My letter to Very

Most of you know by now about who i am, what i do and if you’re reading this, then you will probably have already read about my Very unhappy Christmas.

I’ve made no secret about my disappointment upon seeing the new Very Christmas advert in regards to my book The Aurora Borealis in my Bedroom.

As i couldn’t understand how so much of my book, predominately the imagery, ended up on our screens this Christmas i decided to approach the source directly.

I sent both Very and the agency who created the advert for them a letter asking, well, many many questions.

You can feel free to read it below. I suggest right clicking and opening up the image in a new tab if it is too small on your screen- it will be nice and big then.

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‘Tis the season of goodwill, unless you’re using someone else’s ideas this Christmas

If you’ve found your way here, it’s probably because you know of my book “The Aurora Borealis in my Bedroom” and have read my post on copyright from Sunday. If not, feel free to go back and have a read here.

It has come to my attention, that it is not just my work that has been “borrowed” this Christmas as one of my favourite author/ illustrators has found his work appearing in John Lewis’s monster under the bed advert.

For those of us that know and appreciate Mr Riddell’s work, we are already aware of the lovely picture book, “Mr Underbed”. A book that was first published in 1986. That’s two years before my Mummy was even born! So at 31 year’s old, why have John Lewis decided to use Mr Riddell’s beautiful work without even approaching him about it first? I heard they spent around 3 million pounds on it. That’s more money than i can even imagine! They obviously didn’t have enough left over to pay Mr Riddell for his idea, or the courtesy to even ask him if they could use it.

chris riddell mr underbedThis image is taken from Mr Riddell’s Tumbr page

This makes me very sad and a bit angry because it shows me that even when i become an established author, people will still think it’s acceptable to pass my ideas off as their own. How is that even fair?!

I’m 9 years old and people are already taking my ideas without my consent, and while i’m flattered that they think they’re worth turning into an advert, surely asking my permission should be standard but as this latest incident with Mr Riddell’s work shows they clearly don’t think the same as the rest of us.

moz the monster.jpgMoz the Monster|John Lewis Advert

I read in The Guardian yesterday evening that Mr Riddell had said “The idea of a monster under the bed is by no means new but the ad does seem to bear a close resemblance to my creation – a big blue unthreatening monster who rocks the bed and snores loudly,” he said. “Needless to say, I think Mr Underbed is a lot more appealing than Moz, but of course, I’m biased. I’ll be fascinated to hear John Lewis’ thoughts on the matter.”

We all know what John Lewis will say; they will claim that they have never seen his work and that it does not infringe any of Mr Riddell’s copyright and we’ll all be rolling our eyes knowing that someone sitting in their board room pitched the idea with his work to hand as an example! It’s not as if you can easily find images from the book and the text online or even in a book store…

The similarities are unmistakable but i suppose this is now up to Mr Riddell and John Lewis to discuss whether the credit is shared appropriately.

It’s probably time that we discuss the copyright of my work “The Aurora Borealis in my Bedroom” again, after all it has been 2 years and 10 months since my family and i started sharing it on social media. The text belongs to me and the drawings belong to my Mummy- although she says she only drew what i envisioned.

Megan Nicholson Aurora BorealisShowing the world all my hard work was worth it ( 16/7/15)

No, my book is not published. You can not find my book on the shelves at your local library or in your favourite book store but the imagery and some extracts have been available to view online for nearly 3 years! (And when i say available to view, i mean, you can look at them- not steal them) A text copy of the book (included some images) has also been sent out to people.

Why have i been sharing them? How am i ever going to get a book published if people don’t see my work? I need people to see my work, to want to buy my book. I’m always reading about authors who rely on self promotion and i have thoroughly taken this on board.

So i share the illustrations that my Mummy has created and i ask that extracts be included so that people can see them and think, it might be worth meeting me and discussing my book.

The illustration below, drawn by my Mummy was shared step by step for the first time on 27th-29th April 2015. You can see it next to Very’s 2017 Christmas advert. Very have even described the ad on Youtube with “Our little hero leaves her cosy bed to struggle through the snow” which is funny because my book starts “I was in my warm cosy bed fast asleep when my dreams were disturbed by a freezing draft of wind spiralling above me.”

