Media

Catch up with what’s happening on our social media feeds, and find out about the latest authors to publish with The Book Guild… there’s also company news, the latest author events and a round-up of our latest reviews and media coverage.

Video introductions

Media

Catch up with what’s happening on our social media feeds, and find out about the latest authors to publish with The Book Guild… there’s also company news, the latest author events and a round-up of our latest reviews and media coverage.

Supporting your Local Independent Bookshops by Jude Hayland

No doubt the dream of many independent writers – and fledgling writers, in particular, is to walk into Waterstones to see their book boldly displayed on one of the prominent tables, grabbing the attention of every browser and customer loitering in the shop. I must be a real writer – a professional! the feeling would surely be.

But the dream is entirely misplaced. It’s an aspiration that should be redirected away from the giants of the book trade and onto the independent stores.

After all, as an independent writer – the focus should be on the markets and outlets that best accommodate and reflect that status.

 

The independent bookshop is a place to treasure. And in spite of the difficulties of actually surviving financially, given High Street rents and associated costs with such a presence (let alone our current crisis), it appears to be thriving.  And so it should. After all, who does not want to walk into a shop run by people passionate about books, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and welcoming? People whose working day is driven by a commitment to the stock they have selected and for whom the loyalty of their customers is key?

As independent writers, we need to value what these bookshops can offer us and in turn realise how we can serve them. A two-way process, as it were.

Recently (just before lockdown when we were still naively anticipating the seasons of spring and summer obeying normal rules of engagement…) I went to a local writers’ event at the wonderful independent bookshop, BrOOK’S in Pinner. Run by local residents, husband and wife team, Peter and Sarah Brook, the shop also sells coffee, snacks and wine in comfortable, relaxed surroundings so it is much more than just a business. It is part of the community where friends can meet, socialise, browse and share in the world of books. Although I am no longer local to Pinner, I grew up there and still have strong ties with the place and there are references in my two novels to the town – I was therefore considered sufficiently legitimate for inclusion in the local writers’ event!

And what a great evening it was – ten or so writers all of different genres, reading extracts, talking about our books, in a supportive and warm atmosphere, making connections with readers. The evening provided a platform for us writers to communicate in person – something that cannot happen with online sales, however riveting we try and make ourselves sound on our author profile.

For writers of non-fiction and local history, the independent book shop is, of course, a gift. What better place to seek out a readership than in the locality with which the book is concerned? And however long people have lived in an area, unless they are local historians, their knowledge of the region is so often woefully lacking, a vacuum that they may be all too willing to fill if there is a relevant book on the shelves.

Fiction writers too can exploit a local shop that links with the settings of their novels. People like reading fictional stories about places they know. There is even an element of flattery in seeing their village or town featured in a story and it provides the bookseller with a hook to encourage a sale. Last winter, I went to a book fair in Brighton and was among twenty or so writers marketing and aiming to sell our books. On that desperately wet and dark late November day, the author who writes crime stories set in the Brighton area was the one who gained the most attention and sales from the drowned rats of potential customers who came in to shelter from the torrential rain.

As independent writers, we know that writing our books is the relatively easy part. It’s finding outlets to sell them, to seek out and communicate with a readership that so often entirely baffles and bewilders.

That’s why we need to connect and befriend our local independent book stores. Surely, as writers and readers, we applaud everything they stand for – a love of books, a belief in the power of the written word to entertain and to communicate, a desire to reach out to the local community with more than just an eye on profit. Of course, as businesses, they have to make a profit to survive – no good being ingenuous about that. But if we as local writers can be part of that process, by offering to take part in author and reader events to increase sales, by befriending the shop and encouraging our friends and family to do the same, the healthy survival of our vibrant and proudly independent bookshops will be helped.

So in Independent Bookshop week, let’s make sure that any book purchase we make in the next seven days is from one of them – and keep the habit going.

After all, we need them just as much as they need us!

 

What will bookselling look like post lockdown?

Jonathan White, Troubador’s Sales and Marketing Manager was recently at a virtual publishing conference where James Daunt, the Head of Waterstones, Daunt Books and Barnes and Noble spoke.

James Daunt must easily be the most powerful figure in traditional bookselling in both the UK and the USA. With his position as head of both the Waterstones book chain in the UK, which now also includes the Foyles bookshops, and the Barnes & Noble chain in the USA, and not forgetting the fact that he also independently owns the Daunts bookshop chain, if anyone can speak with complete authority on the realities of operating bookshops on both sides of the Atlantic it is he.

James was appearing, via video link, at the IPG Conference and was going to shed some light on what the current situation was for these bookshops – in both the current climate and the future.

Barnes & Noble are beginning to open their stores in the US, as the lockdown is easing much more quickly in the US than it is over here. The first Waterstones shops are starting to reopen shortly in the UK too – but with a range of measures that will make the art of bookselling very different from what it was.

James Daunt, as always, spoke with complete honesty about both the problems that bookshops are going to face in reopening their doors to the public and how much market-share they will now have lost to the internet book retailers. Internet retailers have also faced considerable difficulties during the recent period of lockdown, but they, at least partially, been able to operate. On top of this for many during this period the idea of buying books on the internet, as with everything else, has become the complete norm.

