UK trade publisher Beachy Books has announced it will be exhibiting at their first London Book Fair where they will be selling rights in their next tranche of new titles for 2022 and beyond with the first by former Royal Marine Andrew Rigsby called Sabre Prattling – The Language of the Battlefield, a guide to the everyday words and phrases that originate from the language of the battlefield, for Autumn release.
‘We are very excited to have signed Andrew as he is a published author, and his military experience brings a unique perspective on the subject. He writes in an authoritative and entertaining way and his book is ideal for the gifting season and as a useful reference for writers,’ says publisher, Philip Bell. ‘We are very much looking forward to selling rights in this title along with others at our first London Book Fair as part of the IPG stand.’
It’s a pleasure to welcome these newly signed authors to our Beachy family. Katherine and I have been in touch over the years since we were both published together by Walker books and it’s special that I get to publish her story, and it’s a pleasure to welcome Julie Watson to our new imprint with her new collection of travel stories that will inspire people to travel in challenging times.’
‘Beachy Books is an author-friendly publisher who pays royalties quarterly and has fair contracts,’ explains Mr Bell. ‘We are a small company but work collaboratively with our authors which feels like an extended family. We are very pleased to announce another three authors to the fold and excited about the possibilities in selling rights.’
Philip Bell has been in publishing over thirteen years, following a positive experience successfully self-publishing his own series of children’s books, and later becoming published by Walker Books. Along the years, Beachy Books has helped authors, businesses and community groups achieve publication. As well as founding a POD partner publishing imprint, in 2020, the Beachy Books imprint was rebranded to become a traditional trade imprint focusing on adult, non-fiction and children’s books, and now it’s fledging list is growing year by year with the help of professional distribution and sales.
I’m writing this on New Year’s Eve 2021, a year that personally for me I would describe as annus horribilis, having lost my dear mum to the ravages of cancer in April. She gave me my love of the written word and passion for books. She also left a storage unit full of books (which I’m going through box by box). There’s no easy way to follow that news and it has taken its toll on me, for sure, but I am truly thankful I have a lovely partner and family around me that have helped. I’m healing, day by day, whatever that means. Also, I am grateful that my hard work to create Beachy Books gave me a disciplined focus of ‘work’ to distract me and keep me alive through some very very dark days.
It is a comfort to know that my mum was proud of my writing achievements in the past and was so happy I had started my own publishing company. She was always my favourite cheerleader and encouraged me in everything. I still hear her voice in my head and I speak to her every day. One of the last things we talked about was how Beachy Books was doing and I proudly showed her some of the latest books we had published.
I truly miss her and want to honour her memory by making Beachy Books a success and continuing to grow steadily in 2022 and beyond. But before I do that, it’s been a sobering exercise to take stock of another publishing year. Looking back, I know feel like, perhaps, I can lightly pat myself on the back, because I was surprised at quite how many books we published—six in total! Not bad for a very small publisher, considering how much work is involved in each book and when most of the work is done by me (and our authors of course), along with a handful of excellent freelancers and family help. On top of that, I have helped a few independent authors publish their own books and worked on several design/typesetting projects throughout the year. I’m proud of how much we have achieved in such a short space of time. To be positive, it’s been a productive year—annus fertilis.
What we published in 2021
It seems such a long way back to think of how the year started, coming out of the back of the lockdown coronavirus year, where we had just relaunched our ‘Beachy Books’ imprint as a traditional title list, alongside our existing Partner Publishing imprint and author publishing services.
Early on into 2021, we moved house and business location to my birth county of Kent, but we still have close connections with the Isle of Wight where Beachy Books was born.
After successfully kicking off the imprint with our first title in 2020, a children’s title called Thingamanose by Lynne Hudson, I quickly had to make new contacts in the publishing industry to get us into the book supply chain. After initially having our books on wholesale with Gardners Books, who were so helpful in getting our books to customers all through lockdown in 2020, I eventually found a fantastic book distributor. I had been searching for one for most of 2020 and coronavirus didn’t help, so it was a very happy day when, after all the dead ends, false starts, and rejections, we signed with Combined Book Services (CBS), also based in Kent. We also secured sales representation with veteran book sales agent, Chris Moody, of Bang the Drum, who now represents our list and help us sell into booksellers and wholesalers. The experience of having both of those industry professionals helping us has been fantastic and it finally feels like we are really making progress now.
And so, out of the traps first in March 2021 on our Partner Publishing imprint, was a delicate volume called Travel Mementos: Personal Stories about Faraway Places by Julie Watson, which contains some beautifully written true tales of some of the adventures of the author around the world. It seemed the perfect antidote to lockdown blues when travel to exotic (or even not very exotic) places seemed so far away. It was exciting to publish this little volume of imaginative tales of armchair travel tales and it’s been a pleasure working with the author who works so hard to promote her book and writing.
In April, it was a pleasure to publish what has become a fantastic seller for us—Pon My Puff! A Childhood in 1920s Isle of Wight by Peter Stark Lansley, which started as a manuscript that had been found in a suitcase by Charles Lansley, the late author’s son, who painstakingly edited and annotated the title. We had been in contact for some time, so it was a joy to finally see it published and it’s lovely the book has been popular with readers, and a lasting legacy for Charles’s father.
We published the second title by our talented author/illustrator Lynne Hudson in May called That’s My Cat! The story is a rhyming, comical picture book about a mischievous cat who seems to be owned by several neighbours at once, until he’s found out! That’s My Cat! was a fun book to work on because Lynne Hudson’s illustrations are so entertaining, and it was great to work on full colour picture book. It’s doing well, but due to covid, a proper book launch was not possible, so we hope to give this title a reboot in 2022.
