At IWIC, International Writers Inspiring Change, we regularly feature authors who are taking it to the next level and inspiring others through their works. Our most recent spotlight falls on Sarah Hill, award-winning author of the children’s book series, Whimsy Wood. We recently also featured Sarah and her books which you can see HERE
IWIC: You have been donating some of the proceeds from your books to a wildlife trust, tell us about that.
Sarah: I have always loved animals. This was one of the many reasons why I chose to study Veterinary Medicine at University. By donating 10% of all Whimsy Wood book sales to The Wildlife Trusts UK, I feel as though I am supporting this wonderful charity in their endeavours to protect all the wild animals and plants that we are fortunate enough to have in the UK. The Whimsy Wood stories themselves I hope encourage children and their parents, grandparents and carers to engage themselves more with nature.
IWIC: You visit schools and speak to the children. What do you try to inspire in them?
Sarah: When I visit schools and libraries and talk to children, they ask me all sorts of questions from how I became an author, to what my own favourite book is. They’re also amazed that I was a Vet first, before I then became a children’s author. I do all sorts of things when I visit a school, from reading one of my Whimsy Wood books, to taking their assemblies, running creative-writing workshops for their key-stage 2 children and woodland-related literacy activities to their key-stage 1 children. We’ll talk about the characters in my woodland stories, how I came up with their names, the nature that’s included in the whimsical tales and how important your imagination is, amongst many other literacy-related things.I try to get across the importance of self belief and determination. I use my journey to becoming a traditionally published author as an example. I believed 110% in my ‘Whimsy Wood’ children’s series and I did not give up. I remained determined throughout the three years of rejections from publishers and agents and I kept editing and rewriting my work, until I was finally taken on by Abela Publishing. I also try to get across that reading and writing is fun. It’s pure joy and it’s freedom. When you write, you can create whatever story, in whatever world you jolly well like. Not only that, but reading, writing and using your imagination is free! You certainly don’t need to be well-off to do these wonderful activities! You don’t need a special bag to carry it in, because it’s already tucked safely away inside your head. Your imagination can and will take you anywhere you choose. So if you’re having a terribly dull car journey, just open up your imagination and start creating your own fantastically exciting journey instead!
IWIC: How many schools have you visited?
Sarah: I have been fortunate enough to be invited to visit primary schools across England and Skype with schools across the world since book 1, ‘Posie Pixie And The Copper Kettle’, was published back in July 2013. I must confess that I have lost count on the number of schools that I have visited! Geographically, I have been as far west as Bristol, as far north as Northampton, as far east as London and as far south as Somerset, on my Whimsy Wood author visits to primary schools. I was invited to be part of an educational program called Adventure ’15 in November 2015 and this program connected thousands of schools across the world with numerous authors. During that program I was invited to Skype with various schools in America and Canada.
IWIC: Can you tell us about any memorable feedback from children you have spoken to?
Sarah: I will always remember a young lad coming up to me with his dad after my author visit to his school. I was signing copies of my Whimsy Wood children’s books and the wee boy said to me, “I really liked your stories.” “Well thank you very much young man,” I replied. His dad then told me that his son didn’t normally enjoy books, but he was desperate to have a copy of one of the Whimsy Wood stories following my author visit. I can’t say how overjoyed I felt. Something within the Whimsy Wood book that I had read during my visit had ignited his imagination. I wrote a very special message to him inside his copy of book 2, ‘Posie Pixie And The Lost Matchbox’, that he’d wanted and both myself and this lovely lad headed off to our respective homes feeling very happy.
IWIC: As you are a mother too, how do you find time to write and do the school visitations?
Sarah: I tend to write and do most of my school and library visits while my two daughters are in school and my son is in nursery. He currently attends nursery twice a week, but he’ll be starting school this September. I also write in the evenings after the children are in bed. You just have to be very disciplined and make the most of the spare time that you have.
IWIC: As a successful author do you have a message for other authors.
Sarah: I think the main thing to say to other authors is to never give up on your writing project and to never lose sight of why you are writing in the first place.