Illustration from my book (29/4/15)|Very’s Advert (2017)

In both instances, the characters are in their beds and find themselves out in the cold, in the snow with only their cuddly friend for company. At least they were ‘kind‘ enough to not include my cat Jinx, as in my image. I wrote “The Aurora Borealis in my Bedroom” as a way of immortalising my beloved pet cat after he passed away. I thought that if other people read my story, Jinx would become real for every single person who joined me on my magical journey and thus stay alive forever. At the time, this was such a comforting thought and in dealing with my grief i ended up creating this whole story about my adventure in the Arctic Circle which was to be the first in a series of seven books.

What’s sad is the advert starts very much like their previous Christmas adverts over the years, the idea of a person being kind and wanting to give presents to all the people they love- that’s sweet isn’t it? Until the advert becomes just a little bit more magical and dreamlike, that’s when it changes from being like their previous adverts and starts turning more and more into my book.

The Aurora Borealis In My Bedroom Megan sleeping EXTRACTTypography attempt one and two (29/4/15)

Megan page one
The images above were shared on social media on 29/4/2015 when Mummy and myself were looking at typography- it’s harder than it looks!

It’s also been shared online since. So both the image and an accompanying extract have been viewable online for some time.

There are 9 copies of my book in this world that i don’t have in my personal possession which probably doesn’t sound like an awful lot but it’s enough for someone to read it and use it. After all i have no idea where my book has ended up since sending it out, you never know who’s hands it’s going to end up in once it’s been shared. That’s quite a sad thought for an aspiring author.

If you thought that was the only similarity though, you’d be sadly mistaken. They may have omitted Jinx from their advert but they took possession of my husky/ wolf Trix who aids me on my journey across the perilous ice.

I came across a husky last year while i was on holiday and after telling the owner about my book, he let me take some photographs with her. Isn’t she lovely?

very advert megan nicholson 2Very’s Advert 2017

Before we get to the similarity of the wolf saving the girl on the ice though let’s talk about when my Mummy and i introduced Trix to the world back on 27th August 2015. If you have seen the advert, you will know that after the little girl loses her wolf toy she takes shelter beneath a tree where she encounters a wolf. She closes her eyes and braces for it to attack before realising that it is actually friendly (in the advert he is her lost toy).

trix screencapScreencap of Trix’s official introduction to the world (27/8/2015)

This leaves me quite disheartened as the extract that was shared along side the illustration read “Oh no, i’ve stumbled upon the wolf. I definitely can’t escape now. I close my eyes and wait for it to attack. Nothing happens. Nothing is still happening.

I open my eyes and by my feet, waiting patiently, is a grey and white husky.

It all feels a bit familiar doesn’t it?

IMG_20150827_223656My furry companion Trix (27/8/15)

It’s all the more familiar when you consider the tuft in Trix’s ear, drawn by my Mummy back in 2015 to give Trix a little bit more character- Very’s wolf has a tear on his ear.

very static advert close up megan nicholsonVery’s Advert 2017

Surely that’s where the similarity ends? I know that’s what you are thinking but sadly not. If they had been the only similarities i probably would have passed the advert off as coincidence but there’s more.

Take what happens after i arrive out in the snow, the moments after i have dressed up in the warmest clothes with Jinx on my shoulder. I’m taken back by how low my boots crunch into the snow and as i struggle through it, i lose Jinx.

Megan G Grace Nicholson Munchkin Meggie theauroraborealisinmybedroomLosing my furry companion in the snow (15/09/15)

That’s right the crux of the Very advert, the moment the girl loses her furry friend to the snow, right before she meets it again as she cowers beneath a tree (seen previously in this blog post), you can find it in my book and of course the imagery that was shared online more than 2 years ago but it’s all just a coincidence isn’t it?

Very’s Advert 2017

I know, i know, we’ve not even discussed the topic of the title of my book. You know, the one that just happens to be called “The Aurora Borealis in my Bedroom”. There’s not likely to be mentions or the appearance of the Northern Lights in there at all… except that my book relies on the appearance of such a spectacular visual light display to whisk me off to the snowy adventure that awaits. I guess the book cover doesn’t indicate that in any way.

IMG_3446The front cover to “The Aurora Borealis in my Bedroom” (final image shared 26/1/17)

Well it’s not like we even have similar coats or anything.. oh wait.. hmmm blue though.

very advert megan nicholsonVery’s Advert 2017

The Aurora comes to me twice in my story, once in bedroom- well obviously, it is the title of the book and then again when i get trapped on the cracking ice. So i’m not surprised that the Very advert just happens to include the very same thing. Even down to the colour of Northern Lights, violet and green. For those of us that have an active interest in the Aurora Borealis, we know that the Aurora can appear pink, green, yellow, blue, violet, sometimes orange or white and interactions with nitrogen can also cause it to be red. I like science, so i was interested to know. I chose blue, green and violet. So did Very apparently.

