When Are You Going to Write a Proper Book? A Day for Children’s Writers and Illustrators

Sarah Webb, Writer in Residence, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown in association with Children’s Books Ireland and supported by Words Ireland

Publishers Panel

Publishers Panel

This is a short overview of the day with facts, figures and highlights. A podcast of the day will be available within the next few weeks – stay tuned to this blog, the Children’s Books Ireland website and social media, and my own social media for further details.

Children’s Books Ireland are looking at having similar days soon – more about that when they are announced. With over 70 on the waiting list for this event, there is certainly a demand for such days. It’s great to see such a keen interest in writing for children.

On Saturday 4th February the Lexicon Studio Theatre was packed with writers, illustrators, publishers, agents and children’s writers in various stages of their careers. There was a focus on telling our ‘truths’ and being honest and open about writing and publishing. Grainne Clear gave some really useful info about advances and royalties. She explained that the average writer’s advance in Ireland is e1,000. In the UK for smaller publishers like Little Island (not for the larger houses) it is roughly between £1k to £5k. Surely that’s wrong, one man tweeted using our hashtag for the day #properbook asking about Irish advances. But Grainne had done her homework – asking publishers, writers and agents for their input. And e1k it stands.

Sheena Wilkinson told us about her healthy regard for being solvent and confirmed that she had received e5,875 in advances for her 7 books, backing up Grainne’s figures. Alan Nolan gave his advice, have another income stream and marry up! Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick told us about her SFDs – shitty first drafts and David O’Callaghan explained that he just couldn’t sell PAF books in Eason – Posh As F*** (hardback picture books) and boy had he tried. He said his customers panic and grab the nearest Julia Donaldson.

It was a most thought-provoking and stimulating day. More details below.

The 1st panel which I chaired  – Aoife Murray from Children’s Books Ireland, Colleen Jones from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and Valerie Bistany from the Irish Writers Centre talked about their organisations and how they helped writers.

Aoife explained how important events are to a children’s writer and said that Dave Rudden had done 52 events in October 2016, quite an achievement! She explained how they try to lobby for children’s writers and illustrators and be a voice for children’s books in the media. And a great job they do too.

Colleen explained how SCBWI could help self-published writers and told us about their award for self-published books, the Spark Award, won recently by Irish woman, Denise Deegan.

Valerie talked about the Irish Writers Centre classes and workshops, residencies. I teach at the Irish Writers Centre and also work as a mentor for new writers through the centre.

The 2nd panel talked about money – earning a living as a writer. The chair, Elaina Ryan from CBI asked writer, Alan Nolan should writers be expected to do events for free. He said no. He quoted Celine Kiernan: ‘If I wanted exposure, I’d run naked down O’Connell Street.’

Grainne Clear from Little Island explained that smaller publishers focus on festivals rather than author tours. She said that an author may need to arrange a tour or a launch themselves.

Elaina Ryan and Sinead Connelly

Elaina Ryan and Sinead Connelly

Grainne said that for big UK publishers that doing events and having a profile could be a deal breaker for a publisher (when looking to take a writer on). She noted that it wasn’t the case for Little Island who are all about strong writing.

Librarian, Maeve Rogan McGann said she was very open to good pitches from writers and quoted ER Murray and Alan Early as an example – they had approached her directly and did several events together and workshops for her.

Sinead Connelly from the International Literature Festival, Dublin said she was interested in pitches for events from writers but she wanted something really interesting, something that told her about the writer and who they were as a person. She gave the example of the Friendship event that I did at the festival with my writer friend, Judi Curtin as an event that gave insight into writers’ lives and was something a bit different. Thank you, Sinead!

Alan explained that 60% of his income came from design work, 40% from his books and his events and school visits. He gets paid e150 for a 1 hour school or library event. The Writer in Schools fee of e200 for a 2.5 hour school visit (+ travel) was also quoted by Elaina. For details of recommended fees for writers see this excellent post here from the Words Ireland website.

Maeve said she pays e100 per 45 minute event or short workshop, or e300 for three events. Sinead pays her festival writers e300 per event for a standard event.

All agreed that you should say no if asked to do an event for free. Elaina quoted Jane O’Hanlon from Poetry Ireland’s Writers in Schools scheme who explained that writers who work for free undercut their colleagues.

And then to the topic of royalties. I’d already shared some of my own ‘truths’ about royalties. That I’d been paid from no advance (for my very first book, Kids Can Cook) to e1,500 and e2,000 advances from various Irish publishers. All have earned out (earned more that the advance paid), some have been translated and I regularly receive good royalties from all these Irish published books. I enjoy working with Irish publishers very much and have a new book out with O’Brien Press in the autumn. That yes, like a handful of Irish writers, I’ve been lucky enough to receive some of the mythical ‘five and six figure’ book deals for my children’s books for UK and World rights (and hopefully will continue to in the future if I work hard enough and come up with strong, original ideas) but that is the exception, not the rule. The large advances are in the news because they are just that – unusual and news worthy! Shane Hegarty, Dave Rudden, Cecelia Ahern – all exceptional writers with original, commercial ideas and great agents and publishers.

