A question I am often asked is “How did The Little Yellow Boat book come into being?” And then the next question is “Are you going to write any more children’s books?”
In answer to the first question the idea for The Little Yellow Boat came from a series of daily writing promotes I was doing with my friend, David, a fellow writer who was encouraging me to write every day because I was struggling to focus on writing. The prompt came, from the book “A Writers Book of Days”, although I cannot now find the actual promote that started it or the original words. . But I do remember David suggesting I turned it into a children’s book
The Little Yellow Boat is very much my story. In fact I find this often when I do free writing prompts, that I explore me as much as anything. But then maybe that’s what we all write about really – ourselves?
So I am the one who was, and still is, always dashing off out to have amazing adventures but then the sea gets rough, I get scared on my own, and come back with something half finished. I have been teased about it lost confidence with it. Since moving to North Wales I have gathered round me more and more people who are real friends, who when they see me too far out and the seas getting rough come to support me rather than tell me I’ve gone too far on my own again. It is so refreshing and so empowering.
So David had suggested this as a children’s’ book but as I cannot draw or paint I put a request out on Twitter and Instagram asking for an illustrator. Interestingly the only person who got in touch with me was Danielle, who used to a friend of my daughter’s when we were living in Scotland in a Christian community. I was also friends with Danielle’s mum but we had not been in contact with each other for about 15-20 years as we’d just gone our different ways. I say “interestingly” because really the story of The Little Yellow Boat is about how she connects with friends, people she has known and not leant on, who help her to go on adventures. Having reconnected with Danielle it felt like the message of the story was being fulfilled.
I have to be honest even when Danielle had finished all the illustrations I was still reluctant to go further. My inner critic, and all the criticisms I had received in the past were kicking in, but I wanted to encourage Danielle and help her on her adventures which is the main reason I plucked up the courage and got in touch with some publishers.
I had no idea about how one went about publishing and didn’t think to get in touch with some of the writing groups I’m loosely connected with – Writers HQ, Writers&Artists, Write Day – so I just googled “children’s publishers taking submissions” and emailed the first three that came back.
This is where it starts to get exciting. All three of them got back in touch very quickly, all wanting to publish my book via contributory contracts. I pondered over them, read the contracts and then picked Olympia Publishers because they gave me the best contract and were the most communicative. I have not been disappointed with them. They are a very supportive, easy to communicate with publishing house.
It has been a long slog, especially during lockdowns, etc, to get the book marketed and out there. But I have learned so much – how to make my own website, set up two Instagram accounts, set up a Facebook page and to email various people to ask if they will sell my book. I do need to pluck up the courage to go into bookshops now they are open, and need to remember to take flyers with me when I’m out dog walking or even shopping. It has been fun signing books for people too. I love the look of pleasure in their eyes when they hold a book from an author they know. That has been a good feeling.
As to whether I’m going to write another children’s book? Well I don’t know. I never intended to write one in the first place. The prompt came in the middle of me trying to write things about female Celtic saints who get raped as part of their way to sainthood. It is female issues, voices not heard that generally fill my writing time. At the moment as well as looking into female Celtic saints I’m also exploring the things some of the mistreated women in the Mabinogion really felt when they were abandoned, raped, spent a year sleeping with a man who wasn’t their husband, were made out of flowers, etc. So exploring abandonment, lack of partnership in relationships, etc. I’m also looking at writing my memoirs but for now that is sat on the back-burner and I’m probably exploring things from it via these Medieval women.
So for me having my first published book as a children’s picture book is a bit of a shock to the system but I am loving it. It fits in with the serendipitous ways of my life