Monthly Archives: May 2019

Speakers

Chloe Seager

How To Get Your YA/MG Novel Published

Tips on writing your MG/YA novel and what to do once you’ve finished it.

Chloe is a Children’s/YA agent at the Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV & Film Agency.

She began her career at Titan Books and it was working with V.E. Schwab that made her realise her true passion was in YA and children’s. She joined Northbank Talent in 2015 where she built a children’s and YA list from scratch, selling rights in the UK and internationally. Whilst there she worked with Carnegie nominated author Emily Critchley, the children’s tie-in titles of Rachel Wells’ bestselling Alfie series, and discovered debut authors including Anna Fargher, Ben Oliver and Inky Willis. In 2019 she joined the team at Madeleine Milburn. 

Chloe is also a writer. She penned the Emma Nash books, a YA series published with HQ. She runs #bookclubYA, the sister event to #drinkYA, and co-hosts YaOughta!, a podcast about YA books.

She is looking for all kinds of middle-grade and YA fiction and non-fiction. 

Dave Rudden

The Art of Interrogation

Summary: How to Strive for Original, Quality Work Through Interrogation of Theme, Setting, Character and Word Choice

Dave Rudden is the author of the award-winning Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy and Doctor Who: Twelve Angels Weeping. Follow him at @d_ruddenwrites

Haleh Agar

Submitting Your Manuscript to Agents—Is it Ready Yet?

Summary: How do you know when your manuscript is ready for submission? It can be difficult to tell when to send your manuscript off to agents and publishers. This talk provides guidance on how to check that your manuscript is in the best shape possible so that you can approach the submission process with confidence. There will also be tips on what to put in your cover letter to agents to get your submission noticed. 

Haleh Agar is a teacher and author. Her debut novel OUT OF TOUCH will be published by W&N (Orion, Hachette) in Spring 2020. Her short fiction and non-fiction are published in different journals, anthologies and magazines including Mslexia and The London Magazine. Her essay ‘On Writing Ethnic Stories’ won The London Magazine essay prize and her short fiction piece ‘Jellyfish’ won the Brighton Prize. She most recently ran a workshop on characterization and people of color in fiction at the U.K. Flash Fiction Festival. She loves a sunny afternoon with nothing to do. 

Lauren James

Writing with STEM

Summary: I discuss how scientific research I’ve done inspired events in my novels. I also show a presentation including examples of spreadsheets used to accurately calculate the figures involved in my writing, such as spaceship travel times and time travel figures. Includes discussion of Einstein’s theory of relativity, time dilation, extinction and evolution.

Lauren James was born in 1992, and graduated in 2014 from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. She is the Carnegie-nominated British Young Adult author of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, The Quiet at the End of the World and The Next Together series.

She started writing during secondary school English classes, because she couldn’t stop thinking about a couple who kept falling in love throughout history. She sold the rights to the novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university.

Her books have sold over fifty thousand copies in the UK alone, and been translated into five languages worldwide. She has been described as ‘Gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘A strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly.

Her other novels include The Last Beginning, named one of the best LGBT-inclusive works for young adults by the Independent, and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, which was inspired by a Physics calculation she was assigned at university. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and all of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. The Quiet at the End of the World considers the legacy and evolution of the human race into the far future.

Lauren is published in the UK by Walker Books and in the US by HarperCollins. She lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2020. She lectures at the University of Cambridge and Coventry University, and works with Writing West Midlands, providing creative writing courses to children through the Spark Young Writers programme.

Maz Evans

This Writing Business

Summary: This Writing Business: Writing a book is just the beginning – learn a little about the business of being a writer from someone who’s had to learn from a lot of mistakes!

Maz’s debut children’s novel Who Let the Gods Out was published by Chicken House in February 2017 and was selected as the Waterstone’s Children’s Book of the Month. It entered the bestseller charts on its first week on sale, has sold to 18 countries worldwide and received over 20 award nominations, including the Carnegie Medal, Branford Boase, Books Are My Bag and Waterstone’s Children’s Book of the Year. She has written three further books in the series (Simply The Quest, Beyond The Odyssey and Against All Gods) while teaching creative writing around the UK and beyond to all ages, from Reception to University. 

