Behind the Scenes, Children's Fiction, creativity, Depression & Anxiety, Thoughts & Ramblings

Long term thinking and believing in yourself

And following on from Monday’s little rant / big lesson… I was listening to Joanna Penn’s podcast the other day (which I haven’t been listening to as much as I used to), and it was an episode about author mindset. I think it was just after she’d released her book on that topic.

Anyway, she was being interviewed and she talked about one of the ‘problems’ that many indie authors have is not thinking long-term. When I finished The Caretaker of Imagination (TCOI), my intention was to keep publishing books in a loose series (which I have), at a rate of 3-4 per year (which I haven’t). She emphasised that if you stick with it, you’ll have a backlist in no time, and that’s the best thing you can do for your career.

Helen Wadsworth (whom I now work for) introducing my books at my first launch party.

Originally, my vision was that by my 31st birthday, in January 2020, I would have a backlist of about 20 books. This would be a solid platform for myself as an author.

So what went wrong? When writing TCOI, I was a bit nervous about my lack of writing experience, but confident that with constructive criticism, lots of editing, and my love of children’s literature I would be able to produce an acceptable book. I did, and then I wrote another one, Lucy’s Story: The End of the World, which I was actually really happy with (see video below).

And then I hit a snag. I received some very un-constructive criticism, and I started comparing my work unfavourably against others. I was told the way things were done, and they weren’t always what I was doing. I started taking any feedback that was given and using it to reinforce the belief that I sucked at writing. I started listening to the rules and becoming scared of breaking them. I wasn’t making a profit, and I took that as meaning I was a failure.

Because I’m stubborn, I dragged myself through a couple more books, but they took a long time, and I was dealing with the voice of self-doubt on a constant basis. I wasn’t as proud of them as I was of TCOI or of Lucy’s Story, because the criticism and rules of other people were always in the background, ready to speak up at the hint of any praise.

What comes to mind is that old adage – the best time to plant a tree is ten years ago; the next best time is today. If I’d stuck with my original schedule, I’d have about ten books in the series by now. I have four – not even halfway.

I don’t regret the non-fiction books I’ve published in the meantime, I love that I made time for painting, and for playing with zines. Both I Am A Writer and I Am An Artist were fun to write, helpful to other people (both children and adults, surprisingly), and it was a great opportunity to work with people whom I admire. But my day job is part time, and I only started studying this year. If it hadn’t let the criticism get to me, there’s no reason why I couldn’t have done both the fiction and non-fiction books.

Four of the artists from ‘I am an Artist’: Zee, Anna, Jane & Megan (photo credit: L. Simpson)

So this is me committing to myself. I know my books have value, and I know there are readers who love my weirdness. There are many, many more stories I want to tell, so I’m going to plant that tree today to grow my backlist, build a career that I am proud of, and contribute my unique voice to the literary landscape.

Books & Reading

New editions of the Caretaker Series

Changes are in the air, as they always are around me (not always my fault, just saying). The Caretaker Series is proving to be more popular than I thought it would – around 800 have sold across the three titles! – and I’ve had time to consider how they are presented.

I love the illustrations by Jane Thorne, and Chris at Book Printing does an amazing job of binding and printing them, with lovely recycled paper. However, I’ve noticed that children older than primary school age tend to dismiss them as childish, so it’s been in the back of my mind to change the covers. Also, as lovely as they look in person, they’re just not great at thumbnail size.

The other reason is entirely based on money. I’m paying royalties, which as well as paying the actual royalties is another administrative job to do. So, the new editions will have a simpler, older cover design, and they won’t be illustrated. They’ll be done through a print on demand company, which will allow me to sell overseas more easily and buy smaller runs at a time.

