy grew up in Notting Hill. She is the daughter of Shirley Hughes,
and her father was an architect. Clara enrolled to study History at Bristol University, but she changed her mind and left to study art at The Ruskin in Oxford, Chelsea School of Art and The Royal Academy. She started her career by drawing a weekly cartoon in The Guardian with Mark Haddon. Clara is the illustrator of the Dixie O’Day series. Visit Clara’s website www.claras.me and follow her on Twitter @ClaraVulliamy
Their first collaboration, Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig was a charming collection of four beautifully illustrated stories about the unlikely friendship between Mango, a little girl, and Bambang, a Malaysian tapir. Mango Allsorts is good at all sorts of things, not just karate and chess. Bambang is most definitely not-a-pig and is now lost in a very busy city. When the two unexpectedly meet, a friendship begins, filled with adventures, and of course, plenty of banana pancakes. There are now four books in the series.
Below, exclusively for Foyles, Polly considers the advice would-be writers are invariably given to find their own voice, describes how her father turned her into a reader and how her own book was born out of a great friendship.
See an extract here
Download a cut-and-colour activity sheet
Click on the video below to hear about the making of the characters:
The Author At Foyles
Finding Your Voice by Polly Faber
“Find your own voice; all stories have been told before but they have not been told by you,” is a standard piece of advice to new writers. I considered myself pretty good at finding things in my household. I was the go-to person for the missing trainer, the prescription sunglasses and enough loose change to secure a locker at the swimming pool. But finding a writing voice was something different apparently. It wasn’t going to be down the back of the sofa, the emergency things drawer or the washing machine overflow.
Authors often say they always wanted to be a writer and have always written. I can’t make that claim. My first ambition was to be a ‘cooker’ (‘gas or electric?’ asked my family), then a golden retriever, then an actress or a three-day-eventer, and finally, achievably, a midwife. There was a bit of writing; an attempt in my teens at a Mills and Boon involving a European prince and a ski chalet girl with a broken leg. A contemporary romance about a footballer and a party planner written collaboratively with a friend, in my twenties. And a thriller, with midwife turned unlikely detective, investigating the case of an abandoned baby, in my thirties. Astonishingly, these Great Works of Potential remained unfinished and unpublished.
But if my career ambitions and writing were inconsistent, my commitment to reading was much steadier. My father made me a reader. He read aloud to me from when I was very small, and continued long past the age when I could read to myself. He sat on the end of my bed with a constitutional evening glass of whisky in one hand, book in the other and introduced me to classics such as, ‘The Sword in the Stone’, ‘The Box of Delights’ and ‘The Princess and the Goblin’. Beautiful stories with beautiful words; the oldest of which he must have had read to him in his own childhood.
When I was pregnant with my first child, my father died suddenly. I felt, of course, great sorrow that my children would never meet their grandfather. But after my baby arrived and in due course was joined by a brother, I discovered I could find my father and my children’s missing grandfather again quite easily: When I read aloud to my sons, whether introducing them to the books he had introduced me to or discovering wonderful new writers, his voice was there behind my own. It was a revelation.
So much reading as an adult is a solitary experience and private escape, but sharing stories, as either listener or reader is a different, and to me a deeper, kind of joy. The pleasure I found in reconnecting with the children’s books buried in my DNA, and adventuring in them afresh with my sons, brought me back to writing. These were the stories and the story-telling experience I wanted to create. I finally experienced that true hunger to write.
It seems fitting then, that the last spark to the voice of ‘Mango and Bambang’ was also found through a process of sharing. The book is about friendship and was born in my friendship with brilliant illustrator, Clara Vulliamy. There was a to-and-fro initial conversation: “Write me a book,” she suggested. “About a tapir and a child?” I offered. “How about this tapir and child,” she said, sending me the very first sketch of Mango and Bambang. That was all I needed, suddenly characters were unlocked and I knew exactly what I wanted to say about them. I was writing for an audience; Clara, my children, but mostly perhaps, for myself as a child, snuggled under the covers listening to my father. My voice was his too. This first book is dedicated to him.
It is a nerve-wracking business sending one’s characters out into the world. I hope ‘Mango and Bambang: The Not-a-Pig’ will bring happiness, whether read silently alone or shared out loud. I hope it starts a journey towards somebody else finding them self a reader. In the end I know all stories have been written before anyway.
Except, perhaps, stories about tapirs…