Since first writing this blog, figures have been coming in from other writers published in the UK and internationally – and thank you to the writers for sharing their experiences. I’ll be updating this blog as often as I can so please do send me further information.  According to one experienced writer, average UK advances from larger publishing houses range from £5 to 10k for a novel and £6 to 15k for a picture book (1/3 to writer, 2/3 to illustrator).  Writers deserve to be well paid for all their hard work and  creativity!

Grainne explained that advances are paid to a writer based on how many books the publisher thinks they can sell and the price of the book. Hence a larger country like the US (or the UK) with a bigger market can pay larger advances.

Little Island pay a standard advance to all writers, both new and established – this was something I hadn’t realised and useful to know. Authors usually get 7.5% royalty of the recommended retail price of the book. Average advance for a 1st book is 1k and average yearly income for a writer is e10k to 12k. The average Irish print run is 2.5k copies she said.

Alan Nolan and Maeve Rogan McGann

Alan Nolan and Maeve Rogan McGann

Alan’s advice was to marry up – he was only joking! He explained how important it is to have a second income stream.

Maeve gave some great advice – clear some time in March and October for school and library visits, she said. Keep some days free as these are the times we are most looking for writers.

We broke for lunch here – I think the audience needed to mull over the facts and figures. The people I spoke to were surprisingly chipper about the lack of money in children’s books. ‘Just as well I love writing if I’m not going to be a millionaire,’ one woman told me with a smile. With that attitude she will go far!

After lunch Sheena Wilkinson hit us with what Alan Nolan described as ‘Wisdom Bombs’. She said that only 10% of her income comes from book sales. She has never been in the news for her big advances, but she has been in the news for winning a lot of book awards.

She has received e5,875 in advances for 7 books. She said writers can’t create if they are anxious about having a roof over their heads.

In 2016 she did 26 school visits, 18 library visits and spent 143 days doing events and teaching.

She said to ‘Seek out the rest of your tribe’ – the children’s book tribe. She admitted that a year ago she feared that her career was over. She had no new contract and she was genuinely worried. But a few months later things had changed and she’s been publishing steadily ever since.

Sheena was open and honest and many people’s highlight of the day, mine included. Sheena is a strong, intelligent woman who is not afraid of letting people see her vulnerabilities, which made this a really special talk indeed.

Next up David O’Callaghan from Eason, Oisin McGann and Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick told us some of their truths.

David O'Callaghan

David O’Callaghan

David explained how important a good cover is to make a book stand out. He said what makes him buy a book for his stores is:

Word of mouth – the buzz around a book and early reviews and info from people he trusts

Originality – something different

He said if you want to know what trend to follow (when it comes to writing), you’re already too late. He will always push something original that may catch readers’ imaginations. But he can’t seem to sell PAF books – Posh As F*** hardback picture books.

Oisin Mc Gann said ‘You’re not going to make much money writing for children so you may as well have a good time doing it.’ He explained that modern children’s (and adults’) reading stamina is reduced and all writers need to think about this. He described reading stamina as ‘the time bomb in children’s books.’

David O’Callaghan gave great advice for writers:

For age 0 to 4 pitch (your marketing and publicity) at the parents and the bookselling community

Age 5 to 12 – work hard

Do school events

Your audience is kids and their parents

YA – get on social media and use it

Tumblr, Snapchat, blogging

Put in the work. He name checked Louise O’Neill and Deirdre Sullivan as writers who do this well.

Finally he said ‘Writing a book sounds like too much work to me. I’ll stick to selling them!’ And we’re lucky he’s such a passionate and devoted bookseller!

The final panel was called ‘Is It Me You’re Looking For?’ and featured Conor Hackett, Publisher’s Agent with Little Island, Walker Books and other publishers, Ivan O’Brien from O’Brien Press, Nicki Howard from Gill Books and UK agent, Penny Holroyde.

Penny said that picture books are the hardest place for a new writer to start. Many of the submissions she receives have no beginning, middle or end, are too long and are patronising.

She said it’s best not to try and write a rhyming picture book and noted the luxury non-fiction as a nice trend, books like Gill Books’ Irelandopedia with well curated content.

Nicki Howard admitted that she was surprised by the success of Irelandopedia. She explained how the idea came from Gill Books and how they commissioned Fatti Burke to illustrate it, after seeing her work in Cara magazine. Fatti brought her father, John on board as the writer, which Nicki explained was a great backstory for promotion.

Word Count

Penny said the ideal word count for a picture book is 500 to 800 words.

Think of the book as 12 double page spreads, she said.

