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 Rachel Burge, author of The Twisted Tree, to join her for Afternoon Tea.

After a whirlwind post-debut year, it’s a chance for Rachel to put her feet up and share her insights over a cuppa and some carefully chosen sweet treats that reflect the mood of the months following life after debut.

Debut diaries – one year on

Champagne cake

January – not one but two book launches!

I had two launch parties for The Twisted Tree, one in my local Waterstones in Brighton and another in Waterstones Trafalgar Square. It was lovely to have so many friends and family there, including work colleagues I hadn’t seen for ten or more years. The icing on the cake was getting to drink champagne with my mentor Lee Weatherly. She’s helped me so much (I’m convinced I wouldn’t have been published without her) so it was wonderful to celebrate the moment together.

Another January highlight was being chosen as the Sunday Times ‘Children’s Book of the Week’. It came at the right time as I had recently received my first one-star review from a book blogger. I’m not usually sensitive to criticism, but I admit that I took to my bed in tears. I appreciate that sounds ridiculous. All I can say is that finding an agent, going on submission, and being published is an emotional rollercoaster. I had been pushing myself incredibly hard (doing everything I could to get media coverage while at the same time dealing with a lifelong fear of public speaking), that I hadn’t realised I was running on empty.

Tip: It might be a rejection email, a competition near-miss or a harsh critique that pushes you to tears. If you find yourself reacting to something and think ‘This isn’t me’ then take a step back. Spend time with loved ones doing non-book-related things. Make a nice cake.

February – work starts on the sequel         

In February my publishers asked if I would like to write a sequel. I spent a month brainstorming ideas and completing several outlines before hitting upon an idea I was excited to write. It took eight months to complete and I’m now working on the first round of edits. Looking back, it was good to get my teeth stuck into something new. 

Tip: If you’re anxious waiting to hear back from agents or publishers my advice is to start a new project. Throw yourself into something substantial - think walnut and date cake.

Walnut and date cake

Tip: Invest time at the ideas stage. It took me a while to appreciate this, but getting the concept right is everything. Don’t get too attached to your first idea – put it to one side and ask yourself, ‘Can I do even better? What would make this even more original?’ Test your concept and plot (eg against the standard three-act structure) before you start writing.

Mini frosted cupcakes

May – surprising myself at school visits 

In May I did a couple of school visits, speaking to students about how I became an author and running writing workshops. I enjoyed them far more than I thought I would!

  Tip: Say yes to every opportunity in your debut year, you might surprise yourself.

Hot chocolate fudge cake

June & July – speaking at author events and meeting readers   

I was lucky enough to speak at a number of author events over the summer, including CYMERA and YALC.

I knew I would get the opportunity to sign books at YALC, but I was shocked to find that I had a queue. And I was even more surprised when people said they had read the book and loved it. I had many brief but fascinating conversations that day – about ghosts and paganism and inherited generational trauma. Without doubt, one of my favourite experiences of the year. We’re talking hot chocolate fudge cake. 

October – sharing a stage with THE Frances Hardinge       
Classic Victoria sponge

Another highlight of the year was being invited to the Cheltenham Book Festival and sharing a stage with one of my author heroes, Frances Hardinge. I was a little nervous about meeting her, but she was lovely – the perfect mix of eccentricity and warmth.

Later that month, I was also lucky enough to get to speak to students at Cardiff University, who studied The Twisted Tree as part of their Young Adult Fiction course. Speaking via Skype, I answered questions about my writing processes and experience of being published, all while drinking tea and eating biscuits! 

November & December – searching for a new story         

Mince pies

I spent the last two months of 2019 holed up in my office, eating mince pies to fuel my creativity. I completed several outlines for a brand new story, and then rejected them. Coming up with the right idea is the hardest stage for me – but hopefully it will be worth it!

Rachel Burge works as a freelance feature writer and has written for a variety of websites, including BBC Worldwide, Cosmo, and MTV. Her debut novel, The Twisted Tree, is a ghost story and Nordic thriller with a unique protagonist, Martha, who can tell things about a person just by touching their clothes.

Follow Rachel: 

Twitter: @RachelABurge
Instagram: rachelburgewriter

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.

Twitter: @tizzief
Tizzie's website:

Picture credits

cover illustration for The Twisted Tree by Rohan Daniel Eason
book-circle logo from SCBWI bookstop
plus logo from Pixabay
tea illustration by Coral Walker
champagne cake photo by Brandon Bales at
cupcakes photo at
chocolate cake photo at pxhere
sponge cake photo by Kelly Hunter at flickr
mince pie photo by Melbourne Mermaid on flickr
walnut cake photo on Wikimedia Commons by André Luís
All other photos provided by Rachel Burge

1 comment:

  1. I loved this. Sounds like you've had quite the year, Rachel! Looking forward to reading the sequel.


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.