|Cover art by Nathan Burton|
Welcome to Debut Diaries – One Year On, where SCBWI-BI members share their highs (hopefully lots of these) and lows (hopefully fewer of these) of the post-publication year.
This month, Tizzie Frankish welcomes Olivia Levez, author of The Island, to join her for afternoon tea. After a whirlwind post-debut year, it’s a chance for Olivia to put her feet up, and share her insights over a cuppa and some carefully chosen sweet treats, which reflect the mood of the months following life after debut.
March: A party-ring month
Launch day of The Island on World Book Day. Spend all morning excitedly liking and thanking congratulatory tweets, at the same time as trying to dress up as Jack from Lord of the Flies. Afternoon at my own school, doing a castaway workshop in the library. Then mini-launch with staff, the head of drama (serving prosecco), and English teachers taking book sales. Run out of books and have to take orders. Cupcakes made by my friend from Food Tech. V gratified, but start to feel anxious about my Big Launch on Friday…
Spend morning in an agony of self-doubt. What if nobody turns up? What if I forget my speech? What if I sell no books and Waterstones hates me?
Take dog for walk and practise speech out loud on country lanes. A boy on a bike stares.
My launch event at Birmingham Waterstones is wonderful. Loads of teachers come up after drinking gin on the train from Malvern. Chelley Toy pops along to do a blog post. Mum’s castaway food is a hit, as is the prosecco. A rush of warmth from my family and friends as I go to take my place on the Big Green Chair, which the event’s organiser at Waterstones has thoughtfully placed on a pedestal for maximum fear factor.
|Waterstones in Birmingham for the book launch. That's Olivia in the front in her pedestal chair|
April: A Kit Kat for sharing
I start to do school visits. My very first official one (apart from at my own school) is at Tower Hamlets library to 40 students from Mulberry School. The pupils are attentive and creative – I have to stop them spending their lunch money on my book. As I have a lot of teacher contacts at local secondary schools, I decide to offer initial free visits for friends in return for photographs, testimonials and publicity in the local press and school newsletters, as this will help me build my website.
|Author visits can be a little daunting at first|
Although I am an English teacher, author visits can still be a little daunting: new school, not getting lost on your way there, that niggling fear that your Powerpoint won’t load… As I only have two days a week to ‘be an author’ I need to balance things so that I leave lots of time to write. I prepare for school visits by road-testing my workshop on all of my classes! I also give assemblies at my own school to practise. Most teachers find assemblies a bit scary…even though it’s actually a lot easier than workshops – no behaviour-management issues and a captive (and hopefully rapt) audience.
May: Melt-y biscuits (on account of meltdown)
I submit the first manuscript of The Circus to my editor, Roisin Heycock, at Rock the Boat. It’s been through a fairly rigorous edit with Clare Wallace, my agent at Darley Anderson, so I feel less trepidation than I would otherwise. It’s a huge relief to press ‘send’. They say book two is like second-album syndrome – I definitely hit the wall a few times with this one. After the initial rush of getting a publishing deal, it’s down to work straight away. Serious work starts. It’s for real this time. People are counting on you to perform.
My agent is amazing – a real, critical friend. When I was stressed out over the wealth of things on my to-do list, on top of being Ofsted-ed at school and trying to arrange my launch, she calmly phoned my publishers and negotiated an extension for my deadline. Problem solved.
Off to sunny Brighton for my fellow Rock the Boat-er Nikki Sheehan’s launch for her fab Swan Boy.
June: Desert island cupcakes
I get to open the school library at John Masefield School in Ledbury. Amazing and enthusiastic librarian Jess Lockwood has organised a castaway spread, including great slabs of watermelon and beach cupcakes.
July: A star (bar) month
Whoop! Becky Kraemer, Oneworld’s US publicist, emails me to say that The Island has received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Which is good, apparently.
One of the pleasures and pitfalls of being an author is receiving reviews of your book. Word of warning: do not go looking for them. But the ones that brighten your day through Twitter are delightful.
August: A layered cake
Have been thinking about book tours and have a brainwave: what if I ask other debut authors to join forces? Message Kathryn Evans, whose YA sci-fi/fantasy More of Me was released the month before mine. Contact Sue Wallman and Eugene Lambert, also SCBWI authors. Kathy suggests Patrice Lawrence, and we all arrange to meet in London. At a table inside the National Theatre, Lost & Found is born.
|Lost & Found authors meet!|
September: An American Hershey bar
Our Lost & Found launch event at Birmingham Waterstones is great fun – huge support from our chair, Chelley Toy, Brum SCBWIs, and staff and students at Queensbridge School. [I was there and can confirm it was a fantastic launch. TF]
The Island is launched in the USA!
October: Dry digestive
Half term. Final escape to my caravan hideaway in West Wales before it closes for winter. Work on edits for The Circus and try to think of new book ideas.
November: SCBWI celebration cake for obvious reasons!
I fulfil one of the items on my bucket list by being an author at the Mass Book Launch at the Winchester SCBWI conference. First time I’ve attended the conference as an actual author.
December: Broken biscuits [I’m sensing an editing theme. TF]
Edits, edits, edits. Christmass-y stuff. Edits.
January: Cup of chamomile tea… and relax
Fed up with the intrusiveness of social media. Make the decision to turn all notifications firmly off. Bliss. Like all the white noise has gone. Might make like Will Self and use an old fashioned typewriter, as internet is a big distraction from writing. Although I have met some lovely people online, I have a love-hate relationship with social media, as it can make you feel insecure when everyone else seems to be either celebrating something amazing or being hugely productive. Much better to focus on yourself and not compare. Agent agrees that it’s fine to limit to once a week for a quick Twitter/FB/Instagram frenzy.
February: Candy floss and carnival popcorn
Invited to Oneworld offices in Bloomsbury to be filmed for my promotional #HulaHoopChallenge and to see the first proofs of my second book, The Circus. A fun afternoon with lots of Oneworld staff joining in. Always a bit emotional to hold your actual book in your hand. You can view me in action here.
School visit to Queensbridge School, Moseley. Strange and lovely experience of giving an assembly to year 10s – all of whom have read my book for their PSHEC lessons.
|A talk at Christopher Whitehead Language College|
Book my next launch – decide to have it at my own school this time and get students involved. Food tech teachers agree to let students plan, design, prepare and serve circus-themed food. Am currently on quest to find pupils with hidden circus skills. It will be on 4th May at The Chase School, Malvern - Authors and SCBWI members invited!
March: A self-explanatory Scottish shortbread
Final Lost & Found debut event at Glasgow. Have loved working with these peeps ☺
Can’t believe the year’s gone so quickly and soon we’ll all be seasoned second-timers…
One last thing - if you would like to win a signed copy of my new book, The Circus, do have a go at my #HulahoopChallenge!
Just post a video of yourself hula-hooping whilst explaining what circus act you’d most like to do – here’s mine!
Olivia Levez lives in Worcestershire, where she divides her time between teaching in a secondary school and writing. The Circus is Olivia’s second book novel, which will publish on May 4, 2017. She likes yoga, dogs and hula-hooping, and has wondered if she could turn all three into a circus act.
You can see Olivia hula-hooping as she answers questions about her book here.
She writes mainly in her caravan in West Wales and was inspired by the coast to create the desert island in her debut book, The Island.
By day, Tizzie Frankish is a mum to two boisterous boys and a part-time University Tutor; by night, an agented writer who is plagued by her characters. She writes better in her dreams than she does in the cold light of day (thank goodness for edits!) and she’s currently working on a number of Young Fiction stories. Her works are often humorous and more often than not include animals; even if she starts out thinking they won’t.