Festivals and Events

How to Pitch to Book Festivals - Practical Tips for Children's Writers

These notes were prepared for Mindshift at Irish Writers Centre March 2018

 Notes by Sarah Webb, Family and Schools’ Curator, ILFD, Literary Advisor to Listowel Writers’ Week

 One of my festival events with Alan Nolan for age 7+ 

One of my festival events with Alan Nolan for age 7+ 

 

Schedule of Programming

Many book festivals start programming six months to a year in advance. Many key names would be in place 6 to 10 months in advance for the children’s programme: ie Francesca Simon, Judith Kerr (or sometimes more).

If you are thinking about approaching a festival (and more on how to do this in a moment), make sure you don’t leave it too late. I would suggest at least 4 months before the festival is on.

What I Am Looking For:

1/ International names who will attract a large audience and fill a theatre (300+ seats) eg Francesca Simon, Eoin Colfer, Julia Donaldson, Michael Rosen.

2/ Strong, award-winning names for individual events and panels – esp writers who have written outstanding books (anything from 120 seats to 300+ seats depending on the artist) eg David Almond, Louise O’Neill, Patrick Ness, Katherine Rundell. Most festivals like to vary the writers they invite every year (although in the children’s world, the audience changes every 2 or 3 years – as they grow up!)

3/ Writers who are excellent at performing for school audiences and who have a strong body of work behind them. Experience is key for school events in a theatre (or in any venue). Ex-actors are particularly good, people who can also draw are useful. Eg Guy Bass, Steve Cole, Niamh Sharkey, Marita Conlon McKenna, Oisin McGann, Judi Curtin, Alan Nolan, Nicola Pierce.

4/ Exceptional storytellers eg Dave Rudden and Grainne Clear.

5/ Exceptional workshop leaders eg Dave Lordan, Celine Kiernan, Niamh Sharkey, Claire Hennessy, Sarah Crossan. The best ones engage 100% with the young writers/illustrators and bring something unique to their workshops.

6/ Exceptional new/newish writers for panel events featuring new voices – eg Catherine Doyle (for her MG book, coming in July) would be on my wish list for autumn 2018, Bethan Woollvin, John Kane – new picturebook makers. 

I am lucky to be sent early proofs which I read eagerly. If you have written a brilliant, original and exciting book you have a good chance of being invited to a book festival. FOR ME IT ALL STARTS WITH THE BOOK.

7/ Exceptional picture book makers to give talks/workshops to children and also masterclasses to adults eg Yasmeen Ismail, Oliver Jeffers, Chris Judge, Chris Haughton, Niamh Sharkey.

8/ Unusual and original book related events. Esp non-fiction events in fact – history, natural history, science, maths. Come up with a unique and inspiring event and practice, practice, practice.

9/ Artists who are willing to work hard and go the extra mile. Artists who will muck in. Artists who offer to fill in for other artists when there’s a last minute illness or delay. Artists who are fun to work with and above all, professional. I’ll never forget Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve mucking in at one of the festivals I programmed when one of speaker’s children was rushed to hospital. They did his events for him.

10/ Strong local talent – writers, poets, storytellers, illustrators, picture book makers and more. Experienced and debut writers alike.

What I Am Not Looking For:

1/ People with no experience. Get out there. Start with your local school or library and build up your experience. See below for some ideas.

2/ Writers of books I have not read or heard of (if you’re a new writer, ask your publisher to send me your book). If you’ve written an amazing book, you have a great chance of being invited to a festival on that basis alone.

3/ People who think a book event means standing and reading your book for 40 mins and then taking some questions. Unless you are Judy Blume or Jacqueline Wilson, this will not work. Not that Judy or Jackie would ever dream of doing this!

I’m a Self-Published Writer, Can I Apply to Appear at a Festival?

Most festivals are curated festivals. This means the curators select the artists. Yes, you can apply to appear, if you think you can offer something original and exceptional (and your book is professionally produced and an excellent read – children deserve the best literature we can give them). But please note that very few artists who apply directly are selected; most artists are invited. This goes for all writers, not just self-published writers.

What I’d Love to See More Of:

1/ Non-fiction events – science, natural history, history. If your book is fiction, you can still offer a festival a non-fiction event. I have put together an event called ‘Talk Like a Dolphin, Sing Like a Whale’ for festivals/schools – based on whale and dolphin communication. I have some Blazing a Trail events coming in the autumn based around remarkable Irish women.

I’d love to see some interesting suffragette events offered to me, workshops around diversity or equality. Think outside the box.  

2/ Innovative workshops – offer me something different and put time and passion into developing your idea. Again, you need experience. Offer to present your workshop at a local school. Ask the students and teachers for feedback.

For eg I have created a Book of Kells workshop for Hay Festival in Kells, with real vellum and swan quills; a Jane Austen workshop for mothers and daughters and I do a rhyme, song and craft event around A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea. Be inventive! The more prep work you put in, the better a workshop or event will be.

3/ Innovative pairings – dancers, musicians, artists, puppeteers, other writers. For eg  in 2016 I teamed up with Judi Curtin and we talked about our friendship at lots of the major festivals. It was our ‘Friendship Tour’. Previously we have toured with Oisin McGann (The Ideas Shop) and Sophia Bennett (Your Wildest Dreams Tour). Team up with someone interesting and put together a cracking event. It’s also a lot of fun!

4/ Events for children with special needs. In previous years I put together a How to Catch a Star workshop with Deirdre Sullivan for children on the autistic spectrum.

5/ Early years events and workshops – age 0 to 5. There is a growing demand for quality, creative events for very young children and their associated grown up/s.

How to Apply to a Book Festival:

Before you do – research the festival and make sure it actually programmes the kind of event you are thinking of offering. Start local.

