Our chat with Cath…
It’s a bit of a cliché but I’ve always wanted to write stories for children. At school my best subject was English. I have really strong memories of writing stories at primary school. I have never struggled to come up with wacky ideas, they just pop into my head! But even though I had a head brimming with ideas, it took me ages to get round to taking my writing seriously.
My eureka moment came in my thirties, when I was sitting in a café with my partner. She spotted a poster advertising a local writing group. I think she was sick of hearing me say, “I’ve got an idea for a story.” She wanted me to get on with it!
Joining that local writing group was a vital step on the road to publication. Not only did the group have some seriously gifted writers they were also very generous with their knowledge. This may sound funny but I had no idea books existed on how to write and on plotting! I just wrote from the heart and hoped for the best. I soon began writing a novel; as soon as I came in from work I would dash up stairs to write another chapter.
It was one of the members of the group who suggested I do a Masters in creative writing. This was another important step on my journey. After completing the Masters in Writing for Children, I joined and started volunteering for the SCBWI.
My picture book Bonkers About Beetroot features a beetroot obsessed zebra who turns purple. I have to admit that I never imagined the impact it might have on the youngsters who encountered it. I was horrified when one child told me he was not going to eat beetroot because he was happy with the colour he was! But then another boy said he couldn’t wait to eat beetroot to see if he would turn purple! And one girl started using the word BONKERS all the time. I guess you never can tell how children will react.
I have had some really moving messages from parents and grandparents telling me that Bonkers has to be read at every single bedtime as it is the new favourite book of their child. It is just wonderful to know that one of my stories is making people laugh. For me, laughter is the best feedback of all.
I was a really late reader which meant I missed out on loads of classic authors. For instance, by the time I cracked reading I was too old for Enid Blyton! However, once I had mastered reading, there was no stopping me. Libraries and bookshops were my favourite haunts. I’m not sure how old I was when I read Timothy and Two Witches by Margaret Storey for the first time but from that moment on it became my favourite book. I read it over and over. When I moved up to senior school, I was amazed to discover that my new English teacher was the author! As a teacher myself, I have shared this book with countless classes and it is always loved. Published in 1966 it has only dated a little. It has a gentle charm that will keep it a firm favourite.
Persevere and join and volunteer for SCBWI!
It took me eight years to get a publishing deal. I almost gave up hope of ever getting published but support from my SCBWI local group kept me going.
I think everyone has to find their own writing/life balance. I like writing during the winter months when I can snuggle up in front of my log fire. Once spring hits, it is a little harder to remain focussed. The lure of my allotment is very strong! I tend to work out in advance, which days each week I can spend writing and then I take myself off to a library and just write! Ultimately, writing has to fit round my work and family commitments.