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Abigay’s Farm – Assisted Self-Publishing

June 22, 2021


I have had six books traditionally published. Some friends thought that this would help me to get my children’s novel ‘Abigay’s Farm’ traditionally published.  However, it didn’t work like that.

I certainly tried.  I wrote to over 34 agencies – very time-consuming but no luck.  I received some compliments. One agent said that ‘sadly it was a near miss’. I knew that an agent’s goal is to help build up an author’s career. I might write other books one day, but my main aim was to get ‘Abigay’s Farm’ published.

I had worked on it for around four years.  A good friend and colleague from the Islington Writers for Children – John O’Leary – had helped me to edit it.  We worked on it together for around eighteen months. Then two other kind members of the group, Sunita Nahar and Stephanie Ward cast critical eyes over the text. I felt it was as good as we could get it and I wanted children to be able to read and enjoy the story.

I turned to the supportive organisation SCBWI – The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators – and asked via Facebook if anyone had experience of self-publishing.  A reply came back quickly.  Someone said she had had books published by a company that offered  a service called Assisted Publishing.  She said they weren’t cheap but she highly recommended them. She has had her last few books published by them.  Other people replied that they found the whole self-publishing experience via Amazon both satisfactory and at almost no cost, unless you wanted to pay for a cover artist. I knew that I would not be able to cope with all the necessary IT details myself.  They would seem like ‘nightmares’ to me, so I turned to the recommended Assisted Publishing company.

I contacted the company and really liked their whole approach.  I consulted the Society of Authors about the contract. They approved and I was happy to sign.  Next time, as I get further along the process towards publication, I’ll give the name of the company and can hopefully show you the cover but that has not been designed yet.  So far, the text has been proofread.  I await the next stage of the process.  I have been given a list of the many things that will have to be decided. It is impressive. Thankfully it was decided that the story had already been successfully edited. The likely publication date is October this year.

Things have changed since my last published book. This was ‘My Big Brother JJ’, published 2009.  Nowadays an author has to do as much as possible to market their own books.

Abigay’s Farm’ , a novel for ages 9-12 is coming soon.

I made my way downstairs and entered the kitchen carefully. Grandpa was sitting quietly at the table with the tin box in front of him. There was a chair pulled out next to him that was clearly for me. I sat down and waited. The ginger farm cat peered in the window before darting off who-knows-where.

Neither of us spoke. I heard the constant ‘whooshing’ of the dishwasher and stared at the numbers counting down on the display panel.

I wondered whether Grandpa really did have something to say to me when he cleared his throat and glanced at me awkwardly.

‘1966,’ he said softly, pointing to the mysterious box and the objects laid out around it. ‘That’s when we did these.’

I waited.

‘It’s all about history, you know,’ he said eventually.

Another pause.

‘I was about your age when our teacher got us to do them – time capsules she said they were.

“Bury things that mean something to you,” she said. “Then when people open them in a hundred years, they’ll know all about you and the times you lived in.”

On the lids we wrote Do NOT Open until 2066.  You can’t see the writing anymore. I think I must have used the wrong kind of ink.

But you know what? Now is as good a time as any. Maybe, it’s important for you and Gabriel to learn about the old days and the old ways – and anyway, we can always bury it again afterwards.’

He shifted around and looked at me directly. I could see he wasn’t angry anymore but there was a sadness in his eyes.

‘You and I are not so different, Girl,’ he said. ’You do know that, don’t you?’

‘A long time ago, I was young too. What I’m trying to say is…,’ he paused.

‘Abigay, I think I owe you a big apology.’

Booking Around the World – Mobile Library, Bangalore

January 13, 2021


Dedicated to Dr S. R. Ranganathan, the father of library science, this retired 1990s blue bus was converted to a mobile library complete with a driver-cum-librarian. Residents regularly await the arrival of the bus that carries over 6000 books in multiple languages available to check out at lower prices than monthly fees at city libraries.

The book mobile even has a small seating area inside for browsers to flip through pages. If you look closely, you’ll see that it offers much needed shade for canine customers too.

Mobile Library
Bangalore (Bengaluru), Karnataka, India

This post was first published in


December 15, 2020


I was commissioned by the Royal British Legion and the National Literacy Trust to make this film to help children honour Remembrance. The poem that came out of it (at the end of the film) is called We Remember.

School Visits and Covid

November 25, 2020


I managed to squeeze in a school visit to Bredhurst Primary in Gillingham at the beginning of October but now with current restrictions these events are becoming rare.

I was aware of the need to make the visit Covid-compliant. Due to class bubbles a whole-school assembly was out of the question so instead I produced a mini version of my talk in video form in order to give some insight into my practice. It had the happy consequence of my being greeted by children on the day who seemed to know me already.

The card for the workshops was pre-packaged and then only handed out by the teaching staff. During the workshops, I did my usual thing, but at a distance, teachers did all the close up checking and helping. I made more of the demo part of the session where I turn a pop-up mechanism into a finished 3D spread using the children’s story ideas. And I made sure everyone had all the information they needed to finish the group pop-up books after I had moved on to the next class.

