Over the summer, I wrote, illustrated, crowdfunded and self-published a children’s story book about refugees called Go Back To Where You Came From! which is now being sold in aid of the refugee movement. The book was born out of the EU referendum and the horrific rise in race hate crime. I worked compulsively, producing two illustrations per day and completing the entire manuscript in a matter of weeks. I was horrified by the morphing political landscape and the appalling reports of violence and abuse targeted at foreigners, migrants and refugees. I wanted to do something to change the world or at least contribute a small effort to reversing this trend of hate, intolerance and narrow-mindedness.
The book aims to teach compassion and addresses diversity in the widest possible sense, featuring LGBT+ and multi-racial characters. It tells the plight of a refugee using animal characters (the central character Alba White Wolf is based on my White German Shepherd). I hope to get copies into primary schools across the country and reach children from backgrounds where xenophobia and racism are accepted norms. I believe through education we can begin to shift cultural attitudes to make a happier, stronger and more supportive global community.
Although I had a clear plan of the plot in my head, the illustrations came before the text. Drawing is a creative process and many elements of the story developed from the illustrations that I was creating. I posted the images on Facebook and was flattered to receive incredibly positive feedback. Friends loved the pictures and couldn’t wait to see more, which spurred me on.
Once the manuscript was complete I submitted it to every children’s publisher that was accepting unsolicited manuscripts. I spent days arduously complying to their unique and extensive submission requirements and justifying why my book deserved to be published. Then came the excruciating part – waiting for my work to be judged and ultimately rejected, if I received a reply at all.
However, after receiving continued support on social media I decided to take matters into my own hands. Strangers were messaging me to ask when they could buy a copy, so I decided to attempt self-publishing. I got some quotes from online printers and I launched a Crowdfunder. The response I had was incredible and I quickly established a community of backers from posting on social media. The Sheffield Star mentioned the book in an article after Alba and I marched alongside Eddie Izzard and went on stage at the March4Europe.
I was also interviewed by BBC Radio Sheffield and the Sky Islam TV Channel about the Crowdfunder project. I received an influx of pledges when Crowdfunder listed me in their top five projects, eventually raising £2, 250, which was enough to print 1,000 copies.
Formatting the layout myself was a challenge and made use of the Adobe InDesign skills I have developed through my university coursework. But all the effort was repaid when I found 16 boxes of books in next-door’s backyard (alongside a very disgruntled neighbour)! I am now devoting my evenings to signing and packaging up books; I’ve sold 300 so far on Ebay and Nick Clegg has promised to get some copies into local libraries.
To purchase a copy of Go Back To Where You Came From! visit Madeleina’s website at albawhitewolf.com.