Book People: Mark Greenwood
The term ‘lyrical’ is not often used to describe books on the ever-popular topic of ‘rocks, gems and minerals’ and yet this is what I would say about ‘The Book of Stone’ by Mark Greenwood and Coral Tulloch if I was allowed just one word. The world over, children go through a ‘rocks, gems and minerals’ phase as much as they do the ‘dinosaur phase’, ‘train phase’ and the ‘fairy phase’ and yet I’ve never come across a book, until now, about the topic of stones which is both informative and tells an engaging story. Mark Greenwood is the master of taking potentially dry history/research and creating lyrical stories which are engaging and entertaining…and educate along the way. ChickPea (8) has read and re-read ‘The Book of Stone’ and my Year Six students at school have also loved it; this is a book to be enjoyed by all ages. It is the perfect coffee table book (or sideboard in my case!) which will be picked up by friends and family time and time again.
And then of course there is the fact that this is one of the most beautifully and thoughtfully designed books I have seen in some time. From the stone slab cover with it’s engraved title, to the glorious endpapers (I’m calling it…best of 2019) to the sumptuous double page spreads and sophisticated typography…this is book design at it’s best. I have included this one on my list of ‘must-have’ books for 6-10 year olds this Christmas and Mark has kindly had a chat with me about ‘The Book of Stone’. Welcome to Children’s Books Daily Mark!
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TEN THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MARK GREENWOOD
1. Tell us about your latest book
My latest book is ‘The Book of Stone’, illustrated by Coral Tulloch.
‘The Book of Stone’ is a lyrical story that communicates through stone, the theme of geological wonder, solitude, special memories and places. Each page invites the reader to contemplate nature’s wonders – from the complex geometry of crystals, to birthstones and gemstones, to meteorites from Mars and beyond, to the human use of stone in axes and arrow heads.
I collect stones of all shapes and sizes and wanted to share my passion in a book that explains the special connection that can be enjoyed when one pays attention to the stones that are all around us and can mean so much, if we take the time to appreciate them.
‘The Book of Stone’
2. How did you get started as a writer?
Before writing children’s books I was a professional musician. I spent many years touring, recording and performing in Australia and overseas. I always enjoyed listening to song lyrics and began writing my own lyrics. I was first published as a songwriter.
The love of language inspired me to write my first book, ‘Magic Boomerang’. Music continues to influence my writing in terms of being aware of the rhythm and flow of language. Initially, music was a way for me to connect with people. Now I find writing books gives me that special connection.
3. What does a typical day look like for you?
I don’t really have a ‘typical day’. Every day is a surprise. I tour a lot – visiting schools and libraries and presenting at literature festivals. I also travel far and wide for book research.
When I get time to lock myself away in my creative space, I embrace the solitude of writing. But writing time is not something that is ‘typical’ or something I consciously measure because the process includes researching, reading, planning, thinking – along with the actual act of writing itself.
4. Can you describe your workspace for us?
My office is full of art and curiosities, rocks and fossils and minerals. My desk always has a stack of research books and scattered drafts of projects I’m working on in various stages of development…along and my collection of meteorites and cannon balls! My desk is surrounded by overflowing bookshelves and my beloved drum kit is always waiting for me to pick up the sticks or brushes and play. My office is a vibrant workspace, full of energy and creativity.
5. Any words of advice for young readers and writers?
Persevere. Be patient. Follow your curiosity. Be determined. Be passionate. Read for pleasure and read with a writer’s eye. Appreciate that to write well is an ongoing, lifelong process. Strive to learn and improve.
6. Do you have a favourite book or character (your own or somebody else’s)?
I have so many authors I admire. Two of my favourite picture books are both written by Margaret Wild – ‘Fox’ and ‘The Dream of the Thylacine’.
‘The Old Man and the Sea’ by Ernest Hemmingway also stands out as a special book. I like the language, the story and the symbolism. It’s a beautifully written work of literature that spoke to me as a young reader and has invited re-reading at various stages of my life. ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ tackles themes about life, old age, the meaning of victory and defeat, friendship, endurance, respect for nature. Its pages are layered with insight and wisdom.
7. If you were not a creator of books for young people what would you be?
I do miss my days as a musician. But I wouldn’t mind being a paleologist. I collect fossils, meteorites, gemstones, rocks and minerals. Perhaps I might be a geologist. And I like designing jewellery… There are so many interesting things I might be.
But I can’t think of anything better than hunting history and doing what I do. Being an author has to be one of the best jobs in the world. As well as following my curiosity and passion, I enjoy traveling to where my stories take place. Walking in the footsteps of my characters enriches me beyond writing the book.
8. What is your favourite food to eat and/or your favourite music to listen to whilst you are working on your books?
I like the foods from many countries – the exotic flavours and spices of Moroccan and Indian food, Italian, Thai, Greek, Chinese…too many yummy flavours from around the world to mention. I like to try them all!
Generally, I don’t listen to music when I write. I find it distracting. Because of my musical background, my attention is always drawn to the lyrics or the beat or the melody. I can’t concentrate on writing while I’m listening to music.
9. How much of yourself or people you know is in your books?
My books are based on history …usually not much of me is in the books although in my recent book, ‘Moonwalkers’ there are three siblings. I did model the characters on my childhood, growing up with two sisters.
‘History Mysteries’ (series)
10. If you could have one wish for the world what would it be?
When I see a photograph of the earth from space, it reminds me that our planet is so beautiful, yet so fragile. We should all do our best to take more care of it, in whatever way we can.
Thank you so much for such a beautiful and thoughtful review of The Book of Stone. It was a complete delight to read what you have written and to see the book sitting there beside stone treasures. Thank you! We all work in such isolation, seeing something like this is just really wonderful. I loved your piece on Mark too, loved the pictures as well. I have known Mark for twenty years and I was so scared at the idea of trying to translate the world of stone how I thought he and others may wish to see it, but we both worked together and that is a privilege to create in that way. Again, thank you for your wonderful review and piece on Mark, who I can sit and listen to for hours and hours and hours!!!!! He is a brilliant storyteller, a treasure! Coral Tulloch
Your illustrations are SUMPTUOUS and I’m so very glad you and Mark collaborated on this one!