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 Elaine Wickson, author of Planet Stan and Action Stan, to join her for afternoon tea.

After a whirlwind post-debut year, it’s a chance for Elaine 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 – Lemon Meringue Pie (sweet, zingy and snow-covered)

The month before Planet Stan launched was a whirlwind. It included a tour of schools in World Book Week (in heavy snowfall!), a local radio interview and the Oxford Literary Festival.

I’m a very happy introvert, so standing in front of 400 children was a terrifying prospect. The SCBWI Boot Camp helped me immensely in preparing for school visits, and I soon realised I had to play to my strengths. I’ve always loved reading to my children, so I magnified this with props, dressing up and lots of audience participation. Meeting a long line of children waiting to get a book signed after is A JOY!

The literary festival was scary, but completely rewarding – people actually showed up and enjoyed themselves! It was also a great excuse to dress my husband up as a T-Rex.

Tip: Practice your ‘author signature’ and buy plenty of sharpies!

April – Yummy biscuit with pie-chart icing on the top

I’ve been writing stories since I was a small-year-old, so seeing a display of my books in Blackwell’s window was up there on the list of Dreams Come True.

My book launch was a huge highlight of my debut year, and feels a bit dreamy when I look back now. It’s pretty much everything you’ll imagine it will be and everyone was so lovely and supportive, especially my agent, Julia Churchill, and my editor, Kathy Webb, who gave such a lovely speech.

I also have to say a huge thanks to my husband and sister who set up a biscuit-making factory in our kitchen while I was doing a book event on the day!

Tip: Don’t worry about people not turning up – just offer free cake and loads of iced biscuits, and they will come.

September – Chocolate Fudge Cake

Writing book two under a deadline, while promoting book one, made me realise I needed to get hold of Hermione’s time-turner. Everything they say about writing The Second Book is true, especially when you’re short on time.

Seeing the Action Stan layouts was such a sweet moment – I had done it! It’s also one of my favourite bits of the whole publishing journey – seeing my manuscript turned into a book, thanks to Chris Judge’s illustrations and Holly Fulbrook’s design. Working with editors is such a privilege too, it inevitably makes you a stronger writer, and your stories soar to new places.

Stuff that also helps write books – lovely reviews, a nice tweet, letters from readers full of pie charts. I’m truly grateful to anyone who has championed, reviewed, read, and enjoyed Planet Stan. It really does make a difference on those days when I’m ‘this close’ to giving up. I try to champion and support authors and illustrators I love, as I know from experience it can lift someone’s day. Getting to meet authors and illustrators in real life and on social media has been such a highlight of what can be a lonely old job.

The Downs – bittersweet gooseberry pie washed down with a big cup of tea

Snobbery towards funny books; not always being stocked in bookshops; all the loud fabulous amazing things that happen to other people. All this stuff will try to stop you from writing and shout in your ear you’re not good enough. But I know another day will come around when I’ll feel much better about it all.

This is why I LOVE funny-book champions. Funny books have bright jolly covers because they are speaking directly to children – they are saying: you’re safe with me, I’ll look after you and make you laugh. Whenever anyone says that funny books don’t count, they are wrong. They do. The book shape is a BIG clue.

Elaine's Plotting Shed
During my debut year I’ve had some wonderful times, and have felt so lucky. But while all of this was going on, my lovely step-dad fought a tremendous battle with cancer. Sadly he passed away at the end of March this year. Not having him at my book launch after all his support meant I blubbed through most of my speech. I have so much to thank him for – he helped source my second-hand laptop on which I wrote my first book, and he built my plotting shed at the bottom of the garden where I write my stories now. My second book is dedicated to him and my mum, for always believing in me, even when the rejections kept rolling in. I’m going to miss him so much. I couldn’t have done any of this without my family.

Elaine Wickson’s school reports said she was a bit of a daydreamer, but that’s because she was too busy thinking up stories. Nowadays she likes to think of herself as a professional daydreamer, and is often found in her Plotting Shed at the bottom of the garden, where all her ideas germinate.

Published by Oxford University PressPlanet Stan is the first in a series about Stanley Fox, who charts all the ups and downs of his life through hilarious infographics. Action Stan will be released in May 2019.

Twitter: @elainewickson

Instagram: @loowix

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:

Planet Stan cover by Chris Judge
Afternoon tea illustration by Coral Walker
Lemon meringue pie by Jules, Flickr
School tour, Oxford Literary Festival, by Hannah Penny
Blackwell's window, book launch, book signing, by Karen Watterson
Pie chart biscuits, by Elaine Wickson
Chocolate fudge cake, by James Petts, Flickr
Gooseberry pie, by Vegan Feast Catering, Flickr

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