Gareth Peter Dicks is a Nottingham based author who was selected for the 2018 Penguin Write Now mentoring programe (supported by Writing East Midlands), which sought out new voices from under-represented groups in publishing. We are happy to say that Gareth’s work has now been picked up by Penguin Random House and his book My Daddies! will be published in 2020.
Gareth lives in Nottingham with his partner, two huskies and two beautiful adopted children. He loves stories, castles, roller-coasters and baking…and hopes to one day write a book based on all four.
Firstly, tell us a little bit about the book. What’s it about? Who is it for?
Here is an extract from the press release…
“My Daddies! follows a day in the life of a book-loving family – two gay dads and their adopted daughter – as they go on a roller-coaster-ride of story-themed adventures. It’s a brilliant, rhyming, read-aloud text: funny, heartfelt and totally relatable – brought to life by bestselling, award-winning illustrator Garry Parsons.”
It doesn’t quite feel real to read this, because it’s something I wrote! But, at its heart, the book is about love, parenting and the joy of books themselves. Even though it features a same sex couple, the book will appeal to all little ones. It shows a diverse family, but speaks to every little adventurer.
What were your favourite books growing up?
As a kid, I loved books. I had lots of fairy tales and poetry anthologies, but the stories that completely connected with me, were the Harry Potter series. Magic, drama and feelings all wrapped into one. They were a game changer and sparked my interested to write things other than for the theatre.
You are being published by Penguin, and were part of the Write Now programme. Can you help us to demystify the process of publication at all? What were the steps?
It’s a brilliant scheme, but it took a while to ‘win’ my place. I heard about applications, through WEM, and waited for the very last minute to apply. Mainly because I felt I wasn’t worthy and they were… Penguin. I then waited a few weeks before finding out I had been selected to come to the first Nottingham workshop. There were 150 of us, drawn from nearly 2000 applicants. I had an editor 1-2-1 and we talked about my submitted texts. It was great and I met my current editor, Joe. His feedback was positive, but I got a feeling that my journey was going to end there, as I didn’t feel he connected fully with those texts. So, I was surprised to find out I was shortlisted down to 44 writers. Eeeeek. I was very happy and we had a mini conference-call to discuss my work and future. I felt positive again, but was still unsure if my stories were what they wanted.
And then came the waiting game… until… I got the email saying I had made the cut. Two months later all ten of us (and one illustrator) had a London meet up and began our mentoring journey. It lasts for a year, but I have a feeling we will work together for a while yet. I feel I have a great connection with Joe and enjoy working on our projects. Watch this space.
What has it been like to work with an editor and an agent?
Amazing, thrilling and humbling. The fact that others are taking time to develop me and my texts is fantastic. We shape them together, improve them as a team and bounce ideas off each other. I come from a theatre background and so I understand collaborating, and that is exactly what we are doing. My ideas, stories and words are taken to new levels of ‘polished’ and then if they get sold… it’s a very humbling and exciting feeling. You should always listen to your agents and editors as they know what they are talking about and have extensive knowledge of the market. At the end of the day, books are acquired as a business transaction… to make money, so they have to be sure they will have longevity and sales.
Write Now is about getting new voices onto the shelves of bookshops, from under-represented backgrounds. Do you see a sea change in attitudes towards diverse writers?
I do, and I find it thrilling. The scheme is open to a plethora of different people, all who have unique stories and voices and the fact that these are now being heard and released, is amazing… and necessary. Society is a patchwork of people and now the publishing world is catching up and allowing this to happen.
Now you are getting into print. What are the challenges facing you as a writer? Have they changed?
Once you have climbed the mountain to get your first book published, it is not uncommon to worry about your future career. I worry about making sure I can produce texts that will be acquired. I worry that once the book is released, that it won’t sell. I worry that I won’t be about to write stories that are as good as my others. Being a writer is not an easy career. It’s so fulfilling to be able to do something you love doing and kind of like a dream. Fingers crossed I can keep it up. But patience is a skill that I am learning…quickly. Decisions about taking a book take quite a while, as there are so many people that need to have a say. So there is a lot of waiting and not knowing. It’s a fun challenge.
Writing East Midlands is turning 10 this year. Has WEM played a part in your writer’s journey?
Absolutely. If it wasn’t for the Picture Book course that WEM ran (with Johnathan Emmett), I may not have started writing them at all. It completely changed my direction and focus for writing. This genre of books always spoke to me, but It wasn’t until the course that I felt I could have a go at penning them… and now I have written them solidly ever since. So, yes WEM is extremely important to me… Happy Birthday!