Conor said that Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton is only 90 words.

Early Readers – 2 to 3k words. Penny explained that publishers tended to have armies of set writers for this age group and rights were hard to sell.

Middle Grade – age 9 to 12

Publishers Panel

Publishers Panel

Are you the type of author who will put in the time and work to be successful? Penny asked. A successful author (for this age) is a hard working one all agreed.

Ivan said that he looks for how hard a writer will work on events and promotions when considering taking on a new writer.

New writers – need to blog, be on social media and also be part of the children’s book ‘tribe’.

Ivan said – we are not interested in doing 1 book with a writer, we’re looking to build up backlist.

Nicki is interested in writers who are enthusiastic about what they are doing.

Conor is looking for books that really deliver.

Penny joked that her ideal writer was a bestseller. When working at another agency her boss told her: ‘Normal people don’t write books’.

American YA has an ambition that UK YA doesn’t, Penny said.

Ivan said that O’Brien Press is not actively looking for picture books. They are looking for good fiction for age 10+. Great novels.

He said to make the first book as good as it can be and maybe think of a sequel (or a series) after that. Alice Next Door by Judi Curtin came in as a stand-alone book he said. Word count – he suggested not more than 50K but make every word count.

Nicki Howard is looking for Irish focused books and illustrators.

Penny is looking for great age 10+ books like Beetle Boy of 40k words and is always interested in looking at illustrators.

Conor gave writers this advice:

Go to book launches

Engage with the industry

Meet people

The opportunities are there, he said. Take them!

A great way to end the day. Afterwards we launched the World of Colour Exhibition which is in the Lexicon from now until the end of March and features the work of Beatrice Alemanga and Chris Haughton.

Speaking at the Launch of a World of Colour

Speaking at the Launch of a World of Colour

Thanks to everyone at Children’s Books Ireland – Elaina, Jenny, Ciara and especially Aoife who helped with programming advice and support, Marian Keyes, Susan Lynch and all at the Lexicon Library for their help and Words Ireland for their support.

me - exhit

1/ If you want to write for children you must read children’s books – read picture books, early readers, middle grade novels (age 9+), teen books (age 11+) and YA novels (young adult). Ask a bookseller or librarian to recommend some award winning books in each age category.

Children’s books are not a genre, they are an age group. Within each age group there are books in every genre: fantasy, comedy, science fiction, history etc, yes, even picture books. You cannot write a book for age 4 to 14 – you need to narrow it down a little. Different age groups like different things from a book.

Once you have decided on an age group and/or settled on an age for your main character or characters, it’s time to start writing. Children like to read up an age – they want to read about characters that are older than they are.

Read Children's Books

Read Children’s Books

2/ Write as often as you can and keep the story in your head. Think about your characters and your plot as you walk the dog, commute, wash up. Your subconscious will take over and unknot plot problems if you let it. Make time to write but also make time to think. If you want to write badly enough, you will find the time.

Take your head out of your phone – allow your mind time to mull over your story. Think deeply about your characters and what they WANT, what motivates them to live, what drives them.

3/ Carry a notebook. Whenever you think of an idea, jot it down. Keep another notebook beside your bed. It’s amazing how quickly ideas can disappear into the ether.

4/ Some writers like to plot, others don’t. Planners in life are often story plotters; people who crave spontaneity might be best not to plot too carefully. If you are starting out I’d suggest you put some plot notes in place to keep you writing.

5/ Don’t give up – stick your bottom to your chair and keep going. To finish a book you need bum glue. Whatever you do, finish your book. It’s a huge accomplishment and very satisfying. Most writers feel like giving up at some stage – a shiny new idea seduces them away from their novel – but keep going. Most people don’t finish their book – be the exception.

Allow your first draft to be messy and full of mistakes. You can clean it all up later. Just keep moving forwards. Finish your first draft. Finish!

E.L. Doctorow said: ‘Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ He’s right, just keep going.

Keep Going - Writers Sharing Lunch and Supporting Each Other - Who Can You Spot?

Keep Going – Writers Sharing Lunch and Supporting Each Other – Who Can You Spot?

6/ The difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer is tenacity, resilience, grit. Give me a naturally talented, outstanding writer with no drive and a good writer with the energy and enthusiasm to work on a book with all their heart and soul and I’ll bet on the good writer every time.

7/ Write from the heart. Write because you have a burning desire to tell your story. Write the book you’d write if you only had a few months to live. Write with your heart. Rewrite with your head. The first draft is only the beginning of the journey. Good luck!

These tips were prepared for TV3 by Sarah Webb.

November and December have been busy months in Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown Writer in Residence land!

