Judi Curtin

Children's Books Ireland Book of the Year Awards 2018

The 2018 Children’s Books Ireland Award is given to books published in 2017. There were some outstanding titles last year for all ages, from Rabbit and Bear for young readers of five plus (Julian McGough and Jim Field), to Sarah Crossan’s searing YA novel in verse, Moonlight.

Every year I predict the titles that will be on the shortlist and the overall winner. This year I have a book in the mix, A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea, illustrated by the hugely talented Steve McCarthy. Obviously I’d love it to be shortlisted. I believe Steve’s illustrations are outstanding and if it is shortlisted we will both be over the moon. Let's wait and see!

The shortlist will be announced on the 12th March and the awards are on 23rd March (tbc).

So here goes – my predictions for the CBI Awards 2018:

Picturebooks

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1/ The President’s Glasses by Peter Donnolly 

A wonderfully funny tale about what happens when the president of Ireland forgets his glasses. Striking illustrations in luscious colour.

2/ Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers

A heartfelt ode to the world for his new baby son. Glorious illustrations in a more painterly style. A treat for the eye.

 

Early Readers

3/ Rabbit and Bear: The Pest in the Nest by Julian Gough, illustrated by Jim Field

I am a huge fan of Rabbit and Bear – what brilliant characters. Funny and thoughtful, a super book for reading aloud. 

Age 9+

4/ Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano

Moving graphic novel about two refugee brothers who are making their way from North Africa to Europe by boat. Not to be missed.

5/ Hopscotch in the Sky by Lucinda Jacobs, illustrated by Lauren O’Neill

Moving and thought-provoking poems for children about subjects that fascinate children. A brilliant collection from one of our most important children’s poets. (Disclaimer – I worked with Lucinda at the early stages of this book.)

Age 12+

6/ Pavee and the Buffer Girl by Siobhan Down, illustrated by Emma Shoard

Graphic novel about a traveller girl. Siobhan write it before she died and her writing as always is lyrical and powerful.

7/ A Dangerous Crossing by Jane Mitchell                      POSSIBLE OVERALL WINNER

Excellent novel about a refugee boy from Kobani, Syria. Strong and powerful.

8/ Star by Star by Sheena Wilkinson

Suffragette tale by one of our most talented writers.

YA

9/ Moonrise by Sarah Crossan                  POSSIBLE OVERALL WINNER

Powerful novel in verse about death row that deserves to be read.

10/ The Space Between by Meg Grehan

Debut novel in verse about an Irish teenager with mental health problems. Brave and moving.

11/ Tangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan

Lyrical, sinuous writing make these feminist retellings of fairy tales leap off the page. Not to be missed.

Other outstanding books from 2017 that might make the shortlist

Like Other Girls by Claire Hennessy

Claire is an outstanding YA writer and this book about gender politics and identity pulls you in from the first page.

The Girl in Between by Sarah Carroll

Debut about a homeless girl and her mother from a writer to watch.

Stand by Me by Judi Curtin

Judi’s books are beautifully written and are much loved by readers. This one goes back time to the 1960s.

Knights of the Borrowed Dark: The Forever Court by Dave Rudden

Brilliant fantasy adventure with heart.

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue

A tale of a family with two dads, two moms and seven children.

Good luck everyone!

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!

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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 

dlr Writer in Residence Diary September 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me and Alan on Culture Night
Me and Alan on Culture Night

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

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

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

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

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ER Murray at her launch in Eason

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

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

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

Yours in writing,

Sarah X

With a Little Help from Your Friends: Festivals + Friendship

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Last weekend my friend, Judi Curtin and I were on stage at the Mountains to Sea Book Festival (I run the children’s bit of it in fact), talking about our friendship. We’ve known each other since her first book (for adults), Sorry, Walter was published in 2003.

Our First Meeting: Judi (who has a much better memory than I do), says I invited her to a writers’ dinner in town and we ate pizza and chatted about books and writing.

Since that time, both of us have written lots of books for young readers. We’ve also gone on two book tours together which I talked about in another post here:

During the talk last weekend the lovely Sarah McIntyre drew this sweet picture of us on stage together:

Sarah McIntyre's sketch of me and Judi
Sarah McIntyre's sketch of me and Judi

And took a pic of and me and Judi:

me and judi
me and judi

And of the audience, plus the lovely Philip Reeve, her book writing partner:

me and judi audience
me and judi audience

Afterwards we met lots of young readers and signed their books. We also caught up with lots of our writer friends at a big writers’ dinner: Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve (who were wearing the best costumes ever), Oisin McGann, and lots of others, and also met some new friends.

