Tricks from the Top to Improve your Writing

March 8th, 2018

The Wicked Young Writer Awards deadline is looming (12th March 2018), and in order to encourage anyone considering entering, we have a round-up of advice from some of the best children’s authors in the industry. So whether you’re looking for tips ahead of submitting your entry to the Wicked Young Writer Awards, or have already caught the writing bug and want to improve, keep reading to find some great writing tips perfect for budding authors.

Cressida Cowell

Cressida Cowell, the popular author of the books How to Train Your Dragon that has gone on to beadapted into two films and a TV show has shared her tips for writing ahead the release of her latest book, The Wizards of Once.

My Top Writing Tip – Read lots, to give you a feel for the way different stories can be told. Also practise writing as much as you can – write, and re-write – don’t worry if you don’t finish a story, as long as you are practising, that’s what matters. Also don’t worry if your stories aren’t very long: I didn’t start out writing books as long as the ones I write now. You can still do research when you are creating your own fantasy world. Kids often think that ideas get beamed into an author’s head, or that when you write fantasy you can’t do background reading, but many ideas in The Wizards of Once were sparked by books I read about the history of magic, and magical creatures.

Inspiration – You can be inspired by your own experiences. Ideas I had about Vikings and dragons during summer holidays when I was 9 years old became 12 books, and a film and TV series. I had a slightly unusual childhood (I spent my summers on an uninhabited Scottish Island), but the world we all live in is full of extraordinary, wonderful idea for stories. You only have to watch an episode of Blue Planet to see that’s true.

Draw a Map of your Imaginary Place – I always begin my stories with a map of my imaginary place. Lots of other authors have done the same – Robert Louis Stevenson drew a map of Treasure Island before starting to write. This is a really easy way of thinking about characters and setting.

Think you are Not Good at Writing? Then think again – Often kids say to be that they aren’t very good at writing, but I know that’s not true – what they’re struggling with is the mechanics of getting the words onto paper. If you can make up a game in the playground, or you tell your friends stories, you can be an author! Get an adult to write or type for you, if you need to.

An Ideas Notebook – Keep an ideas notebook so you can scribble down ideas and drawings. This doesn’t need to be neat, and no one should be correcting it for spelling, because spelling doesn’t matter. I kept a sketchbook for The Wizards of Once for about 5 years.”

Lauren St John

Lauren St John’s portfolio of popular books include The White Giraffe, Dolphin Song, The Last Leopard and The Elephant’s Tale. Lauren also wrote Dead Man’s Cove, winner of the 2011 Blue Peter Book of the Year Award and a part of the Laura Marlin mysteries. Her latest book, Kat Wolfe Investigates is due out on the 17th May. Lauren has also worked as a Journalist for the Sunday Times and has shared her tips for writing too!

You don’t have to Begin at the Beginning – If you’re having one of those days or even years where a blank piece of paper feels like a cliff you’re expected to scale without ropes, forget about starting with the first sentence of your novel, story or chapter. Write what you feel most passionate about writing. If you’re in the mood for writing a thrilling chase scene that takes place on page two or 200, write it now. If you wake in the middle of the night longing to write about the moment the girl in your story rescues a runaway horse, or makes a break for freedom from some ghastly boarding school, get up and write it then and there. Writing something that moves or excites you often makes it easier to get back into the flow.

Think like a Journalist – No, I don’t mean one of those horrid tabloid reporters that you see in the movies. I spent years working for The Sunday Times and the essence of my job was to capture the sights, sounds and magic of a situation for our readers. Whether I was swimming with sea lions and Hammerhead sharks (yes,that really happened) in the Galapagos Islands, or interviewing Sia or Tiger Woods, I had to make readers feel as if they were there. That helps me now as a novelist. I want my readers to experience the sights and sounds of riding at Badminton or racing across the Savannah on a white giraffe. I want them to feel the thrill of finding clues or outwitting assassins alongside Kat Wolfe, my newest young detective.

Walk in the Shoes of your Characters – Beyond a vague outline, I don’t plan my books. That’s because I like to solve the mystery with my characters. For instance, in Kat Wolfe Investigates, there’s a scene where Kat climbs a cliff path in a sea fog to the futuristic mansion of her first pet-sitting client. It’s a nail-biting scene, and when I wrote it I felt as if I was with her and as scared of what she might find as she was. That’s the best bit about writing children’s books. You get to have the adventure yourself!

Sir Michael Morpurgo

Children’s novelist and writer of War Horse Sir Michael Morpurgo has been honoured with an exhibition about his life and writing process at the V&A Museum. With a large number of other books published, such as the Mudpuddle Farm series or his latest novel Flamingo Boy, Michael has a wealth of experience to call upon when offering writing advice.

Live an interesting life – Get out there, go places, meet people and move outside your comfort zone. Read a lot and widely, learn from other writers, from the greats. Every book you read informs, builds confidence.  With every book you read you are subconsciously finding your own voice.