The school felt surprisingly normal but they had clearly put in many important measures to keep everyone safe – no sharing of equipment (I had to keep reminding myself not to borrow scissors or gluesticks), staggered playtimes and hand sanitiser everywhere. I also had to exit the building and make my way around the outside of the school to get from class to class.

It’s not clear when things will go back to normal but it’s been an opportunity to explore new ways of interacting with schools. Things like Zoom, for example, seem to work well and it will be a useful addition going forward, especially for schools further afield. However, it can never replace the wonderful feeling of interacting live with the children that I experienced at Bredhurst and all the other schools I’ve visited in the past.

Yinka Shonibare, The British Library

September 8, 2020



The books are bound in African wax print fabric and the names of first or second-generation immigrants to Britain, both celebrated and unknown, are printed in gold on the spines of 2,700 of the books. Some spines are left unmarked symbolising that the story of immigration in Britain is still being written.

A website accessible from the tablets in the exhibit hall shares various articles on both sides of the immigration discussion and everyone is welcome to submit a story.

Tate Modern
Natalie Bell Building, Level 2
Until 21 February 2021


This article was originally published on Stephanie Ward’s blog, Writer with Wanderlust:

Twitter: @StephMWard

E-books: Looking Good to Go

August 4, 2020


On 10th May, I put up a post about my lockdown project of getting my Elizabeth Hawksley historical novels into e-books. Now, ten weeks later, the first book, Highland Summer is almost ready and it’s been a steep, not to say precipitous, learning curve. However, thanks to computer wizard John Hocking, and his wife Janet Gover, another computer wizard, both brilliant at explaining things, we are at last getting there.

Janet has been showing me how to write an e-book blurb – a very different animal from a book blurb. I’ve been learning about ‘Shout lines’ – This is the bait to tempt the reader to find out more. For Highland Summer, for example, the shout line is: Love can be unpredictable… And family secrets can be dangerous. It’s a sort of overall feel for what the book’s about.

We have been working on the blurbs for the first three books: Highland Summer, The Belvedere Tower and Frost FairAnd my attempts have been going to and fro, and Janet has been telling me, kindly but firmly, why what I’ve put won’t do. Often, it’s something simple, like, ‘avoid the repetition of ‘secret’ ‘ and she’s spot on. I am improving and we are getting there.

Then there are problems of choosing a cover. This is John’s territory and he has been very patient with me. John likes art – which helps; but he’s a Jackson Pollock man, whilst I prefer J. M. W. Turner – Hm. Careful negotiations are called for.

Fortunately, John had the clever idea of sending me photocopies of current Amazon bestseller covers – with fifteen images per A4 page, including the ones he has been working on. It’s allowed me to see what’s popular at the moment, which I found really helpful.

A lot of our negotiations, though, have been about typefaces. There are some typefaces which just don’t work with e-books – they look wrong – maybe they turn out too spiky, or perhaps they look more flattened than I thought they’d be. I discovered that the look of a specific typeface can change in an e-book context and I trust John’s experience here.

Generally speaking, I want a traditional but stylish typeface (my novels are historical, after all) and it must look good with all my novels, not just the three we’re concentrating on at the moment. So it’s got to be an adaptable typeface.

When we started looking at book covers, Janet told me that they didn’t need to be too specific – all the Highland Summer cover had to get across was ‘historical’ and ‘Scottish’. However, accurate historical research has always been important to me and, if I know of a picture that is spot on – then I want to use it, if possible.

The cover for Highland Summer features a contemporary print of mid-19th century Inverness in the Scottish Highlands – the setting for much of the book. I was given the print by my cousin Roland, when I was a bridesmaid at his Scottish wedding, and it’s perfect.

The cover for The Belvedere Tower threw up a slightly different problem. It was inspired by the belvedere tower at Sissinghurst, which dates back to 1560. Its tower has a flat roof with battlements at the top to give a splendid view of any hunt the aristocratic owners had arranged for the entertainment of guests. The word belvédère comes from the French and means ‘Beautiful view.’ There are many belvedere towers surviving but most of them are too large for what I want.

The cover for Frost Fair shows a Luke Clennell print of the very last Frost Fair on the River Thames in February 1814. A lot happens at that Fair in the book including an very unpleasant death on an unstable ice floe (I enjoyed writing that). John and I had a lot of discussion about the background colour and I’m particularly pleased with the Jack Frost effect of the icy turquoise for Frost Fair.

At the moment, I’m doing the final proof reading for Highland Summer, which is now on Kindle on my desktop – and that’s a story in itself. I’m now feeling far more confident about finding my way around the Kindle version of Highland Summer. I’m used to my books having 2-300 pages – it’s a bit of a shock to find that, on Kindle, I’m dealing with over four thousand locations.

