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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, mental health advocate and children’s author Chris Dixon shares what inspired him to write his guided meditation book, That’s Calm, and how he helps his readers.

the best creativity magazine in the UK, the best book magazine in the UK, the best arts magazine in the UK, the best entertainment magazine in the UK, the best celebrity magazine in the UK, book marketing UK, book promotion UK, music marketing UK, music promotion UK, film marketing UK, film promotion UK, arts and entertainment magazine, online magazine uk, creativity magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

www.jjbarnes.co.uk

I interviewed Chris Dixon about his life and career, what inspired him to write books to support children’s mental health, and the creative work that went into his guided meditation book, That’s Calm.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

My name is Chris Dixon and I live in Norwich.

I’ve suffered from mental health problems in the past which has been the catalyst for most of my book work.

Chris Dixon

Now, I am on top of those issues and I like to spend my time with my partner Toini, who has two daughters, Katie and Chloe. She is incredibly supportive, accompanying me to exhibitions and telling her friends about the books.

Kate Create Santa's Lost Wallet
Kate Create Santa’s Lost Wallet

I also enjoy bouldering at the local climbing centre (although I am not very good!) and being creative, mainly using my laptop to produce digital illustrations from my vivid imagination!

I’m passionate about mental health advocacy, unjust social issues and the conversation around our environment. I believe that teaching children about these areas at a young age will help them become more resilient to the challenges of adult life, whilst developing empathy. M

I’ve always been quite a sensitive, introverted person looking for an as relaxed life as possible, whilst also being productive. It’s only recently that I’ve embraced these traits instead of trying to bury them

When did you first WANT to write a book?

As a child I believe I had a creative mind, which I neglected in my teens and young adulthood because of my mental health journey. I rediscovered my joy for creating four years ago.

I was consistently and constantly drawing things when I was younger. I recall winning a prize in primary school for writing a book about aliens. I also won a drawing competition at the age of nine, creating an anti-burglary character for a local brewery to use on their beer mats. Because of this, I was invited to the Houses of Parliament with my dad!

So I think I’ve always had an intention of creating something, albeit not being fully aware of how and what about, or the medium!

Eight years ago, I tried to write a novel, but became overwhelmed with the sheer length and time investment required! It also read poorly in my opinion – I wasn’t ready for it.

I came to the realisation of creating a children’s book after I had to deal with mental health problems for a second time, during the pandemic. I started therapy in 2020. This helped me discover that I was completely out of touch with my emotions.

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I couldn’t recognise how I was feeling and why. After a few sessions it clicked that over the years, many children haven’t been taught about emotions. The adults we look up to often suppress emotions because of the demands of modern life. I am lucky enough to continue therapy today, twice a month, which helps me manage my feelings and be able to offload without feeling like a burden.

It was at this point I wanted to create a book for children to help them identify their feelings, hopefully tackling the stigma of mental health conversations. This time I was ready to take it seriously as I knew the first book could help many people.

When did you take a step to start writing?

It was in 2022 when I started the book.

First, I drew the characters on paper, adjusting the designs until I was content with them. Then I uploaded photos of the drawings onto my computer and traced around the art with a digital illustration tool. I’ve always been terrible at colouring in (my mum helped me a lot with this part when I was younger!). So, transforming the drawings into digital assets made this part of the process quicker.

That's Okay by Chris Dixon on The Table Read Magazine
That’s Okay by Chris Dixon

Once the characters had all been created, I began putting the wording in place. My main focus was to make the sentences simple and warm, so children would enjoy reading the book and understand the concepts.

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The words reflected the character’s expressions. Both the visuals and the text help children relate to possible scenarios where they may feel excited or sad, for example.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

It was a few months from the initial hand drawn concepts to launch.

The illustration itself took the least time. Ensuring the wording aligned with the images and laying everything out was the longest part of the process.

I also created the ecommerce website as a platform to sell the books on, which utilises a print on demand service every time a book is ordered.

In addition to that, I also created an animation for the first book with the help of voice over artists – this part was very long! But good fun and I learnt new skills.

How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

The process is a lot more refined after the first book. Instead of drawing on paper initially, I created assets from scratch digitally.

This helped speed up the process. I also understood what I needed to do from start to finish to get the book self-published after the trial and error of the first book.

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Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write That’s Calm?

The mental health struggles I went through were unpleasant, and at some points life was a challenge.

With my emotions and feelings books, I wanted to try and make sure that no one else goes through that experience.

Some of the feedback of the first book was if I could provide practical help for managing emotions. So based on this, I wanted to create a guided meditation for children to help them relax and unwind.

