Meeting Old Friends
This has been an incredible year for me. After spending the previous year finishing and publishing all of my novels to reach a milestone, I thought things were about to start winding down. But the year began with my first ever visit to a primary school, (see my precious post) which was an amazing and uplifting experience.
My book sales kept on an even keel and I had a surprise boost that came out of the blue where I had over 2000 copies of my free novel, Truth Teller, downloaded in just one day! I still have absolutely no idea of what caused this sudden boost in sales, but a massive thank you to whoever was responsible.
As a writer, I grew up in a writing group, The Young Adult Novel Workshop, that sadly no longer exists now. But in my time there I made friends with the most amazing people I had ever met. We all grew up together as authors going through all the highs and lows of the publishing industry. Despite being amazing friends for many, many years, I had never met any of them in person. To give you an idea of how awesome my friends are here is an old blog post from 2010 that puts it into perspective.
This year I did get to meet one of my friends from the forum. Tamara Hart Heiner, an accomplished author, mum of four children and a great friend, was travelling to Europe for the first time from central America to attend a writing conference in Edinburgh. An opportunity that just couldn't be missed! I went to Heathrow airport to pick her up and welcome her to England!
We came back to my humble little house where we had prepared a spare room for her to stay. Tamara got to meet some of my family including two of my grandkids, and we all had a traditional English breakfast together, beans on toast, lovingly prepared by me. Then I took Tamara to the train station where we just about managed to get her boarded on the correct train with just minutes to spare.
It was such a great experience to finally talk face to face and compare the many different things after being such good friends for about ten years. We do really live completely different lives on opposite sides of the world. It was a shame that we had such little time together, I hope we get to all meet again! But we did it, girl. We totally pulled it off. Yay us!
Best of All
I had the incredible honour and privilege to be invited to another local primary school where about ninety children in three classes have been doing a project on my latest novel, The World in Johnny's Back Garden. How cool is that!
I received such a massive warm welcome the moment I arrived from everyone. Mr Barlow introduced me to everyone we met, adults and kids alike, saying, "This is the author of the book we have been doing." as though the whole school had read my book. As we made our way to the library, one of the teachers we met said to me, "Not only have you inspired my whole class, but you inspired me too. Everyone is talking about your book." I was actually blown away by that, I didn't even know what to say. I thanked her a lot. What an amazing start, I hadn't even done anything yet.
I was introduced to six children, two from each class, who took me on a tour of the school. It is a lovely school. I loved the way they have recently decorated the canteen with plants on each table. It was like stepping into a cafe. On the way around, we got to see the new staff room. I asked them if any of them had seen inside and went on to tell them the story of how school staff rooms were mysterious places in my school days where no child ever entered! Funny enough, only one of the kids had seen inside so they got proper excited to explore it themselves. I joked about how unfair it was that they had a better room with cooler stuff and quickly pointed out that the coffee machine also made hot chocolate as well as coffee, just for the record.
After the fun tour, we took the children back to their classrooms. I went into each class and told them my story of how I went from being the least likely person in the whole world to even attempt writing a book, to becoming a published author of five novels. It's a great story in itself and one I hope inspires them to do what they love doing, knowing that anything is possible. Then they got to ask me questions on my book. And boy, did they have questions! It was amazing. There were conspiracy theories on whether Maisie was a murderer. What happened to Johnny's special abilities? Do trees really talk to each other? Was the bully really mean or just misunderstood? The conversation just spiralled off in so many directions.
We returned to the library after this where I did a book signing for the kids who had bought copies of my books and did a photo shoot which they wanted for an article in the local newspaper, The Comet. I was limited to the books I had, so we had to do some juggling so that no one went home disappointed. They all made me feel like a real star.
Next, we went into the hall where six children were chosen to read me the alternative endings they had written for my book. They were all so brave and amazingly good at reading and writing. I love their imagination. They had so many question about my book, everyone was eager to find out what happened to Maisie's husband. I told them that even I didn't know and that I would have to write another book to find out myself. In the mean time, you will just have to use your imagination. While I was trying to answer all their questions, one of the teachers passing through the hall stopped and asked, "Are you the author? You have caused such a massive buzz in this school, you wouldn't even believe!"
To finish the day, all three classes were brought into the hall where they were set a task to choose a picture to write about for a project next week, and to take advantage of having an author present who they could ask for advice if they wished. One of the most asked questions was, do I know J.K Rowling? This made me laugh so much and it became apparent that the kids didn't see any difference between me and J.K. We were both authors of books they had done at school, end of! I had loads of kids asking me for an autograph and all the ones who hadn't been chosen wanted to show me the pictures they had draw of my characters. It was such a massively beautiful and humbling experience. It totally touched my heart. I hope and pray that I managed to inspire at least one of those amazing children.
I have spent over fifteen years of my life on this writing journey. There was a lot of heartache along the way. I wanted to give up on more occasions than I can count on my fingers. I faced so much rejection and criticism and never made any money out of all my hard work. Then out of nowhere the universe offers me an opportunity like this and all of a sudden it all makes perfect sense. This is why I did it and no amount of money in the world could compare.
On this day I discovered two very exciting developments about my book, but I will save that story for a future post.