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Meet Glenn: the author who brought his son’s favourite teddy to life with FutureLearn’s help

New Zealander, Glenn Sparrow, recently self-published his first children’s book, “Blue Ted’s Day at Home.” It tells the story of what his son’s favourite teddy gets up to when he’s left home alone – an idea inspired by an exercise in the FutureLearn course, “Start Writing Fiction.” In this guest post, Glenn explains the joy of holding a printed copy of his debut book in his hands for the first time.

The cover of "Blue Ted's Day at Home"I have always loved the written word. Kirwee, New Zealand is nowhere near Budapest, the bottom of the ocean or even Narnia. But a well written story can take me there.

In January 2010, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and on that date two completely different journeys started. The first was the journey into living with a chronic illness. The second was the journey to make myself a better person, and a big part of that is learning new skills.

A head full of ideas

2014 started with some concepts for different stories bobbing around in my head, but I had no idea where to start. “Great,” I thought. “A head full of ideas and not a clue what to do with them.” A few scribbled sentences later, I decided that I desperately needed to learn how to write properly.

I found the FutureLearn site and very quickly found the course I desired and so desperately needed – “Start Writing Fiction.” The content was brilliant, and the exercises were both challenging and achievable.

But it was the interaction with others on the course, the peer reviews and the feedback, that I learned the most from. Being on a course with like-minded people and being able to communicate with them, made me realise that I was not alone on this journey.

With the skills I learned from the course, and the confidence I gained, I threw away what I had been working on and, a bit like The Hobbit, started on an “unexpected journey.”

But this journey isn’t about swords and dragons. It’s about my son’s teddy bear, Blue Ted. But more importantly, it’s about teaching my son what happens when you believe in yourself.

Bringing Blue Ted to life

Holding a printed copy of my first book, “Blue Ted’s Day at Home,” literally brought a tear to my eye. It was the result of six months’ work – from penning the first character concept during an exercise in the course, to the choices that I had to make around paper quality, illustrations, etc. It has been a massive journey and one that I have loved.

Blue Ted has always had a big character and is my son’s favourite toy. So he was an easy choice for the original exercise, which may yet become another story. Sitting down and writing the original draft of “Blue Ted’s Day at Home” was, in hindsight, the easy bit. On the course, I learned, and was able to apply, the power of character development, editing, perspective and, did I mention, editing?

My wife and I are both amateur photographers so chose to self-illustrate. Besides, we simply didn’t have a spare $5,000. It made the decision easier for us to self-publish. Since then, I’ve lost count of the number of hours I have spent working with the designer and the printer, promoting and ultimately selling the book.

The 100 copies I’ve sold since launch, across print and Kindle, won’t pay the mortgage, but each copy sold carries its own rewards.

Believe in yourself

Everybody has dreams and our imaginations can take us on some funny journeys. From the moment I decided to self-publish the book, I had day dreamed about what to write if I was ever asked to sign a copy. I will treasure the moment I was asked until I take my last breath.

It was with a shaking hand that I nervously wrote “Believe in yourself.”

You can buy a copy of “Blue Ted’s Day at Home” now – both in print and for Kindle – or find out more about the “Start Writing Fiction” course.

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