Donna works as a Learning Support Assistant at Bucks College Group, Aylesbury campus. Working with young children with additional physical needs, learning needs and difficulties, inspired Donna to help build children's resilience, self belief and mental toughness, in order for them to overcome adversity. We interviewed Donna to find out more about her book 'I Just Do It Differently' and her journey in writing and publishing it in just 2 months!
Could you give us an overview of what your book is about?
Yes certainly, it is about a little girl called Hannah who uses a wheelchair and a communication aid because she is non-verbal. She has had a bad experience in the past trying to use her walking frame, and she is scared to use it, but her lovely little pug, Pixie, encourages her throughout the book. She learns, tries, and believes in herself, that she can do it, she just does it differently.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I've wanted to be a writer for a long time. I remember when I was a little girl, about 7, writing all these fantastic stories that I vowed would be published, but obviously, when you’re 7 they’re not. For this particular book, I was inspired by students I have worked with that have additional physical needs, learning needs and difficulties. I spent a lot of my career working at the PACE centre, working with children predominantly with motor and sensory issues, I absolutely loved working there, and then at Brooker Park school, and then here. It has just always flowed with me that there’s a gap in the market for books for these special people. In September I was just having a chat with one of my students and she used to use a wheelchair when she was younger, and I pitched this idea to her, and it brought tears to her eyes and she said “Donna that would be so amazing if you could do something like that”, so I was like, right, let’s get on with it. I've even illustrated it as well.
Have you had any experience in illustrating before, or was it something new to you?
No, not at all. Since late September I have been teaching myself all these things. I have taught myself how to draw using online graphic programmes, because I could never do that, and I bought my own drawing tablet.
The adversities that people with disabilities are faced with is such an important topic, and it's not spoken about enough. Where did the idea for your book come from?
It was working with these children, and again harking back to when I worked at PACE, they were younger children, they were between 4-11 years old, and I was always struck by how happy they were all the time. They were in so much pain, many couldn’t speak, so had to communicate with their eyes and using technology, it was really humbling. I’m welling up now, I just think they are so amazing.
What have you enjoyed most about publishing a book?
Getting the message out there. I’ve not done this for money, it is my passion to get things out there for these children and their parents. Parents struggle with things to read for their children. It is a good empowering story.
Could this be the start of a new career? Are you looking to write and publish more books in the future?
Maybe not a new career because I absolutely love my job at the College, I 100% love it. With my job as learning support, I get everything I need from the role, the communication with the students, the support, banter, and all the cool things. So I absolutely love my job here, I don’t think I would ever give it up. I’m only part-time, so I’ve got a few days a week to work on my writing. I’ve got another book, not quite in the pipeline, but the ideas are building, which is likely to be about a young lad Billy, who has autism and sensory disorder.
For anyone interested in becoming a writer, what would your top tip be?
Get it on paper – you can always change it. This book has probably gone through at least 30 different processes. The very first thing is just get your ideas down, then you can move them around. I would always say, even for a childrens book, get it edited. That is the only thing I haven’t done myself, so I have sent it for professional editing. I have illustrated, uploaded, formatted and published it, and I have taught myself how to do all of that, because I didn’t have a clue!
If you would like to share Donna's message in helping children with disabilities overcome adversity, 'I Just Do It Differently' is available to purchase on Amazon.