Write just a Little Every Day – Have a note book handy wherever you go – a writer’s sketch book – and jot down thoughts and ideas, memories, snatches of overheard conversations, moments of high drama, or quiet reflection.   Frequency is important. The more you do it the less inhibited you become, the less you worry about words. From these jottings will emerge the ideas for your stories and poems.

Take the Time before you settle on the Idea for your Story – Find an idea that you care about, that you’re really passionate about, then research around it, read around it and dream it out in your mind. Don’t be in a hurry to decide but make sure it feels right.

I don’t Plan the Plot though other Writers do – What works for me is as far as possible to forget I’m writing it at all. I tell it down onto the page, as if I’m telling it to one person only, my best friend. Remember to be comfortable when you write.  Don’t hunch over. Don’t stay sitting too long. Get up and walk about every half an hour. If you dry up, go and do something else, put it out of your mind and come back fresh.

Remember to Write for Yourself – not for a market and give yourself time to develop your own style, your own voice.    It takes a lifetime. Enjoy it!

Jill Murphy

Writer and Illustrator Jill Murphy is well known for a wide range of works including the Worst Witch novels. These novels have inspired a TV series that has been refreshed, and is still running on CBBC. Jill has also gone on to write more popular children’s books such as Whatever Next!, and Peace at Last. Below are the tips that she has for aspiring writers.

Try to be Original – Don’t be too influenced by the books you’ve been reading – we’ve already got those! Try to think of an original or unusual angle if you base your story on well-known genres.

Use your own Experiences – Try to remember things that have affected you, either happy or sad and weave a story round that time in your life. You can always give it a happy ending, even if the incident was a sad one – it’s your story, you can do what you like with it!

Beginning, Middle and End – Make sure that your first paragraph grabs the reader’s attention making them want to read the next part of your story, all the way through to a satisfying ending.  The ending can either tie up all your loose ends, or leave the reader guessing what happens next, paving the way for a sequel!

Save all your Energy for Writing Your Story – Don’t tell people about your story or read bits to friends. I find that if I do that, I feel as if I’ve already written it and sometimes don’t finish writing it down. Speaking, and writing something down are very different processes. For a start, when you’re reading your own story aloud, you can do funny voices or put in emphasis and make it sound funny or easy to understand. You must remember that your reader will have to make sense of your story without any verbal assistance from you.

I do hope these tips will help you on your quest for the very best story you’ve ever written!

Hopefully, these tips and tricks from popular authors will inspire you to get writing. Entries for the Wicked Young Writer Awards close on the 12th March, and entries are accepted from people aged 5-25. Happy writing!

Hurry – Entries for the 2018 Wicked Young Writer Awards close on 12th March 18

March 1st, 2018

NOTE: THIS WRITING AWARD IS NOW CLOSED FOR SUBMISSIONS

“I credit the Wicked Young Writers’ Award with helping me find my voice as a writer and build my confidence. Having my winning story printed in the Anthology and read aloud by an actor from Wicked was a treasured moment. I have recently published my first book, lost and found, and I credit this award with being the first people to believe in me as a writer and so helping me to start this journey. The opportunities this award gives are unrivalled and I would urge every young writer to enter.”

Sophie Max, Wicked Young Writers’ Award winner 11-14 category 2012.  Sophie and one other winner have also shared their TOP TIPS TO BUDDING NEW WRITERS as has the bestselling author of How to Train your Dragon, Cressida Cowell, has also shared her tips too.  Scroll down to view them.

Now in its 8th year, the Wicked Young Writer Awards is a chance for young people from across the UK and Ireland aged between 5 and 25, to write on a theme or subject of their choice, so absolutely anything! It’s your chance to get creative and write on any theme that interests you. Young people are free to submit entries written at home or at school, and teachers are encouraged to enter writing on behalf of their pupils. The judges want to hear your voices through original writing and stories.

 FICTION categories – any creative writing will be accepted including a story, play, or poem with five age ranges – 5-7 years old   •   8-10 years old   •   11-14 years old   •   15-17 years old   •   18-25 years old

NON-FICTION categories – enter the Wicked: For Good Award for Non-Fiction and write an article, essay, biography, review or letter, to name a few! – 15-17 years old   •   18-25 years old

Launched in 2010, the free-to-enter, annual creative writing competition for 5-25 year olds raises money for, and awareness of, the National Literacy Trust who campaign to improve public understanding of the vital importance of literacy.  The Wicked Young Writer Awards was established by the long-running musical WICKED to link the important messages of the production with a competition that would inspire young people to use creative writing to look at life a little differently. Since its launch in 2010, over 20,000 entries have been received.

Deadline for entries is  MONDAY 12th MARCH 2018. Entrants can submit their writing by visiting www.WickedYoungWriterAwards.com, where they will also find writing tips and resources from the Award judges.

