A lot has happened in the past week since Raccoon and the Hot Air Balloon was published. Firstly, Jane Clarke, of Picture Book Den, kindly let me write a blog, which was posted on the website on 28th June to coincide with the book’s birthday. It’s called Picture Books – A Lifetime Love by Jill Atkins, Guest Blogger. Here is the link to the website, then type in my name.
Secondly, I’ve written a piece to go in the the local newspaper, hopefully, not sure exactly when. That is the West Sussex County Times. It should appear sometime mid July 2021.
Thirdly, I’ve been making arrangements for my zoom reading with Storrington Primary School Reception class on 16th July. Yesterday was most frustrating! Maverick were going to host the zoom for me, but unfortunately Kate will be on holiday that week and can’t do it, so I have to work out how to host the zoom myself! I have several friends who I’m sure will help me. Then I popped to the local bookshop to confirm that any book sales from the reading could be done through them and found that they’re very busy so could I sell books to the children myself. To be fair, they rang the supplier who had none in stock!! And anyway, ‘it’s rather near the end of term for children to be able to order and receive before the summer holidays.’ I rang school to see it they would allow me to sell books – a book exchanged for a sealed envelope containing the money. Answer: no! They are not dealing with anything like that thanks to COVID! And the email has gone to parents telling them to get the book through the bookshop. Confusion! So I’m down to arranging everything myself with potentially no book sales. Ever felt let down? Cath Jones suggested I might ask the bookshop if they would take some of the books I’ve already purchased and sell them if there are orders from school – we would share the money. We shall see. I’ll have to ask. With me setting up the zoom, you never know, there might be no reading anyway.
The above are all published by Ransom Publishing. They were written at the beginning of 2020 in collaboration with Cath Jones, who wrote a similar number of books in a very short time. I think Steve Rickard at Ransom, who also writes lots of their books, has made a brilliant job of the series based purely on Letters & Sounds from the DfE.
Normally, I would do some sort of book launch, but due to COVID, I’m restricted to a few other things to celebrate the publication of Raccoon and the Hot Air Balloon.
Firstly, the proposed Zoom book reading with my local school, which I thought was off, is now on. Kate, at my publishers, Maverick, is going to set it up and send posters and bookmarks to the school in advance. Hopefully, the local bookshop will take orders from parents (hopefully!). That’s not until the middle of July. I’ve already prepared some ideas to introduce raccoons and the book.
Secondly, I’m doing a blog tour on Maverick website. Kate has sent advance copies to several reviewers and they will post their reviews on certain days. Monday will be a question and answer session. Then there will be a new blog each day for the rest of the week. Kate is hoping to get Kristen involved, too.
Thirdly, I’m having a celebratory virtual lunch on Monday with my Hooker mates – Cath, Alison, Lizzie and Sharon (we used to meet in Hook, Hants!). I will be accompanied by my new cuddly Raccoon (National Geographic sold the most lifelike), and wearing my newly-knitted hat and the bandanna, which Becca, my daughter bought for me. Both these have raccoons all over them! Surprise! Surprise!
Fourth, I’ve contacted the local newspaper and filled in an information form, all to do with my writing and my new book. That should be in print and online in the new future!
Fifth, I’ve joined the twenty-first century – I have a twitter account! Find me and follow me @jillatkinsauth1
So I’m looking forward to an exciting week and hoping for some sales!
As restrictions are still in place, and I have a new picture book coming out (hooray!!), I thought I’d try and set up a zoom book reading and hope for some sales in my local school. I know the Head and Reception teachers well, having volunteered once a week for several years, pre-COVID. So I approached the local bookshop who are willing to help with publicity and would sell the books. Coincidentally, the bookshop was in the process of arranging a book fair at that same school in early July, so they would sell my books as part of that.
So far, so good. Then we learn that COVID restrictions are not to be lifted today. We have another month to behave ourselves and get vaccinated (I already have been double jabbed and have been trying to behave myself!!) and hope COVID numbers will go down (as they have begun to rise again, thanks to the new Delta Variant). Next thing I hear, last week, is that the book fair is cancelled because COVID restrictions don’t allow people to congregate indoors, and therefore my zoom event is off. Very disappointing as I was planning a lovely virtual session with the Reception Classes and I want to promote my book as much as possible.
The school has suggested that I can do an actual in-person reading of my book in the autumn, which would be good, ‘if it’s safe to do so’. So I’m on hold at the moment and hope this will come to pass then, either as part of the book fair or as an individual effort. I would rather it were not part of the book fair because that would seriously dilute the number of books sold, I would imagine. Meanwhile, my publisher is also happy to assist with posters and bookmarks so I hope there will be some success there, so I’ve emailed the school to suggest we go ahead this term anyway without the bookshop. I haven’t heard back yet.
Hey ho! More later… more positive… about the new book! 🙂
Just because I haven’t written on my blog for a year, it doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy, but school visits have been impossible, of course, during lockdown and because of all the restrictions necessary to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. During that time, however, I’ve written and have had published a number of books.
