Now that the whirling debut dust has settled, Fran Price invites Nizrana Farook to talk about one thing she's learnt since becoming a published author.

It took me a long time to stop thinking of myself as a debut author. My first book, The Girl Who Stole an Elephant, came out just before the pandemic hit. I got very limited experience with being an author in the real world before everything locked down. A couple of school visits, some bookshop signings, and then… nothing for the foreseeable future.


'A couple of school visits, some bookshop signings, and then… nothing'


My book did have its moment in the sun. It was Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month; I met booksellers and readers, even got to see it on posters in train stations!


It was all lots of fun in the early heady days of being a debut. Seeing my book out was the best feeling in the world. But then it became apparent very quickly what the main job of a writer was. Writing. This was slightly concerning to me. What about all the DMs and emails, with requests for postcards and newsletter messages for schools, inquiries for virtual visits, interview and video requests from teachers and bloggers? 

Keeping on top of the inbox took all morning, every day. I felt I had to do it all, because I wanted to do everything I should for my little book

And then actually doing it all. A three-minute video took all day to film, and was still terrible. Keeping on top of the inbox took all morning, every day. I felt I had to do it all, because I wanted to do everything I should for my little book. It was out in the world, so I needed to do all that I could to make it succeed, shouldn’t I?

'I even got to see my book on posters in train stations'

As it turns out, no. The primary job of a writer is to write books. It’s very easy to lose sight of this. Every other job on my task list was always more urgent and so my writing got last priority. Not only in terms of time but even when it came to my attention — I didn’t have much left to give when I finally sat down to write. I’d spent my most productive part of the day doing other tasks. My brain moved sluggishly, refusing to let my imagination get going.


Everywhere I looked (in other words, Twitter and Instagram) other authors were doing it all. No wonder they were so successful. They were doing social media every day, engaging with the bookish community, supporting fellow authors, doing festivals and panels and school visits all the time, creating video and other content; all while churning out books at an alarming rate. Why could I not do it? Was I not cut out for this life?


Speaking to author friends I found that everyone felt this way. I was seeing the efforts of different people and somehow conflating them all into one super-author, and thinking everyone worked like this. But many people told me how they struggled with everything, combined with family life during lockdown and the aftermath and repercussions too.

So the biggest lesson I learnt after the whirlwind? Find the writing life that works for you. 

I discovered that I quite like school visits. I love meeting my readers and hearing their wonderful (sometimes quite blunt) opinions about my books, and books in general. So I do them when I can. Not in any great quantity but I’ve found out how many my sweet spot is. 

As a result, it feels like a pleasure and not one to finish off the list as quickly as possible. Of course there are other considerations for an author, especially financial, so sometimes events are necessities rather than treats. But overall I’ve learnt that no matter what, my writing comes first, and I have learnt to prioritise that over all else. You’d think it’s obvious, but it took me three books to get it!


*Header image by Shannon Ell; all other pictures courtesy of Nizrana Farook


Nizrana Farook is the author of The Girl Who Stole an Elephant, The Boy Who Met a Whale and The Girl Who Lost a Leopard. She was born and raised in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and the beautiful landscapes of her home country find their way into the stories she writes. She has a Master’s degree in Writing for Young People and lives with her family in Hertfordshire. Find her on Twitter and Instagram as @nizrite or at


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


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