Making a Difference

Jasmine Richards is an author, editor and entrepreneur. She’s the founder of Storymix, a company with a mission to increase the visibility of characters of colour in children’s books and to mentor writers of colour in the early stages of their writing careers.

Jasmine’s books include Oliver Twisted and The Unmorrow Curse and Oliver Twisted (under the pseudonym J D Sharpe).

Books from the Storymix studio include Aziza and the Fairy Door,  Future Hero and Granny Jinx.

Jasmine joined Nikki Gamble In the Reading Corner to talk about her career in publishing and her hopes for the future of Storymix.

All books are available from our partner bookseller Best Books for Schools


Nikki Gamble (00:11):

Hello, I’m Nikki Gamble, director of Just Imagine and host of In The Reading Corner. I’m looking forward to chatting with Jasmine Richards today, an author, editor and entrepreneur. She’s the founder of Story Mix, a company that has had a visible impact on children’s publishing. We’ll be delving into that later. But first I wanted to know more about where Jasmine’s own story started.

Jasmine Richards (00:37):

I think sometimes you are born into certain situations and people might have expectations about where you’ll go, right? And there’s that Dr. Sue quote about the more books you read. And I think when I look at my life and the things that I’ve achieved, it all starts and ends with books. So I grew up in council housing in a place called Hornsey, which is in North London. And I think what’s really interesting is the proximity to the library. So Stroud Green Library was my closest library and even with little legs, it took two and a half minutes to get there. Running down the hill very quickly from the block of flats at the top of the hill.

Jasmine Richards (01:20):

I was there all the time because I, I was a good reader, quite an advanced reader. So the children’s section wasn’t as varied as it is now. So very quickly I was going into the adult section and trying to read Catherine Cookson and other things. I remember once I picked up a Harold Robbins and the librarian plucked it out my hand said, that is not for you young lady. They were really watching what I was reading and giving me this diet of books.

Jasmine Richards (01:46):

There were books at home. My mum was a great reader of romance books, so lots of Mills and Boon around the place. I definitely saw her reading and I think that is key. I don’t think we need to be snobby about what we read. It’s the act of reading and seeing those grownups in your life actually reading books . Definitely lots of books in the house and lots of cookbooks as well. And I still love reading cookbooks almost as fiction. I feel like they’re great records of our times.

Jasmine Richards (02:16):

In terms of what was available to me to read, I was a great fan of books like Ann of Green, Gables, Matilda, a lot of those books where there was a strong young female protagonist. I think I was aware that I didn’t see myself directly in those books, but I would catch glimpses of myself in terms of personality traits. I do remember that the first time I felt like I’d properly saw myself was in a book called Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and that was at school – a really wonderful book, but quite a traumatic book. And I remember maybe feeling sadness that that was the first time I saw a little girl on the cover that looked like me.

Jasmine Richards (03:04):

I tended to see myself more on television. So something like X-Men, which was a, was a really popular cartoon at the time. Really identifying with Storm to the point where I imagined I could control the weather. So you know, this whole idea of seeing yourself and then reenacting that stuff is absolutely key in terms of engagement. I think I was a complete bookworm, and I saw enough of myself to feed the appetite, but I think for other children not seeing themselves has an effect on their reading engagement.

Nikki Gamble (03:34):

Mm, that’s really interesting. I know that some writers of color that I’ve spoken with over the years have talked about reading the classics of children’s literature and recognizing aspects of themselves in those stories. These characters are like a template onto which they superimpose themselves. But of course for many readers the lack of characters of colour will be completely off-put. As concerning, perhaps even more concerning is what you’re saying about the potentially traumatic experience of encountering negative narratives even when they’re written from the very best of intentions.

Jasmine Richards (04:12):

I hundred percent agree, yes. Like it needs to be a balance, doesn’t it? And I feel that so often introduction to Black history comes from a place of trauma instead of all the things that are celebratory. So at least give us balance.I think it’s great that there’s lots of really urgent conversations about how we teach history in the UK, but I would still want balance. It’s not all trauma. And you are right, you know, certain children wouldn’t have seen themselves framed in that way. So they’re like, oh there’s all this bad stuff that is connected with my heritage and my ethnicity and, that could happen at school, not in the home environment. And that’s coming to them out of nowhere.

