Friday, April 19, 2013

Three Silly Chickens - Tanya Fenton's charming new children's book

Three Silly Chickens
Tanya Fenton is an animation artist who has worked on many animated feature films including The Thief and The Cobbler, Hercules and Fantasia 2000. She has recently turned author and illustrator. Her first book, Three Silly Chickens, is now in bookshops.

FLIP: Tell us about your new book!

Tanya: Three Silly Chickens is a picture book for 3-6 years olds. The book is basically a comic story of three vain and argumentative chickens - Nora, Dora and Flora - who are constantly bickering over which one of them is the most beautiful. The story is about how their vanity gets them into hot water.

On their journey to find out the answer to the question "who is the most beautiful?" the chickens meet a Wise Old Goat. He is convinced that they are heading for trouble and might end up in the Farmer's cooking pot.

The Goat kindly grants the chickens three wishes for their protection. The Three Silly Chickens don’t look on this as good fortune but instead start arguing about who should have the three wishes; they are too stupid and self-obsessed to realize they can have one each.

In fits of anger and rage they accidentally use the three wishes on each other, resulting in some bizarre and strange transformations. When they finally meet the farmer things don’t quite turn out as they expect.

FLIP: How did the book come about? Was it your idea?

Tanya: Three Silly Chickens is my first publication; I both wrote and illustrated the book. I have always wanted to write children’s stories. I had experience in the visual side of things as I’d worked as an animator in both drawn and computer animation.

So I enrolled in the Writing for Children course at the City Lit in London, which is a fantastic course taught by published authors. The course was a god-send; it enlightened me about all the technical stuff I needed to know. I wrote Three Silly Chickens on the course and then kept re-writing and re-writing until I was happy with the story.
FLIP: How difficult was it it get the book published? 

It is very difficult to get published, particularly now as the industry is changing so much. But I think it’s always been tricky.

After the Writing for Children course, I attended writer workshops and further developed the characters. I also completed a mock book and three colour illustrations, packaged it all up and approached publishers. I had about ten or so rejections from publishers and agents before I got a phone call from Hogs Back Books saying they wanted to publish it. Hooray!!

FLIP: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to write, draw and publish children's books? 

Tanya: I think the advice I would give to anyone wanting to write and illustrate children’s books is not to send your work off too early. Make sure that what you send out really is the best you can do at the time. It’s so tempting to want to send stuff off too soon. Also, always do your research into the industry you want to get involved in - it will save you time and tears!

(Editor's note: You can buy Tanya's book here at You can also read our interviews with other animation authors such as Vladimir Todorov, author of a new eBook, Stephan Franck, author of the graphic novel Silver, Sydney Padua, author of Lovelace and Babbage, and Tom Sito, author of the History of Computer Animation).

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