JUDGING PANEL – The acclaimed WICKED YOUNG WRITER AWARDS, created and sponsored by the award-winning musical WICKED in association with the National Literacy Trust, are delighted to announce that author, award-winning journalist and former Labour MP Ed Balls is returning to join on the judging panel, alongside acclaimed Young People’s Laureate for London, Caleb Femi and Editor-in-Chief of First News, Nicky Cox MBE. Author and illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon books, Cressida Cowell, returns as Head Judge for the fourth consecutive year, together with long-standing judges Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust and Michael McCabe, Executive Producer of WICKED.

Check out some Top Tips to Budding New Writers from bestselling children’s author and one of this year’s judges, Cressida Cowell as well as two previous winners:

Cressida Cowell

My top writing tip would be to read lots, to give you a feel for the way different stories can be told. Also practice writing as much as you can – write, and re-write – don’t worry if you don’t finish a story, as long as you are practicing, that’s what matters. Also don’t worry if your stories aren’t very long: I didn’t start out writing books as long as the ones I write now.

You can still do research when you are creating your own fantasy world. Kids often think that ideas get beamed into an author’s head, or that when you write fantasy you can’t do background reading, but many ideas in The Wizards of Once were sparked by books I read about the history of magic, and magical creatures.

You can be inspired by your own experiences. Ideas I had about Vikings and dragons during summer holidays when I was 9 years old became 12 books, and a film and TV series. I had a slightly unusual childhood (I spent my summers on an uninhabited Scottish Island), but the world we all live in is full of extraordinary, wonderful idea for stories. You only have to watch an episode of Blue Planet to see that’s true.

I always begin my stories with a map of my imaginary place. Lots of other authors have done the same – Robert Louis Stevenson drew a map of Treasure Island before starting to write. This is a really easy way of thinking about characters and setting.

Often kids say to be that they aren’t very good at writing, but I know that’s not true – what they’re struggling with is the mechanics of getting the words onto paper. If you can make up a game in the playground, or you tell your friends stories, you can be an author! Get an adult to write or type for you, if you need to.

Keep an ideas notebook so you can scribble down ideas and drawings. This doesn’t need to be neat, and no one should be correcting it for spelling, because spelling doesn’t matter. I kept an sketchbook for The Wizards of Once for about 5 years.

Cressida Cowell’s new book, The Wizards of Once is available now.

Sophie Max (Co – Winner of the 11-12 category, Wicked Young Writer Awards in 2012):

1. Write down all your ideas! I carry a journal to jot down sparks of inspiration. If I don’t have my journal to hand, I’ll use the Notes app on my phone.
2. I always say that I know my characters better than I know some real people in my life. Perhaps its because I’m also an actress, but I think you’ve got to know them inside out to be able to get inside their head and write their experience authentically. You need to love them in order for your readers to love them!
3. Jump in at the deep end! Just write. Try and turn off your inner critic and let the words flow out. Don’t worry about the grammar, the structure, the word count. You can go back and edit later. I like to get some distance from my work by not looking at it for 2 weeks, then go back and re-read it: once for typos/spelling/ grammar, then multiple times more for the sense, word choices and the story, to check I’m expressing myself exactly how I want to. Then, I leave it again for a week or two before starting the whole editing process again.
4. Inspire yourself! Meet interesting people, go to art galleries, watch plays and movies, read a variety of books, travel, keep up with the news, go for walks…you never know what might inspire you. Cultivate yourself because your writing comes from you- the more interested you are, the more interesting your work will be!
5. Each person has a different voice- your biggest power as an author is YOU. Write from your heart and imagination. Write what you’re passionate about. Never worry about what someone else thinks or mimic another writer – you won’t write the same as someone else and that is your
strength!  GOOD LUCK AND HAPPY WRITING!!

Iona Mandal (co-winner of the 8 to 10 category, Wicked Young Writer Awards 2017)

King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Girls, Birmingham

“Good writing needs practice and is best nurtured over time. Try to write something new every day for the joy of it and refine your work continuously with time and patience.

Good reading makes good writing. A latent idea often needs a spark to emerge. Good books inspire conceptualizing new plots besides helping barge onto unfamiliar territory and subjects. Technology is a blessing and can be used judiciously to boost online reading. I tend to rely on personal experiences, anecdotes or even stories passed down orally over generations in the family. These can be valuable repositories in framing characters and situations from myriad perspectives as one chooses. Research becomes crucial especially if one is delving onto subjects demanding historical authenticity in terms of dates or facts. But I also tend to let my imagination run wild.

An inquisitive and sensitive mind always helps. Observation, often deliberately or unknowingly (till it becomes almost second nature) can help one make mental notes to be later translated onto paper.

A good piece of writing oozes power and yet remains silent. Hence, handpicking right words or phrases is vital so as to express ones thoughts and feelings as eloquently as possible so as to touch a chord with the reader. Building one’s vocabulary always helps but what is more important is to appreciate the meaning and feel of words so as to enrich the quality of writing.

Clarity of thought comes from knowing what you wish to accomplish exactly. It is worth keeping the plot simple with a few well thought out characters. Imperfections and peculiarities always work, so avoid clichés.

Normal is boring. There is a big, wide world out there waiting to be explored!”