September saw the publication of a new children’s chapter book in a larger format called Grandpa’s Dear Old Girl by Felicity Fair Thompson, an experienced writer and tutor who has also published her own titles, so knows how challenging it is to write and sell a book. It really was a pleasure to publish Felicity’s wonderful adventure story of a girl who helps her grandpa, the last lighthouse keeper, save fishermen in peril at sea. The story was fun to typeset and edit, and seeing Carolyn Pavey’s wonderfully atmospheric illustrations in the final published book brought a great smile to my face. It was also fun to work with new printers on this project and learn more about the very competitive children’s book market.
Lastly, and by no means, least, in November—following several rescheduled publication dates due to various factors including production and supply chain issues—I was relieved to see our first fiction novel on the trade imprint published called Ted’s Cafe by Roger Sanders, a wonderfully timely story about retirement, friendship and Brexit, all set in the year leading up to Covid hitting our shores. And before Omnicron had had a chance to take effect, we managed to arrange a fantastically successful book launch at a library on the Isle of Wight, where all the copies on the table were sold. It was a relief to see the novel being stocked and ordered by bookshops all over the UK despite the supply chain problems and delivery delays that have hampered the book world.
Hopes for 2022…
Funnily enough, I have not personally met all our authors face-to-face, as either distance or covid has prevented face-to-face meetups, so video calls, telephone and emails have sufficed, but it will be exciting to finally meet authors in person in 2022, covid permitting.
I am truly thankful to all our authors, publishing partners, retailers, booksellers, experts, freelancers, friends, family, partners, children, and, of course, our wonderful authors—without them all we would not be able to publish our books.
Beachy Books is a very author-friendly publishing house, and we look forward to working with you in 2022 and in signing-up new hopefuls from the mountain of submissions we are currently working our way through. We want authors from all backgrounds, minority groups and from diverse backgrounds. No matter what is sent, no matter who its from, we judge the work on its quality alone.
For the next year, I personally hope for annus mirabilis, rather than annus horribilis. I hope to see my children as much as I can, spend quality time with my lovely lady and my friends, keep in contact with old friends, and read a few more books for pleasure (I read so many for work, I often don’t feel like reading at the end of a publishing day). I have already started a new daily exercise routine and I even bought myself a skateboard, a retro one from the past as I used to pop an ollie or two, back in the day, so no need to sign up for a gym membership that will not get used come February. On the creative front, I hope to paint, just for fun, as I dipped my toe this year and really enjoyed it. But, I’m most excited to start a new writing project of my own again. It’s true, my muse certainly left me several years ago, but I am getting those tingling feelings back and a new writing idea is starting to form in my mind. In any case, I am just excited to just keep learning more about publishing and improving the quality of books we publish. For myself, for the memory of my mum, I’m going to work very hard and make 2022 a memorable publishing year for Beachy Books.
From all at Beachy Books, I wish you a Happy New Year. See you on the other side. I’ll leave it to those now gone, who have made their mark on literature, to sum up the new year.
“New Year’s Eve always terrifies me. Life knows nothing of years. Now the horns have stopped and the firecrackers and the thunder… it’s all over in five minutes… all I hear is the rain on the palm leaves, and I think, I will never understand men, but I have lived it through.”
“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, 'It will be happier'...”
Alfred Lord Tennyson
“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing.”
from Moby Dick by Herman Melville
In a nutshell, what inspired you to write this book?
I figured that after nearly 40 years in journalism, 30 of them freelance, or as I like to call it, independent, I might have something to say about operating successfully. Having cracked the six-figure earnings ceiling—a rarity for a non-celebrity freelance. I thought others might pick up some tips about how they might be able to earn big, too.
Why should anybody read this book rather than any other on the subject?
My book is passionate—a story of determination and survival. I am told it is an inspirational read. I do not have a monopoly on career wisdom. However, no one has my perspective. My book weaves the gripping autobiographical story of my career with practical lessons on how others can earn big, too. Of course, it’s not always just about the money—but hey, it helps. We all have bills to pay and mouths and lifestyles to feed. The Bounty Writer tells the story of how, debilitated by lifelong anxiety and depression, a stammer that dogged my life into early adulthood and severe hearing loss, I nonetheless enjoyed a successful journalistic career. So if I can do it, with all my issues, why not you?
Your biggest inspiration, the thing that drives you, your muse, if you will?
My biggest inspiration is my fear of destitution. It has always driven me. After my mother died of cancer when I was 14 my life spiralled out of control. I was desperate, did not have a secure roof over my head, suffered addictions and mental health crises. I vowed to myself that I would not just survive but succeed. My determination never to be that desperate, lonely, bereft 14-year-old again is what has driven me, as have the love I have for my wife and two daughters.
What’s your view on how journalism is today, the current state of play? How do you think it will develop in the future? I’m guessing it’s one industry where AI and robots will not take over? What about foreign competitors, freelancers offering their services for peanuts?
I frequently fret about journalism today. I hate lazy journalism and cliched journalism. How many times have you seen reporters on news programmes describing scenes ‘like a battlefield?’ Ugh! Really? Are they all like battlefields? Have you ever seen a battlefield? How many times do you see news programme presenters who present like they are more important than the story?
I despair of politically biased reporting. I hate the fact newspapers have reputations of being right-leaning or left-leaning. A reporter’s job is not to reflect their own bias. It’s different if they are writing an opinion piece, but no news story should report anything other than the facts. No newspaper or news programme should distort news to reflect their own bias. The internet is what helped send my earnings stratospheric, but I never used the internet lazily.
I detest the way many experienced journalists do not sufficiently scrutinise what they are reading on social media and what the PR industry feeds them. However, I believe that principled journalism in democratic countries will out, because a ‘free’ press is vital in democracies.
