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

Debut year is like a rollercoaster. I know that’s an over-used cliché, but my brain has used up all its decent similes cracking out Book 3, so let’s stick with rollercoaster. But not a standard rollercoaster – one of those super twisty-turny ones where you go upside down and have drops so steep you’re convinced you’re going to plummet to your death. One of those rollercoasters. There are highs, for sure, but for every high, you’re waiting for the death plummet that invariably follows. 

On her podcast Novel Experience, fellow 2021 debut Kate Sawyer, said that the reality of getting a book published is like marrying the prince and discovering he farts which, I think, is SUCH a perfect description.

Julia Tuffs (pictured right) with Kate Weston at YALC

I’ve never been one for rollercoasters – I find the safety and comfort of the gently spinning tea cups more appealing so I found my debut year challenging, to say the least. But there was one thing that one hundred per cent got me through that year, the year since and, I hope, many years to come and that is the amazing friends I’ve made along the way.


This is the SCBWI magazine, so I know I’m preaching to the converted here, but community is EVERYTHING and the writing community is EVERYTHING and then some. I’ve always had writing friends that have kept me going – mostly people I’ve met through SCBWI – friends to form a writing group with, to set deadlines with, to celebrate and commiserate with and, quite frankly, to just drink wine and hang out with. I found these friendships especially useful when I first started out on my writing journey and my friends and family just didn’t quite ‘get’ what I was trying to achieve or how seriously I was taking it. Being around other people who wrote, who wanted to improve their craft, who wanted to be published – that was a lifesaver for me and definitely led me down the path I ended up on.

Julia with Georgia Bowers at YALC

As soon as my book deal was announced, a writer friend who debuted the previous year put me in touch with a Twitter debut group for 2021. I was super nervous at first and had the biggest imposter syndrome, (still do, it never goes away), but everyone in the group was beyond friendly, accommodating and generally lovely and it’s a group that covers pretty much the whole publishing spectrum – from people on massive deals with huge publishers, to people with teeny, tiny publishers and everything in between.


I joined around October 2020 and to begin with it was mainly congratulations on deals, sharing our excitement and the ‘what happens now’ conversations, but bit by bit, day by day, as people’s publishing dates came closer, talk turned to the more specific – seeing your front cover for the first time, proof copies going out, first reviews coming in. And then, as of January 2021, actual books being out in the actual world started happening.


Julia with both her books, Hexed and Twice Hexed, published by Hachette

The people in that Twitter group started off as random names, then became names associated with books, then acquaintances and now, very firmly, friends. Our group is a safe space where we can ask questions, no matter how silly they seem – and boy, there are ALWAYS questions:


  • Why have I not heard from my publisher in over two months?
  • How much should I charge for a school visit?
  • Should I be asking my publisher for postcards?
  • Why have I not heard from my publisher in over three months?
  • Has anyone got a place that does good stickers?
  • Do you think I can use the word ‘pussy’ in a school visit talking about Donald Trump or is that too rude?
  • Why have I not heard from my publisher in over four months?
  • What the hell is an IR35 form and how do I fill one in?

I was lucky enough to publish in July so I benefitted from all the wisdom and experience of those who went before me and quite honestly, I don’t know how I would’ve managed without. As well as the many, many questions, our group is also a place where we can safely moan and rant, commiserate and celebrate and know, 100 per cent, that someone in the group has been through or is going through what you’re experiencing, whether good or bad. We’ve had book deals fall through, poor sales, covers we’ve hated, bad reviews and general low days, and we’ve also had reprints, great sales figures, amazing school visits, festival appearances, new book deals, award shortlistings and award wins; (someone in our group just the other day won the Branford Boase on top of having already won the Jhalak Prize and another group member won the Blue Peter Award and the Waterstones Prize!). 

Julia with Nicola Penfold on their launch day in July 2021

Before joining the group, I’d have thought that maybe seeing other people win awards would have left me feeling low, but I genuinely feel delighted and proud – I love seeing my writer friends succeed and have their brilliant writing recognised and maybe because they’ve been part of my journey, I feel like I’m part of theirs too. Which isn’t exactly saying a tiny part of me also won those prizes but… you know…

Julia with Holly Race at their joint launch this year

In addition to my Twitter debut group, some of whom I’ve been lucky enough to meet in person now, I’ve also added other writers to my ‘writer friend portfolio’ – some debuts, some old timers in the publishing world – all kind and helpful, gracious and supportive. Not to sound like a broken record, but all of these – my SCBWI friends, my Twitter debuts, my new writing friends – have honestly been my saving grace throughout the whole publishing process. Writing friends ROCK.


So back to my clichéd rollercoaster analogy – if debut years are a rollercoaster ride, writing friends are the safety bar that stops you plummeting to your death. Hold on tight to them!


*Header image by Shannon Ell; all other pictures courtesy of Julia Tuffs


After a brief, (but fun), stint working in television and as a primary school teacher, Julia Tuffs decided to take her writing dreams more seriously. She lives in South West London with her family and ragdoll cats, (Billy and Nora), and spends her time writing, reading, dreaming of holidays and watching too much reality TV. She aims to write the kinds of books that shaped and inspired her as a teenager. Julia is the author of Hexed and Twice Hexed, (which published on 23rd June 2022).
Instagram: @juliatuffs
Twitter: @JuliaTuffs


Shannon Ell is a non-binary illustrator, animator and designer based in Edinburgh. 

No comments:

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.