Interview with Children's Writer, Helena Duggan

Children's writer, Helena Duggan has made the transition from self-published writer to traditionally published writer this year. She tells us about her writing and publishing journey. 

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Helena, can you tell us about your latest book,  A Place Called Perfect and where the idea came from?

A Place Called Perfect is a children's middle grade book about a girl named Violet who moves to a town called Perfect because her Dad, the worlds finest Opthamologist is offered a job by the Archer Brothers Edward and George. He's been tasked with fixing the only problem this perfect little place has. After only a short time in the town anyone who visits goes blind...

That's the main background to the story and, of course, not all is as it seems in Perfect.

The idea came from a pair of glasses I picked up while backpacking in Australia. I bought them in an antique shop with the intention of changing the lenses to suit my sight. The more I carried them however, the more I began to think about their past owner and how their memories might have become locked inside the lenses. That's how Perfect began.

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How long did it take you to write?

About 6 months for the first draft and then a very long time to edit! There were a few different editing versions as I self published first after rounds of edits. Then I found a home with Usborne and had to edit further!

You originally self-published the book in 2012. Why did you decide to go that route first?

I had been following the self publishing revolution and had written a previous book title "A Load of Rubbish" that had been through the publishing mill without much luck. I'm a graphic designer by day so I decided self publishing would be easy for me to do. I thought I'd gather together some reviews and sales figures and then look for a publisher. That's exactly how it turned out!

Self-published cover for A Place Called Perfect 

Self-published cover for A Place Called Perfect 

 

How did it come to be published by Usborne (a UK publisher)?

I had decided that I wanted to try for a UK publisher after taking advice from other authors and booksellers. The local bookshops in Kilkenny were amazing support and Khan Kiely from Khans books offered me a ticket to the London book fair and told me to arrange meetings with agents. I contacted a few that had shown interest in my work first time round and secured some meeting. Of the back of that I was taken on by Bell Lomax Moreton in London and they found a home for Perfect with Usborne.

Did you have to do much editing for the Usborne edition?

Yes it was a really good learning curve actually. I had an initial meeting with Anne my editor and she asked me lots of questions about the story. I remember answering all of them but thinking she couldn't have read the book if she had these questions, they are all answered in it! Then I expressed this sentiment and discovered that, while all of the answers were in my head, I hadn't committed them to the page. I also learned quiet alot about timelines and technicalities like when do the characters eat or sleep etc... the process was hard but well worth it.

What did you find surprising about being traditionally published?

How nice Usborne are. I had thought I'd be in the big bad world of publishers and I'd be a number on a list of other numbers but with Usborne it is not like that at all. I don't know if I'm just lucky or if it's because Usborne is family run or because that's just the way publishers are but my experience has been amazing. Everyone is so nice to deal with and they are all really just people who love books.

Would you recommend self-publishing? And if so, why?

Well yes because if it wasn't for self publishing Perfect would never have been traditionally published. It is difficult though as you have to be everything, the writer, designer, editor, sales person, accounts etc. It can be draining. The hardest part was sales, a book is personal and for this reason I found it extremely hard to sell, luckily I have a mother who would sell her soul for her kids so she did it for me. I also would also strongly advise getting your book professionally designed and edited, a self published book has to almost be produced better than a traditional book to get into a shop. There is still a stigma around self publishing.

How do you organise your writing day? For example, where do you write? And when?

At the moment it's very disorganised. I'm on maternity leave with a four month old baby. I go to my Mam and she minds Jo while I write but the days and times vary. I will be heading back to work in 6 weeks so it'll be scary to figure out how to balance a baby and writing with all of that...if anyone has any tips I'd gladly take them!

Do you use a computer or write long hand?

Even though I'd love to say long hand I don't, I write onto a computer. I wrote my first book long hand and then typed it all up but it's much quicker I find now to type everything straight in.

Do you edit as you go along? Or at the end of the first draft?

I do small edits as I go and then larger ones at the end of the first draft. I'm writing the sequel to Perfect at the moment and trying to remember what I did the first time round. It's all a learning process I think, and I'm forever learning.

Do you find rewriting difficult?

Yes and no, sometimes if I get a little stuck I remind myself that it's my world and therefore I can really do whatever I want. That makes the whole process a little easier!

Do you use the internet for research? What research tips can you give writers?

Yes I do, I love to research actually and take names etc from real people or places if they fit the story. My only tip with researching is to remember your meant to be writing and get of the internet in a reasonible amount of time! I still struggle with that one and can find myself trawling through pages hours later.

What type of books do you like to read? Do you have a favourite book?

I read all sorts of books really. I like crime thrillers and childrens books but I can be found dipping in and out of anything. My favourite books are all childrens really. I love Roald Dahl and all the Harry Potters, I also love All The Light You Cannot See, for some reason that book has stuck with me lately. I will never forget how I felt reading Under the Hawthorn Tree as a kid either.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

Finding yourself lost in a world you created and getting so deep into writing that when you come out and read back you don't believe you've written it and can't for the life of you remember where the story came from!

The worst?

Time. I'm bad at managing time!

What are you working on next?

The sequel to Perfect. I'm about 40,000 words in and trying to juggle it with a small baby, a bit more difficult than the first time round. The story is all plotted though so it makes it easier.

And finally, do you have any advice or tips for writers?

I'm not sure really if I should give any advice. I'm new to all this myself and everybody has their own way of doing things. What worked for me was persistence, I believed in my story and was lucky to have an amazing family who believed in it too so I kept going. Also when I write I try not to think of an audience and just go with the story that comes into my head, I feel if I write for an audience then I won't enjoy myself in the process and that misses the point.

Thank you, Helena, for sharing your writing life with us.

Books for Christmas 2017

This piece originally appeared in the Irish Independent.

Books make stand out Christmas presents. They are gifts that outlast fad games or toys that need dozens of batteries to keep them chirping. Children are spending increasing amounts of time on screens and books are a way of counteracting that, they feed the soul and ignite the imagination.

It’s important to introduce books early in a child’s life, pop a board book in your baby’s pram, leave them on the floor with your toddler’s toys and always carry a favourite picturebook in your bag to share when you’re delayed in a queue. The greatest gift you can give a child is the gift of reading.

But with bookshop shelves a-groaning with titles, what books should you give them this Christmas? Every year I read hundreds of children’s titles, discovering outstanding picturebook gems and novels so good they make me stop and wonder. I’ve selected my favourite titles in each age group.

If you’re looking for a personal recommendation for your child, check out #bookelves17 on Twitter or Facebook, run by a team of children’s book experts including myself.

Happy reading this Christmas season!

Age 0 to 4   

Top Choice

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Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins)

Oliver Jeffers wrote this ode to kindness for his baby son, Harland. ‘Well, hello,’ it begins. ‘Welcome to this planet. We call it Earth… It looks big, Earth. But there are lots of us here so be kind.’ He walks the reader through space, land, sea, people, animals and so much more. Each double page spread is carefully designed and majestically coloured, with a sweeping New York city scene, complete with the Brooklyn Bridge (Jeffers lives in Brooklyn), and a spread showing all the different kinds of people who live on our planet. Outstanding, don’t miss it. 

Owl Bat Bat Owl by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick (Walker)

If you buy one board book for a tiny tot this season, make it this beauty by an award-winning Irish picturebook maker. The owl family and the bat family share the same branch but they never mix. When a gust of wind blows everyone into the air, things start to change and both families find that having new friends makes life better. There are no words in this book, the expressive illustrations, full of gentle humour tell the story.

The President’s Glasses by Peter Donnelly (Gill Books)

This handsome hardback is beautifully crafted with vibrant illustrations and a cracking story that will make you smile. The President of Ireland (who with his dapper suit, bow tie and glasses bears a striking resemblance) is on his away across Dublin city to sign a very important document but he’s forgotten his glasses. Luckily the President’s pigeon is on hand to save the day. It’s hard to believe this is Donnelly’s first picturebook, it’s full of confidence and visual swagger and would make the perfect present to send to Irish families living around the globe.

Kevin by Rob Biddulph (HarperCollins)

Move over Julia Donaldson, there’s a new picturebook poet in town. ‘This is Sid Gibbons. And this is his mum. And this is the reason they’re looking so glum.’ So begins this tale of one boy and his imaginary friend, Kevin. Written in highly infectious rhyme, Biddulph is also an accomplished artist, and this hardback picturebook is a treat for the eye. The perfect book to read (and re-read over and over) at bedtime.

Oi Cat! By Kes Gray and Jim Field (Hodder Children’s Books)

The third in the hugely popular Oi! series, this bright, lively picturebook combines hilarious rhyme with a whacky story which follows different animals and what they are ‘supposed’ to sit on: the pony on macaroni and dingoes on flamingos. Ideal for reading aloud and bound to make any child laugh.

Yoga Babies by Fearne Cotton and Sheena Dempsey (Andersen Press)

Sheena Dempsey is an award-winning Irish illustrator and her artwork makes this sweet picturebook featuring young children doing different yoga poses come alive. The rhyming text is easy to follow and if there’s a yoga loving mum or dad in the family, this is the perfect book for the whole household. Sheena Dempsey also illustrated Irish author, Jane Landy’s debut, Ginger the Whinger (Golden Key), a rhyming picturebook about an annoying dragon and the family he visits.

Luna Loves Library Day by Joseph Coelho and Fiona Lumbers (Andersen Press)

Luna loves library day as she gets to spend time with her dad. Together they pick books about dinosaurs, mini monsters and magic for Luna to take home. They also read fairy tales together, Luna snuggled on her dad’s knee. An ode to different kinds of families, with lyrical text and richly coloured, warm illustrations. 

A Busy Day for Birds by Lucy Cousins (Walker)

A joyful whirlwind of a book about birds of all shapes and sizes which begs to be shared with young eyes. The jaunty rhyming text is brought vividly alive by the outstanding illustrations which zing with delicious colour.

Age 5 to 8

Top Choice

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Rabbit and Bear: The Pest in the Nest by Julian Gough, illustrated by Jim Field (Hodder Children’s Books)

Rabbit is having a ‘lovely sleep’ when a terrible noise wakes him. He discovers a woodpecker banging holes in a nearby tree and, buzzing with anger, he ropes in his friend, Bear, to deal with the disturbance. Bear is a kind, clever fellow who manages to find a happy solution for all. ‘Maybe you could just think about the world differently,’ he tells Rabbit. ‘Maybe you could … accept it … Not try to change it.’ With engaging illustrations by Jim Field, this warm, funny friendship tale has the philosophical wisdom of Winnie the Pooh. An outstanding book that has all the hallmarks of a modern classic.

