There was a good deal of personal difficulty at the start of the year. My brother-in-law and friend for almost twenty years had been diagnosed with a brain tumour in August of 2016. He went through treatment and seemed to be doing very well, but as we moved into 2017 it was clear things weren't going well. At the same time, we were approaching March, which would mark the second anniversary of Matthew's death. On that particular day, and that particular time, I know where I should be, but that was also the date of a consultation for my brother-in-law. We thought it was just going to be a question of getting his pain under control, but ended up driving through to a palliative care hospice in Sunderland where he died a couple of weeks later. What shocked everyone was how fast the cancer destroyed him. Horrible.
With March being such an emotionally difficult time, the rejection of a book I'd invested the last of my YA skills in tipped the balance. I wasn't up to writing another YA book, so I decided to put that YA novel out on KDP as Here in the Poison Garden and draw a line under it.
I needed a big change. As I work in a primary school, I thought I try the lower Middle Grade audience (approx age: 7-10) - something quirky and silly with a horror slant. My agent wasn't confident in pitching books for this audience, and I had no intention of writing any more YA books, so I left the agency and decided to just write for fun. No more agents. No more publishers. No more stress.
But once you have a finished book, it's hard just to leave it. So, during the half term break, I had a moment of madness and sent this MG book directly to three publishers. A few days later, one requested the full script and offered to publish. On the back of that I contacted my dream agency. I went down to London, met Agent F, I pitched to do my own illustrations and Buttercup became a two-book deal.
At the end of the year, I'm in a situation where I have a top agent who really knows the younger market and I have a load of Middle Grade ideas bouncing around in my head. The first Buttercup book is going to proof in the new year and the second book is already written.
Goals for 2018
The illustrations for Buttercup #2 don't really count as a goal because they're something I have to do - and I can't wait to get started. Goals are something I want to achieve that I don't have to do. Something to work towards. So here are a few.
- To write a new MG title. Something very different from Buttercup.
- To write twelve book pitches over three months - three sample chapters and a pitch for each.
- To read more. Much more.
- To write and illustrate a picture book - a few ideas bouncing around for that.
And that's it. So here's to 2018. Let's give it a go and see what happens.