Daunt’s argument is that bookshops have always been able been to sell themselves as a very safe environment for buying books where booksellers put together a curated selection of books and encourage customers to browse through these before making their purchases. This is now going to be one of the most difficult things for them to maintain during the Coronavirus fears and restrictions. Daunt spoke about how Waterstones will likely introduce some kind of ‘quarantining’ of the books which customers have handled to make sure that customers can feel completely safe in handling books in bookshops. As with other retail staff will be in PPE and shop layouts will change to assist with social distancing.

As customers, we have already had to start getting used to retail staff being protected by screens and masks. The idea of browsing in shops, picking up the merchandise and then putting it back down again if you decide not to buy it, is only now having to be considered – and most readers buy books by engaging physically with the product on the shelf.

The concern remains that if customers do not feel safe they will no longer come into bookshops and then you might just as well buy all your books on the internet. Similarly, bookshops work best when booksellers can recommend, and hand-sell titles to readers – and they will also have to significantly change how they interact with customers. Separately, many indie bookshops break even from extra activities, reading groups, author events and via their coffee shops – none of which will be returning any time soon either.

Having said that, it is very good to know that the book retail business will be opening up again. Already we believe there have been some major casualties within the UK book world, and no one can doubt that this is going to be an extraordinary Summer for the bookshops.

Daunt always comes across as someone with a huge passion for selling books and a complete belief in the importance and viability of bookshops both now and into the future. During his keynote, he was very successful at showing that bookshops are very seriously looking at how they can reopen safely and successfully and bounce back from the horrible Spring they have had.  He did though sound cautious in a follow-up article in The Bookseller, where he urged publishers to not expect a quick bounce back on sales. We’ll end with his words: “For us and most independents the end of the March, April and May sales are gone, and that’s a huge financial hit. It’ll also take a while to get back to normal so there will be a further loss through the following months.”

IPG Virtual Spring Conference 2020

As part of our membership with the IPG (Independent Publishers Guild), we are invited to attend their many publishing events across the year. IPG conferences are renowned throughout the publishing industry and their two-day conferences boast presentations, training and discussions across the publishing sector. This year, however, the current circumstances have meant that physical events are out of the question and the IPG Spring Conference was therefore taken completely online.

Using a state-of-the-art platform, members of the IPG came together to celebrate the rich and vibrant culture of the publishing industry. The IPG kindly opened up attendance to all staff of member organisations, which meant that many members of the Troubador team who don’t usually get to experience the conference were able to for the first time. Looking back over the event, we thought we’d share our thoughts and experiences of the first virtual IPG conference.

Our Sales & Marketing Manager, Jonathan White has attended many of the previous conferences and was interested to see how a virtual conference would work. Jonathan says, “The IPG has always managed to put together a good selection of the important personalities from the publishing and bookselling world for their conferences, and they very much did this again. The best of these was an interview with James Daunt – mainly about the situation with Waterstones in the UK but also about Barnes & Noble in the USA. Against the odds, the IPG did still managed to put together a very interesting two-day conference on the state of the book world at the moment. Let’s just hope we can do it in person next year.”

 Also in attendance was our Operations Director, Jane Rowland. Jane says, “From the Operations side of the business, I am always looking at workflow, finance and better ways to do things. I enjoyed the talk on productivity – and also the references to the challenges publishers have faced working differently and remotely during the pandemic. It’s also reassuring to see other Indie publishers reaching the same conclusion as us… We can no longer see this as a temporary emergency that needs to be managed, but must embrace the reality that everything we know about life, publishing, consumers and the workplace can/will be changed, reimagined or improved – rather than staying firmly fixed to how things used to be.”

For the first time, three members of our Digital team were able to attend the event. Megan Lockwood-Jones (Digital Manager), Stephanie Carr (Digital Marketing Controller) and Andrea Johnson (Digital Production Controller) looked forward to seeing what they could take away from the event and implement within their team and the services they offer.

Megan says, “The conference opened my eyes to further audiobook marketing opportunities. Whilst we don’t currently offer an audiobook marketing service, we are trying out techniques to help push our audiobooks and we have always focused on pushing the Amazon, Audible and Apple links. However, the conference inspired me to think about this differently and I have since thought about using social media in different ways to help promote the less commonly-used YouTube links for our non-exclusive audiobooks, as YouTube can be used by anyone rather than us relying on authors having an account/subscription or signing up for an account with some of the bigger audiobook retailers.”

Chelsea Taylor, Production Manager and member of our office’s ‘Mental Health First-Aiders’ team attended sessions specifically on wellbeing and mental health in the workplace. Chelsea says, “My main take away from the wellbeing talk was that we’re doing all the right things at Troubador, not just saying wellbeing is important to us but having tools and activities available for staff, and running whole weeks to shine the spotlight on the importance of looking after your mental health and wellbeing. Two of the stand-out statistics from the session were:

  1. 1/3 of job performance is dependent on the wellbeing of staff members, so it has a direct correlation
  2. Companies that promote an openness re. mental health and wellbeing have 28% more productive staff, and 34% more creative staff

It’s good to know that we are implementing the right things in our company and this session provided further insight and knowledge on this important subject.”

