A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
It all started with a potty.
Lots of potties, to be precise. Lots of potties and nappies, and proud Facebook posts about what someone’s darling little offspring had just managed to do in them.
After being on Facebook for a few years, and mostly being FB friends with other mothers with small children, I’d had enough. I needed some intellectual stimulation, and fast.
‘Join Twitter’, everyone kept telling me. ‘But isn’t Twitter really banal?’ I’d say. ‘Isn’t it just people telling the world what they ate for breakfast? Do I want to know?’
Nope, I didn’t. At this point I wasn’t an author, published or otherwise. I’d written several poems, just for fun, and a few stories which thankfully no longer exist, but while I had vaguely entertained the idea of becoming a writer I had no really burning ambitions. When I wasn’t being a slave to my four children, I worked as a freelance translator. The writing was merely to stop me from dying of boredom.
‘Join Twitter’. ‘Join Twitter’. ‘You really should join Twitter’.
The suggestions kept coming, like a flock of hungry birds pecking in the dust.
‘Join Twitter’. ‘Join Twitter’.
Eventually I gave in. Twitter could be good for my translation business, I thought. A way to reach out to clients and get more custom.
The problem was, I was never very business-focused. I found myself following people on Twitter who had nothing to do with translation. Real people. Interesting people. And a lot of them seemed to be children’s authors.
Maybe I can put links to my poems on Twitter too, I thought. Just for fun. I did, and authors started following me back and telling me they liked my writing. Far from being banal, Twitter was opening up a new world that I’d previously had little access to. Here were people talking about books and agents and how to get published.
I knew a little bit about the publishing process. I knew that most people have agents, and that most publishing houses don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. The doors seemed fairly firmly closed. But then one of the people I followed on Twitter, Anne Booth (now a successful children’s author, then unpublished) started tweeting about a new publisher called Nosy Crow. The name intrigued me. I was, well, nosy. Nosy Crow looked like an excellent little publishing company, and best of all, it accepted unsolicited manuscripts. Tentatively, I sent off some of my poems. I never heard back.
It could, of course, have all ended there. But by now I’d come to realise that getting children’s poems published is extremely hard. Stories in verse, however, were a more realistic proposition. And so I reached out to some of my new-found friends on Twitter and asked if they would be so kind as to look over some stories I’d written. I won’t name names, as I don’t want these wonderful people to be inundated with unwanted requests from would-be authors, but needless to say I remain eternally grateful for their advice. I had no idea at this stage how to write a picture book, but two authors in particular ran me through the basics and helped me hone my skills.
It was reading a tweet by another children’s author about what she was working on that gave me the idea for the next story. That’s an interesting sort of creature to write about, I thought. What if I…
And so the story was born. Once again, I sent it off to Nosy Crow. Within a couple of hours I’d heard back. They liked it! They wanted to talk to me!
Brimming with excitement, I wrote off to a few agents, now able to say that I had interest from a publisher. One agent I’d earmarked in the Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook was Eve White. One book I’d heard a lot about on Twitter was Mr Gum, and Eve represented its author, Andy Stanton. I hadn’t actually read Mr Gum, but this seemed like as good a recommendation as any (I’m possibly guilty of having given Eve the impression in my covering letter that I’d read Mr Gum, but I did in fact read it a few weeks later and nearly collapsed with laughter in public as a result, so my decision turned out to be a good one).
Within a few weeks, I’d signed with both publisher (that first book I wrote isn’t out until 2017, but that’s another story) and agent. All thanks to Twitter. Within a few months, I’d met a whole network of authors, many of whom have gone on to become good friends. All thanks to Twitter. Within a few years, I’d become part of a community of children’s authors, published and unpublished. All thanks to Twitter.
And yes, Twitter has sucked me into its grip and made me waste time when I should be writing. But you know what? I can’t blame it, because I sort of owe it one.
It’s amazing where annoyance at potty posts can lead.
At the age of four Elli wrote her first picture book, involving her best friend, a tricycle accident, blood everywhere, and the author emerging as the hero. Several years later she completed an MA in social anthropology, moved out to Thailand, taught herself the language, and has since worked variously as a Thai to English translator, a copywriter for a domestic appliance insurance firm (about as interesting as it sounds) and an assistant editor in academic publishing. She now lives in London where she combines writing with freelance translation work, looking after her four children, butchering nice music on the piano and being dictated to by her deranged cat.