Wednesday 27 March 2024

Beads of Submission - Signing with an Agent!


A few weeks ago I posted a blog about my endeavour to receive one hundred rejection in 2024, and in order to a have a constant visual display of my progress I was putting beads in a jar. A blue bead for every submission, and a pink bead for every full manuscript request, long-listing or short-listing etc. By the point of posting, I’d already added my first pink bead.

There is great news the pink bead has changed into a special bead made of actual mammoth bone. Why? I am delighted to say I’ve signed on Lauren Gardner and her assistant Callen Martin of Bell Lomax Moreton, with my mammoth book!


However, looking at my jar, it looks wrong, as it only has a bead for every submission I’ve made with this manuscript in 2024, which is misleading as I’ve been subbing this book in previous years. So I went back to my spread sheet to tally up the real submission statics and therefore added them to the jar.


Ashley Grimes Mammoth Whisperer in all its forms, has been subbed 42 times and received 6 full manuscript requests and I offer.


In addition, it was subbed to 15 competitions, and not so much as a long-listing or honorary mention.

But this is still only part of the story, as I started writing when my youngest was coming up to his first birthday – he is now driving and sitting his a-levels! So, to get to this point I’ve written 8 (completed) novels, I novella, I chapter book and countless picture books, all of which have been subbed and therefore I have a massed a huge pile of rejections. I haven’t tallied all these up, as counting isn’t my strong suit (dyscalculia), but I am delighted to have reached this milestone.

I am very much looking forward to working with Lauren and Callen.

Monday 18 March 2024

Writing - So Much More than the Pursuit of Publication

Writing - So Much More than the Pursuit of Publication

Sometimes as a pre-published author I get tunnel vision, believing success is only one thing – getting published. But it is so much more. It just takes a wide angled lens to appreciate just how much more.

When you are on submission and the rejections are rolling in or worse, there is a void of rejections as is the modern way, and everyone seems to be getting contracts but you, it can seem as if success is binary, in print or failed. This is the time to take a step back and admire the view. Due to this exact reason and also not helped by a spell of bad health, this is what I have recently done.

I have done this before and posted about all the ways that writing has enhanced my life and my family's in multiple ways - read more here. But this time I wanted to do it specifically for my current project/submission ‘Ashley Grimes Mammoth Whisperer.’ To see how writing the book has embellished by life, and it is a really lovely view with lots of accomplishments to feel good about.

Firstly, I have rekindled my original love of illustration, as a direct result, as I started sketching the characters and settings. I am now working on developing a portfolio.

Space mammoth - illustration by me - crayons, ink, ipad. 


I had an article of non-fiction about Mammoths and climate change published in the amazing children’s periodical The Changeling Magazine, along with one of my illustrations. Read more here.

I’ve also been invited to do library and museum events to talk children and adults alike abut mammoths and their theoretical use to help combat climate change.

I’m now sometime referred to as Mammoth Lady or Mammoth Aunty (not actually by my a nephews or nieces!) which I love. Also, often people think of me when they stumble across a mammoth and send me photos/messages, which I adore. Who doesn’t like seeing a mammoth in the wild? Or send me mammoth things they've made - I love a surprise mammoth post!

A selection of handmade mammoth surprise post!

I have had the privilege of messaging, meeting, and making friends with some lovely equally - possibly even more - mammoth obsessed people than me. Like Beth Shaprio, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology who wrote the book, ‘How to Clone a Mammoth,’ who very kindly checked the science in my manuscript. 

Also, thanks to my longest friend Vicky Stowell – thank you, Sally and Nev Hollingworth, who are the amazing paleontologist's who found the Mammoth of Graveyard near Swindon.

Me (middle) With Sally and Nev Hollingworth - (photo by Nev (thanks Nev))

Lastly it was Sally and Nev who invited me to do something that I always wanted to do, go on a planetology dig. When I was a teenager, I desperately wanted to be a paleozoologist or anthropologist, but I was not permitted to take science and I was told by school I would never me allowed to do any scientific endeavour but to stick to art due to my dyslexia and dyscalculia. Of course at that tender age you believe it. So going to the dig was amazing. Full of lovely generous people. Although I personally didn’t find any bits of dead mammoth, I did help plaster a mammoth tusk ready for transport. Which was a real honour! 

