Janet is a retired primary school deputy head. Several years ago she gave up her job, sold her house and bought a narrowboat. She now lives aboard with her husband Mike and Chico their Jack Russell, spending her time writing books and creating stories for children’s TV.
Hi, my name is Janet Roberts and I was born Janet Lee on 17th October 1957. I have two older brothers and we are all quite close in age, so I grew up very much a tomboy, wanting to join in with everything they did. I remember pleading with them to take me along on their adventures to the ‘rec’, a mass expanse of deserted land with trees and bushes, a fantastic place for making dens!
I was very close to my Dad. He was a quiet, kind man who taught my brothers and me some memorable morals. One in particular has always stayed with us: ‘If you can’t say something nice about somebody then don’t say anything at all.’ I can genuinely say my Dad stuck to this his whole life because I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone.
My Dad was the best story teller ever. He didn’t need a book, he just used our toys and took them on the most exciting adventures. I can remember some of the stories to this day, as can my children, because he continued his love of storytelling with his grandchildren.
As a child I was very bossy (Mike says I still am!) and liked to organise everyone. I am sure this is why I eventually ended up going into teaching. After qualifying I went abroad to live with my first husband putting my career on hold to start a family. Having three children and moving many times including living in Germany and America, we eventually settled back in England. When my last child Edward (who illustrated book one) began school I started back in teaching.
I loved those early years of teaching. There were far fewer pressures than teachers have today and I’ve got some very fond memories of the children I taught back then.
Unfortunately my marriage ended after 16 years and I raised the children by myself for a while. I met Mike, my present husband, when he was playing in a band at my best friend’s husband’s birthday party. I have to say it was love at first sight and we finally got married just before Christmas the year of the millennium.
Mike was a music teacher and both being teachers was great, because we had all the school holidays together as a family. However when the children grew up and left home we found that the pace and paper work of teaching had become so consuming that we rarely saw each other. After one particularly stressful week we realised we needed to reduce our money commitments to be able to give up work. We wanted to live our dream of writing stories and composing songs. We decided to sell the house and buy a narrowboat to live in. We’d owned an old boat many years before and used it for holidays, so we knew what it was like to live aboard for a few weeks. However living on one all of the time would be a new experience.
Three months later we’d done it and were living aboard. We’ve never regretted a day of it.
For the first three years I carried on working as a supply teacher and wrote about Chico Chugg on my free days. Mike continued to play in a couple of bands and formed a duo with a friend from the marina calling themselves ‘Half Cut’. They play locally at fund raising events, boating festivals and birthday celebrations.
After my first book ‘The Misadventures of Chico Chugg’ was published Mike and I started touring primary schools delivering ‘Free Literacy Assemblies’ to promote writing, which we still do now, but as big book tours 3 times a year supporting events such as World Book Day and National Writing Day.
I have 4 books in print in Chico’s series with 2 more written and waiting to be published.
At a craft fair with my first three books I met Anita who could see the potential of turning my stories into a TV series for young children, 3 years later and we now have our own Production Company with Anita called Chugg Productions Ltd, of course! Chugg.tv website
We have completed 2 TV series all about Chico which are on Chico’s Youtube channel through our distributers in America called Foothill Entertainments. He is also on BBC iplayer and S4C as Nico Nog and all his episodes have been translated into Welsh.
I have also illustrated 5 books that follow the scripts from 5 of his TV episodes that allow children to read along and also colour in the illustrations using the flip books on this website.
I now work with Authors Abroad who are a leading provider of author school visits in both the UK and overseas. They book all my workshops and presentations in schools.
Anita, as our producer, won an RTS award for the first series on S4C and Chugg Productions won Pride of Rugby award for best small company.
So you can see early retirement didn’t last long. I am now almost as busy as I was before I finished teaching, but it honestly does not feel like work and Mike and I are both loving every minute of our new lives!
What bliss! We can’t quite believe how lucky we are and as for Chico, what a lucky little dog he is! He always has company, masses of attention wherever he is and now his own TV series as well as a series of books. He can’t do anything without me writing it down for future stories about him and his friends.
I do hope you enjoy looking around this website. There are lots of fun things to see and do, so take your time and enjoy having a little bit of ‘Chico’ in your life!
I was thrilled in 2011 when my first book ‘The Misadventures of Chico Chugg’ was nominated for the Peoples’ Book Prize. We got all the way to the finals and attended a very posh ‘do’ near St Paul’s in London. You can see my People’s Book Prize interview above. Though we didn’t win first prize I was very excited to meet the other authors. I even spoke to Frederick Forsyth who wrote ‘The Day of the Jackal’. (I thought of calling my second book ‘The Day of the Jack Russell’ in his honour but Mike talked me out of it!)