Sally & The Beanstalk



Words: Paul Chapman Images: Sally Anderson


Sally Anderson, a local illustrator, wins a fantastic opportunity with Penguin books which will, hopefully, see her lovely illustrations in print in children's books.

I applied for a competition on Instagram to to take part in a mentoring programme to be an apprentice illustrator for Penguin books” explains Sally. “It was a scheme by Penguin books aimed at unrepresented writers and illustrators trying to get into the publishing industry.”


“I sent off my illustrations and waited. Excitement started to grow when I got a follow up call saying I’d made the next stage!”

“The competition was open to writers and illustrators. I’ve a young family and my youngest is now at nursery so I was looking for a way to get back into illustration. It’s not an easy area to break, children’s illustration, ideally you find an agent and that’s your way in, so this is a great opportunity and I can’t wait to get started.”


Sally applied and was invited down to Nottingham with fifty writers and nine other illustrators.

“We were all given a number of presentations from various connected people and I had a 1-2-1 with the art director responsible for children’s books at Penguin. This itself was fantastic, it was so exciting to be receiving advice, guidance and feedback from someone who is normally so unattainable” adds Sally.




The group was asked to submit twelve spreads in black and white and one in full colour, from the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Sally was provided with a brief, the type and text needed, and it was down to her to interpret the brief and illustrate and lay out. “I approached it as a project, I had a ten-minute talk from Penguin, I met the CEO from one of Penguins divisions which gave me some confidence. At the end of the day I went away with a list of contacts and the route I wanted to take but still didn’t get too excited” says Sally.


“I sent off my illustrations and waited. Excitement started to grow when I got a follow up call saying I’d made the next stage!”


“This involved me sitting down for more feedback and resubmitting a new piece taking into account this feedback.” Sally knew they were taking ten people from the 1,700 applicants and after the resubmission and another interview she left with them saying ‘we’ll let you know’ so was thinking 'they won’t pick me, there’s always a chance but competition was strong'.

“In December I got a call saying I’d been selected - I was over the moon.”


“We’ve had to keep things quiet until Penguin Random House had announced things on social media. I’m starting to come to terms with how privileged I am and am feeling more comfortable with the process.”



Work on the project started in January this year, with Sally having a mentee get-together in February with a tour of Penguin and a meet with the CEO, with another scheduled in November.


Penguin is mentoring her; she sends in her work and receives feedback. Sally explains “it’s so rare to get an opportunity like this in the industry, the feedback is invaluable, and I start each week with chats about the week's sample briefs.”


“At the end of my time with Penguin, I’ll have a portfolio of work that I can present for freelancing, some great contacts and renewed confidence and focus. In the meantime, they are on the lookout for projects I can take on.”


“The best case scenario is, I’ll have a great relationship with Penguin books as a freelance illustrator.” Sally excitedly explained “I have to pinch myself sometimes and am extremely flattered by being selected. I’m so excited and looking forward to what the future has in store, it may be my way back into illustration as a career.”


“I’ve always drawn, from being a very young child I’ve loved to draw. It’s hard to make a living from freelancing in illustration but perhaps the time is now right to seek out that new route. I’m always busy, with a whirlwind family life, but the project has presented a fantastic opportunity and I have to grasp it as best I can.”


If you’ve ever seen a scooter flying past you on Chatsworth Road, sometimes with a child, sometimes just an adult, that might be Sally and one of her four children.

I hope the time with Penguin works out, chatting with Sally briefly makes me feel it will and I look forward to seeing her illustrations in print at some point soon. You can be sure we’ll let you know as soon we can!

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