Nikki Gamble (04:55):

You studied English literature, at, Oxford.

Jasmine Richards (04:58):

Mm-hmm <affirmative>.

Nikki Gamble (04:59):

Was getting there? Straightforward.

Jasmine Richards (05:02):

No, getting there was not straightforward. So I had this aspiration of being an author from when I was quite a small person. One of my favorite authors actually was Philip Pullman and Ruby in the Smoke Series. And I remember reading the bit about the author in the back of the book and it said Philip Pullman went to Oxford. And that planted a little seed because I thought, obviously incorrectly, that to be an author you had to go to Oxford. So I made things much harder for myself than I needed to.

Jasmine Richards (05:34):

I had gone to a school in Hornsey – Hornsey School for Girls, which was an amazing school. In terms of kids on the higher paper, there were only very few of us and it was quite hard for them to teach that part of the curriculum in class. So teachers would give up their lunchtimes and after school to teach us to make sure we got through everything.

Jasmine Richards (05:53):

I got to the end of sort of GCSEs and I said to my school, okay, see you later. I’m going off to this school in Cockosters, which is a quite affluent place in Enfield. And they were like, please don’t go Jasmine, stay. And I was like, I’m sorry. I have always been quite a pragmatic person. I was like, the facilities at this school is amazing and I wanted to do a media studies a level and they’ve been this amazing editing suite. So I left.

Jasmine Richards (06:17):

Now at this new school, they didn’t know me at all. They knew nothing about me. And so when I said to them I want to apply to Oxford, they were like, don’t be ridiculous. You’ve done the wrong A levels,.You’ve done psychology, English and media studies. So they refused to support my application.

Jasmine Richards (06:36):

So I did the whole thing by myself to the point that even when I went to my interview at Oxford, because in the back of the prospectus it said that there were 30 people that did English at Lady Margaret Hall, I assumed that it was 30 people per year. It was only when I was at <laugh> interview week and I’m talking to the other young people from all over the country and they’re going, ‘gosh, it’s so competitive. There’s not a lot of spaces’. And I’m like,’ oh there’s 30 spaces for English’. And they’re like, ‘no, it’s 10 tops’. I, suddenly felt very much out of my depth.

Jasmine Richards (07:09):

I think I was extremely lucky in terms of the college that I chose. LMH always ahead of its time in terms of state school access and the people who interviewed me were really kind. And I remember having a conversation in our interview, been studying the wife of Bar, which I loved. And then my essay had been on The Handmaid’sTale and my tutor, who’s still a very dear friend now, Dr. Helen Barr, Professor Helen Barr as, she’ isnow just asked me a question that for the first time I was making all these connections between The Wife of Bath and The Handmaid’s Tale. And I think my little 17 year old brain must have jus…, I think she must have seen it on my face. And what she would say is, that’s all you want see as someone who teaches is that excitement. You know, you may not have had all of the preparation that other students had, but that appetite for learning is the thing

Nikki Gamble (08:00):

It’s uplifting to hear and of course things are changing and they were probably beginning to change around the time that you were a student. In fact, you went on to do some of the access work at Oxford. Tell us about that.

Jasmine Richards (08:15):

So after I finished my degree, I went and ran something called the Oxford Access Scheme, which was a university led organization that was all about going into inner city state schools and encouraging kids to apply to higher education, but Oxford in particular. And the university funded my salary. So basically it was my first job. I remember the real light bulb moment for me – because I’d always thought, that coming from social housing inner city London, I’d had certain challenges getting to Oxford. But we would go to other parts of the country and I remember being in Manchester and doing this talk with these kids and they were like, ‘oh but Miss’, which felt ridiculous because I was like 21, but they were like, ‘but you sound like YOU and we sound like US. So of course you got into Oxford.’ And it was the first time I realized that sort of regional divide and the privilege that comes with being Southern, everyone has challenges but there are different layers of challenges. So that was really illuminating for me.

