DEBUT JOURNEYS Stephanie Taylor


There are many routes to publication and Debut Journeys aims to celebrate them all. This month Mario Ambrosi talks to Stephanie Taylor whose I’m Going to be a Princess, illustrated by Jade Orlando, is out now from Nosy Crow.

Where are you now and where did you write your book?

I’m a mum of two adult children living in South East London originally from Highbury and of Jamaican heritage. I am married to Michael. We have two adult children Sîan and Miles, who no longer live at home, and two fur babies – Neko and Pablo. 


Tell us about your route to publication:

A few years ago, with encouragement from my family, I decided to finally send one of my stories off to some agents and was surprised when I got a positive response from a few of those I sent it to. After talking with each of them, I really clicked with James Catchpole of the Catchpole Agency. We talked about what the book was about, who it was aimed at and what was the message behind it. 


James then pitched the book to several publishing houses and we felt the best fit for the book was Nosy Crow. They have been completely onboard with my vision for the book and the importance of its message.


What’s it all about? (Your book, that is!)

When I was a child in primary school we learnt to read using the ‘Peter and Jane’ books. Nothing about or in them represented me, my family, culture, or background. One of the reading schemes we used had a character called ‘Little Black Sambo’ who had just arrived naked from the jungle and was given a pair of little red shorts to wear. It was so humiliating and gave children the ammunition to tease and bully every black child with ignorant commentary which was unchallenged by teachers at the time. 

Although teaching was never on the cards for me, after an early career as a medical sectary I started volunteering at my children’s school. That has led to me having the privilege of working in a primary school for more than 20 years. It always saddens me though, that there weren’t many books that represent myself, my children, or the culturally diverse children I work with. If my passion for books, in some small way, encourages a child to pick up a book and read – then I’ve done my job! 


I’m Going to be a Princess’ is based on my experiences with my Goddaughter Maya, our conversations and yes - even though she had just turned 5 - very considered debates. Some might say arguments but whatever you call them, they are always great fun! With some embellishment, this is one of the many conversations we’ve had. The story woke me one night with the simple refrain – I’m Going to be a Princess – going around and around in my head. So, I started writing it down, in a notebook I keep by my bed, and the conversation I had with Maya began to develop into the story that has now been published.


Writing I’m Going to be a Princess has taught me many things but what I really wanted it to do was inspire young readers.  I am a firm believer in representation and so if a child can see themselves in the pages of my book then maybe they will be encouraged to turn what they think can only ever be a dream into reality. Hopefully they will recognise the fact that fulfilling their ambitions may not be easy or straight forward but is absolutely worth every difficulty and obstacle they might encounter.


What do you do when you’re not writing?

When I not writing or working I love to watch dance, athletics, read, and listen to music.  I used to dance and run when I was younger but have a heart condition and fibromyalgia so these days I am more of an observer. Having an invisible disability can be very challenging as people always say that I look really well when there are days that even getting out of bed can be extremely painful. 


What was the biggest bump in the road when it came to getting your book out into the world and how did you overcome it?

When the war in Ukraine broke out the publishers questioned whether or not Queen Amina was the type of historical character that we should be promoting through picture books, especially the age group it was aimed at, but they listened to James and I and we reached the agreement that we would put in the disclaimer that Queen Amina lived in a very different time and her actions were those of a ground-breaking and revolutionary leader which were completely appropriate for the time.

Any tips for budding writers hoping to follow in your footsteps?

The encouragement that I would give to other budding authors is to keep writing. Even if you’re not ready to send it away to an agent or publisher (I’d always recommend the agent route) just keep writing and make sure that you are reading lots of books in the genre and age group that you are writing for. Allow a trusted person to read your work and discuss what you’re trying to say and who it’s aimed at. I also entered writing competitions and took part in free online courses. Knight Of and Jericho Prize were huge in helping me develop my ‘voice’.


What’s next for you?

Next for me is the ‘boy’ version of IGTBAP. At this point I’m not able to say much more than that. But, as I said before, I’m writing everyday. Sometimes it’s just a phrase or a sentence that may or may not grow into a story.

*Header image: Shannon Ell & Tita Berredo


Stephanie Taylor is a British-born author of Jamaican heritage. Married to Michael, she has two amazing grown-up children, Sîan and Miles. Stephanie has worked in primary education for over 20 years at the same school in South East London.


Reading and writing books for children is Stephanie’s passion – if she can use this to encourage children to read then she feels like she has achieved something wonderful.


Ell Rose 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. 

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If you would like to feature in a future Debut Journeys, please email Mario Ambrosi at or find him on X: @marioambrosi

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