Best costumes ever!
Best costumes ever!

Book festivals are a wonderful way of bringing writers and book lovers together. Over the next few months Judi and I will visit West Cork, Kerry, Dublin and many other places on our Friendship Tour. We’ve both decided that it’s much more fun touring together than alone. Roll on festival season!

What’s your favourite book festival? Who have you met at a book event? I’d love to know!

Yours in books (and festivals and friendship),

Sarah XXX

When Sarah Met Judi

Judi Curtin
Judi Curtin

I can’t remember when I first met Judi Curtin. It was almost certainly at a book event. It could have been a festival or a launch or a reading drive. I knew her writing of course, I’d read and enjoyed her first book, Alice Next Door when I was a children’s bookseller and I’ve loved every book since. She has a way of drawing the reader in and a lovely warmth to her writing, and her characters are so real they almost jump off the page. But I can pinpoint when we started to become not just fellow writers, but proper friends. A few years ago myself, Judi and Sophia Bennett went on tour together around Ireland with Children’s Books Ireland. We talked to hundreds of girls about our books and about reading and writing. We had a wonderful tour manager, Tom Donegan, who now works in The Story Museum in Oxford.

Here’s Judi

Every evening we had dinner together. We chatted about all kinds of things – books, writing and our lives – and it was terrific fun.

Then I went on another tour with Judi, this time with the Irish library service. We took Oisin McGann along with us to join in the fun. And he even did ballet with us! That cemented my friendship with Judi (and Oisin in fact, who is a brilliant man and a wonderful writer).

Judi and I are very different – she’s practical, patient and kind. I’m impulsive, passionate and stubborn. She’s calm and I can be a bit manic at times. It’s great to be able to compare writing and publishing experiences with her. We both write for girls of age 8/9+ and love talking about our work.

Judi has helped me more than she knows and I like to think that I have helped her too. Myself and Oisin even helped her pick a title for one of her books – Viva Alice!

viva alice - judi curtin event book cover
viva alice - judi curtin event book cover

Judi made me this little fellow – Greg from the Wimpy Kid books – as she knows I like him. When I go to school events, I love showing him to the children and telling them that Judi made it. They are always very impressed that I know Judi.

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This year Judi and I are doing some special events together at festivals, talking about our friendship. The first one is on Saturday March 21st and is called When Judi Met Sarah and it’s part of theMountains to Sea Book Festival in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, Ireland. If you would like to book tickets you can do so on the website here.

Songbird Cafe_Mollie final cover
Songbird Cafe_Mollie final cover

March is a busy time for me as I also have a new book out called Mollie Cinnamon is Not a Cupcake in The Songbird Cafe Girls series. It’s set on an island called Little Bird and it even has its own map. I love maps in books! Judi knows all about the characters and plot at this stage and she also helped me with the cover.

Writer friends really are great.

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

This blog first appeared on the Girls Heart Books website.

How to Write Short Stories (and Win Writing Competitions)

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ghb comp

Want to win the Beyond the Stars Short Story Competition and be published along with Eoin Colfer, Judi Curtin and Derek Landy? Or simply want to find out how to write a brilliant story? Then read on.

1/ Before you start writing, think about your story and your characters. Go for a walk and mull it all over in your head, then grab a notebook and start scribbling down some ideas.

2/ You could start with your own memories or things that have happened to you or a friend – as this is what will make your story different. For example: Is there a favourite place you love to hide? Do you have a tree house or a club house? Have you ever had a fight with your best friend?

3/ Or try using a traditional story as your starting point and re-write it in a new or unusual way eg an Irish or English (or Welsh or Scottish) Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, based in your home town. You could re-write a traditional legend using modern characters and setting.

4/ Your characters can be children, teenagers, giants, talking animals or astronauts – the sky is the limit. But make them realistic and give them carefully thought out names that suit who they are. Think of Matilda, Charlie and James in Dahl’s books. The Harry Potter books are full of great names, as are Cathy Cassidy’s books.

5/ Once you have mapped out your main characters (for a short story don’t use too many main characters – two or three is plenty), and your plot, give your story an exciting or intriguing opening. Start at the point where the action begins – you don’t need to add back story. Avoid any long descriptions, readers will be eager to learn what happens in the story, not what the sky looks like.

6/ Think about the setting of your story – where will it take place? And add details – icicles, food. Use your senses to add depth to the tale – smell, taste, touch. What does the forest/back garden smell like?

7/ Conflict is vital in any story. Without the Big Bad Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood wouldn’t be a very interesting story. Think of the favourite traditional tales – Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, even Pinocchio – they are full of larger than life characters and HUGE emotions. Love, hate, revenge . . . think big and don’t be afraid to use strong emotions.