AI and robots will never replace intrepid, driven, passionate reporters. God, I hope not!
Freelance journalists who offer their services for peanuts are the enemy of freelancing. They make it difficult for all the professional independents out there. I’m not fond of cliches, apart from this one: ‘If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.’ Precisely!
If you hadn’t earned six figures doing this, would you still have done it all? What I mean is, was it something that found you, or did you find it?
Journalism was never about the money. It was about being the best journalist I could be and being principled. I feel journalists have a great responsibility. I felt that when I entered the trade and I feel it today. But we are mere humans and we all have material aspirations unless we are saints. I am not. And so, I discovered I could earn really well and worked towards a dream of semi-retirement in a beautiful location and that is what I have achieved.
I found journalism rather than the other way around. I had to do something with my love of the written word and my ability to communicate articulately in writing. I stuttered even into my mid 20s, although I learned to control it, Ed Balls-style. As a child, my fear of stuttering meant I didn’t put my hand up in class or, when I did, my failure to spit the words out met with cruel laughter from classmates, and one teacher, who said: ‘Spit it out Don!’ The only way I could get the teachers to recognise I had a brain was to hone my writing skills. I also played various musical instruments, despite my deafness, and won over one teacher who was mad about Music Hall.
Do you need qualifications to do the job? Or is real world experience, working your way up the ladder, enough nowadays?
I am a great believer that academic achievement, in itself, should not be the be all and end all of getting a great job in journalism. Intelligence, drive, moral scruples and a glimmer of potential are more important. If someone can demonstrate they can express themselves concisely, have a nose for a story, enthusiasm and a passion for truth—that, to me, should carry more weight than a degree. Of course, if you’ve been on a specialist course in pre-entry journalism, that speaks volumes for a person’s focused direction, but I believe in people and not degrees.
Your one top tip for a beginner getting into this business?
Don’t become a journalist unless getting a page-one by-line gives you more of a thrill than sex or adding up a column of figures.
Why did you want an independent publisher?
I am an independent. I believe in independence. I have always lived independently. I’ve written prolifically about independent businesses. Independence is in my blood. I wanted a publisher who would care about my book as much as me—not one of the giants for whom I had written something niche and was one of many in a huge stable of clients. I wanted personal contact, someone I’d work well with on edits and proofing and who had my kind of work ethic. Beachy Books felt right.
What’s the next book you are working on?
I don’t want to give too much away at this stage, but I am writing a novel at the moment about a dog—think What Dreams May Come meets Lassie. You’ll just have to wait.
Funniest ever piece of writing/journalism you have ever written?
I used to write for a hairdressing magazine called Hairdressers’ Journal International in the days when it was a weekly magazine. I wrote a couple of Christmas pantomimes—one based on The Lion King (Haircuna Haircutta) in typical Crackerjack Christmas panto style. It just flowed from my fingers and I cried with laugher as I wrote it. That someone wanted to pay me for it was the icing on the cake.
Philip Bell would like to thank Andrew Don for his time in the interview. If you like the sound of Andrew’s book then you can find out more and buy it by selecting the cover below:
Independent book publisher, Beachy Books, based in Kent and run by published author, Philip Bell, has grown up! Director and publisher, Philip Bell, is happy to announce a new significant development for his publishing company with news of their first professional book distribution partnership with Combined Book Services (CBS) of Paddock Wood, in Kent.
Philip says, ‘I am so happy to have secured book distribution for my traditional titles through CBS. It’s such a big deal for a small independent publisher. Previously, through Covid lockdowns, we were self-distributing, which is very hard work, but now I’m confident CBS will be able to supply all retailers and get our lovely books into shops when they are open again!’
CBS will be handling all trade orders for books on the Beachy Books imprint, which has been rebranded to reflect a varied publication schedule by cherry-picking interesting authors and genres across picture books, original contemporary fiction and well-researched non-fiction.
Of course, book distribution is nothing without sales, so it’s another first too for Beachy Books to also have secured professional sales representation from Bang the Drum sales agency, headed by experienced publishing industry sales director, Chris Moody, who will be handling all UK book sales for Beachy Books.
Speaking of the news, Philip says, ‘Chris has been like a mentor to me, helping in so many ways as we grow as a publisher. He’s worked for some of the biggest publishers including HarperCollins and Egmont, so I’m very grateful he also wanted to represent Beachy Books and get our books in front of booksellers.’
It’s just been an incredible journey so far for Beachy Books, which started ten years ago to self-publish a series of children’s books. Since then, they have helped many authors get into print.
But it wasn’t until 2019 that Philip got serious about publishing, following a life-changing event, ‘I had a marriage breakup, and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. It took some time to rebuild my confidence again and I wondered what I was going to do next, but I just kept coming back to my passion — books, writing and publishing! So, I rebranded Beachy Books and rose from the ashes with a new traditional imprint, alongside our other publishing models, to publish all the amazing manuscripts I was being sent. My goal was to create an author-friendly publishing house to publish a wide variety of quality books. And now, with help from CBS and Bang the Drum, and news of the pandemic easing and bookshops opening in April, 2021 is certainly looking beachy!’
It’s been a year of the unprecedented use of the word “unprecedented” and the majority of us probably didn’t realise what a year it would turn out to be, but isn’t that life! It’s one of those world-changing events where everybody on the planet has felt what it’s been like to go through the experience, all be it, filtered through each of our own world views and personal circumstances. I for one have really missed seeing my children as much (teens now) but I’m grateful for my lovely partner and her hilarious sense of humour that has got us both through some low days. It goes without saying that I’m sure we are all looking forward to putting this year far behind us!
And what a year it has been, one that we decided to relaunch Beachy Books and ensure we can create even better books and provide an even better service to our clients and authors.
