Freeman Brothers first began operating as a funeral director in Horsham, West Sussex, in 1855. The company now has a further three offices across the county – in Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint – and continues to support the local community in a variety of ways. This week, Becky caught up with author, Clare Shaw, whose children’s bereavement books Freeman Brothers has previously donated copies of to local schools…
It’s been a while since we last spoke! We previously featured you when ‘A Mind Full of Grief’ was first published – how have things been since then?
Busy! I can’t quite believe how quickly the past twelve months have gone by. It’s almost as if the pandemic sent us into some strange time tunnel where you lose all concept of time! It’s been lovely coming out of the back of that though and meeting people face to face again. Attending National Funeral Exhibition (NFE) and seeing so many familiar and friendly faces was the icing on the cake most recently. It was my first proper chance to introduce ‘A Mind Full of Grief’ to the industry and it was so well received.
We heard that you’re Crowdfunding, can you tell us about what the campaign is for?
I’ve spent a lot of time in schools, reading with the children and chatting to the teachers, since starting to write. I always seem to have the same conversation, ‘we really need more resources but we just don’t have the budget’. So, at the end of 2019 I trialled an initiative where I went out to local businesses for donations that allowed me to put free books into schools. The trial was a real hit so I’d planned to extend it in 2020 and we all know what happened then…
As we came out of lockdown, I started to pick this back up again but was finding so many companies wanted to help but didn’t want to donate as I wasn’t a registered non-profit. I decided I needed to make this happen so I am now officially a Community Interest Company (CIC). There have been, and still are, lots of things to pay for in setting up the company so I’ve put together a JustGiving page to try to help cover the costs. I really want to have everything up and running for the start of the new school year in September.
The books we offer are all written to help with children’s mental, physical or emotional wellbeing. I’m part of a wider group of authors and we have over 20 books between us (so far) that will be listed for the schools to choose from. We’ve also had an offer from a traditional publisher to list their full catalogue of wellbeing books! I am beyond delighted with this!
My dream is to be sending out books every term to schools all around the UK in the not so distant future.
Congratulations on the CIC status, that’s a huge achievement! Has there been any change to demand for your books during the pandemic?
I did notice an uplift in sales of ‘Love WIll Never Die’. Which is really sad in a way because it just goes to show how many children have been affected by this. However, the positive side of that is that those children who received copies were getting some practical help at the time they really needed it most.
We love how interactive both of your books are – how has this element of ‘A Mind Full of Grief’ been received?
Really well. Journaling and mindfulness are often recommended with emotional and grief support. As you know, all of my books have areas where the child can write and draw their own feelings. ‘A Mind Full of Grief’ goes slightly further than that and has a number of mindful colouring pages within it too. My teenage son helped me with all the editing so it’s pretty well balanced.
The first feedback I received after publication was, ‘Having two teenagers, finding something that talks to them at their level (not a child, not an adult) is very refreshing.’ He clearly did a super job!
Is there any other news you’d like to share (or hint at!) with us?
As well as the charitable side to the business that’s starting up, I do also have a new book coming out! I’ve always written books that could help a child with their emotions or guide them through a certain situation, like a bereavement… until now! I’ve gone totally off script and written a Christmas story. I just love Christmas. I love the excitement and the pure magic it brings every year. All the memories from when I was a child, and then becoming the parent and making it special for my own kids. It just oozes happiness!
I took a copy with me to NFE and read it with a young boy on the Sunday. At the end of the book he turned and looked at me with such excitement in his eyes and the biggest smile. I will never forget his reaction and it’s made me just a little bit more confident about what I have produced. I’m looking forward to getting this out there later in the year.
Thank you so much for having me back on the blog. I have the makings of a website that’s being worked on at the moment, you can find it here.