Nikki Gamble (09:18):

It reminds me of a video that we used to show students on our varieties of English course. Bob Hoskins, the wonderful working class actor who was raised in Finsbury Park, was talking about visiting an exclusive London club with a black friend. He was concerned that they would not gain entry and indeed they did have difficulty, but it was Hoskins accent that was the problem. His RP speaking friend had no difficulty at all. So it’s really nuanced.

Nikki Gamble (09:50):

Let’s talk about editing. I first met you when you were working as a commissioning editor at Oxford University Press. What did editing teach you about writers and writing?

Jasmine Richards (10:02):

My first job was at Penguin where I got to do some editorial and that’s when I knew I wanted to be an editor, but there wasn’t a role for me there. So then I went to work for a packager called Working Partners. And it was there that I actually learned the craft of editing and plotting and structure. The thing I feel like I learned at O U P was around care. So my boss was a wonderful editor called Lis Cross. I feel like what I learned from her is how you are the sort of custodian of an author’s career. Not just in their text but in all parts of their career really. And I used to share an office with a wonderful editor called Ron Heapy. I remember having a conversation with him, I think I was having quite a tricky edit, just couldn’t get the book where it needed to be. And he said, ‘Jasmine, sometimes what you need to do is like, you know, the book is like a kid and sometimes you’re just out of time and you’ve gotta send them off to school. So you’ve just gotta wipe their faces down, give them a little kiss and send them out into the world. Like the time is up, you do the best that you can. ‘

Nikki Gamble (11:09):

You’re also a writer books such as The Secrets of Valhalla, uh, the Unmorrow Curse. It has to be said that you’re full of surprises. I recall when Oliver Twisted was published under the name JD Sharpe probably about 10 years ago. And it wasn’t at all what I expected.

Jasmine Richards (11:28):

Well, do you know that is the easiest book I’ve ever written. I’ve written 15 books, I’ve written books for teenagers, I’ve written picture books, I’ve written lots of different types of books. With Oliver Twisted what I saw was an opportunity. There had been a lot of conversations around Dickens – making Dickens relevant to teenagers finding a way in for them. And at the same time time there was a real trend for all of these mashups. I’m sure you remember them, Nikki. So Pride and Prejudice with Zombies, which was an adult trend, not something that we’d seen for kids or for teens. And I just remember thinking, goodness me there’s an opportunity here to explore something. Like I was sort of do I commission someone to write this or do I just write it? Because I have such a clear idea in my head about what this thing can and should be.

Jasmine Richards (12:21):

I’ve never tried the genre of horror, but I do enjoy reading horror and I just started writing it and I kind of used the original text as the launchpad. It was actually quite an academic exercise in terms of what you kept and what you didn’t keep. And then in terms of that character of Oliver – casting no shade on Mr. Dickens – but Oliver does not change as a character, right? Oliver affects other people, but he’s quite a stationary, I would even say stagnant character. So I really wanted to play with this idea of change for Oliver and choices and all of these things that weren’t in the original text.

Jasmine Richards (12:57):

Now what was so wonderful about that work is I’d go into schools and some kids would be outraged that I’d taken Oliver Twist I’d kind of twisted the narrative. They would come out fully in defense of Charles Dickens. I was like, well this has done exactly the thing that we set out to do – for them to engage. And actually there’s a lot of conversations now about whether you leave things alone, right? Do you leave it exactly how that writer wanted it to be? Do you update things? Do you change things? That is a great way to engage young people in books because they have very strong opinions. They can be quite righteous in their belief.

Nikki Gamble (13:39):

Of course a lot of your other books do have this thread of myth running through them, including the Unmorrow Curse, which was published last year. Were myths something that you were reading all those years ago in that library as a child? Or did that come to you later through your studies?

