Monthly Archives: July 2019

An Interview with… Lou Treleaven

In my Writing 4 Children column this month, I interviewed Lou Treleaven about the nitty-gritty aspects of being a children’s book writer. In the feature Lou talks about how she broke into writing for children, her own writing process and doing school visits.

A big part of being a children’s book author is doing school visits. Lou offers a ‘pick and mix’ package for schools, which includes a number of different activities that can be slotted together to make a whole day or even several days. She explained that for younger children she usually reads a couple of picture books a followed by a related craft activity.  she also loves creating collaborative poems with the children after a reading. For the older children, she reads from her Pluto series and encourages the children to write replies to letters from aliens she has made in advance and bought in with her. She even provides an alien postbox to post them in.


Lou’s tip for other children’s book writers is to use simple but interesting language. She said:

Think poetry, even when you are writing prose.  A well chosen word replaces a dozen.  You have to leave room for the illustrations so your words can only take up a small part of the page, yet they need to tell the story, engage the reader and create tension.  Your words need to be the very best they can be.

Lou Treleaven

Lou has her own critique service where she focuses on all the different facets of what makes a story: characterisation, plot, language, tension and the message in the story, as well as how to lay out the text and craft a submission letter and synopsis.

For more about Lou Treleaven and her books and critique service you can check out her website: You can you can find her on Twitter at @loutreleaven and Facebook at

To read the complete feature take a look at Writers’ Forum Magazine #214 August 2019.

Walk the dogs


If you find yourself stuck for ideas, or unable to think what to write next, don’t sit and stare at your computer or your notebook, go for a walk. You’ll be amazed at what pops into your head. I alkso find I am so much more productive after I’ve walked the dogs.

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As well as being an excellent tip, this is an ideal opportunity to post a slideshow of my gorgeous dogs.

smiley face

Book Review – Amazing Mr Zooty

Title: Amazing Mr Zooty

Written and Illustrated by: Emma Chichester Clark

Published by: Anderson Press

Amazing Mr Zooty

This is the story of a cat called Mr Zooty who likes to help people. The Amazing Mr Zooty’s motto is:

‘Get out, help out’

He searches the park to find someone who needs his help and discovers Lucy and Sam Taylor. They are down on their luck and very poor. With the aid of his little red case Mr Zooty grants them all a wish to make their dreams come true but he likes to sprinkle in a few ideas of his own.

This is a good book to read aloud to a foundation class whilst showing the pictures and asking the children what they think might happen next. Early readers could use the illustrations to tell their own versions of the story.

An interview with… Ally Sherrick

In my Research Secrets column in the national writing magazine Writers’ Forum this month #214 Aug 2019, I interview Ally Sherrick about the research she did to weave mythology into WWII historical events for her children’s adventure book, The Buried Crown.

BC Cover Final HR

Ally Sherrick set her story at the Sutton Hoo site,  where the famous early 7th century longship burial and grave of what is believed to be Redwald, King of the East Angles and High King of Britain was discovered in 1939 on the eve of the outbreak of war. The ship contained grave goods ranging from humble domestic items such as cups and buckets to some of the most stunning treasures ever discovered in northern Europe. Many of the most precious items, including the famous Sutton Hoo helmet, shield and sword belt, are decorated with dragons which the Anglo-Saxons believed liked nothing better than to sit beneath burial mounds jealously guarding treasure hoards.

Buckle replica

This was the inspiration for her idea of a story about a dragon-headed crown based during WWII. Ally told me:

A sense of place is very important to me in my writing, both as a source of inspiration, and also as a character. I had visited the burial mounds and museum at Sutton Hoo, run by the National Trust, a number of years ago, but of course, once I started writing my story, I knew I would have to go again. And I was keen to revisit Woodbridge, where George meets Kitty and where her granddad’s museum – loosely based on Woodbridge Museum – is located.

Her novel is full of realistic descriptions of what it was like for a child to be a refugee during WWII. She did extensive research into the Jewish child refugees who travelled to Britain on the Kindertransports. She was also inspired by the stories her dad use to tell her about what it was like to be parted from his family and sent to live in the countryside.