RULES

  • 750-word limit (not including the title words)
  • Entrants must be aged between 5-25 years old when entering the Wicked Young Writer Awards
  • Entries can be hand-written or typed
  • Writing must be original and your own ideas
  • Judges criteria: originality, narrative, descriptive language, characterisation.
  • Ensure that all students include their name, surname and age on the entry form
  • Open to UK residents only

Full Rules can be found at Wicked Young Writer Awards

PRIZES

  • 120 finalists from across the UK will see their work published in the WICKED YOUNG WRITER AWARDS Anthology, which will be published in association with Young Writers (www.youngwriters.co.uk). The 120 finalists are also invited to an exclusive ceremony at London’s Apollo Victoria, home to the musical WICKED since 2006, where judges and members of the WICKED cast announce who has won in each category.
  • The overall winners from each category will win £50 book/eBook tokens, and the 5-14 year old winners will receive £100 worth of books for their school library kindly donated by Hachette Children’s Group.
  • Winners in the 15-17, 18-25 and FOR GOOD categories will also win an exclusive writing experience with one of the Awards’ literacy partners.
  • The three schools that submit the most entries will also win a Creative Writing Workshop for their school for up to thirty students delivered by WICKED’s education team.
  • Winners in all categories receive a VIP family experience at the West End production of WICKED, including tickets, an exclusive backstage tour and a meet-and-greet with members of the cast.

AWARD PARTNERS

NATIONAL LITERACY TRUST – The Award is proud to partner with National Literacy Trust.  One person in six in the UK lives with poor literacy. This holds them back at every stage of their life. As a child they won’t be able to succeed at school, as a young adult they will be locked out of the job market, and on becoming a parent they won’t be able to support their child’s learning. Lacking these vital skills undermines their well being and stops them making a full contribution to the economic and cultural life of our nation. The National Literacy Trust is a national charity dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK. It works to improve the reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in the UK’s most disadvantaged communities, where up to 40 per cent of people have literacy problems. Its research and analysis make it the leading authority on literacy. Because low literacy is intergenerational, the National Literacy Trust focuses its work on families, young people and children.

FIRST NEWS – First News is the Media Partner to the awards and is the UK’s only newspaper for young people. It was founded in 2006 by Sarah and Steve Thomson with editor Nicky Cox. It has always been independently owned and have no political affiliations. It is published both print and digital editions every Friday. Ten years on, over 2 million young people nationwide read First News each week with over half of all UK schools subscribing to the paper.

LOVEREADING – We have just joined the Awards as a partner for 2018. LoveReading is a unique family of websites including Lovereading.co.uk, Lovereading4Kids.co.uk and Lovereading4schools, and media channels which helps to connect writers, readers, publishers and organisations with an active and enthusiastic audience of book lovers.

THE LITERACY SHED – a unique online resource for teachers, home to a wealth of visual resources collected by primary school teacher Rob Smith over 10 years as a teacher. The Literacy Shed has over 24k followers on Twitter.

PRIMARY TIMES – over 18 million copies of Primary Times magazines distributed every year through primary schools in 59 regions across the UK and Ireland.

 

ABOUT WICKED
Based on the acclaimed novel by Gregory Maguire that ingeniously re-imagines the stories and characters created by L. Frank Baum in ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’, WICKED tells the incredible untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two sorcery students. Their extraordinary adventures in Oz will ultimately see them fulfil their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.  Now in its 12th year in London and acclaimed as “one of the West End’s true modern classics” (Metro), WICKED has already been seen by over 8.5 million people in London alone and is the recipient of over 100 major awards worldwide, including ten theatregoer-voted WhatsOnStage Awards (winning ‘Best West End Show’ on three occasions) and two Olivier Audience Awards in the UK.

 

 

Mark International Women’s Day with LoveReading4Kids!

February 27th, 2018

What Is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day, or IWD for short, is on 8th March and has been marked around the world for more than 100 years and is seen as a day to feature the achievements of women across history while also looking ahead, and making sure that women and girls have the same opportunities to succeed now and in the future.

One of the main events that is often focused on is the Women’s Suffrage movement which 100 years ago this year succeeded in getting votes for women. As a suffragette (the more militant women in the women’s suffrage movement), one of the most important figures was Emmeline Pankhurst who is the main character for Megan Rix’s Emmeline and the Plucky Pup. You can also read more about Women’s Suffrage, by clicking here.

Why is it important that we mark International Women’s Day?

It is really important that we celebrate IWD to remember the work and sacrifice that has gone in to women’s education and the chances they have today. The work that has been carried out throughout history has changed the lives of women today, with the education they are allowed to have, and the jobs they can choose. In the past women weren’t able to own anything, all their possessions belonged to their fathers, then their husbands.

