Guest Blog by Evelyn Bhatt
It all started with an odd sock lying abandoned on the floor!
I don’t think I ever consciously set out to be an author for children’s picture books but one day while tiding the house I came across yet another abandoned sock on the floor and I turned to my husband and said – ‘if I have to pick up one more sock -you know I could write a book about it’ – so I did – and that is honestly how the lost socks tales began.
Little sock characters started appearing in my head and I got my odd sock bin out and started looking at the array of odd socks I had collected – determined to find their partner – so no socks ever got thrown out!!
The socks began to develop into characters and the stories developed from there – such as school socks – clever clogs, always wanting to learn, football socks, happiest when practicing his football skills with George and George’s sister Lottie’s pink frilly socks who sometimes didn’t like the boy socks – especially if George had broken one of Lottie’s toys!
So, I let my imagination run with it and the stories developed. This part was so enjoyable scribbling ideas in a notepad or typing on the computer. It was a bit of escapism and only I needed to know about it.
However, every time I found a lost sock in the depths of the sofa or was hanging the socks up to dry I kept thinking I’ve got to do something with these stories – but were to start!
My husband Vip (who by the way thought I had gone slightly mad) knew an illustrator who did some initial sketches for me and I typed up my first story.
Armed with 10 children’s publishers’ email addresses I found on the internet I sent of my ideas and waited eagerly with a YES, you’re a genius – what a great idea!!
But one by one,’ very nice – thank you but no thank you’, appeared in my inbox!
By this stage the world of socks had taken over so I thought – not to worry on to the next 10 publishers on the list – but what if they too said no what next?
A lucky encounter or two!
My husband then recalled meeting a real-life children’s author at a networking event once and suggested – ‘what if you tracked her down and met for a coffee, she may have some suggestions.’
So, I thought – what have I got to lose – so I emailed her and she quickly came back with a – yes would love to meet – WOW!
With a folder full of my story outlines and a few sketches off I went to meet this real-life author – what was I doing!! Who did I think I was? What on earth was I going to say to her?
But that day was to prove to be one of the luckiest days of my – on my way to being an author days. As I sat there in a local café wondering what on earth did I think I was doing, in walked – Jude Lennon (yes, she is related!) and little did I realise how my life was going to change forever. I was captivated from the first instant, her enthusiasm, encouragement and advice was endless, I couldn’t quite take it all in.
One of the first things Jude asked – had I sent my story ideas off to any publishers – yes, I replied but with no luck – this is very typical was her response – words like – competitive and crowded market, have to have an agent to get a publisher, have to be a celebrity to get an agent etc etc
So was that it – no chance of any of these stories seeing life – NO was her reply there is loads you can do!!
I must have scribbled for a good 30 minutes as Jude explained the world of being an indie author (never heard of it) and more importantly she mentioned two things that without either I would not be about to publish my first (of many) children’s books or writing a blog about it (at the time I didn’t even know what a blog was – but more on that later!)
These 2 words (well 4 actually) were – Sue Miller and Team Author! Jude went on to explain that lots of people had done what I’d done and the results had been the same as mine –getting nowhere with finding a publisher. She then explained about a team of people (most of them now authors themselves) who had come together to help individuals like me – fulfil their dreams of becoming an author. Team Author was a resource I could tap into as much or as little as I wanted/needed to help me with this crazy journey I had found myself on.
Jude gave me such belief that there was something in my little lost sock tales and passed on her enthusiasm that I could do this. I couldn’t quite believe I had met someone with so much knowledge of the journey I was about to embark on. What was the next step? – well to meet Sue Miller of course!
Two weeks later I am off to meet this woman – Sue Miller, in a Costa coffee near Cheshire Oaks (I have since said I can never meet her there again as after the meeting I slipped into the shops – and let’s put it this way – I would have to publish a hell of a lot of books to cover the damage I did on my credit card that day – celebrating the fact I was going to become an author!
The enthusiasm and encouragement I received from Jude was only multiplied by this gorgeous and generous Canadian lady who I am proud today to call my friend. Every question was answered and every doubt squashed – Sue did not know the word for quit (she also doesn’t know how to pronounce the words – squirrel and The Wirral – but that’s another story!!)
So, my journey began – 1, no wait, 10 steps closer to reaching this goal of publishing my first book. Introductions were made to an illustrator (the extremely talented Lisa Williams) and a list of other people that I could get help from – social media training& support, author website set up & design, marketing & PR, writers courses – the list of resources and people that could help was endless. By the end of my meeting I had an invite to a writer’s retreat later in the year and more importantly the feeling that I had just come across the most amazing support network, I could hardly believe it. Leaving my meeting that day – I was an author (hence the spending spree!). However, there was a couple of doubts in my mind, marketing my book- the words Facebook and twitter filled me with dread – I was on neither and had no scooby do about them – but more on that later!)
I cannot thank Sue enough for linking me with Lisa Williams, my books would not be the books they are without the most amazing illustrations that Lisa has produced. Having sent my stories off to Lisa and a couple of phone calls later – I could not believe my eyes when Lisa sent through her ideas for the socks characters – I had a tear in my eye when I received my very words matched with the most fantastic sock characters I could have hoped for. The humour Lisa brought to the book was just what I wanted and so my sock characters came to life. My little story –The Sock Hunt- which is about a group of odd socks who set off on a sock hunt around the house to find their lost partners (if only!) -suddenly with the magic off Lisa’s illustrations, my few words that rhymed was transformed into a picture book that I would have loved to have read to my children when they were little. The importance of having the right illustrator to match your words can not be under estimated and I struck the jackpot when my words were paired with Lisa’s illustrations – a magically matching pair!!
Part Two Coming soon!
About the author
Evelyn Bhatt is a children’s author.