Finney has decided to write a book but is not sure what to write about. A trip to the library highlights the fact that he doesn’t find any stories with him or his friends as characters. So here begins his tale… This is a superb book to share with young readers and writers- children who want to see themselves when they open the pages of a book! Read on for a piece from author Alana Washington on her winning entry and publishing journey!
Winning the UCLan Picture Book Prize and my Journey to Publication by Alana Washington.
Since winning UCLan’s ‘Finney The Fox Picture Book Prize’ with my entry, Finney’s Story, last March, it’s been a year full of new experiences. Not least of all because the country went into lockdown within days of winning. Luckily for me, the UCLan team has had such energy and enthusiasm for Finney’s Story from day one. My brilliant publisher, Hazel Holmes, has been so helpful, making the whole process surprisingly straightforward and relaxed.
Before entering the competition, I had been writing children’s stories for several years. But I was still shocked to find I was being published. I turned to my copy of The Writers and Artists Yearbook. I had often read other authors describe it as the holy grail of information for children’s writers – and I’d have to agree. On its advice I instantly joined The Society of Authors. All my contract queries were answered with their expert (free) guidance, and once I’d signed my contract, I felt ready for the next step on the journey – editing!
This stage turned out to be a real gift, as I got to work with the wonderful picture book consultant, Jake Hope. He advised me on ways to make the text a little shorter and tighter. I was pleased to find that cutting words was easier than expected and the process was quick and painless. The final version stayed true to the original and I’m so proud of how it turned out.
During this time, I started seeing examples of artwork from Finney’s fabulous illustrator, Charlotte Caswell. Watching Finney’s Story come to life with Charlotte’s bold style and colours was amazing.
With the story finished, I got on with the blurb and ideas for taglines. After which, there was an inevitable lull at my end. I took this time to join SCBWI and watched many webinars about writing and the industry. I also joined Twitter and found a supportive writing community. Hazel kindly put me in touch with another UCLan author, Susan Brownrigg, so we could chat about the publication journey and her experience. Susan’s advice was down to earth, warm, and supportive – just what I needed.
Finney’s Story was scheduled for publication on 4th March 2021 – World Book Day! Having spent the last 15 years as a primary school teacher, I know how exciting World Book Day is for children and I was thrilled my book would be coming out on such a special day in the book community. There have been so many memorable moments throughout this process. Finding out Sarah-Ann Kennedy, the voice of Miss Rabbit and Nanny Plum, was recording the free audio download of Finney’s Story was brilliant. Typing the title Finney’s Story into search boxes on different booksellers’ websites and seeing my book appear was utter joy. But the best thing so far has been receiving my early author copies in the post and reading my very own book to my girls – now that’s hard to beat!