Me and My Niece, Rosie in the dlr Lexicon Library

Me and My Niece, Rosie in the dlr Lexicon Library

 Reader and Writers’ Day 5th November (Adult Event)

We kicked off the month with a Readers and Writers’ Day in the Lexicon Studio. Bestselling UK author, Lucy Diamond joined a host of Irish writers and readers for a fantastic day of book chat and fun. I also attended Deadly Openings with Sam Blake, Liz Nugent and Catherine Ryan Howard

Children’s Book Club

We discussed Beyond the Stars and Imaginary Fred in Book Club. Both scored high scores from our discerning young readers. However the biggest hit of the season was The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. They loved the way the story was told with both words and pictures and we watched some of the old French silent movies that inspired the story.

hugo cabret cover hugo interior

 

Children’s Writing Club

We had a lovely time at writing club. We celebrated Emma’s birthday with cup cakes and had hot chocolate in the café to celebrate the end of the year. The young writers will be working on a new project called I Am Dun Laoghaire next year. Watch out for the group exhibition of their work in June.

 Writers in Schools Conference

I went to the Poetry Ireland Writers in Schools conference in the lovely new Poetry Ireland building. It was great to chat to other writers who visit schools and to exchange ideas.

 Teen Creatives

We had two teen creatives workshops in November – one with a film maker and the other with writer, Deirdre Sullivan. In December award winning author, Sheena Wilkinson visited from Northern Ireland. We look forward to workshops with Alan Nolan and Dave Lordan in the New Year.

 Writing.ie Independent Publishing Day (Adult Event)

I attended this day organised by my friend, Vanessa O’Loughlin from writing.ie. It was interesting and I found out a lot about self-publishing. I have self-published several guides to children’s books, along with Dubray books and Eason and it’s an interesting process. It also reminded how much I enjoy working with traditional publishers – self-publishing is a lot of hard work and I cherish the input my editors and marketing and publicity teams put in to getting my books into the hands of readers.

 Irish Writers Centre

I continued teaching my Writing for Children and Teenagers course for adults at the Irish Writers Centre. We celebrated our final class with a reading from the students and a Christmas party.

Danger is Everywhere Show

My Dangerology Uniform

My Dangerology Uniform

I love the Danger books so I was thrilled to bring David O’Doherty and Chris Judge to the Pavilion. Here I am in my Dangerologist’s uniform. David and Chris approved.

 Baby Book Club in Dalkey (and soon to be Deansgrange in 2017)

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Breaking News – I’ll be hosting a new Baby Book Club Deansgrange in the New Year – I can’t wait! I love hosting Dalkey Baby Book Club and this month we made hedgehogs and talked about hibernation.

 Launch of the 1916 Exhibition by Jon Berkeley

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I attended the launch of a wonderful exhibition in the Lexicon – well worth checking out. It was launched by Children’s Laureate, PJ Lynch.

 Swing of the 60s Exhibition Launch

The Swing of the Sixties Project Room

The Swing of the Sixties Project Room

Do catch it if you can – it’s on until 6th January and is a riot of colour. Fantastic for children and grown ups alike. My writing club and book club wrote some fantastic stories and poems inspired by the work.

 The Harold School Christmas Fair

My Son the Christmas Tree!

My Son the Christmas Tree!

I spoke to the children and their parents about books and reading at this lovely school fair.

 Drop in Writing Clinics for Children and Adults

I had a record 14 children at the drop in writing clinic on Wed 30th November. We all squeezed in to my writer in residence room and had great fun talking about writing. The young writers read from their work and got feedback from their peers.

It was followed by a clinic with adults who are writing for young people, all very talented individuals.

Writing

I also worked on a new age 9+ idea, some picture books and continued researching the 1940s for a new adult book.

Plus I programmed lots of AMAZING events for Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival in March, including a very special event with one of my heroes. More on that very, very soon.

That’s it for November and December! Look out for the new What’s On before Christmas which will list all the Writer in Residence workshops and events in Jan/Feb/March. HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

Check out my December Books of the Month Video here:

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

Tagged with:
 

It’s been an outstanding year for books and there is something for every age group this Christmas, from tiny tots to teens. Here’s a round up of my favourite titles of the year. Watch out for my full round up with longer reviews in the Irish Independent.

Sarah Webb’s latest book for children is The Songbird Café: Aurora and the Popcorn Dolphin. She is the Writer in Residence for Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown.