Patrice Lawrence

What Happens Next?
Six easy ways to shove your plot along when you’re stuck

You’ve been bombing along with your work in progress and suddenly you grind to a halt. Here are six easy(ish) ways to write yourself out of that dead end.

Patrice Lawrence is an award-winning writer for children and young people. Her debut YA novel, Orangeboy, won the Bookseller YA Prize and the Waterstones Prize for Older Children’s Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award and many regional awards. Indigo Donut, won the Bristol Crimefest YA prize. Her recent books include Snap, a special World Book Day day, Toad Attack for younger readers and Diver’s Daughter, part of Scholastic’s Voices series inspired by UK Black and Asian history. Patrice has contributed to several short story anthologies including Malory Towers: New Class of Malory Towers. Patrice’s third YA novel, Rose, Interrupted is published in July. 

Rashmi Sirdeshpande

THE BUSINESS OF BOOKS –
WHY WRITING IS LIKE RUNNING A STARTUP

The business of writing picture books – everything from building your WHY and goal-setting to understanding the market and thinking (and working) strategically. [Focus on picture books but broader lessons can be applied more widely!]

Rashmi is a lawyer and MBA turned children’s writer with the curiosity of a 3-year-old. She was a Penguin Random House WriteNow mentee and her nonfiction picture book debut HOW TO BE EXTRAORDINARY, illustrated by Annabel Tempest, is out with Puffin in August 2019. An exciting pipeline of fiction and nonfiction books to follow over the next few years too. 

Sophie Cleverly

Overcoming Obstacles –
How To Write When Everything Is Wrong.

Summary: Many of us face obstacles that get in the way of writing – whether it’s due to physical or mental health problems, raising children, working other jobs, or just struggling with motivation. In this talk I will discuss my own experiences, and give my top ten tips for overcoming these problems and getting your words on the page. 

Sophie Cleverly was born in Bath in 1989. She studied for a BA in Creative Writing and an MA in Writing For Young People. Her Scarlet and Ivy series is published by HarperCollins worldwide, and has been translated into 5 different languages so far.

Aside from writing, she can often be found blogging about symphonic metal, watching fantastical TV and struggling to find her way out of her ever-increasing pile of books.

Workshops

Aisha Bushby

How to find an Agent

A workshop on how write the perfect cover letter and synopsis, and tips and tricks on finding an agent.

Aisha Bushby was first published in Stripes Publishing’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ YA BAME short story anthology in 2017. It went on to win a YA Special Achievement Award. Her debut MG novel, ‘A Pocketful of Stars’ is out on 8th August 2019 with Egmont. Before Aisha became a writer she worked undercover as an agent’s assistant, and hopes to help aspiring authors find representation.

Alexandra Sheppard

Myths Made Modern: How to put a fresh spin on ancient tales

Explore the enduring appeal of myths, legends and fairy tales, plus learn how to modernise these tales in fresh ways for a new audience.

Alexandra Sheppard is a YA Author from North London, and her debut novel OH MY GODS was published by Scholastic in 2019.

Danielle Jawando

Creating Contemorary YA Characters 

Explore how to craft engaging, realistic and three-dimensional characters. Perfect for those who are writing contemporary YA. 

Danielle Jawando is an author and screenwriter. Danielle has had several short plays perfumed at the King’s Arms in Manchester and at Stratford Circus in London. In 2015, Danielle worked as a storyline writer on Coronation Street, she has was also commissioned by the BBC to write a short story for radio (aimed at children between the ages of 5 and 7). Her first children’s book, a biography about the life of Maya Angelou, will be published by Laurence King in September. Her debut YA novel ‘And The Stars Were Burning Brightly’ will be out with Simon & Schuster next year.

Emma Read

Writing for Younger Readers

Discussion, advice and practical exercises on writing Young Middle Grade.

Emma Read is the author of Milton the Mighty (out in June with Chicken House), which was shortlisted for the Bath Children’s Novel Award.
She is a WriteMentor Spark mentor and reader for both WMCNA and Bath Novel Award. Her passion is for writing and reading middle grade fiction and particularly books for younger readers which encourage a lifelong love of reading.