1/ It’s best to apply thorough your publisher. Tell your publisher you are interested in appearing at (X) festival and ask them for their opinion. They will either a/ say yes, great idea or b/ suggest you might need a little more experience. If their answer is b – go off and get that experience and go back to them.

2/ Be a festival supporter - it’s important to attend and support festivals if you’d like to appear at them. You also learn a lot by watching and listening to other artists doing events. Take a notebook along and jot down things that work and things that don’t work.

3/ Make a demo video of yourself in action and upload it to You Tube. Nothing fancy – you can take it on your phone. Let programmers see you in action.

4/ If you don’t have a publisher, you can apply yourself. Email the children’s curator/programmer - outlining your book, the events you’ve done and what you can offer them: workshops, events etc.

It is vital to have a professional photo to send festivals for their brochure. It must be high res, clear and should show something of your personality. No frowns, please. Ask someone to come along to one of your events and take an in-action photo if possible.

The blurb for your event and your biog should be short, well written and relevant. I rarely get sent interesting titles for events – be the one who sends me something unusual and clever!

If the programmer says no, do not hound them under any circumstances. That is not going to make them change their mind.

Tips for Events:

If You Have No Experience – Go and Get Some.

Prepare an event and deliver it (yes, free) in creches, schools, libraries, retirement homes. Anywhere that will have you. Make your mistakes early and learn from them.

Ask an experienced writer if you can shadow them. Or go to events at festivals and see how other writers do it. Learn from them and then come up with your own event.

Ask the teachers to give you an event ‘reference’ eg ‘Mandy Bloggs was wonderful. She kept JI and SI highly entertained with her stories about African animals and they learned a lot in a fun and innovative way.’

Prepare a script for your event and practice it until it’s perfect. Most events are 60 mins. Break this down: 20/30 minutes talking is perfect. Add  1 or 2 x 5 min readings within or after the talk (never more) + 20 mins for questions at the end.

Your event is not a hard sell for your book. In fact some of the best talks I’ve ever heard are not about the artist’s book at all. Eoin Colfer is one of the best in the business (watch him in action on You Tube) and he rarely mentions his books.

Think about using props, music, dance, theatre, images (although powerpoint presentations can go wrong so always be prepared to deliver your event without it).

Think about using costumes or at the very least looking visually appealing to children (see Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve’s costumes).

Growth Areas:

Events for the under 7s

Family events that the parents will enjoy as much as the children – eg Monster Doodles, innovative storytelling, book-related puppet shows

Events that combine yoga/fitness with books; music with books; dance with books

Events for children on the autistic spectrum

Drama workshops for children; screen writing workshops for children; animation workshops for children – also the same for teens.

What the Festivals Are Looking For:

Writers’ Week, Listowel:

We would love any writers to contact us either through their publisher or directly themselves, but we would like a brief biog about themselves and their writing included.

The events that we are looking for are fun, interactive events, and creative writing workshops.

Aoife Murray, Children’s Books Ireland

How to approach a festival: For me I don’t mind if it’s via agent/publisher or on your own bat as long as the contact is respectful, informative and useful to my purposes eg: I want to know what age you do events for, what type of events you prefer and how much you want to charge. I feel it’s essential to research the festival to see if you suit it, otherwise you are banging on a closed door and it’s important to remember that the programmer has a vision and if you don’t fit it, that’s unfortunately just how it is on this occasion.

Events we’re looking for: Something more than the standard reading and signing, as this doesn’t generally work for younger audiences. In demand at the moment are events for 0-2 and 5-8.

Sample Pitch

1/ A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea:  Family Rhyme and Art Fun with Sarah Webb and Steve McCarthy                   Age 5+ and the whole family    30 minutes

 Join writer, Sarah Webb and illustrator, Steve McCarthy for this interactive event for the whole family. Revisit favourite childhood rhymes and songs such as She’ll Be Coming ‘round the Mountain (an American song with a very interesting Irish link), A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea and The Owl and the Pussycat, and discover new ones from Ireland and beyond. Join in the skipping (jump rope). Watch Steve draw owls, pussycats, boats and sailors, and draw along; and create your own colourful sailing ship. Sea-filled fun for everyone!

Workshop Details:

This workshop is designed to give children a playful and engaging creative experience. Songs, rhymes and poems are part of every child’s literary heritage and we will share them with the audience in a novel, interactive way. Most importantly we aim to make the event dynamic, playful and inspiring for the audience.

Step by Step Guide to the Workshop:

Sarah and Steve will welcome the children and associated adults as they arrive and give each of them a personalised name sticker. When all the participants have arrived Sarah will share some favourite rhymes and songs from A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea with the audience and Steve will draw along.

Steve will then show the audience how to a sea creature and the audience will draw along.

Sarah will then turn a skipping rope and encourage the children and adults to join in some Irish skipping games – including Cross the Crocodile River and Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear.

Finally they will help the children create their own sailing ship using collage materials – felt, coloured card, scraps of material, metallic paper, lollypop sticks and straws.

Watch the experts in action:

Sarah McIntyre and Philip

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jGKikDb4QU

Katherine Rundell

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rwqp5uSIYQ

Michael Rosen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wckNoTA5r-4

Eoin Colfer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrV1kguaHEs

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

Lexicon Reader and Writers' Day 5th Nov - Timetable and Details

Lexicon Reader and Writers’ Day – Saturday 5th November 

reader and writers day poster
reader and writers day poster

After the success of last year’s event, we are back with another packed day of readings, interviews and chat. Hear thriller writers, Liz Nugent and Sam Blake discuss dark psychology with journalist and writer, Dave Kenny; bestselling UK writer, Lucy Diamond and historical novelist, Hazel Gaynor will talk to broadcaster and writer, Sinead Crowley about their paths to publication; and find out how the book industry works and what agents and publishers are looking for in 2017. Plus enjoy lots of book chat with fellow readers over coffee and lunch. Bring your book club or come and make new friends – see you there! Bookshop on site with thanks to Dubray Books, Dun Laoghaire

Booking: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/lexicon-reader-and-writers-day-tickets-28356676583

Cost: e20 (includes coffee and light lunch)

Venue: Lexicon Studio, Dun Laoghaire   Registration from 9.30am

10.00am Welcome by Sarah Webb, dlr Writer in Residence

10.10am to 11.00am Dark Psychology: Research and the Writers’ Psyche

Bestselling authors, Sam Blake (Vanessa O’Loughlin) and Liz Nugent talk to writer and journalist, Dave Kenny about the research behind their crime and thriller novels.

