Category Archives: Writing 4 Children

An interview with… Alec Price

In my Writing 4 Children column this month, I interviewed Alec Price about the pros and cons of mainstream publishing v self-publishing. He had some very interesting things to say about the two processes of becoming a published author.

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His children’s books are about the Trogglybogs, strange children who are only two feet tall and covered all over in brown fur. they live deep in the caverns on Brinscall moors. These cheeky mischief-makers enjoy nothing more than sneaking up on people who are picnicking on the hills and stealing their food.

Trogglybogs book cover

Alec told me that in the end of experiencing both methods he prefers the self-publishing route. he said:

I think it is much more satisfying, and more profitable, to do the whole publishing process yourself. It’s not that hard.

Alec Price

For both ways of getting published Alec explained he has to do most of his own self-promotion. The publisher did put his book on Amazon and other online book sites. He contacted local papers and radio stations, he organised his school visits and he also set up his own mobile book stall to take to fair and summer fetes. Alec said:

With self-publishing you have complete control of your book; it is your baby. you can make it a success and reap the rewards.

Alec Price

For more about Alec Price and his books you can check out his website: www.alecpricewrites.co.uk

You can read the complete feature in Writers’ Forum Magazine #213 July 2019

An interview with… Undiscovered Voices

In my Writing 4 Children column in the national writing magazine Writers’ Forum this month #212 Jun 2019, I discover more about the unique biennial competition for children’s book writers to get their manuscripts in front of agents and publishers.

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Undiscovered Voices is run by volunteers from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and sponsored by fiction book packager Working Partners. The competition is open for submissions on the 1st June 2019. The winners will be included in the 7th anthology out in 2020. The anthology will  be sent to every agent and publishers in the world of children’s books in the UK and US. It is also available as a free download from www.undiscoveredvoices.com.

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The feature contains excellent advice and tips for children’s authors who are considering entering the competition from each of the UK volunteer organisers: Catherine Coe, Jenny Glencross, Benjamin Scott, Simon James Green, Rosie Best and Sara Grant.

“Undiscovered Voices is not just a competition, but a supportive and friendly community. The UV team are aware it feels like an intimidating process, but want people to be reassured that the publishing industry is essentially just full of people who love books and who want nothing more than to discover new writers. Everyone is rooting for you to be successful.” UV team

The judges for the 2020 anthology are:

This is such an excellent opportunity for unagented and unpublished children’s authors. Don’t miss it.

An interview with… Flying Eye Books

In 2013, I interviewed Sam Arthur about the then new children’s book imprint, Flying Eye Books, which creates beautiful children’s books to stand out in a digital age.

Sam Arthur photo

Flying Eye Books is the children’s imprint of award-winning visual publishing house Nobrow. Established in early 2013, Flying Eye Books sought to retain the same attention to detail in design and excellence in illustrated content as its parent publisher, but with a focus on the craft of children’s storytelling and non-fiction.

Since then, an array of stunning and innovative titles have populated the list, including the award-winning Hildafolk series by Luke Pearson, the highly acclaimed Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space from Ben Newman and Dr. Dominic Walliman and exquisite picture books and enchanting illustrated biographies from breakaway young talents like Wild by Emily Hughes and Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill, New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2014 and winner of the 2015 Kate Greenaway Medal.

“When we started Nobrow Press one of our main sources of inspiration was children’s books. Our aim was to provide an independent platform for graphic art, Illustration and art comics in the UK and abroad. After publishing a few books aimed at younger readers under our Nobrow imprint we soon realised that we weren’t necessarily reaching our key demographic, that is to say, kids! So, after lots of hard work, the idea of a dedicated children’s imprint became a reality.” Sam Arthur

Sam told me, he can tell within a couple of pages if a submission is something they’d be interested in. Badly drawn and badly written are always a turn off. Also when someone hasn’t considered what types of books they publish, or don’t really know what Flying Eye Books do and who they are: this is just a waste of everyone’s time.

Sam revealed he never really has much time to read cover letters. He says that something along the lines of, Here’s a copy of my book, I’d love you to publish it. If you’re interested here are my contact details. Thanks for your time.’ is pretty much perfect! They are always looking for more original graphic novels for Nobrow Press and Sam is always looking for children’s picture books that fit their list.

“We firmly believe paper books are an important part of people’s lives. We feel that there is still great pleasure to be taken in the tactile nature of reading a physical book. We still like to collect tangible objects too and although the digital world is replacing some things, often it is simply providing a way to celebrate our love of the real world and the objects within it.” Sam Arthur

Sam’s advice to anyone wanting to submit their work is before you send them anything, make sure you have a good blog or website, which is up to date with your work. If they like a submission the first thing they do is check you out online to see other work you have done. An online presence could just be a bunch of drawings uploaded to a Flickr page – it doesn’t have to be a fancy website. 

“Our perception of you is based on a combination of your submission and your presence online. So my best advice is to consider this before you send anything in. If you have nothing it makes it difficult for us to get a picture of what you do and the decision to work with you will be affected by that.” Sam Arthur

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You can read the full interview in the #144 issue of Writers Forum. You can find out more about Flying Eye Books from their website: www.flyingeyebooks.com.

An interview with… Fiona Barker

In the latest issue of Writers’ Forum I have interviewed picture book writer, Fiona Barker for my Writing for Children column. She talks to me about her road to publication and how she was inspired to set up a children’s picture book club for adults.

Writing 4 Children - Fiona Barker and Picture Book Club3

In the feature she mentions how she is inspired by John Shelley’s one inch drawings and #ukpbchat which meets online each month on Twitter. Fiona recommends that aspiring picture book writers should follow key children’s book bloggers such as Book Lover Jo, or even me.