James Nicol

World Building with James Nicol 

Join The Apprentice Witch author, James Nicol, for a workshop on world building to help bring your wordy worlds to life! 

James Nicol has loved books and stories his whole life. As a child he spent hours absorbed in novels, watching epic 1980s cartoons or adventuring in the wood at the bottom of the garden. He lives near York, in a house with too many books and too many musical instruments, with his partner and a black and white cockapoo called Bonnie.

Jenny Pearson / Sam Copeland

#writefunny

Sam & Jenny will be discussing their writing processes and helping you to heap humour into your own work.

Sam Copeland is author of the laugh-out-loud MG book, Charlie Changes into a Chicken (Penguin). His second instalment Charlie turns into a T-Rex is out in August. He is also a literary agent at RCW. 
Jenny Pearson’s funny MG debut, The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates will be published in 2020 by Usborne. She is represented by Sam Copeland. 

Jo Gatford / Sarah Lewis

Write A Novel In 60 Minutes

A whistlestop tour of story structure for writers in a hurry.

Writers’ HQ runs writers’ retreats and online courses for badass writers with no time or money. https://writershq.co.uk

Joseph Elliot

Unlocking Creative Potential

Through exercises and practical advice, this workshop will look at how to start getting words onto the page and ways to encourage creativity.

Originally from Bristol, Joseph studied English Literature and Drama at the University of Manchester, before doing an MA in performance at Central School of Speech and Drama. For the last ten years, he has worked as an actor, predominantly in comedy and children’s television. Recently, he co-created, wrote and starred in InterNOT, a comedy sketch show commissioned by the BBC, which parodies the bizarre world of YouTube. He is part of the writing teams for BBC’s BAFTA-winning TV shows Class Dismissed and Swashbuckle, as well as a new female-led sketch show, The Amelia Gething Complex.

Joseph’s debut novel, The Good Hawk, will be published by Walker Books UK and Walker US in January 2020.

Twitter: @joseph_elliott

Kate Brauning

Magnet First Lines: How To Rivet Your Readers
(Including Agents & Editors)

Kate will present the 7 key elements that bestselling and award-winning books use for their opening sentences and dissect examples. Attendees may bring their first sentence for critique, and Kate will evaluate 1 first line from each attendee, time permitting.

Kate Brauning is an author of YA fiction (How We Fall, Simon Pulse) and an editor in the publishing industry, having worked with Lerner Publishing Group, Entangled Publishing, Carol Mann Literary agency, and others. Her books include USA Today bestsellers, a Rita finalist, a Kirkus starred review, two Junior Library Guild selections, a Goodreads Best YA of the Month, and more. Now she runs the Breakthrough Writers’ Boot Camp, a professional development program for established writers who want to take their career to the next level. In her spare time, she makes candy, bread, pies, and cakes, hunts down new music, and reads just about everything. You can find more about her at www.katebrauning.com or follow her on Twitter: @KateBrauning. 

Kesia Lupo

Writing YA Fantasy

A series of short exercises, writing prompts and advice to help participants develop a YA fantasy idea, followed by a Q&A.

Kesia Lupo is Senior Editor at Chicken House where she edits a roster of brilliant authors writing for children aged 7 to YA. She is also the author of YA fantasy novel We Are Blood and Thunder, published with Bloomsbury Children’s Books in April 2019.

Lindsay Galvin

Reel in your reader!
How to craft a first page which will make them turn over

You don’t have long to hook that reader, and you know every word matters. But which words to choose? How to get enough information into just one book page that they absolutely have to turn to the next? This workshop breaks your a story opening down into 5 simple key elements. I will examine examples from modern and classic books MG and YA, live edit some of your story openings and give tips on how to orientate your new reader into your story world so they just can’t leave. Let’s reel them in…

Lindsay was lucky enough to be raised in a house of stories, music, and love of the sea. She left part of her heart underwater after living and working in Thailand where she spent hundreds of blissful hours scuba diving. Forced now to surface for breath, she lives in sight of the chillier Sussex sea with her husband and two sons. When she is not writing, she can be found reading, swimming or practicing yoga. She has a degree in English Language and Literature, is fascinated by psychology and the natural world, and teaches Science. Lindsay hadn’t written creatively since childhood until the idea for her debut novel The Secret Deep splashed into her mind, and now she’s hooked.

