Now that the whirling debut dust has settled, Camilla Chester talks to Words & Pictures magazine about some of the things she's learnt since she was published.

Camillla Chester

This is the dream. This is what all the hard slog, countless rejections and torturous silences has finally led to, because traditional publication means validation. At last!

I remember going to a SCBWI London event many years ago where S.F. Said talked about his expectations of publication. He thought there would be fanfares and flags and people cheering outside his house, but the reality was he was still the same person and his life carried on much in the same way as it did before. This is completely true: yes, amazing things happen because of Call Me Lion being in the world, but I still have to hang out the washing.

Every time I think about Call Me Lion, I smile and feel incredibly proud. I have maxed out on enjoying every author high because, let’s face it, I’ve no idea if, and when, another high is coming. To make the moments count, however, can take work. I’ve found that most of the good stuff from publication has come from how much I’ve been willing to put in.

On the publication day itself I was at a funeral. I had to keep sneaking off and silently squealing at all the lovely posts on social media. It wasn’t a huge BANG! like some of my fellow 2022 debuts, but people whose opinions I cared about were genuinely enjoying the book and seeing its worth. I’ve always seen Call Me Lion as a grower; a book that will be passed on, shared and remembered and therefore slowly build. Publication day was low key, but beautiful, and then came the big one... the book launch.

I’d made a big deal of the launch and stressed about the local Sports Hall I’d booked being empty apart from me. It was Father's Day and there were no dads in the book – what was I thinking? But again, the people who counted came, some travelling a really long way. My publisher, friends, family and, of course, kids too. I’d organised a dance competition with local schools and the winners were there, learning a disco routine which they performed at the launch. Most importantly were the families I’d worked with; the children diagnosed with selective mutism that I’d only met through email came, which was an incredibly brave thing to do. Two of these girls even performed amazing dance routines. There’s a whole page on my website dedicated to the book launch of Call Me Lion as it was one of the most magical days of my life and I’ll never forget it.

Camilla at the book launch for Call Me Lion with Publisher Penny Thomas and Editor Leonie Lock

Molly Patel performing at the book launch for Call Me Lion

I had my first Call Me Lion school visit a few weeks after the launch thanks to my friend Suzie Wilde, but there were (and still are) major distribution problems at Waterstones which affected sales figures. The Independent Bookshops were better and Call Me Lion was also selected as one of fifty titles that the Welsh Government purchased to be in every Welsh primary school. This led to a few library visits in Wales over the summer.

My own big promotional push was teaming up with my great friend Sarah Broadley and taking Call Me Lion on the #CMLScottishBookShopTour. I got T-shirts printed and Sarah did the rest – organising trains, accommodation, contacting bookshops, setting up all the photo opportunities and getting everything posted on social media. I had to pay for us both to go (there is very little publicity budget with small publishers – although they did buy me the banner) but it was worth every penny.

Camilla thrilled with the banner provided by Firefly Press which shows the stunning illustrations by Irina Avgustinovich

Sarah and Camilla celebrating the end of the #CMLScottishBookShopTour with an ice cream at Portobello Beach, Edinburgh

Sarah Broadley and Camilla during the #CMLScottishBookShopTour at Waterstones, Aviemore

A huge high was seeing Call Me Lion featured in The Guardian. I was on holiday in Cornwall and took the paper to the beach, hugging it to me like a baby.

Call Me Lion featured in The Guardian

Nearly a year on and Call Me Lion is on its second UK print run, has been selected as one of the Read For Empathy Titles 2023, has been shortlisted in both the Portsmouth and Oxfordshire Book Awards. It's also won the SCBWI Crystal Kite award! On that note, I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who voted for Call Me Lion

It has been published in Germany as a stunning hardback and has also sold in France. It’s not Waterstones Book of the Month or Year, it wasn’t nominated in the Carnegie, it hasn’t sold in big numbers, but Call Me Lion is doing so much good as it slowly grows. The messages I receive have slowed now, but here is an example of the kind I was regularly receiving:

Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this book. My 12-year-old has been sat reading it since she got home from school. Every few pages she says “Lion is like me!” and will explain how she feels about selective mutism. She never opened up like this before. Thank you so much!

That’s real success in my mind. People are sharing the book and it’s opening up all kinds of discussions. Whenever I feel blue I only have to think about my tour, or read the Goodreads reviews and I feel proud all over again.

In summary, yes, my life as a published author has continued much as before, but the people who have supported me throughout my journey have cheered the loudest now my book is out in the world. When I compare myself to other debuts of my year with Netflix deals and posters in the underground, I remember that we’re all just trying to put books in the hands of children and no matter where we are on the scale of success it’s the stories themselves that count.

Good luck with your own creative projects and dream big.

*Header image Shannon Ell & Tita Berredo
*All other images courtesy of Camilla Chester


Camilla Chester
is a hybrid Children’s Author, with three self-published and one traditionally published novel, entitled Call Me Lion. She has been shortlisted twice in national competitions, writes on commission for the popular online school resource, Serial Mash, is member of SoA, NAWE and SCBWI and is represented by Veronique Baxter at DHA.


Shannon Ell is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures.
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Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. She has a Master's degree in Children's Literature and Illustration from Goldsmiths UOL, and a background in marketing and publicity.

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Anne Boyere is one of Words & Pictures Feature Editors.

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