Jasmine Richards (13:58):

Oh no, a hundred percent that small kid in the library in North London was absolutely obsessed with myths, Roman myths, Greek myths, Egyptian mythology. And actually the first book that I ever wrote was called The Book of Wonders and was inspired by 1,001 Nights. I remember reading those stories and sort of feeling outraged by the end of the stories. After 1,001 nights, Scheherazade has changed the sultan through her stories. He’s become a better man. He’s no longer going to lop people’s heads off and they live happily ever after. And I remember thinking, well what about all of those people he did kill? How is this a happy ending? I felt it wasn’t the ending I wanted. So that’s maybe a theme <laugh> rewriting history. So I just had this idea that instead of Zadie telling these stories about Simbad, she maybe went on those adventures and was trying to find a way to topple this dictator in her kingdom.

Jasmine Richards (14:59):

That was the first one. And it’s interesting because you mentioned the Unmorrow Curse, but even that book went on its own epic quest. So it was originally published in the States because I had this really strange situation where I had a whole career as a writer in America and I had a career as an editor in the UKI but those two things didn’t cross massively because my fantasy books didn’t sell in the UK but they did sell in the US So it was like this career as an author was happening to someone else. It was very strange.

Nikki Gamble (15:32):

Tell me why you think you were able to break through in the US as a writer when you weren’t in theUK?

Jasmine Richards (15:40):

Truth to be told, when my agent sent out The Book of Wonders, we got lovely feedback and we got other types of feedback. Like ‘Jasmine is a wonderful writer, I’m not sure where this would sit in the market. Do you think she could write something a bit more urban?’ Whereas in the States, I think they were just a little bit ahead in terms of being a black writer, what you’re allowed to write, I’m doing aloud in quotation marks,. we are there now, but it actually took quite a long time. I’m not the only writer of color who’s had feedback like that. We’re talking about back in 2011. So things have changed massively in that time.

Nikki Gamble (16:19):

You mentioned your interest in mythology, you talked about Egyptian myths and Roman myths and we’ve got Norse myths in there. Mm-hmm. You didn’t really mention much about African mythology but that does crop up in one of the series for Storymix. mm-hmm It’s Aziza’s Secret Fairy Door which does pull in some of the ideas from African mythology.

Jasmine Richards (16:46):

It’s interesting because when I was a kid those big books on myths, there wasn’t a book called African Mythology. You had Egyptian mythology but you didn’t have mythology from West Africa or South Africa or East Africa, really. I’m sure if they existed I would’ve gobbled those up as well, but they didn’t exist, which is interesting and it’s kind of testament to how much things have changed that when I was coming to creating new series, there wasn’t a wealth of books where I could delve intoWest African mythology in particular. And so both in Aziza and in Future Hero, I really do delve into some of those mythologies. So Aziza is actually a type of West African fairy that you find in forests. So I just had this idea about a little girl who was obsessed with fairies, who’s named after a fairy and who is given a fairy door, which she decorates and it ends up taking her on all of these fantastical adventures into a new land called Shimmington. And it’s basically a multicultural fairy tale with mythological creatures. It’s almost like this utopia of all of these creatures from all of the world living together in harmony.

Nikki Gamble (17:55):

Let’s talk about Storymix from what you’ve told us so far. I can see the seeds from your time with working partners and Oxford University Press ready to bloom into this exciting new venture, which is in my opinion, one of the most exciting developments in children’s book publishing for a generation.

Jasmine Richards (18:15):

There were two things. I had a little foray after my second child was born into editing celebrity fiction. I had an a an epiphany where I was using all these skills that I’d built up over many, many years to help execute a vision for a celebrity. And I remember having this moment of, okay, they have their agenda and I’m one cog in that, but what’s my agenda? Am I really going to use these skill sets? And I realized that actually what I can do in terms of conceiving abd editing storie. All of those things are actually quite precious because I have this unique combination of skills of ideating and that way of editing and nurturing writers to get the best out of their voice. So that was one of the epiphanies.