11.00am to 11.20am Coffee and Signing

11.20am to 12.10pm In Another Man’s Shoes: Creating Characters

Award winning writers, Catherine Dunne and Adrian White talk to journalist and writer, Sue Leonard about creating realistic characters.

12.10pm to 1.00pm The Glass Shore: A Celebration of Short Stories from Women Writers from the North of Ireland

Writer and columnist, Martina Devlin and writer, Evelyn Conlon talk to fellow writer, Lia Mills about their stories in The Glass Shore collection, edited by Sinead Gleeson.

1.00pm to 2.00 Lunch and Signing

2.00pm to 3.00pm Paths to Publication  

UK bestseller, Lucy Diamond and historical novelist, Hazel Gaynor talk to broadcaster and writer, Sinead Crowley about their journey to publication, and share some of their writing secrets.

3.00pm to 3.15pm Break and Signing

3.15pm to 4.15pm The Business of Books:  An Insider’s Guide

Martina Devlin hosts our panel of publishing experts: Vanessa O’Loughlin from The Inkwell Group and Writing.ie; Peta Nightingale, UK Agent with Lucas Alexander Whitley (LAW); and Michael McLoughlin, MD at Penguin Random House Ireland and Publisher at Penguin Ireland.

4.30pm Close

Lexicon dlr Writer in Residence Events + Workshops

Writer in Residence: Events, Book Clubs and Writing Clubs

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

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

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

Yours in writing,

sarah reading to a child
sarah reading to a child

Sarah XXX

Events

13th September (school day)

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

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

Booking: dlrlexiconlib@dlrcoco.ie

16th September (evening)

Print
Print

CULTURE NIGHT – SMASHING STORIES AND DASHING DOODLES

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

Friday 16th September (school day)

Schools Events – Canada Day with Children’s Books Ireland

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

Booking: dlrlexiconlib@dlrcoco.ie

Children’s Book Club

Age 9+

Max number: 15

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

3.15pm to 4.30pm – Level 3 Meeting Room

BOOKING: dlrlexiconlib@dlrcoco.ie

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

Children’sWriting Club

Age 9+

Max number: 15

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

3.15pm to 4.30pm

3.15pm to 4.30pm – Level 3 Meeting Room

BOOKING: dlrlexiconlib@dlrcoco.ie

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

Teen Creatives

Age 12+ (1st year students upwards)

Max – number 15

10am to 12pm       

Venue: Lexicon Lab on Level 3

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

BOOKING: dlrlexiconlib@dlrcoco.ie

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

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

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

Drop in Writing Clinic for Children and Teenagers 

Age: 8 to 18 years

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

3pm to 4pm

Writer in Residence Room, Level 5

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

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

Drop in Writing Clinic for Adults

Writer in Residence Room, Level 5

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

4pm to 5pm

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

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

Diary of a School Event in Words and Pictures

One of my favourite parts of being a writer is talking to young readers about my work. Every week I visit 1 or 2 schools or libraries to talk to students. Here's the diary of one of those trips. 7am Get up and walk dog - I always pack my bag the night before my event. I have all kinds of things in my green event bag - books, photos, toy whales.

My Green Event Bag
My Green Event Bag

My Green Event Bag

IMG_7081[1]
IMG_7081[1]
IMG_7082[1]
IMG_7082[1]

8am Say goodbye to my dog, Lucky and get on the road in my Mini Cooper. Yes, I have the same car as Clover in the Ask Amy Green books! 10.00am Arrive in Loughboy Library in Kilkenny and set up for my first event with the children from St John of God's National School.

IMG_7085[1]
IMG_7085[1]

Can you spot the whale and dolphin models? There's a shark in there too - his tail goes from side to side, as he's a fish. Sea mammals' tails go up and down.

IMG_7083[1]
IMG_7083[1]

10am to 11.30am Talk to the students about growing up (I was late to reading and I talk about this and how having heart and grit are more important than being top of the class), my favourite books, how I became a writer and sea mammals. They ask me some great questions about writing, publishing and whales and dolphins. We do a sea mammal quiz - teachers against the pupils - and the pupils win!

Sarah Webb Visit 2016 004 (2)
Sarah Webb Visit 2016 004 (2)

My latest book (out in March) called Aurora and the Popcorn Dolphin is all about a dolphin and I have a huge love for sea mammals, especially bottlenosed dolphins and humpback whales. I spent 2 years researching it and I'm still reading up about these amazing creatures. I don't think I'll ever know enough about them and new discoveries are made all the time.

My New Book, Out in March
My New Book, Out in March

My New Book, Out in March

Sarah Webb Visit 2016 006 (2)
Sarah Webb Visit 2016 006 (2)

12.00 to 1.15 Here I am talking to the second school, Gael Scoil Osraí about my school days. I'm holding a copy book from when I was 5! Their teachers were pretty smart and when it came to the quiz they drew with the pupils (who are also very smart). This gang were particularly talented at singing humpback whale - it was a beautiful symphony of strange wailing and snorting noises!