I’m no doctor or therapist, so I felt this was the best way I could help within my areas of expertise of having experienced mental health struggles.

That's Calm by Chris Dixon on The Table Read Magazine
That’s Calm by Chris Dixon

With That’s Calm guided meditation and the That’s Okay emotions book, I hope in combination this will give children the tools to help manage, or at least be able to discuss, how they feel.

What were your biggest challenges with writing That’s Calm?

Time for me is the biggest challenge.

Creating books is a passion project of mine so I have to work around my full time job.

I’m a freelance marketer so my clients take priority, and it’s this work that pays the bills.

However, I enjoy the process, working in the evenings on the books can often be quite enjoyable. Unless I need to take some down time from a busy or stressful day, I will happily carry on being creative at night.

The second biggest challenge is financial investment. Being new to the author space, there is a lot of experimentation with what marketing channels work – and this requires money.

With my experience in marketing, this does cut a lot of the costs of advertising down, but it is still quite expensive to spread awareness.

As long as I make enough money through my freelance work to help get these books out to more people whilst keeping on top of the costs of living, I’ll be happy.

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What was your research process for That’s Calm?

I used my experience through therapy, combined with using the internet to clarify certain areas.

My sister had a friend in the social work sector, who kindly sent over her and her colleague’s feedback so I could optimise the book.

When researching, I always check my references and the validity of them – ensuring the sources are from trusted, established websites and have statistics to back them up.

The first book was mainly opinion led, based on my own experiences growing up and how they made me feel.

My feelings and emotions book for adults and teens, That’s Alright, has been created using a more factual approach.

How did you plan the structure of That’s Calm?

That's Okay by Chris Dixon on The Table Read
That’s Okay

I am not a very organised person and tend to work spontaneously! So I created everything then structured it backwards.

With this being said, I’m fortunate to have an active imagination where I can visualise what things may look like in my head.

I wanted to create a layout which focuses on the important messages of the book and the expressions of characters. So I use a lot of white space to create an impact.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did That’s Calm need?

Friends and family looked over the books and provided feedback for editing. Also, other authors I connected with over LinkedIn gave recommendations.

Because it was a children’s book, it didn’t require too much editing.

I have revisited the novel though, which is around 100 thousand words and am getting editing help with this!

The #1 Writing Tool

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?

To try not to worry about what you think others may think! (I need to take this advice myself more often).

This is one of the biggest problems I’ve had through life, my perception of what other people may think.

In all cases, they didn’t think negatively as I incorrectly predicted. Many people are impressed with the books and always have positive things to say about them.

Get your ideas created and put it out there – it’s all a learning process and you can always create new versions of books.

I also recommend doing it for the creative joy and not to get hung up on making books as a financial pursuit. The incredibly competitive landscape makes it challenging to make a steady income.

I have read that the more books you make, the more chance you have of consistent revenue.

So keep making books for the fun of it, and maybe one day you can get paid well for it too!

Books that offer a solution to the problems in life should get interest – it’s worth talking to people to find out what issues they struggle with.

You can still use your imagination and create a book that helps others.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

Absolutely!

I always have new ideas that randomly pop into my head, and also take feedback on board from people who have read my books.

I’m looking to create individual books for each of the characters from That’s Okay, which will have a positive message. For example, the “Happy” character’s story will be about if you’re feeling positive then you could be in a good position to cheer someone up when they’re feeling down.

That's Okay by Chris Dixon on The Table Read Magazine
That’s Okay Worksheet

I am always looking to partner with others looking to raise awareness for ethical messaging and educating children, equipping them for the modern world.

With this in mind I have partnered with two people on upcoming books to bring their ideas to life – one in the financial advice space (to help children learn about money) and another in the environmental space, using stories written by children to raise climate change awareness with adults.

And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

Incredibly proud!

I often don’t take stock of what has been achieved until I’m asked about it. And I should do it more often as it is good for our wellbeing to recognise achievements.

I’ve found that the children’s book space is incredibly competitive out there. Despite that, not being a celebrity, and not having my books currently in bookshops, I’ve managed to sell around 500 copies of ebooks and physical books.

The reviews and feedback I receive definitely make it worth it – knowing it has helped children.

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:

My books can currently be purchased at thatsokay.co.uk

As of November 2023, there are four books available in total:

That’s Okay – Children’s mental health, emotions and feelings
That Feels Earthmazing – Children’s environmental awareness
That’s Alright – Teens and adults mental health, emotions and feelings
That’s Calm – Guided meditation for children

There is also a link for a free preview of my books which includes colouring sheets too.

Free mental health and environmental book previews – Little Fish Books (thatsokay.co.uk)

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