Thanks to Tracy Hager for suggesting making pre-orders a possibility - we'll look into it. The entire project is being run by a very small team of volunteers, all with full time jobs, clients and deadlines to satisfy on top of making this book - which is a full time job in itself!
Fear not! It's all running smoothly and on time. Now we've hit our fundraising target we're focussed fully on creating the very best book in Lisa's name.
I'll be sharing insights and the occasional sneaky peek of art from Catalina Echeverri and Tim Budgen as we go along. Please carry on cheering our fantastic artists along on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. It's a mammoth task but they're more than equal to it.
♡THANKS AGAIN FOR YOUR SUPPORT! ♡
Good morning, friends of #OnlyOneOfMe - or should I say...
...while Catalina is making a dummy book and planning very rough thumbnails before creating a finished, beautiful sample. Panic not! The final book will not contain a single blob person!
What a wonderful whirlwind #OnlyOneOfMe is turning out to be! Yesterday (Tuesday 7 August) was a day for starting balls rolling. A lot of balls. BIG balls. All rolling at the same time.
Thank heaven for Jane and Roger, my mum and dad, who spent the last two days at my house looking after my kids while I’ve been practically chained to my laptop and mobile co-ordinating the project. It’s been intense but it’s all coming together – hooray!
First thing on Tuesday we had a three-way Skype call to introduce our illustrators to one another and to Lisa.
Lisa and her gorgeous girls, Ava-Lily and Saffia came round to my house (she lives a couple of streets away from me in Frome, Somerset). Meanwhile, Tim joined us from his holiday in Italy (sorry, Tim!) and Catalina managed to find someone to look after her own eighteen month old daughter so she could squeeze in our chat before attacking two looming deadlines.
Before Lisa joined us we discussed a lot of the technicalities: the pros and cons of human over animal characters, layout considerations (when and if to use double page spreads or whether single pages and vignettes would be better suited), use of white space, typefaces or hand lettering – the list goes on.
Each and every pen stroke in a picture book represents a thousand decisions, deliberations and choices. For #OnlyOneOfMe, we have to make as many of those choices up front in very little time with the confidence to commit to them.
Catalina and Tim need to have all their work finished and delivered by August 30th. Artwork will be delivered to our printing partner, CPI Antony Rowe of Melksham on September 7th. #OnlyOneOfMe will be published by Graffeg on September 21st. Yes, I do mean 2018.
I hear a collective *clunk* as the jaws of publishing folk everywhere hit desks. We can do this! Thankfully we are able to call on the expertise of our charity partners WHY We Hear You to ensure our decisions tie in with best practise in cancer counselling. (More on that anon!)
When Lisa and Saffia joined us (Ava Lily went to play with my kids, supervised by legends Jane and Roger), we talked about Lisa’s wishes and dreams for her book. How does she see the books looking? What little quirks of her family life can Catalina and Tim draw upon to bring the reality of family life to the scenes? All the while, baby Saff demolished a choc chip brioche and a croissant. Would you look at the adorable curl on top of her head?!
Once our call was over I inhaled a cup of tea and made contact with the small but perfectly formed team at WHY We Hear You. I needed to update them on our progress and get another big ball rolling – the #OnlyOneOfMe Launch Party needs planning! Again, Lisa’s wishes for this are key and we’re lucky to have WHY’s resident fundraising and event planner on board to pull together a blinder of a bash. We’re going to have copies of the book at the party so guests can buy and donate them directly to charity.
We still need all the help we can get to make all of this happen! How can you help? So many ways!
– Donate! Funding currently stands at 75%. Every donation basically gives us some float and budget to pull all of this together. Thank you for your donations! Every single penny will go directly to making this happen and if we end up with any spare, they’ll go to printing and distributing additional copies.
– Spread the word! Share links to the fundraiser (cut and paste this text: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/onlyoneofme) and to this blog, talk about the project – and talk about what is underlying it. We need to be open and brave about death; it’s part of life. It’s not easy, it’s not fun – but if Lisa can do it, so can we.
