My name is Katie and I am a former York St John student. I am also the author/illustrator of the book, Miley’s Mind. Miley’s Mind is a children’s book which addresses the concept of a ‘poorly mind’ and aims to help children reach out for support. Through the main character (a dog called Miley), it also highlights how abuse, bullying and grief can impact emotional well-being. I am going to offer a little insight into publishing a book and my ‘author journey’.
Before I start, thank you SO much to Ian for letting me write this blog for his website. During my time at York St John, I was lucky enough to work with Ian on a couple of different projects and I am privileged to have been given this opportunity to contribute now.
So, my author journey started back in summer 2019. By chance, I met a lady who worked as the creative director for a publishing company. She had also written and illustrated her own children’s books, including The Little Unicorn series. I had spent several months really wanting to write a book because, after having a pretty rough time over the past few years myself, I was passionate about reaching out to people and offering support to those struggling with their mental health.
I had just started my second year of university when my publisher and I had our first official conversation. However, as I had taken on additional responsibility in my second year, it became clear that this was not the right time to commit. Then, for several different reasons (beyond the scope of this blog), I began to become unwell and my mental health started to deteriorate rapidly once more. I moved back home in order to recover and then, a month later, Covid-19 took over and everyone had to stay home.
I suddenly found myself, along with the rest of the world, in the middle of a global pandemic with only my anxious mind and my dog (Miley) for company. Miley had aided my recovery in the past and I knew she would do so again now (along with a few close friends).
One afternoon in early April, I was just feeling at total rock bottom. I’d always thought I had hit rock bottom before, back in 2016. But this was a new low. I decided that I must do something to try and assist myself and others. Not only did I need a distraction, I had started to hear how mental health charities were being inundated with cries for help during lockdown. It just seemed the right time to finally commit, share my story through story, reach out to others and use the real Miley as a beacon of light to help children going through a tough time…. A solid idea for ‘Miley’s Mind’ was beginning to form.
Luckily my publisher was still interested in working with me! Everything then suddenly happened so fast! One minute, I was discussing how real-life Miley would be the main character of my book and how I wanted to address the concepts of abuse, bullying and grief. Next minute, I had set a launch date and had a long list of tasks to complete.
The first task was getting the wording right. As a young children’s book, I didn’t envisage it to be word-heavy. But the hardest thing was trying to figure out how to word such sensitive topics for such little people. I also wanted to make it engaging and interesting to read. I had been advised against rhyme. After all, Julia Donaldson has rhyme absolutely nailed and I can’t compete with that!
Once the wording had been (more or less) secured, I started working on the illustrations. The illustrations took a long time to get right but, as we were in lockdown still, I was able to spend several hours a day doing them. I literally just drew them on A4 pieces of paper, laid each picture out on the floor and, before I knew it, I had finished the illustrations too.
It was then over to my publisher. She asked me to scan every image and send them through to her. She then had the mammoth task of digitalising each image by sharpening the edges and re-sizing them. We then had several zoom calls that consisted of discussing: the layout; font style and size; slight amendments to wording; and small additional illustrations that I needed to complete.
I then had several other really important decisions to make! For instance, what did I want including in the ‘About the Author’ section? What was my opening quote going to be? Who was the book going to be dedicated to? What additional information did I want to include? Who was going to endorse my book? What marketing strategies was I going to use? There was a lot still to decide and the launch date was drawing closer and closer!
Luckily, we were able to upload the first PDF right on time. Within a few days of doing this, I had received my first proof copy in the post. What a day that was! An actual book, with my actual name on, in my actual hands. Wow.
A few proof-reads and few uploads later, the final version had been agreed and it was ready to go live….
World Mental Health Day arrived meaning, therefore, my book launch date had also arrived. I was so, so nervous!! Since the launch (on the 10th October), Miley’s Mind has continued to grow and I am so appreciative of everyone who has supported me and my book. I have loved reading messages from people who have bought it/received it! Honestly, thank you to everyone who has believed in me and my project. I will be eternally grateful!