1.30pm Hop in the car again after grabbing a sandwich and drive home again.

3.30 Arrive home and say hello to Lucky and the kids.

Writers, do YOU enjoy school visits?

Readers, has a writer visited YOUR school? I'd love to know all about it.

Yours in books,

Sarah XXX

This blog first appeared on Girls Heart Books website.

What Lies Beneath Readers' Day - Timetable

sinead-gleeson.jpg

What Lies Beneath: A Readers’ Day

Saturday 7th November 10am to 4.00pm

Kate Beaufoy
Kate Beaufoy

Lexicon Studio Theatre, Dun Laoghaire

Cost: e15 (includes coffee and lunch)

Booking: http://www.paviliontheatre.ie/events/view/what-lies-beneath-a-readers-day-programmed-and-hosted-by-writer-sarah-webb

On site bookshop with thanks to Dubray Books

If you’re passionate about books and love talking to other book lovers, this is the day for you. Find out how bestselling UK author, Freya North and Irish bestseller, Patricia Scanlan got their first breaks; hear how Kate Beaufoy and Kate Kerrigan researched their latest historic novels; listen to Sinead Moriarty and Claudia Carroll talk about their favourite books; discover the inspiration behind Sinead Crowley, Martina Devlin and Marita Conlon McKenna’s new novels; and hear Sinead Gleeson talk about the wealth of short story talent in Ireland, past and present, with Lia Mills and Éilís Ní Dhuibhne. A stimulating and thought provoking day for all readers and writers.

Martina Devlin
Martina Devlin

Programme:

9.30am – 10.00am Registration

10.00am – 10.50am   This is How it Begins . . .

Martina Devlin, Sinead Crowley and Marita Conlon McKenna will read from their new novels and talk to RTE’s Evelyn O’Rourke about the inspiration behind their stories and characters.

10.50am – 11.10am  Coffee and bookshop signing

11.10pm – 12.00pm  The Long Gaze Back: Ireland and the Short Story, Past and Present

Broadcaster and Editor, Sinead Gleeson will talk about putting together her new short story collection, The Long Gaze Back: An Anthology of Irish Women Writers. She will be joined by Lia Mills and Éilís Ní Dhuibhne who both have short stories in the collection.

Sinead Gleeson
Sinead Gleeson

12.05pm – 1.05pm This Writer’s Life: UK bestseller, Freya North and Irish bestseller, Patricia Scanlan in conversation with RTE’s Sinead Crowley.

1.05pm – 2.00pm Lunch and bookshop signing – meet the authors and get your book signed at our dedicated bookshop, kindly provided by Dubray Books.

2.00pm – 2.50pm  What Lies Beneath:  researching a novel set in the past

Kate Beaufoy and Kate Kerrigan both write historic novels and will talk to fellow novelist and journalist, Martina Devlin about their research.

2.50pm - 3.10pm  – Break and bookshop signing

3.10pm – 4.00pm  My Favourite Books

Sinead Moriarty and Claudia Carroll share their favourite books of all time and talk about how reading has inspired their own work. Discover new ideas for your own reading or your book club and share your own favourite reads with the audience. Chaired by Mary Burnham of Dubray Books.

Claudia Carroll
Claudia Carroll

Top 3 Writing Tips - Martina Devlin + Kate Beaufoy

Martina Devlin and Kate Beaufoy will be talking about writing and their new books at What Lies Beneath Readers' Day on Saturday 7th November in the new Lexicon Library in Dun Laoghaire. To mark the occasion, I asked them for their top three writing tips.

Martina Devlin

Martina Devlin
Martina Devlin

1/ Write early in the day, as soon as you rise. It doesn't have to be a 6am writing spurt, but it does have to be first thing by your body clock. 3/ Take care with your characters, even minor ones, if you want readers to go on a journey with them. They need not all be likeable. But their actions should have an internal logic, or make sense to readers. 3/ Leave a note to yourself where you meant to take the story next at the end of a writing session. It's amazing how much we forget, even in the space of a day.

Kate Beaufoy

1/ Try converting chunks of your text into a different font. That way you can read it with new, more objective eyes, and you’ll spot things you may not have noticed otherwise.

2/ Don’t advertise the fact that you’re writing a novel; you'll regret it every time someone asks you how it’s going.

3/ Find one or two readers whom you can trust to be straight with you in the nicest possible way. NEVER petition Facebook friends to read your work.

-

Hear more from Kate and Martina about their books and how they write at What Lies Beneath Reader and Writers Day - Sat 7th November. Lexicon Library, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin  

Book here.

 Or ring 01 231 2929 12pm to 5pm

Kate Beaufoy
Kate Beaufoy

What Lies Beneath

If you’re passionate about books and love talking to other book lovers, this is the day for you. Find out how bestselling UK author, Freya North and Irish bestseller, Patricia Scanlan got their first breaks; hear how Kate Beaufoy and Kate Kerrigan researched their latest historic novels; listen to Sinead Moriarty and Claudia Carroll talk about their favourite books; discover the inspiration behind Sinead Crowley, Martina Devlin and Marita Conlon McKenna’s new novels; and hear Sinead Gleeson talk about the wealth of short story talent in Ireland, past and present, with Lia Mills and Éilís Ní Dhuibhne. A stimulating and thought-provoking day for all readers and writers.

Book here. 

Patricia Scanlan
Patricia Scanlan

#YAieDay - Timetable of the Day - Sat Oct 3rd

Having the Chats with Judi Curtin - It's Good to Talk!
Having the Chats with Judi Curtin - It's Good to Talk!

Well done to Shelly for putting it all together - Ireland's 1st YA Day on Twitter - tune in and chat!

When: Oct 3rd

Oisin McGann
Oisin McGann

Where: #YAieDay will be an online festival taking place on the hashtag #YAieDay on Twitter.

