Monday, 2 October 2017

Our Wildest Book Dream: by Pippa Goodhart

Is it just me who gets annoyed when writers and bakers and actors who win things say that they ‘never in their wildest dreams’ thought of winning such a thing?  How could they achieve those things if they didn’t imagine that goal and strive for it?  Was winning truly just an accident?’  My gut instinct is to not believe them.  So I am confessing here that I do dare to dream wild dreams. 
In my wildest dreams I write books which win a prize.  In my wildest dreams I write books that particular children love in that wonderful child way that absorbs the book into their very beings, pondering it and sharing it again and again, still thinking about them many years on into their lives.   The book of mine for which those wild dreams actually came true was, and is, You Choose.  But the way in which the wild dream has unfolded hasn’t gone at all according to how it did in those wild dreams. 
Did my (then) agent love the idea and the text for the book?  No.  Did publishers set up a bidding war for it?  No.  One after another, they turned it down.  But then lovely Penny Walker at Transworld DID like it, and she even asked who I’d like to illustrate it.  The dream twitched into life!  And became true when my dream choice of illustrator, Nick Sharratt, agreed to take on the book. 
But did the resulting book get reviewed and showered with prizes?  No, not a single review for years.  Not a single prize long-listing, let alone win … at least for the first nine years after its publication.  So how did You Choose manage to stay in print long enough to eventually get noticed in those sorts of ways?  Largely because Wendy Cooling chose it as a book to be given to hundreds of thousands of children through the Bookstart scheme.  My wild dream hadn’t thought of that move!  But that was vital to eventual success.  
When sales of You Choose hit a million, did the publisher send me a golden book to hang on my wall?  Flowers, perhaps?  Champagne?  No, no, and no.  The fact that You Choose had sold over a million copies was something that I only discovered when that boast got printed on a new edition of the book, and I queried it.  ‘Oh, didn’t you know?’  No, I didn’t!  So that moment had passed me by. 
But lovely things certainly were happening with You Choose.  Nick and I have seen so many used to bits tatty copies of the book, such as this one, and that’s a real compliment to a book -


And, nine years after publication, You Choose finally did win a prize, and a particularly lovely one.  It was voted to be The Best Picture Book of All Time by the readers of York’s libraries.  Thank you, North Yorkshire! 


And the publishers accepted a further book in the You Choose style.  Just Imagine came out nine years after You Choose.  And now both You Choose and Just Imagine have been chosen by Dolly Parton’s imagination Library as book gifts she buys in huge numbers to give children.  I certainly never dreamed of the very lovely letters I’ve received from Dolly herself in relation to that!     


And now, da daaaa!, a third such book, You Choose in Space, is newly published.  Nick Sharratt excels himself with his aliens and spacecraft in this beautiful book full of things to spot and talk about and enjoy.




So, for all my cynicism about that phrase about ‘wildest dreams’, and the users of it, I can genuinely say that to get to this moment of publication of a third book in the You Choose family (that, yes, IS being reviewed already), the Dolly Parton endorsement, and the ongoing many many kind comments from people about the books truly is ‘beyond my wildest dreams’!  
Thank you to Nick Sharratt, Penguin Random House, Wendy Cooling, and all the many many children, parents, teachers and librarians who have cheer-led this family of books.  Thank you, and, as Dolly would say, do, yourselves, dare to dream!


13 comments:

  1. Congratulations on such a successful and inspiring series. Pippa. I love that cross section in the new book!

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  2. Thank you, Jonathan. Mr Sharratt's artwork is very special, isn't it!

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  3. What a journey ... and what a wonderful, inspiring story. Congratulations, Pippa!

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  4. Thank you, Candy. I must admit those books do make me proud ... and not 'humble' as so many prize winners insist they feel! I've got plenty of other things to feel humble about, though!

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  5. This is a fantastic story. And I'm glad the journey keeps going on.

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  6. Thank you, David! It is a bit of a lesson in keeping on plugging on when you believe in something.

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  7. You understood what children wanted, Pippa. Those who turned it down weren't thinking hard enough about that. It still happens, of course, but it's very important for authors to keep thinking about the users of their books, not just what publishers want. That's how hits are made. You thoroughly deserve your success. These books are great.

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  8. Thank you, Moira! I treasure that comment, coming from somebody who really does understand both what children like and the pressures on publishers.

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  9. Frances Tosdevin5 October 2017 at 12:21

    What an interesting account. Pippa. I had no idea that "You Choose" had taken a winding road to success- I just assumed it had rocketed straight to fame! (As I'm sure the new space one will!). It's extraordinary that you only found out by chance that you had sold over a million copies. The lack of champagne then is regrettable - I do hope that publishers have now mended their ways ;) ! Thank you for such an interesting read; I especially liked that you had big dreams from the start.

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  10. Thank you, Frances. You keep working on your own rather wonderful book wild dreams, and I hope they'll come true too!

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  11. I too assumed 'You Choose' was an immediate hit, however I'm delighted it became one. It's only when you share 'You Choose' with a child that you realise how perfect it is for inspiring the imagination and encouraging stories. I've shared the book with children who have had only an Argos catalogue in the house and they've immediately understood 'You Choose' and relish the control they're given, rather than an adult who has total control over the words in a traditional story. The choices made can also provide interesting insight into a child. Congratulations, Pippa, and 'You Choose in Space' deserves success too.

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  12. So pleased to see some lovely, bright, bold picture books again. I had lost faith that these books still existed in the publishing realm as the majority of picture books seem to be steering towards darker colours and imagery. I love Nick Sharratt's illustrations and pleased to see they still have a place in the current market! Thank you Pippa and Nick!

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