Every Christmas my daughters and I have always made a b-line to the thinnest, scraggliest Christmas Tree in the nursery. We have always wanted the one that no-one else would give house room too. The men of the family have propped up tall, strong, beautifully balanced pines for consideration but generally, we girls have prevailed. I suppose it is part of our expression of Christmas spirit – ‘Goodwill to all men’ (and trees). As a result lopsided, bushy-topped, skinny bottomed, triple-crowned, feeble trees have been adorned with our beloved decorations – and we think that they have looked glorious! Over the years I have often wondered what would have happened to those trees that no-one selected – the ones that were left behind.
This family tradition has been the inspiration for my first published children’s story, ‘The Last Christmas Tree’. I wrote it as a story about resilience and being your best self for a number of children that I was teaching at the time. They loved it, as did the adults that were present on my cosy reading sessions. One of them (thank you Mr Nutall) said that I should publish it – and so a seed of dreaming and daring to pursue my favourite past-time was planted. Could I really become a published children’s author?
I have been writing stories and ideas for as long as I can remember but the confidence to share was always lacking. If dolls could talk they would vouch for my early storytelling!
So, the hope was born that I might have written something that others may want to read. I loved the simplicity and genuine warmth of my story. Christmas came, we selected a feeble yet ‘beautiful in our eyes’ Christmas tree. I shared my story with my sister and her young children – feedback was good!
New Year’s Day – While walking along a Northumbrian beach, blowing away the festive cobwebs, a dear pal asked what my New Year’s Resolutions were. I self-consciously replied, “I ‘ve written a story and I think I’d like to see if I can get it published.”
“Just do it!”, he replied. Thank you Stevie D.
January 2018 – Um, I thought, if I’ve written a potential storybook it will need illustrations, illustrations that I am not capable of creating. How wonderful it was that I know and regularly see an incredibly talented lady who was easily persuaded to read my story. Kerry then painted a few provisional watercolour sketches and brought my characters to life.
From my first words, typed after work one November evening at the kitchen table, something exciting was starting to happen. Positive pants on – we were at the start of thrilling journey!
March 2018 – ‘The Last Christmas Tree‘ in its basic form had been sitting on my desk for a few weeks while I weighed up how well I could cope with rejection. I flicked open ‘Writers’ magazine on a random page one Thursday evening and, on reading an article about a small, independent publishing house, based in Canada that was welcoming children’s story manuscripts, I promised myself that I would submit my story and Kerry’s provisional sketches in the morning. After all, what did I really have to lose? That Friday afternoon, I drafted a covering letter and sent my dream to Canada. I also decided to exercise daring do and send my story to two other (randomly selected from Google) British publishing houses. Three, as in all fairy tales, seemed to be an appropriate number.
April – Easter holidays and I was alone in the house, except for my son, deep in revision, in his bedroom. An email – from Canada – from the publishing house. We like your story and want to publish it! I wobbled up the stairs, having taken several screenshots of the letter in case I had had a moment of delirium, and burst, sobbing, into J’s room. J, thinking that there was a death in the family or a similar crisis, leapt up and hugged me until I regained the ability to speak coherently. Several minutes later I was able to share the news. What a feeling!
May – A second offer from a publishing house was received! Can you believe it? A thick envelope containing a Contract landed, unannounced, on the doormat one Saturday morning. On opening this document, another meltdown of disbelief occurred. The terms were very different, the publishing house did seem more established, but Kerry and I wanted to commit to the people who had first shown faith in our abilities. After all, the dream was to have our work created into a book and we were on our way to achieving that.
June – Kerry was busy painting, I was flooding pages and pages with fresh ideas. I checked my email accounts while creating a sensible on-line folder for ‘The Last Christmas Tree’. I did an email search to make sure that I had gathered all relevant correspondence and in my ‘spam’ was a third offer from the second British publishing house! Unbelievable! I emailed them, explained the situation and they said that they would be glad to read any further work. Oh happy life!
July – The astounding collection of pictures that Kerry had created were ready to be sent. We were well ahead of the given August 5th deadline. She has brought my characters to life!
August – This was quite a frustrating month of waiting and adjustments JPGs and PDFs. The time difference between the UK and Canada was apparent. When was this book going to be born?
September – It has arrived, it was delivered by hand on Monday and it’s just lovely! I do feel like a proud parent. This is the proof only and with just one small adjustment to make it will be published by 1st November at the latest.
As I get more details I will, of course, keep you informed!