Welcome to Debut Diaries—One Year On, where you can share your highs (hopefully lots of these) and lows (hopefully fewer of these) of life after debut. This month, Tizzie welcomes Lorraine Gregory, author of Mold and the Poison Plot, to join her for afternoon tea.

 After a whirlwind post-debut year, it’s a chance for Lorraine 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 after debut.  Has the reality lived up to the dreams? What does Lorraine wish she'd’d known before the first thrills of her book birthday became a distant memory? And are launch parties and school visits really that terrifying?

May 2017 LAUNCH PARTY:  Cupcakes!

By the time the big day arrived, I was riding high on a wave of expectation and excitement. It had been many years since I’d started writing and two whole years since I signed my book deal. The waiting had felt endless!

But here I was, at last! The launch party was happening. I had arranged to hold it at the very lovely Daunt's bookshop in Cheapside, sent out the invites, organised props, and many lovely friends had made cakes and yummy things for my guests.

I was ridiculously excited and terrified at the same time. What if no one came? What if it was all a total disaster? What if this had all been a weird dream?

Lorraine with Clare Whitston of Oxford University Pres
I’m pleased to say, however, that it was, and will remain, one of my best memories.
Being surrounded by my friends and family (yes, they did turn up, hoorah!), seeing the bookshop window full of copies of my book, and hearing the kind and complimentary words of my editor Clare Whitston from OUP during her speech was really all quite overwhelming.

Mold and the Poison Plot at Daunt's Books, Cheapside, London, at the launch
I signed books (we sold out!) and chatted to everyone and was inundated with cards and presents and good wishes and generally spent the whole time floating around on a tide of happiness.

Lorraine Gregory with her editor, Clare Whitston (left) and her agent, Kate Shaw (right) at the launch
I would definitely recommend organising a launch if you have a book coming out. It’s wonderful to commemorate the occasion with happy memories. Let’s face it, getting to this point at all deserves a celebration!

July 2017: Chocolate for stress eating!

Lorraine's first school visit

The roller coaster of publishing continued into the summer. Some absolutely amazing things happened for me; Mold got fantastic print reviews in the Guardian, the New Statesman, AND The Bookseller. If you know anything about how few print reviews there are for children’s books, you’ll know how lucky I was.

A review in the Guardian!
I ran some great events at schools and festivals and bookshops, which were huge fun. (Shout-out to Waterstones Norwich and Chicken and Frog, Brentwood, who decorated their windows for me with a brilliant hand-designed poster and various matching artefacts).

Waterstones Norwich featured Lorraine's book in its window
These were all dreams come true for a new author. I am truly and honestly grateful to be published and to have had so much love thrown at my book.

But it would be wrong to pretend that I spent the entire year floating along on that sea of happiness. The roller coaster analogy is actually very fitting because at times I felt terrible. Many days I felt like a failure and wondered why I was doing this at all.

This wasn’t how I imagined my newly published life to be, of course. Some of that is probably due to the huge disparity between expectations and reality. The myth that exists of published life is only exacerbated by social media, bombarding you with tales of other people’s SUCCESSES with no mention of the FAILURES to balance things out. Spending time on Twitter and Facebook can be huge fun around launch time, lots of people talking about your book, reviews, photo’s, well wishes…But be warned, all that time on social media means you’re surrounded by the constant roar of other people’s success, so don’t be surprised if the dreaded comparison monster strikes.

Another thing that no one mentions is that once you are published, it feels like you’re doing a totally different job from the one you actually signed up for. It involves things like accounting and writing endless emails, which people may or may not reply to.

Trying to fit in the writing that you love around creating and organising events, writing blog posts, filing invoices, filling in spreadsheets, doing your accounts, plus keeping some sort of presence on social media can feel like juggling a dozen eggs while walking on a bed of coals.

And you don’t remember getting any training for this—talking to 200 kids in assembly or being on stage at a festival or making your own website or producing resources for teachers—but you suddenly find yourself doing them nonetheless.

If you work already or have a family, hobbies, social life—these all have to be crammed into an even smaller space, as you try to do all these new tasks while simultaneously writing a new masterpiece.

It can cause a certain amount of stress and worry, and that can eat into the joy of being published. You do get used to it.…eventually! Things calm down and you find it’s just a matter of balance, and realising that you don’t have to do every single thing you’re asked to.

1. It’s unlikely that turning down a blog post request or saying no to an event for the 'exposure' will make any real impact on your career, but wearing yourself out trying to do everything quite possibly will.
2. If you hate social media then don’t do it! You’ll do more harm than good, as people can easily tell the difference between those who are enjoying it and those who’ve been told to go on Twitter by their publisher to promote their book.
3. If events bring you out in a rash then don’t do them, or start off small and practise until you feel more comfortable.
4. Find the happy place that suits you and try not to compare yourself to other authors who may have a very different happy place.
5. And remember the writing. It’s why you’re here. A career is much more that having one book published, so you have to invest in that if nothing else. Find your true joy in the art of writing and try very hard to ignore everything else.

October 2017: Piles of sweets for sharing with friends

One of the loveliest things about having writer friends is being able to do events with them. In October I went up to Cambridge to run a library event with one of my best friends, the lovely curly-haired James Nicol (author of the wonderful The Apprentice Witch and A Witch Alone).

I ran my Super Stinky Pongorific Gameshow event. I designed it around the world of scent because the character in my book Mold and the Poison Plot has a huge nose which gives him a tremendous sense of smell.

It was great fun, full of lovely people and enthusiastic children. I met an actual real-life fan of Mold who had already read my book and loved it. It was so amazing listening to a little girl rave about my book, discussing characters and themes with me, and see how my words and my world affected her.

A book that a child reads will have a much bigger impact on them than on an adult. It will become part of their childhood, and their memories of it can last a lifetime. This was one of the reasons I wanted to write for this age range, and I do feel it is a privilege to be even a small part of a child’s world.

Meeting children who love your book is truly the best part of the job as a children's author. Whenever I need a boost, I look through some of the letters I have from fans and remember their excitement and love.

Overall, I'd say that it’s a very steep learning curve going from unpublished to published writer. Much of it is so wonderful, but be prepared for finding the road a bit rocky from time to time. As always it is immensely helpful if you have writer friends to talk to, who will reassure you, lift you up, make you smile, and when necessary let you rant and swear when it gets too much. I’m very grateful to mine and promise to stop swearing and ranting at some point in the future. Probably.

Lorraine is the daughter of an Austrian mother and an Indian father and was raised on an East London Council Estate.
She’s loved reading ever since she first learned how. Some of her favourite children's authors are Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, Frances Hardinge, Beverly Cleary [Editor's note: BV is 101 this year!], and Astrid Lindgren.

Lorraine has had various jobs over the years, including school dinner lady, chef, and restaurant manager, but secretly always wanted to be a writer. It was only when she started making up stories to entertain her son that she finally decided to stop being scared, follow her dream and try to get published.


Twitter @authorontheedge

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.

Twitter: @tizzief


cupcakes from MaxPixel

chocolate by on Flickr
—Jessica's Sweet Shop in Worcester, photo by Lewis Clarke
Other photos from author.

No comments:

We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.