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
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 …
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.
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 …
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:
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.
We had a very successful Dahl Day for schools, with a show and workshops. Thanks to all the teachers for bringing their students.
Here’s Grainne Clear as Little Red Riding Hood and below are Enda Reilly and Erin Fornoff as The Twits.
Three Canadian writers visited us in September and spoke to …
I was at a day for professional children’s writers recently (Mindshift, run by the Irish Writers’ Centre with Children’s Books Ireland) and the speakers had a lot of useful things to say about events for children.
I thought I’d share some of the best tips with you. And see my previous blog for tips on marketing and promoting your book.
Jane O’Hanlon from the Writers in Schools scheme said ‘Writing is not considered an art form, which is why it is underpaid’. She explained that the rate for a 2 1/2 hour school session is e200 (plus travel expenses). ‘If you undercut the rate, you undercut it for everyone,’ she said.
She explained that classrooms are complex places and that writers need to be aware of this. From this year on, writers will need to be Garda vetted if they would like to visit a school. Poetry Ireland (who run the scheme) can Garda vet any writer in Ireland, even if they are not in the scheme – useful to know.
Designer and children’s book illustrator, Steve Simpson also gave some fantastic advice.
Irish language picture books are better paid as they get grants and funding, he explained.
If you …
CHILDREN are still reading. That’s a fact. Children and teenagers have not fallen into a technological black hole – they still want and need books.
Irish and UK sales figures for the first half of the year show a healthy rise in sales of novelty books (6pc), picture books (2pc) and, if you strip out the phenomena that is ‘The Hunger Games’, a whopping 12pc rise in sales of teenage fiction. Publishers are putting money behind children’s books like never before and Dubray Books has just invested in ‘Mad About Books’, a full-colour guide to more than 400 books for children and teenagers.As a parent, a bookseller and a writer, this is all very reassuring. Yes, reading fluently has been proven to give children an advantage in all areas of their education, but books have a far more important role to play in young people’s lives.
Books make children think – they make them engage their brain. Readers are not passive vessels, watching images flicker across a screen; they are recreating the story in their heads. They are fighting alongside Skulduggery Pleasant, lolloping across the hills with Sophie and the Big Friendly Giant.
Books are quiet. There are no bangs …
Over the last few weeks I’ve finally had a chance to catch up on some reading. There’s a bumper crop of children’s and YA novels out now and in the autumn to satisfy all kinds of readers. Here is a whistle stop tour of some of them. I’ve scored them out of ten.
1/ More Than This by Patrick Ness (out 5th September Walker Books, £12.99)
In a word – WOW. This book is something really special. It’s long – almost 500 pages – but once I got stuck in I couldn’t stop. It’s YA science fiction at its ground breaking best. One of the most original books I’ve read in years, it’s simply mind blowing.
In the opening chapter Seth drowns and wakes up in the suburban English town where he grew up. As he begins to explore his surroundings slowly things start to make sense.
Wickedly clever, utterly convincing, this book is brilliant, don’t miss it.
2/ Have a Little Faith by Candy Harper (Simon and Schuster £6.99)
Written in diary format, this book for young teens is nothing ground breaking but the main character, Faith is feisty and fun. There’s lots of clever use of language …
This piece first appeared in the Sunday Independent
When are you going to write a proper book – a book for adults? It’s a question every children’s writer is asked at some stage of their career. I started out writing for children, switched to adults, and now write for both. When the inevitable question was put, I’d explain children are the most discerning audience of all, children’s books are challenging and fun to write, and any author who doesn’t try it at some stage is missing out.
I am only one of a host of authors who write for both children and adults. J K Rowling’s debut adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, a dark comedy about local politics will be published on 27th September, quite a risk for someone with such a successful track record in the children’s book world.
Roald Dahl also wrote for adults and children, as do contemporary award-winners Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman and most recently, Philippa Gregory. The American crime writers like James Patterson are all at it; and ex-SAS man Andy McNabb has produced a popular action/adventure series for younger readers.
Under the Hawthorne Tree was an international hit for its creator, Marita Conlon-McKenna, …
Book titles matter. They must be memorable, intriguing and above all, they must say something about your book or story.
Think of Wuthering Heights, Bleak House, Pride and Prejudice, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, War Horse . . .
Name titles are also good – when the name is perfectly chosen of course – Matilda, Skulduggery Pleasant, Charlotte’s Web, Judy Moody, Artemis Fowl, Huckleberry Finn . . .
But how do you find the right title for your book or story? And how do you know that it is the right title?
I’ll try to explain using some of my own titles.
Always the Bridesmaid was a strong title – it describes the main character’s situation and it’s short and easy to remember.
When the Boys are Away is another good title – it’s about Meg and what she gets up to when her boyfriend, a professional sailor, is away. Both these titles are for adults – I write for both adults and younger readers.
The Loving Kind/Anything for Love/Some Kind of Wonderful – I’m not so keen on these titles – again all novels for adults. They don’t say much about the individual stories or characters – in …
- February 2017
- January 2017
- December 2016
- November 2016
- October 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- March 2016
- February 2016
- January 2016
- December 2015
- November 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010