Please join me in welcoming the lovely Maria B. Hayden, British author and illustrator, to the Reading Room. I must tell you, reading her story had me spellbound from start to finish. She has a fascinating way with details, and as you’ll see, with rhyme.
Q. Hello, Maria. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
A. I live in the small town of Bradninch in the county of Devon, England, a rural town with deceptively ordinary looks. It predates the 7th Century, is entered in the Doomsday Book of 1086, holds royal connections and is the very place that Daniel Boone’s parents emigrated to America from in 1713. The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, is the Lord of the Manor of Bradninch (amongst other things, of course). It is also the last town in England to place a drunken man in the stocks in 1866, where he was held for six hours.
In the summer months we venture out into our neighbour’s gardens to listen to musical bands and hold a music festival in our local pubs with bands travelling from local and afar to play. We have a real Mayor, Christmas lights and all drag our Christmas trees up for a public burning ceremony on the twelfth night. Life here is colourful and never dull. It is currently the 15th most family friendly town in England. It’s easy to see why I’m so creatively inspired by living in such a vibrant community.
I am a late bloomer as a professional writer. My previous career began by cleaning out toilets (I’m not kidding) and ended as a Buyer working for a huge Dairy company. I have always wanted to be a writer, holding a vivid memory of when I was eight years old, sitting having a picnic with my grandmother and telling her that I was going to be a writer when I grew up. This was inspired by a poem I had written at school about a swan, which was read by my Headmistress during Assembly. Sadly, I don’t have that poem today but I know that in that moment I was bitten by the writing bug. I am also a proverbial bookworm.
Twenty years ago, I began writing and selling poetry at local craft fairs. Enthused by a warm reception to my writing I collated an anthology and sent it off to three publishers. I was rejected by all three and in that moment my dream died.
Q. Please tell us something about the success you’ve found.
A. With a dream now deceased, I focused on my career and eventually married and settled down to have my daughter who is now eight years old. As part of our bedtime routine I would read her fairy stories and tales about princesses and so began to make up my own. A few years later, I decided to write my first children’s book and resurrect that childhood dream.
In one short year, I became a published author of three children’s books, all written in rhyme. (I can’t seem to squash the poet within me.) Each has an underlying message about persistence, accepting our differences and not accepting anything at face value-my life’s lesson on a page. I am extremely passionate about encouraging children to believe in themselves, no matter what their start in life, their environment, or what their teachers might say. I am living proof, amongst millions, of children that were written off as ‘never amount to much’. I scraped my way through school and battled my way to the top of my career. Never giving up has given me everything in my life that I cherish.
I wrote my latest book, Which Witch Am I, in response to my daughter’s constant battle to get it right and to fit in. I chose a ten-year-old witch as the main protagonist because children love magic and it gives them back a sense of power. The young girl enters the classroom on her first day at school and the teacher asks her Which Witch she can be. Worried about making a mistake, she imagines everything that can go wrong. It does go wrong, as it will in life and then eventually the teacher steps in. I wanted to encourage children to understand that it’s okay to make mistakes and that adults can and will help. The book ends with a little direct to reader rhyme. “I guess I found out something I never knew. I’m not just one thing, and neither are you!”
I’m super proud of this story and in order to get it in front of as many children as possible, I have made a YouTube video of the full story read by me and it’s FREE.
The books are also available on Amazon but I didn’t want purchase to become a barrier to the story.
I also illustrated the entire book myself, a first for me, and simply because someone told me I wouldn’t be able to do it.
Q. What has been your biggest challenge?
A. Due to my previous experience with publishers, coupled with the fact that I worked as a books buyer for a supermarket chain and high street book chain, I was aware of the challenges for an unknown author to be accepted by a publisher. After some deliberation, I decided to self-publish, which has brought its own challenges. It is a huge task to be a writer as well as your own publisher and I have struggled to defeat a crippling amount of self-doubt and to reach readers. It was also a mountain to climb to understand the actual self-publishing process.
Q. What plans do you have for the future?
I am currently working on two projects; a middle grade fiction story about Avalon and King Arthur’s return and another rhyming story about Archie Ant, who gets lost and encounters an A-Z of creatures in an English garden.
Q. Where can people keep up with you and buy your books?
All books are available via Amazon or Ingram sparks or through my website.
Which Witch Am I?
CAN YOU REMEMBER YOUR TERRIFYING FIRST DAY AT SCHOOL? WHERE SHOULD I GO? WHO IS THAT? WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Now imagine you are a witch…
Ten year old witch Eliza Toogood starts her first day at school. She is powerful but clueless and has to make a decision that will affect the rest of her life…Which Witch Am I?
Her fears mount and disaster takes over.
This illustrated short tale is written in rhyme for an easy read. Which Witch Am I will captivate all little witches the world over. The paperback version includes WORD SEARCH, CROSSWORD PUZZLE, and a FUN FACT SHEET on WONDERFUL WITCH TALENTS from the book. So much more than just another story…
A short sample:
Eliza Toogood sat in a class with six girls.
Some had straight hair. The others had curls.
A few had brown eyes, many were blue,
nearly all were ten, except for a few.
Some girls were considerably tall,
the others were not, they were small.
Each of the girls had a different name,
only their clothes made them all look the same.
Whilst all of the girls had a story to tell,
this particular one I know very well
It’s about Eliza to whom I refer,
for she is me and I am her.
Kindle Version purchase link: https://www.amazon.com/Which-Witch-Childrens-Halloween-Adventures-ebook/dp/B01M697YJW
Paperback Version purchase link: https://www.amazon.com/Which-Witch-Toogood-Witchy-Adventures/dp/0995466963
Maria Hayden on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Maria-B-Hayden/e/B01G5EBJOA/
Thanks for spending time here today. I hope you will pop over to Maria’s social media pages and give her a Like or two. I know I have!