Tiny Dogs by Rose Lihou

Customer story: How BBC Maestro’s courses helped me land a 3-book publishing deal and become a full-time children’s author

By BBC Maestro

Meet Rose Lihou, who took Julia Donaldson’s course, Writing Children’s Picture Books and David Walliams’ course on Writing Books for Children. Since her BBC Maestro journey began, Rose has become a debut author-illustrator of her three-part series Tiny Dogs.

We caught up with Rose to talk a little bit about her path to success. Let’s take a look at some of her learnings and advice for aspiring writers just like her.

Rose Lihou with her published book series Tiny Dogs

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m Rose. I’m a mum of two, and I live in Winchester, UK. Before I took the BBC Maestro courses in 2022, I was working as a freelance designer and illustrator.

I also owned a small business creating and supplying nursery artwork to shops and had previously worked as a children’s book designer, so I had a really strong sense that I wanted to create products for children, especially in children’s publishing.

I’d never written before, but I’m an avid reader, so combined with my design experience, I felt I had some background knowledge.

I didn’t go to university but have taken art and design courses at home when my kids were little, which were really useful, so when I saw an advert pop up with Julia Donaldson on how to write for children, I was immediately very interested.

Illustrations by Rose Lihou
 © Rose Lihou, 2024 Tiny Dogs

Did you ever imagine you’d become a writer?

I had always had a sense that writing was something I would like to try and learn in the future, but when I saw the Julia Donaldson BBC Maestro course, it looked so relevant. With such a leading expert, it made me think I should make time and do this now.

I also remember thinking that, at the very least, even if my skills didn’t improve, listening to Julia Donaldson talk about her process would be really interesting.

How did Julia Donaldson’s course influence your creative process?

I remember being super organised and following the lesson plan with printouts, but when I got to the class on finding inspiration, it unlocked the idea for my Tiny Dogs series, and I just wanted to go off and brainstorm that instead of finishing the rest of the lessons!

I let myself do a bit of planning and sketching but then put it to one side while I finished the rest of the course. I told myself that if I still thought it was a good idea later on, then I could reward myself by working on it.

Luckily, the rest of the lessons were also really useful, and I still felt as though the idea was good, so it was a joy to build on and create a proper story from it. It’s ended up a series, so it’s been three stories so far.

Illustrations by Rose Lihou
 © Rose Lihou, 2024 Tiny Dogs

You also took David Walliams’ course – how did taking the two courses help you develop as a writer?

I found that the Julia Donaldson course was exactly what I needed when it came to formulating ideas, testing them out and understanding what it is the child and reader really want from a story, and the David Walliams course was really helpful in showing me how to take those ideas and actually write them out on the page. I think the two courses work well together.

Were there any particular pieces of advice they gave that stuck?

It’s hard to pick one particular thing because all of Julia Donaldson’s advice was so helpful, but probably hearing her talk about blending traditional and existing stories together to create something brand new. Also, her practical advice about word sounds and language patterns was brilliant – it made me see just how much writing for children is so thoroughly and thoughtfully considered and created.

Probably the most helpful piece of advice from David Walliams is when he said starting to write is easy because you don’t need a qualification – it’s not like being a teacher or a doctor, you can just pick up a pen and you’re allowed to start writing. I found that empowering. Also his practical advice about how he imagines scenes playing out in his head like a movie and then writes from what he can visualise really helped me get going with the story.

Illustratuon by Rose Lihou
 © Rose Lihou, 2024 Tiny Dogs

How was the publishing experience for you?

After I finished the courses, it was time to write (and rewrite) my story and put together a query for literary agents. It was nerve-wracking, but I felt like my pitch was strong as a result of the courses, and I was lucky enough to be offered representation quickly. Then, when it went out on submission to publishers, it ended up in a five-way auction, so it was brilliant to know at that stage that the concept was strong and landed with people in the industry. Since then, I’ve been working as an author and illustrator full-time.

Suddenly, I had 5 different publishers fighting over signing me for a book deal.

Rose Lihou

What piece of advice would you give those who have started their writing journey but may not have gotten far with it yet?

My advice would be to:

1. Find the pace that suits you – it’s definitely a marathon and not a race.

2. Keep going, keep searching and keep refining. You will find your story, and that’s when the fun begins.

Tiny Dogs - Rose Lihou
 © Rose Lihou, 2024 Tiny Dogs

What made you choose BBC Maestro? 

It was the calibre of the teachers that made me choose BBC Maestro, combined with the timing being right for me to focus on learning something new.

It’s really incredible to be able to learn directly from such legendary children’s authors – their lessons were like gold dust. I’ve written three books now, but would definitely revisit the content to brush up on my knowledge.

So, what’s next?

The Tiny Dogs series will be published by Puffin. The first Tiny Dogs: Bea’s Secret Friends on 18th April, a second title Tiny Dogs: The Lost School Pet, following in July 2024 and a third title in the series Tiny Dogs: The Birthday Party will be published in February 2025.

Rose Lihou's picture books

Inspired by Rose’s story? 

If you're interested in writing a children's picture book, take a look at Julia Donaldson’s course, where she taps into everything from structuring your story and collaborating with illustrators to getting your final story published.

Give the gift of knowledge

Surprise a special someone with a year's access to BBC Maestro or gift them a single course.

Thanks for signing up to receive your free lessons

Check your inbox - they’re on the way!

Oops! Something went wrong

Please try again later

Get started with free lessons

Unlock your passion, sign up today