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 Marie Basting, author of Princess BMX, to join her for Afternoon Tea. 
After a whirlwind post-debut year, it’s a chance for Marie 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. 

Marie at the Manchester Bigger Book Bash

Marie: Thank you, Tizzie! What a year to be a debut. It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride right from the start and I definitely need that cuppa and some high energy treats. Let’s start with a nice big slice of party cake.  

Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer – Fancy-Pants Launch Cake and Aunt Maude’s Digestives 
With a number of rogue copies of Princess BMX sneaking out a full seven weeks early – and before I’d even got my hands on a copy myself – I was worried that the official publication day would be a bit of an anticlimax. But my SCBWI friends were there to make sure this wasn’t the case, and I woke up on 1st August to find my social media streams full of BMXing book-folk doing their thing.  
Some of the BMXers I managed to capture. Sorry to anyone I missed!
Coupled with a fantastic review in the Guardian (still pinching myself), signing books and meeting readers in actual books shops (still poking myself), and feeling the love from the wonderful book-blogging community (never pinched or poked any of them), the weeks after I made my debut were anything other than a disappointment.   
Out and about with Tyson the Teabag

I even became an Amazon Number One Bestseller. OK, it was only in the Children’s Books on Cycling category, but I was still racing ahead of Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins 
Racing ahead of Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins
That’s not to say there weren’t further disappointments. While, thanks to WHSmith Travel, my book was in airports and train stations all around the UK and the wonderful indie bookstores were championing it, Princess BMX wasn’t being widely distributed by Waterstones. This, apparently, is common, but nobody ever seems to tell debut authors that. Which is why I’m telling you now. So if it happens to you, you know not to panic. Life won’t always be on a par with Aunt Maude’s digestives. 
Aunt Maude’s Digestives – She’s licked the chocolate off but the biscuity bit’s going spare
Shades of Autumn –  Jam Roly-Poly and School Biscuit Tins 
The autumn was all about getting out there and promoting Princess BMX with more signings and events in bookshops and my #BeMoreBMX tour, which took me to schools and festivals around the North West.  
School visits – a very serious affair
I also held a belated book launch party where, once again, my SCBWI friends were there to support me.  After a lively panel discussion hosted by SCBWI’s ARA Networks, Catherine Whitmore, we partied Biscotti style. This involved lots of bubbly and a number of tasty treats, including the aforementioned Aunt Maude’s digestives and the very best jelly beans in town.  
Journey of a Book panel – Marie Basting, Rachel Leyshon (Chicken House Books), Bella Pearson (Guppy Books), Louise Reid and Anna Mainwaring Clark (North West authors) and host Catherine Whitmore
Although the launch was fantastic, I was really nervous and found it a little overwhelming. So much so, I almost forgot to cut the cake! If I was to do it all again, I’d try and relax and enjoy the moment more. In trying to make things extra special, I put too much pressure on myself and ended up distracted from the most important thing, celebrating with friends and family. 
Book launch memories
Thankfully, I was a lot more relaxed about my school visits and events. Of course, there were some pre-match nerves, but I’d thought hard about the themes of my presentation and was careful to ensure things were fun and highly interactive. And if seeing thousands of children stand up, strike a superhero pose, and commit to being more BMX wasn’t enough, there was usually the offer of pudding or at least a biscuit to keep me going.   
Meeting [book blogger] Mrs Wylie and receiving my first letters from my BookPenPals at the Rochdale Festival of Literature and Ideas – my first festival auditorium event.
Winter Wonderlands – Minced Pies and Tic Tocs 
Christmas lunch and mince pies with some of my favourite Scoobies
The winter months brought more events and school visits. I am so grateful to the bookshops and libraries that took me out to meet readers and who have supported Princess BMX. 
My very own display, courtesy of Salford Libraries

I even did my first residential at Edgmond Hall, where I delivered my #BeMoreBMX presentation to eager young writers in their pyjamas and slippers, then made Tyson hats while sipping hot chocolate.  
Getting crafty
Another winter highlight was the SCBWI Conference in Winchester, where I celebrated the publication of Princess BMX at the Mass Book Launch, and received a second Outstanding Contribution Award for my work as an SCBWI volunteer. 