 Picture Books

My picture book of the year is the brilliant Oi Dog! by Kes and Claire Gray and Jim Field (Hodder £11.99) – funny, funny, funny! Age 3+

oi dog

Other favourites include:

Chris Haughton’s Goodnight Everyone (Walker £12.99)- bright and vibrant – Age 2+goodnight everyone

Nothing by Yasmeen Ismail (Bloomsbury £6.99) – funny and clever – Age 3+

nothing yasmeen

Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick’s Owl Bat Bat Owl (Walker Books £11.99) – a treat for the eyes – wordless – Age 3+

owl bat

This is Not a Book by Jean Jullien (Phaidon £6.95) – clever and funny – Age 4+

this is not a book

Interior from This is Not A Book

Interior from This is Not A Book

The Storm Whale in Winter by Benji Davies (Simon and Schuster £6.99) – charming with outstanding illustrations – age 3+

storm whale in winter

Odd Dog Out by Rob Buddulp (Harpercollins £12.99) – beautifully designed with glowing illustrations – age 4+

odd dog

King Baby by Kate Beaton (Walker £6.99)- quirky and a bit bonkers – age4+

king baby

A Child of Books (Walker £12.99) written, illustrated and designed with Sam Winston – thoughtful and original – age 5+

child of books

Illustrated Fact Books

Historopedia (Gill Books e24.99)- history brought to life in glowing colour – Age 6+

historopedia

Outside: a Guide to Discovering Nature by Maria Ana Peixe Dias (Frances Lincoln £18.99)- age 6+

outside

Age 7+

Danger Really is Everywhere by David O’Doherty and Chris Judge (Puffin Books e9.99)  - Hilarious look at ‘danger’ – perfect for Wimpy Kid fans

danger 1

wolves of currump

The Wolves of Currumpaw by William Grill  Flying Eye Books £14.99

The tale of a remarkable real life wolf, set on the plains of New Mexico and illustrated in glowing coloured pencils, this is a stunning book which would make the perfect gift for any fact loving child of age 7+.

miraulour miranda

Miraculous Miranda by Siobhan Parkinson (Hodder £6.99)

Beautifully written story about Miranda whose sister is in hospital and how she copes with her situation. Clever, funny and great for reading aloud. Age 8+

Age 9+

Dave Rudden’s Knights of the Borrowed Dark (Penguin £6.99) – exceptional debut fantasy adventure novel

knights

Judi Curtin’s Time After Time (O’Brien e12.99) – sweet, charming family/friendship tale

time after time

 

Novel of the Year Age 9+

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (Walker £9.99)- stand out novel about friendship, families and adventure

raymie

 Age 10+

 

Ironman: The Gauntlet by Eoin Colfer (Marvel £6.99)- Ironman adventure set in Ireland

ironman

Anna Carey’s The Making of Mollie (O’Brien e8.99)- smart, sassy book about the suffragettes in Ireland in 1918

making of mollie

Robin Stevens Murder Most Unladylike series – fantastic – funny and full of strong girl characters and adventure – her latest in the series is Mistletoe and Murder

mistletow and murder

Age 13+

Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy (Hot Key £7.99) – well written, compelling look at teen life and eating disorders with a dark, witty touch – well worth seeking out

nothing tastes

The Call by Peadar Ó’Guilín (David Fickling £10.99) – the fairy book I’ve been waiting for – smart, fast and furious (and a bit gruesome)the call

 

Other Recommended Picture Books

For Art Lovers and Children Who Like Quirky Books:

The Liszts by Kyo Maclear and Julia Sarda  Andersen Press £12.99

‘The Liszts made lists. Scritch, scratch. They made lists most usual. And lists most unusual.’ So begins this striking picture book about a family who love to make lists. The story is strong but it’s the clever, detailed illustrations and clever design that set this book apart and the 1920 inspired cover is truly sumptuous. A feast for the eyes. Age 5+

NY is For New York by Paul Thurlby  Hodder £14.99

From Brooklyn Bridge to Times Square, this beautifully designed picture book highlights some of the most iconic landmarks in New York. The richly coloured illustrations are outstanding. Age 5+

Tiger in a Tutu by Fabi Santiago Orchard £6.99

Max is a tiger who wants to be a ballet dancer – will he ever get his moment in the spotlight? Fantastic illustrations in glowing colour – a great book for sharing with younger children. Age 3+

We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen  Walker Books £12.99

Two tortoises find a hat but only one can wear it. More deadpan humour and outstanding illustrations from this picture book master. Age 4+

The Museum of Me by Emma Lewis  Tate Publishing e17

Glorious picture book about museums and imagination. Age 5+

Young Science Fans

The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield, Illustrated by The Fan Brothers  Macmillan £11.99

A surprisingly good picture book about a young boy who dreams of being an astronaut. Inspired by his own life, Hadfield’s writing is strong and the illustrations by Terry and Eric Fan bring this story to vivid life.

Other Favourite Picture Books This Year

Pass it On by Sophy Henn  Penguin £6.99

Charming illustrations and a sweet tale about passing it on. Uplifting picture book. Age 3+

Little Monkey by Marta Altés  Macmillan £11.99

A little monkey has all kinds of adventures in this adorable picture book with cheeky illustrations. Well worth seeking out.

Three Little Monkeys by Quentin Blake and Emma Chichester Clark  Harpercollins £12.99

Staying on the monkey theme, two super talents of the children’s book world combine to produce a lively, funny story about naughty apes who cause havoc every time Hilda Snibbs leaves her house.

