‘Animal Stew’

After graduating from University, I went on to do an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. I had a great time, studying part-time alongside my job and through the MA I met some really lovely people. One of these lovely people, Iris Feindt, contacted me late last year to ask if I wanted to contribute to an anthology of stories being published by MMU. The anthology was the idea of Sherry Ashworth, author of teenage books and one of our tutors on the MA. The stories would be all be about animals, and were to showcase not only writers from the MA course, but also illustrators from around the UK, such as my very talented friend Suz Hughes. Of course I said YES!

I had a think about which animal I wanted to write about, for maybe about a minute, because it was obvious that I should write a tribute to the cutest chicken I know: Pearl. If you’ve read this post you’ll know how much I love our chickens, and Pearl is an especially sweet example. I mean, come on!

So I set to work writing a story about how Pearl has a crisis of confidence and goes on a journey to make herself more beautiful. I sent the story, entitled ‘A Precious Pearl’, off to Iris and Helen, the anthology organisers, and happily they paired me with the delightful Gwen Shackleton, artist extraordinaire. I knew she would draw me a wonderful Pearl.

A couple of months went by, and we were asked to edit and format our stories, and to submit author biographies and photographs. None of it seemed real until a couple of months after that, when we finally got to see the front cover of the anthology. And then soon after that, I got my copy in the post. Very exciting!

Animal Stew was launched on Saturday 30th June at the Family Fun Day at Manchester Children’s Book Festival 2012. It was lovely to meet the other writers and illustrators who had contributed to the book, and to chat to them about their work. My family and friends showed up in force, and we rallied round handing out flyers and publicising the anthology.

Each of the writers read an extract from their story out throughout the day, and I was on in the final 3pm slot of the day, with Iris and Helen. Although we clashed with Steve Cole, we still had an excellent turnout! I was nervous at first but once I was reading it was all fine. I even enjoyed myself! Most of my audience completed the Pearl-themed colouring-in sheets which I handed out. I did have some props with me which seemed to help…

It was a wonderful day, full of laughter and fun. Iris, Helen and Sherry worked extremely hard to make the anthology happen and I’m very grateful to have been included! Here are some photos from the day…

Our stall for Animal Stew

Me and the lovely Iris…oh, and Pearl!

Me reading an extract from ‘A Precious Pearl’

Me with Gwen Shackleton, my brilliant Pearl-illustrator

“Decorate Pearl” colouring-in activity…

You can see more photos from the day here.

I am so proud of our little book, which is full of humorous, touching stories about tap-dancing turtles, very clean pigs, time-travelling cats and letter-writing dogs, to name but a few. And if you would like to know what happens to Pearl, the anthology is available to buy on Amazon right here. My friends, family and work colleagues have been extremely supportive about the anthology, and it feels great to say that I am a published author!

I was very flattered to find that I was also featured in local press: wrexham.com, on the Wrexham council website, in the Wrexham Leader and on librarywales.org. I was invited onto Wrexham’s community radio staion, Calon FM, to talk about Animal Stew and the creative writing group I run in the library, which was lots of fun. You can listen to my interview right here.

Phew! It’s been a crazy time, but thanks to Iris and Helen, a thoroughly enjoyable one. I couldn’t have wished for two more organised editors! And it was lovely to be a part of this year’s Manchester Children’s Book Festival. Do hop on over to the website for more information – it’s on until 8th July and there are loads of exciting events taking place.

In the meantime, I have been inspired to return to the full-length children’s novel I wrote for my MA. And maybe Pearl will crop up again in the future. I think she might just be my little, feathery, adorable muse.

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