Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Democracy for toddlers!

Last time I had a baby and then started to get the euphoria that comes with the hormones settling down and some sleep returning, I started a blog. This time round I've neglected the blog a little and chosen to use the post baby yearning for change to start a business. I'm so excited!

For the past decade or so if someone asked me what I really want to do careerwise I have talked about combining education and writing. In some ways I have done that - since 2005 I have been a part-time lecturer in journalism and worked part time as a freelance journalist. It's been great and I intend to carry on doing this.

But though it's a cliche to start a business on maternity leave, I couldn't help but realise I've never before felt the energy and enthusiasm for a new project that I am now feeling.

So I am thrilled to announce my new business, Fisherton Press. We're a small independent publisher focusing on picture books for children, that adults also like reading. Inspired by some of the brilliant books we've read again and again (and again and again) over the past few years, and also inspired by the tedious ones, I'm hoping to publish books for children that excite everyone who reads them, young and old. We're aiming to publish our first books in September 2015 and hoping to publish 10-12 in the first year.

Fisherton is my maternal grandmother's maiden name. Those of you who know me personally will know she was much loved - in fact my daughter was named after her. The Fishertons had a printers on Brick Lane in East London and because of the link with printing I decided to seek my mum's permission (duly given) to use it as my company name.

The long term plan is to forge links with schools and other organisations to fulfill the education part of my aims, running workshops in schools and working out ways to get free or cheap books to children who don't own many books.

The short term aim is to publish fun, witty, beautifully illustrated books that cover subjects as diverse as farting and the birth of civilisation, targeted at young children, and to sell enough copies to make this a viable business.

I love being my own boss. Freelancing has suited me beautifully though doing the work at the same time as having young children is starting to get difficult as it just doesn't work when an interviewee asks you to ring them back the next day and you have to say sorry but you don't have childcare again until this time next week. It's no good for deadlines either. Lecturing is also great with the autonomy of being in charge of your own classroom, and the bonus of being able to see, sometimes, the difference you make to the abilities and confidence of the people who pass through your classroom. But you still have to work within the rules of your editors and your institution. I'm hoping that having my own business will allow me to try out all kinds of ideas and hunches, take risks and explore interesting ways of doing things.

With that in mind here's one thing I am trying out. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding website that allows people to donate to your creative project. If the donations reach the amount you are asking for, or over, you get the money to use for your project. If it doesn't reach the target amount, you get none of it.

One of the books I want to publish is explaining elections to young children. I don't hold with the idea that children aren't interested in politics, or that politics can't be explained in an age appropriate way. In fact I think it's vital that we do so if we are to tackle low voter turnouts and general apathy. Politics needs to be normalised. And what better way than by starting young, with a story book about two children whose parents support, and campaign for, different political parties, but who remain friends nevertheless. It's a serious subject but the book is a lighthearted story - it's (hopefully) not po-faced or earnest.

I decided to try to crowdfund this project on Kickstarter as I want to pay the creators of this book an advance, as opposed to the royalty only deal I am offering most writers and illustrators. That's because although I think this book will get loads of publicity, I don't know whether it will translate into sales, and while the business is a labour of love for me, for the writers and illustrators of our books it's their job.

What I'd really appreciate from anyone reading this blog is a tweet or a Facebook link or a blog post or a mention on any forum you use linking to the Kickstarter project. I really need to spread the word about it as far and wide as possible. Here's the link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/88684307/democracy-for-toddlers

And here's the temporary website for the new business - www.fishertonpress.co.uk - if you have an amazing idea for a book the young children you know would love, and I reckon most people do, please do get in touch.


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