I am delighted to be sharing an inspirational guest post from debut picture book author, Cara Matheson. Find out how Finding Floss, The colour-changing Cockapoo, illustrated by Mirna Imamovic, came to be published.
But first here’s a little bit about the book… Starring the UK’s most popular pet, the cockapoo, with colour-changing powers, Finding Floss is a joyful exploration of what it means to get lost. Featuring bouncing rhyme, a joyful springtime palette and a big blended, multicultural family, this entertaining picture book is an inclusive read for cockapoo-lovers, big and small!
It can be so hard to find a pet who is able to change colour, but what happens when it is the young owner who can’t be found? It’s time for some colour-changing cockapoo magic!
And now here’s Cara to tell us how this magical picture book came about…
Cara Matheson’s Journey to Publication
The email from the publisher came through one July afternoon in 2021: ‘we are quite taken with your story…’
Then: better not get too excited.
I’d been trying to get my stories published for NINE YEARS at this stage, so was certainly used to disappointment and dashed hopes.
When I started writing for children in 2012 (inspired by Julia Donaldson’s Superworm), I had no idea I’d be in it for the long-haul. After writing a story that friends and family assured me had instant bestseller written all over it, I fired it off to a handful of publishers and waited for the offers to roll in.
Only they didn’t. Hmm. This wasn’t as simple as I’d imagined. Still, I kept going. But, a few months down the line, I became discouraged and gave up, as parenting, work as a magazine journalist and, well, life got in the way.
Every so often, when I read a brilliant book to my young daughter (Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam, Don’t Call Me Sweet, I Want My Hat Back, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus), I’d consider having another go. But I didn’t have the time – or the stomach – for more rejection.
Then, in 2014, my second child, Nancy, was stillborn and I fell into a fug of grief. When I slowly started to emerge, forever changed, I realised I needed something to focus on – a way of reconnecting to the old me, perhaps. And I started to write again.
I took a course and hoped it would be the key to success. It wasn’t, but was a great intro into the business of writing.
Another baby – my third daughter – came along and I took another break.
I started writing again. Another year went by, another course, another workshop. The more I learned, the less I felt I knew, but I could see my stories were improving.
A year later, I joined a critique group. A year or so after that, I booked some 1-2-1s with agents and had some encouraging feedback (but zero offers).
Perhaps entering competitions would help get my work out there? I entered as many as I could and got nowhere. The following year, however, I was shortlisted in the WriteMentor awards which was a huge boost.
Then, in 2019, I got a dog: a fluffy little cockapoo called Scout. And, as weird as it sounds, she became something of a muse. Her cute, mischievous (and downright weird) behaviour sparked a flurry of story ideas during the seemingly endless Covid lockdowns, until I wrote one that I felt had legs (or paws, even).
I showed it to my critique group; a few agents and seasoned writers, too. They agreed it had potential, but suggested improvements that were invaluable. Finally, I came across a publisher, Owlet Press, and immediately loved their ethos and the quality of the books they produced. So I sent my story off, and – just a few weeks later – that career-changing email popped into my inbox.
Since then, I’ve signed with a brilliant agent and found myself planning all the cool ‘authory’ things I’d always dreamed of – school visits, book signings, ordering a batch of biscuits with my main character’s face on them (because, well why not?!). As I write, two boxes of my debut Finding Floss – the Colour-changing Cockapoo have just arrived and, honestly, there is no GIF or emoji in the world to show you the crazed excitement and disbelief on my face right now.
So that’s my journey to publication – a combination of dogs and dogged determination, nice people, and more than a sprinkling of luck.
Thank you so much, Cara, what an inspirational post! We can’t wait to see what you do next.
Finding Floss was published by Owlet Press, 2 February 2023
More about Cara:
Cara is a children’s writer and former magazine journalist. She lives in Greenwich, London, with her husband, daughters and therapy dog, Scout (with whom she volunteers in schools as part of the Pets as Therapy Read2Dogs scheme). Cara’s debut picture book, Finding Floss (Owlet Press) is out now.
You can follow Cara on Instagram and Twitter.
I am very grateful to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. This voluntary review contains my honest opinion.
Loved reading Cara’s journey. Her persistence is admirable and inspirational.
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