Louie Stowell

World building workshop

I’ll be giving a Twitter dm based group workshop about world building. Come with questions and problems you want to resolve in your world building. Happy to answer other writing questions too as part of the chat! ESP relevant to writers of fantasy and sci fi.

Writer and editorial director. I’ve been writing non fiction for years and my first novel is out June 6th: The Dragon in the Library from Nosy Crow. 

Maz Evans

Story, Plot and the Difference Between the Two

Stories and plots are the building blocks of writing – but they are different things. A discussion of different ways to approach both to find the one that works for you.

Maz’s debut children’s novel Who Let the Gods Out was published by Chicken House in February 2017 and was selected as the Waterstone’s Children’s Book of the Month. It entered the bestseller charts on its first week on sale, has sold to 18 countries worldwide and received over 20 award nominations, including the Carnegie Medal, Branford Boase, Books Are My Bag and Waterstone’s Children’s Book of the Year. She has written three further books in the series (Simply The Quest, Beyond The Odyssey and Against All Gods) while teaching creative writing around the UK and beyond to all ages, from Reception to University. 

Olivia Levez

Trust Me, I’m a Narrator

It’s all very well creating a convincing voice – but what if you want a narrator who gets a kick out of convincing the reader? A deceiver? A with-holder of facts? A keeper of secrets? Or just plain forgetful? A guide to make the ultimate unreliable narrator.

Olivia is the author of two critically acclaimed YA books, THE ISLAND and THE CIRCUS. As well as writing, Olivia taught English for many years at a large secondary school. In 2015, she founded Scribblers, a Worcester based critique group. Olivia often walks on the Malvern Hills, where a starry night and a snowy day made her wonder about an alien girl landing there. 

P.M. Freestone

Building believable worlds

Whether you write fantasy, sci fi, historical or even contemporary fiction, it’s crucial you immerse your readers in the world your characters inhabit. But where do you even start? This workshop offers tips, tricks and tools to build a believable world that enhances your story, challenges your characters and transports your reader.

P. M. Freestone writes young adult fiction. Her debut fantasy novel, ‘Shadowscent: The Darkest Bloom’ is out now in the UK and Australia, and publishes later in 2019 in the USA. It is the first in a planned duology and is so far set to be translated into seven other languages. She lives in Edinburgh, Scotland with her partner and rescue dog.

Rachel Leyshon

Self-editing: an editor’s guide

Editors are there to help – but every author needs to know how to edit their own work, to build confidence and develop a good, creative eye.

Rachel Leyshon grew up in Northern Ireland and South Wales. She read English at the University of Birmingham and at the Open University, and began her career in publishing in 1994, shortly after graduating. Her first job was at a literary agency, though she went on to work as an editor of adult fiction and non-fiction, notably at Weidenfeld & Nicolson and Orion, before finding her natural home in children’s books at the Chicken House. Her authors have been translated into many languages and won multiple awards, including the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. In 2017 she won the Branford Boase, and was shortlisted for Editor of the Year at the British Book Awards.

Rashmi Sirdeshpande

WRITING NONFICTION PICTURE BOOKS

An introduction to the world of nonfiction picture books. It’s a chance to talk through what’s happening in the industry, where ideas come from, and how to pitch and write a nonfiction picture book.

Rashmi is a lawyer and MBA turned children’s writer with the curiosity of a 3-year-old. She was a Penguin Random House WriteNow mentee and her nonfiction picture book debut HOW TO BE EXTRAORDINARY, illustrated by Annabel Tempest, is out with Puffin in August 2019. An exciting pipeline of fiction and nonfiction books to follow over the next few years too. 

Serena Patel

What’s so funny?