 

Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith (Walker Books)

‘From my house I can see the sea… And deep down under that sea, my father is digging for coal.’ I haven’t read such a deeply affecting picturebook in years, it moved me to tears. Set in Canada, it’s the story of a miner’s son, his town and his dad. The pitch perfect text and the outstanding illustrations which play with light and dark, summer sun and coal-seam black, combine to produce a masterpiece. I can’t recommend it highly enough for older children and adults who are looking for something a little different. Age 7+

Safari Pug by Laura James, illustrated by Églantine Ceuelemans (Bloomsbury)

When Pug’s owner, Lady Miranda sets off on safari, in a sedan chair carried by her Running Footmen, she brings Pug with her. But they have to settle for a trip to Animal Adventure Land. Here they have all kinds of fun adventures of their own. Full of gentle humour and cracking illustrations with lots of vibrant green and yellow, this book makes a fantastic read aloud or is perfect for children just starting to read for themselves.

The Clubhouse Mystery by Erika McGann, illustrated by Vince Reid (O’Brien Press)

Irish author, Erika McGann captures the spirit of the Secret Seven in this good natured mystery for young readers. The Bubble Street Gang set up a new clubhouse but someone has discovered its secret location. It’s up to the gang to find out who the interloper is.

There’s a Bug on My Arm That Won’t Let Go by David Mackintosh (HarperCollins Children’s Books)

If you’re looking for a picturebook that combines clever design and illustrations with a cracking story, this is it. David Mackintosh designs Lauren Child’s books and his eye for detail is exceptional. A stink bug has attached itself to a girl’s arm and refuses to let go. But sometimes even bugs need a friend.

Hopscotch in the Sky: Poems for Children by Lucinda Jacob, Illustrated by Lauren O’Neill (Little Island)

‘Every year we get the decorations down from the attic – ooh, look! Remember him!’ This is a charming, accessible collection from one of Ireland’s best poets for children. Jacob covers all kinds of topics from friendship to school and her work cries out to be read aloud. The classy, expressive illustrations by Lauren O’Neill make this a pocket treasure. Age 7+

Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of The Wizard of Oz by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark (HarperCollins)

‘I was lying right there, deep in my dreams in this very basket, when I was woken up by the sound of wind roaring.’ The narrator of this clever version of the Wizard of Oz is Dorothy’s dog, Toto, who is telling the story to a basketful of his own puppies. The illustrations are gently coloured, bringing this adventure tale to vivid life for younger readers. Ideal for reading aloud at bedtime or for a young reader to gobble up for themselves.

All Aboard the Discovery Express by Emily Hawkins, Tom Adams and Tom Clohoshy-Cole (Wide Eye Editions)

Train lovers will adore this smash up of mystery story, train facts and history. It’s 1937 and a famous professor is missing. Can you find him using the clues in the book? This interactive, immersive hardback is sumptuously illustrated and produced, with letters to read and over fifty flaps to lift, and will keep a child occupied for hours. If you want to get your youngster off their screen, this is the book to do it. Age 7+

Age 9 to 11

Top Choice

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Letters from the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll (Faber)

Twelve-year-old Olive and her little brother, Cliff have been evacuated from London to the coast of Devon, much to Olive’s disgust. She wants to help the war effort, not be stuck in the countryside. But when she finds a mysterious note in the pocket of the coat she has borrowed from her sister, who has disappeared, slowly she starts to piece together an important war related mystery. A wonderful book, full of heart, with some cracking characters and a gripping plot. I’ve read lots of World War II books for children and this is one of the best – don’t miss it.

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell (Bloomsbury)

When a group of children find themselves in the Amazon rainforest after a terrifying plane crash, they come across signs in the jungle that someone or something has been there before. Rundell’s research – she travelled to the Amazon and swam with pink river dolphins – shines out and this is a beautifully written novel, filled with vivid descriptions and plucky, clever children.

And for younger children of age five plus, her illustrated book, One Christmas Wish, illustrated by Emily Sutton is also a must.

The Guggenheim Mystery by Robin Stevens (Penguin)

Ted has a unique way of looking at the world which enables him to work out mysteries and puzzles like no other boy. When his aunt is accused of stealing a priceless painting from the Guggenheim Museum in New York, it’s up to Ted and his sister and cousin to figure out who really stole it. I read this warm, smart book in one sitting, it’s truly gripping. It’s the sequel to The London Eye Mystery by the late Siobhan Dowd but can be read as a stand-alone too.

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd, illustrated by Levi Pinfold (Walker)

This gem of a book is something very different, magical realism for children with outstanding black and white illustrations by Levi Pinfold. Set during World War II, Emmaline is living in Briar Hill, a hospital for children with TB or ‘stillwaters’ as she calls her condition. When she starts seeing winged horses in the hospital’s mirrors, she is determined to find out where they come from. Shepherd’s writing is flowing and lyrical and this story utterly gripped me from start to finish. Ideal for a thoughtful reader who loves Michael Morpurgo.

Nevermore: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Orion Children’s Books)

Eleven-year-old Morrigan Crow is a cursed child, blamed for everything bad that happens in her town and destined to die at Eventide. A strange man called Jupiter North whisks her away to Nevermoor, saving her life. But she can only join the Wundrous Society, a place of magic and protection, if she passes four impossible trials. A ‘wunderful’ book, full of imagination, ideal for Harry Potter fans.

The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop, illustrated by Ashley King (Scholastic)

As a former bookseller, I love novels set in bookshops. This one is the story of Property Jones whose family win the Montgomery’s Book Emporium. They are thrilled and set about running this huge, sprawling bookshop. But something is very wrong in the Emporium and soon their livelihood is in danger. Although Property can’t read – a secret she has kept from her loves ones – she is super smart and works out how to save the emporium. A warm and magical story, ideal for young bookworms.

Sam Hannigan’s Woof Week by Alan Nolan (O’Brien Press)

When animal lover and champion Irish dancer, Sam, gets stuck inside the body of her neighbour’s dog, no-one could predict the consequences. How will she cope with school and take part in an Irish dancing competition when she’s stuck inside a big hairy dog’s body? Nolan has a light touch and this funny book is full of heart. Perfect for David Walliams fans.

Also recommended: Bad Dad by David Walliams; Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway; Hetty Feather’s Christmas by Jacqueline Wilson; The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell; Darkmouth: Hero Rising by Shane Hegarty; Stand by Me by Judi Curtin.

Age 12+ and Young Teen

Top Choice

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Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, Illustrated by Giovanni Rigano  (Hodder Children’s Books)

At the opening of this graphic novel, Ebo and his brother are in a small rubber dinghy, making the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa to Italy, hoping to start a new life together in Europe. Colfer cleverly weaves in Ebo’s backstory – from leaving his village alone and crossing the desert to find his brother - telling a tale of bravery and tenacity. Beautifully illustrated by Giovanni Rigano in rich shades of blue (for the sea) and red (for the desert), this is an outstanding book, told with honestly and heart.

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman (David Fickling Books)

Eagerly awaited by fans of Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’, this book is a must for fans of that trilogy and is also an excellent introduction to this richly imagined world for new readers. The hero of The Book of Dust is eleven-year-old Malcolm who works in his parents’ pub and this new book explains how Lyra, the hero of the original books, came to be saved from her enemies and to live at an Oxford college. An immersive, old-fashioned fantasy adventure, full of drama and magic.

Star by Star by Sheena Wilkinson (Little Island)

I read this book in one heady gulp, captivated by its teenager narrator, Stella and her longing to be someone and do something important, something young teens will deeply relate to. Set in 1918, women have recently won the vote and Stella’s mother, a loyal suffragette, has just died from the flu pandemic, before she gets the chance to vote herself. Stella wants to mark her mother’s life in some special way but is frustrated by her small, quiet life. Can she make a different, no matter how small?

The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius  (Pushkin)

A joy from start to finish, this book is narrated by the remarkable Sally Jones, an ape with profound insights and ability. Sally and her friend and saviour, Henry Koskela, the ‘Chief’,  run a cargo ship and when one of the enterprises goes badly wrong, the Chief is falsely convicted of murder. Against all odds, Sally must fight to clear his name. An adventure tale like no other, a story to get truly lost in.

Satellite by Nick Lake (Hodder)

Pitched as ‘The Martian’ for teenagers, this epic space adventure is gripping. Born on Moon 2 Space Station to an astronaut mother, Leo has never been to Earth. Now he and fellow space baby twins, Orion and Libra are preparing for their first trip home. But their journey has far reaching consequences. A heady blend of science fiction and mystery, written with confidence and verve.

A Dangerous Crossing by Jane Mitchell (Little Island)

Ghalib and his family live in Kobani, a town in Syria near Aleppo. After daily attacks by ISIS his family decide to flee the bombings and travel by minibus to Aleppo where they start the long and arduous walk towards the border with Turkey. Mitchell spent a week volunteering at the Jungle Camp at Calais and her descriptions of the camp ring with authenticity and truth. A striking, honest book with real heart.

Young Adult

Top Choice

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Moonrise by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury)

Winner of many prestigious awards for her previous young adult novels, Sarah Crossan is one of our most accomplished writers. This book packs a devastating punch. Joe hasn’t seen his brother for ten years. There’s a good reason for this, Ed is on death row. With the execution date set, Joe travels to be with his brother, against everyone’s advice. What he hears and learns will change his life forever. Written in free verse, this compelling, thought-provoking novel is a book I will never forget.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker Books)

When sixteen-year-old Starr’s unarmed best friend, Khalil is murdered in front of her by a US police officer, she’s thrown into turmoil. What she knows could get her killed but is she brave enough to speak out? A powerful and moving novel written with urgency and passion, with some of the most vividly real characters in any YA book I’ve ever read, it’s a must read.

Tangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan, illustrated by Karen Vaughan (Little Island Books)

 A beautifully produced collection of dark, feminist fairy tale retellings with sinuous line drawings by Karen Vaughan. Many of the tales are written in the second person, which is a hard voice to pull off but Sullivan does it with aplomb. From The Frog Prince (‘Doing Well’), to Cinderella (‘Slippershod’), her sinuous, lyrical writing will have you transfixed.

Turtles all the Way Down by John Green (Puffin)

John Green is best known for his previous bestseller, The Fault in Our Stars which was made into a successful movie. This book features a mystery at its heart, missing millionaire, Russell Pickett and the scramble to find him and receive the $100k reward. The story is told by Aza, Holmes, a sixteen-year-old with anxiety. Aza knew Russell’s son, Davies as a child and when they are reunited she falls for him. Although it can be a little slow in places, Green really understands teenagers and Aza is beautifully drawn.

Knock Back by Pauline Burgess (Poolbeg Press)

Don’t be put off by the sombre cover, this is a strong mystery story set in Belfast by an experienced Northern Irish teacher who certainly knows her teens, her main character’s voice is spot on. Ben is determined to uncover a family secret so he gets himself sent to a centre for troubled youth, Knockmore Farm. Here he finds out more than he bargained for.

Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nichols (Andersen Press)

I adored this bright, sparky book with its strong characters and knock out plot. It’s the tale of three young women whose lives are changed by the suffrage movement in England. Each is very different and two of them fall in love (with each other). There’s May, a Quaker and pacifist, factory worker, Nell, and Evelyn, who has a devoted and largely supportive boyfriend, Teddy. Nicholls deftly handles a wide range of topics – empowerment of women, poverty, sexuality – in this warm, wise novel.

Non Fiction

Age 0 to 4

William Bee’s Wonderful World of Trains and Boats and Planes (Pavilion)

If the child in your life loves trains, this quirky picturebook is perfect. It’s packed with simple facts and vibrant illustrations that leap off the page.

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Lots by Marc Martin (Big Picture Press)

This large format book is a celebration of the wonder of the world, both natural and man-made, from oceans to rainforests, cities to villages. Each vibrantly coloured spread is packed with detail and it’s a book my son and I come back to time after time. Magical. Age 4+

 Age 5 to 8

The Variety of Life by Nicola Davies and Lorna Scobie (Hodder Children’s Books)

If your child loves animals, this is the perfect gift, a generously sized hardback featuring all manner of life, from beetles and spiders, fish and whales. The delicious watercolour and ink illustrations by newcomer, Lorna Scobie are a joy to share.

Foclóiropedia by Fatti and John Burke (Gill Books)

The award-winning father/daughter team behind Irelandopedia and Historopedia which have sold over 100,000 copies is back, this time with a romp through the world of the Irish language from arán to zú. Suitable for all levels of Irish, it covers topics like the weather, clothes and sport in glowing colour.

The Boole Sisters by Anne Carroll, illustrated by Derry Dillon (Poolbeg)

If your child is interested in history, this charming story of one remarkable family is ideal. Born in Cork, the Boole sisters went on to become novelists and scientists, defying conventions of the time. Jaunty writing combined with fun illustrations make this a great introduction to women’s history of ‘herstory’. See below for more great ‘herstory’ books.

Age 9 to 12

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo (Particular Books), various illustrators

Originally produced using crowdfunding of more than a million dollars – the most funded original book ever – this illustrated book has become a phenomenon, inspiring dozens of women’s history  (or ‘herstory’) books for children. Our own Grace O’Malley is in the mix, along with well-known pioneers and activists such as Helen Keller, Malala, Rosa Parks and many other women who may be new to readers.

Watch out for Good Night Stories 2 in early 2018, plus some Irish ‘herstory’ books from Little Island and O’Brien Press, published to celebrate the centenary of Votes for Women in Ireland.

The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (Hamish Hamilton)

‘For adder is as adder basks.’ A fascinating book of ‘spell-poems’ designed to ‘re-wild the language of children’. The illustrations alone are a work of art. Both Mcfarlane and Morris see nature as strange, beautiful and magical and these lyrical poems and accompanying watercolours are ideal for reading aloud and sharing with children (and adults) who still have wonder in their hearts.

 Age 11+

 Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Saved the World by Rachel Ignotofsky (Wren & Rook)

This striking book brings together fifty women from the world of science, from Marie Curie to Jane Goodall. Although the book is quite text heavy, there are lots of quotes and snippets of information on the pages, and the biographical information never seems overwhelming. What makes the book a real winner is the distinctive design. Each spread has a saturated black background and Ignotofsky uses one bright colour to highlight the women’s portraits and the text.

A Galaxy of Her Own: Amazing Stories of Women in Space by Libby Jackson (Century)

‘The whole universe is out there. And it’s waiting for you.’ This attractive hardback chronicles the lives of the women behind the Apollo space missions, from Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space (June 1963) to Peggy Whitson, who has completed ten moon walks and holds the record for the most days in space by an American astronaut. Jackson is a space expert and the exuberant illustrations by students from the London College of Communication send this fascinating book into orbit.

Sarah Webb is a children’s writer and creative writing teacher. She is also the Children’s Programmer of the ILFD (International Literary Festival Dublin) and her latest book is A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea: Favourite Rhymes from an Irish Childhood, illustrated by Steve McCarthy.

Make Writing Your Priority

Image c/o https://cocooninginwords.com

Image c/o https://cocooninginwords.com

I was at a lunch party last week. It was being held to celebrate the end of the sailing season so many of the people there spend their weekends and free time sailing competitively.

So I was sitting with this man and he asked me what I did – I said I was a professional writer. Now I’ve learned to say this rather than just writer as otherwise the next question is always ‘Oh, what a lovely hobby, have you had anything published? Anything I might have heard of?’

I haven’t spent 20 years busting a gut writing over 30 books to be told it’s a lovely little hobby.

Imagine asking an architect has she designed any buildings recently. Any buildings I might have heard about? Or 'Oh you’re an accountant, how interesting. Have you done any sums recently?'

But then he said the one thing that’s like a red rag to a bull for me: ‘I’d write a book if I had the time’.

I didn’t snarl at him. It was a very polite party. I took a deep breath and said ‘It may not be a priority in that case.’

He looked a little confused so I continued. ‘If you really wanted to write a book you’d find the time. You spend your weekends sailing, I spend most of my free time writing.’

And to give him credit he didn’t excuse himself and run away quickly, he said ‘Actually, you’re probably right. Maybe it’s not top of my list at the moment.’ And he told me about a TED clip about time and using it wisely. Nice man in fact, very engaging to talk to. 

After the party I watched it and it makes so much sense – it’s by Laura Vanderkam and she’s written a book about time management and using your time wisely. You can find the clip at the end of this blog post. 

Laura and I both believe the same thing – that if you want something badly enough, you’ll make the time.

For many years now I’ve been teaching and mentoring children’s writers and many of them have packed lives – they are pilots, librarians, teachers, business women; they are minding children with extra needs or caring for parents. Yet they make the time to write and attend classes or mentoring sessions.

They make writing their top priority.

If you meet me at a party and tell me you’d love to write if you had the time – and yet you find the time to sail, or watch tv, or hang out on Facebook – good luck to you!

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

 

 

 

Oh, My! This World - CBI Conference 2017

Last weekend I attended the CBI (Children’s Books Ireland) conference in the Lighthouse cinema in Smithfield, Dublin.

The conference is always well attended by writers, illustrators, teachers, librarians, booksellers, publishers and children’s book lovers and one of the great pleasures of the weekend is talking to fellow book fans.

Lucy Cousins in Conversation with Mags Walsh

Lucy Cousins and a Young Friend 

Lucy Cousins and a Young Friend 

Lucy spoke about her love of art from a very early age and showed us some of her childhood drawings. She said ‘Don’t think about (your ideas and art) too much, be spontaneous. I’ve never felt I have to stick to any rules.’

She also feels strongly that Maisy is just Maisy, not a boy and not a girl and spoke about gender in children’s books and how we should just let children be children. Hear, hear!

She likes painting animals as ‘People seem limited in their scope to me. I like to use bold, bright colours.’

It took her 5 years at art college to find her style and to be confident with colour. A project designing cups and plates for a children’s party led to her discovering that she should use the colours she liked.

Lucy has a set routine. ‘If I didn’t have a routine I wouldn’t work, I’d potter around all day,’ she said. She works on her creative projects in the morning and does her admin in the afternoons.

Rod Biddulph's Work 

Rod Biddulph's Work 

It took both Rob Biddulph and Chris Judge over five years to get their first books published. Rob said ‘People think writing for children is easy, but it’s not.’

Rob likes picturebooks as he gets control over his work. He likes rhyme as it’s ‘mathematical’ and follows a pattern. It helps children join in, he explains.

It takes Chris between 1 day and 2/3 weeks to do a picturebook spread. He has been known to complete a book in 3 weeks.

Anna Carey and Lucy Adlington spoke about writing historical novels.

the making of mollie.jpg

‘Research is endlessly seductive but writing’s hard work,’ Lucy said.

The details ground your story but you don’t have to put all your research in, she explained. Her new book, The Red Ribbon sounds fascinating, a World War II book about clothes and the Jewish seamstresses who created them.

Anna spoke about her Irish suffragette books set in the early 20th century, which she wrote because she wanted to read about teen suffragettes herself. She tries to make history interesting for modern readers by using a light hand with her research and plenty of humour. Her book, The Making of Mollie is well worth seeking out.

John Boyne, Cecelia Ahern and Shane Hegarty talked about writing for different age groups.

‘I don’t write books for adults or children,’ John said. ‘I write books about adults or children.’

He also said ‘I’m always open to story.’ And he finds the balance between writing children’s books and books for adults works well for him.

Kate DiCamillo 

Kate DiCamillo 

Kate DiCamillo gave a stirring talk about the wonders of the world. She spoke about a childhood trip on an glass bottomed boat and the secret world under her feet, of fish and turtles. A woman on the boat took her arm and said ‘Oh my, this world!’ and it’s always stayed with her, she explained.

She’s a big fan of Charlotte’s Web by EB White, a book that can bring people together.

Kate writes 6/7/8 drafts before sending her work to her editor. Then she gets a 10 editorial letter back. She spends the day sulking: ‘If you know so much why don’t you write a book?’ and then she gets to work.