However, there is still room for improvement, so celebrating IWD every year offers a chance to educate the younger generation of girls and boys, and help them to understand the need for an equal society. There is a wide range of books available for children and teenagers that will encourage the next generation of women to think big, as well as to educate boys and girls about Suffrage. These books include Things A Bright Girl Can Do (13+) by Sally Nicholls which is set in the 19th century and tells the story of three young suffragettes who come together from three different backgrounds in order to join the fight for a fairer society. Mollie on the March (9+/11+) by Anna Carey is about Mollie Carberry and her best friend Nora and their work to be involved in the suffragette movement, overcoming obstacles in the urgency and excitement of the times.

Fantastically Great Women Who Made History (5+/7+) by Kate Pankhurst (a distant relation of Emmeline), the follow up from Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World is an inspiring picture book packed full of women’s stories that will get young readers inspired and excited about the remarkable achievements of pioneering women and the power that everyone has to change the world. Lucy Beevor’s Amazing Women: 101 Lives to Inspire You is another beautifully illustrated collection of amazing achievements of more than 100 inspirational women of our time who have become trailblazers, campaigners, pioneers and creators including Beyonce, JK Rowling and Serena Williams. Another great recommendation is Girls for the Vote (9+/11+) by Linda Newbery which tells the tale of thirteen year old Polly who becomes friends with two suffragettes and, with her new found understanding, starts to question the views of those around her.

Little girls with dreams become women with great vision so do share The Little People Big Dreams series with children aged 5+. From designers and artists to scientists and engineers, all of the people in this trailblazing series went on to achieve incredible things. Yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream…Little People, Big Dreams is the original biography picture book series for young change-makers – a first library showing the true breadth of women’s achievement. Each book tells the childhood story of one of the world’s female icons in an entertaining, conversational way that works well for even the youngest non-fiction readers, allowing them to identify with the characters in each story.

You can also check out our Blog post on LoveReading.co.uk which has a wide range of books written by fantastic female authors as well as suggestions that are perfect for perusal this International Women’s Day.

Call for entries: 2018 Henrietta Branford Writing Competition

February 27th, 2018

Call for entries: 2018 Henrietta Branford Writing Competition

For young people who enjoy writing stories! – Finish a story started by 2017 Branford Boase Award winner, Beetle Boy author M. G. Leonard.

The Henrietta Branford Writing Competition, the annual competition for young people which runs in conjunction with the Branford Boase Award, is now open.

The Branford Boase Award recognises a debut children’s author and their editor and was set up in memory of the outstanding children’s writer Henrietta Branford and the gifted editor, Wendy Boase, Editorial Director of Walker Books. They both died of cancer in 1999.

The Henrietta Branford Writing Competition aims to find and encourage writers of the future, something Henrietta Branford was always keen to do.

The 2018 competition is open now and anyone under the age of 19 can enter. Entrants are invited to complete this story begun by last year’s winner, author of Beetle Boy, M. G. Leonard:

‘The map had led us to an old wall covered with ivy. I reached through the leaves till I was touching the bricks and felt my way sideways. The wall continued three paces then changed from the rough touch of fired sand to the smooth damp texture of rotting wood. We pulled the evergreen curtain aside. Beneath it was a hidden door. I grabbed the heavy iron ring handle that was riveted to the ancient wood and twisted it with both hands, hoping the door would open.’

The story should be no longer than 1000 words, must follow on from the starter paragraph, and have a title. All entrants must live in the UK and be under 19 years of age. Entries will be judged by Prue Goodwin, consultant and lecturer in children’s literature. She says:

‘We are looking for stories that keep the reader wanting to know what is going to happen from beginning to end, are imaginative and unpredictable, and are written with a genuine reader in mind’.

Six winners will be invited to attend the Branford Boase Award celebration party in London in July.  There they will meet M. G. Leonard and the authors shortlisted for the 2018 award as well as editors, publishers, agents, and other professionals in this field. They will receive a copy of each of the books shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award and be able to have their books signed.

The closing date for the competition is Saturday 21 April 2018.

Full details are available on the Branford Boase website:

 

 

A Q&A with the author Bea Davenport on her latest novel The Misper

February 16th, 2018

Bea’s first novel The Serpent House was written during her Creative Writing PhD at Newcastle University. Her tutors were Jackie Kay, the award-winning poet and writer, and Professor Kim Reynolds, an internationally-renowned expert in children’s literature.

In its early, unpublished form, The Serpent House was shortlisted for The Times/Chicken House award.

The Misper was longlisted in a Mslexia Writing for Children competition and is published by The Conrad Press.
Bea has also written two crime novels for adults, In Too Deep and This Little Piggy, and teaches journalism and creative writing.

She lives near Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland with her partner and children.

Describe The Misper in one sentence?
Anna and Zoe turn to magic to try to shake off their geeky friend Kerry – but they should’ve been careful what they wished for.

Who’s your favourite character in the novel?
Anna’s the nicest of the three. But I have a massive soft spot for troublesome Zoe. She’s so bright and so prickly.

Shakespeare or Dickens?
Both, of course! But if I have to choose, George Eliot.

Favourite author?
I can never answer this as I don’t have a single favourite. I have a huge long list and it changes from week to week. At the moment Neil Gaiman is very near the top of the list but it’s very often the last author I read.