IMG_3671The view when i wake up outside of my bedroom.  First shared on 6/2/2016.

I should probably mention that my cat Jinx also wears a coat in my book. Isn’t he just the sweetest?! We are in the Arctic Circle after all and it’s pretty cold out there so we have these little matching coats in complimentary colours but like i say our coats don’t look remarkably like any other ones this Christmas…

Extract The Aurora Borealis in My Bedroom image 2My cat Jinx (26/2/15)

OK, enough of the little differences, let’s get back to the nitty gritty and stop talking about mine or Jinx’s beautiful coats because they’re not that important, i’m flattered that they liked our coat design though, i guess.

There are other similarities to discuss.

The photograph taken for concept art (18/9/2015), a series of conceptual artworks shared on social media (28/1/2016, 1/2/2016, 28/8/2016) and Very’s advert.

And of course you’ve seen the front cover of my book above. It was shared online with the statement “This image from the book was never actually going to make it to the front cover but after thrashing around ideas with Megan- the book connoisseur- it became apparent that this scene encapsulated the essence of her story. So when it eventually makes it’s way to a bookstore shelf you can be clever and tell someone that!” (7/1/2017)

This was because Mummy and i were trying to get the right drawing of the Aurora Borealis in my bedroom for inside my book and use the same image as the front cover. After practising drawing the Northern Lights this way, we came up with a completely different approach to the cover.

Practising the layout of the Aurora and how we wanted it to look took some time. Between the two of us (Mummy and me) we ended up with sheets and sheets of blended colours, in pencil, in pastel, in paint. The images above are the ones that my Mummy decided to share though but the progression is clear to see, as is the similarity. One of mine is shown below and was the result of about 20 practise papers!

13221680_10157131030365105_7430869361269413433_n (1)Step by Step drawing of my book “The Aurora Borealis in my Bedroom”, used as inspiration for the Dream Big Blue Peter competition. (17/5/16)

This was when i entered a Blue Peter competition last year using my book as inspiration for their theme Dream Big which coincided with the release of The BFG– as a book lover and appreciator of Mr Roald Dahl i wanted to share my story with the people associated with him. We shared the image on social media platforms on 17th May 2016. It’s also been completely viewable online and is a step by step of my story…. and Very’s advert. With the only exception of Trix hitching up to a sleigh to guide me across the snow/ice rather than riding him.

It was also shared on my blog here.

Feel free to right click the image, i’m 9 and even i know the image will come up much bigger and clearer in a new window. It comes up much bigger on Twitter and Facebook than on the blog too, where it’s been for more than a year. You can’t right click on Instagram.

Very’s Advert 2017

Now that we’ve reached this juncture i’ll discuss with you my trip across the perilous ice which is quite the turning point in my story. The ice cracks while i’m on it. It’s the part where i’m genuinely afraid and i don’t feel like i’m going to come out of it unscathed, it’s also the part of my journey where my new husky/ wolf friend saves me from going underneath the ice cold water by dragging me off the frozen lake. You can see this quite clearly in the image above. It’s also here that i’m so cold and tired, i start falling asleep on the snow which creates the suspense and intensity to my story. You can also see it in the screencap of Very’s advert below.

Very’s Advert 2017

There are other similarities between my book and the Very Christmas advert but they can only be found in the printed copies of my book and to be honest i’d not like to think ill of anyone i have sent them out to, although the similarities are questionable.

While Very are likely to say that they have never seen my work, that none of their team have ever stumbled across it while looking for inspiration, the parallels are undeniable.

There are simply too many of them to be a coincidence, especially when you consider them against the artwork and extracts that were shared by me and my family.

Sadly i do not possess the money (to be fair my pocket money couldn’t really stretch that far) or the fame to fight Very in court, no matter how strong my argument is. There is no doubt in my mind that the imagery and plot of my book have been “borrowed” but all i can hope, is that they do the right thing by me.

I told my Mummy this evening that i’m going to stop writing and that she can stop illustrating my book because this whole experience has left me feeling rubbish and that my ideas have already been replicated so what’s the point in trying to share my story with the world. She told me that she never wanted to hear me say that ever again, that i have a voice and i should never be afraid to use it. I have some lovely author friends who have said the same thing and that’s the thing with the book community, everyone supports everyone else.

