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 Vanessa Harbour, author of Flight, to join her for Afternoon Tea. 

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

Vanessa: It has been an amazing year and one full of joy.


It seems appropriate to start the Debut Diary with cake. This is a picture of the cake from my book launch created for me by my daughter’s friend Beth. I mentioned the launch in my Debut Dance article last year, but it is a day that is still being spoken about by many. It was such a brilliant day. So many people and so much laughter. A day I will never forget. It certainly started my year with a bang.


A flurry of reviews and blog posts came flying in after the official publication date. I kept having to pinch myself. This was my book they were talking about. I spent the summer busy developing teaching resources and building my website while maintaining a presence on social media.

This month it really hit home how being a published author is so much more than writing a book. You must create a balance though as it too easy for social media to suck up your life. During August I could create plenty of time because I wasn’t lecturing at the university. However, as soon as that started up again, I found I could not maintain the same amount of engagement, so I needed to work out a plan.

These days I go on Twitter early in the morning and early in the evening. It was important for me to maintain a social media presence because I was creating a new audience or rather adding to my audience. On Twitter I was engaging with teachers and librarians. I started this before Flight was published but it grew and grew afterwards. They are lovely people and so supportive.

There is a caveat to social media. It is wonderful when you are feeling good and everything is going well. BUT, if you are having a low day, it can have a negative impact. Everyone will appear to be doing lots of things that you THINK you should be doing. Getting new books out, going to events, going to schools, being nominated for awards. You name it, it will appear to haunt you. This is when you must listen to the brilliant Matt Haig (Notes on a Nervous Planet) when he says:

Do not compare yourself to other people.
Do not compare yourself to other people.
Do not compare yourself to other people.
Do not compare yourself to other people.

You get the message.  

#Author tip: You are doing brilliantly and don’t forget it.


Opportunities. I have put this in November, but it actually covers the whole year. Thanks to Flight being published I have had some great opportunities arise. I got to go to the Bookseller’s Children’s Book Conference as an influencer, which was amazing and so informative. The Booktrust invited me to write a blog post for them on my favourite war books, which came out in November 2018. Plus, I was invited to speak at the Fly Festival— this was a glorious experience where I got to meet old friends and make new ones, as well as have a chance to talk to a lecture hall full of teenagers.

Vanessa at the Fly Festival

Awards and changes in direction. The new year brought about all sorts of adventures. Flight was longlisted for the Branford Boase award, which I was thrilled about because it acknowledged my brilliant editor at Firefly, Janet Thomas, too. It was also shortlisted for the Sheffield Children’s Book Award, another great award as this time it is voted for by the children. This is not announced until November, so we don’t know the result yet.

#Author tip – be adaptable

It was about this time that in discussion with my publishers I realised I needed to stop writing the story I was writing and come up with some ideas for new ones. This is why it is important to have an ideas book and to keep noting down any ideas that burst into your mind at those inopportune moments, as you never know when you might need them.


Sorry big jump because the world got complicated. Things in my other job got in the way as life does and I had to do some serious thinking. Consequently, as from this month I have reduced my hours at the university so I can focus on my writing. During the summer I have completed the first draft of a new novel, one that at the beginning of the year I had no idea I was going to write. I have loved writing it.

I’ve had some amazing school visits both in person and via Skype. Not as many as I would like, but due to my disability, I have to create a balance and do what I can, particularly when I am working. As Andy Shepherd has said, it is all about finding what works for you. I love school visits. The pupils are wonderful, so enthusiastic and engaged. I have also been sent some incredible videos of children who have dramatised my work.

My year ended on a high when the school I am a #BookBuddy for sent me a piece of artwork that a pupil had done, inspired by Flight. It was stunning. I am very definitely living the dream. I wonder what next year will bring….


Vanessa Harbour is a disabled writer and academic who loves words and believes in living life to the full regardless of what life throws at her. In particular, she likes to weave her words into stories for children and young adults, providing moments of hope in a difficult world. When she was growing up she wanted to be either a doctor or writer. Now she is a Doctor of Creative Writing so has the best of both worlds. She is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Winchester. She is also Academic and Diversity Consultant/Editor at the Golden Egg Academy. Flight is her first novel, her tribute to her parents, who both served during WWII. 

Follow her on Twitter: @VanessaHarbour


By day, Tizzie Frankish is a mum to two boisterous boys and a part-time university tutor; by night, she's 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.


1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading about your first year as a published author Vanessa. And some good tips to keep in mind for all writers.


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