Of Words and Wool - a labour of love
A labour of moles is the collective noun for a group of moles, and nothing could fit the description more aptly than the labour of love that went into creating MacMoley.
I wrote a story years ago, that although won an award and got some positive attention from a panel of agents and publishers at The Ripley-Grier Studios in New York, sadly didn’t get picked up. This is often the case with children’s stories because some are good enough but not of interest at the time or a similar topic has been done before. Some are simply not good enough. As a writer, you learn to accept the rejections and move on, and I have learned to do this successfully; except for ‘MacMoley moves home.’
I have a soft spot for this story, as it was one of the first stories that I wrote that I was pleased with. Others told me they also loved this poignant tale, that shows one determined little mole, there really is no place quite like home.
So, because this little character would not leave my thoughts, I decided to go ahead and publish him myself, and I had an idea…
I found an illustrator called Jane Cornwell, who had done a great job with 'Walter's Wonky Web'. I sent her the manuscript and asked her if she would like to illustrate MacMoley for me too? She was delighted and funnily enough, she fell in love with this character because her nickname was ‘Mole’ as a child. She has a fondness of moles that goes way back. Luckily, she very much enjoyed the story too!
Before I started the process of illustration notes, I had another idea. I often work backwards, starting out with an end-product or idea in mind, and mapping out all the other stages that need to happen in order until the project is complete. So, I contacted Liz Gaffney who is a felt maker, spinner, weaver, and makes the wonderful Book Cover Bears at her studio at Dalmally Station, in Argyllshire. www.bookcoverbears.com
I explained to Liz about MacMoley and sent her the manuscript and asked her if she’d like to design a hand felted ‘MacMoley Collectible’ that would only be available to buy from her via www.heartfeltbyliz.com and from her gorgeous studio. I was delighted and excited when she said YES!
I love the idea of MacMoley being designed and made in Scotland, from sustainable and ethically sourced materials. Each one will be handmade from natural wool and unique. Luckily, Liz is tickled pink about being the lead designer of the main character of a children’s book. She quickly sourced the realistic colours of wool; the correct colour of monocle and cord and many discussions were had about the importance of his name tag. We even had an enthusiastic Zoom meeting at 11pm about position of said name tag!
I only proposed this idea during Christmas time (2021) and a few short weeks later, MacMoley was born. The first ever MacMoley Collectables were made and posted, one for the illustrator and one for me. MacMoley comes in his own box along with some woolly earth bedding. No plastic and all very natural. Doesn’t he look splendid?
The next stage was for Jane to illustrate the book around the actual ‘MacMoley Collectable’ - a wonderfully unusual way to do things, and what a great job she has done.
This has indeed been a labour of love as well as a lovely labour of moles, and I’ve decided to continue to support charities through sales of my children’s books.
Since writing for children in 2013, I have donated funds to St Thomas Community Health Service in New Orleans, www.stthomaschc.org with my first book ‘Later Tartan Gator’. 100% of all proceeds go to www.whiteleysretreat.com with ‘Whit of Whiteleys Wood’ published in 2019. A special edition of ‘Later Tartan Gator’ was re-written and published in 2020 with £1 for each book sold going to Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance – www.scaa.org.uk so it seemed fitting that I chose a charity that is also close to my heart and a great fit for the storyline.
With the other characters of the story including shrews, a fox, a crabbit rabbit, a vole and of course some little critters along the way, I am delighted that The Scottish Wildlife Trust also love the story of ‘MacMoley moves home’ and £1 for each book sale will be donated to the charity, now and always.
‘MacMoley moves home’ is the product of hope and happier things to come. With some resilience and creativity, it’s an example of writing a happier ending, when the stories of real life are a bit too much these days.
I hope you love MacMoley as much as I do. He’s been to New York and back again. Now its time he came out of the dark and arrived in his new home, in Scotland and hopefully in your hearts too.