– Hold an auction! Perhaps you can raise funds to donate by selling or offering something special? Many thanks to Steven Lenton, Paula Bowles, David Roberts, Sophy Henn, James Brown and Anne Booth who are already on this or planning it! Apologies if I’ve forgotten anyone – BUSY BRAIN.
– Send encouragement! Please cheer Catalina and Tim along as they head into what is sure to be a very intense few weeks. They deserve all the love and applause they can get.
I also want to thank my agent, the wonderful James Catchpole who has not only been pulling strings behind the scenes to get this project running but has also been shadowing everything I’m doing so that I can hand over some of this next week while I’m in Canada. (Timing! I’ve had a holiday planned for a year, and it has to coincide with the BIGGEST ROLLING BALLS OF MY LIFE).
Loads more happened yesterday too, but this post is already long enough and you’re now on top of the main things.
Hi everyone! Firstly: THANK YOU for reading, donating (you can do so here) and sharing. THANK YOU for your lovely messages and for your offers of support. Lisa and I have both been overwhelmed (and at times both a little tearful – in a good way).
Special thanks to each and every illustrator who got in touch to offer their time and expertise to bring Only One Of Me to life. We considered every submission, of which there were hundreds.
**Understatement alert** There’s a lot to consider when you’re making a picture book, and finding the right illustrator is just the beginning. We needed someone who would:-
We will be producing a Mum version AND a Dad version of Only One Of Me. Naturally, mums tend to look different to dads, so we need to consider our options. Two entirely different sets of artwork would mean taking twice as long, and a lot more work for one illustrator. Could we use one illustrator drawing just one set of gender-neutral animal characters that could be used for both versions? Possibly. But is animal characters the right way to go from a clinical perspective? Depends on the age of the child affected.
We’re still debating this – but won’t spend long doing so. Time is tight. Thankfully our options are open: we’ve taken on two illustrators!
Massive love and respect to Tim Budgen and Catalina Echeverri!
Their submissions came in very early in the process. They were both heartfelt and sincere and showed the one thing upon which this project relies: love and goodwill in spades.
Catalina said, “Being a mum of a little one and having friends who have battled with cancer it is a story that touches my heart profoundly. I feel so privileged to be chosen by you and especially by Lisa who is the reason this is all even happening In the first place.”
Tim added, “I’d be delighted to help. My mother had bowel cancer which led to lung cancer so I’m more than happy to help. Let’s really make something truly wonderful.”
That’s exactly what we’re going to do – and we’re going to share the process with you. I’ll be blogging here as the project progresses. I know a lot of you will be following this story not just because of Lisa’s remarkable magnetism but also to gain an insight into the picture book publication process. I can’t state strongly enough that this project is CRAZY UNUSUAL!
You don’t normally aim to make a picture book in just a few weeks. You normally have a large team coordinating everything as you go – and a budget! Could you stop work for a month, unpaid without serious repercussions? I doubt it! Thanks to your donations we’ll be able to cover costs and help our illustrators pay their bills while they give their lives over to this project for the next few weeks.
Tim and Catalina will be burning the midnight oil to get this done. They will doubtless have times of frustration and anxiety, not to mention jaundice from not seeing daylight, severe wrist cramp and stiff necks! I’ll be mopping their brows, sending coffee and basically cheering them along. I hope you’ll join me in sending them your love and encouragement along the way!
Watch this space for more updates, including that all important decision on animal/human characters. We’re having a team Skype call early this week. It might be a record breakingly long call!
Please continue to share our story to help make noise about #OnlyOneOfMe – you are our publicity team!
Thank you again – I’m waving my cheerleading pompoms at you, Tim and Catalina!
PLEASE NOTE: We are now fully funded - thank you! The books are available to buy at OnlyOneOfMe.co.uk
Anyone else feeling the strain of the summer holidays?I feel like a proper Cruella admitting to it, but I find six weeks of full time childcare kind of tough going. I long to hear my own thoughts instead of the constant waspish buzz of, "Mu-uuu-um..." I'm writing this post with my kids chasing around me, screeching, squabbling and generally driving me nuts.
