It's really amazing. After writing for a long time and facing rejections and near misses, it's hard to believe it's real until the book is actually in your hands. But now it's here, it's on my shelf, and it's the first thing I see in the morning! I have Gwen Millward to thank for how amazing it looks and Quarto for producing such a beautiful, sparkly book.
How long have you been writing for and what do you love to write?
I have been writing since my daughter was around one, so ten years. It started as a hobby, then I started taking it more and more seriously, joining a critique group, entering competitions and getting an agent.
I have always loved writing rhyme and silly, cheeky stories but I also love nature and history. Darwin's Super-Pooping Worm Spectacular was the first narrative non-fiction I had written.
Your picture book is an account of Darwin’s fascination with earthworms. What inspired you to write about his research?
Two people: my mum and my daughter. My daughter is really into nature, particularly snails and worms, so my mum bought her a membership to the Earthworm Society. My mum also told me about Darwin's book on Earthworms. I tried to find a children's version for my daughter but there wasn't one. So I decided to read Darwin's book myself and was hooked straight away. I was taken by how perfect it was for a picture book and was surprised nobody had done it before.
Tell us a bit about your book’s journey to publication with Quarto. What was the time frame between you writing the story and its release?
I wrote my first draft in 2019 and my wonderful critters (thank you, Tracy!) gave me lots of useful feedback. In November 2020 I booked a one to one session with an editor, through 'I Am In Print' (who provide great opportunities for authors). I met Lucy Brownridge from Quarto, who liked my story and asked for some changes. I did two edits with the help of my agent, Emily, and I signed the contract in Oct 2021. Lucy had illustrator, Gwen Millward, in mind and I was thrilled when she able to join us. One year later (5th Jan 2023) the book was published! So, it took three and a half years in total!
Aside from loving reading about poop, what would you like young readers to take away from the book?
There are a few things. Firstly, the importance of earthworms to our planet. How they make our soil rich and nutritious and help our plants and food to grow. Secondly, that Darwin didn't just study exotic animals, he had a real passion for earthworms, which is often forgotten. I would also like it to inspire children to follow their passions, however quirky. Darwin was mocked for his study of earthworms but his groundbreaking discoveries only happened because he wasn't discouraged.
What are you working on now? Would you like to write more non-fiction?
I would love to write a follow up to this book and more non-fiction, but I'll always love writing in rhyme. I have a few stories on the go at the moment!
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers out there?
Everything I can think of has been said before, but it's just write what you love. Entertain yourself. You can keep one eye on the market for niches or something unique, even if it's a unique take on something old. But you have to enjoy doing it. I would keep writing forever, published or not!
The other piece of advice is, most of my luck has happened when meeting people directly, so if you can afford a festival or a one to one, you may increase your chances of selling a book, or at the very least, getting some great feedback.
And for feedback all year round, definitely join a critique group. I would never have persisted without the support and encouragement of my wonderful critting friends.
Thanks Polly and best of luck with Darwin’s Super-Pooping Worm Spectacular!
Darwin's Super-Pooping Worm Spectacular is released in the UK today, Thursday 5th January. Why not check out this competition run by Quarto publishing for a chance to win a Worm Explorer Activity Kit and a copy of the book for your school. (Also open to home educators.)