Kate DiCamillo's Writing Advice

She gave the following advice:

Read as much as you can

Find a way to make a deal with yourself – work out how you are going to do the writing you need to do

There is a mistaken notion that writing should be easy or it should come out right the first time

If you do anything in the arts you need to be prepared to pay attention all the time, keep your eyes and ears open, your mind and your heart

Do not give up – the race goes to the idiot who will not give up.

Joseph Coehlo 

Joseph Coehlo 

Poet and picturebook writer, Joseph Coelho attended a comic writing workshop at ITV when he was a child and was told he was a really good writer – this was the 1st time someone had seen him as a writer.

He is passionate about libraries and how they can change children’s lives. They certainly changed my life, he said.

The New Voices panel featured nine different new children’s writers who read their work with gusto.

Debi Gliori says she ‘creates words and pictures that help make sense of the world for our smallest people.’

She shared her journey with the audience – a journey from darkness into light – and talked about how books can help children make sense of the world and be seen.

‘Books are not a link in the chain of life,’ she said. ‘They are the clasp.’

James Mayhew gave a fascinating talk about flying carpets, the Arabian Nights and other traditional tales and finally Sally Gardner talked about living with dyslexia and how she wants to help dyslexic children navigate the world. She said ‘We accept diversity in gender but we do not accept diversity of the brain.’

It was a most stimulating and though-provoking weekend and thanks to all at CBI for their hard work in putting the conference together.

Friendship and Writing Buddies by Judi Curtin

I'm delighted to welcome Judi Curtin to my blog. Judi's new book, Stand by Me, is out this week and a brilliant read it is too, a wise and funny novel for readers aged 8+ about friendship. As well as being a bestselling writer, Judi is also one of my dearest friends. We go back a long way as Judi explains below. Check out the visual record of our friendship - including Judi's stunning green 1980s dress and one of my own 1980s outfits, and watch me interview Judi about her writing at the end of the blog.

Thanks to Judi for her lovely piece. I wish her all the very best with her new book, Stand By Me!

StandByMe.jpg
Writing can be a lonely job, and that’s why we authors need our writing buddies. When my first book was published in 2002, my old friends were suitably supportive and enthusiastic, but none of them really understood the new world I’d stepped into. Then I got an e-mail from Sarah Webb (who I’d never met), inviting me to a writers' lunch. With some trepidation, I joined a large group of warm and welcoming women - and I haven’t looked back since!
Judi and Sarah at Listowel Writers' Week 

Judi and Sarah at Listowel Writers' Week 

Sarah and I have been friends since that day. She’s a fount of knowledge on the writing world, and is incredibly generous with her time. We bounce new ideas off each other, share the pain when our writing’s not going the way we’d like and (look away publishers) gripe about some of the terms in our contracts.  Mostly though, when we meet, we have a laugh, both well aware of how lucky we are to have such a great job.
Judi and Sarah at Electric Picnic 

Judi and Sarah at Electric Picnic 

Sarah and I have even made a career out of our friendship, visiting schools and libraries with our ‘Friendship Tour.’ This involves a fun and interactive talk for children (with weird props, including Sarah’s firebrush costume). I love to talk about writing and being friends with Sarah, but for me these events are mostly a chance to hang out with one of my best friends!
Judi and Sarah at their friendship event - sketch by Sarah McIntyre 

Judi and Sarah at their friendship event - sketch by Sarah McIntyre 

Sharing Books With Little Ones by Sarah Webb

A very wise New Zealand writer and bookseller called Dorothy Butler once said ‘Babies are never too little to look’ and she’s right. And they are never too little to listen. From birth they can distinguish between different sounds, and as they grow, they will try to replicate the sounds they hear and begin to make sounds of their own.

There are three times as many words in a children’s book than we use in everyday language. Reading aloud to your child is a brilliant way of teaching them new words, and it’s also deeply soothing for them to hear your voice. A good nursery rhyme collection is a great place to start.

My New Nursery Rhyme Collection with Steve McCarthy 

My New Nursery Rhyme Collection with Steve McCarthy 

When I went looking for a collection that contained the rhymes and songs that I had heard as a child in Ireland I couldn’t find one, so I decided to put one together myself. That book, Sally Go Round the Stars: Rhymes and Songs from an Irish Childhood (with Claire Ranson and Steve McCarthy), was a bestseller, and this autumn sees a second collection published, A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea, with lots more Irish and international favourites, from She’ll be Coming ‘round the Mountain to The Owl and the Pussycat .

Nursery rhymes and songs are part of a baby’s literary heritage, passed down from generation to generation. Dr Susan Kennedy says ‘Part of the power of the nursery rhyme is that children learn them from the significant adults in their lives. The children are held, tickled and snuggled. Physical contact is very important for healthy emotional and physical growth.’

So when you’re sharing nursery rhymes and songs with your baby or toddler, as well as having fun, you’re also helping them learn and develop. Happy reading!

What to look for in a book for a baby or toddler:

Small, baby-sized books that little hands can hold

Strong, well-designed books that can withstand a biting – board books are ideal

Clear, uncluttered pages with bright colours, or striking black and white illustrations. Avoid fussy books with too much action on the page.

Illustrations and images that a baby will recognise from everyday life – pets, people, cars.

Sarah Webb is an award-winning champion of children’s books and a writer for both children and adults. Her latest book for children is A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea: Rhymes and Songs from an Irish Childhood (O’Brien Press) with Steve McCarthy.

This piece first appeared on www.magicmum.ie

This Writer's Life - Interview with Sadhbh Devlin

 

Debut Writer Sadhbh Devlin Shares Her Writing Life

Headshot Sadhbh Devlin.jpg

All About Sadhbh 

 Sadhbh Devlin is an award-winning blogger, a television researcher for Irish language television channel TG4 and the craft contributor to Easy Parenting magazine. She also reviews Irish language children’s books for Inis magazine. You can find her making crafts and playing with her young twins on her award-winning blog: www.wherewishescomefrom.com or writing about her adventures in children’s literature here: www.sadhbhdevlin.ie. Bí ag Spraoi Liom! is her first Irish-language picture book for children.

Can you tell us about your latest book, Bi ag Spraoi Liom and where the idea came from?

Bí ag Spraoi Liom! is a story about Lúna, a keen inventor with one big problem; Mom is too busy to play with her in her new time machine. Luckily, Lúna is very clever and creative and hatches a plan to entice Mom to play with her. It’s a story that reminds us to make time for the important things in life.

I was inspired to write it after a conversation with one of my twin daughters - who also happens to be something of an inventor - about the games I used to play as a child. Also, the fact that I always seem to be in the same position as Lúna’s ‘busy Mom’ definitely helped me to develop the concept!

Bí ag Spraoi Liom.jpg

How long did it take you to write?

That’s actually a difficult one to answer. The story was originally created during a year-long mentorship scheme I had been accepted onto. I was lucky to have been assigned Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin from Futa Fata as my mentor. Tadhg is not only a publisher, but also an award-winning writer, so I really hit the jackpot in terms of learning everything there is to know about the picture book genre from the master!

However, taking part in the scheme did not guarantee having anything actually published by Futa Fata. Tadhg was under no obligation to publish anything that was created during our sessions - but luck was on my side again, and at our last meeting on the scheme, Tadhg announced that he’d like to publish one of my stories - which was Bí ag Spraoi Liom! I was over the moon, not only to have had the opportunity in the first place but to have managed to find a publisher without having to go through the agony of the submissions process. After it had been accepted, it took another few drafts and a few edits during the illustration process to complete the story. In reality, it probably took a full year to go from concept to finished product.

How do you organise your writing day? For example, where do you write? And when?

I mostly write when my children are in school but I always have a notebook with me. You never know when inspiration will strike. I had a home office until recently, when I was evicted by a child looking for a bedroom of her own, so I’m currently a bit of a nomad. I write at my kitchen table, on the sofa, at the library, or in various cafés.  I should have a more permanent solution very soon though and I can’t wait!

Do you use a computer or write long hand?

For picture books I write long hand at first. The idea or concept usually starts as a vague scribble in one of the many notebooks I carry around with me. I then flesh it out a bit before using note cards or post-its to work out the plot and to see where the holes are.

Once I have a good idea of the structure and the concept I’ll get the text onto the computer. Then I’ll make a (very basic and terribly drawn) ‘dummy’ of the book to see if it will fit the picture book model. My stories are usually way too long at first so, after that it’s editing, editing, editing!

Do you edit as you go along? Or at the end of the first draft?

One of the reasons I write long hand for picture books is that I have a terrible habit of editing as I go along when I’m typing - the result of years of blogging. Blogging is ‘publishing’ at its fastest and I have a tendency to write a blog-post, editing and correcting as I go and hit publish pretty much immediately. Creative writing needs a completely different approach. For a picture book, where every, single word counts - you might need to write a sentence many, many different ways before you get it just right. For me, that habit of editing as I go, means I’d either never finish a first draft because I’d start fixating on everything that was ‘wrong’ in the first sentences or else I’d race to the end of the story without thinking about all of the different possibilities for developing the concept. For those reasons, editing comes quite late in my process. I prefer to get the ‘story’ down first and then start tweaking things.

Picturebooks are notoriously difficult to write – did you find it tricky?

They are tricky! I think people really underestimate how difficult writing for young children can be. It can be surprisingly technical - getting the pacing right, making sure there are ‘hooks’ to keep readers turning the pages, keeping the word count as low as possible - all while telling a story about a ‘hero’ who is relatable yet age appropriate and creating a world that children will want to visit again and again and that parents won’t mind reading about again and again! 

I definitely found it difficult in the beginning and made some extremely clunky attempts before I started to understand more about how picturebooks work, but like anything, with practice it gets easier. Although - that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped making clunky attempts!

Do you have any advice or tips for people who would like to write a picturebook?

My advice would be to read picturebooks. Read them for pleasure, of course, but also study them to learn about their structure and style and also about what kinds of things get published!

I also found ‘How to Write a Children’s Picture Book and get it Published’ by Andrea Shavick very useful when I was starting out.

What type of books do you like to read? Do you have a favourite book?

I do read a lot of picture books, of course, but literary fiction is usually what I’m drawn to when reading for pleasure. I currently have quite an eclectic stack on my bedside table. The complete works of Truman Capote, Annie Proulx’s Barkskins, June Caldwell’s Room Little Darker, Daniel Clowes graphic novel ‘Patience’ and Emma Donoghue’s new children’s book The Lotterys Plus One.

