Recently I’ve been looking through an old box of keepsakes. In there are newspaper cuttings of funny scenarios, like a trail of ducklings walking across a golf course, or an oversized dog sat in the front seat of a car. These are all clippings my Dad gave me. It’s no wonder then that I have always found the silliest scenarios funny. Sometimes these keepsakes have even appeared in one or two of the picture books I’ve worked on.
I grew up in Bradford and went to Buttershaw Comprehensive School. There was never any discussion about going to university. The nearest the School Careers Officer could get was suggesting a job as a secretary at an estate agency. Dream big! So at 16 I left school and went to work for a bank. Ironic in so many ways, as Maths was my weakest subject according to my report cards. Though I was always in the top group for Art and Music. Not having a piano, I pretended the cupboard in the corner was my piano, letting my imagination take care of the rest.
It wasn’t long before I realised the banking world wasn’t for me. I tried so hard because I knew it made my mum and dad proud, but unhappiness is unhappiness. I don’t remember my parents shouting or being angry with me, but behind closed doors, I’m sure they were disappointed. Eventually, I went back to school and concentrated on Art, with the outcome, joining the year-long foundation course at Bradford College. I was so happy, and believe it’s why I did well and ended being accepted at Nottingham Trent University, to study Fine Art.
Sadly, I lost my Dad and ended up going back to Bradford. But I enjoyed a few years working at the theatre – everything from selling ice creams to ironing the shirts for the next production. It wasn’t till a few years later that I made the move to London, with not much money and no job. I’d hit a brick wall. A job in the creative world felt so unachievable. At this point, I was willing to take any job, but fortunately, through friends I’d made at college, I gained a few days work working for an artist. It was so liberating. Opportunities do arise and it definitely is about not giving up. From this, I gained a few more days work at the publisher, Dorling Kindersley – mocking up book dummies, etc. I put everything into it and before long I was made full time. I learned the skills on the job, listened and practised everything that was shown to me.
Gaining confidence and experience, I applied for other jobs, eventually making my way up the ranks. I’ve worked in every area of children’s literature, from non-fiction to picture books. But picture books are definitely where my heart lies. I’ve been blessed in so many ways. As an Art Director it’s vital you have a similar-minded Editorial Director and I have that with the brilliant Helen Mackenzie Smith. We work closely on every story, from concept right through to sending the book to print. It’s all about having a strong and committed team around you (And many laughs along the way too).
There is not one day that goes by that I don’t appreciate what I do. And mostly, it’s getting to work with talented people . . . like you!
With over twenty years’ experience in Children’s publishing, Jane Buckley has worked for a wealth of publishers including Penguin Random House, Little Tiger Press, Kingfisher and Dorling Kindersley. Through her determination and hard work – she now finds herself as Art Director of Picture Books and Novelty at Simon & Schuster UK.