The authors, bloggers, and publishing peeps will be chatting about topics and having the LOLs throughout the day. Anyone can join in and chat to their favourite author.

Also, lots of very cool publishers will be holding competitions where you could win books.

PLEASE JOIN IN & PLEASE DO SPREAD WORD

Remember to use the hashtag #YAieDay on Twitter

10:10  –  10:50am  Lack  of  parents in  YA  –  thoughts?

Sheena  Wilkinson and Helen Falconer

11:10  –  11:50am  Food  in  literature  –  how  do you  write  it and  is it important to have lashings of  ginger  beer?  

Lucy  Coats and Oisin McGann

11:50  –  12:10  Readers please  tweet your  thoughts to #YAieDay   on  your towering TBR pile.

12:10pm  –  1:00pm  –  Please  tell  us about your next book  –  inspiration, drafting,  editing, marketing.

Lauren James, Sarah Crossan, Sarah Webb and Brian Conaghan

Sarah Crossan
Sarah Crossan

1:10  –  1:50pm  Bad  language  in  books  with young protagonists  –  thoughts? 

Sally  Nicholls, Kim Hood and R. F. Long

2:00  –  2:40pm  All  YA  need  is love  –  thoughts? 

Jennifer Niven and Catherynne  M. Valente and Sarah Rees Brennan

Readers, tweet your shelfies.

2:50  –  3:30 pm  –  Debut  authors. Please tell  us  about your  new  world  of  being  a  published author.

Simon P. Clark, Martin Stewart, Dave  Rudden

3:40  –  4:20pm  The  publishing  world- tweet your questions to these publishing peeps.

Vanessa O  Loughlin and Gráinne Clear

4.30  –  4:55 Children’s Books  Ireland  –  Book  Doctor Clinic  –  ask  the book doctor, Claire Hennessy for book recommendations.

5:00  –  5:40pm  Hosted  by book  blogger  –  Christopher  Moore,  Co-founder of  @YAfictionados  –  He  will be  asking the  authors about writing  in  the  age  of  the internet. 

Brenna  Yovanoff and Samantha Shannon

5:45  –  6:15pm Hosted  by book  blogger  –   Jenny Duffy  of  The  Books, the Art, and  Me.  Let’s talk writing practises  –  how  to ‘get it  down.’ 

Tatum  Flynn, Judi  Curtin, Nigel Quinlan, Elizabeth R. Murray and Deirdre Sullivan

The End

How to Attract a Top Children's Literary Agent

Chatting to Judi Curtin at the West Cork Literary Festival
Chatting to Judi Curtin at the West Cork Literary Festival

I'm at the West Cork Literary Festival this week, teaching a workshop for adults - Writing for Children - and talking to children. At festivals I always make the time to listen to other writers read and also to attend a masterclass or talk about something that interests me.

On Monday I listened to Julia Churchill speak and I was very taken with her honest, direct and open manner. She talked about her role as an agent and what she's looking for in a new writer. She spoke real sense and is a gifted communicator. I took lots of notes so that I could share her words of wisdom with you.

Julia Churchill
Julia Churchill

Julia is a children's agent at AM Heath after cutting her literary teeth at Darley Anderson, where she was one of the first readers to discover Cathy Cassidy in the slush pile. She says Cathy's manuscript made her cry and was one of the few manuscripts (along with Sarah Lean's) that needed little or no work before being sent out to editors at publishing houses.

This is how Julia sees her job:

- to spot talent

- to develop talent

- to sell her clients' books

- to create a career for her writers.

It's refreshing that Julia puts so much emphasis on building a career for her writers and not just selling rights. I listened to another agent speak recently and she talked largely about selling rights and not about helping her writers.

Her core 'day job' is taking care of the authors on her books. However 95% of her writers come from unsolicited manuscripts so she reads submissions in the evenings and at weekends.

First she has a quick look at the submissions and sees if there is anything really exciting in there that she needs to act on immediately, before other agents pounce on it. She wants to be the first person on the phone to this kind of author. I was impressed by her competitive nature - this is the kind of agent I'd want representing me - quick, smart and ready for action! If my own agent wasn't such a superwoman, Julia would definitely be on my list.

She said all submissions get read - which is heartening for debut writers. She reads 'Until a point that I want to stop reading' but did point out that this may be at the (bad) covering letter.

She wants 'a voice that transports me'.

She said 'most debuts will need work'. The most common problems are: too much going on - strip out anything that isn't needed.

The market is tough at the moment she explained. There are more agents than ever before, more books out on submission and less books being published. Writers have to appeal to the marketing and sales team as well as editors.

In 2014 A M Heath took on 4 new writers but new agents will take on more writers.

Julia deals with a core group of 25 editors in the various children's publishers. An important part of her job is contracts and getting the best deal for her writers.

How To Find an Agent

Julia explained that this is a marketing job. Finish your book and make it as strong as you can. There are approx 40 children's agencies - look at the Writers and Artists' Yearbook for details - the most up to date one. Find each agency's submission details and follow them. Be professional from the start. Submit to 7/8 agents and take your time. Act on any feedback you get, rewriting your manuscript.

She says the secret of a good covering letter is simplicity and a good book pitch (the paragraph about your book). You can follow up (your submission) politely after 2/3 months.

Do not follow trends - you will be launching into an overcrowded marketplace. A book can take up to 2 years to get to market, the trend may already be over.

What Julia is Looking for in a Book:

- concept

- character

- setting

- theme

- story

- voice

A book has to work on all these different levels. A book also needs high stakes - the reader needs to care about the characters.

water
water

She said 'Publishers can be heroic. They can take risks.' She cited Sarah Crossan's The Weight of Water as an example of this, a book in verse that went on to win many awards. 'If a book is fabulous, it will sell,' she said. 

