The Road to Biscuit Land

This week we have a very special guest post on Take Home a Souvenir. Jessica Thom is the author of the acclaimed ‘Welcome to Biscuit Land’. Published last month to rave reviews, it is Jessica’s first book, based on her blog Touretteshero. The book features a foreword by Stephen Fry, who met Jessica when she appeared on his television show Fry’s Planet Word in 2011.

I have Tourettes Syndrome, which means I make movements and noises I can’t control. These are known as tics and my most prominent verbal tic is “Biscuit,’ a word I say involuntarily hundreds of times an hour.

Having Tourettes means only a small percentage of the words I say communicate what I’m thinking. Writing Welcome to Biscuit Land helped me to find a voice enriched by tics but not interrupted by them. It offered me something unique; a way of sharing my life without all the “Biscuits.”

Tourettes is a condition shrouded in myths and stereotypes. Most people in the UK have heard of it but very few have any clear understanding of what it really is. To help change this, three years ago I founded Touretteshero with my friend Matthew Pountney. Our aim is to challenge the misconceptions about Tourettes and share the humour and creativity that can arise from it with the widest possible audience.

Writing a daily blog about living with Tourettes has become a key part of my life, and it’s this blog that forms the basis of my book, Welcome to Biscuit Land – A Year in the Life of Touretteshero, which was published by Souvenir Press this autumn.

The journey to publication was full of memorable moments. Here are some of them:

Nervously climbing the stairs for our first meeting with Ernest Hecht at Great Russell Street

My surprise and joy at opening the email containing Stephen Fry’s wonderful, perfectly pitched, foreword to the book

My sudden sense of responsibility when I signed the contract

The light changing slowly outside my window as the hours passed putting the book together

Patiently drawing and re-drawing each illustration until I had a set that hadn’t been ruined by my sudden arm movements

The wave of relief as I sent off the final manuscript

The strange mix of exhaustion and satisfaction after our twelve-hour round trip to Devon for the front cover photo shoot

Nervously opening the padded envelope containing the proof copy

Sitting opposite Jane Garvey in the BBC Woman’s Hour studio explaining the tangible difference that people’s increased understanding of Tourettes makes to my life

The pleasure of seeing all my friends, family and supporters at our biscuit-fuelled launch party while I gave a tic-enhanced thank-you speech

The significance of signing a copy of Welcome to Biscuit Land for an eleven-year-old boy whose tics have been making his life very tough recently

Touretteshero has changed the way I view my tics and my experiences. I hope the book will give many other people the chance to share my unusual perspective as well. While not much can be done to prevent the physical effects of the condition, everyone can help to reduce its social impact.

I’d like Welcome to Biscuit Land to play a part in changing attitudes towards Tourettes and help me fulfil my mission to change the world, “One tic at a time.”

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