Our Assistant Marketing Manager, Philippa Iliffe was also able to attend the conference for the first time. Attending many of the talks and delving into discussions, Philippa says, “The wide range of talks meant that there was something for everyone and the digital format allowed you to catch up on talks from previous sessions – something you couldn’t do in real life. One of my highlights from the event was attending the breakout session on ‘Agile Marketing in Lockdown’ with Louise Dickens and Alison Middle of Kogan Page. This session looked at how indie publishers could use their agility to respond to shifting habits and develop their marketing and promotional strategies to make their books as visible as possible, particularly on digital platforms. This is something that we have been working on since the start of lockdown and it was refreshing to engage in a positive discussion with other indie publishers.”

Overall, the event came off as a great success. Whilst we enjoyed everything the digital conference had to offer, we are very much looking forward to attending in person sometime in the near future.

 

Writers’ and Artists’ Guide to Self-Publishing

At the end of last year, I was commissioned to write a chapter about book production for the Writers’ and Artists’ Guide to Self-publishing (published by Bloomsbury), an accompanying title to the perennial bestselling writers’ bible, the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. The chapter covers a vast array of topics, from choosing a self-publishing company to looking at methods of print, making the right choices for your book in terms of format (paperback/hardback, size, materials), how to format and produce an ebook – all in just 9000 words. This book has just been published and it is now available. We thought it would be interesting to look at key take-outs covered in this chapter.

Different ways to self-publish

The way you choose to produce or print your book will determine how it is distributed to retailers, and the sales and marketing opportunities your book will have. You can go for a print run (printing copies upfront) or Print on Demand (POD) – where copies are printed as ordered – or an ebook. Within these models, you either use a company to help you, go it alone and do it all, use a platform (like Amazon) to produce or sell your book, or buy in services as you need them. But, do you understand how the method you choose to self-publish impacts on the availability and sales opportunities for your book?

How you begin your book production journey will depend on the route you have chosen for self-publishing – using a POD provider often means you are creating and uploading your own files to a POD supplier’s specification. Using a full-service company means you will be working more in partnership as the book comes together. If you are buying in services as you need them, then your timeline will be influenced by the external suppliers you have chosen.

I assess the pros and cons of each route in Writers’ & Artists’ Guide to Self-publishing – but here are the key points to consider when starting out.

Why are you self-publishing?

Knowing what you want to achieve with your book should dictate how you produce it. Skills, budget and aspirations all come into play. Some authors advocate that it is not ‘true’ self-publishing unless you do everything yourself. My take is that writing and producing a book is a liberating experience, and each author should produce their book in a way that best suits them – and is right for their market.

Aspirations – if you want your book on the shelves of every bookshop in the UK and with a poster on the side of a bus, you have to make sure you have put the money into the marketing and distribution, and POD won’t give you the results you are hoping for! If the book is for family and friends only – then do you need an upfront print run? Full colour books for younger readers are not always successful as ebooks… Understand what you want from self-publishing at the start to help you make the right choices.

Budget – using a propriety platform that is free to access (but might limit your distribution to a wider retail market) or invest upfront in a print run? What is your budget? Know exactly what is included in any contract – including payment schedules.

Skills – be honest. What skills do you possess and how can you leverage those in the production of your book? If you don’t have the skills to produce your book, then consider a more full-service option.

The Right Book for the Market

Once you’ve understood the difference between print and distribution models and assessed your aspirations, budget and technical skills, you should be in a better position to move forward with your production, which means considering the more physical aspects of how you want your book to look.

For retailers and readers, a book has to be right for its market. This means making sure the book is the correct format (size, price and medium) for the audience and looks right for the genre. If you are publishing a cookbook, the market will expect professional-looking photos of delicious food. A crime or thriller reader usually expects a book to be a familiar size and have a ‘genre look’. Don’t put unnecessary obstacles in your path by trying to be clever with your book production. Consider the following:

  1. Paperback or hardback? What would your readers expect for this kind of book?
  2. What kind of paper? All papers are not the same, some papers are more suited to novels, others to illustrated works. There are different ‘weights’ of paper, measured in GSM (with lower GSM more prone to ‘show through’) and different textures (coated, uncoated, etc.).
  3. Colour or black and white printing? What are the cost implications? And what does a reader expect?
  4. Size… Look at the books on your shelves, certain genres have more ‘standard’ sizes, again, often unconsciously realised by readers.
  5. Cover – can you enhance the cover with foil, lamination, textures, embossing of fonts etc? Most of these are not available if going down the POD route but adding such touches will make your book stand out to buyers.

Summary

Not one method or route to publication will suit every author, and there is no one-size-fits-all option either. It’s important to enjoy the process – take time to prepare your manuscript and cover, leave time for proofreading, get everything together before you start; it will make the process smoother and more enjoyable.

