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Ex St Thomas of Canterbury Pupil Publishes Book

Read the story of how Jenna Rebecca Harrington became an author........


I attended St Thomas primary school in Grays from 1990-1996. While I was at primary school my favourite subject was English and I loved writing stories, poems and plays. I kept writing stories about witches, fairies, talking animals and evil queens all the way through primary school. When I was in year seven at Grays Convent, I won a poetry competition for Essex, which was very exciting. I continued to write and I daydreamed all the time.


By the time I went to university, I still didn't know what I wanted to do, but I worked hard and daydreamed about magical worlds and funny stories. During my summers I went to California in America and nannied for a lovely family who had three children, the oldest of whom was called Katie.


I'd always dreamt of working in Disney World, in Florida, the most magical place on earth. It was the closest thing I could imagine to being in a real fairytale, so after I finished university I went to live in Florida for a year and worked in EPCOT, in Disney World. It was a fun year and I met so many amazing people from all around the world. I had to wear a rather funny outfit that looked like something people wore two hundred years ago, and I got to know Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland quite well.


When I came home, I went to work at Palmers College as a teacher in the Health and Social Care department. I really liked teaching but it was very hard work (so be nice to your teachers and always do your homework on time), and I still enjoyed writing stories for children and teenagers. 

After two and a half years, I went back to university to study a Masters in Creative and Professional Writing. While I studied I worked in a children's bookshop, which was a wonderful way to learn all about the industry. It was while I was working there and studying that I remembered something Katie had said when I was nannying. When she was three, Katie used to say, "When I grow up, I'm going to have two dogs, a cat and a zebra." Yes, you read that right, she wanted to have a zebra. Everybody knows you can't have a zebra as a pet, but Katie wanted one anyway. Her words started flying around in my head and they began to form a story.


I then started work at Scholastic Children's Books in the clubs and fairs teams who buy the books that go into your school, and after that I went to work for Little Tiger Press in the sales team. While I was at Little Tiger Press, I thought about Katie and her zebra again so I wrote down a rough script spent some time editing it and making it better. When I thought it was ready, I asked the editor at Little Tiger Press for some advice on how I should go about submitting it to agents and publishers. She had a read, but instead of giving me advice, she said they would publish it themselves as they really liked Katie and the story. I was so pleased and felt very lucky that they liked it enough to publish. 


I now work back at Scholastic Children's Books, but in the sales department of the publishing division. It's been just over a year since I submitted the manuscript for Katie McGinty Wants a Pet. Little Tiger Press asked me to make a few tweaks here and there, and they sent me the artwork when it was submitted by the illustrator so that I could see it as it progressed. Now it's all finished and it'll be in shops from the 13th August 2015. It seems quite strange and a little unreal. I sometimes wonder if I need to pinch myself in case I'm dreaming and I'm not really going to be a published author. I can't wait to see it in shops and I really hope children liked it. 


Jenna's book, 'Katie McGinty Wants a Pet' will be available from 13th August 2015.