Chatting to Judi Curtin at the West Cork Literary Festival

If you are looking for a strong, wise children's agent it would be worth seeking her out.

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

With a Little Help from Your Friends: Festivals + Friendship

sarah-webb-and-judi-curtin.jpg

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.

IMG_5156[2]
IMG_5156[2]

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.

A Day in the Life - the CBI Conference and Thoughts for Writers

eoin-colfer.jpg

Right, because I love you all and I know many of you could not make the Children’s Books Ireland Conference today in the Lexicon Library in Dun Laoghaire, here are some notes and thoughts on the day. The title was: A Day in the Life

Eoin Colfer

Eoin Colfer and Friends
Eoin Colfer and Friends

Eoin Colfer kicked off the proceedings in a lively manner with a funny and thought provoking talk about writing, his love of Ireland, how ‘place’ informs writers’ books and how his Laureate-ship is shaping up so far.

On writing he said: ‘It starts with character for me. My criminal mastermind, Artemis is based on my brother, Donal.’

‘People often say don’t write a local story. I think write a local story with universal themes.’

He said for him, having a new book out never gets old and he never takes it for granted:

‘It’s amazing to be published – to hold a new book in your hands – it’s always fantastic. Whatever else happens in your life, you’ll always have that.’

His aim with the Laureate events is to visit ‘tiny schools on remote islands who don’t normally get author visits… As a child I didn’t realise that writers were real people.’

He said: ‘Reaching that one kid, planting the seed of story in their head, that’s what the Laureate’s all about.’

On why Irish people are such good storytellers and writers:

Eoin explained that it’s in our blood. We grow up hearing stories.

‘Myths and legends are on the curriculum in Ireland. I was surprised to find this wasn’t the case in other countries.’

Alan Nolan

Next up was Alan Nolan who talked about the books he had written and the comics that had influenced him as a child.

‘The way to get children reading is to get them hooked on a series,’ he said. His job as Illustrator in Residence in the Church of Ireland College of Education is to ‘remind trainee teachers how much fun children’s books are.’

Monster Doodle

During lunch there was a wonderful Monster Doodle for adults – where everyone got stuck in.

Sarah Crossan

Sarah Crossan
Sarah Crossan

Next up was Sarah Crossan in conversation with the wonderful Colm Keegan, Writer in Residence at dlr Libraries.

She spoke passionately about engaging teens with poetry and why she writes novels in verse for teens. Her new novel in verse, One (and not Won as she pointed out) will be published in August and is about conjoined twins. It sounds great.

Next up where the New Writers – many new writers took to the stage to share their books with the audience in 5 minute sessions.

This was an interesting insight into the way people approached being asked to do this. Some gave some background to the book, others gave a straight reading without any intro. The ones that worked the best I think did a little of both. The ones that stood out for me were Dave Rudden who is an excellent reader of his own work and gave a short intro which set the scene well and Moira Fowley-Doyle. She read with a lot of passion and it’s my kind of book – a family/friendship drama with a clever and fresh premise. It’s called The Accident Season and it’s about a family who for one month a year are horribly and tragically accident prone. She read the perfect section (from the start of the book so it didn’t need an intro) and I really enjoyed her reading.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed them all (other writers included Patricia Forde, Kim Hood, Shane Hegarty and a lovely picture book guy), but it did make me ponder the importance of professional development for writers and how new writers need help preparing for readings and events. I am going to write a series of blogs on events/readings and how to write and deliver them when I get a chance as I think it might be helpful to newer writers.

I was a nervous wreck when I started out doing events! I love doing them now, as long as I am well prepared. You can throw me in front of any age group from babies and toddlers to teens and I'll have something to say, but it wasn't always the case. It's taken me years to be confident in front of an audience. I would have loved to shadow a writer before I started doing events. And I would have loved some guidance on how to put a good talk together. So I'll share what I can soon, I promise!

I'll also post some publicity and marketing tips and interviews with publishing pr people this year - remind me if I forget!

Julia Eccleshare

Julia Eccleshare
Julia Eccleshare

Finally after a very nice coffee break – with biscuits – was the inspiring Julia Eccleshare, Children’s Books Editor for the Guardian. I thought she was FANTASTIC and spoke such sense. Of course, she did say that writers made extra-good reviewers as they understood things like a writer’s intent and theme, so I may be slightly biased.

She spoke lyrically about her job – how she has to sift through over 10k children’s books a year to select the 45 books she can review in the Guardian.

She is passionate about books and stories. She said ‘I never go anywhere without thinking about a story.’

And ‘Everything in my life is coloured by the stories I read.’

She explained how these days writers have to be advocates for their books. Gone are the days where you could write a book and sit back on your laurels. You have to get out there and do events. ‘You cannot sit at home and be shy.’

She told us how JK Rowling’s books were game changers – how after the Harry Potter series, children’s books became cool and people started talking about stories and children’s books like never before. She mentioned Philip Pullman winning the overall Whitbread Award with The Amber Spyglass and quoted him: ‘Children’s books are the home of the story.’

She spoke about the importance of children’s books: ‘Children learn things from children’s books that their parents don’t want them to know… There is no serendipity for children anymore. They are the most watched children ever. How do they learn that things go wrong (if they are always being watched)?’

Books help them explore dangerous worlds and allow them have adventures and decide what kind of people they would like to be, she explained.

It was a wonderful talk and she’s a powerhouse.

The day ended with a drinks reception where I talked to Julia and many writers and readers and ate some very fine finger food.

So ended the CBI Day – thanks to all the speakers, to Marian Keyes who provided the wonderful venue and to the girls at CBI, Elaina, Jenny and Aoife for a cracking event.

