Phil Barnes is an imaginative dreamer who loves to write children’s books, short stories and poetry. Reading is a big part of his life and the inspiration for the My Teacher Series of books came from reading to his own children and My Teachers a Robot! and My Teachers a Spy! were born.
Phil has written and published his books whilst working a full-time job in a Plumbers Merchant, writing during his lunch breaks and he hopes to make his creative career full time soon.
He was worked hard over the last three years visiting schools and libraries for free, reading to children and inspiring them.
Phil hopes children and adults enjoy his books as much as he loves writing them, and his aim is to write more in order to keep the series going.
How did you pursue and achieve your current creative job?
After writing My Teachers a Robot! I sent it to lots of agents and publishers but the path to being published is not an easy one- not that I expected it to be… After a disappointing five or six months I decided to wait as fate often intervenes and one day at work I was browsing the internet to make sure no-one had written my second book idea, My Teachers a Spy! which they hadn’t and that’s when I came across Austin Macauley Publishers. I sent them a copy, they loved my book and offered me a contract and that was the start of my publishing journey. I haven’t been able to quit the day job just yet but I still write and live in hope that one day I will be writing full time and that My Teacher Series will reach a bigger audience.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a creative?
The biggest challenges I have faced are firstly trying to get noticed in a very busy and competitive industry and it’s hard to compete with established authors and celebrities. I have completed twenty school visits, twenty five library visits, books signings in local independent book shops and I’ve also featured in the local press regularly but getting national exposure is difficult. The other challenge is finding time to write when you have a full-time job with a wife and two children. I have so many ideas just not enough time to write them. I drive my wife mad waking up at all times of the night so I can scribble ideas down in my notepad!
How do you deal with the inevitable ups and downs of leading a creative life, constantly pushing your art out into the world?
Ups and downs are very much part of an aspiring author’s life. The ups are getting published and receiving positive reviews but the downs are tough.I have done library visits where no-one has turned up and I went home with every book still in the box which feels very disheartening but you have to put it all down to experience and must not stop.
Can you share any tips for building confidence?
I have found school visits a real confidence builder, reading to hundreds of children as they sit in silence totally engrossed, then answering their questions afterwards. I have found reading to my family, friends and work colleagues also helps with confidence building too.
What are your career highlights to date?
Apart from having two books published I have been on BBC Radio Gloucestershire twice and I’ve featured in the the local press a few times too but linking up with the Motor Neuron Disease Association to donate a percentage of every book sold of My Teachers a Spy! is a real privilege. The MND Association is close to our family, as my brother-in-law Jeff died from MND in December 2014. My Teacher’s a Spy! is dedicated to Jeff and I would dearly love to see the book become more successful so the charity can benefit from more donations to help in their fight against MND.
Who inspires you?
My family inspire me as their love and support has been invaluable to me. In professional terms, I admire Conn Iggeldun, Derek Landy and J K Rowling who are literary heroes of mine.
What’s the greatest advice you’ve been given?
Don’t give up, keep writing and keep dreaming, your time will come!
What are your hopes and aspirations for the future?
I really hope that I get to write more, the My Teacher Series is two books in with two more ready to go and over twenty ideas yet to be written but until the first two have more success, no more will be published. I would love to see the series thrive. I know I won’t see Harry Potter style success but just a little bit of that would be amazing. I would also like to write more Poetry and Short Stories. Poetry allows me to express my creative feelings and short stories challenge me like no other medium.
Success for me is the acceptance of your work. Art is subjective and finding your place can be difficult. If I ever get to write full time I will feel privileged but until then I will continue to enjoy writing children’s books while also performing at Spoken Word Poetry nights to increase my confidence. So long as people enjoy what I create, I won’t stop.