I’ve just finished editing the draft manuscript for my children’s picture book ‘The Upside-Down Tortoise’ and it’s now whizzing its way to the Manuscript Appraisal Service at the Writers Advice Centre for Children’s Books.
They’ve already seen the first draft (and given me feedback on it) back in 2016 when I wrote it as part of their children’s writing course. The feedback was very encouraging “I had come up with a fun, simple idea that was great picture book material and they had enjoyed looking at it very much”.
The story is about a tortoise, called Tilly, who goes for a walk in the wood and gets lost but refuses to take the woodland animals offer of help. The underlying theme for the book is to help others and to be kind.
People tend to think that a picture book, like this one, (just over 400 words) targeted for 0-2 years is easy to write. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. For the best chance of getting it traditionally published (in a flooded children’s book market) there are a set of recommended criteria to use. For example, having a certain format, the use of correct wording and producing illustrations that help tell the story and move it on.
With this is mind it’s also important to make the title of the book as exciting and eye-catching as possible – so that an editor will want to pick it up off the pile. For instance, a book called ‘Hector the Hedgehog’ isn’t very interesting or intriguing, but a book called ‘Hedgehogs Don’t Eat Hamburgers’ (by Vivienne French) is.
Usually when I’m writing a piece of fiction, a short story or even a poem I have no problem thinking of a suitable title – in fact often it jumps straight out at me! However, for some reason this time finding the right name for the tortoise and the title of the book proved to be a real challenge!
I spent a considerable amount of time trying to think of a suitable female name (beginning with the letter T) without success. The more effort I put into thinking about the possible name and title, the more frustrating it became.
I was also beginning to drive my husband mad by shouting out potential names (Toyah, Tatiana, Tiptoe, Tina) and possible titles sporadically during the day, and sometimes at night! Eventually, I realised that I was trying too hard, and maybe getting a little obsessed with it so I decided the name would come to me eventually and that I just had to be patient. Then one day, that’s exactly what happened. The name Tilly just jumped (difficult for a tortoise!) out at me, followed shortly by the title Tilly the Upside-Down tortoise.
The idea for the book came from my childhood pet tortoise ‘Ruffles’, who I had in the 1970s. Ruffles was a mischievous little character – so much so in fact that we still talk about his antics with great affection. I was lucky enough to have an article published about him ‘The Tale of an English Country Tortoise’ in the Autumn 2018 edition of ‘Evergreen’ magazine. The article tells the true story of his ‘adventure of a lifetime’, when one warm and sunny evening he escaped from the garden and ended up in a neighbour’s vegetable plot, eating all their home-grown strawberries.
Anyway, all I need to do now is sit back and wait for the manuscript and the feedback to be returned. And, if you enjoyed reading this blog post don’t forget to subscribe to it for regular updates on the life and times of a Freelance Writer and Children’s Author. Oh, and feel free to leave a comment!