I like my social media. Facebook is top because Twitter is deathly quiet lately. In the good old days, you could go on, have a conversation with a nice group of people and then get back to work. Now it feels too much like hard work to interact, online conversation is not something I want to put four work-hours a day into, so Facebook wins. Unfortunately, Facebook is where the Grammar Police hang out.  If you want to say something you’d better make sure you punctuate properly. Else be prepared for one of your friends to point out your misuse of their, there and they’re.

ghosts in a post about grammar at maxinelee.com

Imagine settling down in front of Facebook to vent about how a speeding cyclist had almost took your wing-mirror off with their face. You type so fast, it’s like your fingers are flying. You finish and make a cup of tea to celebrate. Sat back down in front of your screen, top lip just about to touch the surface of your perfect cuppa, you see it: a typo so bad you know the Grammar Police will be banging on your virtual door any minute. You panic. You start looking for the edit button, face burning. You’re sweating and panting. Then you hear BING! Usually you’d hope it’s someone liking your post or, dare you dream, sharing it, but not today. Tentatively looking at the screen with one eye closed, you see the comment and it says something like this:

“Surely you mean your because you’re is a contraction of you are. Just giving you a heads up.”

Sometimes it’s followed by a smug little emoji, smiling, nay, laughing at you. Then you have the internal struggle about how to explain your faux pas. Do you ignore, acknowledge with a thumbs-up sticker, block them, write an explanation of exactly what happened and start a grammar-off on your post…The choice is yours. Meanwhile, your tea has gone cold.

Don’t get me wrong, I do have a little giggle at the funny misinterpreted words and phrases I see sometimes; things like chester draws instead of chest of drawers on a selling page (my friend Charmaine likes to point these out). I’ve shared a few snarky where, were and we’re type posts on my wall. I’ve even drawn attention to one or two, especially when it’s been someone who I absolutely know would be mortified by their mistake. I’ve also been on the receiving end. Does it all matter, though? The answer for me is sometimes more than others.

I’d be very worried if I saw a social media post from the Prime Minister that said ‘Where all very thankfull of, you’re support. cheers for Voteing,!’ Surely if they couldn’t communicate well in writing, they’d at least employ an editor…

If I saw a sportsperson write the same thing, I’d be thankful that their trade is to kick a ball or hold a racquet.

If an author wrote it, I’d make my OMG face and cringe in solidarity.

If my son wrote it, I’d arrange a meeting with his teacher and probably leave a comment…

Good grammar is important but so is imagination and expression. It’s all about balance. A good story or anecdote is still good with a misplaced comma. The world knows what you mean if you use the wrong version of your. Never feel so intimidated by grammar that you stop being creative. There are so many resources out there to help you improve that stuff, it’s all technical and something most people can learn. It’s a skill. Imagination is something that can’t be taught. It’s not a skill, it’s a talent.

Being on form with punctuation doesn’t mean you’re a natural writer – it’s just an extra spanner in your toolkit. I’ve read a few self-published books and nine times out of ten, it’s the grammar that lets them down. It’s a problem for a whole host of reasons but is especially important in children’s books. Children are impressionable. If they see incorrect grammar repeatedly, they’ll eventually think it’s right. For the adult market, it completely disrupts the flow of the story and makes reading difficult.

To be more concise, it depends on who is making the mistakes and in what context. For those of us working with publishers, we have a safety net. We have editors. If you’ve never been able to put your finger on the difference between (most) self-published books and traditionally published, I would bet my favourite hat that it’s down to editing and art direction.

Basically it goes like this:

A Writer writes.

An Editor edits the writing.

An Illustrator illustrates.

An Art Director directs the illustrator.

Now that’s not to say that just because you have an editor you can get away with writing as if you’re in an intense text convo with a teenager. That’s like dropping your chip packet on the floor because you know the cleaner will be along in ten minutes. Do everything to the best of your ability, always.

Editing services are available to indie authors. There are shed-loads of freelance professionals out there offering their skills for a fair price so there’s absolutely no need for basic (or complex) grammar issues or bad (self) editing within your work.

For those that are really concerned about getting a ticking-off on their wall from a grammar-obsessed friend, get learning. There are squillions of resources out there and once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s not so hard.

