How Portia The Pear Found Her Publisher

A friend I met at a writing workshop, asked me recently, how I became published after writing my book. This is a question I’m asked frequently and if this interests you, put the kettle on, get comfortable and I’ll tell you the story of… Portia The Pear. I have to tell you the whole story, because there is an element of luck, fate, or maybe serendipity to this, or perhaps I was ready and willing when the opportunity arose? I’ll let you decide.

I had rediscovered my passion for writing, and fell in love with the craft all over again. I’d also discovered a new level of proactivity, which I’ll discuss in a future blog. With this new energy, I sought out and found a local writing group, Stockport Writers who meet at The Hatworks once a month. I also joined a local poetry group, Write Out Loud, who meet at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery once a month. With the support and encouragement I found discussing writing with like-minded people, my confidence grew and so did my level of passion for the subject.

With this confidence, and heightened awareness of all things literary, I spotted a postcard on a noticeboard at Bredbury Library. It advertised a writing group which met in Marple, every Thursday night called The Storytellers Place. I went along. I was cramming in as much writing, reading and group work as I could, enjoying every minute.

As any woman knows, you share everything with your hairdresser; it’s the law. At each appointment I was babbling on about the writing groups and how fascinating it was and how I wanted to write bedtime stories for children. It was at this point where the magic started to manifest. At one of my appointments my hairdresser gave me a leaflet from Tatton Park advertising their 100 years celebration of the work of Roald Dahl, saying “I saw this and thought of you”. As part of the events taking place, there was a creative writing workshop to be held, called “How To Write Like Roald Dahl”, run by a lady called Joy Winkler. It went on to describe how Joy was Cheshire’s Poet Laureate in 2015. A poet discussing children’s books, it sounded perfect for my master plan of writing a bedtime story. When I looked into the event in more detail I found it was affordable but would mean I needed to book a day’s holiday from work. Up until this time I had always booked days to be off with my children, covering school holidays. However, I was so intrigued, I book the day off and booked myself onto the course whilst feeling like a naughty school girl playing truant!

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On the day, I drove over to Tatton Park in glorious sunshine, arriving for a 10.30 am start. I then spent the morning with the inspirational Joy Winkler as she taught the techniques for writing for children and exploring how Dahl created his fabulous characters. At lunch time we were sent into the kitchen gardens with the instruction of spending two hours developing characters and writing a story that unfolds in the gardens themselves.

 

The first sight to greet me, as I walked outside was a beautiful row of pear trees trained into perfect lines with the most sumptuous fruit hanging neatly from the branches. I had a closer look and saw each tree had a different “name” and most names were female. A very knobbly pear then caught my eye. It was all scrunched up and had dark freckly skin unlike the rest of the fruit. The shape and twists made it look like a sad face, and I knew immediately that this was my character. I sat quietly and wrote and two hours later read out my story to the group. It was well received and Joy suggested I submit it to a publisher because it had a strong voice. I hope you are paying attention because this is the part that truly is magic.

The very next day, an email popped up telling me that a Children’s Publisher was coming to The Storytellers Place to talk about Independent Book Publishing in the following week. I quickly “Googled” the publisher and found their submission guidelines. I checked that my story was in the format they wanted, a word document. I checked and re-checked it for spelling mistakes and grammar, then drafted a cover email, attached Portia and pressed send. All I had in mind at that point was to ask for some feedback and pointers on what could be improved.

Two gentlemen from Tiny Tree Children’s Book Publishers delivered a presentation to my writing group and nervously I hung behind to speak to them after everyone had left. I then told them I had cheekily submitted my book and asked if they could tell me what they thought. The reply was that they hadn’t read it yet, they had been very busy. “That’s a ‘no’ then” I thought. I went home dejectedly and had a sulky early night.

The very next day, an email popped up this time from the publishers, telling me they loved the book and asking if I could call to the office to discuss it with them. After bouncing around my office like Tigger, I replied and agreed to the meeting.

