Category Archives: Writing 4 Children

An interview with… Jasmine Richards

In the September 2019 #215 issue of Writers’ Forum, I talk to author and editor, Jasmine Richards, about diverse books and why she set up STORYMIX a new children’s book packager for series fiction.

Jasmine Richards 2

She explained that although her first novel, The Book of Wonders, was written in 2010 she had the idea when she was nine years old. Her inspiration was 1001 Arabian Nights and other stories she had read as a child. Jasmine has also written under the pseudonyms, J D Sharpe, Adam Blade and Rosie Banks.

dav

Here is a video showing what Jasmine’s books are about.

As an author she noticed a recurring theme in her fan mail. the readers and their parents often expressed how much they enjoyed reading about the diverse character backgrounds in her stories.

This and the desire to see more contemporary characters that looked like herself having adventures,  were two important factors that motivated Jasmine to set up a children’s fiction production company that focuses on diverse characters and inclusive representation.

She explained:

“It is one of the key ambitions of of STORYMIX that our writers and illustrators will also go on to secure their own publishing deals and thus meaningfully change the make-up of the publishing landscape.”

Jasmine Richards

When asked what makes a diverse book Jasmine sent me this quote from Tananarive Due to explain:

quote

She told me:

“Many people perceive that books that are representative need to have a serious message or deal with serious issues. Of course, those issue books are important but they are only a part of the story. Young people from all backgrounds have the right to see themselves in all kind of stories – mystery stories, horror stories, sci-fi stories…”

Jasmine Richards

She explained that a recent study from CLPE (Centre of Literacy in Primary Education) has shown of the 9,115 children’s titles published in 2017 only 4% featured black, Asian and minority ethnic characters.

STORYMIX are always looking for writers and illustrators to work with. You can find out more about STORYMIX and the books they develop here: www.storymix.co.uk

You can find out more about Jasmine Richards and her books on her website: www.jasminerichards.com

Read the full interview in the #215 Sep 2019 issue of Writers Forum, which is available in shops now.

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.

20190708_133442

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: www.loutreleaven.com You can you can find her on Twitter at @loutreleaven and Facebook at www.facebook.com/loutreleaven

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

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.

alec Price feature 1

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.

UV photo

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.

UV7_COVER

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

wf144

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.”

PBC 14 1

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.

Catherine Coe feature 1

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.

Owlsbooks1-6

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