Monday, 2 March 2020

To Be or Not to Be an Author? • by Natascha Biebow

Children are curious – they ask me
This question has got me thinking about this vocation
that is being an author:


What's not to like? You get to do something you LOVE 💖

Tell stories all day long.

When the story is flowing, time passes in a jiffy. I feel like I'm in a kind of time warp. When I'm in the midst of researching a new non-fiction picture book, I get really excited by all the interesting new facts I'm learning and have to remind myself where I started and what my end goal is, otherwise I might get stuck down a rabbit warren of (irrelevant) information . . .

Notes for my books have lots of questions

Getting to meet children and seeing them excited about stories too is a lot of FUN too.

Doing messy art with them is EVEN MORE FUN!
Messy artwork with Y3 & Y4 at AJS, London - looking at Nature and mixing colours like Edwin Binney

And so is drawing with children –– and grown-ups.


Having an excuse to make an awesome cake (and eat it) to celebrate your book, plus wear a silly hat is . . .

The most challenging cake I've ever made. Inspired by The Icing Artist.


But being a children’s author is also HARD WORK. Making books requires countless revisions, plus the time it takes to make the final picture book often spans years.

When the story is NOT flowing – or someone else has already pipped you to the post and published ‘your’ story – writing is very TIRING.

(Where’s the duvet?!)

Authors have to be resilient and be prepared to take on board feedback from their peers, their agent, and their book’s editorial team (editor, illustrator, designer, publicist) gracefully and constructively (even though sometimes you want to throw a pillow). Authors need to be prepared to listen and persevere.

Another edit? I thought the book was finished . . .

When I finally finish writing a book, waiting for someone to say they love it as much as I do is very hard. Waiting for a book deal is . . . yes, TIRING.

Getting rejections builds a thick outer skin, but it’s also . . . you got it, TIRING.

Authors are constantly having to come up with new ideas and try to put out our very best work, which is great when it’s flowing, but not so easy when it’s not.

Once published, authors are expected to promote their book. Being on the road for author visits to schools and bookshops far from home can be . . . TIRING.

Cupcakes help.

So, it’s about even – FUN vs. TIRING.
But then look at COOL:
Visiting interesting places for 'research' (like inside the Crayola crayon factory). (Amazing!)
Crayola's HQ in Easton, PA
Crayola crayon labels from inside the factory!
Unpacking a box of advanced copies of your book with your name on it. (Oooh, goody!)
Walking into a bookshop and seeing your book on the playbill  . . . (Wow, who me?!)
and being an actual, really actually published author with your name on the front of a book displayed in your uni bookshop . . .

Receiving unexpected and thoughtful gifts from fellow artists:
Tara Moon handmade me this amazing giant box of Crayolas exactly
like the one from she'd kept her childhood, complete with 'worn' crayons!

Meeting readers who are soooo excited to see you and think you are . . . COOL (!), then creating stuff together. AMAZING!
Drawing with all 8 colours
Drawing together in a whole School Assembly in VA
Signing books at your old school for a new generation of readers. Wow! 
At the lower school library EARJ, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

And for me, making unexpected connections through my book . . .  Here's a story I'd like to share with you: 
But best of all is . . .

Seeing readers reading your book in unexpected places.
This girl couldn't wait to read the book --
right near the Easton Farmer's Market where she bought it.

I’d say on balance

I count myself very lucky (even if I can’t yet make a living doing it).

Happy World Book Day! 

Natascha Biebow, MBE, Author, Editor and Mentor
Natascha is the author of The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons, illustrated by Steven Salerno, Elephants Never Forget and Is This My Nose?, editor of numerous award-winning children’s books, and Co-Regional Advisor (Co-Chair) of SCBWI British Isles. She is currently working on more non-fiction and a series of young fiction. She runs Blue Elephant Storyshaping, an editing, coaching and mentoring service aimed at empowering writers and illustrators to fine-tune their work pre-submission. Find her at


Jill said...

Yes to all of this re being an author.
And what a lovely connection you made with the Binney family. Amazing how life can surprise us!

Natascha Biebow said...

Yes it is! Thank you for reading our blog!