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 welcomes Kate Wiseman, author of the Gangster School series, to join her for Afternoon Tea. 

After a whirlwind post-debut year, it’s a chance for Kate 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.

JANUARY Chocolate brownies 

for the excitement to come (yum yum); Garibaldi biscuits for the waiting. I hate waiting and I hate Garibaldi biscuits.

This is it! The year that my Gangster School stories become more than figments of my overworked imagination. The first one has just been published in Germany and in May it will be out in the UK, too. I will be the very first author published by ZunTold. What an honour! I can’t believe how smooth the process has been, especially as I didn’t have an agent at the time and was dealing with everything myself. I loved all the cover ideas they sent through but I think we’ve picked the right one.

Dutch cover of Gangster School
Great to be involved in that process! And the editing was really simple, too. Woohoo!
More good news – Uitgeverij Holland, the lovely Dutch publisher who contacted me for details of the books before Christmas, want to buy the first two! Eeek. And double eeek. I’ll be published in three countries this year!

Now comes the hard bit – waiting. I’m hopeless at waiting. I wonder if there are any crash courses in Waiting and Developing Patience. Maybe there’s a gap in the market? There’s only one thing to do to reduce the agony – write another book. I’ve got a fun synopsis for Gangster School 4 and after that, I’ll have another look at that YA about a girl fighting as a man in the First World War. I love that story. Just needs a bit more work, I think.
One way or another, it’s going to be an interesting year, especially with my fab new agent to look after me.

MAY Millionaire’s shortbread

I love it. When I saw books with my name on them, I felt like I’d won the lottery.

German cover of Gangster School
I’ve survived the wait and actually, it has been an exciting few months. I saw the German edition of Gangster School 2, published in March, and have even had a few letters and emails from readers. It seems that German and Austrian children do a presentation in class on a book they’ve enjoyed and some of them are going to talk about Gangster School. Blimey!

The main square in Bologna, Italy
Bologna was fun. Well worth going to meet my Dutch and German publishers – both fab. (Note to self: next time I go, book a hotel much earlier so that I’m not stuck out in a hamlet, miles from anywhere). I would definitely go again. Apart from the buzz of being among so many book folk, Bologna itself is glorious. I sat in the main square with some olives and a glass of cold white wine and felt terribly cosmopolitan and authorial. 

This month sees my very first launch party, at Hart’s Books in Saffron Walden. Max, the manager, is very friendly and supportive and he has lots of useful advice about caterers, wine, the best place to stand and make a speech, etc, etc. Good job he’s done this before because I’m SCARED and when I’m scared my brain seizes up. I’m not good at public speaking, although I don’t know how I know that because I’ve never done any. I’ve written some notes on coloured cards. I hope they will see me through.

Have I got everything we need for the launch? Cakes? Check. Wine? Check? Stripey dress to reflect the Gangster School uniform? Check. Guests? I can only hope. If all else fails I’ll drag some in front on the street. They won’t mind. Much.

After: What a buzz. From the first trickle of people through the door, to the first sale, to chatting to kids who came along, it was great fun. Elaine, my publisher at ZunTold, was wonderful. Very complimentary. I wasn’t sure it was me she was speaking about. My speech went down well, too, although I think the funniest bit of it was trying to manage the coloured cards. People thought it was a joke I’d thought out before! We live and learn. I’ll never be quite so scared again when I’ve got a speech to make.

JUNE Carrot cake

It looks a bit dodgy but when you bite into it, it’s lovely.

What was I saying about never again being so scared at the thought of making a speech? What was I thinking? I’ve got to do it all over again. In London, this time, at Wilton’s Music Hall. I love that place and I’m so glad that I discovered it while I was researching music hall for my World War I novel. It’s really special. If that novel ever gets published, I’ll do the launch at Wilton’s. It seems only right.

Phew. Survived again. Loved it again. How amazing that Emmy from my Dutch publisher came over for it. And Ben, my agent. Loved his speech. And Tamsyn Murray, who mentored me and my best friends. A fab evening in an amazing place.

