Friday 4 November 2016

Secret Serendipity Seven with Elizabeth Dale

Today I'm pleased to welcome children's author and SCBWI pal, Elizabeth Dale, onto the blog, to share seven secrets with us. Yesterday on the blog, her latest picture book, Nothing Can Frighten A Bear was reviewed by Liss Norton. 
We all love secrets, don’t we? Some we don’t mind sharing, some we’re a bit tentative about. Should I tell you my 7th one? Read it and see!

1. I originally started writing children’s books because they are short. Honestly! My first ever writing attempt was a long adult novel. It was typed on a portable typewriter with keys that stuck if I typed too fast, edits could mean re-typing whole pages or chapters – and no-one wanted to publish it. After all those endless late nights hammering away on my ancient machine, I vowed that never again would I spend so long on something that might never be published. So I wrote magazine stories, which were wonderfully short. And then when my daughters were born, and I was reminded how wonderful children’s books are, I started writing them, too. Firstly because they were short, but then because I fell in love with them. Writing for children is the most fun of all. Indeed, my daughters were so impressed by what a blissful life I lead – sitting with my feet up, drinking coffee, gazing out the window – sorry, writing! – that two of them, Katie Dale (Little White Lies, Mumnesia, Fairy Tale Twists etc) and Jenny Jinks (A Treasury of Bedtime Stories) are children’s authors, too.

2. My latest picture book Nothing Can Frighten a Bear was inspired by a trip to Canada where I went for walks in the woods looking for bears. But I am really, really pleased to say we never found one! I would have been scared silly. My daughter thought she saw one and our screams of terror were deafening (even though it turned out to be only a squirrel!). So whilst it’s true that Nothing Can Frighten a Bear, there is a lot that can terrify this human!

3. I’m useless at baking cakes. My picture book The Carrot Cake Catastrophe is about a girl rabbit and her granddad making a birthday cake for her mummy that goes disastrously wrong. It was written from experience. I shall never forget the day I was baking with my daughters and egg whites were mistaken for peach juice! The Carrot Cake Catastrophe has a recipe in the back for a yummy carrot cake, which my editor provided and tested out. Not me. I didn’t want my own carrot cake catastrophe!
4. I often get car sick. My picture book Off to Market – about a trip on an African minibus to a market, was based on a real journey I took in Uganda. There was everything on that minibus: goats, rugs, hens, and lots of people. It was hot, jam-packed and full of very interesting smells. Fortunately, despite these and the bends and very bumpy roads, I didn’t feel sick. Which is just as well as I’d never have been able to push my way off that crowded bus in time!
5. I’m allergic to dogs, cats, horses, and anything furry. The first picture book I ever had published, Scrumpy, is about a dog that died and is based on a dog of that name we all fell in love with one holiday. I wrote it because my daughter’s hamster died and I saw the devastating effect that had on her, and I wanted to write a positive story about moving on after the death of a pet. But I’ve never had a dog. My children would have loved one, but they couldn’t because of my allergies. I have had courses of de-sensitising injections but they didn’t work, so the only dogs in my house are in books.
6. Not many people know that I am writing a musical – working title Always a Rainbow with my daughter, Katie, and the lovely Helen Bonney who is a musical genius. It is based on the life of Janusz Korczak who ran an orphanage for Jewish children in Poland in the Second World War, and refused to leave them no matter what. It’s funny, sad, heart-rending but hopefully uplifting too – and filled with beautiful songs.
7. I do not have an agent. I have had over forty books accepted, due to dogged persistence, learning from feedback and never giving up over the years. Which leads to an extra 8th secret. I am the Rejection Queen. I am used to rejection, I expect rejection, I can take it. It’s hard sometimes, especially when I’m on the verge of acceptance and it falls through, but I have learned that every rejection is an opportunity – to send that text out to someone else. So for all fellow writers reading this, I would say – Never Give Up! Embrace rejection, it comes to us all (well most of us!) and when an acceptance finally happens, past rejections make it even sweeter.
There… should I have revealed that I get rejected a lot? Hardly makes me look like a mega-successful author, does it? But all you writers or would-be writers out there suffering or fearing rejection need to know –you are not alone! It’s healthy. It’s normal. It’s part of being a writer. But despite them all, being a writer, especially for children, is still the best job in the world!
Nothing Can Frighten A Bear is published by Nosy Crow. To read a review, click here. 

Snuggled up in bed one moonlight night, Baby Bear is sure he hears a monster outside. Daddy Bear insists there’s nothing scary in the forest and, anyway, nothing can frighten a bear. But as the family of bears set out to make sure, and all vanish one by one, it looks like Daddy Bear might not be as brave as he seems… 
This bedtime story is full of comic surprises and gentle reassurance. After all, the things that go bump in the night are never as scary as you might think!
If you want to know more about Elizabeth Dale and her books, please visit her website -
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