Me helping with the plastering - thanks to Sally H for photo.

So, when the rejections are rolling in, and my lack of perceived achievement gets me down, I have to think - if I gave up writing what else would I miss? The answer is - a lot. A lot of awesome stuff!

Me at the dig! Thanks Sally H for the photo!

Tuesday 12 March 2024

Submission Impossible? 100 Rejections in a Year!

I’ve made the decision that this year 2024, I’m really going to knuckle down and submit like I have never submitted before. In the past I’ve always approached my submission process with a tad less dedication than the writing itself. After spending hours (far too many to calculate) researching, plotting, world building, writing, revising and editing, (and repeating several times over), the submission always start with an enthusiastic flourish and then after a first dozen and half of rejections, I lose confidence, and everything just peters out.

This year though, I believe my manuscript is in really good shape, and the feedback from peers and professional has been encouraging, so my aim is to be more tenacious in 2024. With that in mind I have set myself the target of receiving 100 rejections before we next sing Auld Lang Syne.


To achieve this, I’ve built in dedicated time in my weekly schedule and have implemented some measures to visually show progress. In addition to my spreadsheet, I’ve got a glass vase and some crystal beads. With every submission I will add a blue (stripped agate) bead to the vase, and with every full manuscript request, long-listing, short-listing or honorary mention, I will add a pink (tigers eye) bead to the vase. This will mean that I will see the vase gradually filling up throughout the year.

I am hoping that having this visual tactile log of my progress will also serve as a stimulus to keep me motivated and continue the endeavour of reaching my target.

If by a miracle I get signed along the way I will think of a something extra special to add to the vase.


**Edit** since initially writing this I’ve added my first pink bead! Fingers crossed!

Thursday 7 March 2024

World Book Day 2024, Celebrating as a Pre-Published Author with no Small Children (anymore!)

World Book Day 2024, Celebrating as a Pre-Published Author with no Small Children (anymore!)

Happy World Book Day everyone!

World Book Day in years gone past was a big thing on our family calendar. Me writing, and immersed in the kid’s lit world, and two bookworm children excited about all the school WBD festivities. It was grand, read more [press here]

But then the kids grew up so no more WBD dressing up scrambles, and me still being unpublished, having no events to attend. This can be difficult as it really makes the notion of success as a writer seem binary, published v’s non-published, as everywhere on social media there are authors doing events. I have in the past years used the days to dream how I would do an author event if I were published but it can be lonely [press here to read more], so this year I decided to be proactive.

So my World book Day 2024 plan is…

Spread the love…

  • Having been on the booksellers end of WBD, I decided to give a WBD Bookseller’s Survival Care Package to my local Indy bookshop.

  • As I am literally across the road from a pre-school, and I make story sacks, I made and delivered a mammoth themed story sack for them which I will deliver on the day.

  • I am going to spend some time doing reviews on Amazon /Goodreads for books I read recently.

For me…

  • I have a virtual coffee scheduled with another author/illustrator, to raise a cup of some caffeinated substance in celebration.

  • I will read. Read with abandon, without guilt that I could or should be doing something else!

  • A trip to a bookshop.

So that is my World Book Day shorted. What are you doing?

Sunday 3 March 2024

Dyscalculia Awareness Day - Daily life with Dyscalculia

Today March the 3rs is Dyscalculia Awareness Day. What (You may ask) is Dyscalculia? As most people indeed need to ask, and therefore this day is much needed. Dyscalculia is one of the neurodiverse diagnoses which is specific to people who have difficulty identifying, reading, sequencing, and understanding numbers, values, and mathematical processes. It is akin to dyslexia but with numbers. However, unlike dyslexia, which many people at least have heard of, but may not actually fully comprehend, dyscalculia is less well known. I have even spoke to teachers who don’t understand what it is and aren’t even aware of its existence. It is a bit rarer than dyslexia, which affects 9-12% of the global population, Dyspraxia is up to 6%. However up to 40% of people with dyslexia also have dyscalculia. I am one of the 40%.

