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Well the Christmas season is fast approaching and thoughts turn to Christmas presents.  Many people buy books as Christmas presents, for their children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. So the pre-Christmas period is an important time for authors.

So there is pressure to have your book all ready to be published in time. Once you have your text ready, it needs editing, maybe needs illustrations and formatting, a book cover to be designed and a lot of trial and error, especially if you are self-publishing. Therefore publishing a book for the Christmas season takes some planning. But often things do not go to plan and you just have to go with the flow.

Even when your book is ready you have to market it and promote it whilst trying not to bore everyone. So you have to be on social media and have to keep plugging at it daily. Some spend money on advertising but this can be costly.

One way of selling a fair number of books is to have a book launch but that can be an expensive outlay too. But it is a good way to promote your book in the local newspaper and in the local community.

Once you do have your books in your hands Christmas Market and craft fairs are a good place to sell your books. They also get you in a festive mood and they are a good place to network with others. I will be in Tulsk Macra Hall, Tulsk, Co. Roscommon on December 1st from 10 am – 3 pm

The Recurring Theme of Nature In My Books

All my life I have enjoyed being around nature, and as a child I loved learning about nature from my mother and my teachers. I always feel a sense of peace and connectedness with the world, and have a sense of being one small speck in the whole of creation and its sheer beauty when I am out in it.

Looking back through my children’s books I can see that the books reflect some of my feelings about nature. In ‘Rory Gumboots’ a unique environment is in danger of being destroyed and this is the problem facing my hedgehog character, Rory Gumboots and his friends.

In ‘The Reckolahesperus’ Sam and his new friend the Reckolahesperus go for a moonlight adventure an and have a feast. They see a rabbit running and hear an owl hooting. A hedgehog trundles out of their way. They look for berries and nuts.

‘Hattie and Jacques Love London’ is set in an urban environment but we do meet ravens at the Tower of London and take a boat trip on the River Thames. Plus the 2 main characters are 2 mice, one English and the other French.

In ‘The Dreamsmith’ 6 year old Eleanor wonders where dreams come from. Her mother tells Eleanor about the Dreamsmith. Eleanor meets the magical Dreamsmith and learns all about the special ingredients that are used in dreams and how dreams are made. Some of those ingredients are the sounds of cows mooing, hens clucking, the sea roaring, the wind whistling and the smell of fresh cut grass.

Frances Darwin is a ten year old girl who loves solving mysteries. In ‘Frances Darwin Investigates’ she finds a bit of paper that sends her on a ‘wild goose chase’ that leads her to find a stray dog called Bouncer. Finding out about Bouncer leads her onto to find his owner, who becomes a big part of Frances’s life. Before Frances knows it she has become involved in an investigation to find out who is dog-napping dogs in the local area. Frances and Bouncer have fun exploring the local park and other areas of the town and countryside.

In my upcoming poetry book for adults, and a poetry book due out next year for children, about wildflowers and trees, there are definite links to nature. It is a part of what I am.

New Poetry Book For Adults

I am pleased to announce that I am in the process of releasing my first book of poetry for adults in the coming weeks. I had many poems written over the last few years which were dotted all over my computer, and I decided I needed to put them all together in one place for myself. By doing this, I hope others can enjoy my poems too.

I thought long and hard about different names for my collection of poetry, but when I checked them out, nearly every name had already been taken. Then one morning I woke up with the title inside my head… ‘Dipping In The Font.’ I felt it was perfect as I feel I am dipping my toe into the world of poetry, ( even though I have been writing poetry all my life, I still feel I do not come up to the standard of the many amazing poets I admire). The font – represents the art of writing. ( Traditionally a writer dips their pen into an ink font or inkwell.) The font also symbolizes a font or spring, a flowing source… just like the ideas and images that spring from one’s mind. Fonts are usually used in the ceremony of baptism as well , which gives a sense of the spiritual. Inspiration for my poems often feels like it comes from a spiritual realm.

I chose my friend, Antonio Simoes, who is a great photographer, to do the cover for my book and I am delighted with the result. My friend, Rose Moran, also supplied the pen that was needed, to be shown dipping into the font.

Interview with poet and photographer Margaret O’Driscoll – who took the photographs for my upcoming book, ‘ A Posy of Wild Flowers,’ due in 2020. (My sister Angela Corkery Bickley is also doing the illustrations.)

