Thursday, 16 November 2017

"I knew [the first printed copies of Moon Juice] would be OK. And they were." Kate Wakeling on publishing her children's poetry collection Moon Juice

Over the course of our call for pamphlet proposals, we'll have some of our existing pamphlet authors writing about their experience of having a pamphlet published with us. Kate Wakeling talks about her children's poetry collection, Moon Juice, which won the CLiPPA award this year!

Moon Juice is my first collection of children’s poems and it was published by the Emma Press in September 2016. Until 2015, I’d only really written poems for adults and the collection came about after I had a poem published in The Emma Press’ first anthology for children, Falling out of the Sky. From here I realised that I really, really loved writing poetry for children – and Emma and Rachel were brilliantly warm in encouraging me to go for it and put together a full collection.

Moon Juice is a mixture of lots of different sorts of poems – there are list poems, riddles, story poems, character poems – I wanted it to feel sort of technicolour in the mind’s eye. Lots of the writing is quite mischievous and playful – the book is peopled by some absurd characters like Skig the Warrior and Hamster Man – but in the midst of this mischief, I wanted to explore more serious things like obsession, difficult moods, death, and how it can be important to challenge certain kinds of authority. I believe very strongly in the need to talk (and listen) to children about life’s complex and difficult things – but in a strictly unsentimental way and with a strong peppering of humour. In this vein, my favourite poem in the collection is called ‘The Demon Mouth’. It explores the theme of compulsion and the need for tenderness, but in the midst of some rascally wordplay and (I hope) a rollicking story.

Working with The Emma Press has been a joyful experience and I feel enormous gratitude to Emma and Rachel. Emma brought such a fierce energy and vision to the book. She made me feel like she wanted to invest in making it the absolute best it could be, and her creative eye on every aspect of the book’s design and production made such a profound difference. I’m also so thrilled and grateful that Emma commissioned the wonderful Latvian illustrator Elina Braslina to work on Moon Juice. Elina is such a skilled, playful and intuitive collaborator and she had this amazing instinct for seizing on the nub of each poem, in ways I’d never foreseen but which then felt like the most brilliant fit as soon as I saw the image.

Then, as the collection’s editor, Rachel was such a warm, astute, sensitive (to the poems and to the author) person to work with. I had the wonderful feeling that there was no way anything could ‘slip’ in the book – that I was in the hands of a really terrific brain full of artistry and precision, who was ten-times more likely to spy a wise amendment than me. I am quite an anxious person and in my other freelance writing work outside of poetry, I have a fairly strict policy of never looking at anything I’ve written once its out in the world in print. It’s interesting that I have no recollection of even a twinge of worry when the first printed copies of Moon Juice arrived on my doorstep. I knew they’d be OK. And they were.

This probably sounds a bit much, but publishing Moon Juice with The Emma Press has been pretty life-changing for me. The book won the 2017 CLiPPA and has just been nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal (and Elina’s illustrations have been nominated for the CILIP Kate Greenaway prize: kapow!), and all this has led to some other exciting things, like being asked to work on some children’s picture books, and invitations to give all sorts of performances and workshops. The response to the book has also given me the confidence to begin imagining that I might one day soon find the chutzpah to set to work on a children’s novel. I am so grateful to Emma and Rachel for their belief in my writing and for the skill, hard work and creative juice they put into the book. And I’d urge anyone sitting on an unpublished poetry pamphlet to take up this call for submissions and send it on in.  

Moon Juice is available to order on our website. You can also find out more about our call for pamphlet submissions here.

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