Things that happen when you receive your first copy of your first book-

1. Jumping up and down.

2. Indeterminate happy yipping-type noises.

3. Running around in circles with it raised aloft like an Olympic torch shouting, ‘A BOOK! A BOOK! I MADE A BOOK!’

4. Sliding of cheek up and down smooth glossy front cover.

5. Paper sniffing.

6. Stroking and tilting to make gold shiny bits catch the light.

7. Genuine moment of wondering whether might be possible to carry book forever/wear it/have it implanted onto shoulder or against forehead as permanent ‘LOOK AT THIS BOOK!’ fascinator/parrot type accessory.

8. Shouting ‘LOOK, LOOK, LOOK AT THIS BOOK!’ instead to family, cat, passers by, friends and strangers on the Internet.

9. Calming down a bit (but only a bit) and actually reading book.

10. Noticing, again but properly because they’re on nice paper, how properly BRILLIANT the illustrations are and firing off emoji filled and thoroughly incoherent text of joy to Clara Vulliamy*

(*this stage probably only applies if your illustrator IS Clara Vulliamy)

11. Noticing the odd word which you would in retrospect have changed or placed differently… pausing… pursing lips…

12. Giving yourself a firm talking to to stop noticing and resume jumping, clasping and shrieking.

13. Later, reading book to children for first time and being examined very precisely on previously unconsidered details culminating in a sliding-downstairs-on-tummies-race to properly assess whether the sound a tapir makes in that situation can be accurately written as ‘SHHLOMF-A’ ‘SHHLOMF-A’ ‘SHHLOMF-A’*

(*this stage probably only applies if you have written a scene involving a tapir sliding down stairs)

14. Graciously accepting your children’s grudging acknowledgement that that definitely IS the sound a tapir’s tum makes on stairs.

15. Over next few days, forgetting you have your first copy of your first book briefly, then remembering, then leaping up to grab it and start again from 1.

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It’s been a slightly over-excited few days here…

YIP!YIP!YIP!

It’s just a…

…badge. But looking at it on the way home from my first proper publishing party gave me a small glow of pride.

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Am I really an author? Yes I am. I AM!

Cor.

And that wasn’t the only brooch I got that evening. Clara gave me one of these to match her own, made by very brilliant felt artist Josie Armand Smith:

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My own wearable Bambang! Isn’t he wonderful? But as you can see from his expression he also gets a little nervous about new experiences. I felt positively mother hen-ish introducing him to illustrious company at a party for the first time. As we were both a bit excited, I had to remind him not to eat all the canapes and he had to remind me not to drink too much wine. We did all right I think. To help feel brave, I had a new black and white tapir striped dress and purple shoes that co-ordinate with the first book’s cover. But look!-

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Next time I’ll be able to have tapir striped legs too! Just like Marilyn…or is it Diana? (confusing) Whoever she is she is certainly very pleased with her tights…

A Special day…

This morning I became aware that today is a very special day indeed.

When Clara and I were first discussing what we might make a book together about, we went in search of a hero to the zoo. We wanted to find a previously unsung animal. A perhaps less than familiar animal. We are both very fond of stories about bears and rabbits and elephants and cats and so on but it seemed to us both that they might have had rather more than their fair share of moments in the spotlight. That it might be someone else’s turn.

We had an inkling of who that someone might be. The fact that at first they were very difficult to track down only added to the excitement. A rather shy animal then?

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Whilst we waited for their return we looked at anteaters and slow lorises and sloths and armadillos and agreed they had their charms. But none of them were quite what we needed this time. THEY’VE all had books already after all. We bought ice creams, chatted and waited patiently…

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And then!- a tantalising glimpse as somebody came to enjoy the afternoon sun-

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And we fell in love. A love only enhanced by the fact that so many passers by did not seem to quite know what they were looking at (my sneaky lean against the information board may not have helped): “It’s an elephant!” “It’s an aardvark!” “It’s an anteater!”. My favourite was the extremely confident man who identified it to his trusting girlfriend as “an enchillada”. But the vast majority were pretty sure they were looking at a strange variant of a pig.

Do you know what we were looking at? Shall I give you a better picture to guess from?

