Hands up if you, or someone you know, has experienced Mummy Guilt. I personally get Mummy Guilt often, even more so since the pandemic started. It’s all too easy to feel that you’re not doing enough for your children, or you should be doing it another way. The truth is there is no one way to parent. There is no one way to be a mother.
How to Spot a Mum by Donna Amey Bhatt and Aura Lewis is a book that frankly, I feel everyone should be given on the day they become a mother! I am thrilled to be interviewing Donna about her unique and quirky debut picture book.
This warm, witty, and spookily accurate(!) book identifies all the different types of mums out there, from the sporty mum to the online mum; the organised mum to the last-minute mum.
I personally could identify myself as the homebody mum straight away. You may spot yourself, or your own mum, too! What kind of mum are you? Please tell me in the comments I’d love to know!
At the start of the book, there is a lovely poem about what a mum is. Importantly, it says that while everyone has a biological mum, some people also have adopted mums, foster mums or step mums. This book is truly inclusive, featuring mums with disabilities and mums from many different parts of the world.
Between these heart-felt pages, Donna has masterfully woven snippets of comic genius. There are laugh-out-loud tips for children about how to handle the different mums.
I loved the “anatomy of the mum”. It is SO true that a mum’s nose is excellent for sniffing out mischief!
How to Spot a Mum is a true celebration of mothers and I personally feel every mother should own a copy to share with their family!!
I think How to Spot a Mum is pure genius and I am delighted to be interviewing Donna to find out more…
Hi Donna, I’m so excited to be interviewing you! All of us as a family LOVED reading How to Spot a Mum. Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind it?
Hi Rachael, the feeling is mutual! I’m so glad you liked the book. It is my first one to ever be published, so is especially exciting to see it in the flesh. How to Spot a Mum is actually part of a series of non-fiction books about family. The first book I pitched was about grans (that’s out later this year), and Wide Eyed (the publisher) suggested making it into a series – so How to Spot a Mum was born! It was a result of a lots of ideas between Aura the illustrator, the editorial team, and me. I really loved the process. For me, it was important to write something that was inclusive not only of different types of people who become parents, but of children who have different relationships with their mums. I hope that comes across.
Did you always want to be a writer?
No, I don’t think I am necessarily a natural writer as I found spelling and grammar really challenging growing up. I’m also a slow reader, but I really love books so for me it’s worth the time commitment! I have always loved words and taking in other more eloquent people’s dialogue. Eventually I found some ways to improve the technical things that were holding me back and found the confidence to firstly write and secondly show someone else.
Can you tell us a bit about your publishing journey? How long did it take from idea to publication day?
Yes, so I have a really talented illustrator friend called Emily Mayor, and a few years ago we decided to get together and try and write a book for children as an experiment. This was really the first thing I wrote for fun, and it was called Martin Side-Partin – a book about a boy with an extreme side parting. We really loved working together, so kept making things up and we had a few stories and games published in children’s magazines. However, it’s really hard to get a traditional publishing deal as a writer and illustration duo – the editors like to make visual choices themselves, especially if both of you are previously unpublished.
So early 2018 I came across the Golden Egg Academy’s picture book writing course and enrolled. This was brilliant because it introduced me to editors and some other people at a similar stage to me, and it also made me write loads! I think I averaged a story a month, so came out with about 10 stories that had all been critiqued – very useful (although some of them shockingly bad)!
I pitched my book about grans early 2019, and wrote the mum book a few months later, now a year on its published – I think this is actually pretty quick compared to a lot of people, so I’m grateful to Wide Eyed for not keeping me waiting!
It’s remarkable how well you and Aura have honed in on the essence of a mum. Reading the book, I instantly saw myself in some of mum-personalities, and also identified the personalities of my mum, and my mummy friends. Which type of mum resonates most for you?
Oh, you need to tell me which you are! I’m quite a new mum, my son is one and a bit, so I can kind of kid myself I’m all the organised ones – and over this year we’ve probably all been homebodies! Realistically I’m a mixture of chatty and last-minute mum. Fun for me, but probably no one else.
As your background is in social media strategy, what advice would you give to writers trying to build an author brand?
I’m shamefully not a great example of this, as I still use social media in a fairly personal way, but I would say that the internet is kind of polluted with content. Yes, you will get more followers if you constantly post, but it’s probably not very meaningful. Make yourself pleasant to follow, no one likes a show-off in real life, and it’s no different online. Try not to just mindlessly reshare but maybe explain to your followers why you think something is good (or bad) instead. If you’re not a visual person, don’t use things like Instagram – play to your strengths and find just one platform you really enjoy using, rather than stressing out about trying to be on everything.
Could you tell us a little bit about your next book with Aura, How to Greet a Gran?
This one is about grans all over the world, and on each page you’ll meet an international gran, learn what to call them in their language, how to greet them, and learn a few facts about grandmothers in that country. It was such a pleasure to write. I got to speak to lots of people about their special gran memories, and also it gave me the chance to remember my own.
Thank you so much for chatting with me. I can’t wait to read your next book!
Thank you so much! I really hope you like it. x
How to Spot a Mum is published by Quarto, 2 February 2021
Donna is a writer living in east London who loves reading and writing about people who aren’t exactly like her. She loves bright and modern illustrations, and her first series of non-fiction books are published in 2021 by Wide Eyed Editions.
Aura Lewis is an author-illustrator traveling around the world. She has an MFA in illustration from the School of Visual Arts.
You can follow Aura via her website.
I am very grateful to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. This voluntary review contains my honest opinion.