AFTER THE WHIRLWIND Jennifer Burkinshaw


Now that the whirling debut dust has settled, Lui Sit invites Jennifer Burkinshaw to talk about one thing she's learnt since becoming a published author.


Igloo at the Pickering Book Tree

Igloo, my YA coming-of-age romance is self-evidently a winter book. Released in November 2022, my debut year has been a non-typical whirlwind. While some people don’t mind reading counter-seasonally, it seemed that my life-sized cardboard igloo and alpine accessories risked melting after March’s World Book Day events!

All set for Igloo's launch, Lindley Children's Bookshop, November 2022



Igloo at its first Book Fair in November 2022

However, Beaten Track, who published Igloo, offered to publish Happiness Seeker in November 2023, just shy of a year after my debut was released. A break from school visits and bookshop signings after March gave me time to revisit the story of a tragic school trip to Morecambe Bay. This included bringing in some new experts to inform the story, including Hope for Justice, Unseen and Bay Search and Rescue.


Thankfully, in November 23, a year after its release, interest in Igloo heated up again (ouch!) and I was in demand for school/library visits and Christmas fairs, promoting Happiness Seeker alongside. I’m very much hoping this means Igloo can re-emerge for many winters to come – an ‘established Christmas book,’ as one indie bookshop put it.


Book signing at Kenilworth Books, January 2023

So, what have I learned through my debut year? That there is no end to the promoting you can do for your book, especially, but not only, if you’re un-agented with a small publisher - meaning no marketing department or budget. From November 2022 to March 23, as well as school and library workshops, visiting YA book groups, bookshop signings and fairs, I also did numerous interviews in every possible media and spent countless hours making TikTok reels, Insta and Twitter posts.


Following up every opportunity and finding new routes to readers can be exhausting. It’s taken towards the end of my debut year for me to realise that I can’t be everywhere at once. So, it’s worth working out what you’re doing best, and where. And that, for me, turns out to be school visits. Gradually, my writing workshops have become something of a speciality, drawing on my experience as an English teacher and my Creative Writing MA. I’ve also had an increasing number of requests for sessions catering for reluctant readers, which is such a worthwhile opportunity.


Connecting with the teenage readers I wrote both my novels for is the undisputed highlight of my debut year. Meeting adult readers is definitely cool too! And these connections are NOT confined to the few months around your book’s release, even for a seasonal story, which is one misapprehension I was harbouring at the start of my debut year. Although it feels like books are swept away from readers’ attention by new releases, I genuinely believe our stories have more longevity than we might think. It’s up to us authors to keep them alive for all the readers who haven’t yet found them.


It’s been a year of celebrating small successes. These include being in a highly regarded book bloggers’ book tree of the year, or having a new indie bookshop saying Igloo deserves a much wider readership, stocking it and promoting it enthusiastically. Becoming the writer-in-residence at my local high school is a definite highlight. This role means I’m regularly at the school to lead writing workshops and author events. It’s definitely a two-way relationship. For example, I had the privilege of trialling the beginning of Happiness Seeker, months before its publication, on a group of year 9s.


A year after Igloo’s release, the snowy icing on my igloo, to mix a metaphor, on the penultimate day of 2023, was Igloo winning the Grand Prize at Eyelands International Book Awards. This means we get to go to Athens for five days in November 2024 – what a great chance to introduce Igloo to Greek readers!


The focus I was given for this article was ONE thing I’ve learned from my debut year. As mentioned above, this is to work out where/how I’m doing best with my book because I can’t do everything. Yet here I am, not only following up every little opportunity but also creating new chances for both Igloo and now Happiness Seeker too. Because if I’m honest, what I’ve realised is, there’s very little I wouldn’t do for my books.

*Header image: Ell Rose and Tita Berredo



Jennifer grew up in Lancashire and now lives with her husband in West Yorkshire. She loves mountains, Christmas and border collies! After studying English and Classics at Cambridge University, Jennifer taught English, Drama and Classics for twenty years in several schools and is now retired. She later completed an MA in Creative Writing for Children at Manchester Metropolitan University and is also an alumna of the Golden Egg Academy. Igloo is her debut novel. You can follow Jennifer on X (formerly Twitter), Instagram or email her at


Lui Sit writes MG, non-fiction, adult short stories, and memoir. She is agented by Becky Bagnell of Lindsay Literary Agency. Find her on XInstagram and on her website.


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.

1 comment:

  1. Just so proud of all you’ve achieved Jennifer burkinshaw , and wish you continuing adventures in the literary world . x


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