children's books

Bologna Children's Book Fair 2019 - Notes for Children's Writers and Illustrators

I had the great fortune to spend three days at this year’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair. The last time I visited was many years ago and a lot has changed since then – it’s bigger and far glitzier, with some stunning stands full of outstanding children’s books from around the world.


This year there was a huge emphasis on two areas of children’s books – MG (middle grade – age 8/9+) fiction and creative nonfiction. Many publishers had their own range of history books focusing on remarkable women from their country – that was really interesting to see and my latest book, Blazing a Trail: Irish Women who Changed the World definitely fits this mold. I was thrilled to see O’Brien Press displaying Blazing and also A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea on their stand.

There were also a lot of natural history books on display – all lushly illustrated. The MG fiction ranged from our own Catherine Doyle’s The Stormkeeper’s Island (most notably on the Italian stand, to mystery books and fantasy adventures.

The Bookseller said in their fair magazine: ‘Middle Grade titles have been the hottest properties at this year’s fair.’

Picturebooks were also prominently on display – however I did wonder was this due to the fact that they are ideal for catching people’s attention with their strong, colourful covers.

The lack of YA being displayed really stood out. There were few YA titles on display or in the publisher’s foreign rights catalogues.

Scout Natasha Farrant said (again in The Bookseller): ‘Quite a few of my Northern European clients say that young people are reading YA in English… It’s making the YA market (for translations) more difficult.’

The range of titles on display was breath taking – it made me realise that we only see a fraction of what’s being published in Irish bookshops as so few books are translated from other languages into English.

So kudos must go to publishers like Little Island who are translating children’s titles from other languages (esp German) into English.

After talking to many of the Irish illustrators attending the fair – they were showing their portfolios to editors and art directors – I realised just how hard they work. They make up dummies of many different books in the hope of selling at least one. There were many successes at the fair for Irish illustrators – watch this space for more on that.

Authors were mainly there to connect with their foreign publishers and/or to soak up the atmosphere and to find out about the international market for children’s books. Judi Curtin visited her Serbian publisher’s stand and was given a hero’s welcome – her books are very big in Serbia! There also lots of talks and workshops to attend, and exhibitions to view.

CBI (Children’s Books Ireland) hosted a very attractive Irish stand, designed by Steve McCarthy, to promote Irish talent to the international children’s book world. It also acted as a hub for the children’s writers and illustrators at the fair. Well done to them – it’s an important role.


The Irish Writers and Illustrators (and friends) at the CBI Stand

The Irish Writers and Illustrators (and friends) at the CBI Stand

There were surprisingly few American stands at the fair (unless I missed them) – but a lot of stands from Japan and China which I found fascinating, plus a super one from Taiwan, filled with artwork.

Other interesting areas – there are lots of books featuring and for children with extra needs being published. There is still a demand for books featuring inspirational women and men – popular history books with a creative edge.

Would I advise attending? 100%. It’s an expensive enough trip but the direct flights from Dublin (Ryanair) make it easier. Go with an open mind and bring a bag with you for catalogues and postcards. Wear comfy shoes. Bring food and water. And ask Jenny from CBI about the ‘secret toilets’!

It made me realise a couple of really important things:

1/ The world is a lot bigger but also a lot smaller than you think – walk the aisles with an open mind, try not to get overwhelmed by the talent on show and you will be hugely inspired.

2/ Talent combined with tenacity and a LOT of hard work will get you places.

3/ You can be ‘reborn’ at any stage of your career – age doesn’t matter if you’ve produced something really original and exciting.

4/ The children’s book world is vibrant, exciting and really, really matters to a whole heap of people from all over the world – this is so heartening.

See you at the fair in 2020!

Children's Books Ireland Book of the Year Awards 2019

The CBI Book of the Year Awards shortlist has just been unveiled. The winners will be announced at a ceremony to be held on 22nd May at Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre as part of International Literature Festival Dublin. Tickets will be available for the event if you’d like attend. Stay tuned to http://ilfdublin.com/ for details.

Well done to all the shortlisted writers and illustrators!

Mucking About by John Chambers

 The Weight of a Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan

 Beag Bídeach scríofa ag Sadhbh Devlin, maisithe ag Róisín Hahessy

 The Great Irish Weather Book written by Joanna Donnelly, illustrated by Fuchsia MacAree

 Between Tick and Tock written by Louise Greig, illustrated by Ashling Lindsay

 Tin by Pádraig Kenny

 Tuesdays are Just as Bad by Cethan Leahy

 The Pooka Party by Shona Shirley Macdonald

 Dr Hibernica Finch’s Compelling Compendium of Irish Animals written by Rob Maguire,

illustrated by Aga Grandowicz

 Flying Tips for Flightless Birds by Kelly McCaughrain

Raising a Child Who Loves to Read - Recommended Books

Babies and Toddlers

Say Goodnight by Helen Oxenbury

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury

A good nursery rhyme book – with art work you love eg

Sally Go Round the Stars by Sarah Webb and Steve McCarthy

Picturebooks

Oliver Jeffers – Lost and Found

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell

Julia Donaldson

I Say Ooh, You Say Aah by John Kane

The President’s Glasses by Peter Donnelly

A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton (good for babies and toddlers also)

 A good fairy tale collection with your favourite tales and some of the more unusual ones. Fables and myths and legends also. Eg Yummy by Lucy Cousins

 

Early Readers – age 6+

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst

Rabbit and Bear by Julian Gough and Jim Field

Claude Books by Alex T Smith

Age 9+

Katherine Rundell

Begone the Raggedy Witches by Celine Kiernan

Murder Most Unladylike series by Robin Stevens

Eoin Colfer

Derek Landy

Judi Curtin

Anthony Horowitz

Dave Rudden

Tom Gates

Wimpy Kid

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend (new)

The Making of Mollie by Anna Carey

Teen/YA

Sarah Crossan

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

Star by Star by Sheena Wilkinson

Dave Rudden

Patrick Ness

And finally - Books for Tired Parents

That’s Not My Dinosaur etc – published by Usborne

Hug by Jez Alborough

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

Books for Parents who want to know more

Mad About Books: Dubray Guide to Children’s Books

Bold Girls recommended reading guide from Children’s Books Ireland

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. 

a place helena.jpg

 

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.

a place new cover.jpg

 

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.

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

 

 

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