I think my favourite novel might be Postcards by Annie Proulx and my favourite book from childhood is A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

What are you working on next?

I’m very excited to have been commissioned to write another book ‘as Gaeilge’ so I’m working on producing something special for that. I have one story written about a girl who wishes she was very small, but I have a few other ideas too and I’m using the opportunity to develop as many of them as possible!

Thank you, Sadhbh, for sharing your writing life with us.

Sadhbh's book is available at all good bookshops and also via the publisher, Futa Fata. 

Find out more about Sadhbh here:

Website: www.sadhbhdevlin.ie

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It Takes a Library to Raise a Child: My Final dlr Writer in Residence Post

For the past year I have been Writer in Residence for Dún Laoghaire Rathdown, based in the stunning Lexicon Library beside the sea. During this time I've been hosting book clubs, writing clubs, events and drop in writing clinics for children of all ages, from babies and toddlers up to teens. My term has now finished so this is my farewell post. 

With my niece, Rosie at the Lexicon Library 

With my niece, Rosie at the Lexicon Library 

The Highlights of My Year 

My Writing 

 I finished a book, A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea, out on 11th September, wrote a second book, Blazing a Trail: Remarkable Irish Women Who Changed the World (out in 2018), came up with 3 further book ideas - 1 is about to be signed by O'Brien Press, I'm still working on the other two, and I also write a children's play. So plenty of writing! 

ASailorWenttoSeaSeaSea (1).jpg

 

Young Writers' Club 

 I also worked with some inspirational young writers in the dlr Lexicon Young Writers' Club and in the Drop in Writing Clinics. Amazing children with such imaginations! I especially enjoyed watching helping one young writer achieve the target we set at the first Drop in Clinic - to finish her first book. Over the year she wrote two and proudly read from one at our end of season young writers' prize giving and reading. I've always loved this Picasso quote - he's so right!

picasso quote.jpg

The young writers in the Writing Club are fearless, the pieces they write are honest, moving, original, and in many cases also extremely funny. They know they can write and write they do! They pick up their pencils and as Seamus Heaney once said, they dig. 

Events and Exhibitions 

I also organised events with Lauren Child - the current UK Children's Laureate, Judith Kerr - the author of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, who at 94 is still writing, Chris Riddell - ex UK Children's Laureate, Eoin Colfer and Marita Conlon-McKenna. 

I adored curating The World of Colour exhibition - the work of Beatrice Alemagna and Chris Haughton, two of my favourite picturebook makers of all time. Marian Keyes helped me put together the exhibition and we had a wonderful launch after an event we held with Children's Books Ireland, When are You Going to Write a Proper Book?.

Here's me at the launch of The World of Colour Exhibition, with Rosie again!

Here's me at the launch of The World of Colour Exhibition, with Rosie again!

I'm proud of all the different projects we managed to squeeze into one year 

My Thanks To

I'd like to thank the people who made the year possible: Mairead Owens, Marian Keyes and Susan Lynch at the Lexicon who did so much to help me feel at home and to support my activities. Susan put a huge amount of work into the year and special thanks for all her input and ideas. When I came to her or Marian with a plan, they rarely said no. Thank you for having faith in me!

To the Lexicon library staff, especially Lisa, Vita, Helen and Shelley, fellow children's book fanatics. It was a pleasure talking to you all about children's books. The librarians, security guards, cleaners, staff at Brambles, to a person they were all so nice to me and so helpful. Nothing was ever too much trouble. One of the librarians, Nigel, helped me source books for Blazing a Trail which was invaluable. 

I'd also like to thank all the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends who brought their charges to the library to meet me. They say it takes a village to raise a child, well I think it takes a library to raise a creative child. And creative children who get the chance to express themselves, their authentic selves - and that's what I tried to encourage in the Writing Club, for the young writers to use their own unique voice in their work - they are lucky children indeed. 

A Poem for the President

Another highlight was writing a poem for the President of Ireland with the children at Shanganagh Park House in Shankhill - he was visiting to celebrate their work over the years. It's called I am Shanganagh and the President read from it during his speech. Lucinda Jacob helped greatly with this poem and also the I am Dún Laoghaire poem below. Thanks to Lucinda for all her hard work. 

I am Dún Laoghaire - written by the dlr Lexicon Young Writers' Club 

I am Dún Laoghaire - written by the dlr Lexicon Young Writers' Club 

What I Have Learned During the Year

It's been a wonderful year, full of discovery. I really enjoy working with the dlr Lexicon Young Writers, they are so full of optimism and wonder, and have such brilliant ideas. I will continue to work with young writers independently in the future. I have recently set up my own organisation, Story Crew: Write, Draw, Create, to provide writing clubs and creative workshops for children. We will also provide courses and workshops for adults who love writing for children. More details here. 

I loved working in my special room in the library - what a privilege - and got lots of work done. I found the evenings, when the library was quiet highly productive and spent many happy hours working on new ideas.

I greatly enjoyed working with colleagues who love children's books as much as I do. I was a bookseller for many years and still work as a consultant to an independent book chain and I've always enjoyed working with other people. Being a writer is a lonely old job and it was so nice to be surrounded by interesting, engaging people. (Sorry if I asked you all too many questions!) I will miss that daily interaction. 

Overall it has been a highly positive and enriching experience for me. Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat! But it's time for the 'adult' writers to get a look in now. I hope I served the children and children's writers of Dún Laoghaire well. 

Here are some of the events I organised during my dlr Writer in Residence year:

Roald Dahl Day Show 

Culture Night with myself and Alan Nolan - Smashing Stories and Dashing Doodles

Canada Day with Children's Books Ireland - JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith

Children's Book Clubs, Writing Clubs, Teen Creative Clubs with a host of teen writer + a writing workshop for Junior Cert students with Dave Rudden, Drop in Writing Clinics for Children, Teens and Adults

When are You Going to Write a Proper Book? with Children's Books Ireland - it was such a success we ran a second day, devoted to picturebooks

World Book Day Show with Chris Judge and Marita Conlon-McKenna

Lauren Child event for children and a second event for adults and older children

Bookworms for Bumbleance event for schools with Siobhan Parkinson

Outreach events for schools in Loughlinstown and Shankhill

A Photo Diary of the Year - Click on the photo to move to the next one

Goodbye, Lexicon. I won't be a stranger!

 

 

Writers - Call for Mentors from Words Ireland

Words Ireland are looking for writers to mentor emerging writers - see below. I really enjoy mentoring and you might just too. 

If you would like some help they are also looking for 'mentees'.  Details here for both schemes. 

Words Ireland – a collective of seven Irish literature organisations – is initiating a total of eleven literature mentoring relationships in 2017, six of which are offered in partnership with the Arts Offices of Leitrim, Limerick, Kilkenny, Wexford, Wicklow, and the Arts Office and Libraries of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown.
Words Ireland are seeking expressions of interest from experienced and established writer-mentors working in the areas of adult fiction, children’s/YA fiction and/or poetry to undertake the mentoring of writers of promise who are working in the same forms.
We are also are also seeking writers of adult fiction, YA fiction, children’s fiction and poetry to apply for mentoring support under our National Mentoring Programme.
There are a total of 11 mentee opportunities open to writers resident in any county in Ireland, north or south of the border.
Deadline 10 July 2017.

http://wordsireland.ie/words-ireland-writers-series/

Open Call for dlr Libraries 2017 to 2019

Open Call for facilitation in dlr Libraries 2017-2019

Call for authors, artists, lecturers, facilitators, workshop leaders and enthusiasts

 

Introduction

dlr Libraries are delighted to announce an opportunity for authors, artists, lecturers, facilitators, workshop leaders and enthusiasts to submit proposals for events in dlr Libraries during the period 2017-2019. Events encompass workshops, talks, courses, shows, productions, classes, exhibitions and any other creative enterprises envisioned as a possibility within a public library context.  As well as proposals suitable for festivals such as Bealtaine, Children's Book Festival, Science Week, we invite proposals for a wide range of one-off events, a series of themed talks/events or more long-term projects. Projects can include artistic, cultural and educational forms and target user groups can be children, young people, adults, users with special needs and intergenerational audiences. Proposals will be selected both from artistic/cultural and educational areas of interest, highlighting the demand for both kinds of events in dlr Libraries. Creative practitioners and facilitators that are successful in their application will be selected for a panel for use and events will be programmed accordingly from Autumn 2017 – Autumn 2019.

Closing Date: Friday 9th June 2017 at 12 noon

 

Background

dlr County has eight branch libraries serving the educational, recreational and cultural needs of all who live, work, study or visit the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area. The 8 library branches are:

Blackrock, Cabinteely, Dalkey, Deansgrange, Dundrum, dlr LexIcon, Shankill and Stillorgan.

dlr Libraries have a tradition of providing high quality cultural programming that complements our collection and enlivens our spaces, both physical and virtual. dlr Libraries’ mission is: ‘to connect and empower people, inspire ideas and support community potential’. dlr Libraries support lifelong learning and seek to develop a culture of creativity and innovation. Libraries have no boundaries and stimulate the imagination through the provision of a rich and relevant collection and an active, engaging culture and technology programme.

 

Areas of interest

Examples are by no means comprehensive

Artistic/Cultural:

Architecture, circus, dance, film, literature, music, opera, theatre, traditional arts, visual arts and crafts.

Educational:

Books & literature, literacy & numeracy, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art & maths), creating in the digital space, using information technology, e-learning, health and wellbeing, local history & genealogy, general knowledge, sustainability & environment, exhibitions.

The user groups include the following:

-Children (0 -11yrs) 
-Young Adults (12 - 17yrs) 
-Adults

-Special needs groups

-Intergenerational audience

 

 

 

 

Guidelines:

 

  • Delivery of all proposals will be remunerated in accordance with our current fee schedules for facilitators.  If successful, dlr Libraries commit to hosting you during the time frame outlined, at a time that is mutually convenient.