Self-published books can be let down by poor production. I regularly see self-published books that have been poorly realized, be that a weak cover or text design, the wrong choices of format and size or poor-quality printing. Producing a quality book requires skill, knowledge and an understanding of what you are trying to achieve. Getting your production wrong results in a book that won’t reach its potential – regardless of the quality of the writing.

This is a whistle-stop tour of my chapter on book production in the Writers’ & Artists’ Guide to Self-publishing – which is available now!

Jane Rowland, Operations Director

Writing and Mental Health by Angelena Boden

As someone with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, part of my ongoing therapy is to keep a log of distressing feelings and link them to the thought or event that triggered them. The physical act of writing them down helps to empty the brain and reduce their power. Nowadays, this is called therapeutic journaling. In my day, it was called “Dear Diary.” Expressing these feelings is like unburdening yourself to a good counsellor whose job is to listen without judgement.

My writing career began as a trainee journalist on Vancouver Island where I covered local events and small-town news stories. When I returned to the UK, I became a training consultant and wrote my own materials, some of which were published by Management Pocketbooks Ltd in the 1990s. On retirement, I needed something to occupy my over-active mind, so I decided to have a go at a novel, not realising that this was to bring its own mental health challenges which I shall mention shortly.

On the plus side, it meant I could indulge in fantasy for a few hours a day which took me away from the flashbacks of the original trauma and made me focus on characters of my own creation. Through writing the story, not only was I able to write from the inside out – my first novel was in the genre of domestic noir – I was able to work through some of my own issues, more so because having some distance between the events and writing the book provided me with the necessary objectivity.

A word of caution: writing painful memories, other than for personal reference, can be cathartic, but the end result – won’t necessarily be publishable.

A standard novel of around 80,000 words, from the first draft to the final edit takes about a year. Make no mistake, it is very hard work so it’s important to set a word or time limit for the day or week. It’s important to break a work of this size into bite-size chunks: a section or two, then take a twenty-minute break. Stretch, do a bit of gardening, or clean out the cupboards! This is especially true for people who class themselves as full-time writers.

Take walks, meet friends for coffee, have fun because it is so easy for the work-in-progress to take over your life to the extent it stops being beneficial to your mental health and starts to damage it. The isolation is one of the worst things so I limit my writing time to mornings only as that works for me. In the afternoons, I go out, swim, paint, dog walk or whatever takes my fancy.

A better way of writing for mental health is to focus on shorter pieces. Flash fiction is between 500 and 1,000 words and there are lots of openings for publication. Poetry or verse is a great way of letting your imagination run wild and you don’t have to follow any rules. There’s no stress involved as with a novel and if you have a website, you can make your work available to readers at no cost.

Recently, I was a judge for an acrostic competition. I’d never come across it before but now I play around with them when I have a few spare minutes. They are great fun.

A more recent addition to the writing world is blogging.  I love it. It can be an opinion piece or sharing interesting information about where you live, your travels, pets, gardens, etc. I suggest keeping blogs under 1000 words and break up the text with pictures.

I’m working on a full-length memoir at the moment which I hope will help other people. It’s tough going but it’s a good way of processing life events and putting them into context. We often think we are alone in our struggle, so when we see a blog or an article from others, we feel supported and inspired to overcome our problems.

In life-writing, the main thing is to express feelings honestly and allow yourself time to explore the meanings of the words. Don’t get hung up on grammar or punctuation until you come to edit. Let it flow and don’t judge yourself.

 “Writing about an emotionally charged subject or an unresolved trauma helps you put the event into perspective and give some structure and organization to those anxious feelings, which ultimately helps you get through it.” – James Pennebaker.

I don’t let anyone read a first draft or even a second one of any of my books, because I know I would lose confidence and feel dispirited if they turned their nose up at it. I don’t beat myself up if my first or tenth attempt is rubbish, but let it my writing flow like the river which ultimately finds its own way around the rocks and rubble.

The main thing is not to put yourself under any stress. It’s not the writing that’s the problem. If you are looking to be published, that’s when the hard work begins.

Angelena Boden. Author: ‘Edna’s Death Café’ and ‘Love Bytes Back’!

Wine and books… the perfect combination?

While we can’t travel, it seemed a good time to look back at a past trip away! Operations Director, Jane Rowland looks back at last year’s management trip to Barcelona, discussing what we can learn about passion and creativity when we take inspiration from beyond the publishing world!

Recently, while exploring vineyards of Catalonia, I was blown away by the passion, enthusiasm and utter belief in the product and methods of the winemakers – but also by their pride in the history of their vineyards and their wine story. And storytelling is the key phrase here because each of the vineyards we visited had a strong story: from secret tunnels created in the Spanish Civil War, to reclaimed and revitalised vineyards after phylloxera devastated the local wine industry in the early 19thC, to stories of love (the estate owner falling in love with a harvester – and together founding a wine empire). These stories now form a strong part of the vineyards’ heritage and are reflected in the ethos of what the vineyard does – from how it makes wine, to the branding, labelling and marketing.

