From solicitor to storyteller – the NTU alum whose debut children’s book to feature on national TV
Former NTU Law alum Rich Ford is to have his debut book, Unken Dunken Makes Pancakes, featured on Paramount-owned Channel 5’s pre-school show Milkshake! Story Den.
We caught up with Rich to find out what made him switch from a career in law to become an author, where his inspiration for writing children’s stories comes from, and how it feels to have your first publication featured on national TV.
Congratulations on the book and for getting it to feature on Channel 5. We’re assuming a lot of hard work went into making that happen?
It's been quite a bit of hard work but also really enjoyable. Deciding to self-publish meant finding everything out for myself; there were so many questions to find answers to. For example, how do you buy a barcode - and what type do you buy? What type of paper should I print on? What age of child would like the story?
Tell us about your time at NTU – and did it help you achieve what you’re doing now?
The Legal Practice Course gave me a good grounding in business, law and writing, all of which have been useful in their own way in life post-NTU and in bringing my book to market.
There was also some fun along the way - Ocean (night club) featured! I also loved the easy access to the countryside on a weekend. We lived in Sherwood, which had everything we needed if we didn't fancy going into the centre on a weekend.
Unken Dunken Makes Pancakes – wonderful title – what’s it about, and who is it for?
It's inspired by my brother, Duncan, and my eldest daughter, Wren. It's a simple, relatable story about an uncle and niece having fun making pancakes together. They make pancakes and lose one, but where's it gone? You'll have to buy the book to find out, I'm afraid. It's for 2–6-year-olds, which is quite a broad age range, but I find that children of different ages take something different away with them.
It sounds like a fun but very heart-warming story – were there particular themes you were keen to include?
I wanted to write a book which featured a dual heritage or multi-heritage character. At the time, my daughter (who's British-Nigerian) was very young (around four years ago) and there weren't many books around that did. It's so important for children in the crucial Early Years stage to read books featuring a range of diverse characters - and to be able to 'see themselves' and relate.
I also wanted to explore the uncle-niece relationship. Typically its books feature mum or dad and child, but the uncle / aunt-nephew / niece relationship is a special one with its own nuances.
Working as a children’s author sounds incredibly rewarding. It also sounds like it might be a tough industry to crack – is it?
It's a lovely thing. You get to fully indulge your creative side and it opens so many interesting conversations. But yes, it's highly competitive. And self-publishing is tough. The big publishing houses have big budgets to support promotions on the books on their lists. And there's a trend for major celebrities writing children's books which sell because of their profile. I've had some early success but I'm far from cracking it.
My dream would be for a publishing house to back a second book or a series of books. But thankfully, I'm quite happy for the time being in my day job, advising clients on their strategy, tone of voice, copy and content. Even relatively successful authors hold down other jobs to help pay the bills!
The story features on Channel 5's Milkshake! Story Den, at 9 am on Wednesday 30 November.
More about Rich Ford