And so, the year began with excitement in the air as I foreshadowed in my 2019 yearly roundup blog, I was very excited to be attending and exhibiting at the London Book Fair 2020 in March, alongside the Independent Publishers Guild (IPG) stand, had loads of meetings booked with booksellers, distributors and other publishing industry folk to hopefully gain knowledge, make contacts and do business… but, alas… it was cancelled, along with all other public events as “the coronavirus” swept across Europe and hit the UK. I was gutted. I was in the middle of incorporating Beachy Books, trying to get book distribution sorted, gain sales help, along with all manner of other issues I hadn’t realised I’d have to get my head around to have a hope of doing what I’d always wanted to do: Make Beachy Books a professional and valid business in its own right, work at it full time and start to publish a list of books under a traditionally published imprint, alongside my other work in helping people get published.
I found some solace in recording a few podcasts this year, one before the eve of lockdown, and an isolation special where some of my brilliant authors and poets on our list recorded poems and I read out stories. I had hoped to podcast more this year, but due to a combination of being too busy and not feeling so inspired during my walks it scuppered my hopes. I have some plans to reboot the podcast next year and attempt to make it more interesting, get others involved and attempt to make it more content-rich instead of just me rambling on about myself. Watch this space but don’t get your hopes up too high!
I admit at times throughout the crisis I was ready to jack it all in and I became very stressed and exhausted. I was working very long hours and most weekends just to keep things going. Because of various factors I was not eligible for any kind of government help apart from business loans which I steered clear of; instead I invested my own money into the business to keep things going and was so greatly helped by reaching out to the generous folk in the publishing industry such as the IPG, and my contacts with other professionals, who offered me so much support and help with the business and steered me in the right direction.
It is often difficult to sustain enthusiasm when working on books that won’t be out for some time, so it was a blessing when I started to get so many enquiries and submissions from authors, who found themselves furloughed or enjoying retirement, with lots of time to write and send us it all! Beachy Books has been inundated with submissions this year, so much so that we had to temporarily flip the closed sign on the submission door until the new year to catch up with the backlog.
Alongside business shizzle for Beachy Books I had the pleasure of helping a handful of authors to self publish, including our most senior client ever, at over 90 years old, who we helped to publish a hardback personal memoir about his amazing life. It was also great to once again work with the fabulous Shirley Adams (who I’d helped in 2019 to publish The Hungry Fox and Penny Feathers) to publish a new picture book she wrote in response to a child who contacted her with an idea on Facebook: I Want To Be Small Not Tall.
It was a dark few months for a while, battling with the isolation of lockdown, separated and missing my children, but I was very lucky to be living with a lovely and funny lady and together we battled through the madness, entertaining each other while both working long hours from home, and popping out for the regulation exercise walk-a-day during the first lockdown. I admit, I didn’t actually have my first Zoom call until a few months back, as most of my work could be done by emails and the occasional phone call with authors and clients.
Reflecting back, I realise I’ve had to wear so many “hats” setting-up or rebooting many aspects of my business, learning new skills and making new contacts. One day it was learning how to setup royalty runs, another day it was dealing with book distribution problems — of which there were many in the early days of the pandemic with bookshops suddenly closing and the whole book distribution network disrupted. Fortunately my great printers and distributors continued to run all through the pandemic, improving services day by day, and of course we all know bookshops did an amazing job of providing books to customers via collection and deliveries.
I had a bit of a blow when I had to ditch a distributor early on in the year after they just all went into furlough. I had barely signed-up with them, but luckily Gardners Books kindly reached out to us and helped get our first traditionally published children’s book on the rebranded Beachy Books imprint all stocked and ready for sale into the book supply chain: Thingamanose by Lynne Hudson – a silly, comically illustrated book that is a bridge-gapping book between picture books and chapter books, a longer picture book/part comic book that is written to appeal to slightly older children than pre-school kids. It was a thrill to see the book listed in The Bookseller Buyer’s Guide – another first for us!
Alongside the publication of the paperback of Thingamanose, another milestone for us this year was to commission and publish our first ever audiobook, where we worked with a wonderfully talented voiceover artist called Amy Putt, who did a brilliant job of creating voices for all of Lynne’s characters in the Thingamanose audiobook available on Amazon, Audible and iTunes.
We are very pleased to announce that following the success of signing Lynne, we will be publishing more of her writing in 2021, including a classic 32-page colour children’s book with a cat as the hero. Alongside Lynne Hudson, we have also signed three new authors on the Beachy Books imprint more of which we will post about early in 2021. And we are in early talks and drafts with more authors for 2022 and beyond (it’s weird thinking that far ahead!)
It’s also been busy over on our Partner Publishing imprint, which we have rebranded and defined more in terms of the service we provide and our royalty structure. In a nutshell this is a part-pay, part free marketing and sales imprint alongside the Beachy Books brand. We are excited to have already signed five new authors/poets, with another author soon to join the fold.
As a result we had one of the biggest spikes in visitors to our website and the book has had the fasted online sales in a single month that we have ever had! A fantastic success for author and publisher we think and we are looking forward to publishing more of Anna’s series in 2021 and beyond.
It’s been a pleasure to work with all our authors this year from contract issues to helping with editing and working on early designs of covers. We would also like to thank some of the fabulous freelancers we have worked with from editors to artists including the illustrator of the Oliver Gruffle books – Joanna Scott, and marketeer and publishing hopeful, Amy Butler, who is helping Beachy Books and gaining some experience. (Read her guest post on our blog about rhyme in children’s books).
We really do have a lovely variety of books due out next year and beyond and I’m already getting excited thinking about them all. Details of the authors and books on all our imprints will be revealed in an upcoming blog for books in production and scheduled for publication (which we refer to as “still at sea”) in 2021.
