• JR

What is Pathways?

Before I go any further with my renewed blogging efforts it would be a very good idea for me to explain what the Pathways programme is. Pathways is short for Pathways Into Children's Publishing. I stumbled upon Pathways just as I completed my first year of teaching at Goldsmiths, University of London.

I had made the huge decision to step out of teaching (even though those jobs are hard to come by and I had benefitted hugely from the opportunity presented to me as a post-doc) because I was feeling a huge tension in teaching a creative subject that I was struggling to make the time to practice myself. As a family, we were at the beginning stages of fostering when we were suddenly faced with a couple of issues at home that needed my full attention. I won't go into that just now.

Scrolling through Twitter I saw that appointments were available for tomorrow's open day. I was due to be in London again anyway, so I booked in. I met with Emily Jost at The House of Illustration where she explained what Pathways was all about.

Children's literature is sorely lacking in racial diversity. A study (Reflecting Realities) was undertaken by the CLPE (The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education) that revealed several alarming statistics. The study showed that only 1% of British children's books featured a main character who was BAME (Black, Asian or minority ethnic). The House of Illustration and PopUp Projects teamed up to create Pathways in an effort to improve this situation.

Pathways called for applications from artists of BAME and other under-represented backgrounds. A group of about 26 successful applicants would embark on an industry-based two-year programme that would set us up to work as professional children's illustrators. It's not an accredited degree or certificate, I would argue it is much more.

After Emily talked me through the details I immediately saw the value of the initiative and wanted in. But I also realised I had two problems - I was older than the target applicant age range so my odds of getting in were smaller, and having recently completed a PhD I doubted I'd get my husband's blessing to sign up for another thing. I brought the brochure home and tried to accept that you can't do everything. Maybe I was being greedy.

Weeks passed and I quietly put together my application, telling myself, I'll just apply, I probably won't get in anyway. My husband said he knew I'd get in and there was no point trying to stop me since I am a stubborn piece of work. Still, I doubted my ability, and because my daughter was going through a crisis, I decided not to submit the application. Two days after the deadline I mentioned my decision to the family and my daughter said, 'I know it's scary mummy, but you told me I have to be brave, so you should be brave too.' As she got to the end of her sentence my phone pinged with an email notification. Pathways had seen I had an incomplete submission saved and was offering a deadline extension.

The programme began in December 2019 with a weeklong residency in Cambridge. I blogged about that here.

We spend time being mentored by established illustrators, taking master classes and short courses in various forms of children's literature and artistic and narrative technique. We visit top universities to learn from a wide selection of educators in children's illustration. We meet professionals from many departments of big and small publishing houses, agencies and booksellers here in the UK. We are set literature briefs by publishers in order to gain professional experience and get feedback. The programme is better than anything I could ever have dreamed up, and the people are amazing. You can have a peep at all of the mentee's profiles here.

Here is a recent and relevant article from the Guardian.

I will stop here as this is long and I'm making myself want to do some drawing! I will no doubt mention Pathways a lot moving forward, so now you know what I'm talking about:)

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