James Shelly reflects on the process of publishing his debut picture book, 'Alora's Dreams'

May 7th, 2021

By James Shelly

In one way, writing 'Alora’s Dreams' was a quick and simple process. The idea and some of the phrases were in my head for only a few weeks before I decided to sit down and write. And once I did, it all came out in one sitting, and almost nothing was edited until it hit the publishing phase. 

In some ways I was lucky in this, as I happen to have a fairly strong command of language and a natural flare for writing rhymes. So it was just a process of sitting down and letting it all come out.

But, in other ways, this story was a life time in the making. Being human myself, I know anxiety. I have been overwhelmed by it, and have learned to tolerate it. Being a father, I have seen this developmental process in my children. And being a child psychiatric, I have supported many young people and families in the grips of anxiety and distress. And in having studied medicine, psychiatry and then child psychiatry, I have developed a propensity for talking about very dark and complex concepts in an accessible and destigmatising way. So I suppose, from this point of view, it has been a very long journey, and who better to write about children’s emotional matters than a child psychiatrist and a father.

Having written 'Alora’s Dreams' I then went on to write about four more similar stories about children learning valuable life lessons through their dreams. I somewhat randomly sent them out to various publishers, and was so lucky and grateful to have had the opportunity to publish 'Alora’s Dreams' through Little Steps. I guess for me this was a little exercise in creating a lot and then being audacious enough to send my creations out there - to take a chance and see what comes of it. I’m sure I could have gone about things in a  more organised way - sending more stories to each publisher, and even keeping track of which I sent to whom. But I didn’t, and it worked out none-the-less.

All this to say that I suppose the best advice I can give is to find something you love to do, find your passion. Then work hard at learning about it - read about it, talk to people about it, hone your craft. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a talent for it. But either way, you’ll have to work hard for it if you want to make something of it. And whether that’s working hard at the project itself, or working hard to get the background knowledge and expertise - either way, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
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Tags: author, psychology, publishing

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