Chapelton Resident, Rachel May, celebrates the debut of her first children’s book: Aunty Planty and the Eco Warriors
After deciding to pursue her passion for writing, local Chapelton resident, Rachel May, has successfully secured a deal with London-based publishing house Pegasus, for her debut children’s book, Aunty Planty and the Eco Warriors. Officially launched in July 2023, the exciting story is set to appeal to young minds and focuses on the important issue of climate change.
In this blog post, we caught up with Rachel, who explains how she first got into writing, what encouraged her to write a children’s book focusing on the topic of climate change and how she felt after receiving an offer from a publisher…
How did you first get into writing?
“It’s been an interesting path that led me to become a published author. I have always loved books and as a little girl, I remember staying up late reading into the night while the rest of my household was asleep – usually under the covers using one of those torches with the red or green tops that must have been popular at the time.
“I also remember writing short stories for my mum and English was my favourite subject at school – in all honesty, it was the only subject I really loved. Unfortunately, as I became a teenager, I slowly drifted away from writing as there were lots of other things going on.”
What encouraged you to write a children’s book?
“In August 2000, I became a Mum and started to create poems – mainly to make the children laugh – however I ended up creating a few for friends, family celebrations and weddings.
“After moving into my gorgeous flat in Chapelton in April 2019, I one day found myself sitting in my special ‘writing chair’ watching the rain fall and fog close in when it suddenly occurred to me that I should write a children’s book. My ‘writing chair’ holds a lot of significance as it was bought with the money left to me by my wonderful nan, who was a passionate private nanny and would have been delighted to know that her granddaughter went on to create a children’s book.
“With previous experience working as an early years practitioner and spending a lot of time working in schools, I quickly discovered that nurseries were full of little people who were interested in learning about the world around them, just like me. I instantly realised there was a message to get out there, alongside a story waiting to be told.
“I started to write and amazingly enough the words and sentences came easily. Before I knew it a storyline had been established, characters developed and a small adventure was sitting in front of me.”
What was your inspiration for focusing the theme on climate change?
“My inspiration stems from a variety of factors. My son has always had a huge passion for the world around him and for everything and everyone else who we share it with! As an Early Years Practitioner, I get the joy of educating, encouraging and promoting young children’s interests in the world and the environment. Little minds are keen to learn!”
What was the driving force behind publishing the book?
“In November 2021, my beautiful sister became very ill with Meningitis and was rushed to hospital where she would stay for a couple of weeks. The weeks slowly turned into months, and I was unable to visit her due to infection control and Covid regulations at the time.
“During this time, a colleague suggested I should perhaps turn to writing which could give me a goal and something to do for my sister. I originally dismissed the idea, however, by the time I had driven home that night and pulled down the blinds on a bleak evening, I started to think this may be a great option!
“After digging my children’s story out from the depths of the iPad, I began to read it over and decided to myself that it seemed ok, in fact, with a bit of tweaking here and there it was more than ok. I felt inspired and motivated to have something to show my sister when she recovered.
“After some editing and moral support, I finally felt ready and brave enough to submit the book to a few publishers. Following the submissions, I got a couple of emails back saying it could take up to twelve weeks for a formal response to come through, giving me plenty of time to focus on my sister and helping her recover. Thankfully, she made a full recovery and is now doing well which is an incredible achievement on her behalf. Her support and encouragement regarding my book was certainly one of the driving forces behind me publishing it, as she really helped build my confidence.”
How did you reach the final design of the book?
“The early part of 2022 was a waiting game. Eventually, I decided to find an illustrator and get some drawings made. A friend put me in touch with a wonderful local lady called Amy Joy Robertson from Joy Designs in Stonehaven, who instantly understood my ideas and vision. She also had the desire to become a children’s illustrator. Her talent really helped to bring the story alive and supporting a local business was an important factor in giving the book a personal touch.
“After turning down two contract offers from publishers as they didn’t seem right, I turned to the idea of self-publishing. To grow this idea, Amy began producing an eBook and before we knew it we were ready to go!
“Suddenly out of the blue in July, a curveball was thrown in the form of a traditional publishing contract. I immediately knew this was decision time. After some careful consideration and weighing up the pros and cons, I decided to take the offer.
“Fast forward to the 27th of July 2023, I found myself sitting on my beloved writing chair looking out to the same grey, rainy and foggy weather that presented itself when I first began writing my book. The only difference this time was that I was sitting in anticipation of the official launch of my children’s book – a day that I will never forget.
“Aunty Planty and the Eco Warriors had finally arrived!”
What are you most excited about when people read your book?
“I’m so excited to hear what the children have to say about the story and pictures, as well as hear what their favourite character is and more about the topic. The responses have been so positive and it really makes me realise what a wonderful thing it is to tell a story and allow the imagination to shine!”
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