The debut novel is the Carryduff schoolgirl’s latest achievement proving once again that size doesn’t get in the way of your dreams

CARA Mailey has been a familiar face on our TV screens since her first appearance on CBBC’s makeover show, The Engineersat the age of nine.

The Carryduff daughter went on to land a role as one of six presenters on CBBC craft party and last year appeared in the CBBC documentary My life: tailor-madewhere she helped design a fashion line for children with achondroplasia.

Today, the 13-year-old, who lives with a height-limiting condition that affects the growth of cartilage in the body, wrote her first novel.

Intended for readers aged nine and over, I have this takes place in Belfast and is inspired by his own experiences. It follows Erin, who finds it hard to start high school. But when a famous pop group announces a contest for fans to be part of their next music video, Erin decides to take the plunge. She wants to show her younger brother that in life there are no limits – even if you don’t look like most other kids.

But making an audition video turns out to be harder than Erin expected… And when an opportunity arises that could boost her chances, Erin begins to wonder: can she stay true to herself? and pursue your dreams?

Being both mixed-race and petite means Cara can get a lot of unwanted attention, but she’s always emphasized that she’s “proud to be unique” and “being different is good.”

She carried that positivity and enthusiasm into I have thiswhich is not just about living with achondroplasia, but about loving yourself for being exactly who you are.

“I hope the book will show more people what it’s like to be small like me, but also show that anyone can dream big,” says Cara.

The book is written in partnership with Chrissie Sains, author of An alien in the jam factory and The treasure under the jam factory.

“It’s a fun, heartwarming read full of humor and truth about how limitless life can be and how we can accomplish anything with our friends and family behind us,” said Chrissie, who has very much appreciated his collaboration with Cara.

Cara Mailey and Chrissie Sains co-wrote the novel I Got This

As well as meeting up in London between closings, most of the novel was planned and written over a long series of Zoom meetings.

“Cara had a really good vision of what she wanted the story to be. We made a chapter plan and once we agreed on all of that, with each step we got a little closer. sure, we had a lot of laughs among the ideas,” adds Chrissie.

“People think you write it and it gets published, but making a book is so much more. Planning and editing was so much fun,” says Cara, who really enjoyed the experience.

“I love to talk, so the most fun part was planning the script. I was just sitting there telling stories about my life.”

Chatting with Cara myself on Zoom, it’s easy to see how her bubbly personality and zest for life is so infectious and has touched so many.

I have this is a mix of fact and fiction, blending real-life experiences and characters such as his younger brother Noah, known as Joe in the book, and who also suffers from achondroplasia, with artistic license.

So while Cara doesn’t really like eating jam and cheese sandwiches, she, like her character Erin, accidentally locked herself in the public restroom.

The pop group of I have this is called Fusion Junior, but Cara reveals that she based them on her own favorite band, Little Mix.

“We attended three or four Little Mix gigs. Early in the book, I was describing Erin hearing the rumble of the ground in the distance; one day we were late for the gig and that’s exactly what we heard. .”

Assumption Grammar ninth grader Ballynahinch Cara is adamant that fictional All Saints All Girls Grammar has nothing to do with her own school, especially bossy class assistant Barbara, who leaves no space to Erin.

“I think we did the opposite with the school and Barbara is completely different from my class assistants, who are all lovely.”

Cara’s mother, Trisha, who also suffers from achondroplasia, has also been on many Zoom sessions and, like Cara’s English teacher and school librarian, is extremely proud of her latest achievement.

“The character of Barbara was a way to raise awareness of how some people view small people and can be condescending by giving little pats on the head or overprotectiveness when it’s not always necessary.

“As Cara gets older, I can see her getting a little more frustrated with her condition and people’s reactions. She’s 13 and at an age where it’s a little harder for her and me. A example is she wants to go to a teen disco,” Trisha admits.

Cara likes to dance, sing and act. She has appeared in a number of local stage productions at the MAC and Lyric theaters in Belfast, most recently Anne and Revenge of a Blonde.

“I’m taking my fifth year musical theater exam and would like to work in musical theater and television in the future. But if that doesn’t work out, I want to be a midwife,” he adds. she.

Her ideal television role is another one that would break down barriers yet again – as a contestant in Come dance strictlyalongside dance professional Johannes Radebe.

“During confinement I did salsa lessons with Strictly Katya Jones online, so it’s good preparation,” she laughs.

As for a pitch job, I got to see Cara host the all-new Strictly Junior on CBBC.

Cara also isn’t ruling out returning to Erin’s adventures with a follow-up novel, and she’d love to help design another line of her She’s Fierce clothing line for teens with dwarfism.

I Got This by Cara Mailey in partnership with Chrissie Sains is published by Scholastic and is out Thursday, April 14.

Irene B. Bowles