You’ll know from reading other blog posts on the Den that texts rarely pop into your head fully formed. It’s only happened to me once - in December 2008 and that instant moment has taken until now to see it in print.
It was when I took my son Andy to visit his brother, then working as an adventure tour guide in Venezuela. Rob and his business partner Luis took us to Los Llanos to look for anaconda - and we found one!
It was very sluggish and sleepy because it was digesting a huge meal. We had to be careful not to disturb it because that might make it regurgitate… PING!!! A rhyme popped into my head plus title - I Saw Anaconda!
The elements that all came together at that moment were:
- The anaconda and the wonderful Venezuelan wildlife we saw on the trip.
- The rhyme ‘There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly’ - specifically the version illustrated by Pam Adams which I’d read aloud many times.
- An adventurous boy who hadn't changed that in that respect much since he was little.
- Being bitten by lots of bugs when I passed out in the grass after the skydive, and having to check myself for ticks after (Xmas present from Rob that year, sheer terror, thanks, Rob).
- A regurgitating ‘happy’ ending.
When I got back, I sent off the rhyme to my agent, who loved it - and who sent it on to publishers. Over the next five years it got rejected - A LOT. Everyone who saw the text liked it, but the feedback was there were too many words on the final pages, it would be too hard to illustrate, Venezuelan wildlife (especially tick, skink and caiman) wasn’t easily recognisable or cute enough.
Then, long after I’d resigned myself to it never becoming a book, Nosy Crow took the text, tick, skink and all. It published on 1 September 2016. I’m absolutely in awe of the clever way Nosy Crow have presented it with pull out snake and flaps - and Emma Dodd’s fab illustrations.
It's been a while since that trip. Rob and Amy (they met in Venezuela) married and they have a 2 year old daughter and another on the way, and Andy’s married to Helen and they have a daughter, too. I’ve become a grandma and ditched the hair dye, and it's highly unlikely that I will go anaconda hunting (or skydiving) again, though hopefully lots of new adventures await.
So thank you, thank you, thank you, The Catchpole Agency for sticking with it and for the Nosy Crow team and Emma Dodd for bringing it to life, I’ll treasure ‘I saw Anaconda’ as a reminder of an amazing and unrepeatable experience.
I wish you picture book writers out there a happy PING moment in your writing lives, too. If you’ve already had one, l’d love to hear about it in the comments!