Never for a second did I think I would ever be a children’s writer. I never considered myself to be a creative-type – I was always the sporty one. That I have a children’s book published is a constant source of surprise to me. My own parents view my new career with a mixture of pride and bafflement.
My route to writing comes via a stint in the financial services – I quickly realised this was not a career for me and this was confirmed when I was clearing out my desk and found a cheque for £40k which I should have banked months prior. I then had a place to study medicine. But a summer placement in a hospital taught me I probably wasn’t going to be a doctor who instilled confidence in their patients as I fainted on an almost daily basis. Following that I became a secondary school PE teacher but made the move to Primary Education when my enthusiasm for demonstrating forward-rolls eventually started to wane.
It was when I began teaching primary school children that I rediscovered my love of children’s literature. I admit, I was an avid reader when I was younger but my secondary school years saw me turn to sporting endeavours and I forgot about the magical worlds and wonderful characters that you find with the pages of good books.
I honestly do not remember where the urge came for me to write. I had some time on my hands after I relocated from London to the North East and one day I sat down and just started writing. With all the naivety of someone who had no idea what they are doing, I thought what I had written was sheer brilliance. I sent it off to agents and it was promptly rejected by all of them for a very good reason – that being it was not at all brilliant.
I joined Twitter as I heard that is where all the writers hang out. It is there I found out about the Golden Egg course, which I applied to and was unsuccessful. Following this, I had a strong suspicion that I may have to look over my work again. So that’s what I did, and I applied for the Curtis Brown Course and this time I was successful. Confidence in my writing soared once again – I think I am one of those annoyingly positive people. And once again, I quickly learned that my confidence was very much misplaced! But thanks to the guidance of my mentor, Catharine Johnson and my course mates I was able to learn where I was going wrong.
So more editing – some competition longlists – several full requests but still – no joy. I couldn’t work out where I was going wrong. I went in search of more feedback, the more brutally honest the better. I was lucky enough to get a place on the American mentor program with Josh Levy and the fabulous WriteMentor program with Carolyn Ward.
I beavered away for many more months getting my manuscript into as good as shape as I could – I received a few more manuscript requests but it was slowly dawning on me that while my writing had improved dramatically, I was telling the wrong story. Very annoying – but you live and learn.
I knew it was time to part ways with my first book and write the one which I had started to think about – the one I was getting a bit excited about even though I hadn’t typed a single word. And that was The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates. This story came out quickly – and in six weeks I was finished.
I sent it off and to my disbelief, the agent offers came in. Luckily, one of those was from Sam Copeland at RCW – a children’s author himself as well as the BEST agent ever. His belief in my book must have come across because eight publishers were interested. I chose Usborne and I couldn’t have found a better home. I think my editor, Rebecca Hill is a genius and I’m so lucky to be part of such a brilliant team.
I’m so lucky that THE Rob Biddulph agreed to illustrate it.
I’m so lucky that it has sold to eighteen countries.
I’m so lucky that I get to write for blogs like this.