The Building Boy by Ross Montgomery and David Litchfield (Faber and Faber £6.99) about a boy who builds a grandmother

The Snow Beast by Chris Haughton (Andersen Press £6.99) sees the return of the kindly Beast

Gift Titles

A Treasury of Songs by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler  Macmillan £14.99

A splendid hardback containing 23 of Donaldson’s favourite songs, plus a CD with the music to sing along to.

 

Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst (Bloomsbury £6.99) which is bursting with remarkable women, from Marie Curie to Frida Kahlo and is illustrated with humour and verve.

Age 8/9+

Philippa Pearse’s classic time slip novel for age 8+, Tom’s Midnight Garden has been given a graphic novel make over by Edith (Oxford University Press £12.99) and Michael Morpurgo’s Greatest Animal Stories (Oxford University Press e21.30) brings together tales of hungry wolves and mischievous spiders in one handsome collection.

Bright, thoughtful nine year olds will love the new edition of Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery, with exquisite, gently coloured illustrations by Sophie Allsopp.

Fans of animal tales will enjoy Michael Morpurgo’s The Fox and the Ghost King (Harpercollins £9.99), illustrated by Michael Foreman. Age 7+.

 More Fiction Age 9+

Animalcolm by David Baddiel (Harpercollins £10.99) is perfect for David Walliams fans. Funny with great illustrations by Jim Field.

Pax by Sarah Pennypacker with illustrations by Jon Klassan Harpercollins £12.99

Perfect for Kate DiCamillo fans, story of a boy and his fox who are separated and the boy’s journey to find him. Beautifully written and moving story.

Cogheart by Peter Bunzl – great action adventure novel with clockwork creatures and a fast plot

Young Teens

Cover of Mighty Dynamo

The Mighty Dynamo by Kieran Crowley (Macmillan £6.99)

Noah wants to be a professional footballer but he gets banned from his school football team. But he finds his own way to enter the competition. Great underdog story for football fans.

thing about jelly

The Thing About JellyFish by Ali Benjamin

Now in paperback, a wonderful story of friendship, loss and jellyfish. Beautifully written – ideal for fans of Wonder.

Happy reading!

 

 

From now until June 2017 I have the great privilege of being the dlr Writer in Residence. I have a lovely room on the top floor of the Lexicon Library in Dun Laoghaire and I’m hosting lots of fun book clubs, writing clubs and events.

Here is my September diary:

September was a very busy month in the Lexicon library. Our Children’s Book Club kicked off and we talked about the work of Roald Dahl in honour of his 100th birthday on 13th September. This month we are reading Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan and looking at its wonderful artwork. This is one of the images from the book:

Image result for shaun tan tales from

I also hosted Baby Book Clubs in both Blackrock and Dalkey libraries. We read Farmer Duck (and made some wonderful farm animal noises) and glued and drew some great ice lollies to celebrate the lovely September weather.

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We had a very successful Dahl Day for schools, with a show and workshops. Thanks to all the teachers for bringing their students.Displaying IMG_1658.JPG

Here’s Grainne Clear as Little Red Riding Hood and below are Enda Reilly and Erin Fornoff as The Twits.

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Three Canadian writers visited us in September and spoke to local school children about their work, JonArno Lawson, Sydney Smith and  Katherena Vermette.

 Image result for footpath flowers

Here’s the cover of JonArno and Sydney’s book, Footpath Flowers

I also took part in Culture Night with Alan Nolan and we created a story with lots of families who were visiting the library for the night.

Me and Alan on Culture Night

Me and Alan on Culture Night

Writing Club also started in September and our young writers are working on some great stories already.

Towards the end of September we had a very special day for Irish children’s writers – our Lexicon Lunch for Children’s Writers. I invited children’s writers from all  over the country to join me in the Lexicon and I was delighted that so many turned up to talk about books and writing and to see my Writer in Residence room. I got the chance to interview Eoin Colfer, Judi Curtin and Marita Conlon-McKenna on camera – watch out for those videos soon. Pictured below are Sheena Wilkinson, Judi Curtin, Siobhan Parkinson, Erika McGann, Natasha Mac a’Bhaird, Marita Conlon-McKenna, Alan Nolan and Ruth Long.

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The Teen Creatives had a visit from the amazing Dave Rudden who told them all about writing, creating characters and plotting a brilliant book.

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And finally I launched two books, one by Judi Curtin, the other by ER Murray and I hosted the first of my Drop In sessions for writers and was delighted to meet some wonderful young writers, and some adults who are writing for children.

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ER Murray at her launch in Eason

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Judi and I comparing our 1980s debs dresses at her Eason launch

During September I wrote the first draft of a picture book for very young children in my Writer in Residence room, worked on two other picture book ideas, and did some research on a new novel. The library is an ace place for research as I’m surrounded by wonderful reference books and ultra helpful librarians.

