The real story behind Willow Willpower 

By Sarah Cannata

On Thursday 11 October 2018, a day I started thinking would never arrive will finally be here: my first picture book, Willow Willpower, will be released to coincide with the UN’s International Day of the Girl.


It’s been an interesting ride up to this point that has taken over three years from idea through to publishing. In my view, there are way too many ‘overnight success’ stories (or perceived overnight wonders) making waves in the public sphere. So as I always do, I am going to stand in my truth and speak honestly about this journey. I’ll start with this…


It’s been hard


This all started over three years ago, which really feels like a lifetime ago now. I had recently quit my job because I was miserable – the job that was supposed to be my dream job – after less than six months of being in the role. Post-fallout from that decision, let’s just say that things weren’t going the best in terms of my life trajectory. Certain relationships didn’t survive the upheaval and I was also trying to start-up a business and I’ll be honest…


I had no clue what I was doing


Struggle and gloom aside, if there is one thing that never changes, it’s the stress relief I get from walking. I genuinely like walking and I can spend hours a day doing it. One day, while embarking on my usual route, a name popped into my head from out of the blue: Willow Willpower.


And that’s where the hard work began


Full disclosure: I don’t think anyone in my life expected me to come up with a children’s book. I have no kids and I don’t have any plans to have children (my theory on this one: time will tell). Without even realising it, I set myself up a little. Sure, I could write the manuscript for the book but a good picture book isn’t just about the story: it’s also about the illustrations. The kind of illustrations that provoke conversations and discussions between kids and their loved ones.


Lesson: the universe knows what it’s doing (even if it doesn’t feel that way)


When I say I spent three years trying to get this book published, I’m not talking full-time. This was all happening in-between trying to build a business and all of the ups and downs life brings. Regardless of how much money I threw into the project (I don’t even want to go back and count because I’ll cry), trying to source illustrators and figure out how to make it happen, it was like I was running up a hill with a backpack heavier than my body weight, constantly pushing me back down. I couldn’t take a trick until…


I finally found people who shared my vision


I got tagged in a Facebook post one day by a business acquaintance – the post was about a small but eco-friendly publisher looking for kids books. Did I think this would result in Willow being published? I reached out in hope and after connecting with the people behind the scenes at the publishing house, I knew I found people who shared my vision, values and ethics. After all the struggle, the stress of trying to find a home for this idea, that was when I knew Willow was really going to come alive.


So what is Willow Willpower about?

Willow Willpower has big dreams. Ever since she can remember, she’s dreamt of flying high in the sky. When Willow’s mum takes her daughter to the local museum, Willow gets to know the aviation legend, Amelia Earhart. And that’s where the fun begins!


Why am I sharing this story?


Sure, I’d love the opportunity to take Willow Willpower on another adventure and to do that, the book needs to sell. But this is about so much more for me. This is a real passion project and that’s exactly why I never gave up on bringing it to life. I don’t want to type an inauthentic and downright inaccurate story about how it was all sunshine, roses and lollypops. It wasn’t. Would it have been easier if I was well known? Of course. My real message here is that if you truly believe something you’re working on can and will make a difference, never give up until it’s out in the world.

Remember, J.K. Rowling wasn’t always J.K. Rowling. Serena Williams was a kid with a dream too once upon a time. The great Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first job as a news anchor.

There are countless stories like these. You just have to believe and follow through.

Willow Willpower is available to buy globally via the blOOturtle website. 

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