Now that the whirling debut dust has settled, we invite Tracy Curran to talk about one thing she's learnt since becoming a published author.

I've learnt a lot of things since my debut picture book, Pumpkin's Fairytale, was published last year but probably the most important lesson has been that the writing rollercoaster doesn't stop. Yes, you've reached a big milestone in your journey as an author  the one you've most likely been working towards for years  and it's time, quite rightly, for a big celebration. But it wasn't until the initial excitement died down that I realised my vague Cinderella 'happy ever after' vision of what came next was not necessarily going to match up to reality. 

And yet, in a way it did. Between September and November 2021, I was certainly in a debut bubble. I did some school visits, spoke on the radio, did a couple of magazine interviews and received lots of kind and supportive comments from teachers, parents and writing friends. Most importantly though, my book was in the hands of young readers  the ultimate goal  and it was their wonderful feedback that mattered the most. I spent Christmas and New Year thinking, "Box Ticked".

Pumpkin's Fairytale was illustrated by Wayne Oram and published by Final Chapter in September 2021

And then the cold reality of January hit. Without the seasonal hook of autumn, I suddenly lost confidence in reaching out to schools and bookshops because would anyone be interested in reading a book about a pumpkin during the cold depths of winter? Even in October, amid all the excitement of Halloween, I'd received a rather stone-cold response from local bookstores. No one seemed to want to stock the book and Waterstones kept failing to get back to me about an author visit. Was this because I was published by an independent publisher, even though the quality of the book was high? 

Some good news was on its way though. I received an offer of mentoring for my young fiction writing, which I was really excited about, and I jumped at the chance to develop the manuscript. I also wanted to write some new material and so I got my head down for the six hours a day my children were at school. This meant that there was little time left to promote Pumpkin's Fairytale and soon I was juggling life admin, parenting and pets with wanting to get my book out there and also write more. 

What followed next was a series of troughs and peaks. By Easter, I'd done a couple more promotional events and my young fiction was submission-ready, but I was struggling with inspiration for my picture book writing and I didn't have time to work on my lower middle-grade novel. When the rejections started rolling in, it appeared my writing for 5-8s was also at a standstill. I didn't know where to go next and, after a social catch-up with a group of far more established children's writers from my area, I came away feeling like a complete fraud. Maybe Pumpkin's Fairytale wasn't going to be the first of many and did being published by a small, independent publishing house even count? I felt it might be time to give up. 

Trying to sell my book whilst writing new material became a challenge.

So, I decided to take a break and, after a while, the lack of pressure allowed me to start having fun with some new ideas. Then, towards the end of the summer, several things happened at once. Pumpkin's Fairytale was launched in America and Canada as an audio, read-along book for a new company called Storypod. Then a publishing house got in touch about a picture book they wanted edits on and another publishing house got in touch about my young fiction. Finally, an agent also came back to me, after reading the full manuscript, with some suggested revisions she wanted me to make before resubmitting. Things were looking up again.


I'm still waiting to hear as to whether any of the above opportunities will develop. Maybe they will and maybe they won't. Two weeks ago, I was also delivered the bad news that Final Chapter, the publishers who took Pumpkin to their hearts, have had to dissolve their business. Now, although the book will still be sold by Storypod, I will have to take it forward in the UK as though it was a self-published book. 

But is it the end? Definitely not. I've started my MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University and am loving writing again. I work hard every day and in the kind words of a friend, "Your story is out are not an imposter...children are reading your work." So, I'm proud of what I've achieved and how far I've come. I know now that writing will always be a rollercoaster, no matter how far I get. But if I love what I'm doing, then I'm winning, (and also very, very lucky!).

*Header image Shannon Ell

Tracy Curran is Production Editor for Words & Pictures and author of Pumpkin's Fairytale, illustrated by Wayne Oram and published by Final Chapter. She writes picture books, chapter books and lower middle-grade and runs a children's book review blog, The Breadcrumb Forest

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