October is busy too – stay tuned for my next diary in early November and for the first of the Writer in Residence video blogs. To find out more about any of the book or writing clubs email: dlrlexiconlib@dlrcoco.ie. To book a Writing Clinic slot email me: sarahsamwebb at gmail.com – next clinic is Wed 26th October between 3pm and 5pm.

Yours in writing,

Sarah X

Writer in Residence: Events, Book Clubs and Writing Clubs

All events and clubs are in the Lexicon Library, Dun Laoghaire

I’m delighted to be hosting a wide range of events, clubs and workshops for children, teens and adults during my residency. Here are the events from now until the end of the year.

I hope to see you at the dlr Lexicon very soon!

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXXsarah reading to a child

Events

13th September (school day)

Roald Dahl Day for Schools – Celebrating 100 Years of a Master Storyteller

Events and workshops inspired by the work of Roald Dahl with Oisin McGann, Alan Nolan, Grainne Clear and Enda Reilly.

Booking: dlrlexiconlib@dlrcoco.ie

 

16th September (evening)

CULTURE NIGHT – SMASHING STORIES AND DASHING DOODLESPrint

5pm to 7pm Story and art fun for all the family with Sarah Webb and Alan Nolan – no booking required.

 

Friday 16th September (school day)

Schools Events – Canada Day with Children’s Books Ireland

School events with award winning Canadian writers and illustrators, JonArno Lawson, Sydney Smith and Katherena Vernette. Find out how a book is made with our international guests.

Booking: dlrlexiconlib@dlrcoco.ie

 

Children’s Book Club

Age 9+

Max number: 15

1st Wed of every month: 7th Sept, 5th Oct, 9th Nov, 7th Dec

3.15pm to 4.30pm – Level 3 Meeting Room

BOOKING: dlrlexiconlib@dlrcoco.ie

Do you love reading? Would you like to chat about stories and characters with fellow young book lovers?  Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan, or eat up Judi Curtin or David Walliams books, this is the club for you! For our first meeting we’ll be talking about our favourite Roald Dahl book, in honour of his centenary on 13th September.

 

Children’s Writing Club

Age 9+

Max number: 15

Thursday 15th Sept, 29th Sept, 13th Oct, 10th Nov, 24th Nov, 8th Dec (last of the year)

3.15pm to 4.30pm

3.15pm to 4.30pm – Level 3 Meeting Room

BOOKING: dlrlexiconlib@dlrcoco.ie

Do you love writing stories and poems? Would you like to find out more about creating fantastic characters and gripping plots? Then this is the club for you!

 

Teen Creatives

Age 12+ (1st year students upwards)

Max – number 15

10am to 12pm       

Venue: Lexicon Lab on Level 3

17th Sept, 1st Oct, 22nd Oct, 12th Nov, 26th Nov, 10th Dec (last of the year)

BOOKING: dlrlexiconlib@dlrcoco.ie

 ‘To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.’ Joseph Chilton Pearce

Teen Creatives is for all teenagers who love to write and draw, and would like to learn how to create video blogs and edit movie clips. We will be talking about how stories work, writing, drawing, cartooning, making short movies and vlogs, and exploring the practical, behind the scenes side of the arts world, from hanging an art exhibition to curating a book festival.

Artists, writers and arts curators will be invited to talk to the group about their work, such as writer and cartoonist, Alan Nolan and award winning writer, Sheena Wilkinson.

 

Drop in Writing Clinic for Children and Teenagers 

Age: 8 to 18 years

Wednesday 28th Sept, 26th Oct, 30th Nov

3pm to 4pm

Writer in Residence Room, Level 5

Are you a young writer? Would you like our writer in residence, Sarah Webb to read your work and offer advice? Drop in to her writing clinic. No need to book.

Please bring a copy of your work for Sarah to read. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Drop in Writing Clinic for Adults

Writer in Residence Room, Level 5

Wednesday 28th Sept, 26th Oct, 30th Nov

4pm to 5pm

Are you an adult who is writing for children or teenagers? Would you like some help and advice? Our writer in residence, Sarah Webb is hosting writing clinics for emerging children’s writers. No need to book.

Sarah is happy to read short extracts from manuscripts during the clinic. Please bring a print out of your work.

I love getting letters from readers in the post. Real letters are far more fun than emails. I love opening the envelopes, unfolding the letter inside, holding the exact piece of paper that a little while ago the sender was writing on. There’s something quite magical about letters.girl writing

This week I answered three letters from young readers. Two of them were from Ireland, one was from the UK. Each contained questions for me. I thought I’d answer some of these questions below. Maybe they are questions that you would also ask me if you could.

Some of the letters from my young readers
Some of the letters from my young readers

If you’d like to write to me, I’d be delighted. The address is: Sarah Webb c/o Walker Books, 87 Vauxhall Walk, London SE11 5HJ, England. I promise to write back to you.