8/ Keep rewriting the story until it’s as good as you can make it. I rewrite each of my Ask Amy Green books many times before handing them over to my editor. And finally, ask a trusted friend to look over your work before you submit, a second pair of eyes can make all the difference.

Good Luck!

Yours in writing, Sarah XXX

(Editor of Beyond the Stars)

This post first appeared on the Girls Heart Books website.

All Star Irish Line Up - Beyond the Stars - to Support Fighting Words

Roddy Doyle
Roddy Doyle

Harper Collins Press Release HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISH ALL STAR IRISH LINE UP IN SUPPORT OF RODDY DOYLE’S CREATIVE WRITING CENTRE AND SEEK NEW TALENT TO COMPLETE THE COLLECTION HarperCollins is delighted to announce the acquisition of Beyond the Stars, a collection of short stories from a stellar line up of Irish authors and illustrators, edited by bestselling author Sarah Webb. World rights were acquired by Publishing Director Ruth Alltimes from Philippa Milnes-Smith of the Lucas Alexander Whitley Agency.  All profits will go to Fighting Words, the centre for creative writing set up in Dublin in 2009 by Roddy Doyle and Sean Love. Based on David Eggers’ US-based 826 Valencia project and run by volunteers, it offers free creative writing tuition to children. Beyond the Stars features twelve tales of adventure, magic and wonder, written by some of the most outstanding talents in children’s fiction today, including John Boyne, Eoin Colfer, Judi Curtin, Roddy Doyle, and Derek Landy, with stunning illustrations from the likes of Chris Haughton, Chris Judge, P. J. Lynch and Niamh Sharkey. It will be published as a gorgeous hardback gift edition in October 2014. The Irish authors have contributed eleven short stories and to complete the book HarperCollins is launching a search for the twelfth and final winter-themed tale, to be written by a child between the ages of 8 and 16. The competition closes at the end of June 2014 and the final choice will be made by a panel of experts and illustrated by Irish Children’s Laureate, Niamh Sharkey. The winner will have the chance to work with an editor and see their story published; their school will also win a selection of books for their school library. Full details can be found at http://www.harpercollins.co.uk/beyondthestars. Ruth Alltimes said, ‘We are proud to be able to support the wonderful work done by Fighting Words and to bring our publishing passion to a project which builds on the strong relationship we have with Irish talent. Sarah Webb and the writers and illustrators involved have been extremely generous with their work and time – it is truly a creative writing project from the heart, and we’re delighted to be part of it.’ Sarah Webb said, ‘It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with some of the best children’s writers and illustrators on Beyond the Stars. I am extremely grateful for their support. I can’t wait to see the competition winner’s story nestling alongside their stunning work – what a prize!’ Roddy Doyle said, ‘Fighting Words is not state funded, and our existence is dependent on people who believe passionately in what we do – like the writers and illustrators of these brilliant stories. We are especially grateful to a great friend of Fighting Words, Sarah Webb, the creative and driving force behind this wonderful collection.’

Issued by: Mary Byrne, Publicist, HarperCollins Children’s Books T. 020 8307 4541  E. mary.byrne@harpercollins.co.uk Rights Enquiries: Carla Alonzi, Head of Rights, HarperCollins Children’s Books T. 020 8307 4289  E.  carla.alonzi@harpercollins.co.uk NOTES TO EDITORS • HarperCollins UK publishes a wide range of books, from cutting-edge contemporary fiction, to block-busting thrillers, from fantasy literature and children’s books to enduring classics. It also publishes a great selection of non-fiction titles, including history, celebrity memoirs, biographies, popular science, dictionaries, maps, reference titles and education books, and its digital business is thriving. With nearly 200 years of history HarperCollins publishes some of the world’s foremost authors, from Nobel prizewinners to worldwide bestsellers. In addition it publishes the works of Agatha Christie, JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. It was the first major UK trade publisher to go carbon neutral in December 2007. HarperCollins Children’s Books is one of the leading publishers of children’s books, recognised for nurturing new talent as well as boasting a reputable list of established best-selling authors. Respected worldwide for its tradition of publishing quality, award-winning books for young readers, HarperCollins is home to many children’s classics, including The Chronicles of Narnia, Hello Kitty, the Paddington stories, The Cat in the Hat and The Tiger Who Came to Tea, and to some of the biggest names in children’s literature past and present, including J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S.Lewis, Dr. Seuss, David Walliams, Derek Landy, Louise Rennison, Lauren Child, Judith Kerr, Oliver Jeffers and Michael Morpurgo.