A brief introduction to writing funny fiction for younger readers. Where to look for inspiration, how to make a funny scene really leap off the page and a few tips on the do’s and don’ts of writing humour for kids. 

Serena Patel is a mum of two from the Midlands. She works as a part time training co-ordinator and is the family’s finder of all lost things. She writes for children because the opportunities to be silly and create funny characters and situations are endless. Her first book in the Anisha Mistry series is being published by Usborne in September 2019. 

Sophie Cameron

LGBTQIAP+ characters in YA fiction 

Discussion on LGBTQIAP+ representation in YA and advice on creating great queer characters.

Sophie Cameron is a YA author from the Black Isle, now based in Spain. Her debut novel, OUT OF THE BLUE, was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and named one of the best books of 2018 by Kirkus. Her second novel, LAST BUS TO EVERLAND, was published by Macmillan Children’s Books earlier this year. 

Sophie Cleverly

Writing A Super Series

Are you thinking of writing a series for children or young adults? Join this workshop to find out my thoughts on writing and finishing one – as well as how I turned one book idea into six! We will have a friendly discussion about series publishing in general, what we think works and what doesn’t, and I will answer any questions you may have.

Sophie Cleverly was born in Bath in 1989. She studied for a BA in Creative Writing and an MA in Writing For Young People. Her Scarlet and Ivy series is published by HarperCollins worldwide, and has been translated into 5 different languages so far.

Aside from writing, she can often be found blogging about symphonic metal, watching fantastical TV and struggling to find her way out of her ever-increasing pile of books.

Sufiya Ahmed

How to show not tell a short story

Sufiya Ahmed is the author of Secrets of the Henna Girl and a girls rights activist.

Vashti Hardy

Foreshadowing, Clues and Reveals

We’ll consider and analyse the elements we need to think about when considering the set up and pay off within stories. This will include the use of clues, mirroring, reader knowledge versus character knowledge, the use of events, show vs tell in foreshadowing, tone, planting questions and choosing when to answer them, and the frame of your story. I’ll give insights relating to Brightstorm and Wildspark along with other relevant story examples!

Vashti Hardy is a writer of children’s books living near Brighton in Sussex with her family. She was a primary school teacher for several years, and has a special interest in children’s writing, especially free-writing and the use of journals and creating fantasy worlds. She has a first-class honours teaching degree with English specialism and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Chichester. After leaving teaching to focus more on her writing, she also became a digital marketing executive. 

Vashti is an alumni member of The Golden Egg Academy and is represented by Kate Shaw of The Viney Shaw Agency. Her books BRIGHTSTORM and WILDSPARK are published in the UK by Scholastic. Brightstorm was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and The BAMB Reader’s Choice Award and also long listed for the Blue Peter Book Award. 

Blog posts

A.J. Sass

Self-Doubt and the Internal Struggle

I want to address how it doesn’t get easier the more progress you make with your writing or within the publishing industry, that self-doubt is multi-layered, even if you have an agent, a book deal, a dozen bestsellers on the shelves, etc. I’d like to unpack that and offer some suggestions on how to keep things in perspective, using my personal experiences with an editorial letter from my publisher as an example.

A.J. Sass is a fiction-writing figure skater, inclined toward adventures of a traveling nature. He is autistic and non-binary, and keen on exploring how gender identity and neurodiversity impact character narratives.

A.J. grew up in the Midwestern US, came of age in the South, and currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his boyfriend and two cats who act like dogs. His middle grade debut, ANA ON THE EDGE, will be published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in Fall 2020.

Caroline Murphy

Northern Exposure

Publishing is a very London-centric business, and writers far from the buzz of book launches, agent events and conferences can feel isolated and overlooked. So what can writers ‘up north’ do make sure they’re not left out in the cold?

Caroline Murphy grew up in the north-east of England, spent sixteen years in Asia and six in London, but has returned to Newcastle to bring up her four boys. She has been writing children’s books for four years and is represented by Lauren Gardner (whom she’s never met because… you know… time and distance). Caroline is currently writing a MG novel set against a northern backdrop of the 1984 miners’ strike. 