And finally, if you’re the person that feels the need to correct everyone, next time you doodle, post it up so your artistic friends can critique your work as though it’s about to be hung in The Tate. Or take a video of yourself snowboarding so your sporty friends can compare your technique to Jenny Jones’. I’ll get the popcorn ready.

(Disclaimer: If you don’t know the difference between an apostrophe and a comma, you’ll find it extremely difficult to make a career out of writing. Write your story and use it as a springboard to learn more about grammar, punctuation and storytelling.)

Grammar Thunks: A Good Story is Always a Good Story

Childrens Illustration, Childrens Writing

Hello 2016! May All Your Pencils Be On Point

Childrens Illustration, Childrens Writing, General

My Nan told me once that wishing Happy New Year after the 1st of January was bad luck, so I won’t do it but you know what I’m saying, right?

Another busy year full of exciting projects, then me and Mr. M got married (check the name change to Lee-Mackie) but I did manage to take a couple of weeks off over Christmas for the first time in four years. Yay. I needed it. Writing and illustrating for children is fun but there’s a bit more to it than that. Sometimes you have to go on autopilot to get through the workload. That’s when you know it’s time to down tools for a bit. The real problem pops up when you can’t because your deadline is three days away and you have 16 roughs to complete. That is not a good place to be.

Most illustrators and creative types will know what I mean—authors would call it writers block. Some of us deal with it by developing chronic procrastination until the day before our deadline and then weep as we slog through the night to get it done. Missing a deadline is bad. Baaaad. So you keep going until the end is in sight. You wrangle with FTP upload systems and have to keep uploading the same three files that refuse to go quietly. Your eyes are bloodshot. You’ve eaten all the biscuits. You’re swearing uncontrollably and wondering if the client is going to send in the dogs. Suddenly, it happens. They all upload *PING*. You laugh and smile at your screen like it’s just presented you with an Oscar.

Then you get an automated email response from your (very lovely and knows not of how much you’ve procrastinated to this point) client that says something along the lines of:

Auto-office responder

I’m away until next week. I’ll be in touch when I get back. Laters.

Then you weep again.

And this is just for the roughs.

I’m reliving this so you understand why I needed that break. I’m now back at my desk (I was still here a bit—playing scrabble, sharpening my pencils and doing Buzzfeed quizzes) and happily working away. I have three and a half new stories written, I’m working with Macmillan (US) and Hodder on pretty spiffy projects and really looking forward to the year ahead. After putting on a successful ‘Portfolio Crash’ course near the end of last year I’m thinking of developing a couple more to run over summer. Everything is rosy.



So while I’m in positive go-gettem’ mode, my work manifesto for this year looks something like this:

Work smarter
Make an amazing social media plan
Edit my manuscripts and dummies alongside other projects instead of waiting for a clear block
Less procrastination and biscuit eating
Sharpen more pencils with my electronic sharpener (because it’s fun)

I hope you all manage to take some time to sharpen your pencils and do other things whenever you can, whatever you do. I even managed to fit a snowboarding lesson and Star Wars in before any spoilers. Let the world be your oyster. Even if it’s only for a day.

Big Whoop! A Whole Book From A Tiny Illustration.

Childrens Illustration, Childrens Writing, Links

If you were following my Twitter account a few years ago, you may remember that I had a fox as my background, just on the left of the page. His sharp little nose pointed to a post and he said Big Whoop with his sarcastic face on.

Sarcastic Mr. Fox

So how do you go from there to a book?

Well the first thing to happen was a conversation with my Agent (Bright) in the US* and at the time, that was the fabulous Kirsten Hall. I had no intention of doing anything other than occasionally agree with Mr. Fox as he selected a random post on Twitter to be not bothered about (sometimes my own, sometimes not). Kirsten had a twitchy feeling though and planted the seed that he’d be a great character if I could develop a story for him.

So I did.

It involved a rabbit, a squirrel, a helicopter, a dragon, kittens, a chessboard and a sausage. The sausage was eventually dropped, for reasons of decency, but the story was something to build on with the right publisher. Cue Pow! Kids Books.

I had one of those overseas conversations with Sharyn at Pow!, you know where you sound very awkward and dweeb-like because of the delay (laughing 20 seconds after the last sentence started so you miss the start of the next sentence). We talked about language and words and I learned why American’s look at me like I’m a little strange in face-to-face conversation. I use a LOT of colloquial terms, so we had to change that. Originally, there was a line ‘Well fold me like a letter and post me home!’. That was cut.