CBI Book of the Year Awards 2014 - Predictions

CBI FINAL FINAL Logo
CBI FINAL FINAL Logo

It's that time of the year once more. The Children's Books Ireland Book of the Year Awards shortlist will be announced on 18th March and the final Awards will be announced on 13th May.

Last year's winner was Sheena Wilkinson for Grounded, which also won the Children's Choice Award. Who will win this year? Here are my predictions (there are usually 10 books on the shortlist, including 1 or 2 Irish language books - I have left these off as I haven't read them yet):

1/ Overall Book of the Year Award: Back to Blackbrick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

2/ Eilis Dillon Award for First Book: Back to Blackbrick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

Which Irish book from 2013 have I thought about and remembered more than any other book? The answer is Back to Blackbrick. A gripping novel about Cosmo and his grandfather who has Alzheimer's, it's a touching, cleverly plotted time shift novel that deserves the overall Award AND the Eilis Dillon. No, it's not perfect, there are a few plot problems and there is one particular scene that just does not work (I won't spoil the book for you), but it's written with such conviction and such heart, that you overlook these small things. An exciting new talent.

3/ Honour Award for Illustration: Oliver Jeffers for The Day the Crayons Quit

What can I say? It's Oliver and it's perfect. Could win the overall prize as the illustrations are legendary.

4/ Honour Award for Fiction: The Maleficent Seven by Derek Landy

If Derek doesn't win an award for this wonderful book, there is no justice. It's beautifully plotted, full of larger than life characters and crackles with tension and wit. Yes, it's funny, but funny is very hard to pull off. Give him an award, please!

5/ Judge's Special Award: Pandamonium at Peek Zoo by Kevin Waldron

Waldron is simply brilliant. His muted, retro illustrations are a joy to look at.

Shortlisted Titles:

6/ The Sleeping Baobab Tree by Paula Leyden

Another magical African adventure from this talented writer.

7/ Tall Tales from Pitch End by Nigel McDowell

Published by Hot Key, this debut is one to watch. Could be a surprise shortlist contender.

8/ Death and Co by D J McCune

Another impressive debut for older readers of 12+ featuring spirit guides and lots of dark doings. Atmospheric and memorable.

9/ Heart Shaped by Siobhan Parkinson

Sharp, moving and funny, this is Parkinson at her best.

10/ Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne

A wonderful World War I novel that had me in tears.

10/ Improper Order by Deirdre Sullivan

Even better than the first book. Funny, sweet and quirky. Primrose rules!

Also shortlisted could be:

Rebecca Rocks by Anna Carey

Yes, it's funny, but it's also beautifully written and a timely look at teens, peer pressure and sexuality. An important book by an author to watch. Deserves to be on the shortlist, but as it's such a charming, easy read, it may not be. Ditto, Judi Curtin, Oisin McGann and Derek Landy. However as Nathaniel Hawthorne once said, 'Easy reading is damn hard writing.'

Ratrunners by Oisin McGann - Gripping dystopian thriller. About time McGann is credited for his stellar and wide ranging work.

The Brave Beast by Chris Judge - Strong illustrations and a sweet story make this a real contender.

Little Owl's Orange Scarf by Tatyana Feeney - Wonderful design and illustrations.

Sanding in for Lincoln Green by David Mackintosh - I have a huge soft spot for Mackintosh's work - it's so original.

Also: The Trials of Oland Born: Curse of Kings by Alex Barclay and The Keeper by Darragh Martin - 2 strong debut fantasy novels; The Milo Adventures by Mary Arrigan; Eva and the Hidden Diary by Judi Curtin; Too Many Ponies by Sheena Wilkinson; Missing Ellen by Natasha Mac A'Bhaird and Wormwood Gate by Katherine Farmer; WARP by Eoin Colfer; Hagwitch by Marie Louise Fitzpatrick and finally, Storm Clouds by Brian Gallagher.

What was your favourite book of the year? I'd love to know.

Yours in books,

Sarah

PS Although I am on the Board of CBI, these opinions are my own.

When Are You Going To Write a Proper Book?

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amy5

This piece first appeared in the Sunday Independent

When are you going to write a proper book - a book for adults? It’s a question every children’s writer is asked at some stage of their career. I started out writing for children, switched to adults, and now write for both. When the inevitable question was put, I'd explain children are the most discerning audience of all, children’s books are challenging and fun to write, and any author who doesn’t try it at some stage is missing out.   I am only one of a host of authors who write for both children and adults. J K Rowling’s debut adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, a dark comedy about local politics will be published on 27th September, quite a risk for someone with such a successful track record in the children’s book world.