You should know, you’ve been reading my blog. I love and appreciate every author and illustrator who has ever taken me on a wonderful adventure, because half the time i’ve never wanted to leave the world they have created. And i also appreciate every single one of you who has been following me on my reading and writing journey because you have all been so supportive.

To the ones of you who have not however, please don’t put me off being an author because you thought you could get away with “borrowing” my ideas. I’m only 9 years old and this is the job i want to pursue for the rest of my life, what lesson are you teaching me and other children like me?

munchkinmegan g nicholson authorTaking in the view at Lyme Regis and brainstorming new ideas. (2016)

When you take my work without permission, you are not only stealing my hard work, the nights i spent thinking about it, the times i sat brainstorming and researching that parts of my story were factually accurate, the days i spent acting out my story so i could covey the correct emotions in my writing, you are stealing the dreams of a 6 year old and frankly, that’s not cool.

12096488_10156330919175105_271555060785874841_nJinx, Trix and myself dreaming of our adventures (12/10/15)

The Aurora Borealis in my Bedroom | Big City, Small Monster| The Sandman and The Pyjama Farmer by Megan G Nicholson

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while or my twitter account, you’ll know that i now have 3 books under my belt. None published mind you but 3 books i am proud to say i worked hard on and put my all into.

The first book i penned was after i appeared on Blue Peter back in 2015 after completing my mammoth reading challenge. Having always read, i decided to see if i could read a book every day for a year or 365 books in 12 months which you’ll know i finished in just 10 months! Oh and i was just 5 years old! I read everything i could from Oliver Moon’s Summer Howliday by Sue Mongredien to The Human Body by Dr Malcolm Clark.

I started planning my first book, The Aurora Borealis in my Bedroom in the November before Blue Peter came out to see me in the February of 2015. It feels so hard to believe that a little 6 year old me was creating a world of my very own way back in 2014!

I started writing it from all the ideas that i had in the January and i finished in April 2015. For more than 2 and a half years i have been sharing images and extracts from my book, none of which i ever thought that i would need to explicitly say was my own work and i held the copyright over it. After all, the UK Government states that you automatically retain copyright for your own work!

Recent events however have proven that my ideas are actually pretty fantastic and obviously worthy of being ‘borrowed’ so i feel that i should extend an official statement about ownership of the written work and the illustrations.

For information:

http://www.munchkinmegan.wordpress.com

The Aurora Borealis in my Bedroom
Megan G Nicholson has been identified as the author.
Copyright © 2015 Megan G Nicholson

The right of Megan G Nicholson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

The Aurora Borealis in my Bedroom
Donna M Nicholson has been identified as the illustrator.
Copyright © 2015 Donna M Nicholson.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without prior permission of the author and illustrator.

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Big City, Small Monster.
Megan G Nicholson has been identified as the author and illustrator.
Copyright © 2016 Megan G Nicholson

The right of Megan G Nicholson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without prior permission of the creator.

Big City Small Monster 1

The Sandman and The Pyjama Farmer.
Megan G Nicholson has been identified as the author and illustrator.
Copyright © 2017 Megan G Nicholson

The right of Megan G Nicholson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without prior permission of the creator.

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I realise that creatives might be struggling to meet deadlines but if that’s your job then you know what you let yourself in for, being stressed and running out of time are never an excuse to plagiarise someone else’s work. Do what the rest of us do and admire it from afar, say to people “you know who’s work i really like….” and then send them a nice message to tell them you really liked it but then get the cogs in your brain working and come up with your OWN ideas! If you’re having to take ideas from a 6, 7, 8 and 9 year old then you probably need a holiday to recharge your brain engine.

In short if the idea, the plot, the imagery, an extract is already out there, it already exists and doesn’t belong to you anyway.

The Tales of Nibiru, volume one: Z.I.R.M launch party with BB Taylor

The very lovely BB Taylor invited me to join her for the launch party of her new book ‘Tales of Nibiru’ at the Write Blend bookstore in Liverpool on Saturday.

Daddy drove us up to Liverpool all the way from Coventry which sounds like an incredibly long journey but i wasn’t the one driving and i like to listen to CD’s in the car so actually it was quite peaceful, especially as the nights are drawing in and it’s getting darker sooner.

It was probably a long drive for him but he’s good people and he knew i was very excited to meet BB Taylor so i’m quite sure he didn’t mind!

Actually, he ended up fangirling over the book so he definitely didn’t mind!!

We spied the bookstore on the road and headed towards a nearby car park, this was where Mummy turned me from Megan to Catrina in honour of Día de Muertos which i’m learning about in History and Geography this week. I think she did quite a good job!

