I haven’t written my blog for ages, and there’s a big reason for that: I’ve been considering giving up writing.
From the outside, I’m an extremely successful children’s author: I’ve published over 40 books; I’ve won awards; children across the country (and in other countries!) read and study my books in lessons and produce amazing creative work. Lots of people love my books.
But here’s the thing: making a career as a creative writer is really, really hard. Especially when you write children’s books. There are so many things standing in the way of a long-term career: publishers’ focus on debut novelists, on celebrity ‘authors’, on high-discount sales. So many dispiriting statistics: that children’s books make up 30% (or is it more?) of all books sold, but have something like 0.3% of review space; that advances are so low that you’d have to sell at least six middle-grade books to publishers a year to make as much as a NQT teacher (well, that’s how low my advances are anyway); that more and more of my established and brilliant author friends are turning away from publishing to do other jobs where they’re appreciated and remunerated fairly.
A month ago, I was starting to look around for other jobs. Something with a steady income (oh, how lovely that would be!), where I could plan ahead, maybe save for my children’s future. Maybe even get myself a pension. Yup, I don’t have one of those.
And then – THEN – I did a school visit. It was a couple of weeks ago, and I had the usual slightly rusty feeling when you haven’t done something familiar for a while. But the minute I got in front of those kids, and the minute they started responding to me, I just KNEW. I love this job. I don’t always love the writing part of it. But I love visiting schools and working with kids, and I know I do it well.
I came home that day thinking: what on earth are you fussing about? If you want to carry on doing school visits (and I’ll be honest: I earn more money from visiting schools than I do from publishing books), then you have to write more books. You write well; you can come up with lots of ideas. They won’t all get accepted (just how it is); you won’t get paid much for them (though we live in hope); the publishers might mention your new book on social media once and then never again. But without new books, your school visits will slowly dry up. And that would be an awful shame.
It was World Book Day yesterday. This week, I had four days of visits to schools in Didcot, Clapham, Docklands and Southall, and I loved them all.
So I’d better get on and write some more books, hadn’t I?
Hello. I’m back 🙂
Photos from Havelock Primary School and Arnhem Wharf Primary School, with permission, and many thanks!