Gabriel Dylan

Pacing in YA fiction

An in-depth look at how hard it is to ‘hook’ young adult readers, and how important a part pacing plays in grabbing your audience.

Author of YA horror novel ‘Whiteout’.

Hannah Kates

DROP THE BABY

When, how, and why you need to step away from your manuscript. 

HANNAH KATES is a young adult and middle grade author of dark and twisted tales. After graduating from the world’s premier military institute, she got out of war games and into the world of children’s literature, which she considers to be significantly more fun. As a wanderer, songwriter, and collector of stories, you can find her skulking around cemeteries or giving tours in America’s most haunted manor. She is represented by Lynnette Novak of the Seymour Agency. 

Jeanna Skinner

WTFB

WTFB through imposter syndrome and daily pain

Jeanna (pronounced JEAN NA) writes sweet, sexy romance with a magical twist, but occasionally likes to dip her nib in other genres. Her flash fiction has been published by Ellipsis Magazine & The Cabinet of Heed and she was a finalist in the Choc Lit Search for a Star 2019 competition. As well co-founding @UKRomChat, a Twitter chat all about writing and reading Happy Ever Afters, she’s one half of super-powered editing & mentoring service for writers in distress, @Wonder_Writers. She is a proud member of the Romance Novelists Association “New Writers’ Scheme”, and a warrior in her daily battle with CRPS (Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome). Her familiar is a sweary sloth. Twitter is her kryptonite.

Kate Foster

Handling Rejection and Approaching Edits

To provide writers with the tools to approach feedback and rejection. 

Kate is the editorial director of a small press as well as a freelance editor. She’s been a mentor and judge in various writing contests over the years, including Pitch Wars and TeenPit, and is a children’s author represented by the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. 

Maisie Chan

Yoga for Writers

Yoga can be used to alleviate tight muscles, sore backs and as a preventative practice for writers. It can also be used to foster creativity and allow space for our writing and inherent creativity to unfold. 

Maisie Chan is a children’s writer, mentor and trained yoga teacher for adults and children. She has run ‘Yoga for Writers’ workshops and 1-2-1s for writers. As a plus-sized yogini, Maisie knows the very real benefits of yoga for everyone and how it can be especially useful for writers who may suffer from physical ailments but also mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Maisie is from Birmingham, but is now based in Glasgow where she facilitates the Glasgow Children’s Writers Group. Also also hosts Bubble Tea Writers for British East Asian and Southeast Asian writers. 

Marisa Noelle

Productivity

How I’ve written 17 novels while raising 3 children – tips and tricks!

Marisa Noelle is the writer of MG & YA SFF & mental health novels. The Shadow Keepers is due out July 2019 & The Unadjusteds in October 2019. When she’s not writing or reading or watching movies, she enjoys swimming. In the pool she likes to imagine she could be a mermaid and become part of some of her make-believe words. In the water, she can ignore the real world and focus on the plots of new novels and scenes. She lives in Woking, UK with her husband and three children. 

Michelle Kenney

Character & fantasy 

Discussion of character development within fantasy world setting.

Michelle is a firm believer in magic, and that ancient doorways to other worlds can still be found if we look hard enough. She is also a hopeless scribbleaholic and, when left to her own devices, likes nothing better than to dream up new fantasy worlds in the back of a dog-eared notebook. Doctors say they’re unlikely to find a cure any time soon.

In between scribbling, Michelle love reading, running, attempting to play gypsy-folk music and treasure-hunting on deserted beaches with her young dreamers-in-training.

Michelle holds a LLB (hons) degree, an APD in Public Relations and is an Accredited Practitioner with the CIPR (with whom she’s won awards for Magazine & PR work). But she is definitely happiest, curled up against a rainy window, with her nose in a book. 

Michelle is represented by Chloe Seager of Northbank Talent Management, and loves chatting all things book-related at https://www.facebook.com/BookofFireMK
Twitter: @mkenneypr and Instagram: @michken01. 

