I'm delighted to welcome debut author, Clare Helen Welsh, to the blog today. Clare's picture book, Aerodynamics of Biscuits, is published tomorrow, September 28th. As the mother of young children and with a busy day job, not to mention the buzz being generated around her fab book, life is proving somewhat hectic for her at the moment. Nevertheless, she took time out of her busy schedule to chat to me. But before we get to the Q&A here's a little more information on the lovely Clare:
Clare lives in Devon with her husband and two children. She teaches in a primary school and has over ten years experience in Early Years and Key Stage One. In 2014 she became a Specialist Leader of Education, supporting local schools to achieve high standards in phonics, primary languages and the Early Years Foundation Stage.
In 2013, Clare won for Picture Book Writers and she received a Silver Medal at 2014 for her picture book, Aerodynamics of Biscuits, which is illustrated by Sophia Touliatou and published by Maverick Books on 28th September 2015. The book is available on Amazon and all good book shops.
Clare is represented by Alice Williams of .
Welcome to the blog, Clare, and congratulations on the publication of your debut picture book, Aerodynamic of Biscuits.
To start off the interview can you tell us how long have you been
writing and how you came to be published?
An avid list maker, ever since my early twenties I have written a yearly ‘To Do List’ each New Year’s Eve. So it all began on the 31st December 2012, when I naively added ‘Write a book’ to my list of challenging feats that also included; try skiing, practise speaking French and lose 6lbs. Needless to say I made all the embarrassing, rooky writing errors (and still make quite a few now) but with enormous thanks to the patience and support of my critique group, my writing started to improve. There were plenty of rejections… more than I care to admit… and I would probably have given up (and put something equally as outrageous on the next list, like ‘Go to space’) had it not been for the Margaret Carey Scholarship.
Encouraged that someone somewhere had seen something in my writing, I attended the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s (SCBWI for short) Conference at Winchester. I learned oodles, met friends for life and gained the tools, skills and confidence I needed to chisel away at my story ideas and learn my craft. Aerodynamics of Biscuits was picked up by Maverick Books after it won Silver Medal in the Greenhouse Funny Prize 2014. I sent my submission to Steve Bicknell after meeting him in Winchester back in 2013… and then the real fun began!
What’s Aerodynamic of Biscuits about, and what inspired the story?
Aerodynamics of Biscuits’features Oliver, a five year old boy who sneaks downstairs in the middle of the night to find pirate mice stealing his biscuits! But Captain Sneaky McSqueaky and his crew are not eating Oliver’s biscuits… they’re making rockets! Aerodynamics biscuit rockets to fly to the moon to steal cheese! Ahhharrrr!
The story is inspired by my son, Oliver, who loves midnight feasts and has a wonderful imagination. Click here for a lovely newspaper article about how Oliver… and his sister (who doesn’t feature in this story, but definitely will feature in one soon!) …feel about being my muse.
Your book cover is very eye-catching. Who designed it and did you have any part in this aspect of the published book?
Kymara Nye, editor at Maverick, designed the cover with Sophia Touliatou’s gorgeous illustrations. We agreed we wanted the cover to give an insight into the plot and Kim sent through a few drafts that mostly experimented with finding the perfect fonts. It turns out aerodynamics is a long word to fit onto a 26 x 26.5cm cover, and unusually the title is at the bottom, but it wasn’t long until we settled on the design you see today and I couldn’t be happier with it. I love the way the title is illuminated by the light of the moon and that the biscuit rocket it just how I imagined. Thank you for your hard work, Sophia and Kim!
Aerodynamics of Biscuits is a great title. How did you decide upon it?
It is a great title, isn’t it! Unfortunately it wasn’t me who came up with it and I can’t thank the person who did! Here’s my confession: It was April. I wanted to enter the Greenhouse Funny Prize but hadn’t written for a couple of months and was out of exciting leads. I was busy cleaning and half listening to a breakfast-style TV show, when the celebrity guest being interviewed said the phrase, ‘aerodynamics of biscuits’! …at least that’s what I heard over the hoover. I promptly searched Amazon titles and scoured the internet. When zero search results were returned, I grabbed a pen and paper and started straight away. I was so excited to begin plotting my new award-winning story idea that I didn’t take the time to see who was being interviewed! But I am very grateful, thank you whoever you are!
Moving on from this, which comes first the title or the idea?
Sometimes I start with a concept or idea, but I have to work very hard to make sure these stories aren’t too generic and ‘quiet’. Usually for me it’s the title and these are my most successful submissions. I love working in this way. Writing is an adventure, full of plot twists and surprises and my imagination literally runs riot. But these manuscripts, if they make the cut, usually involve an awful amount of editing. Author-illustrator, Alexis Deacon, recently suggested that I have the ending in mind before I start, even if it changes. This has helped me to decide which ideas to work on first and now I sort them into a ‘To Write’ order. Yes, another list!
How has your work as a primary teacher influenced your
The children at The Erme Primary School are the BEST company! The things they do and say inspire me daily and with over ten years’ experience working with primary aged children, I think teaching has given me, and continues to give me, a good insight into what engages children and what they enjoy.
Could you outline your writing process for us?
As a fairly new writer, with no official writing qualifications, I wouldn’t say I have a particularly consistent writing routine. Nor would I want anyone to try and emulate my haphazard way of working! But…I usually write at a computer into a Microsoft Word document. I try not to re-read and agonize over every word but it’s hard. I always write my pictures books with spreads in mind and write numbered paragraphs to help with page turns and plot. When I’m mostly happy with a story, I then let a select number of people see it including, my long-suffering husband, my critique group, my Step-dad (the pickiest person I know), my Mum (an excellent proof-reader) and then after several re-writes, I send it to Alice, my agent.
Check back on September 29th for Part 2 of Clare's interview with
lots more chat, incuding more about writing and…wait for it!…rubbing shoulders with X Factor's Simon Cowell and Cheryl Fernandez Versini. Yes, really!