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10 July 2024 18:29

The Highland Cowgirl by Louisa MacDougall , Illustrated by me

Back in 2022, I saw a tweet from the Searchlight Children’s Book awards. They were reaching out to authors who wanted to enter their picture book competition, by teaming up with an illustrator. When scrolling through the replies, a tweet by Louisa caught my eye, she said she liked writing stories about animals. 

I sent her a message, with a link to my website, and she replied saying she’d be keen to work together. She then emailed me with a collection of her picture book manuscripts. They were all lovely stories, but the one about The Highland Cowgirl really stood out for me. We decided to enter the Searchlight competition with this story. 

I put together a storyboard, and from that we chose two spreads for me to illustrate in full colour to complete our entry. 

In summer 2023, everything was ready, and we felt our entry was strong as Louisa pressed send.

Then, we waited……

The shortlisted stories were announced via email, but unfortunately our names were not on the list. It was so disappointing after a lot of work. Louisa and I exchanged some more emails with each other, we both felt like we didn’t want to let the story go, so we started searching for a publisher ourselves. 

There are not many publishers who accept submissions directly from author/illustrator teams, but we found a few, and got rejected or radio silence! Then Louisa got in touch with Jayne at Foggie Toddle Books, a Scottish publisher based in Wigtown , the book capital of Scotland. 

She loved the book and the storyboard/ illustrations I had already done. During this time, my family and I had moved across the world to BC, Canada. So we set up a zoom meeting for the three of us, and the wheels were put in motion for The Highland Cowgirl to be published by Foggie Toddle Books. 

I set to work on the illustrations, which I loved creating. The main character, Hanna, shows resilience and perseverance throughout the story, and it was a lot of fun bringing her to life, and drawing lots of Highland Cows of course! 

I like to work traditionally, using gouache and coloured pencils, followed by tidying and adding extra details and shading using Procreate on my iPad. I sent the illustrations to Louisa and Jayne, and after a few edits, and 2 years after Louisa and I had first ‘met’, were ready to go. 

I received my copies of the book in the post and it looks wonderful, you can see some ‘unboxing’ videos on my instagram @sarahlovellart. Jayne at Foggie Toddle is really pleased with how it’s going so far, with lots of orders from bookshops, including Waterstones! 

If you would like a copy for yourself, please order one from your local bookshop, or head to Foggie Toddle’s Site to order one from them.