When I heard I’d been selected for the April 2019 BookDash in Stellenbosch, I was elated. (I didn’t make the cut in 2018, so getting chosen was wonderful news.) BookDash, in case you don’t know, is an event where a bunch of creatives are locked in a room for 12 hours – yes, 12 hours – to come up with free books for kids who can’t afford them. Isn’t that a great idea? (You can check out the book that I wrote, Baby Babble, here.)

Well, I thought so when I applied for BookDash, but as the day drew nearer, I felt more and more apprehensive. I was giving up my whole Saturday with a bunch of people I barely knew. And I’d done most of the work up front (the words for the book had already been submitted), so what was I going to do on the day?

Our team: Nicola Rijsdijk, me, Sarah Slater and Nicola Smith

Thankfully, my editor friend Nicola Rijsdijk reminded me how much fun BookDashes are. The creativity, the vibe, the free-flowing yummy food and drinks. Mary-Anne Hampton, an illustrator to whom I gave a lift, reassured me too. “Oh, writers have it easy,” she said. “We illustrators are the ones who do the hard work. All you have to do is swan around and eat croissants.”

Oh, I thought. Is that all? I can do that. But I’d brought my laptop with me, so I decided to make the most of the opportunity and blog about it all the same. (By the way, I did not just eat and network. I did do some work – a little.)

We started off by meeting all the other writers and editors and being briefed by Arthur Attwell, the founder of BookDash. He gave us some pointers about how to let your story go and allow the illustrator to take the lead. A few hours later we gathered to hear each others’ stories. I loved how each story was so unique and so specifically crafted to delight toddlers. (This particular BookDash was aimed at 0- to 2-year-olds.)

The day’s not done yet. My hard-working illustrator (Nicola Smith) and industrious designer Sarah Slater are still putting the finishing touches to the illustrations, but my work is basically over. As I write, the wine is being served and the festive feeling is building. The time went a lot quicker than I thought it would.

Nicola Rijsdijk was right – it was fun. I’m glad I did it. And I hope all those who read the books – kids and adults alike – enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed creating them.