Favourite character from a book?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Pippi Longstocking. I like a free spirit!

Prefer books or the film adaptations?
Always, always books! It’s not that there aren’t some fantastic film adaptations, as there are, but if I was on a desert island I’d rather it had a library than a cinema.

If you weren’t an author, you would be…
I was a journalist for many years and that was a fun job. And I’ve always liked the idea of playing a baddie character in a TV soap.

Favourite place/setting to read a book?
On holiday, anywhere in the sun. That way I don’t get the niggling feeling I should be working instead of reading.

What inspired you to write your book?
A couple of things: When I was very little, I remember the excitement of organising a Halloween party and that was the starting point for the story – but then it got darker and darker, so it needed to be for older readers than I first intended. But also, I’ve seen what it is like to feel on the outside edge of a friendship group and I also know what it’s like when someone tags onto you that you don’t really want around. So I wanted to explore friendship dynamics.

If you had a dinner party what three authors or characters from literature would you invite?
First would be Edith Nesbit, author of the first ever historical time fantasy for children (The Story of the Amulet). I’d love to ask her about the genre she started and the way it’s so popular today. I’d invite Dorothy Parker to make everyone laugh. Finally I’d invite Mary Poppins, so that she could magic us up a feast and clear it up at the end with a click of her fingers.

When did you start writing?
Like most writers, I scribbled stories from the age of about eight or nine. They were just bad versions of Enid Blyton’s adventure tales. I carried on writing while working as a journalist, but I only had the courage to show anyone my writing a few years ago.

How long does it take to write a book?
It depends on the book and a lot of other factors. My first crime novel for adults took a few years, because I only got the chance to write now and again while working and having young children. The second adult novel only took a few months! The Misper took about a year to write the first draft but it’s been through a zillion changes, so all in all, I guess it took three or four years.

Where do you get your ideas from?
Everywhere! I’m a typical journalist – I love listening to what people say and to what they don’t say, and I’m always on the spy for story ideas. There’s hardly a day goes by when I don’t find myself thinking, ‘Oooh! There’s a good story idea…’

Do you base your characters on people you know?
Not deliberately! But I think all writers use little bits of people they’ve met and weave them together to make a composite character. My partner spotted the character of Tom in The Serpent House doing something that he regularly does. Fortunately he didn’t mind me pinching his actions to use in the book!

To read an extract and to see what the Lovereading.co.uk editorial expert thought click here.

Designing a book cover for arresting debut novel: an Art Director’s view…

February 10th, 2018

When a very special teen/YA debut novel, She, Myself  and I (#SheMyselfAndI) by Emma Young (@EmmaELYoung) came in to Little Tiger Press, the art director Paul Coomey (@MrCoomey) knew he needed a cover artist who was adept at combining a complex narrative in an arresting visual.  Levente Szabo (@briskartist) was the first person he and the team at Little Tiger thought of and luckily, Levente was available to take on the project.  We gave him free rein to apply his technique of overlapping and merging illustrations to the intertwined stories of Rosa and Sylvia. Levente’s initial ideas were promising and thought provoking:

The idea of Sylvia falling through the ice led us to further explore the relationship of what this evokes to Rosa’s journey to finding her identity. Levante pushed this idea in a further series of concepts:

He then built on these and explored different colourways:

Which led us to our final cover!

 

 

She, Myself and I is published on 8th March 2018.

It is a very special debut novel for teens/YAs and perfect for fans of  The Art of Being Normal, Extraordinary Means and Faceless

 

Paul Jennings on the inspiration behind his novella A Different Dog

January 22nd, 2018

I have had a number of different occupations over the last fifty years: a special school teacher, a speech pathologist, a lecturer in reading education and an author. A Different Dog draws on many experiences in these fields.  And of course, it also draws on my own childhood.

If you ask me, ‘Where did the story come from?’ that’s another thing altogether. I will have to say that I don’t know. It was a matter of putting my hand into the lucky dip of my own mind. There are many presents in that barrel and they are all wrapped so you don’t know what you are going to get.

One of the influences on a writer would have to be the books that he or she has read themselves. An author cannot copy another’s work and each writer must find their own voice. But somewhere in the back of our minds are tucked the stories we have enjoyed in the past.

Of the books that I loved when I was aged between thirteen and fifteen I can think of three which I turn back to and read again and again. They are still readily available more than fifty years later. Teenagers and adults love these stories. I still have my old copies and like to look at their torn and worn covers which beckon me from years gone by. Here they are:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. A boy and a runaway slave on the Mississippi River. How I wished I was on that raft. And little did I know that I would still be amazed by their wonderful adventures all these years later.

The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico. A girl, a bird and disabled man feature in this moving story. When you finish it you just know that there is an untold truth hinted at within the main story and it makes you think for weeks after you have read it.

The Old Man And The Sea by Ernest Hemingway. This is a lovely story about a boy, an old man and a fish. Exciting, sometimes sad but always making you ask yourself, ‘Could I ever do that?’