For what happened next you can read my blog “Feedback and re-writes” dated March 6th 2017 followed by “Validation and Illustration” dated March 13th 2017.

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So what do you think? My hairdresser told me of a writing workshop, where I wrote a story and was encouraged to submit it. A writers group introduced me to a publisher, who said “yes”. Was it luck, serendipity or fate? Or was it the amount of work learning the techniques in the months before, that meant I was ready with an almost finished piece of writing when an opportunity arose? I am unsure. I worked hard and put in long hours, but surely the email arriving the day after writing my story announcing a publisher was coming to me, suggests more powerful forces were in play, doesn’t it?

Fate or luck, one thing is certain, to be published you must have first written. As Joy Winkler emphasises “you must sit and write” and who knows where it will lead you, if you do? A great quote from Stephen King sums this up “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

If anyone has any questions on creative writing, the process of being published or simply what to expect at writing groups, please ask. This is my passion and if I can help in anyway, I’d be glad to do so.

Good luck and happy writing.

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Portia The Pear, receives 5 star reviews

I was delighted to open up Amazon and read all the kind reviews left for Portia, here are some of my favourites:

Beautifully written book with such a great message for kids. I will look out for more titles by this fabulous author.”

“My 2 boys love this book! Beautifully written and great message behind the story. Definitely recommend”

“A fantastic read with an inspirational message that all kids should hear.”

Thank-you to everyone who has taken the time to post a review it really is the best present an author can receive. Although, receiving this festive depiction of the main characters in the form of a gorgeous Christmas poster, illustrated by the fabulous Elena Mascolo, is a very close second!

Thank you Elena your work always amazes me.

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Portia The Pear – the book launch.

 

book launch signing

Portia The Pear, my first Children’s Picture Book, was launched in September this year and is now on sale in bookshops, on Amazon and even in the gift shops at Tatton Park in Cheshire.

 

The launch party was an amazing event with more people attending than I ever imagined. Book sales were crazily high, I couldn’t move from the signing table. Children were busy sticking, painting, and creating at the craft tables. Those with more energy bounced on the bouncy castle and chased balloons. There was even a music maestro playing acoustic guitar in a quieter area for those who preferred to stay out of the mele.

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I can’t thank enough, the team of people who helped me to organise and manage the event. I had volunteers in the kitchen, help setting up the buffet, friends supervising the crafting and one dear friend even took charge of meeting and greeting. What a bunch of superstars. The day’s success was all down to their fantastic spirit of “all hands on deck” – angels every one!

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So here is a link to find my book, which makes a superb Christmas present for little ones. Book reviews can be found on Amazon, to see what people think so far.

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To any budding authors out there, be ready to take part in marketing events organised by your publisher. My feet haven’t touched the ground since launch day. I’ve been as far south as Foyles in Chelmsford and I’m on my way north to Barrow-in-Furness next, with Apple Day Festivals in between and pit stops at libraries it takes a lot of energy to support your book, so be prepared!

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I leave you with a link to the book and the publisher for more information …… did I say Portia makes a great stocking filler????

https://matthewjamespublishing.com/product/portia-pear-nicola-hulme/

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I’ve just got back from meeting my publisher…

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I like to say that.

I will take every opportunity to say that.

I do not apologise for being ecstatic that I can say that!

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During a very civilised conversation over a cup of tea at the fabulous Cloudberry Cafe, Marple, my publisher and I

(oops! I did it again) discussed the upcoming marketing strategy for my new book. 

 

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I am so excited I may spontaneously combust – stand well back!

Talking for 2 hours about all things bookish, is an absolute pleasure. 

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Watch this space over the coming weeks for details.

My face is literally aching from smiling so much.  

I will be ordering my own book from Amazon because I can.

I will be ordering my book from Waterstones because I can. 

Ouch! My cheeks hurt.

I have illustrations!

Picture a lady who is old enough to know better, bouncing around like Tigger on his happiest and bounciest day. 

