I have always loved being involved in all things creative. Since graduating from Chelsea School of Art I have worked on many kinds of projects: from book illustration, print design for fashion, to stage set design, to name but a few!
After illustrating both adult and children’s books (using mixed media, lots of fabric, stitch and paint) I decided to develop bigger ideas which ran over a period of time as I felt constrained by what for me became the limitations of the still image.
About ten years ago I joined a Book Club and this really opened my eyes to all the possibilities of contemporary writing. Since then I have been an avid reader as well as writer. I enjoy reading a really wide range of books, from Kate Atkinson’s crime fiction to the humour of Marina Lewycka, the philosophical musings of Alexander McCall Smith and re-published books such as Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. To be honest I’d been put off reading fiction at school as it focussed around the classics and then when I took A level Art, along with French and German I mistakenly thought reading would be as hard as ploughing through French and German novels!
I finally summoned up some courage and applied for an MA in Creative Writing, (whilst on maternity leave!) I was lucky enough to gain a place on a writing MA entitled, Writing the Visual. This was a fantastic opportunity to explore writing, using my background in visual art. The tutors were excellent and even allowed for the odd tutorial with my baby son in-tow! I found there were lots of parallels in the creative process of both writing and making artwork. And I was off !
After completing my MA and with my son at pre-school I set about developing my ideas for Laura’s Handmade Life, from the point of view of a creative artist. The whole process of taking a writing course was very like learning to drive. It isn’t until you’ve left that you can really put all you’ve learnt into action.
Writing Laura’s Handmade Life allowed me to explore many ideas about the role and power of creativity in our lives, through not just Laura, the main protagonist, but her husband an architect, Hannelore an academic, the education system and the village sewing ladies – all areas which I had experienced first-hand. Writing about what you know worked very well for me, as my ideas come very much from the world of art and design as seen by many of its key players; student, artist, cynic etc.
Next came the nail biting time of sending it out to agents, with the variety of standard and luckily not so standard rejection letters. Eventually two agents were interested and Sonia, at Sheil Land finally took me on in 2009. She gave feedback and advice, which I don’t think all agents have the time to do. I also found out that however good your writing is, the role of the agent is to champion your work and they have to genuinely engage with it!
And then the next part, gaining a publisher. What this really means is finding an editor who has the same vision as you. Caroline Hogg at Little, Brown immediately understood the ideas behind Laura’s Handmade Life and saw the potential in the story, especially with the crafting being very much part of the zeitgeist.
Gaia, at Sheil Land then sold the rights to Germany. Laura’s Handmade Life has a key character from Germany, and I’d previously worked in a German speaking design role, although still had to polish up on my German haberdashery vocab for our meeting. I also got to meet my German editor for lunch!
I am thrilled there is such a creative team, at Little, Brown behind the book. I’m told that writers usually have very little input with the covers of their books. But I was lucky enough to get together with Caroline Hogg, my editor and collate ideas for a mood board to brief the design team who have done a fantastic job creating a cover which truly reflects the story line. The Cornish designer-maker Poppy Treffry was commissioned to illustrate the cover. Her style captures the feel of the book perfectly, with fabrics, stitching and a bright summery background.
The book also has a few easy to make designs at the end, which link well with the competition Little, Brown have launched for the book’s publication http://www.littlebrownbooks.net/win-a-sewing-machine-and-a-cath-kidston-sewing-box-with-laura%e2%80%99s-handmade-life-by-amanda-addison/. I am really looking forward to seeing book bag designs and seeing people out there getting ‘crafty’ just like Laura.
So now I am busy and working on a sequel to Laura’s Handmade Life, with characters old and new. It explores wintry crafts, such as: felting, (more) knitting and making costumes for the local pantomime – plus the making and baking of a few wintry treats, such as, a knitted and a baked gingerbread house!