Now that the whirling debut dust has settled, Fran Price invites Chrissie Sains to talk about something she's learnt since becoming a published author.

I’ve been trying to think of a short sentence to describe my debut year and the one thing that keeps springing to mind is a long list of emojis of EVERY emotion. 

Underneath the slime at a school visit: Chrissie Sains

Debut year has been a year of firsts. School author visits… press interviews… promotion… signings… book launches! I’ve taken a lot of big steps out of my comfort zone and in the last year, I’ve gone from being a rather inexperienced debut to being an author of three books. I’ve gone from feeling crippling nerves, standing in front of an assembly of children for the first time, to speaking to up to four schools a week. I’ve learnt loads and here are my thoughts on school visits as a debut. 

Chrissie in full flow during virtual author visit

I started in the pandemic, so all of my first school visits were virtual. I offered a free ten-minute Q&A session to classes who were reading my book via twitter and a lot of teachers took me up on the offer. Q&A sessions were actually a great starting point for me. It really put me at ease once I’d done a couple and it was also really useful to find out what the kids were interested in hearing about from me. It really helped when it came to putting together my author presentations! 

Chrissie co-wrote her latest book I Got This with Cara Mailey, (pictured right) about a girl with achondroplasia

Schools opened up again a couple of months after An Alien in the Jam Factory came out and I started by contacting all of my local schools to see if they’d like a free visit so that I could practice my in-person author talk. Two schools took me up on the offer. I was so nervous, but they actually went well and I discovered that I quite enjoyed them! It was also hugely useful to trial my author talk on them and really gave me a lot of confidence in doing it again. 

I found that as a debut, I didn’t have a huge network of teachers and schools and so I started building that up via twitter. It wasn’t too tricky because the twitter reading community are just so lovely. I offered to send letters, emails, bookmarks or stickers to classes that were reading my book and that was always very much appreciated. It has lead to a number of requests for school visits both virtually and in person and I’ve made some great friends too. I’ve put loads of resources on my website for schools to use, which is often commented on. I was so proud recently when one school asked me to be their patron of reading – what an honour! 

Book Brunch announces I Got This 

A year in and I can say I really enjoy school visits. I might have started out with crippling nerves but now that I’ve eased myself in, I get so much pleasure meeting children and hearing their thoughts and ideas. I’m finally getting unsolicited requests to go into schools from outside of my network and that’s just brilliant. 

What’s next?

I’ve just had two new books come out, Treasure Under the Jam Factory (the second of the Jam Factory series) and I Got This, which I’ve co-authored with the incredible Cara Mailey so now I’m creating more resources and visiting a lot more schools! I’m really excited to engage and chat with the kids about the new books – it’s become one of my favourite parts of the job!

*Header image: illustration by Shannon Ell. 
All other images courtesy of Chrissie Sains.


Chrissie Sains grew up in Billericay, Essex, where she spent her childhood seeking adventure and finding trouble. Described by her teachers as having a “lively imagination”, Chrissie's escapades include her attempted rescue of the school's pet fish and the discovery of a dead body in a field that turned out to be two tyres under a sheet. She has swum with sharks, scuba-dived shipwrecks and sky-dived from a plane. Chrissie has a background in marketing and events but now writes full-time and is a graduate of the Golden Egg Academy and a member of SCBWI. She lives in Essex with her husband, two bookworms, one rabbit and one (very grumpy) cat. 


Shannon Ell is a non-binary illustrator, animator and designer based in Edinburgh.
Website: Instagram:@shannon.illustrates


Fran Price is Deputy Editor of Words & Pictures magazine. Contact her at

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