Now, the old editions of Lucy’s Story are all sold out (there are a few left at the Dorothy Butler Children’s Bookshop if you want to snap them up!) BUT there are a dozen or so copies of The Caretaker of Imagination left, and a bunch of Beyond the End of the World. There are also the gorgeous special editions – illustrated, printed on recycled paper, hand-bound right here in New Zealand, and signed by both myself and Jane – which are limited to fifty copies for sale. If you’re interested in any of these, you can get them from my Felt shop. Once they’re all sold, that’s it!

So this is what the cover of Lucy’s Story will probably look like. I’ll be ordering a proof shortly, and then it will be available for purchase. I’m hoping to get this out by June this year 🙂

New cover for Lucy’s Story: The End of the World
Events

Launch Party: A wee update

Photo by James Stonley.
Photo by James Stonley.

Once again, the launch party was a wonderful success, and it was with thanks to a generous group of volunteers. Photos from James (photo booth) and Pim (roaming photographer) will be up during the week.

A HUGE thanks to all the people who stayed and helped out, with special thanks to Jennie Cruse, James Stonley and Kerynn Brannigan.

It was lovely to meet a whole lot of new faces, and a lot of young readers and writers. Apologies for the awkwardness of the speech – I am working on some vlogs this week to make up for it!

Speaking of which… I am on a mission to find a mic so I can record video outside. Shopping time – ciao for now!

Art

Introducing photographer, James Stonley

A friend shared James Stonley’s Facebook page, and I was instantly attracted. At the time, the images were largely street photography. From just one photo, it seemed as if you could read the story of the subject being photographed – no small feat – and I became more interested in James’ work.

Images from jstonley.com

I met James later on, and it took a while to register that he was the James Stonley from the photography page! Regardless, it was great to connect, and share our stories of art, culture, and following our passions – which, after all, is what life is all about.

Since then, we’ve connected more, and he surprised me by taking on the role of photographer at my first launch party (which was fortunate, as my other photographer’s camera had decided to pull a sickie).

Images by James Stonley

At my next launch (on the 20th of June, for Lucy’s Story: The End of the World), James will be holding a photo booth! He’s got some awesome ideas brewing, but they’re just ideas for now so you’ll have to visit on the day to see what he gets up to – or catch the photos here afterwards 🙂

Want to know more about James Stonley? Visit him on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr – or visit his website: jstonley.com

James Stonley is definitely in my good books... no pun intended!
James Stonley is definitely in my good books… no pun intended!

James is a photographer originally from Liverpool in England now living in Auckland, New Zealand. He specialises in portrait photography and street portraits.

Lucy's Story

In dedication – ‘Lucy’s Story: The End of the World’

As my Twitter peeps know, I struggled with choosing the dedicatee for my upcoming book, Lucy’s Story: The End of the World. The first book, What Stars Are Made Of was easy – Yvonne personified the message of the story with perfection that would be foolish to overlook; she helped me realise how beautiful life’s experiences are, and how to come out on top no matter what may befall us.

The Caretaker of Imagination was pretty easy as well. Without David encouraging me from the start, it would never have been written. It wasn’t that I couldn’t have done it without him – but in all honesty, I doubt I ever would have (at least, not yet).

But Lucy’s Story? In some ways, I wanted to dedicate it to the person I wished I could have been. Lucy was so many things that I did not see in myself as a 12-year-old and I have huge admiration for her. At fellow writer, Catherine Mede’s suggestion, I was inclined to dedicate the story to ‘kids all over the world – including the adult ones’. I liked that, but I still searched away in the back of my mind for someone who the story was really for.

Untitled (1)

And then it hit me. Ella was one of my earliest (and arguably my #1) reader, and gave me my very first review for The Caretaker of Imagination. She read Lucy’s Story: The End of the World very early on in the piece, and has been a huge source of inspiration and encouragement for me. In fact, when she finished reading it, told me how much she identified with Lucy’s character.

And so, my dedicatee: Ella, who is just a year older than Lucy, but every bit as weird, wonderful & awesome.

If you were to write a book, who would you dedicate it to? If you’ve already written a book (or books) who have you dedicated them to? Why?