Last year, Troubador took their entire management team on a long weekend to the vineyards of Barcelona. Why? Because we’ve learned that looking outside our industry brings new thinking and passion into what we do as a publisher.

The small, local vineyards were passionate, but also inventive – often organic or creating wines using biodynamic principles – but trying out blends and different varieties. They also have to be inventive when it comes to getting their wines to market – with competition from bigger, louder competitors (with bigger budgets and infrastructure). All of which the indie publisher and author will clearly identify with! We also visited one of the largest Cava producers, whose scale dwarfed the smaller estates we’d been visiting. But the welcome received, the feeling of experience and sense of experiencing a product at the big producers also decreased with size.

So for me, the lesson was clear. The smaller vineyards exemplify what an indie publisher can do. Create products with belief and passion – taking advantage of the benefit of being indie and therefore less bound by big company rules or assumptions; experiment and always keep that core story at the heart of what they do. But also, it’s important to retain that spirit as a company grows.

The key take-aways that we had were:

Passion – in the vineyards this infused the product, from the creation of the wine to the branding and marketing. Something that we can easily identify as a value that exists in publishing too – but can we, as publishers and authors, show that passion in our marketing, in our social media, in our digital presence?

History – being proud of the origins and stories behind the brand. For us, this is not just about the company, but also the fantastic staff that works in that company.

Hospitality – offering your customers an experience, which the smaller vineyards did so well and whose staff made our visits special – with lunches and tastings plus other vineyard-related experiences that made us feel unique. As a publisher, we already have a customer service front and it’s at the forefront of what we do, but making our customers feel special and unique is also important.

Diversification – the most vibrant vineyards we visited did more than just make and bottle wine, with walks, tours, gastronomic experiences, bird watching, cooking demos, homestays… In publishing and as authors we have our core product – the book – but what other opportunities are open up to us? Bookshops are familiar with this conundrum – the most profitable don’t just sell books, they sell coffees, cakes and the experience of meeting authors; indie publishers and authors can learn from this too.

Networking in your own industry is fabulous, but sometimes you need to look outside of what you do to learn and grow. The senior team at Troubador arrived back buzzing with ideas and vision (helped of course by the odd bottle of wine that came home with us in the suitcase!)

Kindness and Books

Mental Health Awareness Week in 2020 runs from 18-24th May. This year, it has kindness as its main theme. Here, Operations Director Jane Rowland discusses the links between kindness and mental health, and how we can apply it to our everyday lives:

 

Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity. It is a cornerstone of our individual and collective mental health… But we also want to shine a light on the ways that kindness is already flowering at this time. We have seen it in the dancing eyes of 100-year-old Captain Tom Moore as he walked his garden to raise money for the NHS and in the groups responding to local needs. We want that kindness to spread further in every community in the UK. Mentalhealth.Org.UK

Kindness and mental health are interconnected – with just one act of kindness releasing up to three feel-good chemicals into the brain that lifts mood and happiness levels. And kindness is contagious, you are more likely to carry out a small act of kindness yourself if you’ve just been the recipient. All of this got us thinking, as writers and publishers, designers and marketeers, how can we bring kindness into our day-to-day work and lives?

Using kindness as an inspiration for a story. Kindness is transformative, what kind of changes can your characters’ experience even from just one act of kindness? There are many fabulous books where kindness offers redemption or is the catalyst for change – even if that message is much more subtle. Can kindness form part of your storytelling?

How about taking the theme of kindness during Mental Health Awareness Week as a writing exercise/practice and write freely about an act of kindness (real or imagined), a short story with that as the pinnacle? Or a poem, or even doing something more creative such as a drawing or a sketch that takes kindness as its theme? At the office, all of this week we’ve been sharing stories about kindness – given or received – which have all been uplifting and touching.

Kindness is often a key theme of young children’s books – embedded in an exciting story as a learning aid for little ones but acts of kindness can feature less often in young adult novels, where the worlds featured are often darker, more complex to navigate and bravery, strength and resourcefulness are more prominent traits. If you write in this genre, can kindness find a place?

Kindness is not just about being kind to others, it is also about being kind to yourself. This means silencing your inner critic and allowing yourself space and time to take pleasure in your craft. It’s easy to confuse ‘me time’ with selfishness, but we’ve been encouraging staff to take time to be kind to themselves. Perhaps, you can also give yourself a kindness treat this week? We’d love to hear what you got up to!

Kindness in the writing community makes a real difference – supporting, mentoring sharing with other writers is a great way to interact and learn and feel good about your craft. Even in lockdown, there are many online forums for sharing and support amongst writers. Jonathan White, our Sales and Marketing Manager, is currently part of the IPG (Independent Publishers Guild) mentor scheme, supporting other publishers by sharing his many years’ experience the industry, while Emily Dakin, Customer Service and Marketing Assistant, is mentored by a fellow marketeer in the BMS (Book Marketing Society) who shares her insights with us. These are just some examples of how this kindness can be shared, even amongst publishers.

