Another year has come and gone and it’s been a pleasure and a privilege, once more, to share my books with as many children – and indeed adults – as possible.
But it’s sadly true to say that the older books get, the harder it is to interest people in them. I hope it’s less that the funniness or warmth withers with age than it is down to the world just preferring shiny, new books. And classics, of course.
Perhaps I’ll need to take some advice from the likes of Julia Donaldson, Rob Biddulph, Oliver Jeffers or indeed Dr Seuss on how to turn a children’s book into a timeless family favourite.
In the meantime, with the Covid measures lifted, I was able to get out and about for World Book Day for the first time in a couple of years, reading both of my books, What Can You See? and I Like To Put Food In My Welly, at a Bright Horizons nursery in northwest London. Given how much they enjoyed it, I could hardly say “No” when they went on to ask me to read a Peppa Pig book to them too.
Perhaps the highlight of the year, from an author’s perspective, was being invited by my local cultural centre, the Arts Depot in Finchley in north London, to be the main writer at their annual festival of reading, the Book Buzz, held during the Easter holidays. I led two sessions, reading I Like To Put Food In My Welly and then inviting the children in the audience – with a bit of help from Mum & Dad – to write a bonus chapter of the book that plays around with rhymes.
Other events in 2022 included reading both books – on separate occasions – at the Little Critters pre-school playgroup in north London – which were my first times out and about without my own children in tow. I also read them both at a very chilly Winter Fair at Clitterhouse Farm, which is undergoing regeneration thanks to the valiant efforts of the local community.
I’m proud to say that my books were able to raise a little more than just smiles this year; they were both included among raffle prizes to raise money for Red Cross efforts in Ukraine and I Like To Put Food In My Welly was among the lots auctioned by Children in Read as part of their efforts to raise money for Children in Need.
Interspersed with the author events, there was also some disappointment, as I continued to navigate the mysterious world of literary agents, where many don’t even seem to have the courtesy to read your covering letter; in some cases, if they reply at all, you’ll be waiting a couple of months before receiving a stock letter, wishing you luck in finding a publisher, when you’ve already told them that one of your books – published – by a publisher – was chosen by BookTrust as one of their top 100 children’s books of the year. I like to think that it says more about the children’s literary agents, who apparently don’t read BookTrust’s recommendations, than it says about me – and presumably many other non-celebrity authors like me.
Similarly, on a number of occasions during the year, whether for formal events such as Independent Bookshop Week, or if I happened to be passing on the way to another part of the country, offers to pop in and do a reading or a signing were completely ignored. It’s hugely disappointing and discouraging when the kind of independent bookshops we all want to see flourishing on our highstreets show literally no interest in local – or visiting – authors who’ve featured on BookTrust’s “great books guide” list.
Aware, as I am, that three-year old books are decreasingly interesting to agents, local bookshops and even my own publisher, I’m hoping that I could soon have some exciting news for 2023; the kind of news that could reinvigorate my enthusiasm for the industry – and the industry’s enthusiasm for me. Cross your fingers and watch this space!