Since my blog is all about my author journey I thought it was about time that I started the story from the beginning. Here is how I came up with the idea for my first picture book…
Quite a number of years ago, I remember reading about a ‘five-year-plan’ in a magazine (not Smash Hits although I did used to like getting that and reading lyrics to songs that were in the Top Ten) and thinking I must need a plan myself. I thought it would be quite cool to write a book one day, probably because it would be a physical object that symbolised achievement and I love that feeling. It was nothing more than a thought at that point though. Plus, I was a teenager at the time so my five-year-plan was mostly finishing secondary school and puberty.
Having to perform a whole school assembly…alone?
I’m sure you will be pleased to know that I achieved both of those things so we will skip ahead to 2015 or so when I was five years into my teaching career and working at the same school that I am still at. I was asked to do the first whole-school assembly of the year in September to launch the idea of metacognition: thinking about your thinking; learning how to learn; learning that mistakes are a part of learning, etc. Really good stuff. Anyway, since it was the first day back, quite literally the first hour of the term, I was faced with a couple of obstacles if I did not want to do the whole assembly alone (as I had in previous years).
The children had been off school for the whole of the summer so I couldn’t get any of them to help as there would be no time to rehearse.
Ditto for the staff.
In the end, I came up with the idea of writing a sort-of pantomime, called Graham Grey-Brain and Raymond Rainbow, where the cast did not know what was going to happen but just had to go with the flow and act out whatever I said. I wrote it in rhyming couplets and contacted some staff that I knew would be more up for that sort of thing. (If you think of your colleagues I am sure it is immediately obvious to you who would and definitely would not want to be involved with something like this). It went really well and any mistakes they made just made it funnier. All I had to do was read the script from the side of the stage.
Afterwards, I remember the deputy head saying to me that ‘people would pay for something like that’. He is the type of person that only says that type of thing if he really means it so it was quite the compliment!
A state of delirious exhaustion
A couple of years later and I was on maternity with my first baby and feeling the most exhausted I ever have in my life (even more so than during my teacher training year when I accidentally shaved the same leg twice). I was up most of the nights feeding and, on one of those nights, somewhere between being awake and asleep, though definitely leaning more towards asleep, I had an idea for a story. Wouldn’t it be funny, I thought, if bubbles came out whenever you burped? Whatever led up to this thought I do not know. Nevertheless, the next day I found a notepad. It was one of those long, narrow journalist numbers. I’m not sure where it came from and how it worked it’s way into our house but it did the job. I jotted down the first draft of my picture book in about twenty minutes. I somehow had a clear idea of a story pre-formed in my mind.
Next, I needed to think about illustrations…