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  • Writer's pictureJ.M.

The Wonder Girls First Anniversary!

A paperback copy of The Wonder Girls just before I donated it to The Shetland Library
On my way into The Shetland Library on publication day.

First anniversaries are paper, right, which is entirely appropriate because a year ago today I published The Wonder Girls book one. And it is a book one because soon there will be a book two and soonish after that, a book three. End of January '21 is the target for the digital book two, followed by the paperback in May.

I chose October 4th as a publication date because it's the anniversary of The Battle of Cable Street. This year, it's 84 years since the people of East London banded together to stop The Blackshirts, marching down Cable Street in Stepney. This time last year I was in Shetland - I really didn't plan ahead! It was such a lovely time. Friday 4th October, publication day, started in Briony's beautiful house in Lerwick to take a call on air from BBC Radio Solent, who'd responded to my press release about the book.

picture of the author with two librarians at The Shetland library
Weird expression is due to massive dose of imposter syndrome. The librarians were so nice I didn't know what to do with my face!

Then hub and I had breakfast at Fjara, a café that also gets a mention in Ann Cleves' Shetland books, followed by a trip to the wonderful librarians at the Shetland Library to deliver my first book donation. I was so taken aback by their welcome it made me feel so special and then they tweeted it!

List of towns and independent bookshops which the author is aiming to visit on a promotional tour to Shetland in 2022.
My proposed 2022 bookshop hop to Shetland!

I pitched my story at The Shetland Times bookshop too, who took two copies and later sold two copies. I also visited The Anderson High School with a book donation and told them about my competition to win the first paperback out of the box - it was brilliant to be able to send copies to two Anderson pupils who entered. I love Shetland so much my goal is to visit again in October 2022 with all three books.

My first year started brilliantly. I came back home and finished distributing free copies to Southampton schools and libraries. Also did some direct sales in bookshops which I really enjoyed doing - community engagement skills came in really handy there. Then in the New Year, I started school visits. At one school I sold 47 books and very nervously (but I did it!) spoke to the whole school on World Book Day.

And then Corona.

Corona, Covid, the Virus, the Pandemic whatever you want to call it, happened.

To all of us.

Gill, at our 2018 street party. Always encouraging and full of enthusiasm. I miss this lovely friend.

I have been so lucky. Though, as we locked down, I lost a dear friend to Cancer, an equally horrible big C. But all of my family has stayed safe. Youngest daughter was home for four and a half months, which was so lovely. And I've spent some equally lovely times with the other three and their excellent partners, over the summer. Two children were furloughed, one furlough has resulted in a redundancy but I have lots of confidence that will turn out well - interviews are happening! And the hub's job is secure, he's working from home and is still happy to fund me. So me telling you that my strategy for selling my paperback copies through a programme of school, library and bookshop visits, went completely up the shoot, doesn't need any sympathy whatsoever.

I got discouraged and to a large extent ignored the Internet as a means of promoting The Wonder Girls. Though I did record myself reading the whole book chapter by chapter and posted the videos on youtube. The production is terrible and some of the videos have strangely disappeared so there are now gaps. I'm going to take the whole lot down as soon as I can bear to look at them. But the exercise was very useful for the book two rewrite, which I also did in the first few months of the lockdown. I wrote a few stories too and edited a few more. I posted one for VE day, it's sort of on brand for me. And one of the new ones I wrote was for one of those excellent partner birthdays, at his request. But all those self-publishy things you're supposed to do on social media etc, I had no enthusiasm for at all.

Photo of the author's writing space with a colourful swivel chair suitable for a big bottom!
Arse-sized chair.

However the received wisdom is that the best way to promote a book is to write another one, so yay and tick.

In September I finally got my arse in gear, or more accurately in the enjoyable swivel chair I sit in to write, to make TWG2 properly happen. Though it's taken me until today, and this anniversary, to be brave enough to deal with the website and facebook page. I hope I'm on a roll now?

For my next anniversary, which will be 1st November 2020, one year since the hugest fun I had in the entire decade – launching The Wonder Girls at October Books in Southampton, I'll be here again in the blogosphere. I'll be turning this blog into a newsletter and asking anyone who's interested to keeping reading my updates, to sign up to it and be on my mailing list. This is one of those self-publishy things I should have done year ago. All my in-person strategies to sell books are out the window at the moment so online ones like newsletters are all the more important. I hope you don't mind this blatant self promotion. Just turn me off if you do.

Anyway, in return for signing up to my newsletter (about once a month in your inbox) I'll have stories - specifically a Wonder Girls prequel – a short story featuring Baby, Fingers and Moll in London. I've just written it and I'm really excited for the ideas it's opened up for book three. My original plan was to do the newsletter launch today but I ran out of time to edit story and do the admin. But hurray, I then remembered the launch anniversary was equally significant...

rainbow spectrum
Just a sample of that rainbowy haze of deep apprecation that could be coming your way...

So, (well done you if you've read this far!) in return for a newsletter sign-up I'll send you the Baby and Fingers prequel, (about 4- 5k words) which I won't publish anywhere else and, something I haven't mentioned yet, a first look at the book two cover (which Anne Glenn is currently designing) and so much love it will bubble up from your keyboard (or phone) in a rainbowy haze of appreciation. With sparkly bits too. That sentence has loads of parentheses, which the hub isn't keen on, but too bad.

And the other thing I forgot to say is I've published a new edition of Spare, an older middle grade story that opens with a girl in a turret. Check here for the story blurb etc

If you follow the link and read the blurb you'll see why it's not currently available on Amazon!

Thank you very much for reading this post and if you want to give Spare a go while until I'm ready with more Wonder Girls, I'd be thrilled!

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