Author Liz Pichon: ‘Politicians complain about low literacy levels — and then close libraries’

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  1. What was your childhood or earliest ambition?
    To be older. Older kids could stay up later, go on bigger rides at the fairground, see better films.

  2. Private school or state school? University or straight into work?
    A big comprehensive in Kilburn called St Augustine’s — I used to call it St Disgusting’s. I had some really great times and some pretty lonely times. I did my A-levels at Kingsway Princeton College in King’s Cross. They did a design course, and I loved it. After foundation, I went to Camberwell School of Art. From not enjoying school, I went to thinking, “This is great!”

  3. Who was or still is your mentor?
    I did graphic design, but I sneaked into a Quentin Blake illustration lecture and he was incredibly inspirational. I’d never thought of illustrating children’s books. His books by him are great, so joyous.

  4. How physically fit are you?
    I’ve always treated fitness a bit like my accounts: little and often.

  5. Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?
    It’s a bit of both. The one thing I do have is persistence. There’s a bit of luck thrown in as well.

  6. How politically committed are you?
    I always vote. Democracy at the moment: you can’t take it for granted. I get really mad when I hear about creative subjects being cut out of schools and colleges. Politicians complain about low literacy levels—and then close libraries. Encouraging children to pick up books and read is my small way of trying to make sure the creative subjects aren’t sidelined.

  7. What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
    I collect children’s book illustrators’ original work. I’d love something by William Steig — he wrote Shrek. And Babette Cole. Her books by Ella make me howl with laughter.

  8. What’s your biggest extravagance?
    Five years ago we bought a place in Majorca.

  9. In what place are you happiest?
    Brighton, my home and garden, in summer. And Majorca out of season.

  10. What drives you on?
    Deadlines!

  11. What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
    My family. Mark and I have been married 32 years and we’ve got three grown-up children. I sometimes just can’t believe that.

  12. What do you find most irritating in other people?
    Arrogance. People who never listen. The two often go together.

  13. If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?
    She’d be so happy that I’ve managed to make a living out of all the things I loved doing as a kid. I’d tell her to be more confident and not put off writing stories. Being dyslexic, I never thought I could do that.

  14. Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you still had?
    My old school reports and the drawings I did as a kid.

  15. What is the greatest challenge of our time?
    It feels like everything is a challenge today. Keeping democracy and looking after the planet are high on the list.

  16. Do you believe in an afterlife?
    No. Although I do like the idea.

  17. If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
    A strong nine, aiming for a 10. I need a bit more work/life balance. I’d worry if I was totally satisfied: I wouldn’t be aiming.

“You Can Draw Tom Gates with Liz Pichon” is out now, published by Scholastic

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