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How about now? Of COURSE you do. You know the difference between a Mexican sandwich and an Asian tapir! (The largest of all the tapirs, sadly endangered and the only black and white striped one) Aren’t they delightful and deserving of many, many books written about them?

Yes- today is World Tapir Day and I am proudly declaring myself as Team Tapir Forever. I have a dream that one day I’ll go to the zoo and everyone will know exactly what they are, and that Clara and I will have helped in a small way to bring that about.

But I have to thank those people at the zoo, because indirectly they inspired the title of our first book involving our hero. It is to be called- ‘Mango and Bambang: The Not-a-Pig’. Mango, the heroine is equally important of course but I’ll wait until World Mango Day to tell you more about her. In the meantime I am very excited to give you a sneaky peek of Bambang himself. I do hope you’re going to enjoy meeting him. You only get a bit of him to start with but it’s a VERY fine bit indeed-

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Happy World Tapir Day!

Books and women and pies

What a whirlwind of a week! International Women’s day today, following on from World Book Day, both snugly parceled within the golden pastry layers of National Pie Week.

I like women and books and pie (with the definite exceptions of my old gym teacher and steak and kidney and I wasn’t bothered about that Booker-shortlisted one about a dentist)

This I suppose, is the last World Book Day I shall experience purely from the spectator’s side of the fence. And from the spectator’s point of view this year has been, as always, loads of fun. I wasn’t challenged too hard in the costume creation department. One son went to school as the young James Bond which just involved hair gel, an ironed shirt and a gun, the other was Billionaire Boy. He was angling for an endless supply of £50 notes but had to settle for a customised loo roll. They went in their minimalist costumes to the marvellous Children’s Bookshop in Muswell Hill to spend their vouchers afterwards and came away with spectacular goody bags of loot.

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Next year may involve school visits of my own. The thought of these induces a certain amount of gulping. I know it Will All Be Fine In the End. I have the HUGE advantage of at least starting out on the event trail in the company of Clara Vulliamy who is quite brilliant at making children happy and proud. I sort of thought aloud to her recently that perhaps I might be sent on some event training by persons unnamed and undefined? She gave me a gentle but quizzical look in reply. A sudden realisation that no, there is no induction day where you get given your Official Author diploma and badge. I shall have to rely on my not-as-well-hidden-as-I-might-like capacity for Showing Off.

I was once given a special prize by a frazzled mother at the end of a  children’s party for being ‘the life and soul’. I dread to remember how I earned this accolade…

Let me instead show off about two other women with books who should be celebrated this week.

The first is definite Official-Author-with-Badge Helen Peters who came to school last week to talk about her sequel to best-selling ‘The Secret Hen House Theatre’; ‘The Farm Beneath the Water’. I read it in one greedy sitting and found it as gripping, funny, passionate and wise as the first book. I was delighted to attend the (very) proper launch in the headmaster’s house of Roedean and meet Helen’s real life funny, passionate and wise farming family. Plus there were pies!

The second is children’s book blogger and campaigner like no other; Zoe Toft. Following an idle chat about houses built from books on Twitter she took up my challenge to build her own in aid of Book Aid International. She stripped her shelves of over 1500 titles and constructed the most perfect little fairy tale cottage (with a fair few fairy tales in its foundations doubtless). To date she has raised an extraordinary £740. Do go and look at her blog of the process and help bump up that total even more if you can. A true labour of love.

Enough women and books. Not quite enough pie perhaps. I have no pictures of pie. Will you settle for an entirely gratuitous picture of the sloth family at London zoo? I don’t know when International Sloth Day but goodness knows they’re quite as good as women, books and pie together.

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Waiting

Last week came the news that, for good and positive reasons, the publication date of my and Clara’s book is being shifted back from June to September.

Having a book come out is often compared to having a baby. And I’ll admit this does feel a little like, having completed the first trimester and reached the 12 week ‘safe to tell people’ stage, being sent back to the beginning for another bout of morning sickness and endless needing to pee.

