There’s something truly magical about storytelling, especially when it captivates the hearts of children.

When my nephews and nieces were young, they loved to hear stories. One particular tale that they loved was about a hedgehog who accidentally got sticky toffee papers stuck to his spikes.

Years later, in 1996, the birth of my daughter prompted me to write my story down. After her birth, I was unaware that I had postnatal depression. However, what I did know was that I felt as though I had lost myself. I was a teacher who’d had to go back to work full time after only 4 months maternity leave, I was a mother and a wife, but Sally Brown had disappeared.

Being creative is an essential part of my life, even more so when I’m feeling low. So I began writing and drawing, putting to paper a story I had told many times. As a dyslexic, writing doesn’t come easily. But being a new mum with a love of books, I happily did lots of research, reading to my daughter from a few days after she was born.

Throughout my exploration of children’s literature, I discovered some favourite writers and illustrators. Especially, Nick Butterworth who created Percy the Park Keeper and his friend Mick Inkpen the creator of Kipper the Dog and Wibbly Pig. If you haven’t read Mick Inkpen’s Nothing, then do so now, it is an emotional roller coaster and wonderful book, it left an indelible mark on my heart.

The Sticky Situation evolved over time. I faced the challenge of developing a unique drawing style that would complement the narrative. Watercolours became my medium of choice, leading me to spend countless hours sketching and painting, hoping that the story would come alive on the pages.

I had seen various techniques used by other children’s writers, including repetition, leading to – so off they went . . . . hopefully, making it engaging and relatable for young readers.

I also spent far too much time naming all the characters, trying out different botanical names.

It was during this creative process that I shared my work with Isobel, a lovely Scottish lady who taught English in the school where I was working. She suggested adding speech bubbles, explaining that children love them. Taking her advice, I incorporated them into the illustrations.

At this time, self-publishing was not a common practice, so my initial plan was to secure a children’s book publishing agent who could help me find a publisher. However, after receiving rejection after rejection from seven agents, it became evident that this traditional route wasn’t meant for me. Undeterred, I set out to find an alternative path.

I was teaching graphics as part of the Design and Technology curriculum and I had established contacts with local printers. I paid a visit to one of these printers, who suggested that the most cost-effective way to publish my book was to use their standard business brochure printing service. The key was to reformat my book into A4 size, aligning with their standard dimensions. This adjustment would enable the printing costs to be significantly reduced while maintaining the quality of a paperback book. Excited by this possibility, I recreated my illustrations onto A4 and added text. These book pages with line drawings were later photocopied onto cardstock and coloured with watercolours.

Once the artwork was ready, I returned to the printers for scanning and printing. The printing of 1000 copies came at a cost of £2000, a substantial investment for me at that time.

Finally, in the year 2000, The Sticky Situation was published.

I now faced the task of recouping the costs and sharing my story with as many children as possible. I decided to visit primary schools, bringing along copies of my book and recounting the story of its creation. It was during these visits that I embraced the opportunity to talk openly about my dyslexia, assuring children that it need not be a barrier to their dreams. Seeing the faces of struggling children light up as they realised that their challenges could be transformed into strengths was so rewarding.

Over time, I have managed to sell more than half of the books I printed, I’ve lost count and haven’t done a stock check. They now reside in countless homes across the UK, Australia, America, and even China. I currently find myself giving away copies, purely out of joy, now that I have covered the cost of printing. Hearing stories of children requesting The Sticky Situation to be read repeatedly brings a warm and fuzzy feeling to my heart, reaffirming the power of storytelling and its ability to bring joy to young minds.

Creating the Sticky Situation was a huge personal achievement for me, not limited to the struggle with post-natal depression. My primary school education left me feeling inadequate and unintelligent, no matter how much I tried to tell myself otherwise.

The Sticky Situation represents not only a labour of love but also a testament to the strength we possess when faced with adversity. It is a reminder that our passions and talents can guide us through the darkest of times, allowing us to create something meaningful.

So, if you find yourself in a sticky situation, remember that it might just be the beginning of an extraordinary adventure—one that has the potential to touch the lives of others and bring light to their world. Embrace your creativity, overcome your obstacles, and share your story with the world. You never know whose life you might inspire or whose heart you might touch.

Read the blog about my dyslexic journey