Jasmine Richards (19:02):

At the same time my son was moving from picture books to chapter books. So he was about five or six. We went to the bookshop, we’re looking at the shelves in Waterstones in that five to eight section. And I could see Horrid Henry and I could see Beast Quest. I was in the room when we came up with Beast Quest. I’d EDITED many of those books. I’d WRITTEN many of those books. I could see Rainbow Magic. Again, I was a lead editor on Rainbow Magic. I could not see my son in any of these books. And I had this moment of real anger but it wasn’t just anger at publishing, it was anger at myself. I was and am publishing, I edited those books. I didn’t put my hand up and say, Hey guys, we’re coming up with a new series. It’s a fantasy series. Why don’t we make our protagonist a kid of colour like a British Asian kid or a black kid?

Jasmine Richards (19:52):

It didn’t occur to me to even say it. And if I had, on a series like something like Beast Quests, we’d have over a hundred books. And at the same time the C L P E report had come out and I was thinking, gosh, if we’d had a hundred book series, we had a little black boy or Asian boy protagonist, this number would look quite different. So I had a moment there where I had to decide where I was going to spend my time. I could carry on writing books butI’m not the fastest at writing books. I could maybe do one book a year and that would be my impact or I could take everything I’d learned working at a packager, working at OUP, where I actually set up our own in-house IP, sorry IP means intellectual property, where we would come up in house with stories. I knew that if I really wanted to take up space on the shelf series, fiction series was the way to do it. Icould write one middle grade a year or I could sell multiple series where I was going to centre kids of colour in stories full of joy and adventure.

Jasmine Richards (20:52):

And then also I knew that it was a great way to give new writers their first chance, you know, as an entry point into the industry. So I always see our projects as a launchpad for new talent. I remember I had writers say to me in the past, working for a packager is like being paid to go on a writing course because you get supported editorially in quite an intensive way at the beginning of your career. And then you can move on and write your own stuff and take all of that learning with you.

Jasmine Richards (21:23):

So this whole idea of apprenticeship, this whole idea of volume was really important. I was like right, I’m just going to start my own packager and I’m going to be really clear and intentional about what that is. And that’s going be about centering kids of colour in those stories and it’s going to be about creating publishing opportunities or writers from marginalized communities. And in 2018 that felt like quite a brave thing to say, to be that focused. And I applied for a grant from the Arts Council, it was called the D Y C P Fund, which is Develop your Creative Practice. And I said in my application,I’m an author, I’m an editor, I want to segue into becoming a producer, I want to set up my own company and this would be the seed money to do it. And I got the 10,000 pounds and it just gave me a bit of breathing space to start the work. And then I did freelancing on the side. That’s when I sort of fell into screenwriting because screenwriting paid really well. So I’d just invest that money back into the business and we got started.

Nikki Gamble (22:26):

It’s a stunning story and, and you’ve answered one of my questions which washow on earth can you be so productive and of course it’s about teamwork.

Jasmine Richards (22:35):

Yeah, a hundred percent. So you know, when I started Stormix I would often write alongside the writers that I work with just so we could get that head of steam. I don’t do that now I have a team of people that I work with who are completely invested in the ethos of what we do. I do less of the hands-on line editing than I used to, but I still love coming up with the ideas and I’m more that strategic piece now

Nikki Gamble (23:02):

This may be an obvious question, but tell us why you use pseudonyms for these books. Is it because there’s more than one writer working on a series?

Jasmine Richards (23:12):

Yes, so there’s a few reason I want it to be the case. Our writers graduate from writing on our series and go on to do their own things. So if we take the example of Aziza and I work with a wonderful writer on that called Tola Okogwu who’s written an amazing series called Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun. If you haven’t read it, go and read it. And we worked on five books in the Aziza series and Taller at the same time, sold her own middle grade novel. Now if we decided that there were going be more Aziza novels – I can’t speak for Tola but I’d imagine she’s probably got too much on. So what the pen name allows is for me maybe to work with another writer on that series in the future and then they too might also move on and write their own middle grade novel. And s , it’s a way of being able to continue a series because you put a lot of work into building the characters and the world and the setup and all of those things. So it allows for that graduation. For Future Hero, we have multiple writers on that series, so I write on that series Isaac Hamilton Mackenzie does and so does Chiemeka Nicely So the pen name allows for that.