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Anyway, let me tell you all about BB Taylor.

She’s more than just a fabulous writer with great stories to tell, she’s also a really lovely person! BB greeted us when we arrived, she was really excited about revealing her new book and i was starstruck! It’s always lovely when you meet the people that you love reading the stories by but sometimes you forget to be your chatty self- thankfully i relaxed a bit as the night went on.

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There were lots of other guests arriving and BB Taylor made sure that she spoke to everyone that had come to see her introduce Z.I.R.M to the world.

For those of you that don’t know BB has written some lovely picture books, my favourite of which is Murphy and the Monsters- lucky for me a sequel recently came out, Murphy and the Monster’s Itch.

The new book, ‘Tales of Nibiru, volume one: Z.I.R.M’ offers us readers the chance to see zombies in a new light. Zombies are not the nightmarish creatures we’ve so often heard about. Instead they are overworked, violated and treated like second class citizens. Z.I.R.M or The Zombie International Rights Movement plot to change all that.

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Sounds intriguing doesn’t it?! I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, even though i knew i was going to have to fight my Mummy for it!

Having followed BB Taylor for a while i knew that this event would not go without a piece of cake finding it’s way to my lips and my cake hungry stomach- she did not disappoint and the cake was delicious!

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It was so delicious in fact that i ended up having two, yes TWO slices! Let me just wipe off these crumbs.

BB treated us to a short extract from her book that sounded absolutely awesome, she’s a fantastic story teller and really captures your imagination. Suddenly we were off to a place called Nibiru and then to Yomi!

I bought my copy of the book as soon as i could with the sequel to Murphy and the Monsters as i hadn’t gotten that one yet. I had a quick peek at the back because i was interested to know what kind of monster Murphy was helping in this book- it’s a Werewolf by the way. Eeeek!

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It was a lovely night and meeting BB was a real pleasure. If you’ve never been to Write Blend, it’s a great little independent bookstore where they serve food and drink upstairs. I found a whole bunch of books i’ve never seen before in high street book shops so i was in book heaven!

I delved into Murphy and the Monster’s Itch as soon as i could, it was nice to find out what Murphy is up to at the moment. As you will know, in the first book he helps a Yeti called Yoshi who just happened to pop by during the launch. He’s a cheeky thing, a little bit mischievous but very funny! I can see why children love meeting him at Libraries. He’s much softer than you think but be warned if you have a photo with him- he likes to have all the limelight and in all fairness, why wouldn’t he? He’s a Yeti!

Back to ‘Tales of Nibiru’, i was the last to read the book! Can you believe that? Mummy read it first in the car of all places, she’s a really weird reader! Then Daddy read it as soon as she had finished- how rude! Finally i got to travel to Nibiru where i met a whole host of new and unusual characters but you’ll have to wait for my review i’m afraid if you want to find out all about them. We’re doing our first ever family review of a book so keep your eyes peeled!

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I took along the book that i had written earlier in the year, The Sandman and the Pyjama Farmer for BB to have a read of. She read it out to all her guests! How amazing is that?! She really enjoyed it too, thank goodness and didn’t stumble over any of my wordy rhymes- i can’t help it, i’m a Dr Seuss fan! I love a bit of a tongue twister and saying the Pyjama Farmer’s Farm is definitely that.

I’m looking forward to BB doing some more of her Library tours, i hope i can get my Library to feature one of her events- my book club would love it!

We’ll be talking more BB Taylor next week when i review both Murphy and the Monsters & Murphy and the Monster’s Itch. Keep checking back.

Reading Zone’s Picture Book Competition- making my book

I’m finally at the making stage of my book for Reading Zone’s Picture Book competition. It’s been so a long road but i can’t believe that i’m nearly at the end.

I went to Staples- now Office Outlet to print out my pages. The copier was having a hard time printing them out properly, i think that the loading area was off centre!

The assistant behind the desk ended up taking my USB and doing them directly from there. They all ended up with a slight border round them which i’m having to cut off- a small price to pay for having them printed central!

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It’s been lots of fun cutting out all the pages- although i’m left handed so this can sometimes be a bit of a chore!

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It took me a couple of days to get everything cut out and stuck together but it was well worth it! I think it looks brilliant now that it’s all put together. 🙂

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If i don’t win the competition- i’m in it for the experience really so it doesn’t matter if i don’t, do you think i should try and publish my book instead? Would you buy it?