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 Damaris Young, author of The Switching Hour and The Creature Keeperto join her for Afternoon Tea. 

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


August–December 2019 – Triple Chocolate Cake with Extra Chocolate on Top  


I celebrated the launch of my debut, The Switching Hour, in the beautiful Clifton Waterstones bookshop, with all my friends and family! It was a lovely event, where I was able to thank everyone for their support and encouragement. There was lots of cake! Over the next few weeks, I learnt so much from the book community, online and offline. There were lovely interactions with teachers, parents and librarians who reached out with questions from young readers, which was a new and wonderful experience.  

In August, The Switching Hour also went on an adventure with the Book Fairies, popping up all over the UK!  


The debut month was a whirlwind! Just like Bruce Bogtrotter’s chocolate cake in Roald Dahl, there were points where it felt overwhelming, especially as I’m not a natural at social media, but I learnt that it is all about balance. Social media is a wonderful tool to engage with readers and the book community, but allow yourself space as well. You are learning so much in these first few weeks of being a brand-new published author, you need time to digest all these new experiences! 


I also had my very first school visit, which I'd been quite terrified of doing, but I ended up loving it. In the workshops, we drew weather monsters based on The Switching Hour, and chatted about books and stories. I was blown away by the brilliant ideas that emerged from the drawing and writing exercises, and I’m pretty certain that I had a few future award-winning authors in my workshop that day. Isn’t that an exciting thought?! 


January–February 2020 – Hobnobs dunked in tea (first-draft fuel)


During the first few months of 2020, I was busy arranging school visits for the summer (blissfully unaware of what was to come!) and furiously writing the first draft of my second book, The Creature Keeper. I find drafting a new story lots of fun, but this time I struggled to get the characters to behave themselves, and they kept wandering off-script.  


What I like to do when I’m struggling to get a story to behave is create a mood board. I gather together as many different colour themes and snippets of text or stock photos as I can, and paste them together to create a vision of what I want the story to be. It helps make the world feel more real, and the process can spark lots of other creative ideas! 


Here is one that I made for The Creature Keeper.  

March 2020 – Banana Bread, lots of it  


Covid-19 turned everything topsy-turvy, and suddenly the only thing at the forefront of my mind was the health of my family and friends. Concentration went out of the window, and my writing on The Creature Keeper suffered, especially during those first few weeks. Writing short poems or stories, or reams of dialogue between my characters gave me an outlet for my anxious thoughts and helped kickstart my writing.  


As ever, my dogs were my writing companions and a constant source of inspiration and joy.   

 April to October 2020 – Coffee and Walnut Cake 


Despite the closure of schools and bookshops all over the country, authors are incredibly resourceful creatures. I was inspired by the wonderful book community, who found ways to engage and interact with each other, and with readers all over the world with online seminars, online author visits and letters.  


The Society of Authors put on an incredible @ Home Festival, with free online events for authors, with workshops, seminars and panel discussions. These events were a lifeline when I felt unmotivated and unconnected to the publishing world, during a time when I would have been going to book launches and literary festivals.  


I began sending out letters through the brilliant Book Pen Pals initiative, which pairs UK authors and illustrators with UK schools to make book recommendations via postcards! 


 When the restrictions eased over the summer, I was able to meet up with other authors and visit a few bookshops, which was a much-needed boost. I can promise you I was smiling from ear to ear behind my mask!  


Another lovely ray of sunshine was finding out that The Switching Hour had been shortlisted for the Awesome Book Awards! This is particularly exciting because it is an award that is chosen by young readers, who will vote for their favourite story.  


In October, The Creature Keeper was chosen as one of two books to go out in the October subscription of Tales by Mail, a bi-monthly book subscription and podcast for 8-12-year-olds. I had so much fun writing an author letter and recording a podcast for the readers! Once your book is out in the world, there are lots of different PR and marketing opportunities that may come your way, and getting to grips with it all was a big part of my debut year. It felt quite strange, talking about myself and my story, but I learnt to take each new experience as it came along, and communicate with my PR and marketing team. They are there to support and guide new authors, and they are very good at what they do!   


November- December 2020 – Bittersweet Lemon Cake, with a big dollop of delicious strawberry ice cream  


The Creature Keeper published 1st November, the day we went into the second lockdown. Of course, this was a disappointment, but I felt incredibly privileged to have another book out in the world. It was wonderful being tagged in social media posts of readers with copies of The Creature Keeper, and being contacted by schools who were reading it in classrooms all over the UK.  


Being able to hold my real-life book, after the struggle of writing it during the first lockdown, was an indescribable feeling. There is a big part of me in The Creature Keeper, a story about a girl who loves animals, and believes that the world is a better place when kindness is shown to all creatures, no matter how big or small. It is a story close to my heart and I’m thrilled it is finding new readers.  


Plus, I just adore the cover for The Creature Keeper, which was illustrated by the talented artist Flavia Sorrentino. Look at all those colours and the spooky eyes in the shadows!  


This year, I was especially lucky to have been on the shortlist for Reading Rampage, an exciting initiative that encourages a love of reading. As part of the scheme, I was able to engage with the schools through an online event, and I shared my love of reading and writing.  


Engaging with schools has been my favourite part of my debut year, even though it was what I initially found the scariest. It continues to be truly incredible hearing from young readers who feel a real connection to the characters in my stories, and who are excited to join them on their adventures.  


Thank you so much, Tizzie, and Words & Pictures, for allowing me to share my debut year with you! 2020 has shown me how important it is, now more than ever, to have a community of people around you, to share the highs and the lows and offer encouragement and support.  


As strange as my debut year was, I’m excited for the future of publishing and all the wonderful stories that will continue to fly out into the world, reminding us that there is still magic and wonder to be found even in the darker times.    


My top tips! 

  1. It’s OK if you’re not a social media superstar! Find a way to engage with your readers in a way that feels comfortable and right for you.  
  2. Find your community. Whether online or offline, there are ways to connect with people who will support and inspire you. SCWBI is a brilliant resource for finding other writers! 
  3. Be kind to yourself, especially when there are other pressures and stresses happening that are out of your control. Berating yourself for not reaching your word count will not do your confidence and creativity any good. Celebrate small milestones with a pat on the back (and a slice of cake!). 


Damaris studied on the
Writing for Young People MA at Bath Spa University, where she wrote her debut novel, The Switching Hour. She loves writing edge-of-your-seat adventure stories with strong environmental themes. 

Damaris Young's website:

Follow Damaris on Twitter: @damarisyoung

Picture credits

Tea logo: Coral Walker

Chocolate cake: Snappy Goat

Hobnobs: GlutenFreeCanteen

Book Fairies: Instagram @bookfairies_uk

Mr. B's Emporium: Instagram @mrbsemporium

Awesome Book Awards:

Tales by Mail: Instagram @Tales.By.Mail

Author photo: Gem Hicks Photography

All other photos: Damaris Young

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