Sarah Parkinson, Author and Illustrator

Creator of the Amazon best-selling children’s picture book series ‘The Tales of Willow Park’

I planned to pour my passion for creativity into a career in art direction, but it was tough finding a steady job after graduating from university. When the 2008 recession hit, creatives were the first to be axed. I felt lost in a world where we seemed so dispensable!

I went back into retail management before making a series of strategic sidesteps – firstly into retail recruitment and then into a marketing role at a recruitment agency. My plan was to gain experience and grow with the business; then I got pregnant with my daughter Meg.

Just before I was due to return from maternity leave, the offer of a part-time role was taken off the table. I was absolutely distraught! The only job I could see myself getting was shift work on wages that would barely cover childcare, with our families living 90 minutes away.

‘You’re a creative person, think creatively!’ I challenged myself. The goal was to generate an income whilst being at home with Meg. I’d toyed with the idea of illustrating a children’s book and began looking into self-publishing. Meeting Sue Miller from Team Author UK gave me the push I needed to move things along quicker.

My first book, ‘The Shoe Foxes’, was inspired by a walk in the park and a window display of sparkly shoes! I painted all the images by hand and whilst I never thought of myself as a rhymer, it turns out I am! My perfectionist traits made me stick with it until I found the perfect couplets. I learned Photoshop working in advertising, so I do much of the page formatting myself.

The book launched last November, and I’ve since followed up with ‘Dragonfly Pie’. (My husband’s fascinating zoology facts inspire my work as an author – bringing our two worlds together.)

I’m so thrilled that both titles are Amazon best-sellers and so encouraged by other female authors I’ve met along the way who have taken their success international. Going forward, I plan to expand my ‘Willow Park’ series; capitalise on seasonal launches; and become a visiting author in schools.

I’ve designed a life with complete creative control and the freedom to choose when to work.

Sarah Parkinson