Yours in books,

Sarah XXX

PS If you read my blog and find it useful, do let me know via the comments or on Facebook or Twitter. :)

sarah crossan book cover
sarah crossan book cover

My Events During October - Dublin, Cork, Limerick

stories are for everyone
stories are for everyone

This is where I'll be during the Children's Books Ireland celebration of books in October- Stories Are For Everyone:

sally go
sally go

Dalkey Library 3rd Oct

Sally Go Round the Stars Nursery Rhyme Fun

The Library Cat Stories (Age 7+)

-

Dundrum Library 6th Oct

Sally Go Round the Stars Nursery Rhyme Fun

How I Became A Writer (Age 9+)

-

Cabinteely Library 8th Oct

Crazy Character Workshop (Age 9+)

-

Schull Library and Skibbereen Library 14th Oct

How I Became a Writer (Age 9+)

-

Cork Library 15th Oct

How I Became a Writer (Age 9+)

-

Blackrock Library 22nd Oct

Sally Go Round the Stars Nursery Rhyme Fun

(To book library events - contact the local library hosting the event)

-

Bualadh Bos Children's Festival, Limerick 30th Oct (with Oisin McGann)

Booking: www.limetreetheatre.ie

Ask Amy Green Wedding Belles Cover
Ask Amy Green Wedding Belles Cover

Writing Tips from Award Winning Author, Sheena Wilkinson

Writing Tips from Sheena Wilkinson

Sheena Wilkinson with Elaina Ryan of CBI and Writer, Deirdre Sullivan
Sheena Wilkinson with Elaina Ryan of CBI and Writer, Deirdre Sullivan

See Sheena at the Mountains to Sea Book Festival (details below)

  1. Everyone will say the same thing here; that’s because it’s so important. READ. Read everything. Read in your favourite genre and outside it. Read to see how stories work. Read to remind yourself that books are magic, and that you want to create that magic for someone else.
  2. Find out what works for you. I faffed around with unfinished novels for years because I kept stopping to edit as I went along, always aiming for that perfect first chapter. For me, it’s better to write to the end of a rough first draft and then go back and redraft, and redraft, and redraft. It’s less work in the long run, and for me having a complete draft, even though it’s rubbishy, gives me a feeling of achievement and something to work on. This seems to work for lots of writers. It may not work for you but it’s worth trying if, like me until about six years ago, you find it hard to get to the end. And the first drafts are getting better.
  3. Give yourself goals. It may be that you’ll write for an hour a day, or that you’ll finish a sort story by the end of the month, or that you’ll do a thousand words a day, or 500 or even 100. You can move the goalposts as you get more serious. If I think about the whole project of a novel, I feel a bit gulpy and want to go and lie down, but if I think that I aim to do 6,000 words a week and that means 1,000 words day with a day off, that seems more manageable. I have printed off a geeky calendar so I can waste time filling it in and adding happy/sad faces accordingly. You can get software to do this for you, but why bother, when you can use up hours of writing time colouring in and highlighting?
  4. Fall in love. With your book. I can’t get into something and spend a year – or, in the case of my forthcoming novel, 2 ½ years (I took time off to write another book in the middle) – on it unless I love it. So don’t follow the market or write about something because you think you ‘should’: write what you love. It helps to have a bit of  a crush on at least one character. BUT, however in love you are…
  5. Don’t be precious! You know how being in love is great, but it can make you a bit blind to someone’s actual qualities? That. So when your editor/agent/writing buddy/mum suggests that something in your book could maybe work better, consider that they might be right. After all, you want them to fall in love with your book too.

Sheena will be appearing on the Going Too Far? Panel Discussion at the Mountains to Sea Book Festival 2014 with debut novelist, Louise O'Neill, David O'Callaghan from Eason, reviewer and writer, Mary Arrigan and reader, Aaron Williams.

A must for anyone interested in writing or reading YA fiction.

Saturday 13th September, Lexicon, Dun Laoghaire (new library) 4.40-6pm

e8 adults/e5 students

5 Things You May Not Know About Writer, Kjartan Poskitt

Kjartan Poskitt in Action
Kjartan Poskitt in Action

Kjartan Poskitt, creator of the Murderous Maths books and the wonderful Agatha Parrot series will be in Dun Laoghaire next week for the Mountains to Sea Book Festival. Here are some facts you may not know about Kjartan:

1/ He's from Yorkshire but he has an odd accent (or so he says).

2/ He wrote the theme tune for children's art show, SmArt and children's show, Brum.

3/ Most of his books start life written on the edge of a soggy newspaper.

4/ His favourite author is Philip Reeve.

5/ He can play cat and dog noises on a synthesiser.

All absolutely true!

Catch his wonderful Murderous Maths show on Friday 12th September in the Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire during the Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival. Age 4th to 6th class  e3 per child  (Limited tickets still available) Log onto www.mountainstosea.ie or ring: 01 2312929 to book

One of Kjartan's Books
One of Kjartan's Books

5 Things You Might Not Know About Writer, Alan Nolan

5 Things You Might Not Know About Alan Nolan

Alan Nolan
Alan Nolan

See Alan in Action at the Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival (details below)

 1. Alan was born with a full head of red hair. It fell out before he was six months old and grew back dark brown. It’s now falling out again!

2. His first comic was called Splat and featured a lazy superhero character called the Bedspread who travelled around in the Bedmobile (a double bed with wheels) and lethargically fought crime in Slug City. The Bedspreads arch-enemy was called Wakey Wakey.

3. Alan loves spiders, caterpillars and beetles (in fact, he loves all ‘creepy crawlies’), but he’s deathly scared of mice and rats.

4. He has read every Charles Dickens novel at least twice. His favourite is A Christmas Carol, which he owns fives copies of – one with illustrations by Arthur Rackham, and one illustrated with puppets made by Fluck & Law of Spitting Image fame.

