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A book … my book

November 21, 2014

I’ve not mentioned it here before, I didn’t want to jinx anything … I didn’t want to give the game away …

but

I’ve written a book.

Well, what I mean is, I have imagined, slaved over, researched, written, designed a book … I’ve created it.

That’s why I’ve been quieter than usual here … my late nights haven’t been mine any more, they’ve belonged to a book named after some of my favourite times with my girl, our ‘milky moments’.

When she was born it drove me potty that almost every children’s book that featured a mealtime, a snack, or children eating, showed a bottle, a jar of mush or a cup. I had to hunt high and low for one that actually depicted a woman breastfeeding her child … a enjoying their mother’s milk. Even then, the only one I found in a shop locally was called  Tucking In and showed lots of different animals eating, and when you lift the flap it shows a baby eating the same thing … there is a lamb nursing… flap lifted and there is a lovely fat chubby baby nursing. Hope loved that book, it was her first choice from very early on, and when we were later given the very lovely Mama’s Milk with all its images of animals, and babies nursing, there was nothing else asked for at bed time (aside from Jack and the Flumflum tree).

I did a little research, and I decided that it was all very well being grumpy about not finding a book full of breastfeeding imagery, but what I really needed to do was write one.

I had the book in my mind; strong images, beautiful colours and day to day settings. Women who look like normal women, happy children and different times of the day. Several people told me it couldn’t be done and if it was then nobody would buy it, but something drove me on, it became quite an obsession. I visualised scenes, imagined families and wove words, rhyming words around the images in my mind.

Of course I couldn’t find an artist, my book was never going to happen. I had no, absolutely no money to pay anyone, so it had to be someone who would believe in the project, and someone who, like me, was willing to invest time and effort for the potential of no reward. The few artists I knew were out of my price league or were unsure as to the subject matter. I asked around, I teetered on giving up, or using photography instead … and then,

then I found her, Jess, she was selling cards with paintings of chickens on them in the local farm shop. There was something very elemental about her, and we just got on … I’m almost exactly twice her age … she’s quite amazing … and she was willing to take a chance on me (ha, that’ll have you humming the song for the next hour). She and her partner turned up on a motorbike on a wet December evening, he played with Hope, she sat with me and chatted. Hope wanted feeding, Jess sketched. A few days later she popped round with some paintings… they were lovely but left me cold somehow, I worried about how to back out of what we’d discussed. We spoke again, she sat and sketched, she went to life drawing classes and then, just after Christmas she bought round another couple of pictures. They were beautiful.

We discussed stories, scenes and colours … she painted what I described. I tweaked, she repainted. The characters started to take on a life of their own and the book started to come to life.

I realised that we’d need support to make our book special, it needed to be perfect, and importantly the breastfeeding scenes (particularly with newborns) needed to ensure correct feeding positioning and holding. I was so inspired by the guiding principles of the La Leche League, that I chatted to a local advisor and she said I could pop round … I did and she from then on vetted each one, along with one of her colleagues, who coincidentally was the wonderful lady who first showed me where we were going wrong with breastfeeding just after Hope was born, and spotted her tongue tie. They made suggestions, I filtered them, Jess bought then into focus on paper. I also spoke to an incredible woman, someone I met last year when I did a TV programme on a Sunday morning,  someone who just happened to be high up at the Royal College of Midwives … she also kindly looked at the pictures and very generously wrote an endorsement and has been so encouraging. I spoke via my LLL friends, to head office at LLL GB, and a few days later received a beautifully worded note celebrating the normalizing of breastfeeding, particularly throughout childhood, and ‘welcoming’ my book. I worked, late at night, for hours. Hours every night; researching, joining groups online, looking at images of breastfeeding women, pondering scenarios and how to visualise them in a way children would enjoy, I looked at breastfeeding books, at children’s books, read articles on breastfeeding and spoke to children about how they perceive nursing, what they love (the toddlers that could speak about it), how it makes them feel. I spoke to many many breastfeeding mothers in the UK, in the US, in Africa, in France, all over the place, about how it makes them feel, high points, low points, favourite ‘milky moments’. I also recited every rhyme and showed every picture to my ultimate critics, my mother and my daughter. Hope adores the book, and I love that.

I wrote a business case, a marketing plan, a background document, I did everything I could think of to ensure that the book is valid, is relevant and is accurate in a way that it isn’t just a beautiful book which lots of lovely entertaining elements for children, but also something that women can learn from, or can use to refer to for positioning holds, or to reflect on the joy and the intimacy of breastfeeding, and maybe encourage women struggling with it to continue.

