Winning squirrel takes the prize
First time’s a charm: Before entering Amazon’s A (New) Christmas Carol competition, digital marketing manager Mike Doodson had never participated in a writing contest. Nevertheless, his fresh take on A Christmas Carol was selected as the winner. As a part of the reward, his book was illustrated by children’s artist Ian Beck and made available through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) for everyone to read.
There’s an enduring quality to children’s stories which I love. The subject matter and the characters undoubtedly change with the times, but there is a magical and playful quality to them which remains undiminished. I wanted to recreate that sort of magic.
In the following interview, Doodson describes his personal journey from avid reader to author:
“My mum sold books, so there were always boxes and boxes around the house and I would work my way through them, often returning to the best ones for second and third helpings. I remember spending numerous evenings re-reading Roald Dahl’s Matilda by the chink of light coming into my bedroom from the landing, inspired by the lead character’s prodigious reading habits.
This soon expanded into a love of writing. In a bid to create my own places to escape to - The Magic Faraway Tree has a lot to answer for – I wrote of amazing imaginary realms and, closer to home, the adventures of the animals in the woods I could see from my bedroom window.
I shared my writing with my family and friends. I have written poems and stories for wedding readings, to commemorate milestones and, most successfully, to propose to my wife. I started to get serious about turning a passion into action around a year ago, finally putting pen to paper with a view to writing a children’s book.
Traditional children’s books still take up most of the space on my bookshelf: when I write, I try to tap into the things that gave me pleasure as a young reader. There’s an enduring quality to children’s stories which I love. The subject matter and the characters undoubtedly change with the times, but there is a magical and playful quality to them which remains undiminished. I wanted to recreate that sort of magic.
The arrival of my first child six months ago gave some added impetus to my dream of becoming a published author. I told myself, how great would it be to read my own stories to her? It was a chance encounter with the magazine aisle of a supermarket that sparked my interest in writing competitions. I noticed a magazine cover which boasted a list of competitions inside. Within a couple of minutes, I was reading the criteria for Amazon’s festive writing competition A (New) Christmas Carol.
The idea of a greedy red squirrel hoarding away nuts for himself developed quickly, and on the way home I was already jotting down the key points of the story on my phone. I wanted to keep the message of the story close to the original, with redemption, repentance and forgiveness as key aspects: A Christmas Squirrel is really a story of transformation and Christmas spirit. I wanted to create something that we could read every Christmas Eve as part of our family’s own tradition. Christmas is such a special time, and with it being my daughter’s first Christmas I thought writing her this book would be the perfect present, whether it won or not!
I was shocked to find out I had won. I really liked how the story had turned out, but I really had no idea whether my opinion would be shared by the judging panel and, ultimately, readers! The best thing about a competition like this is the chance for aspiring writers have to have their work read and published. If you write a good story, you’ve got a chance. Being able to work with an established and iconic illustrator like Ian Beck is also a huge draw. His ability to capture the essence of the story so succinctly and bring to life the words on the page exactly as I had imagined them is a luxury that few unpublished authors are able to entertain.
Now that I have fulfilled my dream of becoming a published author, I plan to finish off a couple of outstanding stories before trawling back through the mass of notes I’ve taken when new ideas have popped into my head. In the meanwhile, the first copy of A Christmas Squirrel has taken pride of place on my daughter’s small, but ever-growing, bookshelf.”