I wasn’t diagnosed with dyscalculia until aged 19, the same time I officially got diagnosed with dyslexia, however every teacher knew I had dyslexia as it was better known and understood, so individual teachers gave me extra support, and because I wasn’t officially diagnosed many of them wrote to the exam boards asking for me to get extra time, which I indeed received due to barrage of letters and evidence that each teacher individually sent them – for which I will forever be grateful. Despite this is still struggled a I was still on first readers ‘Billy Red Hat’ type book when I went up to secondary school, but at least it got recognised and I received helped.

Math on the other hand was a different matter. I couldn’t learn my times table and frustration as to why, came out in discipline from my parents and epic temper tantrums and fits of violent outbursts from me, coining me the title problem child’. Learning math was incredibly difficult as numbers didn’t move on the page (as poetic descriptions) but every time I looked down from textbook to exercise book or board to paper, the numbers were in a different order. I can tell you getting the correct answer for a sum, when the number keep changing if very difficult and frustrating. Plus, I never got any help. No one in school had any idea about dyscalculia, not the math teachers, not Learning Support, not even the educational psychologist. I just got labelled lazy which added to the frustration as I was working so hard to try and master it.

But challenges were not excusive to math, one of the biggest and still most difficult tasks is reading clocks analogue or a digital. Trying to work out the time when numbers are creating havoc is impossible. And a 24-hour digital is no better, you can’t image how many times I have turned up to an appointment at the wrong time as I have misunderstood the time. either too early or too late. This also extends to dates. In my early twenties I turned up to a job interview on the wrong day as I miss read the date. They were surprised when I arrived and quipped I was early, explained how much early and proceeded to interview me. The first question; ‘what is you attention to detail like’. I didn’t get the job.

Then there are phones, do you remember back in the 80s and 90s, when phones were attached to a wall, and you had to dial the number? Well, I do, and it is a horrific memory. I could dial the same number incorrectly serval times, resulting in an embarrassing exchange with the person I had disturbed on the other side. Resulting in epic meltdowns. As an adult the phone issue persists but know there is the technology to have all your number stored on your phone, and most numbers you can dial straight from the web on your mobile, which is much easier. But I still hate phoning people due to all the childhood trauma and avoid it where possible.

Technology may help on some ways, like the phone, but with others it is getting increasingly difficult to navigate. This is because of digitalisation and the ever-growing reliance on pin codes both pure numerical and also letter and numbers (remember dyslexic too). I often can’t use my debit cards as I can’t get the four number correct. I once had a house with a pin-lock rather than a key, I spent hours locked out waiting for my husband to come home. So I come back to the tool that helps, by phone, as I note my pin code on there.

Then there was France. A holiday with a friend and her son and mine. Which was lovely until, I had my phone stolen. Before you ask, no I don’t speak French. It was tricky enough mastering English (dyslexia). So I am stuck in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language and I can’t use my debit cards because I can’t get the number right. It was isolating, embarrassing and far from relaxing.

But by far the biggest obstacle is that people are not aware of it, or its impact, and treat you as if you are deficient on the intelligence front. This is why the protagonist in my latest novel ‘Ashley Grimes Mammoth Whisperer’ has both dyslexia and dyscalculia.

A few years ago, the BBC news ran an article about a professional dancer who has severe dyscalculia, I posted it everywhere, and many adults replied who also have it. They were all very interested to hear that I was writing a children’s book with the main protagonist that has dyscalculia. All of them wishing they could have a read a book as a child with someone like them reflected, so they knew they would have known they weren’t alone. So, I have worked really hard o make my own voice depiction as accurate authentic and positive as possible and am now embarking on submitting hoping it will find a home and maybe provide the sort of reading experience for children with dyscalculia that me and other people would have loved to have had as children. An acknowledgement and knowing they are not the only ones.