But I am rebranding it to myself as even MORE pleasurable anticipation time. I am not too bad at waiting for things. Once upon a time I was a midwife and that involved a lot of learning to be patient. Babies tend to arrive more happily if they are not jostled about and rushed along. Sitting in a corner of a room watching for one to make an appearance in the small hours of the night generated some of the funniest, most memorable discussions in my life.

Then my most successful cooking tends to be the put-everything-in-a-pot and leave it alone for hours, heat it up a few days later sort. And whilst I cannot claim to be a great gardener, the handful of times I have managed to raise something from seed to (snail-nibbled) fruit have felt TRIUMPHANT.

So September will be just fine. Marvellous in fact.

But what to do while I wait? There would be plenty to fill an equivalent 9 months of pregnancy: Classes and appointments to attend. Equipment to shop for. Magazines and instructional books to swot up with. There should be similar checklists to occupy the Expectant writer. Preparing a room with an empty bookcase? Choosing the right pen for signing? Coaching in how to have a book ‘naturally’ without being sucked into continuous electronic monitoring of Amazon/Good Reads?

I could knit I suppose. I made a very small cot blanket when pregnant with my first child. Perhaps now’s the time to finally put these crochet squares together and make a little welcoming book nest.

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Or I could distract myself with a new hobby- Beginners Japanese, Tae Kwondo or French Patisserie perhaps?

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Not after a bikini body; but could I work towards better buns?

Ah.

Hang on.

I know how I’m supposed to fill the months waiting for a book to be published.

I’m supposed to write more books aren’t I?

Tummies

Tummies are tricky. Especially in January when they have a way of escaping from waistbands and wanting to pop out the top of trousers or from underneath jumpers to wave hello in person. “Look at me! Haven’t I done WELL over December?” they say cheerily. And we hiss and poke them crossly and try and squish them back into pants or tights or skirts or all three at once. Only to have them pop out all over again happily a few minutes later.

My tum is a bouncy Jack-in-the-Box surprise made out of marzipan, pastry and sausage roll at the moment.

Oh dear.

But tummies can be delightful on other people. My sons use the soft, deep squidginess of mine as pillow or play doh substitute with great satisfaction. In turn their baby tums were endlessly delicious for me to plant raspberries on or tickle.

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Helen Oxenbury always draws a lovely tum. These are exactly the sort of trousers I need at the moment.

There is satisfaction in the cup-of-tea-ledge stage of a pregnant tum too.

But the best tummies must be furry ones. Time for today’s gratuitous Jones pic. He is never shy about showing off his delightful belly.

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mmmm. Good eh?
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He certainly thinks so.

Which recalls another excellent furry, if occasionally-troublesome-when-trying-to get-out-of-a-hole, belly-

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In fact, maybe, rather than the fasting, juicing, bending and wrapping in Lycra that we are all exhorted to undergo at this time of year in order to get our tummies to hide away in decent fashion, furring might be a much better way to go. One could acquire a lovely soft pelt around the middle to stroke softly on a winter’s evening. What do you think? What fur would you favour? (I’m choosing mid-length striped butterscotch I think)

And do you have a different favourite literary tummy?

Happy New Year!

A new year and a new blog. In 2014 I wrote and sold my first book. June 2015 will see it published by wonderful Walker books.

*pause whilst I shout WHOOPEE! for the 456th time and dance a little jig around the room*

There’s a limited amount I can tell you about my book at the moment- except that it will be BEAUTIFUL because it’s crammed full of wonderful illustrations by Clara Vulliamy. You can read a little bit more back at my old blog here or at Clara’s here.

It felt the right time to stop reviewing other people’s books as I become more involved with my own- although I dare say I shan’t be able to help jumping up and down enthusiastically when I come across a particularly special one. In this new blog I’ll be sharing some of the adventures of becoming a published author. There won’t be ‘writing tips’; I still have my learner plates on. There will be book news, biscuit news and gratuitous pictures of our cat Jones.

In the meantime I’m just beginning to settle in: Selecting some scatter cushions, putting up a few pictures and keeping the kettle on for any visitors. Current biscuit status is GOOD- please- help yourself, it’s still the holidays after all-

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Current cat status is Sitting On a Bag Looking Winsome-

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But- hang on… THIS is neither biscuits nor cat. What could it be? Hmmm.