© Jo Wright 2010
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Cyril the   Squirrel Books Cyril the   Squirrel Books brighter storytelling
I loved writing stories. Which got me into illustrating them. And somehow ended up with me taking up knitting… When my oldest daughter was a toddler she used to fill her pockets with acorns when we went walking in the woods opposite our house. Thanks to her and my husband, we have a lot of baby oak trees around - in pots, in various stages of growth, and planted in hedgerows. I made up my first children's story, Cyril the Squirrel, for my daughter Esme. Cyril is a forgetful squirrel who keeps on losing his acorns. It teaches kids a little about the cycle of the seasons and about seeds growing into plants. But mainly it has lots of lovely words in it, in rhyming verse, to teach them about the wonderful idiosyncrasies of the English language and to expose them to a few words they might not come across in your average children's book - because research has proven that the number of different words a child hears in their early childhood dramatically affects their literacy later on. But once I'd written my Cyril the Squirrel, I needed some pictures to bring it to life, so as I was a stay at home mum at the time, I decided to turn my hand to illustrating and see if I could actually turn my stories into proper books, and maybe even sell them. I've never had such fun in my life! I had to start setting an alarm on my phone to ensure I didn't forget to pick up the kids from school, or to eat lunch, or get dressed. I would get so engrossed in an illustration I forgot everything else. And one of the things I am happiest about is that my illustrations have attracted just as much praise as my books. One book quickly became three, with the addition of Brian the Lion and Lola Clare the Polar Bear. I looked into publishing them and dived head-first into the competitive, over-
crowded, surprisingly hostile world of children's book publishing. I decided that as authors were notoriously low paid, I would publish my books myself. Despite having a PhD in literature and having met a fair few authors in my time, I was completely unprepared for the way booksellers look down their noses at SELF-published authors (horror of horrors!), but I didn't let that put me off. I joined the Independent Publishers Guild and through them met with a buying manager from one of the leading book distributors in the UK, Bertram's Books, who agreed to distribute them for me. This was a huge break, as it's what makes my books available in all major retailers - Amazon, Waterstone's, the lot. I published a fourth book, Myrtle the Turtle. But still not many people had heard of me. So there the real work began, and still continues. I did book readings, went into schools, created social media accounts for publicity, animated my stories as short films and published them on YouTube, hit the local Christmas fayres and school fetes and started trying to create character merchandise so my stalls looked a bit more exciting. And that's when the knitting started! (And, with it, the CE testing...!) Now I have a stock of little knitted Cyril the Squirrel toys and I'm working on some knitted Brian the Lions, Myrtle the Turtles and Lola Clare the Polar Bears. All of which will hopefully be available to buy on Etsy soon. I'm also working on a new book, Blossom the Possum.    
Blossom the Possum More coming soon…