Lighthouse Success Story: Joanne O’Connell

We caught up with Joanne O’Connell, author of Beauty and the Bin, to ask her all about her journey to publication … and to get a few tips on becoming a children’s writer.

Hi Joanne! Tell us a little about your book, and how you came to write it?

Beauty and the Bin
Sarah Stewart holding a copy of Beauty and the Bin

Beauty and the Bin is about that awkward tug between friends and family when you’re young.

The main character is a girl called Laurie Larksie. She comes from a warm, loving family but they’re very full-on about making the world a better place.

They even eat discarded food from bins. Laurie shares their values, but she just wants to go for a hot chocolate with her friends and be a normal kid.

It all gets tricky when Laurie enters an entrepreneur competition with her homemade beauty products – and teams up with the most popular girl in school. The story is about how she finds a way to be successful without losing sight of her true self.

What brought you to the Lighthouse, and how did the Lighthouse experience help you?

I wanted my story to be the best it could be, so I started looking for a professional editor who would know exactly where it could be improved.

When I read about the Lighthouse, I was impressed by the editorial credentials of Sarah Stewart and Cat Clarke.

I then realised I knew the Elspeth Hart books by Sarah because my own daughters absolutely loved them.

So, I thought: this is the place! And I was right.

I really benefitted from the detailed feedback Sarah gave me on my manuscript. And not only that but her encouraging response to the story gave me a confidence boost when I really needed it. So grateful for that!

What’s been the biggest surprise in your journey to publication?

When I finally had the courage to send off my manuscript, I was incredibly lucky that it landed on the desks of the right agent and then, the right editor for this book. I had expected the process to either take ages or to never even happen.

But it actually happened super quickly. I was signed by my dream agent, Claire Wilson of RCW, and she’s so awesome that very suddenly, I was offered a two-book deal with Macmillan Children’s Books.

I also loved the editorial process of getting the book to print. Lucy Pearse was the perfect editor for this book (she’s since gone to Simon & Schuster but fortunately, my new editor, Simran Sandhu, who is editing my next book, is absolutely brilliant too).

What did you do to celebrate when you got your agent and deal?

Got up very early in the morning, and drove to the coast with my husband, daughters, and our dog, for a paddle in the sea and a celebratory breakfast picnic on the beach.

What three tips would you give someone who is just starting out on their journey as an author?

  1. Read lots – everyone says it but it’s true.
  2. Try not to see publication as the endgame. It helped me to think of finishing that first draft as the endgame.
  3. Enjoy the writing as much as you can. I knew how competitive the publishing world was, so I wanted to have fun writing my story. That meant that even if no one else ever read the words, it would still have been a good experience.

Thanks so much to Joanne for answering our questions! You can find her on Twitter @byesupermarkets.

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About Sarah Stewart

Sarah Stewart is a Director at Lighthouse Literary. She was previously Fiction Editor at Scholastic Children's Books and a Senior Editor at Floris Books, and she writes the Elspeth Hart series, published by Stripes.