Sarah, how did you get the idea for Amy Green?

My teen diaries. As a teen I wrote in them every day and it was fascinating reading back and seeing what made me happy, upset or angry at 14, 16 or 18.

Who or what inspired you to write?

Judy Blume, Enid Blyton and all the wonderful writers I read as a child. I was and still am a huge, devoted reader. I found friends on the pages of books. Reading inspired me to write.

What is Ireland like (this was from a UK reader) and where do you live?

West Cork
West Cork

I live in Dun Laoghaire – below – a town 7 miles from Dublin city which has a large harbour. It has a great cinema, a theatre and the best library in Ireland, the Lexicon. We live on a long street which winds its way up a hill from the sea. In Ireland you are never far from the countryside and if you drive for a little while you’ll hit green fields, hills and mountains.

I also spend a lot of time in West Cork – above – which has the most stunning landscape. The people are very special too, warm, friendly and funny.

It’s hard to say what Ireland is like. It is a place where books and stories and cherished, which I think makes it very special. What I do know is that for me it’s home and although I love to travel, my heart belongs to Ireland.

Dun Laoghaire
Dun Laoghaire

What was your dream job as a child?

Writer. It just goes to show that sometimes dreams really do come true if you work hard enough and follow your heart.

What is being a writer like?

Do you write all day?

I’ll answer these two questions together. I have lots of different kinds of days – writing days, school visit days, festival planning days, reading and reviewing days, teaching days. Most writers don’t just write, especially children’s writers – they do lots of other things too.

Every week I spend 2 or 3 mornings writing – from 10am to 2pm – and 2 days visiting schools, teaching creative writing, reviewing and doing other bits of work relating to books. I try to write 2k words every time I sit down at my desk, that’s my aim. I often don’t hit this target, but sometimes I do.

At the moment I am Writer in Residence in Dún Laoghaire so from September I will be hosting book clubs for young readers and writing workshops, that will be fun.

What job would you do if you weren’t a writer?

A children’s bookseller. One day I hope to own my own children’s bookshop. Watch this space!

This post first appeared on the Girls Heart Books website.

 

I love getting letters from readers in the post. Real letters are far more fun than emails. I love opening the envelopes, unfolding the letter inside, holding the exact piece of paper that a little while ago the sender was writing on. There’s something quite magical about letters.girl writing

This week I answered three letters from young readers. Two of them were from Ireland, one was from the UK. Each contained questions for me. I thought I’d answer some of these questions below. Maybe they are questions that you would also ask me if you could.

Some of the letters from my young readers
Some of the letters from my young readers

If you’d like to write to me, I’d be delighted. The address is: Sarah Webb c/o Walker Books, 87 Vauxhall Walk, London SE11 5HJ, England. I promise to write back to you.

Sarah, how did you get the idea for Amy Green?

My teen diaries. As a teen I wrote in them every day and it was fascinating reading back and seeing what made me happy, upset or angry at 14, 16 or 18.

Who or what inspired you to write?

Judy Blume, Enid Blyton and all the wonderful writers I read as a child. I was and still am a huge, devoted reader. I found friends on the pages of books. Reading inspired me to write.

What is Ireland like (this was from a UK reader) and where do you live?

West Cork
West Cork

I live in Dun Laoghaire – below – a town 7 miles from Dublin city which has a large harbour. It has a great cinema, a theatre and the best library in Ireland, the Lexicon. We live on a long street which winds its way up a hill from the sea. In Ireland you are never far from the countryside and if you drive for a little while you’ll hit green fields, hills and mountains.

I also spend a lot of time in West Cork – above – which has the most stunning landscape. The people are very special too, warm, friendly and funny.

It’s hard to say what Ireland is like. It is a place where books and stories and cherished, which I think makes it very special. What I do know is that for me it’s home and although I love to travel, my heart belongs to Ireland.

Dun Laoghaire
Dun Laoghaire

What was your dream job as a child?

Writer. It just goes to show that sometimes dreams really do come true if you work hard enough and follow your heart.

What is being a writer like?

Do you write all day?

I’ll answer these two questions together. I have lots of different kinds of days – writing days, school visit days, festival planning days, reading and reviewing days, teaching days. Most writers don’t just write, especially children’s writers – they do lots of other things too.

Every week I spend 2 or 3 mornings writing – from 10am to 2pm – and 2 days visiting schools, teaching creative writing, reviewing and doing other bits of work relating to books. I try to write 2k words every time I sit down at my desk, that’s my aim. I often don’t hit this target, but sometimes I do.

At the moment I am Writer in Residence in Dún Laoghaire so from September I will be hosting book clubs for young readers and writing workshops, that will be fun.

What job would you do if you weren’t a writer?

A children’s bookseller. One day I hope to own my own children’s bookshop. Watch this space!

This post first appeared on the Girls Heart Books website.