As part of our “I did it. . .” feature and off the back of National Book Week, we interviewed Many Loeb who is the author of My Wacky Wellies, which is a wacky picture book that takes readers on an adventure to discover how marvellous wellies can be, and not just when it’s raining! Read on to find out how she achieved her dream of writing a children’s book.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
My name is Mandy Loeb and I am 32 years old. I am married to a fantastic guy and have two young kids – a three and a half year old daughter and a sixteen month old little boy. I studied a BA LLB at Wits. While studying law I also did my Speech and Drama LTCL qualification through Trinity College of London. When I completed my LLB I knew I didn’t want to be a lawyer and so decided not to do my articles. Instead I got a job at Nedbank in their Property Finance division. That was one of the longest years of my life. At the end of the year I decided that a corporate wasn’t going to work for me. I quit and started writing and teaching Speech and Drama instead. I now have a great Drama studio in which I teach children ages 3 and up and I’ve published a children’s book. I have never looked back!
What made you decide to publish a children’s book?
I have always loved reading and writing. Even as a little girl I used to keep diaries and write ‘books’. It feels like storytelling has always been a part of who I am. I have been writing for the last seven years and have a laptop brimming with children’s stories and two novels. The time finally came when I felt like I needed to share my work and so I decided to publish. Through my teaching and because of my daughter’s insatiable desire to be read to, I feel like I have a good grasp of the children’s book market. It thus, felt like an easier jumping off point.
How did you decide on your story? And are characters in the book based on your children at all?
When my daughter was about six month’s old someone gave her a pair of winter boots. The boots were enormous but so cute I put them on her anyway. They came halfway up her leg and I couldn’t help but think hmmm. . . imagine all the things she could fit in there. And My Wacky Wellies was born!
Have you done this to feed your soul or are you intending to generate an income from it?
The honest answer is a bit of both. Writing certainly feeds my soul and without it I feel purposeless and grumpy – just ask my husband. But getting the book illustrated and printing it was done with the hope that it would be income generating.
We believe that you self-published the book, which is very brave of you. Why did you decide to go this route?
Finding a publisher is extremely difficult. Unfortunately, it is not simply about the work but about market trends, what the publishers are able to sell etc. It makes for a lot of red tape. I received positive feedback from two local publishers who appreciated the work but were unable to take it on for the above reasons. One of these publishers advised me that the only way to get this project off the ground and make it lucrative was to self-publish. I decided to heed this advice and have not been sorry. Self-publishing allowed me to have full control over the project in terms of illustrations, look and feel etc. It also allowed me to be involved in every aspect which has been incredibly rewarding and fun. Finally, I do believe the project may very well be more lucrative this way than it would have been through a traditional publisher.
How are you promoting the book?
I have developed an interactive reading and dramatisation to accompany the book. I am going into nursery schools and junior primary schools to give readings, at no cost, and then I sell the book at the end of the school day. This has been great as it allows me to interact with my target market directly. It has also been hugely rewarding and fun to watch the kids interact with the story. For a free reading at your school please get in touch! I am also holding an event at Skoobs Theatre of Books at Monte Casino on the 9th of October at 11am. There will be an interactive reading, a wacky wellies performance by some of my Drama kids, wacky wellie colouring and lots more. I would love your readers to come join in the fun.
Where is it available and how much does it cost?
It retails at between R150 and R169 and is available as follows:
- Directly from me, email email@example.com
- Joburg: The Scoop in Glenhazel and Skoobs Theatre of Books in Monte Casino from 9 October.
- Cape Town: The Art Haus in Kalk Bay
- Port Elizabeth: The beautiful Fogarty’s bookshop
I am also currently working with a distributor to get it into bookshops around the country.
When you told your friends and family about what you were going to do, what was their reaction and response?
I have received so much support from family and friends every step of the way. I think everyone was happy to finally see what I spend my days doing. Not to say that there wasn’t some skepticism. Someone told me that writing and acting is good for only one thing. . . a tax rebate. But by and large the response was very positive.
Finding time to write a book is quite time consuming. How did you find the time to write a book, look after your children and have time for your speech and drama studio?
This has been one of my biggest challenges. I constantly feel torn and have been plagued by a hefty dose of mother’s guilt. I have now tried to break up my time so that I have set times dedicated to the kids, teaching and writing. I try and be very strict about this schedule as it’s the only way I get to fit everything in. However, because writing is not a ‘paid’ job, yet, it is the first thing to go when things are hectic or one of the kids are sick etc. This can be frustrating but I am trying to have more perspective. I keep reminding myself that with young kids you can have it all, just not at the same time.
What words of inspiration do you have for other mothers who want to fulfill their dreams?
Carve out a chunk of time each day, however small, and dedicate it to what you love. It is certainly scary to put yourself out there but it’s worth it. Be afraid… and do it anyway!
Win! Stand a chance of winning 1 of 5 signed copies of My Wacky Wellies! Simply go to the My Wacky Wellies Facebook Page and like it, then tell us on the BabyYumYum Facebook Page, what the colours of the umbrellas are on the My Wacky Wellies Facebook Cover Image are. Simple!