Kindness is most beneficial as a practice – an ongoing part of our daily routine, not as a one-off hit, but what else can kindness bring to our writing lives? We’d love to hear your stories.

 

The Last Fairy – Chapter Five

The Last Fairy is a beautiful story by Andrew Goss, for children and their carers everywhere during the lockdown. Here’s the final chapter of this magical story:

Illustration by Christina Scholz!

Chapter Five

 NOTHING ever seemed quite the same again. Strange things were happening. Reports were coming in from all over the world that people were seeing fairies. People were beginning to believe in fairies. And wishes. And dreams. Even grown-ups!

And Zayd became a celebrity. His picture was in every newspaper. Everyone wanted to come to his school to see the little wand which was kept in a special box in the head teacher’s office. And for a small amount of money, people could even hold the wand to make their wishes come true. At least that’s what they liked to believe. Because the wand was still not working. But it didn’t seem to matter. So the school could buy lots of new books. And there were school trips. And Zayd was a star. Ayesha wasn’t rough with him again. She told everyone how awesome he was and that he was her best friend.

But eventually, life returned to how it once had been. The City school became its usual chaotic self once more. Even Ayesha started to be rough again. And sometimes she would tease Zayd. It was about this time that Zayd discovered another tooth was beginning to wobble. And each day it became a little looser in his mouth until once more it seemed to cling to his gum by a single thread.

He twisted it from his mouth, wrapped it in tissue paper and carefully laid it beneath his pillow. And there he lay, perfectly quiet, waiting in the stillness of the night. He was just about to fall asleep when suddenly he heard a buzzing sound he knew, more like the rapid beating of a butterfly’s wings than a fly. And he realised his little friend was back.

In a flash of light, the little fairy dropped onto the pillow beside Zayd’s face.

“Hello, dear Zayd,” it said in a tiny voice.

“I heard people have started to believe in fairies again,” Zayd whispered.

The little creature smiled broadly and its light grew so bright it lit the bedroom.

“I want to say a special ‘thank you,” said the fairy. “For saving the fairy city. And for bringing my friends back to life again. You’re famous in fairyland, you know.”

“Oh,” Zayd replied. “A similar thing happened in my world. Was I on TV in fairyland too?”

The fairy chuckled. “We don’t have that. We’re much too busy collecting children’s teeth and granting wishes. Especially at the moment. There’s a bit of a rush on. Which reminds me… I have been sent to grant you a special wish this time for all your help.”

Zayd hesitated.

“Anything you like,” said the fairy. “A million pounds. A castle of your own?”

Zayd thought for a moment.

“I want my mama and papa to be happy – to laugh and joke like they used to.”

The fairy nodded. “I understand. I’ve seen how seriously they take life these days… Do you know their problem? They’ve forgotten their dreams. That’s what often happens to grown-ups.” And the fairy looked sad.

Then she lit up again: “But I can fix that with my new wand,” she said, taking the magic item from a fold in her skirt.

The fairy then waved her wand and disappeared into a puff of golden dust. And Zayd sank into a deep and satisfying sleep even before he had even finished whispering ‘goodbye’.

When he awoke the next morning he was sure he had dreamed the whole thing. Or had he? The first discovery he made was five silver coins beneath his pillow. Excitedly, he hurried downstairs to find his parents already sitting at the breakfast table. And they were smiling at each other.

“I thought you’d already be at the shop,” said Zayd to his Papa.

“I decided to take the day off to spend time with the family. Perhaps we could go to the park after school.”

Zayd could hardly believe his ears.

“And then,” his father said, barely able to contain his own boyish excitement, “…then I would like us all to plan our next family holiday. A sunshine holiday somewhere far away with golden beaches and palm trees. The sort of place I grew up in as a boy, where we can forget about school and work and rainy days for a while. A sort of magic place we will always remember.”

And as he smiled again Zayd was certain he saw the twinkle of fairy dust in his father’s eyes…

The end

 

Andrew Goss is the author of The Humanitarian, a novel set against the backdrop of a devastating natural disaster – the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, which killed 80,000 and left millions homeless. The paperback novel will be released in July this year, but Andrew has recently released a charity eBook edition of his novel to raise funds for “some of the most vulnerable in our society to help them come through this terrible time.” All the author’s proceeds from the eBook edition will be divided between Action Homeless in the UK and desperately poor communities in Pakistan, where he worked and drew inspiration for his book. Find out more about the charity eBook here.

Thank you for tuning in. If you’ve enjoyed reading this story, please do send feedback to Andrew via his website and be sure to pass it on for other children to enjoy!

The Last Fairy – Chapter Four

The Last Fairy is a beautiful story by Andrew Goss, for children and their carers everywhere during the lockdown. We’ll be posting a new chapter each day this week so tune in each day so see how this magical story will unfold:

Illustration by Christina Scholz!

Chapter Four

WHEN Zayd awoke the sky was already ablaze with the orange glow of the morning sun, peeping over the city rooftops. The familiar sound of the Blackbirds twittering outside his window nudged him from deep sleep into the new day. He raised himself in bed and stared bleary-eyed into the morning light which shone through the gap in the curtains. What a strange night it had been – and what a dream. It had seemed so real.