Roald Dahl also wrote for adults and children, as do contemporary award-winners Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman and most recently, Philippa Gregory. The American crime writers like James Patterson are all at it; and ex-SAS man Andy McNabb has produced a popular action/adventure series for younger readers.

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shoestring1large

Under the Hawthorne Tree was an international hit for its creator, Marita Conlon-McKenna, followed by seven further bestsellers for young readers. Her latest book for children, Love Lucie (Simon and Schuster) has just been published and she is currently working on her next adult novel, The Rose Garden. So why did she turn to adult fiction after so much success in the children’s world? “The Magdalen (Marita’s first adult novel, about the laundries for unmarried mothers) was a story I’d always wanted to tell,” she explains. “But because of the harsh subject I couldn’t write it for children or even teenagers. It was very successful and my publishers asked me to write another book for adults.”

“For me,” she continues, “the story decides the age group, not the other way around, I’m driven by story; and my publishers give me great freedom to write what I want. Irish writers don’t seem to get labelled or pigeonholed as much as other writers – they can write plays, musicals, screen plays and it’s very acceptable. In other countries they seem to like their writers to stay in their box. Irish writers are an unknown quantity, no-one knows they will do next.”

Like Marita, Wexford man, Eoin Colfer of Artemis Fowl fame always wanted to be a writer first and foremost, not a ‘children’s writer’. “I have had different stories in my head,” he says, “some suitable for kids, some for adults. I think because I have such an outlandish or maybe juvenile imagination some of my stories are definitely only for children, but recently some of the more complicated stories have been pushing themselves to the front of my brain. I also will admit to feel a little pressure (self-imposed) to write a book for grown-ups.”

Switching from writing for adults to writing for children is more usual and Judi Curtin, author of the popular Alice and Megan series did just that. Her first book Sorry, Walter was for adults but after finishing her second adult novel she wanted to write something that her daughters could read. “It was supposed to be a temporary change,” she says, “but it snowballed.” She has now written thirteen children’s books but is also exploring the adult world again. “There’s a story I’d like to tell which isn’t for children,” she says.

The Giggler Treatment, Roddy’s Doyle’s first book for younger readers was written to entertain his children. “I wrote a few pages towards the end of every working day,” he says, “and read them to them at bedtime, starting at the beginning every night.  It gradually became a book.” When asked will he continue to write for children, he says “I’m not sure.  My books for children have always been aimed at particular children - and children, I've noticed, tend to grow up and stop being children.  But if the ideas are there and, more importantly, the urge to put them on paper is there, I'll still give it a bash.”

John Boyne had never thought about writing for young readers until the idea for The Boy In the Striped Pyjamas came into his head. He says “The experience I had with that book – going into schools, getting children interested in reading – opened up my imagination in a new way and I found that I wanted to write for both audiences.” Like Roddy, he will continue to write for both audiences. “In fact I've just delivered a draft of my next adult novel to my editor. I'll be rewriting that over the next six months or so but I've just started a draft of a new children's book too.”

Master of children’s horror, Darren Shan also started out writing for adults. His first adult book, Procession of the Dead was published in 1999, a year before Cirque Du Freak (his first children’s book). “I had written a lot of first-draft books by that stage,” he says, “all of which were aimed at adults. I thought that was where my career lay, but I’d always wanted to try a children’s book. One day I had the idea for Cirque Du Freak and by the time I had finished the first draft, I had already decided to write another book for children.”

Darren now writes for both children and adults. “I’ve learnt so much about pacing and editing while working on my children’s books, which has fed back into the books I write for adults. I love the dichotomy of moving between the two worlds (adult’s and children’s publishing),” he adds, “and I would love to be able to continue doing that far into the future.”

When asked which adult writer he’d like to see writing for children, Darren immediately says “Kurt Vonnegut – he could have been a great children’s author if he had been that way inclined.” Roddy Doyle’s choice is Anne Enright. “Any book for children by Anne would be magical.” Marita Conlon McKenna suggests Marian Keyes, and John Boyne would love to see David Mitchell tackle children’s literature. “Knowing his extraordinary imagination and linguistic abilities, I think (it) would be something very special,” he says.

And finally Eoin Colfer nominates Colm Toibin. “I would love him to be forced to call me and ask for advice on pacing,” he says, “so I could churlishly hang up. It's the auld Wexford-Enniscorthy rivalry!”

Will Eoin ever get his chance? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Sarah Webb has two books out this month, Ask Amy Green: Dancing Daze for young teens (Walker Books) and The Shoestring Club for adults (Pan Macmillan).