Today it’s my stop on the blog tour for Emma Perry’s debut, ‘I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever, The End,’ illustrated by Sharon Davey. Despite what the title may have you believe this glorious book is a true celebration of the transformative effect of reading in our lives. Poor Mabel really doesn’t like books, not one bit but nobody pays any attention. She gets books for her birthdays, books for treats and well just because… Mabel decides while books aren’t good for reading, they do in fact make excellent plates, sledges and stools much to the consternation of her books. One day the books revolt and change Mabel’s mind in the most unexpected of ways. I absolutely loved everything about this story, Emma is a natural storyteller. It’s so much fun to read aloud and is fit to burst with comic moments, it really did put a huge smile on my face. Sharon bold and vibrant illustrations brilliantly captures Mabel’s frustration at the predicament she finds herself in, always surrounded by books. Wonderfully imaginative, it is a joy from start to finish.
To celebrate the publication of this marvellous book I have a special guest post from Emma on her journey from book blogger to author.
From reviewer to author – how on earth did that happen? – Emma Perry
It has to be said, inadvertently setting up My Book Corner, way back in 2011 did eventually lead to me writing fiction. But, it was never meant to be that way.
It wasn’t the plan.
It wasn’t my intention.
In fact, I actively RAN AWAY from the idea… several times!
However, looking back it was clear that delving headfirst into My Book Corner was the catalyst – I just didn’t know it at the time.
I set up My Book Corner back in 2011 while we were living in Australia. It was tricky finding work in a new country with a young family, and it was my husband who suggested I review books online “because you like them so much.” He also volunteered to build the website. Perfect. I rummaged through the kids’ bookshelves to review their favourites and merrily set about telling my 2 visitors (thanks Mum and Dad) why I liked them. I was amazed when publishers started offering me books to review, and I was even more gobsmacked when I started receiving books before they even appeared on the shelves. It felt (and still does) like such a privilege and honour to get to see these beautiful books so early.
As My Book Corner continued to grow I started to look at other ways to write. Never did it cross my mind to attempt to write the fiction that I loved reading. Absolutely not. I even went to writers’ conference in Melbourne, and when the keynote speaker started talking about crafting characters and plotlines, I shook my head – this wasn’t for me. No way. I was much happier enjoying the stories of others. I focused on landing a few freelance roles, writing for other publications in addition to My Book Corner. But I think a little seed had been planted that day, I just didn’t know it. In the meantime, I was becoming more and more immersed in the wonderful world of children’s literature and it wasn’t going to let me go!
Returning to the UK was time filled with finding schools and a house and catching up with old friends and starting to think… what’s next? It was one of my old friends (Carey xoxo) who listened to my story about My Book Corner and turned to me and seriously asked, “why aren’t you writing your own books?” My instinct was to laugh it off, but it stayed with me. Then the lovely Tania McCartney back in Australia launched her online creative guide and it just felt the signs were too much – I had to give this a go.
But. I’m a HUGE procrastinator (*cough* half a degree in Psychology *cough*) and knew that I had to go all in from the beginning. That year, for the first time ever, I set two** New Year resolutions with a deadline of Easter. Go for it, see what works – was my mindset. So in between supply teaching I researched ALL the books, I knew I wanted to write for children – but no idea what age to write for or what to write about. Then I came across Ann Whiteford Paul’s Writing Picture Books. It was the one that spoke to me, and the one that fired up that excitement in my belly. I put it down and began scribbling ideas.
A month later I proudly had my first picture book script (just the one!) and had NO IDEA what to do with it. I had NO IDEA whether it was any good. I’d seen SCBWI online but that was too big a step for the voice in my head that screamed ‘you’re not a proper writer – stay away!’ So, what to do? A school run chat with Ele Nash introduced me to the Golden Egg Academy. I looked up their website, which had a big flashy banner ‘Now Accepting Picture Books’… oooo! I closed my eyes, pressed send. It was a huge litmus test for me, the first time my writing had been outside the cosy four walls of my house… and I’m really not sure what I would have done if they had turned me down.
I’m so grateful to GEA for saying ‘yes’! It spurred me on. I had invaluable 121 feedback from industry professionals at GEA, I found the courage to join SCBWI (do it, they are amazing!) and I found the most brilliantly, supportive critique group – Scribbles & Doodles. At that point I was well and truly immersed in the world of writing for children, and I LOVED it.
The SCBWI slush pile competition was the next big gamechanger for me. The brief for the challenge, set by Helen Mackenzie Smith, fitted my latest WIP nicely so off it went. I could not believe my luck when I won it. I could not believe my luck when I trotted off to London to meet Helen for a 121. And I absolutely could not believe my luck when she offered to represent me.
Helen sold my first two picture book scripts to the wonderful home of David Fickling Books within a few months. Under the care of the incredible team there, two amazing illustrators were found for each of them and the books were created. Now we are in 2020 when both of them will be published. I’m still pinching myself, I’m still grinning from ear to ear and I’m still incredibly grateful for this amazing journey.
Important Footnote: well, reading back that it all sounds like plain sailing doesn’t it?! But. There were bumps along the road. Lots. There were plenty of ups and downs and rejections and doubt and waiting and more doubt. I think there always will be. And that’s ok.
**PS: in case you were wondering about my second resolution (skip this bit if you weren’t), it was to teach myself to crochet… I know, I have NO idea where that came from! Anyways, turns out that crocheting is rather handy when you are stuck on a plot point, lost for words… it lets your mind wander quite nicely. Plus, I now have a random collection of crochet blankets and crocheted alpacas (inspiration for Alfonso in ‘This Book Has Alpacas & Bears’ ill by Rikin Parekh – coming June 2020!) scattered around the house.
Emma Perry can be found either writing books, reading them or teaching them. It’s always been that way. In fact, her first two picture books are about… yep, books.
The founder of MyBookCorner and organiser of International Book Giving Day, the book obsession shows no sign of slowing down.
Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more guest posts and reviews.
Thank you to Emma for writing this insightful blog post and to Liz and David Fickling Books for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of the book. ‘I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever. The End,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.