  1. Can you tell me a little bit of yourself?

I’m a social care worker, mother of seven… the eldest is forty and the youngest is twenty five… I’m grandmother to thirteen!

2. What do you do when you are not writing?

I love hiking, watching documentaries, dancing, and spending precious time with my grandchildren.

3. When did you first start writing and what was your first book?

I wrote some poetry as a teen but didn’t feel inspired again until I was in my fifties!

4. How did you choose the genre you write in?

I’ve always loved poetry… natural, unbridled lines!

5. Where do you get your ideas?

I get my ideas from life… nature… family… anything can be an inspiration!

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?

I haven’t written in two years… since I moved out of my family home… I don’t fret about it, instead I embrace what comes my way.

7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I usually am inspired by a trigger…a word, an event, a situation…whatever.

8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Poets who were passionate, spiritual, natural… eg. Hopkins, Frost, Angelou, Kavanagh,     Thoreau, Wordsworth, Hardy, Whitman, Shevchenko, Pearse, etc.

9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Due to my busy lifestyle I didn’t have much free time to get my manuscript together but my family were very supportive. I planned the sequence of poems for my collection to be in line with the passing year. I chose a painting of mine as the cover and did my own proofreading. Lettertec, my printers, were very helpful and I’ve recommended them to other writers who wanted to self-publish also.

10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your book or getting it published that you would change?

No, I wanted my pieces to speak for themselves.

11. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

I was happy to recoup the cost of printing and to be honest, any profit was a bonus for me. Due to my family caring role I was disadvantaged in that I couldn’t attend many readings but hearing people tell me how much they enjoyed my book was the real reward! 

12. Is anything in your books based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Most of my pieces were based on real life experiences… both joyful and sad.

13. How did you the come up with the titles for your books?

My book title, ‘The Best Things In Life Are Free’, I took from the title of one of my poems in the collection and I felt it was apt because the pieces in the book are about the enjoyment of things that are wonderful and free.

14. What is your role in the writing community?

I especially enjoyed being invited to read at schools, sharing my poetry and hopefully   inspiring others.

15. What do your plans for future projects include?

Since I published my book my poems have been translated into many languages and I’ve been invited to submit to many publications worldwide but now I’m taking a break and who knows what will happen next! 

16. What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc?

I feel it’s vital to contribute to our great literary tradition and to also be a voice for the voiceless.

17. Have you any advice to give to aspiring writers?

I feel aspiring writers should stay true to themselves and not be swayed by anyone.

18. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

I’d like to thank each and everyone who encouraged and supported me, my family and friends, my fellow poets and writers, my Facebook friends, reviewers, publishers, translators, and event organizers… it’s meant the world to me!

Favourite Childhood books

I think everybody remembers a favourite childhood book. It is something that evokes memories of mothers and fathers reading to their children, the illustrations, the look and feel of a book, what the story moved in them at that time and many other feelings and senses.

I recently asked some women of ‘a certain age’ what their favourite childhood books were and the following were some of the most popular.

Some of them had wanted to fly like Peter Pan, some wanted a friend like Peter in Heidi, others just got swept up in the adventures of the Famous Five. Something in a book opened up a new world to them and they could be part of that world.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Noddy, and all the books written by Enid Blyton

Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Fairy stories and other stories by Hans Christian Andersen

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley

Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge

The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

The Little Prince by Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

A rarer mention was: A Fairy to Stay by Margaret Beatrice Lodge

Deadlines: A Necessary Evil?

So here I am at the last moment writing my Monday blog on Monday night. Would I be writing this if I hadn’t set myself this deadline to do a blog every Monday? Probably not.

So a deadline is something to work towards, and the nearer you get to it looming on the horizon, the darker and larger it seems to appear. It becomes a scary monster until you decide to deal with it. What happens if you go over that DEADLINE? Do you die? Do you let people down? Do you let yourself down?

So you do what you have to do and tick it off your list and turn to face the next big wave. Knowing the fear of leaving it to the last minute should make me do it earlier and make me more organized but I do not seem to learn. But if I didn’t have that deadline would I do it at all? Would I ever get things done? I know I achieve more with a deadline and often the motivation to get it done is the fear of failing the deadline. So I dive into each big wave as it comes towards me and come out the other side into a short few moments of safety to gird myself for the next breaker.