Don't get me wrong; I honestly appreciate spending time with them. But it's hard to appreciate that time when half of it is spent breaking up fights, trying to disguise chores as 'games' and screaming into pillows. The thing is, every parent needs a bit of time away from their kids. Us writers need space to let our imaginations roam.
For example: Imagine being told you wouldn't live long enough to spend another summer with your kids.It's not a nice exercise, but it's one I've been having to tackle lately as I write a very special story for a friend, Lisa Wells.
Luckily for me, it's just an exercise. For Lisa it's really happening. Lisa Wells was diagnosed with terminal bowel and liver cancer at the end of 2017. Her doctors suggest she has between just two and twelve months to live. She's 32.
At the time of writing this, Lisa's in hospital after yet another round of chemo and, on top of that, a pulmonary embolism. (What's with those things?! Just a couple of weeks back one tried to kill my agent and friend James Catchpole while he was buying a quiche. Leave people alone, blood clots on the lungs!)
I honestly can't begin to imagine how Lisa must feel - and not just because my kids are currently beating each other senseless and I'm finding it hard to concentrate. Lisa wants her kids to get on her nerves. She wants them getting in her hair and under her feet. She just wants time with them, full stop.
But time is something she has far too little of. Even so, she's filling every minute. Lisa is the most incredible individual I've ever met. Since her diagnosis Lisa hasn't wasted time feeling sorry for herself. She's raised both awareness and thousands of pounds for charity, all while undergoing chemo, working and raising her lovely daughters, Ava-Lily and Saffia. She's even landed a starring role in Boyzone's latest music video (she's one of the sumo wrestlers...!).
Along the way Lisa's also managed to enlist 'Lisa's Army', a group of friends, family and admirers committed to supporting her family through the months and years ahead. Maybe you count yourself amongst them if you saw Lisa interviewed on This Morning?
Trust me, once you've met Lisa or heard her talk, you'll be a fan. She's fun, loyal, loving, brilliant and courageous - frankly she's my hero.
This blog post is getting long: stick with me. Lisa is worth it and there's something very special coming up at the end - please don't skip ahead! I'm lucky enough to be getting to know Lisa as we work on creating a book together.
ONLY ONE OF ME is a very special book with one purpose: to help families prepare for the loss of a parent.
Death isn't a nice thing to think about, but for families like Lisa's there's no getting away from it. Some of us will find ourselves in this position one day. I hope it's not me, I hope it's not you and I really wish it wasn't Lisa.
The fact is, 1 in 2 people in the UK born after 1960 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime, so chances are you already have your own cancer story to share.
My dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer two years ago. One of my closest friends, Helen Minnery, died from bowel and liver cancer just last year. I had my own diseased bowel removed after the development of polyps three years ago.
My diagnosis came early. I live with a stoma, but I live. Lisa hasn't been so lucky. Without much more waffle - honestly! - I'd like to share the story Lisa and I have created with you now.
It's been hard for Lisa to focus on writing while she's in pain and frankly has more important things to think about. But as in all things she's thrown herself into the challenge, helping me see life from her perspective.
We hope to publish ONLY ONE OF ME in time for Lisa to hold a copy in her hands and share it with her family. It's Lisa's wish that the resulting book will help other families facing bereavement long into the future, bringing them comfort and raising funds for her favourite charity, Mummy's Star (donate below if you're able).
Before you read it you should know that ONLY ONE OF ME is a very powerful story. The reason I'm telling you this is not just so you can fetch tissues (although you probably should).
A book that helps kids who are about to lose a parent is important, but it's also kind of niche. While it's a sad truth that there are far too many families who would benefit from a book like this, in publishing terms it's not mainstream enough to warrant the costs of traditional publishing. (We'd like to thank all of the editors who have been so supportive of what we're doing, by the way - THANK YOU.)
Here are some specific things you might be able to do to help us turn this story into a not-for-profit book, ultimately getting it into the hands and laps of more families who could really use it.
If you can simply share this post you'll help us make all important NOISE about our project.
Maybe you're a small publisher who can get behind Lisa?
Maybe you're a cancer charity who knows there's a real and lasting need for her book?