Days later: I now know that the fear of making a speech at a book launch pales into insignificance beside the fear of your very first school visit. What if I can’t get the PowerPoint to work? What if the kids hate me? Talk over me? Throw bricks and bottles at me? Eight-year-olds can be vicious when their blood’s up.

I knew all along that it would be fine. OK, the PowerPoint nightmare came true, but that eight-year-old boy sorted it out for me. He must be some kind of techno-prodigy. The kids seemed to enjoy it and so did I, after a couple of minutes. And signing books! Books that I’ve written! I think that must be the ultimate buzz.

One school down, several to go, but each one will get easier and I’ll get more professional. Got to develop some good workshops, now. Hmmm. One about villains, I think. And one about writing a prospectus for Blaggard’s*… I’ll be needing them for that two-day visit to Caerau Primary School in Wales. Don’t want to disappoint them, especially as my old school chum, Julie, teaches there. 

OCTOBER Macaroons

because there’s tons of different colours, flavours and they’re all scrummy but they’re not very big and they leave you wanting more.

The year is reaching its end and I’m feeling reflective. It’s been a great year in many ways. Gangster School 1 has just been published in Holland, and number 2 will be out in time for Christmas. Number 2 came out in the UK last month. I LOVE the cover! and it was such fun to write. I did that radio interview too, for Fun Kid’s Radio. That was a blast! Still haven’t had the courage to listen to it, though. Maybe next year… or maybe not.

Other good things: the artwork for the German edition of Gangster School 3 is wonderful! Love the orange! And Gruffles in his Blaggard’s top. And it looks as if ZunTold will be publishing Crossing No Man’s Land – my World War I novel. I’m delighted about that. It was a real labour of love. Maybe that was why it was so hard to write. That and the fact that I was being serious, for once. Oh, and it was fun going to Amsterdam to be interviewed for [Editor: A Dutch readers' website]. I wonder if all interviewers are as nice as Evy? I suspect not.

OK, so lots of good stuff has happened. What about the not-so-good? There’s not much, to be honest. I’d like to know what’s happening with the new series I’ve been working on – the one based around three cursed kids and a world of mad, mixed-up movies. I’ve been told to be prepared for a long wait. WAITING! AGAIN! It doesn’t get any easier. I don’t think it ever will. I really hope it gets taken up. I have some really wacky ideas for the next one.
What else? Well, a bit more financial reward would be good. I’m not expecting to be another J K Rowling, but ….

So, what have I learned this year? That publishing involves a lot of waiting. Shedloads. And that there’s nothing I can do to speed things up. That I’m really, really lucky and I should never forget that. And, following on from that, I’ve learned to say yes to things that sound scary – school visits, literary festivals, radio interviews. It’s the least I can do for my publishers.

Anyway, the year isn’t over yet. Who knows what the next two months will bring?

*Editor: "Blaggard’s School for Tomorrow’s Tyrants is the world’s oldest and best-respected school for future criminals."

This week Kate learned that Gangster School will be published in Turkey.


After sampling various other jobs, including university library assistant, promotions organiser and mopper-up of sick in a nursery, Kate Wiseman finally went to Chichester University, gaining a First in English and Creative Writing. A Masters in English Literature followed swiftly and it was only then that she felt ready to confront her dream of writing for children.

Kate lives in Saffron Walden with her husband, son and neurotic cats. She is a vegetarian and animal lover whose hobbies include mudlarking, theatre and fainting on famous film directors.
Follow Kate on Twitter at @KateWiseman

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


Picture credits: 

Book covers by Isla Bousfield-Donahoe, a young artist from Manchester.

Follow Isla on Twitter at @squgcreative

Photo of Kate Wiseman with schoolchildren in Caerau Primary School: Phil Davies, Scenic Gallery

Photo of Kate above author biography: Lucy Michaela.

All other photos from the author.

Translator of the German version: Michaela Link.

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