There’s been a lot of work back stage as well, to do with platforms, ISBN numbers and so on. But I still have a mental picture of York Railway Station with Thomas the Tank Engine chuffing into the platform – in my case, Amazon, Kobo and Smashwords. My books will be coming out under Mundeville Books. I grew up just outside the small village of Coatham Mundeville in Co. Durham. Anyone from the North–East will probably recognise the name and it’s my salute to where I come from.

This article was originally published on the Elizabeth Hawksley blog:

Highland Summer is now available.

Twitter: @Hawksley_E

Dear Ugly Sisters And Other Poems

July 31, 2020


My debut poetry collection is the result of eight years of work, so I’m very excited to finally see it in print. It also comes with a free audiobook, which I hope you will love as much as I do. Here’s the blurb from the back of the book.

Tonight I fancy a flight,
so I shuffle my short feathers
and jump.

Original, dazzling and unconventional, this brilliant first solo collection has a surprise on every page.

Go on a night flight, have a monster’s lunch, immerse yourself in birdsong. Shout out an Apatosaurus rap before checking out Alexander Fleming’s petri dish. Find fairy tales with a twist, poems to make you laugh – and reflective poems to think about.

Full of variety, wit and warmth, this is a spectacular debut from a poet to watch!

Poet and author Laura Mucha performs poems from her debut children’s poetry book ‘Dear Ugly Sisters and Other Poems’

The illustrations are by Tania Rex. ‘Dear Ugly Sisters…’ is available to preorder now!

Find out more and purchase a copy at:

Find out more about Laura Mucha at:

Pop-up Tutorials

May 25, 2020


I’m very grateful to the schools that have invited me in over the years to talk about my work, run workshops and share my pop-up skills. I wanted to offer them something during this difficult time so I’ve been creating a series of online pop-up tutorials.

I’m currently creating video number 5. Each one deals with an aspect of paper-engineering – parallel fold, v fold, platform fold and so forth and the designs will become more complicated over time. My intention is to continue to make the videos even after everything turns back to normal – whenever that might be. Also, I’ve always wanted to provide people with a resource after they’ve done my workshops and now seemed as good a time as any to create it.



Quite rightly, no comments are allowed on the YouTube videos intended for families and kids but if you have any questions about the techniques, feel free to ask me here.



This post originally appeared in

Illustration Know-How / Keeping Creative During Recovery

April 16, 2020


Having recently emerged from injury rehab, here are my tips on how to stay creative during recovery from illness. 

Breaking a finger is distressing. When you are also an illustrator it is highly challenging. Keeping a positive mental attitude during the six weeks or so recovery is incredibly important to the healing process; as is finding a way to keep on using your illustrator brain!


My tips:

  • Accept fully that during the recovery time you cannot carry on as usual: reschedule stuff, and take your time. Rest LOTS. Ignoring your injury and carrying on regardless is a recipe for associating your craft with pain, as I learnt the first time I broke a finger.
  • Think about and enjoy what you CAN do.
  • Find ways to continue using your favourite techniques and materials: think outside of the box – what could be do-able, with some help? For example, using a sketchbook of pre-printed storyboard templates, and weighting it open with drawing board clips (make sure they are the good ones which close tight!) Or asking someone else to draw you some templates.
  • Search online to find ideas from others who have experienced similar set backs.
  • Set yourself a challenge – something you will love to do, and will be fun.
  • Have a plan to do something every day – and post it online – Inktober-style. Say you are going through recovery from injury – use a hashtag. This is encouragement for anyone going through a similar challenge who does a search. It is also a great way to track your recovery.
  • There are lots of daily drawing/painting challenges out there to provide prompts: find one you like.
  • Look at what other illustrators are doing on Instagram for inspiration: John Shelley’s 365 days of 1’’ drawings inspired me to do my tiny ink drawing a day.
  • Find a way to continue doing the other creative stuff you do, too! For example, one row of knitting, or planting one bulb, and increase the amount you do as you recover.
  • Read up on athletes etc who have gone through injury and recovered.
  • If meditation appeals to you, Head Space app has a pack on Rehab within the Sport section: this is great for the daily reminders to take your time and allow your body to heal.

This article was first published in Words and Pictures, the SCWBI British Isles online magazine.



Clare Clarabelle Tovey has focused on her life-long passion for drawing picture books and stories, from being an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and Islington Writers for Children Group. She lives in London with a playful young cat, surrounded by piles of sketchbooks, books and crafting materials. Best place to see work is currently @clarabelledraws on Instagram.

2020 NSW Premier’s Booklist

March 14, 2020


I’m honored to learn that Arabella and the Magic Pencil has been included in the 2020 NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge Booklist.

The NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge is an Australian program that aims to “encourage a love of reading for leisure and pleasure in students and enable them to experience quality literature”. The accompanying booklists give children a wide range of quality books to choose from as they attempt to read 20-30 books, depending on age, between March – August 2020.

For more information about the challenge or to see the official booklists by age group, visit the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge website.

2020 NSW Premier’s Booklist — Stephanie Ward



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