‘Shaking Hands with Michael Rooney’ – how self publishing helped launch Tom Palmer’s writing career

I was flicking through Twitter yesterday, putting off knuckling down to writing as you do, when I came across a tweet from a children’s author announcing a short video he’d made showing children how to write.

So I watched it, interested to see, with my ‘writer’s marketing’ eye, how he was engaging with his target readers by sharing his craft.

But I also watched because I ‘virtually’ know the guy – Tom Palmer – in the way we’ve come to know people in this digital age.  I’ve communicated with him by email a couple of times over the years, beginning way back in 2009 when I contacted him as part of an assignment for my Creative Writing Masters’ degree.

Our tutor had asked us to pick a book we liked and write an essay about it’s journey to publication.  As a primary teacher, choosing a children’s text was a no-brainer, I guess.  But I chose this particular one because I’d bought it for my then-seven-year-old son and he’d really liked it.

To my dismay, reading wasn’t his natural pastime, but he was passionate about football – very passionate indeed.  So, keen to encourage him to pick up a book, I’d searched bookshops and trawled the internet to find children’s stories about the sport.  There seemed to be loads for older juniors, but none for a younger age group.

Until I found Tom’s book, that is – ‘Shaking Hands with Michael Rooney‘.  A simple story, well told and – apart from the inclusion of a premier league football star – one that a boy of 7 could identify with.  The son enjoyed it, my concerns about his disinterest in reading were temporarily soothed, and the book remained on our shelves, to be picked up and poured over when I came to do my assignment.

I emailed Tom with some questions about the book and to my surprise, he asked – for time-saving purposes – if we could chat by phone instead.  Which is what we did, one overcast winter afternoon, with me parked anxiously at my dining table, armed with an ancient disk recorder borrowed from an historian I know.

Tom’s a busy man and, I was touched to learn, had to phone me from the bedside of a relative in hospital in order to find time to chat.  He was as generous in sharing his story as he was with his time, and I came away from the experience with an assignment that earned me a decent mark and a newly-acquired understanding that having an ordinary, everyday job wasn’t a bar to me becoming a full-time writer.  That my day job might provide me with a way into writing, even, just as Tom’s job had for him.  Which lead me to do some sideways thinking, afterwards, and has to some extent proved to be true.

I contacted Tom again a few years later, when he (once again) very generously gave me a couple of quotes on writing for children for the online course I’d been commissioned to write.  And in between, I’ve said the phrase ‘I know Tom Palmer’ to several classes I’ve worked with and it’s brought me quite a lot of kudos, with sport-loving juniors in particular.

Tom’s videos on writing are great and are a wonderful classroom resource – you can find them here.

You can read the recount of our interview here.

Tom Palmer

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