5. He used to be a huge fan of Star Trek, and has a full Star Trek The Next Generation costume in his wardrobe. Unfortunately, over the years the shirt and waistband of the uniform trousers have ‘shrunk in the wash’.

fintans 15 cover
fintans 15 cover

See Alan in Action at the Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival

My Favourite Superheroes with Alan Nolan - Comic Book Fun for All the Family

Assembly Room, County Hall, Dun Laoghaire  Saturday September 13th @ 10.30 to 11.30am

e4 per child (age 7+)/e6 per adult  To book: 01 2312929 or www.mountainstosea.ie 

Book an Appointment with The Writing Doctors - 4th April

east coast fm balloon
east coast fm balloon

Exclusive Slots with with The Writing Doctors, Vanessa O'Loughlin and Sarah Webb at East Coast FM's Coffee Morning in Aid of Wicklow Cancer Support Services The Beach House, Greystones Friday 4th April 10am to 12pm e10 for a 15 minute session with Vanessa or Sarah (e20 for 30 minutes) - please pay at the door (all money will be donated to cancer support services in Co Wicklow)

Writing a book and want to know how to get it published? Looking for the right literary agent? Or just need some writing help? Join publishing and writing experts, Vanessa and Sarah for some expert advice.

Vanessa runs the highly successful writing website, writing.ie and is also a literary scout for several UK and Irish agents; Sarah is an experienced writer and writing teacher. Together they are the Writing Doctors. If they can't fix your book, no-one can!

To book a time slot with Sarah or Vanessa (4th April, 10-12, The Beach House, Greystones) please email Sarah before 3rd April - sarah at sarahwebb dot ie - stating which Writing Doctor you'd like to see and your ideal time – 10.00, 10.30, 11.00, 11.30 etc Places are limited, please book asap

(Last year over e46,000 was raised for cancer support services in the Wicklow area – please help this year by attending one of the coffee mornings or our clinic and bring your friends. PS There will be a certain Irish X Factor singer entertaining the troops in Greystones - so come early!)

Tips for Writers - How To Approach Venues With Event Ideas

Sarah at the West Cork Literary Festival
Sarah at the West Cork Literary Festival

I was at a very interesting day for professional writers recently - Mindset. It was programmed by Children's Books Ireland in association with the Irish Writers' Centre. I've already blogged about Mary Byrne's great talk about marketing yourself and your work (children's writers) and here are notes from another of the talks.

Linda Geraghty from the Riverbank Theatre and Arts Centre in Newbridge, Co Kildare (a wonderful venue that I've had the pleasure of working with in the past) told us how to approach venues with event ideas.

At Riverbank they have a theatre and also workshop spaces and a gallery space and they are always looking for great events to fill those spaces.

Here are some of her suggestions:

Illustrators - approach venues and offer to design their brochures or programmes - it's a great showcase for your work. You could also offer workshops for children - make them fun and original.

We like off the wall ideas - talk to the venues about your ideas, however whacky.

Schools - it's harder to get them into venues these days - think about how you could work with the venue to bring the event/talk/workshop out to the school. Links with libraries and schools are vital for venues.

Take out the mobile library on tour - a simple idea that sounds great fun.

Shortworks - there are theatres in Ireland who are very interested in new work for children:

Linenhall in Castlebar

Driocht in Blanchardstown

Riverbank

The Ark

Think about approaching these first - or maybe putting together a tour that covers several of these venues. This way the budget, expenses and pr are all stronger.

Target your proposal - what age is it for?

How to approach venues:

1/ Send in a strong proposal.

2/ Email and ring for feedback.

3/ Ask for work - venues have to programme.

4/ Consider the time of year - we tend to programme in 4 month blocks - Jan to April and so on. Spring and autumn are best for school events. Also the summer holidays and half terms for family events and workshops.

5/ Think about summer workshops - children have more time in the summer.

6/ Give the venue lots of time to consider and work with you on your proposal.

Think about events for special needs children - there is a demand for them.

Give the children something to take away - a bookmark, a recommended reading list.

Thank you, Linda for sharing your time and expertise with us.

Yours in books,

Sarah

Take Risks. Get a Haircut. How to Do Brilliant Events for Kids

Steve Simpson
Steve Simpson

I was at a day for professional children's writers recently (Mindshift, run by the Irish Writers' Centre with Children's Books Ireland) and the speakers had a lot of useful things to say about events for children.

I thought I'd share some of the best tips with you. And see my previous blog for tips on marketing and promoting your book.

Jane O'Hanlon from the Writers in Schools scheme said 'Writing is not considered an art form, which is why it is underpaid'. She explained that the rate for a 2 1/2 hour school session is e200 (plus travel expenses). 'If you undercut the rate, you undercut it for everyone,' she said.

She explained that classrooms are complex places and that writers need to be aware of this. From this year on, writers will need to be Garda vetted if they would like to visit a school. Poetry Ireland (who run the scheme) can Garda vet any writer in Ireland, even if they are not in the scheme - useful to know.

Designer and children's book illustrator, Steve Simpson also gave some fantastic advice.

Irish language picture books are better paid as they get grants and funding, he explained.

If you want to do events - being able to work with younger children (age 5 to 7 and younger) is a huge advantage. Develop different workshops for different age groups. Get them drawing - children love to draw.

Be yourself. Go to talks and workshops and see how others do it.

Get the kids involved - make it fun.

Have lots of interaction from the start. Always be prepared.

Try to get some photos of the event and use them on social media and on your blog/website. Build your platform.

Take risks.

Get a haircut.

Be passionate.

Be genuine and real.

Be prepared for the unexpected.

All great advice! Thanks, Steve and Jane. More on how to promote your workshops/events to theatres and arts centres next week.

Yours in writing,

Sarah