My head is spinning after such a busy year so it has been a relief to close shop over Christmas to recharge and just do nothing (apart from write this blog), but I think the rest is well deserved after this crazy year. Myself and all at Beachy HQ wish you a happy new year (it’s got to be better than 2020!?) and look forward to seeing you all on the other side when we roll the shutters up once again.
The first time we are introduced to rhyming is often through the nursery rhyme. From Baa-Baa-Black-Sheep to Humpty Dumpty, these quirky songs may seem like meaningless fun.
However, experts claim they actually provide a creative and playful learning opportunity and can be important for early development in literacy. To begin understanding phonics and to develop skills in listening and verbalising, nursery rhymes can help young children make sense of the complex sounds around them. Rhyming creates rhythm and helps patterns emerge within language. As explained in Mem Fox’s Reading Magic, ‘experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they are four years old, they are usually among the best readers by the time they are eight.’
Rhyming within children’s fiction is the next step up from the nursery rhyme and continues to be essential for a child’s literacy development. Reading or listening to a story in rhythm and rhyme can help children learn a broad range of vocabulary, alongside concentration skills and auditory discrimination. As young readers become familiar with rhymes, they can also start to anticipate the next rhyming word, which not only teaches them how to comprehend common sounds and letters, but also makes for a more rewarding, beneficial and joyful experience of reading. Sometimes the task of learning to read can seem daunting to a young child, but if the rhymes are there to support them and offer fun clues to match the pictures, it can become a much less pressured experience. Increasing the enjoyment of reading, as rhyming fiction does so well, thus encourages a life-long love of books in youngsters (which is ultimately what all bookish parents hope for).
Thingamanose by Lynne Hudson – a comical, rhyming children’s book by Beachy Books
If nursery rhymes are the first thing to spring to mind when you think of rhyming for kids, the second is likely to be Dr. Seuss, with his hugely influential rhythmic fiction. Dr Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham and so many more, paved the way for rhyming fiction filled with nonsense and silliness. The ‘Seussian’ world is one of fantastical animals and made-up words (the Lorax and Thneeds made of Truffula trees, for example). According to scholars of the author, his creativity stemmed from his own difficult childhood, which allowed him to understand the style of words and stories that would be most compelling for children. While made-up words may run the danger of confusing young readers, they can actually help raise an awareness of the sounds that certain letters make together, continuing to help with developing literacy skills. Beachy Books’ own Thingamanose takes inspiration from the fun rhythm, invented words and nonsensical rhymes coined by Dr. Seuss, proving this style of children’s fiction is equally as engaging now as it was 60 years ago.
Rhyming makes for a more enjoyable reading experience, while whimsical plot and humorous language is often what sparks a real love of reading in children. Author and illustrator, Huw Aaron, discusses his personal passion for nonsense rhyming, stating ‘before Meaning or Plot or Character come along, funny sounds and jangling rhythms and bouncing rhyme are a young child’s introduction to the world of Story, and simple, silly pictures their doorway to Art’. Fiction by Dr. Seuss, Spike Milligan and Beachy Book’s author Lynne Hudson, allows young readers to have fun and escape the realities of the world around them with rhyming children’s book, Thingamanose. Perhaps most importantly, this style of writing can help to expand a child’s imagination. For so many adult readers, literature is pure escapism. Silly rhymes and nonsense stories are the best way to ensure that children’s fiction works in the same way for those just getting started on their own reading journey.
Amy Butler is an avid-reader, book blogger and Marketing and PR professional based in the New Forest. Her favourite book is Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree and she is at her happiest with a cup of fresh coffee and a new Historical Fiction novel. Amy is currently helping out at Beachy Books to gain experience in the publishing industry.
Interview by writer and publisher, Philip Bell, with author Anna Southwell in November 2020 on the eve of the publication of the first book in her Oliver Gruffle – Secrets of Harmony Haven series, called The Runaways all set on the Isle of Wight. The book is published on Beachy Books Partner Publishing imprint and out 4th December 2020.
Bold text (Philip), plain text (Anna)…
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been concentrating on the Oliver Gruffle – Harmony Haven books and updating them for years. I first came up with the idea 24 years ago. It was before the Harry Potter books. I never actually read any of those as I didn’t want them to influence my stories.
I’ve been evolving the books all along, adding different ones. I’m up to twelve so far. I just can’t stop inventing stories. I’m obsessed with it now! *laughs* To tell you the truth, with this coronavirus, I was kept busy and I didn’t go into depression or anything like that from being alone, because I was in my magical world, typing away and thinking of new stories.
What was the inspiration for the Oliver Gruffle series?
I lived in the Far East for two and a half years, and outside the flats, where we lived, I would see animals and wild dogs running around with tin cans on their heads, because they were scavenging for food. An awful thing happened: we had a ginger cat that we found under a palm tree and took him in. He was beautiful and got on well, but he decided he preferred eating out and he started going around the villages, raiding the chicken coops, and often he would come home with a chicken! And then one day there was a group of people outside with machetes. They asked me who the ginger cat belongs to and I knew they would get him eventually and they hurt him really badly.
I am a bit sensitive where animals are concerned. When I see them on TV, if they are being cruelly treated I feel sadness. And, of course, I had my lovely Border collie dog called Kim, and she was very wise, and she seemed to know every emotion you felt. As I mention in the book’s introduction, I was never allowed any animals as a child. I was always wanting a pet. I remember riding a bike on the Island and discovering some wild feral kittens and it was a hard lesson to learn that I could not keep them. My last cat I owned as an adult was from a rescue home. So that was how the animal stories all evolved.
And I wanted to write a story for the grandkids!
Did you have a writing background in your day job?
No. I used to work for an Island builders’ merchants in Ryde. I was just an office girl, a typist, that sort of thing.
