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 Vashti Hardy, author of Brightstorm and the soon-to-be-published Wildspark, to join her for Afternoon Tea.
After a whirlwind post-debut year, it’s a chance for Vashti 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/April 2018  Party Rings 

is untethered and the sky-ship heads into the Wide. If ever there was a month to bring out the party rings, it’s this. Best of all is that I get to celebrate a joint launch with my good writing friend James Nicol, whose book A Witch Alone just happens to be out on the same day. Our covers match beautifully, and it feels like a book wedding. My awesome editor, Linas Alsenas, does a wonderful speech that makes me think ‘Did I really write that?’ I feel incredibly lucky to work with such a talented team in Scholastic and my agent Kate Shaw. The rest of the month disappears in a whirlwind of school events, which I love doing.

Vashti Hardy and James Nicol at their joint book launch
To top off a month of magic, Brightstorm is selected by the independent booksellers as the Independent Booksellers Children’s Book of the Season! The party rings roll into April as Brightstorm is chosen as Primary Book Club read on Twitter (squeee!), and I take myself on a ‘How many wonderful Indie Booksellers can you visit in a day in London’ tour as part of Book of the Season. I also get to do my first book festival with the fabulous team at Chipping Norton, which I love. My step-count goes through the roof which I pat myself on the back for, because usually it’s pretty embarrassing, to be honest. 

It's exciting!

Enthusiasm sells Brightstorm!
Vashti and Brightstorm

May–June 2018       Flapjacks

These months involve lots more school events while storming ahead full speed with my new story Wildspark (which becomes publicly known as Secret Book to everyone else as I’m not allowed to talk about it yet... I still work full time in my marketing job, so need to use most of my annual leave for events. I discover to my joy that lots of teachers are using the book creatively in the classroom which is lovely. I’m working seven days a week and evenings but loving it too (luckily my family are very supportive). Flapjacks are all about the energy, right?

Vashti at schools 

July–August–September 2018    Viennese whirls

In July I get to visit lovely Waterstones Durham with my author pal James Nicol and chat to the book group and sign copies of Brightstorm. Bookseller Fiona Sharp is amazing and one of the most enthusiastic booksellers on the planet—worth a journey from the other end of the country!
Models of the Brightstorm

Adventurous children wanted!

I can’t remember much else about these months—it was a complete Viennese whirl of writing, re-drafting, exchanging work in a fast fashion with my editor Linas. Usually, my drafts would at least go to my agent first, or to Jen, James and Lorraine, my trusted author beta readers, but there is simply no time for that. Linas gets my naked drafts with lots of annotations of ‘This is going to happen here’ and ‘This is what sort of happens there’. He sends me back his notes swiftly and it’s a glorious game of editing ping-pong. We both keep pushing to make the story and world of Wildspark the very best it can be whilst hitting the deadline. Note to self: I am incredibly lucky to work with this enormously talented editor! I also manage to go down to four days in my marketing job, as even I know that I can’t carry on at that pace forever… It’s still not ideal but an improvement.

October–November–December 2018        Chocolate hobnobs

More fast and furious editing, back to school visits where I get to see lots more fabulous creative work. One school has even made enormous sky-ships in their playground—break open the chocolate hobnobs!

Award nominations start coming in. I’m super shocked and honoured to be on the Books Are My Bag Reader’s Choice Award shortlist and Blue Peter longlist

Good company

Vashti gives writing hints

January–March 2019       Yummy moth-shaped biscuits 

Vashti Hardy and the Brightstorm 
Brightstorm moth cookies

Kenilworth Books Brightstorm window display
Wildspark has a few last edits, then goes to copyedits and proofs get printed (yay!). Before my feet have time to touch the ground, I’m pitching Brightstorm 2 and other stories—a very exciting place to be. A highlight is visiting Kenilworth Books for an event, where the super talented Tamsin Rosewell created a spectacular Brightstorm window with a huge gold sky-ship AND baked Brightstorm-themed moth-shaped biscuits! I also do an event for other writers with Golden Egg Academy. This is great fun and feels like going full circle, as they were such a big part of my road to getting agented. 
Vashti and her fellow authors
The Waterstones Children’s Book Prize shortlist is announced, and I am overjoyed and honoured that the booksellers have got behind the book and have chosen Brightstorm to be on the shortlist. Brightstorm wins the Weald Book Awards and I receive a lovely trophy. The year concludes very satisfyingly with the Waterstones party, where I’m reminded what a totally superb crew I work with in Scholastic and my agent, and how thoroughly marvellous the crew of writers working within children’s books truly is. I feel so lucky that the story has been embraced by readers, educators, librarians and booksellers, and has sold to lots of territories around the globe. Most of all, the highlight of the year is meeting the children who have read the book and have imagination filling their hearts and a sparkle in their eye for adventure. That’s what it’s all about, right? Here’s to more of the same for the next year (fingers crossed). Maybe I can ‘lose’ another day at the day job along the way…

Vashti at the Waterstones party

Vashti Hardy is a writer of children's books living near Brighton in Sussex with her husband and three teens. She was a primary school teacher for several years, and has a special interest in children’s writing, especially free-writing and the use of journals and creating fantasy worlds. She has a first-class honours teaching degree with English specialism and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Chichester. After leaving teaching to focus more on her writing, she became a copywriter and digital marketing executive. Vashti is an alumni member and writing buddy of the Golden Egg Academy and is represented by Kate Shaw of the Viney Shaw Agency. Her books Brightstorm and Wildspark are published in the UK by Scholastic.

Vashti's website:
Follow Vashti on Twitter! @vashti_hardy

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 
Covers of Brightstorm and Wildspark by illustrator George Ermos

Party rings: photo by Matt Buck, Wikimedia Commons
Flapjacks: photo by Alistair Young, Wikimedia Commons
Viennese whirls:

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