Meet author/illustrator Robert Peacock who illustrated my book ‘The Dreamsmith’.

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Rob Peacock Interview

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hi folks, I’m Rob Peacock, originally from London, but have been living and travelling in Ireland since 2013. My background is primarily in Special Needs education, Young Offenders Advocacy, and Adult Literacy Education. I’m very much into heritage crafts, and am a qualified saddler, bridle and harness maker, which I’ve put to use over the years, working in stable-yards. I’m also involved in Animal Welfare and am a qualified Wildlife Rehabilitator. I’ve recently been updating my qualifications by undertaking a TEFL course, which I’ll be using to teach street kids in the slums of Kenya.


2. What do you do when you are not writing?

My current ‘day job’ is on the Newtowncashel Tidy Towns, where I maintain the village and the local ‘Quarry’ sculpture park. I understand we’ve won an award this year, so I’m quite proud of my efforts in the village and my contribution to the local community!

Other than that, I freelance as a digital photo-illustrator, beta-reader, copy editor and proof-reader.

I’m still a keen gardener, and the last couple of years, I’ve been into growing giant vegetables – Atlantic Giant pumpkins and courgettes have been the most successful.


3. When did you first start writing and what was your first book?

I’ve been writing for years, mainly short stories and poems, just as a hobby really. I’d pretty much stopped prior to coming to Ireland, though living in Dublin provided plenty of experiences and characters to draw upon for inspiration. I then moved to Co. Clare, and via a turn of events, I ended up living homeless for a few months in a dolmen, not only for shelter, but hoping to draw upon some spiritual connection and find a way forward. It was there that I took up writing again on a more full-time basis.

My first self-published book was ‘Cara and the Mystery of the Missing Ball,’ which is a forty-illustration full-colour picture story book aimed at ages 4+, and depicts scenes from around the Irish countryside, with Cara meeting animal friends who help guide her on her journey.  The inspiration came from my travels with my Borador, Cara. At the time, she was my living and travelling companion and we’d photographed extensively around the country. I felt that it was a great opportunity to compile my love of photography, travel and writing, and the intention of my book was to raise money for animal welfare charities.


4. How did you choose the genre you write in?

I chose writing for children, as I felt the process would be fun, and that Cara would have great appeal, being the lively character she is. The illustration aspect for producing a children’s book too, greatly lends itself to the imagination in terms of devising and creating colourful images to compliment the story. It was a great opportunity to teach myself digital art production also.

Having worked with Special Needs children for years prior, I was keen to devise a storyboard format, which features two images atop each page, and compliments the narrative specific to that page. I had in mind young learners who might not be proficient in reading, yet the story could be told by a parent or carer, simply by referring to the illustrations in sequence, and told in their own words.


5. Where do you get your ideas?

Life experiences, coupled with a little bit of imagination! I’m better at working from a foundation based in reality, rather than inventing complete fantasy scenarios


6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Not really writer’s block. I’m more overwhelmed with ideas for projects that may never take shape, or I’ll have a thought, and think ‘where or how can I work that in somewhere.’ So I keep notebooks. The only block I have is finding the confidence to put forward certain themes. I’m currently working on a another ‘Cara’ book based on my time in Nyalenda slum, which is intended to demonstrate to kids in privileged countries how relatively fortunate they are. However, I’m being selective as to what I put in that book, as descriptions of life for children in the slum are pretty harrowing, to say the least.


7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?

My process is a combination of documenting experiences in notes and photographs, and compiling the most relevant aspects in a story-telling sequence. I then compose my manuscript, writing around the visual content as a prompt for elements in the text.


8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Yes! Hilda Boswell – fantastic illustrator! I adored her work in various compendiums of fairy-tales, very soft, ethereal imagery in beautiful pastel shades. And by chance, she’d illustrated the ‘Strongheart’ comic-strip about the adventures of a German Shepherd. It’s nice to know we’ve a ‘dog story’ in common at least! She also studied at the same art college as my mother (Hornsey School of Art), and she’d been a great fan of Beatrix Potter, who was one of the first self-publishers.

I also enjoyed the work of Eric and Lucy Kincaid (Witches, Goblins, Ogres…) and the illustrative style of Rien Poortvliet (World of the Gnomes).

The Steve Jackson ‘Fighting Fantasy’ series of books held great appeal for me too, not only for the illustrations, but I loved the format – ‘You are in a forest…turn to page X to fight the dragon/head into the cave’ etc.

