Fairy tales do come true...
It seems an age since I last posted and my, what a lot has happened since February. After navigating another lockdown with daily home-schooling and coping with yo-yoing emotions and constant change, things finally seem to be inching forward again.
My big news is that after several months of sitting on a secret, my debut picture book, Pumpkin's Fairytale, was released into the world on Monday 27th September 2021! Telling Pumpkin's version of Cinderella, this is a book that is perfect for the autumn season but also (hopefully) has the timeless and magical feel of a fairy tale.(322) Pumpkin's Fairytale Book Trailer - YouTube
So how did all this come about? Well, to be honest, it's a bit of a blur. But sometimes good things come from unexpected places at unexpected times and this is definitely a case of that.
Without labouring on what we already know, 2020 was a challenging year for everbody. Keeping in perspective the fact that I had nothing to moan about (Cornwall is not a bad place to lockdown in) compared to the many, many less fortunate, I made the best of not being able to write as much as I wanted and got on with things. I had a course to finish, I'd listed in a couple of competitions and every thing seemed promising. After a year of working on material, I was still on track to submit my work to agents in the summer and, according to the feedback I was getting, 'it was only a matter of time' before I found representation. I crossed my fingers and focussed all my attention on the goal.
Needless to say, it didn't happen. In the second half of 2020, my writing seemed to come crashing down around me. I bombed out of competitions, my inspiration seemed to dry up and, even after some very near misses, I didn't get that elusive offer. This was possibly due to the publishing industry grinding to a halt (I've heard various opinions on whether that is true or not) but, more obviously, the brutal fact I had to come to terms with was...I still wasn't good enough! My spirits hit the deck.
It was only in January that I felt a renewed energy. Pumpkin's Fairytale listed as one of six winners in an agent's call for submissions (it had also previously longlisted in the WMCNA 2020) and the writing world seemed to start buzzing with new events. I got back to it...for one day...and then that evening Boris came on the news! Homeschooling round 2...here we go again...
I'm not going to lie. I was frustrated. BIG TIME. But I wasn't going to let it keep me down. I jumped at every opportunity, enrolled on some new courses (I'll pay them off later...er...somehow) and sent my manuscripts out to a couple more places...including a publishing company called Final Chapter who had put out a call for submissions. They got back in touch very quickly, saying their team unanimously loved my manuscripts and wanted to chat.
Er...yeah right...another false alarm...was my sceptical reaction. I have to admit that I hadn't even done my homework on this publishing company before I submitted to them and now I set about researching who they were. Surely a chat couldn't hurt...could it? But I'd had a lead before which had come to nothing and that had hurt. This was sooo like relationship territory!
In the end, of course, I decided to chat. But I went in with minimal expectations and lots of questions! What happened next, exceeded everything I could have imagined. Final Chapter were a team of three of the loveliest people you could wish to meet, they were about to release a picture book that looked AMAZING and they genuinely seemed to believe in my work. By the end of the conversation, they had made an offer on Pumpkin and I had a decision to make.
Advice on accepting an offer with a small publisher, particularly a relatively new one, is conflicting. As I mentioned above, I had previously received an offer of publication from a US publisher for a different manuscript and, following much advice, had turned it down. This time, though, I was going to dig deeper. Would this affect my dream of a long-time career as a writer? Would agents and larger publishers be put off signing me further down the line? The ones I spoke to said no, it wouldn't put them off, but neither did they offer representation on the back of this offer.
What I needed was to make a decision with my head when really I'd already made the decision with my heart: Pumpkin's Fairytale was my all-time favourite manuscript and here were three lovely people, who seemed as excited about it (and about children's books in general) as I was, offering to turn it into a book. My gut instincts told me that this was an adventure worth having...and if it went wrong...well...I'd have lost a manuscript and found a learning experience.
Now, a few months later, Pumpkin's Fairytale is an actual book I can hold in my hand, brought to life beyond my wildest dreams by the incredibly talented, Wayne Oram, who I will never be able to thank enough. Turns out, there a some major advantages to working with a small publisher:
1) They are lovely.
2) They move FAST- far faster than a traditional publisher would have.
3) They wanted me on board for the whole process, allowing me input and a chance to feed back on all stages of production.
It has simply just been amazing! And okay, the book may not be as readily available in bookshops as a book published by a larger publisher (we'll work on that!), and it may not have the same financial returns or attract reviews from established authors but the book is here, available readily online and in local bookstores, and rolling its way into the hands of young readers- which is the whole reason for doing it in the first place.
I honestly don't know what will happen next in Pumpkin's journey...or in mine. It might be that it flies high among the stars (yes please!) or fizzles out like a spell at midnight (we won't let that happen!). Meanwhile, I'm still writing stories, still seeking that elusive agent representation (which I now realise needs to be right!) and still wondering whether another publishing offer will ever come along.
What I do know, however, is that I owe Final Chapter everything for making my dream come true, that the smiles on readers' faces at my first book fair meant everything. I don't regret the decision one little bit.
Like I said, sometimes fairy tales do come true...