Nikki Gamble (24:23):

I expect you get from time to time people saying can Lola Morayo or Remi Blackwood come and talk to children in our school?

Jasmine Richards (24:31):

In the past there hasn’t always been absolute honesty about who these pen names are and I’ve said from the very beginning ,and publishers have been really sort of amenable to this, is that we’re just really honest about the process because I’m really proud of the process and I’m proud of Storymix. So you know, normally packages skulk around in the shadows and we are definitely not doing that.

Jasmine Richards (24:54):

And then the other thing is it’s not the same for every single title. There’s a wonderful series called the Lizzie and Belle Mysteries where I work with a writer called Joanna. But really story mixed us far less in that that really is Joanna driving that. But we are maybe the catalyst to get it started. So that’s different to something like FU Future Hero, which is storyline in incredible detail and there is much more editorial support there because those writers also at different stages in their career like Joanna was there fully formed. She just needed the door to be open just to crack. And then she was off.

Nikki Gamble (25:34):

Just tell us Joanna’s surname so listeners can look her up,

Jasmine Richards (25:38):

She’s called JT Williams and she’s a writer and she’s a teacher and she’s just fabulous. Lizzie and Belle Mysteries are recently shortlisted for the Waterstones book prize. I’m just so proud that we are a part of her journey and those books journey,

Nikki Gamble (25:55):

The Lizzie and Belel mysteries are fantastic. Tell us a little bit more about how they came to be.

Jasmine Richards (26:03):

So when I actually met Joanna, I was masquerading as a teacher so that I could go to this event at the British Library. And it was all about black history and figures from black history. And I sat in Joanna’s session and she spoke about a man called Ignatius Sancho who was probably the first black man to vote in the uk. He owned a tea shop in Mayfair. He was a composer, he was a man of letters, he was key in terms of the movement to abolish slavery. And she had all this paraphernalia on the table that was from the archives from the British Library and she spoke about Ignatius Sancho with such love and knowledge. And the way she spoke, you could tell she’s a storyteller. Once you’ve been editing for a very long time you get your spider senses.

Jasmine Richards (26:51):

So I knew she was a writer while she was talking. I just had a thought of what an amazing precinct for a mystery that tea shop would be. So after the session I went and spoke to her and I said, ‘do you write?’. And she went, ‘oh yes I do actually.’ And in my head I’m like, of course you write, you’re a natural born storyteller. And I just told her a bit about Storymix, which was still just a little kernel of an idea and I said to her, you ‘have you thought about this idea of history and mystery and this tea shop would be a great setting.’, And that was the beginning of the conversation.

Nikki Gamble (27:25):

Another series that you’ve devised, I’d love to know more about the background to is Granny Jinx. What can you tell us about that?

Jasmine Richards (27:36):

Granny Jinx was inspired by a video that I’d watched from YouTube about a real life magician called Jenny Myers. She was the first black woman to be admitted to the Magic Circle and it was a lovely video of her talking about her career. And that just got me thinking about an older woman who might be a magician and her relationship with her granddaughter. And I always describe those books as a big warm hug. It’s about the magic of family. Lots of the series that come out of Storymix have a high concept idea. Granny Jinx isn’t really that. I just wanted to explore the idea about grandparents and how precious they are because we were going through the pandemic as well and you weren’t getting to see grandparents. My granny was very important to me as well.

Nikki Gamble (28:25):

It seems to me that you have lots of ideas sparking off all the time, left, right centre. Do you have too many ideas? Do you know what to ditch?