Ally Sherrick

As the story is set in rural Suffolk, Ally wanted to be sure to try and capture elements of the local accent for characters like Bill Jarvis, the cruel farmer George lodges with. Ally explained this involved listening to recordings of Suffolk voices on the internet and identifying little idiosyncrasies of pronunciation which would give a flavour of the difference in speech between Londoners George and Charlie and the Suffolk-based characters.  For example for words with ‘ing’ endings, Bill Jarvis will always say ‘en’ instead.

Though all the German characters in the Buried Crown speak English pretty fluently, Ally did have them use German phrases at certain moments for emphasis or added drama. She told me that even though she does not speak German herself, she was able to run things past a good friend who is German, and her publisher, Chicken House, also had this double-checked too.

Ally said:

I am extremely grateful to everyone who helped me with checking the various elements of my story. Some of them were acquaintances, but others I approached via museums or special interest societies, the contact details for which I sourced from the internet. All were more than happy to help, and I know the book is more authentic as a result. As I say in the acknowledgements, all errors are my own! 

Ally’s tip for other writers is to follow your curiosity wherever it may lead you. She found it added extra dimensions and layers to her novel.

You can read the full interview in the August 2019 #214 issue of Writers Forum.

You can find out more about Ally Sherrick and her books on her website: and follow her on Twitter: @ally_sherrick

Face Your Fears

I am sure I am not the only one who has got to a point in my writing and lost confidence in what I am doing. I often get about half way through and realise there is still so much to do and  the end is still unclear and a muddle in my mind. Then I think what I’ve done so far is all utter rubbish and is only fit for the bin.

Maybe your manuscript is also full of gaps and glitches and your desk is like mine and covered with strange notes and ramblings that have lost all meaning because you – like me – are overwhelmed. Is the dreaded question storming through your head too?

How am I ever going to finish?


It is easy to lose faith and wonder whether it is actually worth the effort. The hard part is remembering this is NORMAL. It is how you know you are a real writer. We all get tired and disheartened. The trick is to take a deep breath and carry on.

The only way you can get over the hump is to face your fear and nagging doubts and get on with it anyway.

Force yourself to work through it.

Don’t think about it! Go on Try it!

Book Review – The Girl with the Bird’s Nest Hair

Title: The Girl with the Bird’s Nest Hair

Written and illustrated by: Sarah Dyer

Published by: Bloomsbury

The Girl with the Bird_s Nest Hair

A little girl does not like brushing her tangled tresses, but when a varied selection of birds set up home in her hair, she knows she certainly cannot brush it and upset them. Nothing her mother says or does makes any difference, until one day when the birds become a little more than she can handle!

This is a beautifully illustrated book written in rhyming couplets. This book would be a joy to read aloud in the classroom, or could be used for guided reading, allowing time for the children to ponder over the illustrations to spot the different birds that nest in Hollie’s hair. Children will be able to easily identify with Hollie and the dilemma of having to have their hair brushed.


Poetry should be ageless but, should have a target audience in mind. Your voice has to appeal to the child of today.

Poems for children can be divided into three age ranges: 5+, 9+ and YA.

  • A-Z: The best children’s poetry from Agard to Zephaniah compiled by Michael Rosen
  • Please Mrs Butler by Allan Ahlberg
  • The Day I Fell Down the Toilet and Other Poems by Steve Turner and David Mostyn

The Poetry Society is an excellent resource for poets:

If you want to target you poetry in an event remember National Poetry Day is the 4th October.

There are often opportunities for aspiring poets for children in anthologies and you can see your name alongside big names such as:

  • Michael Rosen,
  • Carol Anne Duffy,
  • John Agard,
  • Pie Corbett,
  • Paul Cookson,
  • Roger McGough

If want to write poetry for children go to local bookshop and browse their most recently published anthologies. See who published them. Write to them and say interested in submitting to the next anthology and could they put you on their list. Include a selection of poems as example of your style and voice. Try and include a poem that would have been appropriate for their latest anthology as a similar theme.

poetry anthology

Poems can be timeless and you are often able to re-use them. My poem The Fairground is in the Teaching ICT with Story and has previously been featured in a teacher resource called ‘Here comes the Fair’ published by Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust, in conjunction with the University of Manchester and Manchester City council and is now part of an anthology of poems for speech and drama teachers, Poetry for Performance published by The Playing Space.