With a number of published books for adults under my belt and the eighth book about to come out any time now, a few weeks ago I finally published my first book for children.
‘Robin’s Ring’ was first written four years ago and I took some spiral-bound copies to the school where I used to work to get some children’s opinions on it. A teacher of a class of eight and nine year olds read it to her class and a small group of ten year olds read it as a group assignment. The results were favourable; the children all loved it, both the ones who read it themselves and the class it had been read to.
I had the great pleasure of spending an afternoon in school with these children. I met with the small group and they told me what they liked about the book and also we had a ‘brainstorm’ as to what they would like to read in subsequent stories about Robin. As one, they all adored what Robin did at the end of the book – and that was something my own dad did when he was at school! I think every child who has read the book has told me they loved that bit!
When I went to the class who was having the book read to them, I was given the great pleasure of reading to them myself – and then I answered their questions about the book and how I came to write it. I was also asked if the cave under Stoney Clouds was still there (Stoney Clouds is a local landmark and beauty spot). This was a sticky situation; I could just imagine children dragging their parents to Stoney Clouds to search for the cave!
“Well,” says Mrs Ford, “The cave is probably still there but unfortunately, the entrance was blocked up when they built the motorway so you would not be able to find it now.”
Fortunately, the children accepted this explanation – phew!
Because of the children’s brainstorm, I added a few chapters. The book was now done and ready for editing and publication. The problem was, it needed pictures – and I can’t draw. I tried to persuade my daughter-in-law who is a good artist. She did a cover but the inside pictures never got done. So, Robin and his magic ring were left on the metaphorical shelf and I got on with other things.
And then I eventually had a brainwave! A young woman who lives in the same village as me has learned how to draw and paint. I have known her and her mother for some years. I knew she could paint, in fact, I have one of her painting hanging in my living room. It was when I saw her advertising art classes that it occurred to me. Perhaps I should go to Kathryn and learn to draw. I thought about my writing and all the things I do and then thought, ‘why not ask her to do the drawings for me?’ So that’s what I did, and so began an adventure for both of us and a working relationship that is a delight to both her and me.
Kathryn suffers from ME and is not able to work but she has learned to achieve her goals slowly and determinedly by pacing herself and knowing just how much she can do at a time. Her work is slow but very good. I don’t mind slow, Robin didn’t mind slow, he knew he was going to happen at last. The next Robin book will emerge, slowly but surely and hopefully the children who have and will enjoy Robin’s first adventure will also enjoy the next.
More importantly, the emergence of Robin’s Ring is an achievement – for me and for Kathryn. Through the merging of our talents, we have created something we can both be proud of.