The Picture Book club meetings are usually held in a bookshop, often Waterstones in Reading but they are moving around the country. they also broadcast the events live on the Picture Book Club Facebook page. To stay up-to-date with locations and dates the events are running you can follow the Facebook page @picbookclub

Fiona told me:

“At a typical PBC meeting, members pay £5 ‘membership’ on the door. This helps us to cover speaker expenses. We have a talk or discussion for 30-40 mins and then break for cake and a chance to chat informally. The cakes are a big feature of PBC. We try to make something that is relevant to each speaker, so it might be a book cover or a model of one of their characters. The dinosaur cake I made for Rob Biddulph is probably the one I am most proud of.”

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To find out more about Fiona Barker and her books you can follow her @Fi_BGB on twitter, @FionaWritesBooks on Facebook and Instagram and her author website is www.fionabarker.co.uk.

An interview with… Catherine Coe

In my Writing 4 Children column this month I talk to author and editor, Catherine Coe about her editorial services and what makes a great children’s book.

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Catherine explained how she takes on a select number of writers for long-term mentoring, which includes regular contact through video calls and feedback on work in progress. Many of he writers she has worked with have gone on to get publishing deals  with publishers such as Chicken House, David Fickling Books, Hot Keys, Hachette Children’s Group, Macmillan and Scholastic.

She strongly advocates that to write for children you need to get inside the child’s head, as you are more likely to engage your audience with appealing content, write in a style they enjoy and crucially, avoid speaking down to them. 

“I believe it is vital to remember what it was like to be a child and to channel those memories in terms of what you liked reading and what captured your attention and imagination.” Catherine Coe

Catherine has written over 30 books for children, including the popular Owls of Blossom Wood series.

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Her writing tip is to ensure your book has an overarching problem or goal that drives the plot. One that is compelling to the reader and will keep them turning the pages.

“Any book that keeps a child up at night reading is a great one.” Catherine Coe

To find out more about Catherine Coe and her editorial services, visit her website: http://www.catherine-coe.com

You can also follow her on Twitter @catherinecoe

An interview with… Ruta Sepetys

In my Writing 4 Children double spread, in the March issue of Writers’ Forum, I interview Ruta Sepetys about how she is bringing underrepresented pieces of history out of the dark in her award winning YA novels.

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For example, her novel Salt to the Sea, which won the 2017 CILIP Carnegie Medal, is set during the 1945 refugee evacuation of East Prussia and tells the story of the single largest maritime disaster in history—the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff in port during WWII. The story is told through the alternating viewpoints of four young people who are all hunted and haunted by tragedy, lies, and war. Their fates converge as they arrive at the port and board the doomed ship.

Salt to the Sea cover

Ruta explained how she was inspired to use the true story of her father’s cousin who had passage on the Wilhelm Gustloff but on the day of the voyage she was unable to board the ship. When the ship departed without her, she was certain that she would die in the port under Soviet attack. She survived, but over nine thousand passengers on the Gustloff perished.

“My cousin’s experience made such an impression on me. It issues the reminder that sometimes it’s not where we are—but where we aren’t—that makes a difference. I was also inspired to write about the maritime disaster because although the magnitude dwarfs the sinking of the Titanic, the story of the Wilhelm Gustloff is virtually unknown.” Ruta Sepetys

Her use of family history was also true of the first novel she had published by Puffin, Between Shades of Gray, which won the 2012 Golden Kite Award for fiction and was made into the movie, Ashes in the Snow. This novel chronicles the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States and the exile and deportation of countless victims to Siberia. The story follows Lina Vilkas, a fifteen-year-old artist who is arrested by the Soviet secret police and deported to Siberia with her mother and younger brother.

The story was inspired by two young women who were deported and also by Ruta’s father who fled Lithuania when he was a boy and spent nine years in refugee camps before arriving in the United States.

Ruta told me:

“I try to inject an equal balance of love and hope. When love is juxtaposed against violence, the two opposing forces reveal powerful truths about the other.” Ruta Sepetys

Her latest novel, The Fountains of Silence, is set in Madrid in 1957 during the Spanish Civil War.

The Fountains of Silence

It tells the story of eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of a Texas oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera only to be plunged into one of history’s darkest corners.

You can read my full interview with Ruta Sepetys in the March 2019 #209 issue of Writers’ Forum.

To find out more about Ruta and her books take a look at  her website: www.rutasepetys.com. Or follow her on Twitter @RutaSepetys

An interview with… Sarah Stewart

In the February Issue of Writers’ Forum I have interviewed Sarah Stewart the director of the Lighthouse Children’s Literary Consultancy about her career and the services she offers to children’s and YA book writers.

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She started The Lighthouse with her good friend, Cat Clarke, when they were both working as editors. Sarah was the UK editor of The Hunger Games at Scholastic and has also worked for the excellent Edinburgh based publisher, Floris Books.

The feature contains valuable advice about opening lines and query letters. They also link up writers with agents  when they feel they’ve read a good, strong submission.

Some of Sarah’s advice includes:

If you’re writing for younger children, a sense of immediacy is a bonus in an opening; I like a bit of meandering description when I am read adult fiction, but not if I’m looking at something aimed at seven year olds.

You can read the full interview in the Feb 2019 #208 issue of Writers Forum. To find out more about the Lighthouse Children’s Literary Consultancy and their services you can view their website: www.lighthouseliterary.co.uk or follow them on Twitter at: @thelighthouseuk