On the door at Winchester Conference along with SCBWI friends Kathryn Evans, Lou Cliffe-Minns and Matt Killeen
By now I was feeling much more comfortable in my debut skin. Sure, coupled with my part time role as an Associate Lecturer and freelance commitments, it was at times exhausting, but it was mostly great fun…Until I had to face up to the reality of book two. Which, it turns out, wasn’t going to write itself. With the clock ticking, book two syndrome struck with more force than an overenthusiastic Year 4 fighting to take their place on the back of one of my blow-up unicorns.  
Spring Back in Time Please – Peach Melba Sundae and Underripe Pears  
Spring started well. In fact, with all those BMXing Princesses hitting my social media channels on World Book Day and a week of fantastic school visits, it was pretty awesome. 
One of the World Book Day Princess BMXes
By now I had a strong reputation for lively motivational school visits and was starting to establish myself on the festival circuit with lots of bookings for the summer months. I’d also started a writing residency with Liverpool charity Writing on the Wall and was branching into delivering more events for adults, including a commission at Windermere Steam Museum. 
Marie at Chorlton Book Festival
I’d go so far as to say it was all looking pretty peachy. But then the pandemic struck and everything went pear-shaped. Bookings were cancelled, festivals were pulled and bookshops closed. Like many writers, I wanted to rewind the clock back to World Book Week and stay there. 

With time travel not on the cards anytime soon, the only option was to adapt. I started off enthusiastically enough. I did my first online event with LitFilmFest, set up a YouTube channel and wrote a long list of good intentions.  

But I found lockdown hard. Being creative and acting all jolly online was exhausting, and in a saturated market the effort required didn’t seem worth it. Why look at one of my videos when you can draw with Chris Riddell, listen to Cathy Cassidy or get creative with Konnie Huq? So after a chat with my publisher, I decided I’d just ride the storm for a while and concentrate on book two. I’m still riding that storm, but I guess I’m now ready to do a little more steering. In what direction? I’m not yet sure, but I’m determined to #BeMoreBMX and keep trying and experimenting until I find the way forward. 

Meeting readers at the Manchester BMX Nationals just before COVID struck

Marie Basting writes funny fiction for middle-graders. Her debut novel, Princess BMX, was listed by the Guardian and BookTrust in their best new books category and has been praised by the Gender Collective as one of the best books out there for smashing stereotypes.

Told by a careers adviser that girls like her don't become writers, Marie loves nothing more than supporting others to achieve their writing ambitions and in 2019 was awarded an Outstanding Contribution Award by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for her work in this area. She lives with her husband, son and a giant hairy woo dog called Polly, in Manchester, where she lectures in creative writing at Manchester Met University and offers freelance creative writing tuition to both adults and children. Her #BeMoreBMX school and festival events have inspired thousands of children to smash stereotypes and defy the limits others put on them.

Find out more at
Follow Marie on Twitter: @riewriting

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 

Tea logo by Coral Walker
Launch cake by @emilybakesx 

Book cover and illustrations by Flavia Sorrentino
School visit with two children, photo by Martyn Ode
Book panel, photo by Susan Brownrigg
Book blogger, teacher, and librarian Mrs Wylie with Marie Basting, photo by Mrs Wylie, @twylie68 on Twitter
Tic-Toc photo by Arnott's Kids' Treats
World Book Week photo by @clairestagram21 on Instagram
Chorleston Book Festival photo by Ruth Estevez
Peach sundae photo by BBC Goodfood
LitFilmFest screencapture by LitFilmFest
Manchester BMX Nationals photo by Tania Tay
All other photos: Marie Basting

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like a fabulous first year – congratulations, Marie! And may there be many more to come!


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.