 

  • Interested applicants may apply for both areas of interest (artistic/cultural and educational) and all user groups. Evidence of experience with different user groups is an advantage.
  • We request facilitators be flexible in their approach and responsive to the needs of participants.
  • Selection will be based on the written submission and any additional supplementary material supplied only.
  • Emailed applications will be deemed ineligible.
  • Proposal(s) should be no longer than 300 words. (1 A4 page max per proposal)
  • Please submit 3 x hard copies of your proposal(s) along with 3 x hard copies of your curriculum vitae.
  • Applications received after Friday 9th June at 12.00 noon will not be accepted under any circumstances.

 

Applications to:

 

*please mark clearly: ‘OPEN CALL’

 

Shelley Healy

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Public Libraries HQ, 

dlr LexIcon,

Haigh Terrace, Moran Park,

Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin

 

All queries to: Shelley Healy at ahealy@dlrcoco.ie or (01) 2362707

 

Child Protection

In accordance with the national Child Protection Guidelines “Children First”, the selected candidate will be required to follow child protection procedures as specified by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. The successful candidate will be required to undergo Garda Vetting.

Insurance

There may be a requirement under certain circumstances for personal insurance.

Freedom of Information

The provisions of the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2003 apply to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. Applicants should state if any of the information supplied by them is confidential or sensitive and should not be disclosed to a request for information under the aforementioned Act. Applicants should state why they consider the information to be confidential or commercially sensitive.

Payments

Facilitators may be paid via the payroll system. They will not become employees of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and are treated as employees solely for taxation purposes. Standard deductions will apply.

What Publishers Want - Picturebooks

Image by Alan O'Rourke

Image by Alan O'Rourke

Today I hosted a day in the dlr Lexicon Library all about picturebooks. It was the second in a series of events focused on different areas of writing for children and teenagers, called When Are You Going to Write a Proper Book? Or #ProperBook for short. The events were held in association with the wonderful Children's Books Ireland and this one also had the support of IBBY Ireland

Here is a roundup of the day. Thanks to all the speakers and to everyone who attended. The next #properbook day will focus on writing fiction for children and teenagers and will be held next spring.

Thanks to CBI and various attendees for the photos and Alan O'Rourke for his great #properbook graphic above.

First Valerie Coughlan and Lucinda Jacob talked about the visual narrative in picturebooks (how the pictures help tell the story), and rhyming versus prose picture books. Both agreed that all picturebooks need rhythm but not necessarily rhyme. Valerie quoted American picturebook critic Barbara Bader who said:

As an art form it [the picturebook] hinges on the interdependence of pictures and words, on the simultaneous display of two facing pages, and on the drama of the turning of the page.
On its own terms its possibilities are limitless.

Valerie shared some of her favourite picturebooks including Rosie's Walk and Where the Wild Things Are and recommended Illustrating  Children's Books by Martin Salisbury (see full book list below for details). 

Lucinda spoke about rhyming picturebooks and explained that the rhyme had to form a pattern, like a song. Her favourite picturebooks include Hairy Maclary and Each Peach, Pear Plum. 

Next up was our illustrators' panel: Michael Emberley, Mary Murphy and Chris Judge. They talked about the genesis of an idea, which was largely different for each book. Michael gets an idea first, then works on that idea, for Chris and Mary the character comes first. Once they have a character, they start working on the story.

They had some great advice for new writers:

Research - read modern picturebooks. Mary explained how important this is. She talked about her work, which mainly focuses on young children and has deceptively simple text and vibrant, beautifully designed artwork. 

 

Be yourself. Michael spoke with passion about being yourself on the page and not trying to be someone that you are not. He explained how publishers were pushing the costs (of producing a picturebook) 'downstream' towards the author. He said that these days you need to make your book as good as possible before sending it off to a publisher. The days of sending off an 'idea' or a rough, unfinished text are gone. (Interestingly on a later panel, Deirdre McDermott from Walker said she doesn't like to see artwork that is too finished, as there is no space for it to change and grow - see below for more from Deirdre.)

Chris talked about not giving up (it took him several years to get his first picturebook published). He also said to take your time and to produce something you are proud of - don't be in a rush to get published. 'It takes a long time to make a great book,' he said. 

The image below is of his Beast character. 

Jane O'Hanlon and Debbie  Thomas from IBBY spoke about their Silent Books exhibition which is in the Lexicon library until the 29th May. A matching set of the books are on the Italian island of Lampedusa where refugees from Africa and the Middle East often land on their way to Europe. The books are shared with the refugee children. Teachers and students from St Laurence College spoke about their recent trip to the island, which was a lovely addition to the day. It made me think about the importance of picturebooks as a form of communication as well as an art form. 

Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick gave us a brilliant insight into the work of a picturebook maker, showing lots of her rough sketches, dummy books and even the colour chart she created for Owl Bat Bat Owl, her latest picturebook.

Marie-Louise shared her tips on one clever slide

Marie-Louise shared her tips on one clever slide

So - the burning question - what are publishers looking for when it comes to picturebooks? Deirdre McDermott from Walker Books is interested in working with new Irish illustrators. She loves warm graphics - she mentioned Lucy Cousins and Mary Murphy in this regard. 'I want to feel the blood in their (the artists') veins. I want to feel they have a heartbeat.' She loves Chris Haughton's work for its sense of humour and she loves his brilliant use of colour.

Interestingly she's not looking for highly polished, finished work. She's looking for something different and exciting, and often finds her illustrators in unusual ways, not always though an agent. 

For picturebook texts Deirdre said she's looking for something that instantly grabs her attention: 'You read the first four sentences and it just gets you.' 

Emma Byrne from O'Brien Press is looking for Irish content and Irish creators. She says Ireland is a small market and she makes an effort to give Irish illustrators a chance. Like Deirdre, she doesn't use agents to find illustrators (although some do come this way). She looks at magazines - she mentioned Totally Dublin - flyers and posters for images that make her react. She's also looking for a sense of humour in the work and is drawn to unusual colour.

Tadhg MacDhonnagáin from Futa Fata is looking for narrative picturebooks for age 3 to 6. He's looking for books that are not based in Ireland but that have a strong story, with a main character that goes on a journey and changes. He's looking again for humour and for a writer with great enthusiasm. He would love to find an illustrator or picturebook maker who can speak Irish and can do events in schools and at festivals, but has yet to discover one

Margaret Anne Suggs from Illustrators Ireland gave this advice:

1/ Have something worth submitting.

2/ Do your research - look at what the publisher or agent likes and see if you are a fit.

3/ Follow the submission guidelines carefully.

And the publishers' pet hates? Letters addressed 'Dear Sir' (to Emma or Deirdre). 

Elaborate packages of artwork with no return address.

Rhyming picturebooks with no story. 

Margaret Anne said that illustrators are often told to write their own text. She described this as being bisexual. 'It doubles your chance of a date,' she said. 

Other information shared was:

Writers and illustrators rarely meet.

If you are a writer you do not need to find an illustrator. You submit your text without pictures. The editor will match your story with the right illustrator. Do not provide illustrations yourself (unless you are also an artist) or pay someone to illustrate your book. 

Don't put grown ups in your book if you can help it.

If you are an illustrator, apply to Illustrators Ireland who can help you with contracts and professional advice. 

Always get a contract if you are an illustrator and ask for royalties, not just a set fee (esp for picturebooks). 

Walker split the writer/illustrator royalty 50/50.

Illustrators' agents take 25 to 35% of a contract and literary agents 15 to 20% (for writers or illustrators).

It was a really enjoyable, informative day and thanks to all the speakers, to Marian Keyes at the library and Artscope for their help. 

Watch out for the podcast of the day which I'll post here soon. 

I'll leave you with this list of recommended books about writing and illustrating picturebooks which I put together for the event. 

Books about Writing and Illustrating Picturebooks

Recommended by Sarah Webb

riting Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul – especially good on how to write a rhyming picturebook and how to check your rhythm and rhyme. Highly recommended.

Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children's Books by Uri Shulevitz – excellent book, well worth reading. Especially good on format.

Illustrating Children’s Books by Martin Salisbury – a must have for illustrators. Full colour hardback with lots about technique.

Children’s Picturebooks: The Art of Visual Storytelling by Martin Salisbury and Morag Styles – excellent book about the history of picturebooks, publishing, process + much more. Highly recommended.

100 Great Children’s Picture Books by Martin Salisbury – a gem – treat yourself!

How to Write a Children’s Picture Book by Andrea Shavick – a good beginner’s guide to writing picturebooks.

Writing Children’s Books for Dummies by Lisa Rojany Buccieri – don’t let the title put you off, this is a useful, sensible book. Especially good on the different age groups and genres.

Sarah Webb mentors new and emerging writers and critiques picturebooks and novels for children. Contact me for details about how to book (now taking bookings for Sept)

 

April Diary - Writer in Residence

April was full of fun book events for all ages.

Dalkey Baby Book Club ran for four weeks and we made owls, polar bears, caterpillars and lollypops and shared lots of picturebooks, rhymes and songs. The next Dalkey Baby Book Club is on 9th June at 10.30am and we'll be back in September after the summer holidays.

We had a writing workshop in Blackrock Library and I visited Shanganagh House in Shankhill with writer and children's poet, Lucinda Jacob. We created a poem with the children at the centre called I Am Shanganagh House. I also made some dogs and shared dog stories with the younger children. 

I had some exciting news in April - I'll be publishing a new book with O'Brien Press in 2018. More details about that in June. 

On Monday 17th April I took part in Cruinniú na Cásca, the family festival of culture. I told stories in a tent in St Stephen's Green for young children and their families. It was such fun! Here is Paul Timoney, one of the storytellers from the festival who shared my tent. 

The award winning writer and illustrator, Lauren Child visited our library in April to talk to school children and also adults who are interested in art and design. She was inspirational and it was such an honour to meet her. She spoke about her love of cheesy detective shows like Hart to Hart, and mystery books like Nancy Drew. She showed her rough drawings and talked about where she got ideas for characters - many come from real life. What a treat to have her in the Lexicon!  

The Silent Books arrived in the library at the end of April, ready for their exhibition in June, wordless picturebooks from all over the world. The exhibition will be in the library until 29th May, don't miss it if you love picturebooks. There is a set of the books on the Italian island of Lampedusa where they can be read by local and immigrant children, regardless of the language they speak. Here is PJ Lynch launching the exhibition on 8th May and some of the artwork the children produced at the workshop he hosted. It was a wonderful event. 