Jasmine Richards (28:36):

<laugh>? That is such a good question and it’s why I think I’m not like a proper author because I feel proper author can sit with an idea for many, many months and be okay with that. Whereas the bit where I get my joy is the spark of the idea. And now I realize that my job is to capture one and then find exactly the right writer to flesh it out. I find it very hard to let an idea go, but I realize I can’t do all of them. So I am quite ambitious in what I think I can get done in a certain amount of time or optimistic depending on your point of view.

Nikki Gamble (29:15):

It works because you get a lot done. I know you’re really keen about meeting readers where they are and I wonder whether this takes you into other kinds of media as well as books.

Jasmine Richards (29:28):

Books will always be the heart of what I do and what we do at Storymix, but children might come into stories in different ways. So you know, if they were to come at it as a TV show and then they’re like, right, I really enjoyed that TV show, let me go and read the book. I’m really interested in exploring things like that. So I think watch this space.

Nikki Gamble (29:52):

So what’s coming up for Storymix that we should be really excited about?

Jasmine Richards (29:59):

Well, in June we have the launch of series called Fable House, which is written by the supremely talented Em Norryor El Norry Fable House, was inspired by the story of Britain’s brown babies and these were babies that were born after World War ii, born to white British women and African, African-American gis. I remember reading an article on the BBC website about these kids and lots of these children grew up to be adults and some of them had quite unhappy lives, but a group of them sort of spoke about this place called HolincoteHouse in Somerset, which was a house set in amazing grounds that was near the sea and near forest. And they said it was like a magical place where they had family brothers and sisters that looked like them. And immediately as often the way with me, I was transported to that place. I love forests and woods, like they’re always feel really magical to me.

Jasmine Richards (30:59):

And I knew that Somerset had a connection to Arthurian legends. So then those two things sort of started to sort of pollinate in my mind. And I had this thought about a group of children who discover a knight from The Round Table And then I remember from my English degree reading La Mort Arthur and I remember there was a black knight called Sir Morien. I was like, well what if they meet him, these kids that maybe have never seen a black man in their, in their lives? So they’re kids in care. And that was the beginning,

Jasmine Richards (31:32):

We didn’t talk about this earlier, but I used to run a writer’s retreat with friends called Book Bound. And one of the writers I’d had mentored in this writer’s retreat was called Emma Norry. And she’d written an amazing book for teenagers about being in care and I knew that was her background and she’s also mixed race as well. So I felt she would be the perfect person to tell this story and I loved her writing. So I approached her with the conceit and the idea and she said yes. And we’ve got Fable House published by Bloomsbury coming out in June. She took what was a brilliant idea, but she’s taken it and elevated it and made it something so special and poured so much of her own lived experience and love for these children. And it just gives me goosebumps every time I read it. Yeah, she’s just extraordinary.

Nikki Gamble (32:23):

You’ve really wetted my appetite for that. My goodness. Can’t wait. Are you able to tell us in the immediate next step what might be coming for Storymix?

Jasmine Richards (32:33):

So I think Storymix is really interested in childhood all the way through. So our core work is 5 – 12, but I’m really interested in doing books for older children and for teenagers. And I’m really interested in doing books for smaller children, so 0 – 5. So I think in terms of our next phase, it’s thinking about those two ends of the market. I’m also really interested in about how you tell stories with pictures.

Jasmine Richards (33:02):

And we’re thinking a lot about that and how we tell stories as audio firsts as well because going to the library was a key part of my development, but there was another part to it also, which was this amazing collection called The Storyteller. You get the magazine every week and there’d be a cassette taped to the front and it was packed full with stories and I would listen to that every night. And actually looking back now, it had some really famous,, actresses and actors reading their stories. That access to storytelling came through audio. And I want to explore that a bit more because not all children have access to books. I feel like access to audio might almost be less barriers in some ways.

Nikki Gamble (33:47):

Interesting. Well, Jasmine, I am so thrilled that you decided not to stick with the police force. I know you had the dalliance there for a little while, but what a loss that would’ve been to a Children’s publishing <laugh>. it’s been such a delight talking to you.

Jasmine Richards (34:06):

Thank you.