Nothing is ever wasted

1st cover of what became The Watching Lake by Elaine Forrestal

When I was struggling to write my first novel, after about a dozen of my short stories had been published around the world in magazines, anthologies and on TV, I decided to ask the children of some close friends to read the book and tell me what they thought of it. Christopher and Kate were both avid readers and still young enough not to be inhibited about me asking them questions. But I didn’t think it was fair to hand them a bundle of loose A4 pages and expect them to read the story in bed. I decided to make a very basic cover and use the spiral binder, which I already knew how to operate, to hold it all together. It would still be a bit big and floppy, but at least it wouldn’t fall all over the floor when they dropped it.

Eventually, after several more re-writes, title changes and edits assisted by Chris and Kate’s suggestions, the book was published. One of just two titles to make it through Penguin’s enormous slush-pile that year. It has been continuously in print until last year, giving it a 25 year shelf-life and elevating it to ‘classic’ status.

While the book was still relatively new I developed a workshop based on the chequered history of its publication, including the five different cover images it has had during its lifetime. I presented the workshop in schools and libraries but I’m always developing new ones so the ‘Covers’ workshop had not been aired for quite a few years – until now. In a perfect example of how things can, and often do, come around full-circle that same workshop will be presented, by request, during Book Week this year – with a couple of tweaks here and there, of course.

Thank goodness I didn’t throw it away!

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