On 27th April the Lexicon celebrated Poetry Day and there was pavement art outside by some students from Holy Child Killiney. I worked on a poem with my writing club and we read the poems that the library staff and recommended and pinned on the window in the library - a great idea. 

That's it for April and early May. More next month.

Yours in books,

Sarah XXX

 

 

Sarah Webb's Top 3 Tips - Writing Picturebooks

1/ Picturebooks are generally short – around 500 words – and are made up of 12 double page spreads. Make every word count and work on the text until it shines.

2/ You do not need to provide artwork. Concentrate on the text, don’t worry about illustrations. An editor’s job is to match text with the right artwork and they are gifted picturebook matchmakers.

3/ Read award winning and best-selling picturbooks. Study Julia Donaldson’s poetry – and it is poetry – every line is carefully worked out. Just because you can rhyme sat with hat doesn’t mean you can write a rhyming picturebook. The whole line has to sing. More about this in another blog soon.

Read Maurice Sendak. Read some of the best Irish picturebook talent: Yasmeen Ismail, Oliver Jeffers and Chris Haughton.

Coo over Helen Oxenbury’s babies and Mem Fox’s outstanding text in the modern classic, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes.

Learn from the greats – and then get back to your own work.

Work at it and keep working at it until you crack it. Don’t give up!

I’ve been teaching creative writing for over 20 years now. Good writers with tenacity and grit, writers who are prepared to work hard at their craft, they are the ones who get published. Good luck!

Yours in writing, Sarah X

The Writing Process by Cecelia Ahern

This week's guest blog is from bestselling Irish writer, Cecelia Ahern. Her new book, Perfect has just been published. Take it away, Cecelia! 

I’m a big reader and fan of YA novels but I never had a specific plan to write a YA series. I knew that I had younger readers but I never plan what kind of stories I’m going to write, I just write whichever story comes to me in the strongest way, the story that keeps growing and growing and won’t leave my mind. Flawed arrived in my mind, kicking and screaming, demanding to be heard and written.

When I came up with the idea for Flawed and Perfect, I knew I wanted to tell the story from the perspective of a 17 year old. Although we’re constantly learning about ourselves throughout our life, teenage years are the years when you first really start to question authority and society, and start figuring out how you really feel about things, instead of what you’re being told to feel. I wanted to take Celestine from being that logical, obedient girl who thinks in black and white, and transform her into somebody who questions, who doubts, and who finds her own voice. She suddenly realizes she has to follow her own instincts, and her heart. We do this at different stages of our lives when life throws us dilemmas but I wanted this to be the first big lesson in my character’s life, and also a surprising voice and character that could teach society a thing or two.

I always encourage finding and using your own voice. Celestine is not an obvious leader, she doesn’t realize her own strengths, she is not a leader because she wants to be but because she naturally makes the right choices. She brings compassion and logic to a society that has lost its humanity and I don’t think that shouting the loudest is necessarily what causes people to be heard, it’s the strength of the character with quiet confidence that can truly gain a following. It’s not about shouting, it’s about leading by example, it’s about action, your own behaviour, who you can influence in a positive way.

I didn’t have to alter my style of writing for the YA audience, I just told the story through the eyes of a seventeen year old Celestine. But there is one enormous difference between this series and my other novels, which is that this has a thriller feel. I wrote Flawed in 6 weeks, the fastest I’ve ever written a novel and while it took me a long time to edit, the first draft flowed out so effortlessly. My heart was pounding, my body was trembling, I felt I had so much to say about society, about how history keeps repeating itself. We have tortured each other for race, sex and religious reasons in the past and still today, I wanted to examine what it would be like to punish and segregate people for their behavior, their personal life decisions. We already label each other, public shaming is almost a sport in society, and so I took that idea of labeling literal. To mention just a few examples: The flawed rules mimic the anti-jewish decrees of World war 2, Celestine’s decision on the bus mirrors Rosa Parks defiance during the civil rights movement in the US. Flawed children who are removed from their parents mirrors what happened to children in Ireland born to unmarried mothers, and aboriginal children in Australia who were taken from their parents to dilute the gene pool. Everything in Flawed and Perfect mirrors what has happened and happens in reality.  

I got completely lost in Celestine’s world. At first I thought the books would be a trilogy, mainly because it felt like the natural familiar decision, but when I was developing the story, I felt that the best way for me to tell the stories was in two novels. When I sent the outline of Perfect to my editor, he wondered if it would all fit into one book and questioned whether there should be a third, but I knew that I wanted a meaty, jam-packed novel filled with surprises and twists and turns, with plenty of content, and a conclusion to Celestine’s journey.

I’m so proud of Flawed and Perfect and hope they entertain, and inspire readers of all ages.

Mammoth March!

My Writer in Residence Diary for March 

March was a manic but wonderful month, full of book events and book fun. The picturebook art exhibition, A World of Colour featuring the work of Beatrice Alemagna and Chris Haughton -  images above - ran from 4th  February to the end of March and it was such a joy passing it daily on the way to my Writer in Residence room on the 5th floor. A world of colour it certainly was!

On 10th March I attended a conference about Mental Health and the Written Word in the Lexicon Studio which was most interesting and I also spoke on a panel called Happy Kids: Raising Children in the Digital Age with some experts in the area of children and safely online. The podcast is available here

I attended two talks by international writers for adults, Mohsin Hamid and George Saunders which were excellent (preview Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival events).

I took part in a World Book Day event for schools with Marita Conlon-McKenna and Chris Judge and my book clubs and writing clubs continued during the month. We had a very well attended Drop in Writing Clinic with over 15 young writers and also a clinic for adults writing for children which was also very well attended. Our teen creatives had workshops in Vlogging with Dave Lordan and Comic Books with Alan Nolan and on 1st April were visited by Dave Rudden who gave them tips for their Junior Cert which went down a treat!

I also continued with the Baby Book Clubs in Deansgrange library (last Tues of every month at 10am and Dalkey (31st March, 7, 21 + 28th April 10.30am), Kids Create Workshops in Stillorgan for age 7+ (next ones are 4th May + 15th June booking required with the library) and a writing workshop in Blackrock Library all about creating realistic characters.

The Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival also took place in March. I programmed the children's and school's events and the highlight for me was meeting two of my book heroes, Judith Kerr (The Tiger Who Came to Tea) and Beatrice Alemagna.

It was a fantastic five days of book fun and here are some of my favourite photos from the week. Enjoy! 

Robin Stevens, Katherine Woodfine and Jo Cotterill start the slide show from the festival - click on their image to see the other photos.

Yours in books,

Sarah XXX

Review - A Dangerous Crossing by Jane Mitchell

There has long been a tradition in children’s books of tackling difficult periods in history through the medium of fiction. John Boyne’s powerful Holocaust tale, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas won numerous awards and was made into a successful film, and more recently Zana Fraillon’s The Bone Sparrow, set in a modern-day Australian detention centre was shortlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.

While the settings are important, where these stories really succeed is in the characterisation. Jane Mitchell’s new book for age 11+, A Dangerous Crossing (Little Island) joins these novels as an exemplary example of how to tell a difficult story through fiction by making us care deeply about the main character.

Ghalib and his family live in Kobani, a town in Syria near Aleppo. After daily attacks by ISIS they are nervous and exhausted, their future uncertain. The book opens at a souq in Freedom Square in Kobani. Egged on by his cousin, Hamza, Ghalib and his little brother, Aylan are raiding the blown-out shops and stalls for clothes and shoes to sell on to a ‘buyer’. When they get home they realise they are one pair of shoes short and Hamza decides they must go back to the souq without Aylan, but Freedom Square is a very different place at night. ‘The streets reek … the stench of rotting rubbish mixes with smoke and pulverised concrete, smashed-up sewers and rot.  The night bloats its evil.’

While they are scavenging, a bomb hits the square. Ghalib escapes with burns to his feet but Hamza is badly injured. After much persuading from his wife, Ghalib’s father, Baba agrees to leave Kobani to find somewhere safer to live.

The family travel by minibus to Aleppo and from here they start the long and arduous walk towards the border with Turkey. Ghalib accidentally crosses the border without his family and finds himself alone in a Turkish refugee camp. The writer spent a week volunteering at the Jungle Camp at Calais and her descriptions of the Turkish camp ring with authenticity and truth.

As the title suggests and as is explained on the back cover of the book, Ghalib eventually makes it to a boat bound for Greece. Mitchell leaves the story open-ended but in an afterward explains what might have happened next to a boy like Ghalib. Mitchell is at all times mindful of her young audience and while she does not shy away from the despair of Ghalib’s situation, there is always hope for the boy and his family.

Each child character in the book is named after a real Syrian child. Most poignantly of all, Ghalib’s little brother, Aylan was named after the three-year-old whose photograph made global headlines when his body was washed up on the Mediterranean coast. He too was trying to cross to Greece with his family.

Endorsed by Amnesty International, this is an important book that deserves to be read in every home and classroom in Ireland.

Little Island e9.00

This review first appeared in The Irish Independent 

The Best Children's Book Agents 2017

This is the most popular blog on my website and I update it every year with agents recommended by their writers. Thank you to all the children's writers who responded to my 2017 call out. 

I’d like to pay tribute to Philip Ardagh who first posted the question on Facebook in 2015: ‘Who is your agent and would you recommend them?’ which inspired me to continue his work.

I’ve had the good luck to work with one of the best agents in the business, the wonderful Philippa Milnes Smith from LAW (details below). Good luck in finding someone as wise, kind and supportive as Philippa.

Who represents Eoin Colfer? Who helped Derek Landy climb to the top? Who represents Cathy Cassidy? Read on and find out!

WHY DO YOU NEED AN AGENT?

Eoin Colfer - Represented by Sophie Hicks 

Eoin Colfer - Represented by Sophie Hicks 

In Ireland we are lucky to have the O’Brien Press whose editors are happy to read unsolicited manuscripts. You can send your book directly to one of their editors. Details of how to do this are here.

Little Island are also happy to read unsolicited manuscripts – they have excellent submission guidelines here

Penguin Ireland - experienced writer and teacher, Claire Hennessy is their Children’s and YA Editor – Claire will read unsolicited manuscripts and will accept them by email, details here.

Gill Books has recently started publishing children’s fiction, Mercier also publish children’s books and Poolbeg are also back in the game after a strong season of 1916 related children’s books. 

