Now that the whirling debut dust has settled, Françoise Price invited Lucy Farfort to talk about some of the things she's learnt since she was published.

A whirlwind is certainly a good way to describe my debut author-illustrator experience. I would say a rollercoaster also works well. The juxtaposition of pouring your soul into creating a book within the solitude of four lonely walls, to then megaphoning your way through social media, talking in schools, libraries and book festivals, and generally blowing your own trumpet or asking others to blow it for you, is strange to say the least. 

In Our Hands is a result of an idea which came about nearly five years prior. So, it was such a joy to finally see it out but, on top of that, wonderfully discombobulating to hear, as the months went on, how much readers and especially children connected with it. To the extent that three siblings, after reading the book at school, went home and decided to stop-motion animate the whole thing, and a whole family took part in an art activity at home inspired by the book, at the random behest of a child who’d been studying in her class that day.


As the book is published by Tate Publishing, the first book event I did was in Tate Britain, Story Space. Now, given that my entry into writing comes from being an artist, I’m sure you can imagine that the thrill of leading a workshop and reading my book in the actual TATE will never go away. Since then, I’ve done loads of workshops around the story, all about inspiring and empowering children to feel they can make change. I wanted people to see that the story isn’t actually about climate change and the environment, which I think people first thought it was. Because what it’s actually about is grass roots activism and community action and I think that, through the workshops, people really understood that. Doing those events never fail to restore my faith in humanity, even in times like these.


I have been very lucky and the book has given me several very high points. First, with it being long listed for the Little Rebels Award and then shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize — that has been amazing. Not so long ago I never thought I would ever be traditionally published, let alone have a book shortlisted for an award. The team at CLPE have given the book an incredible amount of support. First, using it as part of their Power of Pictures training course last year and then, this year, picking the book for their Back-To-School, Whole School unit. They produced the most wonderful resources around it and loads of schools around the country used it as a basis to teach all their year groups in September. Also, seeing the book on a table in Waterstones and getting a photo of it in a bookshop in Australia was so cool. Then most recently, the news that the book has been nominated for a Yoto Carnegie medal for illustration - that’s not even sunk in.


It’s going to sound very odd, after all that, to now say there have been low points too. But I do want to be honest and admit that, with these dopamine highs, there’s always a point where you have to come down. And inevitably, as a writer and illustrator, you spend far too much time scrolling social media comments and colleague’s news of upcoming projects and awards etc, then thinking: 

A. How can I follow myself after this debut? 

B. Perhaps I have peaked, so that’s me done. 

And mostly: C. Am I now irrelevant? 

Which I know sounds terrible but when the good news stops, that’s kind of how I felt. Yes it’s ridiculous, and if I were reading a similar comment five years ago, I would probably be thinking how pathetic or ungrateful. But there it is. And I doubt I’m the only one who's felt that way. I guess burnout is also a big contributor. Though I think it does strange things to your mental health - the highs and lows of this industry.


So, right now I am enjoying taking an unofficial social media break and practicing writing longer children’s fiction as part of a residency with the organisation New Writing North, alongside some small illustration projects. I do have a new picture book proposal I’ve been working on, which hopefully will go out on submission early next year. But first I will concentrate on catching my breath.


Lucy Farfort is an illustrator and author based in Newcastle, specialising in work for the children’s market. As a person of dual heritage (Caribbean-English) who grew up in a small town in the 80s, Lucy never saw people like her in the books she read as a child. Knowing the impact this can have has made her a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusivity in children’s publishing and visual media.
Lucy's illustrations are created using a mix of traditional and digital media – generally watercolour paintings, enhanced with PhotoShop brushes and found textures.
Lucy was awarded first prize for illustration in Faber Children’s inaugural FAB Prize competition in 2017.

*Header image: Ell Rose & Tita Berredo;
all other images courtesy of Lucy Farfort


Françoise Price is Deputy Editor for Words & Pictures. She writes picture books and middle grade stories and has been shortlisted and won second prize in the SCBWI Slushpile Challenge. She is published in Aquila magazine. Find her on X (formerly Twitter). You can also contact her at


Anne Boyere is one of Words & Pictures' Feature Editors and runs the #SCBWIchat X chat about books for all ages @SCBWI_BI. You can find her on X.

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