Now that the whirling debut dust has settled, Annemarie Anang talks to Words & Pictures magazine about some of the things she's learnt since she was published. 
Annemarie Anang (Photograph by John Clark)

Being a debut author is exciting, yet overwhelming. I went from minding my own business to trying to be in everybody else’s business with publicity, marketing, author visits, interviews, writing blogs, creating regular social media content, and creating and producing an educational music video series, Nefertiti Keeps the Beat, to accompany my debut book, I Am Nefertiti.

Social media promotion of I Am Nefertiti (Credit: Annemarie Anang)

The best part of the whirlwind without a doubt, is seeing I Am Nefertiti on my daughter’s bookshelf amongst many of our favourite books, and having her choose my book to read almost every bedtime. She’s the main reason why I write, so this means the world to me.

Other good bits are definitely author visits! Despite my initial terror upon arriving for my second school visit to discover the class I’d been booked to see was actually the whole school, with the help of a couple of deep breaths, and calling on my experience as a primary school teacher and actress, we had a blast!

Last week I was invited to the Deptford Literary Festival for an event for 3-7 years olds with storytime, singalong and positive affirmations, and it was a dream gig! Forget selling out Wembley!

During my first couple of events, I recall getting a little emotional reading my book to these little wide-eyed faces, and that’s because I write so that all children can benefit from reading diverse books, something which is necessary and urgent. I Am Nefertiti is all about self-empowerment, belonging, empowering others and it’s a joyful and heart-warming story.

Another big moment was when fantastic illustrator Natelle Quek painted the windows of five indie bookstores across London, and beyond, during Indie Book Week! This was organised by Five Quills and publicist Catherine Ward, who have been an amazing team to work with.

Cover of I Am Nefertiti

Living in the Swedish forest is glorious, but it does mean I meet more deer than I do authors, so it was wonderful to be invited to my agent's Christmas Party at Darley Anderson. Even though it was 6 months after publication, I had, so far, only met one author and illustrator in real life. I have found other debut book creators to be highly supportive, and am lucky now to have a community where we all want to help each other, as well as answer questions you think too daft to ask your agent or publisher.

From left to right, Joyce Efia Harmer, Annemarie Anang, Efua Traore 
& Polly Ho-Yen at Darley Anderson’s Christmas Party (Credit: Annemarie Anang)

It’s fair to say that at times I’ve struggled with time and general life management: simultaneously writing and editing other books, working my day jobs, looking after my family, and finding time to shower and feed myself. I felt like a circus clown spinning plates. I know I’m not the only one though. Some book creators are constantly churning out books, which I find extraordinary but initially found daunting. (And yet I’ve also heard some of these authors and illustrators complain about serious burnout and having to take time out to recover.)


Annemarie writing (Credit: Annemarie Anang)

I think it’s important not to get distracted by other people’s successes; someone else winning an award is not a reflection on your own book. It’s an opinion. That’s it. Congratulate them from the heart, then get your head down and keep writing. There are certainly not enough awards to recognise all the great books that children’s book authors create, so the chances of winning one are very slim. So I tell myself to continue to write; for those children whose life I could change, whether it’s by them having a good laugh and so releasing endorphins into their brain, or perhaps something more.

So a new whirlwind is beginning… or perhaps it’s a new plate spinning. I’ve to finish editing a new manuscript by next week for another picture book with my favourite illustrator, which I’m excited about, and I’m continue working on other manuscripts. I’ll be in the UK again this May and June, and I’m thrilled to be invited to The Why Music Festival and the Brighton Festival! During this time I’d love to do some author visits in and around London. I’ll continue spinning my other plates, such as my UN children’s mental health campaign, but I’ll also remind myself that spinning multiple plates is not easy and I’ll try to remember to be kind to myself and find some downtime.

For any debut authors out there, I hope you remember to celebrate your achievements. Every little thing from finishing a draft to surviving, or perhaps even enjoying, a school visit! Focus on your chance to positively impact the lives of children, and write.

* Header image: Shannon Ell


Annemarie Anang is an actress, musician and former primary school teacher. She began writing for children after struggling to find books for her daughter that featured main characters who reflected the diversity of children in our world. She campaigns for better mental health and well-being in early years. Annemarie was awarded the 2021 SCBWI/BIPOC writer’s scholarship. A Londoner, born to Ghanaian parents, she lives in Sweden with her young daughter, husband and two adopted cats. Connect with Annemarie on Twitter or Instagram. I Am Nefertiti is written by Annemarie Anang, illustrated by Natelle Quek and published by Five Quills (June 2022)


Shannon Ell, a non-binary illustrator, animator and designer based in Edinburgh. They created Miles The Cat at the beginning of lockdown to feature on their socials, providing fun and relatable PSAs. 
Instagram: @shannon.illustrates


Anne Boyere is one of Words & Pictures Feature Editors.

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