OK team, I don't very often have a moan but, now we're gearing up for the busy Spring term author-visit season, this is a plea to all schools and libraries who invite in authors, and most especially illustrators, because flipcharts are the bane of our lives!
It's not the flipcharts' fault: when they have all their limbs and a new, gleamy-white pad of paper, they are tail-waggingly happy to please. But with the introduction of interactive whiteboards and plasma screens, the poor things are increasingly relegated to the back corner of the store cupboard, under that pile of slide carousels and fax machines.
But a whiteboard is no good to an illustrator, who wants to draw for you on real, live paper, and then leave you with a lovely pile of drawings to put up in classrooms or on library walls. So, flipcharts are hauled out with legs that won't lengthen, or no legs at all, or legs that seems fine, until you put pen to paper...
My best one was a library (I won't name names...) who had only the top section. 'Ok,' I said, 'crisis management: I'll sit on the floor with the kids to draw.' (It was nice, soft carpet, after all). But then we discovered that a locking mechanism was also broken, so the board swung free in the frame, rather like an ice-cream shop sign. We did the whole session with me scrabbling on the carpet and a librarian behind the board, braced against it, to keep it from swinging. I ask you!
And then there's the paper...
A flipchart pad can be bought very cheaply, so why have I sometimes been asked to draw on the back of an already used pad, with yesterday's geometry showing through? And please don't fold them up and stack boxes of stationery on them: it's impossible to draw sensibly on a surface with more peaks and troughs than the Andes!
And (I told you it was a rant) sheets of paper held on with huge blobs of blutack or bulldog clips just won't work: as soon as you try to remove the first drawing, the whole lot ends up at your feet.
So, please, please, please, people: we've often travelled a long way to be with you and, let's face it, you've sometimes had to dig deep into the coffers to get us there. Take a bit of time to find out in advance if the flipchart is in working order. And why not invest in a nice, fresh, flat pad? And, while you're at it, some new, perky felt tips, that won't cough like an old smoker and keel over half way through the first drawing.