22 May 2023
She talked to children from across the Primary Division (Bolton School’s Infant, Junior Boys’ and Junior Girls’ Schools) about her writing, and about living on board a boat and sailing around the world!
She revealed that it took her a long time to realise she could be an author, and that even with advice from her tutors at university it took several attempts for her to get something published. ‘Dandy’ is her third novel: she originally submitted a version of it to the Times Chicken House competition, and though it didn’t win, she was invited to re-write it and ultimately offered a book deal.
Speaking about the inspiration behind ‘Dandy the Highway Lion’, she said that it came from her childhood mispronunciation of ‘dandelion’ and a song featuring the lyric, ‘I’m the dandy highwayman’. She wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, a writing challenge each November in which participants try to pen 50,000 words in 30 days, but after that came a lot of edits. She revealed that the writing process took four and half years from start to finish!
Moving on, Stephanie talked about life as a writer, while also juggling a ‘day job’ two days a week and living on board a sailing boat. She talking about working with deadlines and setting herself timers, working in 30 minute chunks until her work for the day is done. She also shared some of her personal writing rituals, from sitting in the cockpit to editing in purple pen!
Stephanie also led a short writing workshop for the children to take part in. They came up with ideas for extraordinary characters like Dandy himself: a highwayman who wants to help animals in need. The children came up with ideas of a creature, their goal and an obstacle in their way and shared their ideas.
After a question and answer session in which Stephanie talked about how long she has been a writer: 10 years, but she had only been published for 3 weeks at the time of the talk! She also talked about other books she has written and is working on, the publishing process, writing in other languages and what it’s like to live on a boat.
The talk ended with a book signing where children could have copies of ‘Dandy the Highway Lion’ signed and personalised by Stephanie.