At this point, we signed the deal, and although it was my third book, it was my first with a publisher outside of the UK so I was completely chuffed (if you’re in the UK)/stoked (if you’re in the US).

From there it was just ironing out details and colouring in. The personalities of Roman and Harrison and Mr. Fox are all family based. I couldn’t possibly put names to them, that would be rude, but I bet the lovely mister can spot himself in there…


Pow! have been brilliant to work with and pretty much let me run riot with the artwork, but I’ll always be sad about the sausage. I loved that sausage, in all it’s innocent inappropriateness.

To see for yourself or to play ‘Spot where the sausage was’, Big Whoop! is available here and all over the place (in the US) or on Amazon or Foyles in the UK.

If you fancy seeing some reviews, you can check out Goodreads or Google if you have a spare 5 minutes.

To keep up to date with all my latest goings on in your Facebook news feed, you can stay in touch here – FACEBOOK – tada!

I really appreciate your support, people, even just reading my waffles on here. It means so much to me and I can’t say a GREATBIGTHANKYOU enough!

Max x

*I should point out that my Agents in the US now are the equally fabulous Anne Moore-Armstrong and James Burns.









Just a quick post to share some the fabulous reviews/comments left by Mumsnet members after their big Sorry, Dad! giveaway. I do love a bit of Mumsnet (in between sketching and writing) so when I saw these, I was smiling all over my face.

Click here to read Mumsnet reviews for Sorry, Dad!

Childrens Illustration, Childrens Writing, Giveaway, Links

The Importance of Being Inclusive – Children’s Books.

Childrens Illustration, Childrens Writing, General

I’ve been commissioned to write and illustrate an inclusive children’s book (full details later, it’s a huge project with lots of people involved). Feeling really proud to be working on it, I mentioned it to a friend. She asked Why?

So how do you explain inclusivity to someone with seemingly no understanding of the term. To someone who doesn’t work with children or communities.

I asked how she felt about some children being under-represented in books or on TV. She didn’t believe that this was the case. Instead insinuating that we (as a society) are ramming inclusivity down peoples throats when there’s no need.

We talked about the project some more and I explained how everyone involved doesn’t want an ‘issue’ book. How nobody wants or feels the need to lecture young children on what a family is or how many shades of skin or conditions and disabilities there are. The aim is to normalise, not to set apart.

Again, I couldn’t get through. She felt it was unimportant and that children are too young to be taking notice of these things in picture books. Essentially, that it was unnecessary.

Later in the week, my youngest (6) was playing on the floor. There was a local news feature on TV about adoption rates in the area for LGBT couples. I prepared myself for a barrage of questions as I decided it was a really good time to test the water and try and gauge his understanding of family units. I said something along the lines of ‘Aww, look at the baby with his dads – they’ve adopted him’. He looked at me strangely, so I pre-empted and said ‘Some children have two dads and some have two mums and…’ He cut me off and said, ‘Yeah, I know…But what does adopted mean?’

It was one of those moments that made me stop and smile. Just like I did when he told me all about recycling, the week before. These little tiny people are more aware of their environment and diversity than ever before.


That conversation with my friend ultimately ended up biting me, as she came to the conclusion that my portfolio is not very diverse. We weren’t arguing, I should probably point that out…All very civilised over a cup of tea and a cake.

She’s right. Evaluating my own portfolio, it is imbalanced. I could do a lot more and I will make more of an effort in future to be inclusive. And if a six year old goes home comfortable with and accepting of cultural and lifestyle differences like mine did, I’d be very proud to have created that material under her (or his) nose. The point is, he didn’t find it unusual. And this is down to exposure. This is where children’s authors and illustrators have a big responsibility. Show diversity in your words and pictures. Expose children to an open society where everyone is equal. Show little girls they don’t need to be rescued and show little boys there’s no shame in pushing a pram.

Above all else, don’t make a big deal of it. How do you draw a gay man? You draw a man.





When the Wind is Howling…

Childrens Illustration, Childrens Writing, General, General


I Won’t Let You Blow Away – Part 2

Childrens Illustration, Childrens Writing, General, General



After some nifty agent feedback, I’ve made a few changes. Comparing prints, this version wins. What do you think?