Maybe you’re an illustrator with a vision for how this story might be brought to life? (If you feel inspired to sketch a scene from the text below, Lisa and her family would be MADE UP to see it. Please share it using the hashtag #OnlyOneOfMe - we'll keep our eyes peeled! ❤)
It's been a while since I've posted on here, mainly because I've been CRAZY BUSY on tour with my 'Ten Fat Sausages' event. (You can still catch me at the Discover Story Centre in London August 3, and at Awesome Authors, part of CBBC's Summer Social in Liverpool on August 5!).
Talking of Awesome Authors: three cheers for the team of local authors behind the brilliant Bradford-On-Avon Mini Book Fest, including Fleur Hitchcock, Maudie Smith and Anna Wilson. The whole team works tirelessly and generously to help their local library deliver a truly wonderful festival - and it's completely free to attend!
Have you looked closely at your grandma lately? You might want to check for signs that something's not quite right...
Is she acting oddly? Is she green around the gills? Has she grown tentacles? That's not your grandma. It's a Grandma From Mars! RUN!!!
Reading just got even more rock 'n' roll! I'm just home from the Oxford Literary Festival where I had the most amazing time performing my Ten Fat Sausages and Odd Socks event, c/o Andersen Press.
The audience were wonderful! They totally deserved the extra treat: musician David Gibb very kindly joined me on stage for a supercool live performance of the sizzle-sizzle-bang song that I play as part of my show. EAR WORM!
For anyone who has come to any of my Ten Fat Sausages events: you can get the full version of David's ridiculously catchy song, titled Jelly on a Plate, on his latest album - I highly recommend it!
We had another chance to visit The Story Museum, which is without a doubt one of the Robinson family's favourite venues anywhere, ever. If you have a chance to visit it's well worth making the trip. I've never been anywhere that inspires such indulgence in the imagination. It's utterly magical.
How lucky are we? We happened to be there the same day as Cressida Cowell and Mark Nicholas, so we bought tickets and went along to their event. Cressida's books were a huge inspiration to me when I was an aspiring children's author, so meeting her was a dream come true for me and my kids! Mark taught us how to make art with old socks, so we're going to give that a try this week at home.
Maybe today... there's so much snow in Frome that school is closed! HOORAY.
Massive thanks to Harriet Dunlea at Andersen Press for her help organising such a brilliant book tour. Legend! Thanks also to the team at Oxford Literary Festival and The Story Museum for their help on the day. Last but by no means least, HUGE thanks to all who came along and joined the fun! It was great to meet you all.
Ever wondered what it's like to dress up as a giant sausage in front of hundreds of excited young children? Let me tell you: it's FUN.
I've had a wonderful few weeks touring the country to launch me and Tor Freeman's latest picture book, 'Ten Fat Sausages'. Thanks heaps to Harriet at Andersen Press and everyone else who has helped to arrange, plan and run the events so smoothly.
I've genuinely never enjoyed sharing a book as much as I have this one! I hope everyone I've met enjoyed has just as much fun as I did. Thanks so much for making this book arrive on the shelves with a POP and a BANG!
I'm not quite done yet! I'm still looking forward to meeting the children at Bristol Cathedral Primary School for our postponed World Book Day event (snow stopped play!) and to performing with David Gibb at the Oxford Literature Festival.
Also: Ten Fat Sausages has been chosen as book of the day by BookTrust, is one of the Guardian's best new picture books and featured as LibraryMice's picture book of the week! Amazing!
It's an unpredictable, energetic and anarchic romp through the kitchen and - as proven with an audience of 300 children the other day - kids just can't help joining in.
I'm really looking forward to touring schools and book festivals in the coming weeks dressed as a giant sausage... Honestly.
2nd Feb - Bristol Schools with South Gloucestershire Library Service.
8th Feb - Plymouth Schools with Portsmouth Schools Library Service.
15th Feb - Seven Stories, Newcastle - tickets.
21st Feb - Portsmouth schools with Portsmouth Library Service
23rd Feb - Chippenham Literature Festival.
18th Mar - Story Museum, Oxford Literary Festival - tickets.
13th May - WITH TOR FREEMAN! Barnes Children's Literature Festival.
Michelle Robinson is a