But wait. What about the tooth under the pillow? Had the tooth fairy really been? Quickly he tossed his pillow aside to look. His eyes widened. The tissue package in which it had been wrapped really was gone. He decided he had better go and see his mama and papa.

Zayd swung his legs out of bed but stopped as soon as he lowered his foot onto the carpet and felt a sharp little stab against his heel. And there it was, the tiny broken wand the fairy had left. Zayd could hardly contain his excitement. He’d show the wand to his parents and they would have to believe what had happened. That would surely mean another two fairies. And his sisters too. Another three fairies. That would be a good start to saving the fairy city above the clouds. He jumped out of bed to find his mama and papa. But their bed was empty. Must already be having breakfast, he thought and headed downstairs.

He found his mother in the kitchen preparing breakfast, as she always did, almost as soon as she got up every morning.
“Mama, Mama…” But before Zayd could say another word, his mother’s face was clouded by anger.

“What time do you call this? Your sisters have already had breakfast and are ready for school… and shouldn’t you be dressed?”
“But…” stammered Zayd.

“No ‘buts’… off you go…” and his mother had turned her attention back to the chapati on the pan.

Zayd’s bottom lip quivered in anger. Grown-ups never seemed to give you a chance to explain. They never listened. Zayd didn’t move. Instead, he asked, “Where’s Papa?”

“He’s had to go to the shop for an important customer… now go and get dressed Beta. Now please!”
Zayd ran upstairs, tears burning in his eyes. But he did not cry. He was too angry. Instead, he dressed quickly, ready for school, his throat so tight with emotion he could hardly breathe. It didn’t seem fair. No-one would listen to him. So, he hid the fairy’s wand in his school bag before returning to the kitchen, where his mother slapped another chapati onto the pan.

He would show Ayesha when he got to school. Ayesha was one of his friends and seemed very cool for a girl. Sometimes he even sat next to her, because, like Zayd, she was good at Maths. And she could read Arabic. Sometimes they even played together in the schoolyard, even though she could be quite rough. And sometimes she would tease him. But girls were like that. He knew from his own family and was quite tough, really, with three older sisters.

Yet if ever he was in big trouble and it really mattered, Ayesha was on his side. They stuck together, like peas in a pod. Zayd felt this was just such an occasion and could hardly wait to show her the little treasure the fairy had left with him. As soon as Ayesha saw the wand, she tried to grab it from him. But he pushed her away. And they began to fight. This was most unlike Zayd and Ayesha. The teacher quickly realised something was wrong.

“Now, now, what’s going on with you two this morning?” said Mrs. Parker in a voice that was firm, but kind, standing over the two children.

“Ayesha’s being horrible to me,” Zayd replied. “She’s taken something from me.”

The girl realised the game was up and dutifully handed the tiny wand to the teacher.

“What’s this, then?” said Mrs. Parker, squinting at the delicate object. “It’s beautiful.”

So Zayd told her all about the fairy’s visit the night before.

“That’s an incredible story,” she told Zayd. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

The teacher was so excited she nearly fell over herself in a rush to leave the classroom to call Zayd’s parents. There was something very important she wanted to talk to them about.

Later that morning Zayd had to go to Mrs. Wheat’s office. She was the headteacher in charge of the school and usually, it was only naughty children who found out what her office looked like.

So when Zayd stepped into the head teacher’s office, he thought he was in real trouble. Especially when he saw his mother already waiting there, sitting with Mrs. Wheat, looking worried.

“Please sit down Zayd and tell us exactly what happened last night please,” said Mrs. Wheat in a kindly voice. So Zayd told them the whole story.

“Isn’t it marvellous,” exclaimed Mrs. Wheat excitedly. “We must tell the world – we’ll all be famous. We should invite all the news reporters to the school at once. What wonderful publicity for the school. The story will be in all the newspapers and on TV too. Nobody has seen a fairy’s wand before. Ever. What a discovery,” she said. “Fairies discovered by Leicester pupil. Wonderful,” she repeated, dancing from her office to organise a news conference to show Zayd’s wand to reporters.

And indeed, it seemed as though all the reporters in the world did come. First the local newspaper. Then came the radio and TV people. And Zayd told his story over and over again.

Later that day the BBC carried an important announcement – a news flash – which interrupted all programmes: ‘Fairies found at city school’. And then everyone wanted to talk to Zayd. People who spoke in strange languages from far away places. Even a reporter from Algeria. And, of course, they all wanted to see the tiny fairy wand…

Stay tuned for the final chapter tomorrow!

 

Andrew Goss is the author of The Humanitarian, a novel set against the backdrop of a devastating natural disaster – the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, which killed 80,000 and left millions homeless. The paperback novel will be released in July this year, but Andrew has recently released a charity eBook edition of his novel to raise funds for “some of the most vulnerable in our society to help them come through this terrible time.” All the author’s proceeds from the eBook edition will be divided between Action Homeless in the UK and desperately poor communities in Pakistan, where he worked and drew inspiration for his book. Find out more about the charity eBook here.

