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Sally Symes

As a child

I was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne. My Dad was a packaging designer, and a terrific draughts man, so he encouraged me to draw from an early age. He showed me how to make little sketchbooks, and I would use them to write and illustrate stories about my toys. I also read a lot. My favourite book was Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. I had two copies because I wore the first one out.</break> My brothers and I were really good at making things — mostly noise and mess — but also lego models and cardboard-box cars for our Action Men. These vehicles had secret compartments and we had great adventures with them.</break> My mum was also very practical. She was, and is, a fabulous cook and she also taught me how to dress-make. I wore some very unusual clothes as I was growing up!

As an adult

I went to Brighton Polytechnic because I wanted to meet Raymond Briggs, the creator of Fungus the Bogeyman, Unfortunately, he ran off as soon as I arrived. However, this didn’t stop me developing my passion for illustrated children’s books and after gaining a BA (Hons) in Graphic Design and an MA in editorial design, I entered the weird and wonderful world of publishing.</break> I initially worked for a small publishing company as a designer, managing their children’s list. It was a fun job as I was involved in the books from initial concept through to final print.</break> I then started to create my own books, and found that I really enjoyed writing — especially to rhyme, and had a few published with the packager I worked for at the time. After about ten years, I left to become freelance. I wanted to spend more time creating well thought-out novelty books with terrific text, great design and quality illustrations.

As an artist

As a massive fan of really good novelty books, I was lucky enough to be introduced to Nick Sharratt, who agreed to illustrate one of my first freelance creations, The Gooey Chewy, Rumble Plop Book, which has gone on the receive a number of awards, including the Educational Writer’s.Award for 2009. I love working with Nick — his illustrations are so colourful, clear and witty — and he’s really fun to bounce ideas around with. We’ve just finished, Something Beginning With Blue for Walkers, and have more ‘holey’ ideas up our sleeves.</break> I work at the bottom of my garden in a wonderful shed that my husband built for me (it even has a loft!). I have two desks, one with my computer on it, and one which I use to think, draw and make things on. I love my computer, but my favourite thing is coming up with new ideas and formats for books — and that’s always done at my thinking desk!</break> Apart from The Gooey, Chewy, Rumble, Plop Book; I am responsible for such titles as, The Icky, Sticky, Snot and Blood Book; Caterpillar to Butterfly; Who’s Been Walking on my Floor? Harry’s Coin; Roly Poly Pig; and Debra the Zebra.

Things you didn't know about Sally Symes

  1. When I was eight, I had to wear a pirate patch on my right eye.
  2. My first Saturday job was serving cheese on a deli counter. I hated cheese, especially the ones that look like they’ve been sneezed on by someone with a bad cold.
  3. I don’t like walking in snow that’s already been trodden on.
  4. At seven, I was in a Fairy Snow advertising campaign with my brother, Tim. Unfortunately, the towel slipped so I was a topless model.
  5. I really like beetroot. Sometimes I eat a whole jar at a time.
  6. I had a teacher called Miss Pig and a Head teacher called Mrs Trotter.
  7. I’m terrified of heights, but love roller coasters and zip wires.
  8. I love running. My favourite race is The Hell Run, which is held on a military training camp. You have to run up and down Hills of Hell, and through a Bog of Doom — filthy but fun!
  9. I got married under an oak tree.
  10. I live in Sussex with my two children, a dog called Mabel, and an axe-wielding husband.

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