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 Cath Howe, author of Ella on the Outside and Not My Fault, to join her for afternoon tea. 

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

Cath Howe: I’m a creative arts teacher working as Writer-in-Residence in two primary schools each week. I’ve written some highlight months and then some general thoughts, along with lows and tips to consider.

May: Carrot cake with cream cheese icing – nectar!

Cath Howe at the book launch for Ella on the Outside
The Book Launch

This was a very special time. I held it in a wonderful bookshop, the Alligator’s Mouth in Richmond, who have remained friends, and are really supportive of my books. Looking out at that sea of familiar faces, their excitement and mine at seeing the physical book and the warm words from my editor, Tom Bonnick, and my agent, Anne Clark – brilliant!

July: Flapjack – so much to get my teeth into

I went back to one of the schools I regularly work in, Fern Hill in Kingston, to tell them about Ella on the Outside. This was a real highlight for me because I know so many children and so many had thoughts and questions or had been reading the book and brought copies to sign.

Author Cath Howe, reading at Fern Hill school
In September, my drama book, Let’s Perform! was published by Bloomsbury. I’ve been creating these scripts for ten to twelve years, so it is particularly special to use them in school alongside my novels. 

November: Apricot frangipane slice – astonishing and memorable

Ella on the Outside won the North Somerset Teachers Book Award, in the category Moving On. I remember being completely speechless. I had nothing prepared to say. It was amazing meeting enthusiastic teachers and librarians who were already using my book in school.

I didn’t dream that much about life after publication. I saw being published as something that might or might not work out and tried not to imagine too far ahead.

Through the year it’s been really exciting to know my book is being published in other countries. Six so far. I find myself wondering about this new readership and feeling that books have a ripple effect; you never know who might be connecting with the characters. One year on, it’s amazing to see both books as Amazon bestsellers and selling well in Waterstones.

Lows: Oatcakes (chewing slowly….)

Self-doubt! The first year is mysterious; there’s no road map. I felt I wasn’t doing enough on social media or with events. 

I wondered if I should be winning more awards. It’s really important to keep hold of what started you writing in the first place – in my case, creating drama scripts and poems for children to perform. Hold onto the positive experiences. When Ella on the Outside was nominated for the Carnegie I was thrilled, but it’s really unhealthy to keep measuring yourself against others. And it could take the joy out of the writing. 

Victoria sponge cake with cream and strawberry jam – eat it nicely (too much and you feel queasy)

I had to learn to switch the balance from teacher to author at some events. As a teacher, I worry more about what the children are learning; as an author I’m more of a Persona. This took some getting used to. 

New flavours – date slice (easy when you know how!)

Tips to consider before publication

Identify your own USP: what do you care most about? For me it’s about: work in schools, themes of friendship and emotional wellbeing, and children finding their confidence.

Pin up the good bits: letters, anything a child gives you – and always respond quickly.

Trust your readers to ask questions. Leave space for this on visits to schools. Their questions tell you a lot about what they care about.

Thank people! You meet some amazing, dedicated and kind people in all parts of this industry. 

Experiment with tea loaf. Love this stuff. It’s sustaining. Keeps for days. And you can carry it with you!

My second book with Nosy Crow, Not My Fault, was published in May. I’m working on a third, stand-alone novel, also middle-grade for Nosy Crow, and they have commissioned a fourth. I continue to work in schools, running festivals and writing workshops.

Ella on the Outside was published by Nosy Crow in 2018 and Not My Fault in May 2019.

'A perfectly-pitched, thoughtful story with a big heart.' 
Katherine Woodfine


Cath Howe is an author and teacher working in South West London writing for, and working with, Key Stage 2 primary age children. Cath runs workshops in schools on everything to do with writing and performing, teaches able writers, coaches children for auditions, develops plays and scripts for festivals; everything about being inspired and creative.

Her first educational books were published in 2012 by Pearson in their Bug Club, “The Curse of the Highwayman” and “The Highwayman’s Revenge”, followed by two sets of plays for reading aloud. She has won prizes for stories, poems and monologues and even written a musical.

Cath has written an article on empathy for the Times Educational Supplement

Cath Howe on Twitter: @cath_howe

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. 

Picture credits 
Ella on the Outside by Nicola Theobold at Nosy Crow
Not My Fault designed at Nosy Crow with Shutterstock image. 

Lettering for both books by Joel Holland
Afternoon tea illustration by Coral Walker
Author photo taken by Julia Kathro at Nosy Crow
Other photos from author

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