altBlackpool’s Clancy Mason catches up with photographer and debut author Jill Reidy to find out more about her children’s book All Change.
CM: Congratulations on your first children’s book! Can you tell us what our readers might expect?
JR: Thank you, it’s all very exciting. It’s a story about a teacher who can’t control her class and thinks up a weird and whacky plan to keep them quiet. Everything starts to go wrong and we say how the children come to the rescue – all in the course of a day. I wrote it to be a little bit nail biting and a little bit humorous. From reports I’ve had so far from children who have read it, it’s gone down well.
CM: What age range is this aimed at and did you have anyone in mind when you were writing it?
JR: It’s aimed at children aged 6-10 (Key Stage 2) and their parents. I’ve had adults tell me that they were buying it for a nephew or niece but they’ve ended up keeping it.
The story really evolved from my teaching days, I suppose I thought about all the children I’d taught and all the teachers I’d worked with (and myself as both a pupil and a teacher) and the characters are a mixture of all of them. I have an image in my head of Mrs Peacock but as the only picture (on the cover) is of her backside, the children have to use their imaginations.
CM: Do you have any plans for a sequel? Or perhaps another book in a different genre?
JR: I’ve been asked if there is a sequel, so I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve already got an idea in my head, involving the same characters, so I’m going to try and get that down on paper as soon as I have a bit of spare time. In the past I’ve written stories, poems and monologues for adults, so that’s another option for my next self-publishing project.
I’ve also written some children’s short stories which I submitted for an anthology. They got very close to being included but were rejected eventually. I’m thinking about putting these into a book. I have plenty of ideas in my head – it’s just finding the time to formulate them.
CM: Do you have any plans to tour the book? Any author talks?
JM: So far, I’ve only really promoted the book on social media. I was so excited to have an actual hard copy in my hand that I hadn’t thought beyond that. I was asked to go into a school, and I had a lovely time, reading to the children and setting them a competition to win a signed copy of the book.
Since then I’ve been into a children’s play centre, and have just been invited into another school. I haven’t been very proactive but I’ve been very lucky that people have approached me. I’m passionate about reading so it’s given me a great opportunity to try and relay that enthusiasm to the children, and to make them realise that there is a purpose to reading and writing: that they are not just isolated exercises to be done in class.
I would love to tour the book around schools and libraries but up to now I haven’t had the time to organise anything formally.
CM: You have gone down the independent publishing route in this instance, was there a particular reason why as opposed to going via a more traditional publisher?
JR: When I first wrote this story about fifteen years ago I sent it off to various publishers. Some of them were interested and wanted more chapters, or asked me to make alterations, but ultimately it never got any further than that. It’s notoriously difficult to get books published in the traditional way.
These days, there’s no stigma attached to self-publishing as there was years ago. I have a chance conversation with Dan Worsley to thank for setting me on this road to publishing. Dan, local children’s author and ex-teacher, had messaged me to say he’d met my grandson on one of his school visits. We got chatting and he agreed to meet me to pass on his advice on self-publishing. Dan was really supportive in getting me to take that first step.
CM: You are known locally for your photography, is writing a new passion? What inspired you to write a children’s book?
JR: I’ve written since I could hold a pencil. I’ve always loved reading. Visits to the local library were the highlight of my week, and I think writing just followed on naturally from reading. I’ve written diaries for years, most of the entries are now really embarrassing, especially from my teenage years. My friend and I used to write plays, and as I’ve got older I’ve had spells of writing stories and poems, and more recently, blogs.
When I was teaching, story time was my favourite activity. I frequently made up my own stories for the children, who particularly loved being included in a tale. The story of All Change has a dedication to all the children I taught, as they were the original guinea pigs. It began as a seed of an idea as I was telling the children a tale one day. The story went on for weeks and that seed grew, until I’d developed it into a full length children’s novel. When I left teaching I typed out the manuscript and that’s when I began trying to get it published.
I love the photography so I’m not giving that up, and, in a way, much of my work is storytelling, as in the street photography. I love a tale behind an image. Sometimes that image tells a story without any further explanation. Photography and writing are joint passions.
CM: Any tips for fellow aspiring writers?
JR: Keep reading, keep writing, believe in yourself, read some more, write some more and keep believing in yourself. Enjoy your writing, regardless of whether it’s ever going to be read by anybody else – enjoy it for what it is. Never give up because you’re never too old and it’s never too late. I speak from experience.
Quick fire round:
• Enid Blyton or Roald Dahl?
Enid Blyton for nostalgia value – I grew up on the Famous Five, the Secret Seven and the Girls at St Claire’s. Looking back now, of course, they were of their time and quite sexist.
Roald Dahl for more modern, funny, fantastic tales, which I know my eldest grandchild loves.
• Kindle or library book? Kindle for convenience and no more filling my holiday suitcase with ten library books. Library books for the smell and excitement of opening for the first time.
• Laptop or notepad and paper? Laptop or phone every time, although I am a serious stationery fiend.
• Early bird writer or night owl? Both. As soon as I wake up I get up (usually about 7am) and might start writing then. I also stay up really late and if I’m in the middle of writing I won’t stop. I’ve been known to stay up till 4am if I’m really in the writing zone.
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