The Last Fairy – Chapter Three

The Last Fairy is a beautiful story by Andrew Goss, for children and their carers everywhere during the lockdown. We’ll be posting a new chapter each day this week so tune in each day to see how this magical story will unfold:

Illustration by Christina Scholz!

Chapter Three

“WE’LL have to make our own magic,” Zayd whispered, gazing intently at the little fairy resting on the palm of his hand. The tiny creature stopped crying and looked into Zayd’s big brown eyes. Was a child capable of making magic? The fairy had heard such things were possible before children became too old and distracted to forget their dreams. The little figure rose to her feet and hugged one of Zayd’s fingers gratefully.

“Do you know any spells, then?” asked the fairy.

“Only spellings from school, I’m afraid. And I’m still learning those. But I have an idea to create a different sort of magic, which just might help. Starting with the tooth.”

The fairy wasn’t sure.

“You can have my tooth for nothing,” said Zayd simply.

The fairy shook her head. “Couldn’t possibly.”

“Take it,” Zayd insisted. “It will surely help to make the pearly city strong against the black clouds. You can have it. I don’t need it.”

But the fairy shook her little blonde head sadly.

“It’s not possible. If I can’t give you anything in return it makes me feel sad. And when I’m sad, I feel heavy. Then I’ll never get off the ground. Fairies beat their wings on a tide of happiness they create whenever they make a wish come true – like leaving silver coins under the pillow. That makes for a speedy flight!”

“Hmmm,” said Zayd thoughtfully. And then he had an idea. He carried the fairy over to his pillow.

“It would make me very happy if you just took the tooth,” he said.

“It won’t work,” said the fairy.

“Then why don’t you give me something in exchange?”
“But I can’t do the money magic with a broken wand.”

“Then give me the wand – it’s beautifully made and would make me very happy.”

The fairy thought for a moment. It was true she had a collection of many different wands back at the fairy city. But letting a child have a magic wand – even a broken one – might cause problems. Then again, it would create the necessary stream of happiness to allow the fairy to return to the city with the tooth. It was a tricky situation. But it might just work. And who would know? Yes, she convinced herself. It was the only way. She smiled and glowed so brightly the whole room was bathed in golden light.

“That would allow me to fly easily… if you’re sure it would make you happy.”

Zayd nodded. The fairy held out the tiny item, no bigger than a sewing needle and the little boy took it in his fingers, examining the delicate craftsmanship, as only fairies know-how. It was sparkling silver with little golden stars that glittered and still gave off a little magic dust.

“It’s a deal, then,” said Zayd and the fairy darted quickly beneath the pillow for the precious tooth.
“I must get this back to the city above the clouds immediately,” said the fairy, hovering in front of Zayd’s face with the tissue package wedge beneath her arm.

“Will I see you again?”

The little creature nodded.

“Next time you lose a tooth… as long as you still believe.” She sighed before continuing sadly: “If only there were more children like you. Then there would be more fairies and more magic in the world – and more teeth to make the fairy city safe against the darkest storm clouds.”

“More magic. What do you mean?”
The fairy sighed impatiently.

“Don’t you know anything? Fairies are responsible for granting wishes all over the world to help the Almighty. What do you think the pearly white city is for? It’s not just for show, you know; it’s the source of all fairy magic.”

Now Zayd began to understand.

“Wait,” he said. “You mean if the fairy city falls from the sky, no more wishes can come true?”

“No magic, no wishes,” replied the fairy. “At least not as quickly. He’s very busy these days, you know. This internet thing has made everything so much more difficult. People have to believe to create the magic that binds the universe together. Don’t you know anything?”

Zayd felt he did know quite a bit. But what the fairy said sounded sad.

“You see the problem,” the fairy added.

“So it all depends on people believing,” mumbled Zayd, echoing the fairy’s sadness. And he felt he knew it was true. The fairy nodded.

“Suppose somebody was able to make lots of people believe in fairies?”

“I’d grant them their fondest wish, that’s for sure,” said the fairy.

Then it reached out its tiny hand to shake Zayd’s little finger.

“I’ve got to fly now. But thanks for your help.”

The little fairy disappeared in a puff of golden smoke before Zayd even had time to utter the word ‘goodbye’ and suddenly found himself sitting in the dark. But he could still feel the tiny wand he held between his fingers. And Zayd had another idea. He smiled at the thought of what the next day would bring as he closed his eyes and fell into a deep and comfortable sleep…

Stay tuned for Chapter four tomorrow!

 

Andrew Goss is the author of The Humanitarian, a novel set against the backdrop of a devastating natural disaster – the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, which killed 80,000 and left millions homeless. The paperback novel will be released in July this year, but Andrew has recently released a charity eBook edition of his novel to raise funds for “some of the most vulnerable in our society to help them come through this terrible time.” All the author’s proceeds from the eBook edition will be divided between Action Homeless in the UK and desperately poor communities in Pakistan, where he worked and drew inspiration for his book. Find out more about the charity eBook here.