Book of Fire is the first in a new YALit Trilogy by HarperCollins HQ Digital. City of Dust, Book 2 is to be published 2nd October 2018 (digital) and 13th December 2018 (paperback). Watch this space for news of the final book coming 2019…

Sally Doherty

The submissions process from a housebound perspective

Sally describes her personal experience of writing and submitting whilst living with M.E. and explains what a virtual writing conference means for her.

Sally lives in leafy Surrey with her two-legged husband, three-legged Labrador and four-legged Jack Russell Terror. She writes middle grade novels, flash fiction and articles about living with chronic illness which have been published by Metro, MSN, Yahoo News, The Mighty, Action for ME and ME Association. Her debut middle grade novel will be published by March Hamilton.

Interview with #WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award winner, Alexandra Page

In the aftermath, of winning our very first Novel Award, we spoke to our first winner, Alexandra Page.

How did you feel when you watched Chloe announce you as the winner?

Flabbergasted! I honestly did not expect to win but hoped maybe to be a runner up, so when The Shape of The World and Whisper Pier earned those top spots (congratulations Amy and Kate!) I was disappointed. Then when Chloe turned the e-reader around with my story’s title on it, I burst into tears! I was dancing around the living room for a good while after that, both ecstatic and in shock. Winning this means so much.

How did you celebrate?

After bath-book-bed for my little one, I cracked open a bottle of bubbly with my husband. He has always believed in Wishyouwas and worked so hard editing it with me, that it felt like a joint win. Then I rang my parents and anyone else I knew in a reasonable timezone.

Tell everyone a little bit more about you and your writing journey to date.

I’ve always loved writing picture-books and young fiction, but in the last 5 years and especially since having my daughter I’ve written much more and worked harder to polish what I have in the hope that she can read them one day. I wrote Wishyouwas while travelling around Asia. At once the characters and story felt real and alive, but it has also changed so much since that first draft and I’ve spent years rewriting and re-editing various parts of the story. I received editorial input from Cornerstones Literary Consultancy which has massively helped me move the story forwards and produced the manuscript that I entered into this competition. I’ve also benefited from joining WriteMentor Spark, SCBWI and the writing community on Twitter. Getting involved and taking my writing seriously has helped me be braver with getting my stories out there which in this case has paid off beyond my wildest dreams.

Tell us more about WISHYOUWAS, the winning novel.

Deep under London there is a secret post office railway (it’s real and you can now ride on it!) In my story, creatures called Sorters exist in an abandoned train tunnel and devote their lives to sorting lost letters. Their Borrowers-like world is a closely guarded secret until a girl called Penny stumbles across Wishyouwas while staying at her uncle’s post office. He’s a grammatically-challenged, low-ranking Gatherer with a loyal heart who longs to be promoted. His dreams are shattered when Penny’s discovery not only results in him losing his rank, but also leads a vicious gang of rat catching thieves to the Sorters’ whereabouts.

What was the #WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award experience like for you, as an entrant?

I wish all writing competitions were run as WMCNA has been. All along, I’ve felt that no matter the outcome, you’ll receive something valuable from it with the readers’ feedback. On top of that, the excitement with the (sometimes early!) announcements, build-up, Star Wars gifs etc has been electrifying. Since winning I’ve received over a hundred messages of congratulations from other entrants. I love the writing community and WriteMentor is a gem within a gem.

What do you plan to do with £500 prize?

Spend it on developing my writing! I’m really looking forward to being able to take part in more upcoming workshops and conferences.

What advice would you give other writers when entering novel awards in the future?

Firstly, keep track of all the competitions. There are so many opportunities out there now that it’s easy to miss closing dates and some are only announced on certain online platforms.
The other thing I’ve learned lately is an obvious one, but it’s to enter with the strongest manuscript you can. So often I’ve tried my luck and felt flattened when my entry hasn’t been listed, but I’ve learned that that isn’t necessarily because the ideas aren’t good enough, or the writing terrible. This time I knew Wishyouwas was submission-ready. It’s not perfect – in fact not all of my readers’ feedback was positive and there are definitely pointers for me to improve the story – but it stood the best chance I could give it. 

Where can people find you online?

On Twitter I’m @alexandrapage. I don’t yet have a website but am working on one with a competition calendar. Watch this space!

