We moved to Hersham, Surrey in January 2013 from Greenwich in South East London, where the cars passed the end of our road 24-hours a day and I felt as if I hadn’t slept properly for five years.
My photography business was in its infancy and I was working full time as a Group Publicity Manager in Hammersmith. At that time, the drive into work was great – especially as I would quite often work long hours, starting early and finishing late so I missed all of the traffic.
And then in August 2014 everything changed.
Our son J was born and I realised very quickly how foolish I had been to assume that I would want to return to work full-time just nine months later. Thankfully my photography business was starting to go from strength to strength and it enabled me to stretch my maternity leave out to a full 12 months.
During this time off, I used to make the most of the area by running as much as I could. I was also in need of losing lots of baby weight, so it was a win-win to get me out of the house and stay fit at the same time.
During one of my many runs (there was a lot of weight to lose) I thought about what had happened at the swimming pool earlier that week. After his lesson, I was getting J changed and there was a little girl around the same age (four months or so) who was crying uncontrollably. Nothing her mum said or did would comfort her.
That lunchtime whilst J napped, I went to my laptop and I wrote a story about a little boy who liked to spread happiness through small acts of kindness. His name was not surprisingly, James.
J was just lying there kicking about and smiling. Then all of a sudden he looked at the little girl, reached out to her, and held her hand. He then followed it up with a very wide toothless grin. The little girl immediately fell silent – looked at J and then she too smiled back. To say that her mum was grateful was an understatement, but on my run that day, what struck me was the impact J had managed to have on someone else, with the power of his smile.
I’d always intended to use the time of my maternity leave to write a book. It’s what I’d always wanted to do and why I’d originally trained as a journalist, but life had somehow always got in the way. My plan though had been to write a fictional one, so it came as a bit of a surprise that I’d written a children’s picture book instead.
On returning to work full-time, it became apparent very quickly that I was miserable. I missed being with J – and was struggling with the transition of going back to the office. The traffic on the A3 was horrendous too, now that I was governed by nursery pick up times.
It was during this time as I sought solace in my photography business, that I met a business coach online. We talked about everything and anything and as part of one of these sessions she asked me, “Why do we keep coming back to the writing?”
The answer came, “Well I’ve written a book.” And after asking me what I was doing about it, I realised I owed it to myself and J to get it off the laptop and into print.
That is the background to how my debut children’s picture book James and the Amazing Gift, came about.
As part of the re-drafting process I decided that I wanted to also pay it forward and help others, which is why it made sense for me to team up with the wonderful charity Contact the Elderly so that £1 from every copy sold would go to them.
With my PR /Communications hat on – I successfully managed to become a Huffington Post blogger, secure coverage in Woman and Home magazine, Female First and in the Daily Mirror and stage a VIP launch in central London. Locally I was featured in the Surrey Advertiser, on BBC Surrey and BBC Sussex and Brooklands Radio.
And as the success of the book grew, more and more people asked me about what I was doing next.
I knew that I already had a formula that worked with James at the heart of any story so it made sense to have another James and the story. Now I just had to find a way to enable me to take the next book to a different level.
That is when I came up with the idea of having a well-known personality narrate an audiobook for me. Because the story looks at children being scared of going to
So for every copy of James and the Birthday Balloon sold, Evelina London Children’s Hospital will receive a £1 donation. And best of all – the paperback contains the free audiobook narrated by Dr Ranj.
Since the book came out it has gone on to win the Red Ribbon Prize in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards as well as being named Children’s Book of the Year 2017 by the Online Book Club.
And my reason for doing all of this?
It’s never wavered. I just want to be the best mum that I can be and for J to grow up knowing that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.
Nicola J Rowley will be visiting schools in and around Hersham throughout the year, but particularly around World Book Day in March. If you would like Nicola to visit your child’s school please contact her HERE
James and the Birthday Balloon is available to buy online at Amazon UK