There are many routes to publication and Debut Journeys aims to celebrate them all. This month Mario Ambrosi talks to Mariesa Dulak whose There's a Tiger on the Train, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb, is out now from Faber.


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

I've lived in London since University days, but There's a Tiger on the Train has been brewing for many years. I grew up in Yorkshire and I think the train trip in the book is inspired by the excitement of travelling to Whitby (which is by the sea) and Knaresborough (which is on the river) when I was a child. I'm currently writing this at the kitchen table, but I write a lot in cafes and in transit. I use the Notes app on my phone to fine tune manuscripts and much of this text was written on the Piccadilly line!

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

It's about a little boy who is on a train trip to the seaside with his dad. But this is no ordinary trip and soon a tiger boards the train followed by a crowd of crocodiles, a family of piglets, pugs, hippos and more... but unfortunately Dad is too busy on his phone to notice. Luckily, by the end of the book Dad sees the error of his ways. It's a story about the importance of taking time out to make memories with those we love. Faber paired me with award-winning illustrator Rebecca Cobb (who illustrated The Everywhere Bear, The Paper Dolls etc.) and Rebecca has done an amazing job of the illustrations.

Tell us about your route to publication

I'd been writing stories with zero success for a long time (lots of author rejections) and it was only after doing The Golden Egg Academy Picture Book course that things started to change. Tessa from the GEA introduced me to my agent (the lovely Gill McLay) and a year after completing the course I had won the FAB prize and secured a three book deal with Faber. Since then, I've secured contracts with Walker Books and DK Children.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I worked in children's publishing for many years, but I now work part-time as a Primary School Librarian. I love my job and it allows me the time to write in the school holidays. I don't have a lot of spare time, but when I'm not working, or writing, or chauffeuring my teenage children around, I like to cycle and bake.

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? 

Working in publishing gave me a useful insight into the industry but it also showed me how difficult it was to get published. I saw lots of brilliant texts crash and burn at acquisitions meetings. But it also taught me to celebrate every small step on the long road towards my goal such as getting a personalised rejection from an agent, or being longlisted for the teeniest of prizes, or someone who is NOT a member of your family saying that they liked your story!  ALL these steps are marks of success and should be celebrated — they show that you are moving in the right direction.  


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

Tip 1: Be prepared to wait... and then wait some more. The wheels of publishing turn very slowly. And Tip 2: Go to bookshops and read a lot. I love classic children's literature but if you want to get published you need to know what books are selling now, not 20 years ago. Tip 3: Don't give up.

What’s next for you?

My next picture book publishes in Spring 2025 with Walker Books. It's called The Silver Shadow and is based on a story from my dad's childhood growing up in Barbados when he found a baby shark in a rock pool. After that, my next book through Faber and illustrated by Rebecca Cobb is due in 2026 — it's called The Ice Cream Crocodile

I've also been working on a middle grade novel for ages 7-11 and a graphic novel text. It's been a lot of fun to work on different age ranges, but I think my heart will always belong to picture books.

 *Header image: Shannon Ell & Tita Berredo


Mariesa Dulak was born in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, and is of dual heritage (Black Barbadian/White British). A love of bookish things led to a degree in English literature, an MA in Children's Literature and a career in publishing. The Golden Egg Academy helped Mariesa turn her scribbles into stories and she now writes picture books and middle grade fiction about identity and family life. Mariesa works part-time as a school librarian and lives with her family in West London.




Ell Rose is Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures.

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Tita Berredo is Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and 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



  1. This book sounds brilliant , and I always love reading about authors journey to publication. I’m waiting while my first pb submission is out , and it was also helpful to read how long these things take !
    I’m sure Tiger on the Train will be a great success , I look forward to reading it .

  2. Good luck with your submission, Sarah!


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