How did you write the book?
On a typewriter! *laughs* I got through so many typewriters because I just bash away at them, but to be quite honest, because I’m visually impaired now, I know exactly where the keys are now – from my touch-typing days – so it’s been a lifeline for me to be able to continue to write new stories and correct ones I’ve written in the past and bring them up to date.
How did your sight impairment affect the writing of the books?
My eye trouble started with me developing macular in my left eye, like a hole in the eye. One day my eyesight suddenly got very bad, but I could drive because I passed all the driving examinations and doctors said yes, you can still drive. I woke up one morning and I had completely lost sight apart from vision in my right eye that was good. Then I woke up one morning with blurred vision, so I had to go straight up the hospital, and they diagnosed macular vision in the right eye and there’s something else wrong with it as well now, but I have still got a small amount of vision in the right eye.
Now, I’ve got this wonderful light and magnifier from the hospital that’s very good for me so I can hold that over the typing and put it on. It’s been a godsend!
How have you adapted to write and edit your stories now?
I use a very bright LED light to shine it on the paper, so I get by. I don’t feel as if it’s deteriorated too much over the last couple of months. I think it’s stationary at the moment so I’m working hard! I’m working like mad to get all the Oliver Gruffle books written and published.
What support have you got on the Isle of Wight with your sight impairment?
Sight for Wight has been a club that has been an inspiration to me, because I joined the club and when I first went there I thought everybody was going be so morbid and I didn’t think it would be for me. Well, I had the shock my life when I went there – it was hilarious! It was a wonderful, wonderful group! I was so inspired by all the people; there was one chap who had written a story, you know, and there was another lady who could write poetry, someone knitting, and a lady crocheting. And I thought, hello, how can they do all this! And then there were two ladies in their 90s who actually both still lived alone and looked after themselves. And there’s a lady in Shanklin who rings me up, because we all keep in touch, and she’s been an inspiration to me. If she can cope, then I can cope! It’s a wonderful group. We used to go out for lunch and coffee breaks, but at the moment all this has closed down, but everybody is still all keeping in touch, so that’s lovely. They have wonderful volunteers that come in to look after us and help us walk without crashing into lampposts – which is my nightmare of a thing I keep doing! *laughs*
Are you born ‘n’ bred Isle of Wight?
I’ve lived on the Isle of Wight all my life. The one thing I’ve always loved is the Island and that’s why I wanted to base the stories in Oliver Gruffle on the Island.
What do you love about the Isle of Wight?
Everything! *laughs* I just love everything about the Island. I find it quite amazing we have people coming over here, then, all of a sudden, they are creating things themselves, putting their input into the island and I think it’s wonderful. What I’m saying is, the Island is magical. It seems to affect people. People seem to be kinder.
When I was young, I mean really young, I was given a bike and I used to cycle round the island, 50-odd miles, in a day, taking my picnic. That was how I came across the colony of wild cats, which I couldn’t catch! *laughs*
What was the inspiration for the animal characters in the book?
I haven’t ever owned a pig *laughs* but I have a pig statue that I call Pickle. And when I look around my room there are so many animal statues. Anybody would think I’m a bit animal mad! *laughs* I’ve got three new stories that I’ve thought of this week, writing them down best I can. I lay in bed, super active at night, trying to think up stories. It’s a great joy to me to be able to do this. I just love it! I love writing. I hope when children read these books, they can come to my little world and enjoy them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.
That really comes across when I first read the story. Your stories are very imaginative, there’s lots of kindness in them, and also mischief and a nice warmth about them, which is different I think. Where does that come from?
It’s not all sweetness you know! *laughs* We go through different stages in different books, but nothing really, really horrible happens that would frighten a child.
So, what are your favourite books or books that inspired you as a child?
I used to love Victorian era; I’m absolutely besotted with them. Life around the 18th and 19th century, how the way of life was, and the hardships people had to endure, because I had it hard when I was young, coming from a poor family. To tell you the truth I wanted to be a vet. But now it’s a different matter because I can’t read so well and I’m concentrating on writing the Oliver Gruffle series so that my grandkids have something to remember me by!
What part of the writing of the Oliver Gruffle stories do you enjoy the most?
I quite like the conversations between the animals. I do admit I did find the first chapter very hard to do though. I went over and over it until I got it how I wanted it. I find it quite hard to have two animals speaking together, so I used to put a toy in front of me and pretend that was the animal in the book and talk to it, and imagine how he would look, what he would say back, and gradually it just began to develop. I think I am a bit crazy! *laughs*
Yes, I know what you mean. As a writer I know what it’s like to have your own invented characters speaking to you in your head. So, what other techniques do you use in writing and editing?
I always read my books out loud as if I’m speaking to a child. Now, I’ll tell you another little interesting story: My husband had dementia and it was quite a hard time for me, you know, looking after him, but luckily he did still know me, but he didn’t know the family. We always used to sing together. But the one thing he loved in the afternoon, when he came waddling in, was to listen to me read my books. I would read to him and do all the voices and he would sit there, thrilled to bits. And he said to me, ‘The one thing I want you to do, Anna, is try and get this into print for children to enjoy!’ That’s his words, so you have helped me keep my promise to my late husband and publish my book, and I’m thrilled!
Have you enjoyed the publishing process?
What you’ve done and all the editing, I think it’s really, really turned out a lovely book.
You know what’s show nice for me though, I was getting all these phone calls last night from my family, saying things like ‘Nan, we’re so-so proud of you!’ you know, and you wouldn’t normally say that to somebody, you know, you might be taken for granted normally, so it was so nice to just actually hear them say those words, because we haven’t got anybody in the family who does this sort of thing, it’s quite different, to actually get published.