I don’t know if these authors influenced me when I wrote, A Different Dog but if you read any of them you might like to give it some thought.

I can tell you how I think A Different Dog came into being. When I was eight years old, I had to bury a dead dog. This unpleasant memory was the starting point for my new book. I began writing about how I felt while I was digging the grave for the poor animal. But as the story developed I dropped this bit out altogether and came up with a dog named Chase that was alive but very strange indeed.

As the wrapping paper came off, something else revealed itself and the story changed completely. It was not about death any more but had ended up being about …

Well, what do you think?

 

Paul Jennings, 2017

A Different Dog by Paul Jennings is published by Old Barn Books and available from 1st February 2018

To hear more from the author click on the following link:

https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/936116803988/paul-jennings

Courtesy & © SBS TV

Sita Brahmachari on her latest novel Zebra Crossing Soul Song

January 18th, 2018

Could you describe Zebra Crossing Soul Song to us in five words? 

Life-lessons

Music

Memory

Friendship

Crossings

 

What inspired you to write this book

Fifteen years ago, when my son was four years old, a zebra crossing man saved his life. I wrote this in my notebook:
‘Zebra Crossing Story’
A story about a Zebra Crossing man who saves a boy’s life. The crossing as a place of learning, growing, philosophy, psychology music, river, life….
In the story that has emerged all these years later, 18 year old Lenny looks back at his growing up through memories on the crossing from nursery to sixth form.

 

Music features quite heavily throughout Lenny’s story. Can you tell us a little about how you used music in the book and why it’s so important to the story? 

The story is written in music memory tracks. I love the way music prompts memories, so I chose some tracks that prompted strong memories for me and from listening to the songs I thought about my characters and how they might connect to them. My imagination started roaming and the voice of Otis the Zebra Crossing Man came to me.
My son has written songs from an early age, so I thought why not make a Zebra Crossing man who was an ex-musician and for some reason has stopped performing…. A song man who shares his favourite tracks with a young singer-songwriter as he crosses the road.  Music, and the freedom to explore it, is a vital part of Lenny’s journey through life. It’s a massive part of his education and growing up – as the creative arts are for so many young people. It’s playful and fun and I really loved playing with the form of voices in song… It is the ‘food of love’ after all!

 

You’ve described Otis as one of your quiet angels like Grace in Worry Angels, can you tell us a little more about this idea?

If Otis wrote a CV his working life wouldn’t look that high flying or ambitious. You could say the same for Netti in Brace Mouth, False Teeth (who’s a carer for the elderly) and Grace (who helps children with emotional difficulties in an out of school centre in Worry Angels). The work all these characters do are not obviously glamorous. Netti in Brace Mouth, False Teeth calls these roles ‘Heart Work.’ Heart work is work that may not earn you much money and is often (wrongly) undervalued in this society, but it is work you find deeply fulfilling.  A Zebra Crossing person is one such angel. In my case, someone doing this job saved my child’s life. They were literally his guardian angel. No one made a big deal about it at the time. No one made him into a hero. He was just doing his job in a quiet unassuming way. Otis may not seem that ‘quiet’ a character when you first start reading his voice but you will discover that many deep currents flow under the crossings that take place on the road, and the fact that he returns every day to help children to safety makes him into one of my ‘quiet angels’.  A quiet angel doesn’t have to do something big like save a life. He or she is often someone who can change your day with a small act of kindness, a word of encouragement, taking time to have a cup of tea with you, make a worry angel or teach you a song, as Otis does to put a spring in Lenny’s step as he struggles through school.

 

What one piece of advice would you give to someone, like Lenny, who wants to start writing?

Otis gives the best song writing advice and it is advice that works well for writing in general!

Listen up now,man,if you waan be a

Musi-shan

Tek a lyric down

Catch dem word dat hinspire

Listen deep inside de music

See what plays thru ya

See what plays true to ya

To write you’ve got to be taken by a story yourself and give it enough attention and freedom to discover why you care about it enough to tell it.

 

Finally, a huge congratulations on your recent IBBY honour. Your books have been recognised by Amnesty International in a similar way. What does this sort of recognition mean to you?

Thank you so much.  When writing I think a great deal about how young people are experiencing growing up today. I write stories about characters who, like Lenny in Zebra Crossing Soul Song, are beginning to explore how the world impacts on them and how they will impact on the world. Many of my characters are setting out in life facing some massive challenges and inequalities. Both Amnesty and IBBY are International organisations with human rights and equality at their heart. I write stories with a diverse cast of characters with roots that spread far and wide across the globe and my work with refugee people alongside Jane Ray is a constant reminder of the preciousness of our freedom of speech to tell stories. For these reasons the endorsement of my books by IBBY and Amnesty (International organisations focused on a global, humane family) means a great deal to me.

On another note… people assume that the more books you write the more confident you grow. That is not necessarily the writer’s logic. So these affirmations do give a confidence that the stories I’m writing are finding passionate readers.