I made a page on Facebook for the book, I didn’t announce it loudly, just told friends, it grew quietly and I was able to test ideas there and look for inspiration. It now has some 350 or so ‘fans’ …

I then approached a publisher, and miracle of miracles, the first and only publisher I had chosen, said yes. People said I should look elsewhere but I didn’t want to, Pinter and Martin publish The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by the La Leche League, and some other very influential books on motherhood and nursing, and several rather lovely children’s books … they were the right publisher for Milky Moments. Contracts were exchanged (thanks to so many people for help and advice on that, and I can’t recommend the Society of Authors highly enough, their contract reading service was worth more than the membership fee alone)

I came home, we worked and worked, getting every picture right … Jess’s patience was stretched to previously unknown levels and my obsession about detail grew and grew … the women featured in the book became real, we added in new pictures to make the book flow better, and I have been writing and rewriting the rhyming words that sit alongside every glorious illustration.

Working on a book for nothing for so long has been a challenge, alongside looking after a feisty remarkable toddler and a feisty but increasingly frail mother as well as working, looking for work, cooking, cleaning (sometimes), doing laundry, sorting out paperwork (rarely), maintaining my other writing and everything else that life throws at us on a daily basis. Times have been trying, but the strong women around me kept me going, and their strength has crept into the book and is reflected in the love that is so clearly present between every mother and child and amongst all the different friendships. I have been very blessed indeed.

I’m sure I’ve driven my publisher crazy with my constant questions, I’m not good at protocol at the best of times, and with this, I have, I’m sure, broken every rule in the Writers and Artists Year Book … but their patience and support has been marvellous, and further reinforced that I made the utterly right decision, and how very lucky I was that they wanted my book. Now they even have a page about me on their website, and one about Jess! All so hard to comprehend!!

I have so much to learn about the process, the journey and the detail of what is happening, the publishing date is currently 6 months away which feels so far but will I’m sure pass in a relative flash … it really is all a big adventure.

My book, Our book, This book … Milky Moments

Yesterday they announced it on their website, ‘Coming in 2015’ says the sticker icon on the side of the cover, on social media they describe the book as “simply gorgeous”, look at this Facebook Post by Pinter & Martin Publishers … and it is, it really truly is gorgeous, thanks of course to my wonderful friend and illustrator Jessica who has been so marvellous in responding to my every request and every critique … together we really have built something to be proud of and that will, I hope really help in some small way to start to change perspectives of breastfeeding (from something that ‘should’ be covered up or hidden in a restaurant or work toilet, to something totally normal), from childhood onwards.

Now I need to finalise every last detail and ensure that everything is ready for delivery to the publisher at the end of the month ready to be sent off to be printed!!

You can, please do, register your interest in pre-ordering a copy, when the book is available for pre-order, just click the link on the page (or go directly to this registration page) and give your email address and name, that’s all … in due course they’ll email you to say it’s ready for ordering … you get a discount for registering … and I guess, the more people who do, the more of our lovely book they will order from the printers and the more I will help them to sell . The book is due to be published on the cinco de mayo (5th May 2015), which is apt as I’m partial to margaritas, although I’m not sure tequila is quite what should be served at the launch of a breastfeeding book for children!

Right, words to write, plans to make, and the biggest pile of laundry in the universe to tame, oh and a very smelly nappy bucket to empty … the glamorous life of an author!!

 

Front cover of Milky Moments

 

Do follow the book developments on Facebook or follow me on Twitter and if you’re really feeling supportive or just pleased for us, then consider registering your interest in a pre-order! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 21, 2014 2:39 pm

    I have registered my interested. Well done both of you. Just want’s needed. I’m looking forward to it!

    • November 21, 2014 10:40 pm

      thank you so much … and more importantly I just looked at your blog and saw your taco pictures and am now drooling!!

  2. Roger Darlington permalink
    November 22, 2014 9:26 am

    Well done, Ellie. A real achievement. Love to you and Hope.

    • November 22, 2014 5:27 pm

      thanks Roger … we’d love to see you sometime : ) maybe a bit of puddle jumping on the South Bank?

  3. November 24, 2014 11:58 pm

    Congratulations Ellie! And Pinter and Martin are a great publisher, so double well done you 🙂

    • November 24, 2014 11:59 pm

      thank you SO much Marija … so very appreciated, especially from a writer as wonderful as you : )

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