Hey cHEwY gum gums

Happy 5th Book Birthday to Stuff Happens: Ethan. This junior-fiction book came out in 2015, and it holds a special place in my heart. This book was a lifeline to my writing career.

My last book, Thai-no-mite came out in 2012, and I spent 2 years trying to write my 5th cHEwY creation. I completed two manuscripts, Nothing’s Prefect (which became Natural Born Loser) and Bookish. Both were rejected. I had high hopes for Bookish. It was about a boy named James who is a massive bookworm. He basically lives in the library. Then his dad gives him a Kindle and he loses it, because he’s an e-reader snob.

After three revisions of Bookish were knocked back, it was time to shelve James’ story. It was a humbling time for me because any sure-fire confidence I had about getting publishing had been shot to pieces. I started to wonder what my fifth book was going to look like.

And then Stuff Happens.

My publisher approached me with a project being developed by series whizz, Susannah MacFarlane (who created Zac Power and Go Girl) It was called Stuff Happens, a contemporary reflected reality series for young boys. The books would focus on emotions and feelings, everyday challenges and worries, stuff that is hardly covered in boys books.

There were looking for authors to write a book about a boy, who would mix in the class with the other boys in the series. I decided to pitch a story about a bookworm named Ethan who made a new best friend because they liked the same book. But when Ethan’s bestie stopped reading, he stopped being friends with him. Drama Alert!

I was so happy when Susannah liked Ethan. It meant that 2015 was going to be a pub year.

Unpublished manuscripts are still worth the effort because you can mine them for gold to fuel other stories. I took parts of Bookish and mixed it into Ethan’s story. James’ best friend, Trent, became Ethan’s best friend. James’ little sister, Susie became a Grade 3 girl in Ethan. I couldn’t fit all of Bookish in Ethan’s 10,000 word count.

Only the best bits.

And that was enough for me.

I was so happy to see Ethan out in the book world, mostly because I finally had something new to talk about. It sparked new life into my creativity. It gave me some renewed confidence to go back and work on stories that had the same heart as Ethan’s. One of those stories was about two girls who shared the same name…and that led to The Other Christy 🙂

Stuff Happens: Ethan stands out in my book catalogue, because it is based on another series and one for younger readers at that. I loved Ethan because it meant that Grade 2 or 3 kids could start reading my books. The Stuff Happens is quite timeless. There were 12 books all in total. More recently, I was included in a bumper edition called A Lot of Stuff Happens. I loved the cover because it had Ethan ride a dinosaur haha.

I tell kids that every main character is a part of me and Ethan was no different. A bookish boy who loves reading. But beyond that, I was Ethan because he learned to be resilient in the story, just like me. I never take the publishing process for granted now. I melt into a puddle of worries and anxieties when I send a new manuscript to my editor, waiting for what she says. I always expect rejection. It’s not a humble brag, it’s just that I get flashbacks to what happened before and it’s easier to swallow disappointment when you expect the dose to taste bitter.

But when I get the green light, it’s pure sweetness and joy. A true celebration because you know it’s the best you could have written at that time. That’s writing for you. An emotional roller coaster of highs and lows, ups and downs…

Happy 5th Book Birthday Ethan.

I’m so glad you happened.


About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree

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