 

Zebra Crossing Soul Song by Sita Brahmachari published by Barrington Stoke is a tender tale of memory and overcoming loss. Lenny has spent most of his life at the zebra crossing, and for many of those years Otis, the singing `zebra man’ has helped him on his way. But when Otis’ sad past comes back to haunt him, Lenny is forced to face his crossroads alone. Only by examining the memories of their friendship can Lenny discover the truth. It will be loved by all who read it but it is also suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 13+. 

Enter to win a family break to Salisbury

January 16th, 2018

*****************NOTE : THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED**************

Don’t miss out! Win a family break to Salisbury – CLICK HERE TO ENTER.

Here at Lovereading.co.uk and Lovereading4kids.co.uk we have joined with VisitWiltshire and are delighted to be giving you a chance to win a wonderful family break in Wiltshire. You could see yourself indulging in the finest food and slumbering comfortably into one of the grand rooms at The Red Lion Salisbury for two nights. The Red Lion Hotel is located in medieval city of Salisbury, which is home to all your favourite stores as well as independent shops, restaurants, cafes and parks and green spaces.

 

 

There are many seasonal events in Salisbury, and you can find out what’s on here. You will also receive a family ticket to Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, the gardens are especially beautiful in the winter, with bold coloured stems, scents, and fabulous foliage, you can be sure to be impressed. For the children there is also a play park, and you can stop off in the Victorian tea room to warm up and treat yourself to a traditional cream tea.  

To enter click here.  Entries close 31st January 2018.

Terms and Conditions

Red Lion: Two night stay includes breakfast for two adults and up to two children sharing a family room. Subject to availability and cannot be exchanged or redeemed for cash value. Not to be used in combination with any other offer. Valid until 1st Dec 2018 and excludes bank holidays

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens: Valid for day entry, Not to be used for special events or group entry. Voucher is not transferable or refundable, no Cash Value. Ticket must be redeemed on entry. Valid until 31 Dec 2018. Gardens open daily from 10am – closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Prize admits 2 adults and accompanying children Under 17 FREE to Sir Harold Hillier Gardens.

By providing us with your contact details when you enter the competition you are agreeing to future contact from VisitWiltshire and its selected partners.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

 

Coram Voice’s creative writing competition for children in care and young care leavers returns

January 15th, 2018

Coram Voice is excited to announce the return of ‘Voices’, its national writing competition for children in care and young care leavers, for a third year running. The competition is open for entries until 8 February 2018.

Coram Voice, a charity that provides a range of services for children and young people in and around the care system, first launched the competition in 2016 as a platform for care-experienced young people to express their creative talents and to celebrate their voices.

Research conducted with previous Voices shortlisted entrants found that participation in the competition had inspired them to write more, allowed them to be recognised for their talents and for some, even helped them to come to terms with being in care.*

The theme of this year’s competition is ‘Who or What Makes You Proud’ and entries can be submitted online at coramvoice.org.uk/voices18 in any written form including poems, short stories, raps and newspaper articles with a 500 word limit. The competition is grouped in four age categories: primary school, lower secondary school (age 11-14), upper secondary school (age 15-18) and care leavers.

The entries for Voices 2018 will be judged by a panel of experts, each with personal experience of, or a special interest in the care system including:

  • Jackie Long, Social Affairs Editor for Channel 4 News
  • Lucy Spraggan, singer-songwriter, and newly approved foster carer
  • Ashley John-Baptiste, BBC reporter and producer
  • Jenny Molloy, author of ‘Hackney Child’
  • Mr Gee, spoken word artist
  • Lola Jaye, author of ‘Orphan Sisters’
  • Lisa Cherry, author of ‘The Brightness of Stars’
  • Dreadlock Alien, slam and performance poet

The winner of each category will receive a tablet** and £100 shopping vouchers, and will be announced by the judges at an awards ceremony in London on 9 April 2018.

“I know that storytelling is one of the most powerful ways we can understand each other’s unique experiences. That’s why I am so pleased to judge Voices 2018, a competition that amplifies the voices of young people in the care system and gives them a platform to tell the world their stories.  I can’t wait to read what they produce and celebrate their achievements.”

One of the judges, Lola Jaye commented: “I know that storytelling is one of the most powerful ways we can understand each other’s unique experiences. That’s why I am so pleased to judge Voices 2018, a competition that amplifies the voices of young people in the care system and gives them a platform to tell the world their stories.  I can’t wait to read what they produce and celebrate their achievements.”

One young person who previously entered Voices said: “The competition is a safe opportunity to share your personal story – it’s a wonderful way to embrace your history and yourself” and another added “to put what you feel on a piece of paper is quite therapeutic.”

Another previous entrant commented: “It can be the start of a journey… it opens up new opportunities and also shows people the potential you have.”

Voices 2018 is open for entries until 8 February 2018. For more information about the competition and how to enter, please visit coramvoice.org.uk/voices18.

For further information and T&Cs go to  coramvoice.org.uk/voices18

 

 

 


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