But most UK publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts so you will need to submit your work through an agent.

WHAT DOES AN AGENT DO EXACTLY?

1/ An agent can advise you on your manuscript and on how to make it more attractive to a publisher. Some of them will act as unofficial editors to their clients or at the very least can suggest changes or improvements. They are also excellent at coming up with zippy book titles as I’ve discovered.

2/ An agent can find the right editor or publisher for your work – like a book matchmaker. And they can sell your UK, US, digital and foreign rights. They can also look after any film or television rights.

3/ Agents deal with the difficult and technical area of contracts. This is particularly important at the moment as digital rights can be tricky.

4/ Financial back up – they can chase up your royalties and talk to your publishers about outstanding monies owed to you.

These days having potential isn’t enough, your manuscript must be as perfect as you can make it before it goes anywhere near a publisher. A good agent can play a vital role in this process.

WHO REPRESENTS SOME OF THE BEST CHILDREN'S WRITERS?

The Agents Who Represent Some of the Most Successful Irish Children’s Writers (with Contact Details) and Children’s Agents Recommended by UK Writers

Remember to check each agent’s website for submission guidelines before you send anything out. Or ring the agency for details – I know it’s daunting but they are always happy to advise you on how (or if) to submit. Be warned – you may get the agent herself/himself on the phone. Be prepared.

Recommended Children’s Agents:

Eoin Colfer is represented by Sophie Hicks. Sophie is a very experienced agent and her writers rate her highly. She also represents Oisín McGann. www.sophiehicksagency.com

Derek Landy is represented by Michelle Kass, who also represents Patrick Ness. www.michellekass.co.uk

Darren Shan is represented by Christopher Little   For general enquiries email: www.christopherlittle.net

Sarah Webb and Chris Judge are represented by the wonderful Philippa Milnes Smith at LAW

Contact: All submissions should be sent, in hard copy, by post to:

LAW, 14 Vernon Street, London, W14 0RJ www.lawagency.co.uk

Marita Conlon McKenna is represented by Caroline Sheldon www.carolinesheldon.co.uk

Irish Writer, Elizabeth Rose Murray recommends her agent, Sallyanne Sweeney of Mulcahy Associates (London). She says she’s ‘supportive, thorough, creative, knowledgeable & really champions her authors. And she really loves children’s/YA literature too – always a bonus!’ 

Let's hear from some other Irish writers:

Sheena Wilkinson: 'My agent is Faith O'Grady who's lovely.'

Dave Rudden: 'I'm with Clare Wallace at Darley Anderson - can't recommend her enough!'

Clare also represents Olivia Hope.

Shirley McMillan: 'My agent is Jenny Savill at Andrew Nurnberg Associates. She is wonderful.'

Jenny also represents Nigel Quinlan.

Sinéad O'Hart is represented by Polly Nolan who is also recommended by Louis Stowell.

Celine Kiernan says 'I changed agencies late 2015. Am with Sallyanne Sweeney now, of Mulcahy Literary Agency. Have worked with her on two books now and find her wonderful.'

Marianne Gunn O'Connor represents Shane Hegarty and Cecelia Ahern.  Read about her here.

Other Recommended Agents - UK and International Writers 

Cathy Cassidy is represented by Darley Anderson and highly recommends him.

Cathy Cassidy with Judi Curtin and Sarah Webb at the Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival 

Cathy Cassidy with Judi Curtin and Sarah Webb at the Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival 

Eve Ainsworth:  'I'm with Stephanie Thwaites at Curtis Brown, she's fab.'

Russell Sanderson and Lu Hersey recommend their agent, Ben Illis

Zana Fraillon recommends her agent, Claire Wilson

Julia Churchill at A M Heath who says 'my speciality is checking if people need to go to loo before meetings.' I have met Julia and she is a funny and smart woman who knows her onions. Well worth sending your manuscript to. Nikki Sheehan says Julia 'would win against 100 horse sized ducks.' Clearly a woman to have on your side. 

Mark Burgess: 'Im represented by excellent & wonderful Nancy Miles of Miles Stott Children's Literary Agency. She also represents Gill Lewis & Frances Hardinge.'

Eve White, Eve White Literary Agency

Veronique Baxter at David Higham

Catherine Clarke at Felicity Bryan

Robert Kirby at United Agents

Jodie Hodges at United Agents (recommended by William Bee); Catherine Mary Summerhayes, Jo Unwin and Clare Conville at United Agents

Hilary Delamere at The Agency

Lindsey Fraser at Fraser Ross

Gemma Cooper at The Bent Agency

Penny Holroyde at Holroyde Cartey

Elizabeth Roy – www.elizabethroy.co.uk

Laura Cecil – www.lauracecil.co.uk

Madeleine Milburn – www.madeleinemilburn.co.uk

Sam Copeland and Claire Wilson at Rogers Coleridge and White – www.rcwlitagency.com

Good luck with finding a great agent!

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

Some of the Irish Children's Book Tribe - Yasmeen Ismail, Elaina Ryan from Children's Books Ireland, Chris Judge

Some of the Irish Children's Book Tribe - Yasmeen Ismail, Elaina Ryan from Children's Books Ireland, Chris Judge

Start Writing for Children - Last Course of the Season

sarah at exhibition longer file.jpg

I'll be teaching my last writing for children course of the season at the Irish Writers Centre in May. Do book quickly, places are limited. I'll be back in the autumn with new courses. 

Sat 13 & Sat 20 May 2017 (2 days)
10.30am – 4.30pm
Cost: €150/€135 Members (Irish Writers Centre)

Book here

Want to write a book for children but don’t know where to start? In this practical, hands-on workshop, participants will look at the different age groups and genres that make up the children’s book world, before embarking on their own writing journey. The classes will include lecturing, in-class exercises, ‘homework’, book industry and publishing advice, and plenty of personal experience. Plus there will be a whole lot of book and story sharing.

Sarah Webb writes for both children and adults. The Songbird Café Girls: Aurora and the Popcorn Dolphin is her most recent book. Sarah is the Children's Curator of the Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival and a Literary Advisor to Listowel Writers' Week. 

When Are You Going to Write a Proper Book? Focus on Picturebooks

Beast from The Brave Beast by Chris Judge 

When Are You Going To Write A Proper Book? Focus on Picturebooks

A Day for Picturebook Writers and Illustrators

Saturday 27th May 10.00am to 3.45pm Venue: dlr Lexicon Studio, Dún Laoghaire 

Programmed and hosted by dlr Writer in Residence, Sarah Webb with support from dlr Lexicon Library

Presented in association with Children’s Books Ireland and IBBY Ireland

Booking

Cost: e25 (plus booking fee - includes coffee and lunch) e15 concessions

After the sell-out success of our last day for children’s writers and illustrators we are back with another event packed with information and facts about all aspects of picturebooks. If you’ve ever wanted to write or illustrate a picturebook, it’s a must. Hear a host of award-winning picturebook makers talk about their work and find out what publishers and agents are looking for.

9.30am Registration

10.00am Welcome - Sarah Webb, dlr Writer in Residence

10.00am to 11.00am  What Makes a Brilliant Picturebook and Do They Have to Rhyme?

The answer is no! Hear the case for rhythm and rhyme by poet Lucinda Jacobs who will also conduct a quick workshop on rhyme scheme, and the case for prose by Valerie Coghlan. They will also talk about their favourite picture books and why they work. 

11.00am – 11.20am Coffee Break

11.20am to 12.20pm  What Comes First, the Words or the Pictures?

An introduction to the world of picture books with award-winning picturebook writers and illustrators Michael Emberley, Chris Judge, Marie Louise Fitzpatick and Mary Murphy. They will talk about the different stages of producing a picturebook, from idea to dummy to printed book and will discusses the ups and downs of life as a full time writer/illustrator.

12.20pm – 1.00pm Shhh! Silent Books

IBBY Ireland present their Silent Books Exhibition and talk about the importance of wordless picture books.

1.00pm to 2.00pm Lunch and a chance to look at the picturebooks from the Silent Books Exhibition

2.00pm to 2.40pm  If I Could Tell You Just One Thing

Picture Book Boot Camp’s Adrienne Geoghegan shares the most common mistakes writers and illustrators make and gives her tips for writing and illustrating a great picture book

2.40pm to 3.45pm  Is It Me You're Looking For?

Chair: Aoife Murray, Children’s Books Ireland  

Walker Picturebook Publisher and Creative Director, Deirdre McDermott, Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin, Publisher at Futa Fata and O’Brien Press Design Manager, Emma Byrne talk about what they are looking for in illustrators and from picture book texts. Plus Margaret Anne Suggs from Illustrators Ireland will talk about agents and the pros and cons of illustration agents vs literary agents. The panel will also discuss fees, advances and royalties for illustrators and picturebook writers.

Choose Kindness

My daughter is thirteen. Last week she came home from school upset because her group of close friends were having a party and hadn’t invited her and one other girl. They had lied about what they were doing that afternoon (they had a half day) and then proceeded to post photos and videos of the party on Snapchat, for my daughter and the other non-invited girl to see.

When my daughter called them on it – asking them on Snapchat why she wasn’t invited and saying she could see all their online interaction – they ignored her and continued to post.

This behaviour bothered me. It showed a lack of kindness. I gathered my daughter up and we went to the cinema together to see Lion. While her friends partied, we learnt about one young man’s determination and bravery as he searched for his Indian birth mother.

The incident got me thinking about kindness. How we treat our friends matters. How we treat strangers matters. It says everything about who we are and what we believe in.

I run a Book Club for young readers - that's a photo of them above. Last month we read Wonder by R J Palacio. If you haven’t read it, please do. It’s about August, a ten year old boy with a severe facial abnormality, and what happens when he goes to school for the first time. It’s a remarkable book that really makes you think about how we treat people who look different. It’s also about choosing kindness.

I love blogging. I love chatting to my book friends on Twitter. I like catching up on my friends’ activities on Facebook and seeing their photos on Instagram. However sometimes I find myself thinking: Hey, why wasn’t I at that party? or They look like they’re having way more fun than I am, or I wish I was in Tokyo/Sydney/London. It’s only natural to feel left out sometimes. When I’m posting myself I try to remember this.  I aim to be mindful of others and kind.

As the writer, Henry James once said: 'Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.'

Kind regards,

Sarah XXX