Have you got any inspiring thoughts for anybody who wants to write their own stories?
Beachy Books publisher, Philip Bell, interviewed his recently signed author/illustrator Lynne Hudson on their newly rebranded traditional imprint, about her longer children’s book called Thingamanose, her writing process and how she got into illustrating.
Bold text (Philip), plain text (Lynne)…
Do you write full time?
I work part time at a hospital to bring in money while I work on my writing and drawing.
How did you get into writing and illustrating?
Well, I was actually applying for a job and I had to write a cover letter, and I just sat down writing these cover letters and I just really enjoyed it. (At this point, Lynne’s cat, Tiger enters the room and she shoos it out! -Ed) So, I thought I would have a go at writing a story, because I never really thought that I could write anything before. I just sat down and started writing things. I think the first things I wrote were pretty rubbish then I started writing things that were ok, so I sent them off to the Literary Consultancy for them to edit for me and they gave me a lot or really positive feedback. Things went from there really. The first book I had published was called Sniff by Hogs Back Books and then they asked me to illustrate one of their other books called Big Dog and Squiz. I’ve just been plodding on from then.
How long have you been writing and illustrating for?
I’ve have been writing for about 10 years, but I have been doing the illustrations for quite a long time. I trained as a Potter at Bath Academy of Art and when I left there, I taught night classes for a few years, but it wasn’t really me. But my pots were very plain pots that were covered in illustrations, and I realised that that was the part I really liked — the design and decoration on the pots. And then I cut out making the pots and concentrated on illustration.
I noticed when you sent your first submission, I really loved your illustrative, cartoon style. Is that something you are particularly into, or was it something that just came out and became your style?
I think it has basically been my style, but I did do a correspondence course with the College of Cartoon Art, that was over about a year, the professional cartoonist Dave Fellows, who was the chap that mentored me, sort of pushed me in the way or children’s illustration as he said that it was the best thing for my style of drawing. Sadly, he passed away in 2003, but I fondly remember he especially liked my caricatures of soap characters like Dot Cotton [see below].
So, what would you say is the difference between an artist that can do one set scene, and an illustrator of a children’s book? What skills do you think are needed for children’s book illustration and even comics?
I think probably, I observe people and go around and have a little sketch book and go into town sometimes or other places and sketch people. I think you get a feel for how people are really, and their character.
I saw Shirley Hughes on the BBC 4 documentary What Do Artists Do All Day? Have you seen that? She sits in playgrounds observing people and drawing in her sketch book – actually, maybe that sounds a bit weird… *laughs*
*laughs* That’s basically what I do!
I see so much movement in your illustrations. It’s crazy really, it’s only a static image but yet there’s so much movement in it. I always like that kind of feeling. I think people are quite fascinated by the process and think it’s magic.
Yeah, *laughs* there is quite a lot of imagination goes in it, but I am also a bit of a people watcher.
So, does what inspires you to write and draw? What is your muse?
I think things just seem to jump into my head really. For this story, I was just walking into town one day and a phrase just popped into my head. Something about a girl called Rose, picking her nose. I just started writing it down and it became ‘Don’t Pick Your Nose Rose!’ (which was the original name of the story when Lynne submitted it to Beachy Books – Ed). I didn’t really know where it was going to go at first, it just kind of evolved as I sat down at the computer and wrote and built up the idea.
Rose is quite a feisty heroine in the Thingamanose story. What’s the inspiration behind her?
I think it’s probably me, actually. *laughs* I have always been a bit of a nose picker! *laughs*
I was afraid to ask if you picked your nose! *laughs*
Yeah, quite a lot of my old school friends have commented about that!
Going back to my inspiration from Rose, I think that she also came from having quite strict parents, who just kind of dismiss things you say, things like that. At work, quite a lot of the doctors are very dismissive and that really gets my back up. They don’t believe what you’re saying half the time.
So, are saying that your writing process is quite cathartic? *laughs*
*laughs* Just a bit, sometimes. I’m quite rebellious as well, like Rose!
So, from Rose picking her nose… how did Thingamanose pop into your head? *laughs*
I think it’s probably just something that just popped into my head literally. I think it was just something that happened when I was sat down writing. I kind of go into my own subconscious; in my head it’s a video and I write down the film in my head. It’s like dreaming or daydreaming really. You are sat there writing but you are daydreaming at the same time and all these weird things just come out!
*laughs* I love it. That’s great! So, obviously when I read your story it was very funny. So, what do you enjoy about humorous writing? Is that your default writing style, you go for something funny?
I suppose so. I sometimes think it’s quite serious really, but I’m quite happy people think it’s funny. I think it’s just the way I am really.
So, do you mean Thingamanose is more of a serious story than a humorous one?
I can’t really put my finger on what it is. I think that a lot of people are laugh when they read it, but I think I’s quite serious *laughs*
*laughs* Erm, that’s quite interesting to hear that.
When I had it [the early draft] edited, the comments said it was quite revolting at some points! *laughs*
So, the early drafts were edited by the literacy consultancy?
Yeah, I sent that off last year for them to do it, but it’s obviously now changed quite a bit since then editing with Beachy Books.
And talking of Beachy Books, why did you decide to send your story to us?
They [The Literary Consultancy] did say it was a longer picture book and they weren’t sure what kind of genre it would fit into, because it sort of sits between a picture book and a chapter book. I used to get this quarterly magazine called Carousel and I noticed they were advertising some books and it mentioned that it filled the gap between the picture book and chapter book market, so I went on the computer and looked if they were taking any submissions and they weren’t, so after some research on the computer I came across your blog post [https://beachybooks.com/bridging-the-gap-longer-picture-books] about longer picture books and I emailed you and sent you off a manuscript, just by chance really.