Picture the biggest smile on a child’s face.

Picture someone who can’t sit still and is yabbering on at speed and at a pitch only dogs can hear.

That’s me, right now, as I look at the illustrations created for my new children’s book. 

It’s every Christmas morning rolled into one. 

My baby now has a face, a colourful, beautiful face and I could kiss it – but that would be too weird.

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I have “blurb”!

Today, I contributed to and approved,  the blurb that will be issued to the trade when describing my first Children’s Picture Book. It may even appear on the back cover. (I won’t dwell on how the word “blurb” frustrates me when the words “a brief outline of the story” could be used, this is not the time to be picky.) Today is the day to celebrate and be excited by the fact I have my very own blurb. I have blurb about a book that I have written. Me. My book. My blurb. Happy. 

The Book, The Writer

Day 23 Napowrimo Challenge

The Prompt:

Our prompt for Day Twenty-Three comes to us from Gloria Gonsalves, who challenges us to write a double elevenie. What’s that? Well, an elevenie is an eleven-word poem of five lines, with each line performing a specific task in the poem. The first line is one word, a noun. The second line is two words that explain what the noun in the first line does, the third line explains where the noun is in three words, the fourth line provides further explanation in four words, and the fifth line concludes with one word that sums up the feeling or result of the first line’s noun being what it is and where it is. There are some good examples in the link above.

A double elevenie would have two stanzas of five lines each, and twenty-two words in all. It might be fun to try to write your double elevenie based on two nouns that are opposites, like sun and moon, or mountain and sea.

My Response:

The Book

Book

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Almost published

Work in progress

Awaiting illustrations and print

Excited

Writer

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Almost published

Edge of seat

Endlessly pacing the floor

Eager.

May the ink never dry

The day came to sign the contract. The publishers treated me to a fabulous lunch. We had an excellent discussion on all aspects of writing, publishing, readers, and distribution before papers were signed and photographs taken.

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Onlookers from neighbouring tables stopped to see who the celebrity was.

 

 

 

 

 

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Elated I published my news on Facebook and amidst the warm wishes of friends and family, tried to let what had just happened sink in.

So what then?

Then, I waited.

 

Soon after, I received an email with sketches of the artwork which the illustrator had submitted. The thrill was intense. I studied each pencil line. As I turned through the pages, I saw my story come to life. I was introduced to the main characters. I marvelled at the detail.

TV personality Sarah Heaney Reads to kids in Edinbugh

 

I saw my story through the eyes of a child, wondrous and excited. I wanted to know what was on the next page.

What a gift.

 

And then…. I waited.

I’ve learnt you need patience, a lot of patience. Work is happening behind the scenes and the writer needs to sit back and wait to be called upon.

I’m still waiting.

As I’ve said on a previous blog, I’m not one to sit around idle, so whilst I wait;

Too busy to stop

  • I attend Stockport Writers, a local writers group
  • I attend Write Out Loud, a local poetry group
  • I’ve written two more children’s picture book stories
  • I’ve attended a workshop on how to write about conflict
  • This week I am at a workshop about re-writing traditional myths in a modern and contemporary way
  • I continue to write the morning pages, again, as discussed in a previous blog
  • As April approaches, so does the poetry challenge of Napowrimo; a poem per day for each day of April

That should keep my mind busy, and if it doesn’t, I can always blog!

Burnout Schmurnout – let’s do this!

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Validation and Illustration

In reply to my resubmitted manuscript, the publisher sent a brief email back, saying “Well done… we’ll go forward with that.”

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It may be the best email I have ever received. I printed it out and shared it with anyone I could find. If I was athletic and if I wasn’t sat in a very busy corporate office at the time, I would have done a lap of honour. As it was, I paced around a lot with a ridiculous grin across my face, pumped with adrenaline. Success!

It’s a strange experience when you receive an acknowledgement that what you have produced is good enough to print.

