Three years ago, in April 2017, my dreams of being a published author were realised when my first book, The Mystery of the Disappearing Underpants, came into the world.
At the time, I was a mixture of emotions; I’d been so focused on getting to this point, when I did, I wasn’t sure how to feel. I hadn’t really thought much beyond that either.
Being a writer and working from home meant I’d long since forgotten what it was like to work in an office environment or indeed socialise with other people altogether. It occurred to me I might need to do that to let people know about me and my book.
Cue blind panic and cold sweats at the thought of anything front-facing, yet I knew this fear was something I was going to have to confront at some point and the sooner the better.
At the time, my daughter was in Year 5 and had spent most of the year, along with other children in the Kent area, preparing for the Kent Test, a secondary school entrance exam equivalent to the 11+. With the focus being more on verbal and non-verbal reasoning this meant there had been very little time in the year for anything creative. And even though there is a creative writing element to the test, this is often overlooked because it is only used if the child is borderline for a pass.
I felt I could do something about this, so I offered to do some creative writing workshops for the children of this year group.
It would help them prepare for this part of the test, but also allow them to use their creative brain in a way they hadn’t been able to do much of over the academic year. It was also within the range of what I was comfortable with; I knew the children, they knew me, the groups would be small (six to eight max) and I was confident I could deliver something they would enjoy and find useful.
So, that’s what I did! At that time, we had just had a garden office built and this was the perfect opportunity to put it to use; I had a designated area for my workshops that didn’t interfere with anyone in the house. Of course, things are never as straight forward as you think they will be, are they? I had a panic at the thought of what I might need to set up these workshops. Would I need insurance, a DBS?
It was when I applied for the DBS that I was asked what my company was called. Then I really panicked? I wasn’t a company. I was just me, an author who wanted to do some creative writing to help some local children out. Once I’d stopped panicking and began to think things through, I realised I quite liked the idea of having a name, an identity, if you like. Thanks to some great advice from friends, the name Storymakers came up and that really is, as they say, how it all began.
The workshops were a success, so I did more. And building on my confidence, I went from there to grow the business into what it is today.
Three years on, I have established three separate groups; the Writer Buds focus on all types of writing, from stories and poems to articles and reviews; the Story Writers group is for children who want to focus specifically on writing stories, from finding ideas, to forming characters, settings and plot. Finally, the Young Writers is a group for older children, from Year 6 and upwards.
I conduct weekly sessions for each group on a termly basis and additionally, I hold workshops in the school holidays and 1:1’s. I have also, over the three years, been into schools and done sessions at writing festivals.
At the beginning of 2020, I was looking ahead to a celebration of threes this July.
A celebration of threes I hear you ask? Well, not only would Storymakers be three-years-old, like I said, I have three established groups within it, so it seems like a pretty special number to me. In addition to this, by July 2020, I would also be the author of three books because added to The Mystery of the Disappearing Underpants is the first two books of the Time School series, also middle grade.
Time School: We Will Remember Them, came out in March this year, just before the lockdown when I did actually manage to go into a school and meet the children, speak in Assembly and carry out some workshops. Time School: We Will Honour Them, came out in July and I had no idea we would still be in the position of not being able to do anything face-to-face.
Yet here we are, not-quite-out-of-lockdown-but-almost. And my hopes of having some sort of celebration to mark all the threes has gone out of the window, well and truly.
It’s fine though. I still can’t let this moment pass without at least acknowledging how far I have come. We may have been put on hold because of Covid-19, but that hasn’t stopped us. Life has to keep moving on and we need to keep doing what we are doing.
When we went into lockdown, I was preparing for my Easter workshops, while still teaching the termly groups. I lost sleep worrying about what I would do, but I needn’t have. Not thanks to Zoom anyway. So, we may all love to hate Zoom, but it has been our saviour during these difficult times. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to carry on working and also, it has opened up new doors for me; since lockdown, I have been working 1:1 with children all over the UK and in other countries too. The Storymakers Club has been more popular than ever and whilst the current situation is not something I would ever wish for; I am at least grateful that I have been able to carry on working and that my work has had value.
What will 2021 bring for me and my work?
After the massive unpredictability of 2020, I wouldn’t even like to hazard a guess about next year. All I do know is that I will be continuing my Storymakers sessions on Zoom for the time being, but moving them back to Saturday afternoons, rather than the weekday sessions I’ve been conducting during lockdown when the children have been at home.
I am working on books three and four of the Time School series, which is bound to keep me busy along with promoting the other three books. Perhaps I’ll get back into schools at some point. Who knows? I zoomed in to a few classrooms last week, so that might be the new way to go, at least for the foreseeable future anyway.
We none of us could have predicted what this year would bring, but I can at least say for sure, that I have made it to that three-year milestone. So, Happy Birthday Storymakers. May there be many more.
All my books are available from my online shop, as well as from all major book retailers.