Hello, welcome to my website! I’m an author illustrator represented by Kate Scarborough at Tyild’s Agency. I’m a proud member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators – you can see my illustration gallery on the SCBWI website here: https://www.scbwi.org/illustrator-gallery/illustrator-detail/?illustrator_id=105301 I’m also a member of the brilliant WriteMentor Community Learning Hub and two lovely critique groups. I write a mixture of rhyming and non-rhyming picture book stories and informational fiction – sometimes lyrical, often humorous, as well as illustrated poems and fiction for older children.
I live in beautiful, but very muddy Mid Devon with my husband, two teenage sons (the third, oldest son having been lured to London by the promise of a mud-free existence) and one breathtakingly naughty border terrier. I have a large (and growing) collection of modern and vintage illustrated children’s books which is threatening to take over my house.
My first project as an author illustrator was a town guide that I wrote and illustrated when I was still at school. I’ve always loved to sketch and paint, but it wasn’t until early 2019 that I started to develop a portfolio of children’s illustrations and started to write and illustrate my own stories.
My stories tend to be character-driven. I love designing new picture book characters both as an illustrator and as an author, developing them in sketches on paper as well as in dialogue in my head. For my illustrations I use a combination of traditional media (usually soft pencil, ink, gouache and watercolour) and photoshop.
I’m a linguist and teacher by training, and co-author of three German language school course books (published under the name Claire Sandry). After studying French and German at Oxford University and Universität Konstanz, Germany, I started out as a secondary school languages teacher but ended up with a varied career, from producing programmes for the BBC (highlight: filming in a German gingerbread factory; lowlight: forgetting to press ‘record’ on my first ever interview assignment) to cooking curries in a street food van for hungry schoolchildren (highlight: perfecting a mean green thai curry with noodles; lowlight – regularly flooding the van).
In November 2019 I took part in The Hook (like Dragons Den but for writers) at the SCBWI British Isles conference in Winchester. You can see my on-stage pitch (complete with live drawing) for my picture book, The Go Away Rain Dance, here. It was live-streamed by KidLitTV and this is an extract of their broadcast. There are more videos of the conference on the KidLitTV Facebook page.
Afterwards KidLitTV interviewed the four contestants…
…and they caught up with me again at the conference party that evening (in my extremely impractical costume!).
You can read about how I prepared for The Hook in this feature for the SCBWI British Isles online magazine, Words & Pictures, here: https://www.wordsandpics.org/2020/01/illustration-feature-hook.html
I was also runner-up in the SCBWI BI conference 2019 badge competition. Six of my designs were made into badges which were on sale at the conference.
My ‘Solstice’ illustration was one of the images selected for the SCBWI BI Advent Calendar Competition 2019.
In February 2020 I was awarded an honourable mention in Susanna Leonard Hill’s Valentiny writing contest for ‘My Piggy Valentine’, then received an honourable mention for ‘Best in Rhyme’ in Ciara O’Neal and Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez’ #SpringFlingkidlit contest for a rhyming entry called ‘Sing for Spring’. In 2021 I received another honourable mention for ‘Memorable Characters’ in the same competition for an entry called ‘I am Spring!’ which you can read over on my blog page.
I was longlisted for the WriteMentor Children’s Picture Book Award 2020 and reached the shortlist in 2021 and 2022 (woo-hoo!!)
In March 2021 I started working part-time for a local independent, nonprofit, community-owned bookshop and am enjoying it SO MUCH! I get to use my design skills to develop branded merchandise and promotional materials for the bookshop (using beautiful artwork produced by author illustrator Sarah McIntyre, no less!), and they sometimes even let me loose on the window displays on a regular basis (separate webpage on this coming soon). It’s such a great job to combine with writing and illustrating and I feel very lucky!
In 2021 I also joined a great group of writers on Facebook called the Children’s Writers Group – they are yet another example of how amazing and supportive the kidlit writing community is! I recently entered one of their competitions and got 1st place!! (woo-hoo again!!)
Shortly afterwards I was placed second in the 2021 Little Tiger / Virtual Writers’ Weekend Picture Book Competition (woo-hoo for the third time!)…
…my middle grade novel-in-progress, ‘Out of Time’, was shortlisted for the Searchlight Best Novel Opening for Children or Young Adults 2021 and subsequently published in the annual Searchlight Awards Anthology…
…and then more good news (by this point I was beginning to wonder what on earth was going on!) – I was lucky enough to be chosen by the amazing Frances Tosdevin to be her mentee as part of the WriteMentor Summer Mentoring Programme 2021. This is a wonderful programme that pairs writers with an agented/published author in order to help them develop their craft. It was an amazing experience – I can’t recommend it enough to any writers looking to take their writing to the next level!
2022 was a little quieter, but there were some great highlights!
I won the 2022 Virtual Writing Group (@virtwriting) anniversary flash fiction competition / writing prompt…
My illustrated poem ‘The Bumbershoot’ was published in the first edition of children’s print magazine ‘The Toy’, August 2022…
I was selected to perform my picture book text ‘The Dream Travellers’ at Book Jive Live’s quarterly children’s literature spoken word virtual event alongside Manjeet Mann and a bunch of other amazing writers, November 2022…
…and one of my illustrations was selected for publication in Winter 2022 ‘Music’ issue of Paperbound Magazine.
Highlights of 2023 so far include a poem (‘Sweet Treats’) and an illustration published in Issue 3 of The Toy (food issue), an illustrated poem (‘Perfect Pets’) published on The Dirigible Balloon poetry website, an illustration published on the cover of the Spring 2023 edition of PaperBound magazine (‘green’ issue), another performance (this time of a poem for teens) as part of Book Jive Live’s spoken word event in January alongside headliner Joshua Seigal, and an Honourable Mention in Vivian Kirkfield’s #50PreciousWords competition.
And last but by no means least…
…I signed with my agent – the wonderful Kate Scarborough at Tyild’s Agency! You can see my author illustrator bio here: https://www.tyildsagency.co.uk/clairelewis
I’m excited to see what this next stage brings, and very thankful to all the people who helped me along the way, including all the members of my two lovely crit groups, the amazing teams at WriteMentor and the Searchlight Awards, and my 2021 WriteMentor summer mentor Frances Tosdevin!
Visit my blog page for my thoughts and tips, as an author illustrator, on the process of preparing an illustrated picture book for submission to agents.