DEBUT DIARIES Elizabeth Ezra

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 Elizabeth Ezra, author of Ruby McCracken: Tragic Without Magic, to join her for afternoon tea.

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


October            Hazelnut Gelato

Ruby McCracken: Tragic Without Magic launched on Halloween in Edinburgh last year. The whole thing became nerve-rackingly real when I saw my name displayed in the window of the Princes Street Waterstones, in some pretty good company:

The publisher did most of the planning for the event, but I still wondered whether anyone would actually show up. Well, people did show up. In fact, the launch was completely ‘sold out’, if such a thing can be said about a free event! I had spent too much time the previous day shopping for a witch’s hat, as you do (I think it’s called, um, displacement activity), but I didn’t even end up wearing it.

November            Flan (disgusting!)

I did a couple of school visits around that time, in October and November. Fortunately, I have a lot of experience speaking in public, and the Scottish Book Trust provides plenty of training to authors new to going into schools, so the first school visit went well. The second visit, however, was another story. Because of an unexpected staff shortage, the thing they tell you should never, ever happen actually happened: there was no staff member present in the venue where I appeared. Several boys in the audience had brought whoopee cushions, which they used repeatedly during my reading, two children engaged in a wrestling match right in front of me, and one child was literally rolling in the aisle to make the others laugh. I had a decision to make: did I a) stop the reading and get cross with the children, or b) carry on as though nothing was happening? I ended up rejecting both those alternatives and instead chose c) to make my reading increasingly histrionic and exaggerated, in order to command the children’s attention. Fortunately, this tactic worked, and the children settled down and responded enthusiastically to the reading. I feel really pleased that what had begun as a difficult situation ended up being such a positive experience.

December            Carrot Cake with Pecans and Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

In December, to my great surprise, Ruby McCracken was chosen by the Herald (Scotland) as one of ‘Nine Best Books for Children and Teenagers this Christmas’. It was reassuring that the book was recognised as an anytime-of-year book—witches are not just for Halloween!

Spring            Dark chocolate Torte

After the trial by fire of my early school visit, all the other school visits and festival appearances have gone very smoothly. It took some time to figure out which activities worked better than others, but that has been an interesting part of the process. (Top tip: plan lots of short, modular activities, one or two of which you can swap out if you’re short of time.) I have had absolutely brilliant experiences doing readings and running creative writing workshops for children at various festivals and schools.

This first year after the publication of Ruby McCracken has been both a pleasure and a challenge, for which I was well prepared by the excellent training provided to children’s authors in Scotland. After spending so much time alone with your work in progress, you forget that, with any luck, it will turn into a book that will be read by actual children. When returning to one school, a few days after doing a visit, to retrieve a USB stick I’d left behind, I was presented with a huge homemade card signed by the children and decorated to look like the cover of my book, complete with the pupils’ rendition of my own signature. Here was my book, reflected back to me, through the eyes of children. Suddenly, writing didn’t seem like such a solitary activity.


Elizabeth Ezra writes books for 8-12-year-olds and is the author of Ruby McCracken: Tragic Without Magic, which won the 2016 Kelpies Prize. She is also a professor at Stirling University who teaches and researches cinema and children's literature. Originally from California, she lives in Edinburgh with her family.

Twitter: ElizabethREzra
Author Tizzie Frankish
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.

Website: Tizzie Frankish
Twitter: @tizzief

Picture credits
Header picture: Coral Walker
Article photos: Elizabeth Ezra
Book cover: 
Aimee Ferrier

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for honestly sharing your experience in schools. Well done to Scotland for the support they give as well. What a great year!


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.