Dorset author Rachel Bright is about to take World Book Day by storm
PUBLISHED: 16:56 15 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:14 26 February 2013
She helped the Prime Minister with his CV, dated Mr Tahiti and partied on Richard Branson's island. But for millions of children Rachel Bright is their favourite author - and she's about to take World Book Day by storm
All Things Bright and Beautiful
She helped the Prime Minister with his CV, dated Mr Tahiti and partied on Richard Bransons island. But for millions of children Rachel Bright is their favourite author - and shes about to take World Book Day by storm
Words: Adam Lee-Potter
Photographs: Les Wilson
Rachel Bright is arguably the most famous celebrity youve not heard of - yet. A hugely successful childrens author and artist, she is the Emma Bridgewater of the greetings card world.
Rachel is the creative brains behind the award-winning card and gift line The Bright Side. Her quirky and distinctive work, which blends old-fashioned block print letters with smile-inducing slogans is as ubiquitous as it is instantly recognisable.
Her cards are equally popular and to date, she has sold more than 4.5million cards, a net sale of 12.5million. The cabinet even clubbed together to buy one of her cards for David Camerons 46th birthday. The Prime Minister happily posed for a picture alongside, no doubt delighted with its message: Man of the Moment.
There is a Rachel Bright card - and gift - for every occasion and they are contagious. If you havent sent or received one, you will. You might get an Evil plans and stuff notebook, a Liquid happiness teapot or a Stuff that doesnt go anywhere else tin.
The 35-year-old has also created seven best-selling childrens books. As such, she has been chosen as the official illustrator for this months World Book Day, an annual celebration of reading on March 7. It is such an honour, says Rachel proudly. Children and books - what could be more important?
Indeed. But for a former air hostess who works from a hen-filled caravan hidden away in Wareham Forest, she is astonishingly modest. I take it as a compliment every time anyone buys one of my books or sends one of my cards, she says. I only started out five and a half years ago - just me in a dark room, printing one Valentines card. I was as shocked as anybody when I saw the Prime Minister with one of my cards. The global sales are insane.
Her birthday card for the PM was not, however, Rachels first contact with the Camerons. She met the couple 14 years ago when she was 21 and even helped design the CV that landed the Prime Minister his first job as an MP. Fresh from university, she was hired by Samantha Cameron the creative director at upmarket stationers Smythson as a junior designer.
David used to come and pick Sam up from work. He wasnt an MP back then but hed pop in and say hello. He was obviously incredibly posh but surprisingly normal. And Sam was lovely to work for. Very unshouty.
Sam asked me to lay out Davids CV when he first applied to be an MP. She said shed loved my CV and shown it to David, whod loved it too. So I helped lay out Davids CV in a similar format as a project after work. It was very simply laid out with very little in but all the best bits. Eton, Oxbridge and sport were all in there. I dont know if it helped as a career catalyst or not but I like to think it might have inspired at least.
She adds: My time at Smythson helped me too, though. Id always known I wanted to write and draw but working for Sam cemented my ambition to design cards. Everyone there was so passionate about what they do.
It is rare to meet such a free spirit with so fierce a work ethic. After 18 months working for Smythson, Rachel despite her private education, five A-levels and graphic design degree quit to become an air hostess for Virgin Atlantic. Svelte and 6ft in heels, she must certainly have looked the part.
The novelty of working in central London had worn off, she says. My commute was one-and-a-half hours each way. Id already started writing my first childrens story Mr Sponge and the Invisible Cupcake - on the train. I craved some adventure.
Rachels yen for travel had been sparked after winning a competition in the magazine Marie Claire a year earlier. The prize was flying out for a date with Mr Tahiti, a man in a loincloth and headdress. I couldnt resist it. I sent in my birth sign and a photo and listed the books I was reading - and he picked me.
Id only been working for Sam for six months but she laughed and gave me a week off with a days notice. She said: How can I say no to something as random as that?
The actual date went OK except he didnt speak much English and my French was strictly classroom patter. I could show someone round a cheese factory but my small talk was limited, she laughs. I met his entire family and then we had to do some absurdly pelvic dancing on stage. But that was about as far as it went, Im happy to say.
Eight months into her job at Virgin, Rachel was gifted another bizarre fillip: a free trip to Sir Richard Bransons Necker Island. Wed just landed in Barbados and we were then flying on to Antigua for two days off. But then Branson got on and said: Were all off to Necker. It was like something out of a James Bond film.
At the other end, there was a fleet of Land Rovers waiting to take us out to a jetty, where speedboats were waiting. Champagne corks were flying. There was even an inflatable trampoline in the sea. And if you wanted a sandwich made, you rang a gong. I was only 23 it blew my mind.
But free champagne and exotic travel notwithstanding Rachel missed her art: Theres nothing else Ive felt so compelled to do. After taking an MA in printmaking at the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol, she found work as a copywriter but spent her evenings writing and drawing. Again, fortune smiled. Ever since I won a scholarship to a boarding school when I was eight, Ive known you have to work for what you want, and, like the old clich says, the harder Ive worked, the luckier Ive been.
Her break came, simultaneously, on two fronts. The commissioning editor at Puffin spotted some of my work at a graduates exhibition in Bristol and left a note asking me to get in touch.
That same month, Rachel sent some ideas off to David Hicks, who published Giles Andreaes Purple Ronnie. My main idea was a Valentines card that read: You make my heart go boom. It was as simple as that. David liked what he saw but neither of us had any clue how successful the cards would become. He just said: Im going to give you a go, well start with 14 cards but dont get too excited. Dont remortgage your house. I told him: I dont have a house. He said OK and off we went.
Her book deal with Puffin was just as immediate. I showed the editor my portfolio, including an etching of a character called Daisy. She nodded and said: Are you working on anything else? Id just had a dream about a little girl whos trying to work out what her father does for a living so I told her.
She pointed to Daisy and said: Thats it. Thats the character and thats the story. Go away and write it.
The three-book deal with Puffin (What Does Daddy Do?, My Sister is an Alien! and Mine!) led to a five-book deal with Harper Collins which includes The Wonderful World of Walter and Winnie and Love Monster. What Does Daddy Do? has been optioned as a TV series and Love Monster has just been released as an audio book, read by David Walliams.
Rachel, who plans to have a family, has a Dahl-esque knack of plugging into a childs psyche. I was always convinced I wanted to be a childrens author. It just falls out of my brain. I cant separate words and pictures in my head, she smiles.
With such a passion for storytelling it is no wonder that she is so in demand. Last year, she empowered guests at a yoga retreat in Bali and inspired children to come up with their own love monsters at a special workshop in Bridport to coincide with the towns Literary Festival.
There is, seemingly, little Rachel cant do. She makes her own furniture, runs back-to-back marathons and even helped design the eco-lodge that her carpenter fianc Rob, 44, built in their two-acre garden in Coldharbour.
I am ambitious, she says. And I make a very good living out of my ideas. The cards sell for an average of 2.50 and I get a very small percentage each time. But I havent made my first million yet.
My next dream is to have my own TV animation. Peppa Pig had best watch out.