I’m currently in the process of setting up a community investment company, to write and illustrate beautiful bespoke fictional children’s stories for families where parents are battling with cancer or other terminal illnesses. This would be a social benefit project, helping to create special books for children overflowing with incredible personal details, achievements, hopes, fears and dreams while preserving family memories. So I guess you could compare it to the popular idea of memory boxes but in the unusual format of a legacy of literature, which is not offered anywhere else. As the name suggests, the stories are uniquely tailored to each individual family about their journey traveled together.
I’m inspired to do this after spending several years completing my first children’s novel called Postpixie Missing In Action for the niece and nephew of a close friend of mine who was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy (MD) at the age of eleven. MD is a rare muscle-wasting condition, characterized by loss of muscle strength, which in some types, can shorten life expectancy. I have met with this friend for Sunday lunch on a regular basis over the years. Our shared love of reading has meant we often enjoy discussing books together. It took me many years to complete her book but I thoroughly enjoyed the process. The main character shares similar values, skills and interests with my friend. I painted all the illustrations myself and named the characters after significant people in my friend’s life. Her idea for the theme of the book is that, in a society where we strive for our independence, we mustn’t forget the need to depend on one another. This became the central message of her story. The characters all learn to help and support each other in different ways. This book Post Pixie Missing in Action is now available through a kickstarter campaign and can be ordered by clicking on the link below.
By putting myself in the shoes of parents with a similar life-limiting diagnosis, I considered what I would most want to leave to my own young children, who absolutely love reading books, and this vision became crystal clear. It addresses the need to preserve memories for young children to treasure for a lifetime. If the children of other families enjoy reading these stories that I create, then the business will have succeeded in its mission.
I have an accountancy qualification to help me with the business side of running this venture. The main issue would be how to raise finances so that the cost of each book could be as low as possible. Actually I’m attempting to make them virtually free which is admittedly rather ambitious. The bottom line is that I want to spend lots of my time on these special books without charging the families for my time. Hopefully, I will only require small donations to cover initial printing costs so the family can have a few books to share.
The way in which I hope to achieve this is by getting my main income from publishing these stories and raising funds through kickstarter or crowdfunding. Tailored Yarn can set up the book fundraising webpages and then all the families would need to do is to share them on social media. Any income from these sales would go towards writing the next book for a different family. We might be able to offer a percentage to the cancer charity which refers them or a different charity of their choice. This would mean working closely with cancer charities for publicity and marketing with an invested interest in advertising our books and raising awareness of our services. I also have the advantage of having two books almost finished and ready to publish to hopefully provide my initial income while embarking on any new projects. This would also give me the experience of publishing, fundraising and promotion.
The second children’s book that I’ve written, called ‘Mummy’s Amazing Rainbow Mind’, is for a charity helping mothers who struggle with mental health post-childbirth. It relates to the illness Postpartum Psychosis and is based on my own experience. Many parents can relate to difficulties functioning with severe sleep deprivation and this illness results from a combination of stress, hormones and lack of adequate sleep. I hope that the national charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis will help me to publish and market this book as it may be the first of it’s kind. Although the illness is fortunately rare, there are many mothers who want to be able to chat and explain this illness to their children of different ages.
If we make any additional funding through our fundraising campaigns then I would like to offer storytelling / writing workshops for children and watercolor/ calligraphy classes for adults in local Hospices. I’m also hoping to build relationships with bereavement counselors and help provide funding for them to be involved. This can only work if the sale of my first two books which are nearly finished are successful. Only time will tell. I’m sure we will find a way to provide funding to work together with families, charities and hospices.
I’ve also considered selling some of my artwork, perhaps in an auction or online and running story writing competitions. I’ve attended children’s story writing workshops, art classes and a monthly local writers group. Selling completed books on amazon and possibly finding a traditional publishing contract would be another way to raise money towards making future books incredibly affordable.
I’ve started a Tailored Yarn facebook page and more recently opened accounts on twitter and instagram to build up my social media presence. I’m making slow steady progress so any support would be very much appreciated. If anyone uses these social media channels regularly it would be great to hear from you.
It helped that I recently entered an entrepreneur competition with my local university, where I’ve been studying a masters in psychology. I only entered thinking I’ve got nothing to lose but not anticipating that my life could change overnight. Even more valuable than the prizes which included marketing consultancy, social media diagnostics and a publishing grant was the feedback from the judges who all wanted to see this business get set up and running. Up until this point I just thought that it was a nice idea but unsure if it would ever really take off. Now I’ve got the confidence to put the rest of life on hold to find out if it will.
I now have a small team of a few friends who are helping me with this project. Marketing and promotion will be based on good reviews and possibly news articles and local media publicity.
I’m interested to know what you think of this business idea. Tailored Yarn would be here to serve families in the community so I need to know how this can best be achieved.
Gillian belongs to a local group called Riverside Writers, who meet in her local library every month. When she first joined she was nervous about sharing her stories and just enjoyed listening to others. Being part of this group and participating more, over the last couple of years, has increased her confidence and developed her creativity.
When she is not looking after her children or writing books Gillian enjoys a range of interests and hobbies. Her favourite is painting with watercolour and she is keen to expand her work as an illustrator. Please see gallery page for examples of children’s illustration work. She also really enjoys playing badminton in the local league as it keeps her fit and healthy as well as being part of a very sociable club. She also enjoys regularly playing boardgames and hosting charity bake sales with her kids.