At the end of 2019, Steve at Ransom Publishing, for whom I’d already written a lot of books, approached me and Cath Jones with a project, which he had already started. It was a completely new set of reading books, fiction and non-fiction, that followed the DfE Letters and Sounds to the letter! This begins with the very basic phonics (the sounds made by the first set of letters – a, s, t, etc) and moves on through all the letter sounds, sounds made by digraphs (eg sh, oa, ng…) to more complicated combinations of letters to make different sounds. OK so far?
What he wanted was that Cath and I produce fiction and non-fiction to fit each of the rules of phonics. So we set to and wrote for all we were worth for about three months, into February 2020. Not a good time, pandemic considered, to publish these books, but publish Steve did. He wrote many books, too, and is responsible for the illustrations – either using online resource for photographs for the non-fiction titles or hiring illustrators for the fiction.
These books are Brilliant!! Hopefully, they’re selling well now schools are up and running again!
Here are some of level 3:
My favourite illustrator is Andy Hamilton, who made such a brilliant job of The Queen’s Quoit, The Fresh Load, Robbing Hood, and Skipper Kipper and the Treasure Chest.
Other books published are:
So that’s what I’ve been up to, as well as writing other stuff… exciting news for the next blog!
I’m always made so welcome at Storrington Primary School, where I regularly volunteer in Reception class each week, and I was booked to do my annual visit regarding the Great Fire of London, which is Year 2 topic for the second half of the Autumn Term. My visit was set for 5th December.
The children love the subject of the Great Fire and they always amaze me with their enthusiasm and their mastery of facts. Part of my visit was to chat with them about what they know – and they know everything!! Then I showed them my copy of Pepys diary and read a short passage; talked about fire engines, then (Mr Keeling’s engine) and now, and how inadequate fire equipment was then; we completed a giant, simple crossword puzzle together and I left smaller copies for the children to do afterwards; I read the first two chapters of my book. Then I sold a few Great Fire of London books.
Thanks to the two teachers, Abi and Steph, and the children for a lovely visit!
In October 2019, I was approached by four BEd students of Chichester University. They have been working on a project with a new school in Waterlooville whose numbers have shot up thanks to a massive housing estate being built nearby. Consequently, the number of books the school was allocated on opening is now severely inadequate so the student had embarked on a fund raising project coupled with a plan to improve the children’s love of, appreciation and care of books and reading. So they approached me to ask if I was interested in helping out by being the school’s Patron Author. I happily agreed and arranged to visit the school in November.
We shared an assembly, with the students presentation on looking after book then I introduced myself and why I was there. After school, I had a long talk with the KS1 Lead for English, Kat, when I gave advice, made suggestions about improving the profile of books and the enjoyment of reading, listed good authors and books for all abilities and ages and offered my services in general and specifically to do with enriching children’s writing.
In January 2020, I heard from Kat, telling me of their work so far. Library is much better stocked, library monitors have been chosen from the older children and they are working hard and responsibly. We arranged that I would visit school later in the term.
Meanwhile, I heard from Dave, KS2 Lead on English, and we’ve arranged for me to visit school in the near future. I will work with Years 5 and 6 on enrichment of writing as well as talking about my books, Sophie’s Secret War, as the topic for this term has been World War II. I’ll also talk about being published and what that takes! The date hasn’t been set yet but likely to be after half term.
I will also visit for World Book Day, Thursday 5th March and I await Kat’s plans for that day. Watch this space!!
Hooray! The book is out, published by Hodder on 27 September 2019.
Rose has to decide who is right: her older sister who joins the Suffragettes and believes in action and vandalism to get the vote; Granny, who has been a Suffragist for about fifty years and who believes in achieving equal suffrage by peaceful means; or Mother, who doesn’t see the need for the vote and she has a good life with her husband, three children and a lovely home.
This book is for the upper Primary School age group, but any age could read all about how women got the vote.
I really enjoyed my afternoon on Saturday! Broadwater School, Worthing had arranged a Meet the Author event with 7 local authors taking part. I was greeted very warmly by Rachael, who had organised it and kept us authors informed of events beforehand. A very kind man carried in my suitcases of books as if they weighed nothing and I set them out on my allocated table. I was shown round the school, especially the two rooms where I would be giving my talks/readings. My helper for the afternoon was Marina, who kept an eye on my table while I was busy with groups of children, brought me coffee and helped me with sales.
My first session was with younger children – Early Years and Key Stage 1. I introduced myself and some of my books then brought out Toad swims for his Life, which I read to them. I had great response from the children and parents/carers/grandparents present, who helped tell the story, held the big cards portraying the characters and asked/answered questions. I also did a quite show and tell with Luckily! the story of Sir Ben the Bold who rescues the king’s favourite teddy bear from the dragon.
Here we are in the school library:
My second session was with a small group of Key Stage 2 children and adults at the end of the afternoon. I talked about writing, famous diaries in particular (Pepys, Anne Frank, Wimpey Kid, etc) before introducing Sophie’s Secret War, the diary of a fictional girl in 1939-40 northern France. It was a good session with some great questions and comments from the audience.
I’m happy to say that I sold 36 books! Some were bought by children and their adults, but quite a few were also bought by the school for class readers or the library. I’d like to say a big thank you to the school for having us there, to Rachael for organising it and to Marina for helping me out.