Shoo Rayner battled dyslexia on his own to become a leading, international children’s author and illustrator. He is highly committed to the cause of struggling and newly-independent readers, writing series books that they devour. Children love to read his pacey, highly-illustrated, funny, thoughtful stories which are based on unforgettable characters such as The Ginger Ninja, Monster Boy, Axel Storm, and Viking Vik. Shoo believes that drawing is just as important as writing and loves to encourage children and adults to pick up a pencil and draw. His acclaimed online drawing school is encouraging thousands to have a go at drawing both at home and in classrooms worldwide.
What did you realise you were good at first, writing or drawing?
Drawing. I was rubbish at writing at school. The other day, I watched a young lad do exactly what I used to do. I’d “see” the whole story in my head. It would go so fast in my head that my hand couldn’t write fast enough to keep up so I would leave out whole paragraphs that I thought I’d written. Even with drawing I make dyslexic marks sometimes - drawing a curve facing the wrong way!
Your books are quite varied, from phonics and geometry to fiction that deals with bullying and doing the right thing – where do you get your inspiration from?
I’m interested in everything. When I get an idea or a proposal I like to see it through. Early phonics are like a puzzle. Trying to use not just few words but few letters - maybe limited to the letters SATMPIMD for instance. The challenge is to make and interesting story with so little to go on.
I feel Geometry has been lost in modern maths - partly because of health and safety not approving of sharp compass needles! Geometry was a major part of my drawing education. It’s good to know how lines are constructed. Also Euclid’s axiomatic approach tells the story. Bullying themes in the Ginger Ninja came from my experience of being regularly baited, as a ginger-haired kid. I heard the phrase Ginger Ninja on Woman’s Hour and I just knew that was an empowering name compared to everything I was called. I knew instantly that I would write a book with that title.
I’ve come to believe that ideas are living things that look for a partner to work with. You get to be lucky enough to work with an idea if you have tuned your brain into the right frequency, to pick up the idea, by learning and experiencing life. So go out and do some stuff!
Do you have a special place where you create your stories and pictures?
I have my shed in the garden. It looks more like a TV studio inside now, with all the drawing videos I make. I built it myself. My mother, wife and daughter helped me put up the frame, which I built flat on the lawn. It was like a Shaker barn-raising!
If you could be any fictional character, who would you be and why?
I’d be the Ginger Ninja, because I AM the Ginger Ninja. Then, being a cat, it would be okay to spend all day asleep in front of the fire!
What are your top tips for budding writers and artists?
READ! You can’t expect to write anything if you don’t know how it’s done. When you read, you are being entertained, but you are also seeing how other authors put words and ideas together.
Do something! If you don’t do anything, you won’t have anything to write about. be nosy, be interested find out about things ask questions. Go places - see new things.
Just write. The commas and spellings will look after themselves in the edit. Stop putting it off. Get the first draft down and then edit and rewrite and edit and, finally, check the spellings and grammar.
Tell us more about DrawStuffRealEasy …
My Publisher said I rambled too much in my ShooRaynerDrawing channel videos. She said I should do everything under three minutes. I set up draw stuff real easy to prove her wrong… she was right!
Draw stuff real easy does what it says on the tin. I show you how to draw “Stuff”. anything from a cup of tea to a christmas stocking. Along the way, if you copy what I do, you will learn all sorts of drawing ideas and techniques, but I don’t tell you I’m teaching you things. I just show you how to draw stuff!
I’m told that schools all around the world use the videos as warm up sessions for the day.
Do you have any projects in the pipeline you’d like to share with us?
I’m changing the nature of my Shoo Rayner Drawing Channel videos. I will be aiming them at an older audience. They will be more about creativity. I’ll be adding more motivation videos too and, when we finally get fibre broadband, I’ll start doing live drawing shows - that will be interesting !
I’m also planning to try a kickstarter campaign to fund a picturebook. I’ve been telling this story in schools for 15 years. Time it was a book!
Where can fans find out more about you and your work?
www.shoorayner.com this is now going to be only about my children’s books and drawstuffrealeasy.
www.shooraynerdrawing.com ceativity anand life-long learning