I’m delighted to be joined by Katie O’Donoghue today who is stepping into my author spotlight to tell us about her book The Little Squirrel Who Worried. It is beautifully illustrated by the author herself, with an important and timely message. I love the story of the email which went to the wrong place ultimately resulting in the book!
Thanks for joining me Katie. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
Well, I have loved everything and anything creative since I was a child. I would have regularly been found imagining fantastical stories or making up exciting adventures for my brother and I. I think in a way that creativity has continued to stay with me throughout my life. I followed an artistic path and initially pursued and completed a degree in Fine Art and Design. I then went on to do a Masters in Art Psychotherapy and I am currently in the last stages of a PhD in Wellbeing and Heritage and University College London. I love being around animals and animals in general have regularly inspired my art practice. I myself have two cats, Buzz and Bobby and the dream would be to one day have a small farm with an array of rescue animals at the family home.
What inspired you to start writing?
I was inspired to create the story of Little Squirrel while working for CAMHS in the NHS last year. At the time I was facilitating a supportive parent group for parents whose children had been referred to the service for difficulties with anxiety. Interwoven through the story are the coping skills and strategies I was sharing with parents. It was October 2020, I was missing family and friends at home in Ireland and I actually began the story with the illustration of the Little Squirrel. I found creating the art, native woodland animals, a way to connect with home. As I painted, I began to feel the characters come into their own and decided I would write a story alongside the illustrations. It became an activity for my own wellbeing and the story inspired the next illustration and so on and so on. It really was such an enjoyable process and it brought me much comfort during challenging times.
Tell me about your journey to publication
Late one evening I was sending off my story to a family member via email, on checking the sent box I realised that I had sent it to the wrong address. Initially I was a bit worried about who my script would end up with but then as I had no plans to send it to a publisher I put the thought out of my mind. To my surprise and delight there in my inbox the next day was this reply
I think you sent this to the wrong e-mail address. However, I couldn’t resist reading the attachment to my 6 year old son. He suffers from anxiety and we have read all the books and work with a therapist to address it. I have to say, it was just a beautiful piece and a nice way of refreshing him on all the skill sets he’s learned to address his worry. He re-enacted the badger’s instructions to get cozy and breathe. His final words as he was falling asleep tonight were “That’s a really good bedtime story” – I’ve never heard him say that ever. When you get it published, please reach out to me so I can buy a dozen copies.
All my best and thanks for making the world better (because the book really does),
This serendipitous exchange was the push I needed to take the leap of faith and submit my manuscript to publishers.
In a nutshell, what is your book about?
Little Squirrel hasn’t left his nest since last autumn. He needs to gather nuts for the long winter to come but he’s too worried to leave his cosy nest. Luckily, Little Squirrel has lots of friends in the forest, from Wren to Snuffly Hedgehog, Grey Rabbit to Mister Fox, Old Badger to Great Stag. Will their encouragement and words of advice be enough to help Little Squirrel to venture out? This has been a very difficult year for many. Through the story of Little Squirrel and his adventures in the forest, readers young and old come to learn coping techniques and to realise that, although we all feel worried sometimes, we don’t have to face those worries alone.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
I am currently playing around with an idea for a slightly older age group (eight and upwards) but nothing concrete as yet.
What are you reading just now?
I really enjoy reading children’s and middle grade books, I’ve just finished reading Fledgling by Lucy Hope.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
People can connect with me on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/katieodonoghue_art/?hl=en
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
Such an interesting question, to be honest I think I might be a little of all the characters we meet in The Little Squirrel Who Worried, there have definitely been times that I have felt worried and times where I have been the one to support others. I think readers may just find that different aspects of the character resonate with them, as Grey Rabbit says ‘I have been scared and worried, but I learned that everyone worries and you won’t always feel this way.’
The Little Squirrel Who Worried is available to buy or order from all good bookshops now. Or you can order a copy online here: The Little Squirrel Who Worried