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It’s a validation that your work is viewed by at least one person as acceptable. The strangeness comes from the unfamiliarity with that approval. When it happens, it doesn’t quite seem real. It’s almost an out of body experience. I’d love to hear from other writers if this is how they felt, or if I’m alone in this!

So back to practicalities: The next step was to secure an illustrator.

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I submitted some samples a good friend of mine had created, and the publisher had requested samples from illustrators they had worked with previously.

After comparing all samples, a choice was made.

I opened an email one day, simply saying “What do you think of this?”  

When I opened the file, I saw my main character staring back at me on screen. Only this was the illustrator’s interpretation of my character, not the image I had been carrying around in my head for months.

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It was like meeting a friend for the very first time, combined with the surprise of opening a Christmas present.

I was thrilled. The colours were bright, the characters friendly and the overall feel fit perfectly with what you would expect from a children’s picture book.

I wanted to show the world, but knew I had to keep it to myself. The publisher had been very clear that they manage the release of information about the book, to maximise the impact of the marketing. So I kept the concept illustration close to me and just peeped at it every hour on the hour for a number of days. I smiled to myself each time. This was really happening.  

The next communication from the Publisher was “We need to talk contracts.”

Feedback and re-writes

After the initial interest from the publishers, I was asked to go into the offices to chat about my book. With a beating heart, I replied to their emails, always unsure of how businesslike to sign off my mails; “Kind Regards” too official? “Sincerely” too stuffy? “Love” out of the question. I chose one and stuck to it. We arranged a date and after much deliberation on what to wear for a first meeting with a publisher, I set off.

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I arrived at a very traditional industrial mill. It seemed every time I joined any writing group or indeed visited a publisher, it was always in a building with great architectural heritage. I loved it. Walking down a long dark corridor into the depths of the mill, it was evident daylight didn’t feature here. There wouldn’t be any window seats like the modern office buildings of today.

A workman passed by in overalls and looked at me quizzically, possibly due to the heels clomping on the York stone slabs. I asked him directions and he waved his hand at a small white door to the left. As I approached, I could see James and Anthony inside, and they beckoned me in. The stark fluorescent lights were harsh on the eyes in contrast to the dark corridor outside. I was motioned to a sofa and the meeting began.  

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James, the Managing Director, told me how he had read the manuscript and his first reaction was “Wow”. I sat there dumbfounded and almost deaf to anything else he said for the next minute. “Wow”? Really? My work deserves a “Wow”? I couldn’t believe my ears. More positive feedback was given as Anthony, the Marketing Manager backed James’ views. I was delighted.

James then moved onto what was to happen next. He explained that the story I had written spanned two reading categories; 3-5 year olds and 5-8 year olds. Apparently, it is important to distinguish which bracket your book is aimed at, to help the bookshops to know where to position it on shelf and of course how online booksellers should list it. I was given the task of re-writing the story to fit either category. I had to either remove the more difficult words, and simplify the terms for the 3-5 year olds, or lengthen the story to suit the 5-8 year old category.

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Happily, they said they would print my book whichever group I decide to target, so I left feeling on top of the world. I still had the word “wow” ringing in my ears.

TV personality Sarah Heaney Reads to kids in Edinbugh

As soon as I got home I took out the manuscript and started work. I started by simplifying the piece and aiming at the 3-5 year olds. My thought process being quite simply, I had set out to write bedtime stories which my 4-year-old would enjoy, so it seemed appropriate to start there.

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My twelve-year-old daughter came home from school as I was in the midst of the re-write and asked what I was doing. When I explained, she very quickly responded with the fact that I couldn’t possibly write it for 5-8 year olds. When I asked why she was so adamant, she informed me my story wasn’t cool enough for an 8-year-old. She wrinkled her nose as she said it, for added effect!

“Which 8 year old is going to pick up a book with a pear on the front?” She had a point.

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With added determination, I finished the re-write and submitted it back to the Publisher.