There was also a story that I can’t remember the name of, in a compendium of random stories, about a kid who left home, grew a beard, and lived in a cave… Somehow I ended up doing just that!!


9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

The challenges I had with the first book were more to do with learning how to use art applications, updating my word-processing know-how, learning how to format, understanding level-appropriate language (it’s quite hard to eliminate or downsize the ‘big’ words that we’d usually take for granted in adult conversation) yet still offering ‘value for money’ with the word-count and number of illustrations I’d present. This process of self-illustrating, writing, editing, formatting took hundreds of hours. Both of my self-published books were written and illustrated on a mobile phone with a rapidly dying battery and a cracked screen. Lots of fun!


10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your book or getting it
published that you would change?

No, I wouldn’t change anything. I enjoyed the challenge and learnt a lot about writing and producing a book. I was tempted to explore the traditional publishing route, though I know that between dodging vanity presses, having your work critiqued, edited and stripped back to fit in with a certain criteria, and illustrated by ‘in-house’ illustrators, I rather stick to my own way of doing things. It’d be a crying shame to have my work remastered into some God-awful glossy Disneyesque bobble-head format that seems all the rage these days.


11. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

For me, public appearances have worked best, and I enjoy the interaction between author and audience. I’ve also raised money for charities this way, with a percentage of sales going to good causes, minus the cost of printing individual books. As a consumer myself, I can understand the reluctance to purchase online. You don’t really get to see the content, and you’re never really sure whether reviews are genuine or concocted via inter-writer book swaps. I am online on Amazon, Instagram, and KidsActiveMedia, and have a few free-to-access ‘live read’ podcasts which were kindly produced by patrons. My books can also be found on the shelves of selected Irish libraries.


12. Is anything in your books based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Ah it’s a mix of the two. I’m moving into writing biographical accounts, aimed at adult readers, therefore the content will be entirely authentic. Children’s books though, you need a bit of imagination to make the story more fantastical!


13. How did you the come up with the titles for your books?

The titles write themselves really. Cara, my dog, really did lose and find her favourite ball. And my second book, ‘Cara and the Cauldron of the Round Hill,’ was a play on the name of my locality, Cornadowagh in Newtowncashel, which translates from the Irish ‘Cor na Dabhcha’ – ‘Round Hill of the Cauldron.’ The townland is very picturesque, and is still replete with fairy-forts and a belief in the superstitions surrounding hawthorn and hedgerow!

14. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?

Cara is still my muse for my children’s books, even though she is now a working Therapy Dog and resides with her current human.

I’m exploring new works with a view to bring attention to, and raise money for, those living in abject poverty in the slums of Kisumu.


15. What is your role in the writing community?

I attend the SCBWI Midlands Ireland Social Events and follow SCBWI Ireland events on Facebook. I gave a talk on self-publishing and illustration in conjunction with, Eileen Moynihan at one of these meetings. I am a member of the Independent Irish Author’s Collective, both Longford and Lanesboro Writers’ Groups, Newtowncashel Drama Group as the vice-chairman (though I’m more responsible for multimedia output, poster design, advertising and writing articles for the Longford Leader). I also support the Summer Stars Reading Initiative (children’s reading project) and am also available for beta-reading, editing and proofing.


16. What do your plans for future projects include?

I’m working on further fund-raising children’s books, and moving into photo-documentary and biographical writing, both of which are based on my experiences and interactions in the slums of Kisumu. I’m keen to develop my writing and visual format to include TEFL students (visual elicitation and CEFR vocabulary) also.


17. What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling

There’s immense cultural value in all of these, in terms of expressing ideas, learning new things and sharing with communities near and far, and prompting positive activism. For myself, I’m very much into the idea that the creative arts can be utilised to connect and unite us on a global scale.

18. Have you any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Keep at it! It can be a challenging and frustrating journey, but well worth it when you get that first copy of your book in your hands. Just don’t expect to make millions doing it!


19. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Sure, if anyone is interested in communicating or networking, drop me an email at: robthesaddler@gmail.com

I’m not as active on social media as I should be (time limitations), but sure, I’d be happy to. write back.

Alternatively, type ‘Robert Peacock Cara’ into your search engine, and you’ll find a bunch of stuff about me!