I remember writing that blog it was quite a long time ago now and it was inspired by my frustration of how my daughter, who used to really like picture books, would end up feeling as if she could not read them, as they were associated with a much younger audience. She is a teenager now but still appreciates picture books, but at school she would be teased by other children for choosing to read a picture book when they were reading longer story books with little or no illustrations, which she wasn’t really inspired by in the same way. I also remember that feeling as a child of how wonderful picture books and comics were compared to books full of text. I love them now of course, all books.
Thingamanose is written in rhyme. Is that a writing style you enjoy?
Yeah, I think it comes a bit more naturally to me than prose, but it takes a lot longer to write. I just feel more comfortable with rhyme.
Do you have a favourite children’s book?
My favourite is Dr Seuss. You can probably see that from what I write. I love the Lorax with its environmental message. From childhood, I used to really love the Miffy books, the style and the simplicity.
Have you got any inspiring advice for budding writers or illustrators?
My advice is just to try it. Don’t think, ‘Oh, I’m not a writer…’. You never know until you try! It was when I enjoyed it, trying and trying and keeping at it. It was how I developed my own style and got better and better. With drawing, it’s the same really. Just pick up the pencil and have a go. My grandma was a painter and I used to sit next to her as a little kid. She used to give me old envelopes and a biro and I used to just sit there doodling all the time.
Is there a message in Thingamanose?
The story is just about parents listening to their children and not dismissing what they say. If they’ve got problems or a niggle then listen to them, don’t brush them off. The frustration of people in power just not listening to the small people.
Thank you Lynne Hudson!
Philip Bell would like to thank Lynne Hudson for her time in the interview. If you like the sound of Lynne’s writing and want to see her ilustrations, you can read more about the book, take a peek inside and buy a copy to support the author and publisher here: Thingamanose.
And so, that was Christmas and I find myself writing this at the eve of another year, the eve of another decade no less. I can honestly say I have mixed feelings about 2019, and that’s not even going on about politics but on a personal level, those close to me have really suffered and it has been a very challenging time, but professionally, for Beachy Books, it has been very promising…
I noticed from looking back at my blogs that I hadn’t written a round-up of the year since 2017, which was the eve of a personal life crisis that sank Beachy Books for a while, but following a lovely encounter with my past and a blossoming new love my muse returned, and like Aladdin I resurfaced from the depths before I drowned and I found a renewed love of books, and writing, and publishing. So, I began to formulate a plan to relaunch Beachy Books and really really make a proper go of it all…
I’d learned a few things over the years, had some highs and some lows, but following a few submissions from talented writers and illustrators I became inspired again and relaunched (I also podcasted about it). So now, I have a base on the Isle of Wight and in Maidstone, Kent, and I am gaining more and more clients and new authors on the Beachy Books imprint. It’s exciting times…
Considering I really only fired up the publishing engines again mid-year it has been my most successful year so far. I measure this in terms of the amount of books published and recording my fastest ever sales.
I kicked off summer with the publication of our first poet, the lovely, literate, Sandy Kealty, with The Mermaid is Unimpressed, which received some wonderful reviews and she has been growing fans week on week through her relentless gigging and performing at open mic nights all over the UK. I’m very excited to tell you that Sandy and I have been working hard to get her new volume of poetry ready for publication in Spring 2020, which will be titled: The Mermaid Rides Again!
Personae Vetenses has been our most popular and fastest selling book ever. The manuscript was sent to me by an ex-Islander earlier in the year and has been his labour of love for around 12 years and contains over 240 fascinating short biographies of people connected with the Island by birth, or having lived there, who have all had a wider impact on society.
In fact, our local wholesaler has ordered 4 separate batches of PV and has been stocking bookshops all over the Isle of Wight. I am truly humbled by the success of the book which really was a pleasure to work on. It vindicates all the hard work that went into design and typesetting, not to mention editing work and drafting! It has been a thrill to see the sales figures go up and up so thank you if you were a buyer or seller.
This year has also seen me work with a local talented children’s writer and illustrator called Shirley Adams who wanted help self-publishing. It has been an absolute pleasure helping to create her rhyming children’s picture books The Hungry Fox and Penny Feathers to great acclaim and reviews from children and parents. Shirley has already grown in confidence from performing her work in public and is now regularly doing reading and craft gigs at local events in libraries and bookshops, while working on new titles that Beachy Books will help publish next year.
I did other stuff too, mostly behind the scenes, building the business, making contacts, planning for 2020 and beyond. At one point my whiteboard didn’t have any white left, plastered with so many ‘todos’ I just felt a bit overwhelmed. I transferred it all to some nifty spreadsheets and priorotised it all, giving myself more achievable and realistic aims and deadlines… well, that was the plan, but I’m sure I’ll miss a few more deadlines because next year’s publishing schedule is already looking very busy. This is due, in part, to an event I organised at a local library where I offered publishing advice to the public. I met some very interesting writers and have now read some very promising manuscripts, one of which was a 70,000 word document on a very interesting non-fiction subject which I hope to publish in the future. More news on that in time!
A nice end to the year was joining and being accepted into the Independent Publisher’s Guild (IPG), which I will blog about in the new year. I also have some other exiting news that Beachy Books is going to be traditionally publishing a children’s author and illustrator (previously published) for Christmas 2020, as well as taking on more authors on the imprint.
I have more exciting news, but I’ll save it for the new year, but it has something to do with London and Books… To be honest, I am still a little dazed from Christmas and felt I had lost my way a bit these past weeks, however writing this blog has reminded me how much I’ve achieved in a relatively short time and perhaps I should stop being so hard on myself and celebrate my successes more so I can build on them…
I hope you have had a successful year and at least achieved some of the things you set out to achieve. But if not, never fear, there’s always next year.