Welcome to this virtual landscape where SCBWI-BI members share their debut journeys with us. This month Helen Victoria steps out with author Jenny Pearson, whose debut middle grade book The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates was out in April.

Let’s begin our journey...

There’s nothing like a good walk to fuel creative ideas and give us inspiration in our writing. Where are you taking us on our walk today?

I am taking you on my walk to work along the River Wear to St Margaret’s Primary School in Durham. I do this walk daily and I will never get tired of it. All my books are based in the UK. I suppose they feel very British. The setting for Freddie Yates was important in that each event and location in Freddie’s journey leads on to the next. Freddie and his friends, Ben and Charlie, journey from Andover (where I did my first teaching placement) to St David’s , ‘the most westernest part of Wales’. I was inspired to set the book in Wales after a family camping holiday. I fell in love with the beautiful green countryside, and the church where the boys accidentally create a ‘miracle’ is based on one I saw several times when I got lost on a countryside run. The book ends in St David’s, just like our holiday did – after gale force winds blew our tent away and scattered the left-over mushroom risotto from the night before all over our belongings. As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand steps starts with one.

Tell us about your inspiration for your novel.

During his journey, fact-loving Freddie experiences a ‘miracle’ and it leads him to question whether miracles really can happen. The idea for this came after teaching a lesson to a Year 5 class where the discussion, as it always does, went to some unexpected places. The children had very different ideas as to what could be considered a miracle – from a relation overcoming an illness, to seeing the image of Jesus in an apple, to zips (‘No one really knows how they work, Miss’). That lesson gave me a kernel of an idea – I wanted to write about things which looked like miracles but weren’t. But then still could be – if that’s what you chose to believe. Early on in the book, Freddie’s grandmother dies. My stepdad (my boys’ grandfather) had died not long before I started writing the book, and looking back, some of that experience found its way onto the page. I’ve seen far too many kids dealing with bereavement, and I guess I wanted to think about the big ‘what happens after’ question. That you can still love people even if they are not there.

Now we have got into our stride, can you tell us what you loved most about writing this book?

What I loved most about writing this book was that after slaving over a previous book for a year, Freddie Yates came out quickly and easily. I had the idea whirling about in my brain for a while and when I finally sat down to write I had such a clear idea of the characters, the plot AND the ending. (Endings had been my disaster area before). It is so lovely when it flows out like that and it very rarely happens.

We seem to be lost in the woods now. Can you describe your most difficult moments when you were writing …, and how you got back onto the right path?

I am very lucky that I didn’t face too many obstacles in the actual writing of Freddie Yates. I think I learned from the many, many, MANY mistakes I had made when writing my first book. That was a painful process. I edited and cut and binned and rewrote numerous times. And eventually, I realised the path I was on led to a dead end and it was time to pick another.

How did you overcome rejections?

First, I’d let myself feel a bit disappointed. Then I’d give myself a bit of a pep talk. Next, I’d look to see if there was anything in the rejection I needed to listen to and act on. Then I’d carry on.

Describe the editing process to us. Was there anything you really wanted to keep but your editor didn’t?

Editing Freddie Yates was actually really enjoyable. Rebecca Hill – first children’s editor to win the Editor of the year award – and Becky Walker at Usborne are the best team to work with. They were so enthusiastic about the book and really understood the story. There wasn’t one suggestion they made that I wasn’t happy with. The most difficult part was that I had included lyrics from Paul McCartney’s Frog Chorus, which for rights reasons, had to go. After spending hours trying to write my own version, I realised I was in fact, not a Beatle, and had to find a different approach. The other thing I learned through the editing process is that I have not a clue what a comma really is, or how to use one, despite teaching punctuation for years. It appears that you need far more commas than you ever thought possible. Now, I just tend to spatter them all over the page and hope for the best.

As we reach the summit, can you tell us how it feels to be a first-time author?

Miraculous! Truly, I still can’t quite believe it. I don’t think I ever will. And I honestly know that if I can get a book on the shelf, anyone can.

Tell us about your book launch.

My launch is yet to happen – if it happens in the current coronavirus climate. But even if it doesn’t, I don’t mind! I’m just thrilled to have a book being published. I am supposed to be doing a children’s book club at Waterstones Durham which I’m excited about and hopefully that will go ahead.

Who do you thank in your credits and why?

The first person I thank is my agent, Sam Copeland. He truly is one of the best people I have ever met. His enthusiasm for my book in the initial stages of submission is what led to me finding myself in an eight-way auction. I cannot thank him enough. Alongside the wondrous human beings that are Rebecca and Becky, there are a LOT of other people I thank at Usborne. How I adore Usborne! Of course, I thank my friends, family, my Curtis Brown mentor – Catherine Johnson, obviously my SCBWI NE group and Stuart White and Carolyn Ward at WriteMentor. I also thank all the children I have ever taught for being a constant source of inspiration.

We’ve finished our walk and now I think we deserve to celebrate with tea in a cosy inn. As we warm our feet by the blazing fire, tell me where you think your writing will take you in the future?

I hope to continue to be a middle-grade writer. I really love writing so much. Even the hard bits. Like commas.

Are you writing something new at the moment? Can you give us a sneaky sentence about it?

I was lucky enough to get a three-book deal with Usborne. Books two and three are written and are going through the editing process at the moment. They are standalones with more heart and humour and are called The Incredible Record Smashers and Grandpa Frank’s Great Big Bucket List.

Finally, I have really enjoyed walking and talking with you today. Can you give us one take away tip for yet-to-be-published writers?

Keep going, keep learning. The noes will come, but you need them if you stand any chance of getting a yes.

Jenny Pearson has been awarded with six mugs, one fridge magnet, one wall plaque and numerous cards for her role as 'Best Teacher in the World'. When she is not busy being inspirational in the classroom, she would like nothing more than to relax with her two young boys, but she can't as they view her as a human climbing frame. She has recently moved to the North East of England and while she has yet to meet Ant and Dec, she has learned how to use canny in a sentence. Which is dead canny, like.

Twitter: @J_C_Pearson
Instagram: j_c_pearson

Helen Victoria is a writer of YA fiction, a full-time drama teacher and a reader of anything and everything. When she is not putting on shows, reading or writing, Helen loves to walk in wild places, or hang out with her family and friends in London, France and Cornwall.

Follow Helen:
Twitter: @helensimmons100

Imogen Foxell is an illustrator with a particular interest in creating intricate imaginary worlds. She illustrates English literature revision cards for, and interesting words for Her website is Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. 

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