I was lucky to grow up between two worlds: with my dad in London, mostly tucked up with a book in the Barbican library; and with my mum and sister in Zimbabwe, running barefoot and developing a life-long terror of spiders. After studying English Literature at UCL I worked for several years at Penguin, Puffin and Walker Books in their production departments, before embarking upon a career in project management. A small plaque outside the famous Lloyd’s of London building: “Penny Post founded here” first gave me the idea for Wishyouwas. When I’m not squirrelled away writing, I love exploring far-flung places with my husband and daughter and spend much time in my adopted second home, Budapest.

Full winners announcement here:

#WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award – THE WINNER

Here we are – the big announcement! The first winner of the #WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award…

But first, let’s read the openings of all the shortlisted novels, hear from the writers themselves, reading a short extract, and what our judge, Chloe Seager, thought of all the shortlisted entries.

In alphabetical order:

DANCE, DANCE, DIE! by Loretta Chefchaouni

Loretta Chefchaouni lives in the far-too-sunny state of Florida, raising two teen boys while pursuing her passion for writing. In the snippets of time between wording and momming, Loretta likes to dote on her pets, curl up with a good book, and drink coffee by the pot. She is currently seeking an agent who will love her quirky characters as much as she does.

The Curse of the Weird Wolf by Dale Hannah

Dale Hannah has a passion for writing funny middle grade fiction; he is especially fond of puns. Dale has previously won a Northern Writers’ Award and the Commonword Diversity Prize, along with longlistings for both the Times Chicken House Prize and the Bath Children’s Novel Award. He lives in the North West of England with his family. He’s partial to Maltesers.

The E.G.A. (Exceptional Gamers Academy)

by Stephen Catling

Stephen lives in Reigate, with his wife and three children, and finds plenty of time to write on his daily commute to London (including plenty of ‘bonus’ time gained from the regular train delays and cancellations). When not writing, Stephen can be found singing with Voce Chamber Choir, or helping out coaching the juniors at the local rugby and cricket clubs. ‘The EGA’ is his first novel, written for his own videogame-obsessed eleven-year-old.

The Shape of the World by Amy Borg

Amy Borg is is a an adventurer, bookseller, and general scribbler who studied literature at a school that was not nearly as cool as Hogwarts (though at times it came close). Half-Maltese and Half-Filipina, she grew up on the wrong side of an American railway track and currently resides south of a very British river. She is working on her third novel. Her favorite things include cats, space ships, fairy tales, and tea, and she remains terrified of the monster that, in all likelihood, still resides under her bed.

Whisper Pier by Kathryn Lougheed

Kathryn Lougheed is a germ-loving scientist turned writer. She’s the author of a popular science book about tuberculosis but her first love is children’s literature. She writes atmospheric and weird young adult and middle grade novels about monsters, magic, and mental health. She lives near Oxford with her partner, 4 year old daughter, and the world’s clumsiest cat. 

WISHYOUWAS by Alexandra Page

I was lucky to grow up between two worlds: with my dad in London, mostly tucked up with a book in the Barbican library; and with my mum and sister in Zimbabwe, running barefoot and developing a life-long terror of spiders. After studying English Literature at UCL I worked for several years at Penguin, Puffin and Walker Books in their production departments, before embarking upon a career in project management. A small plaque outside the famous Lloyd’s of London building: “Penny Post founded here” first gave me the idea for Wishyouwas. When I’m not squirrelled away writing, I love exploring far-flung places with my husband and daughter and spend much time in my adopted second home, Budapest.

And now to announce the WINNER and 2 Runner’s-up.

Over the Chloe…

CONGRATULATIONS to our winner!

Alexandra Page for WISHYOUWAS!

And to our 2 runners-up,

Whisper Pier by Kathryn Lougheed

The Shape of the World by Amy Borg

We also have a prize for the best novel featuring a BAME main character, and the winner of a years worth of mentoring from Emma Smith-Barton, via our Spark programme, is…

THE DARKEST CORNER by JANE DUDENEY

I’d like to finish by saying thank you to Chloe, our SL judge, to all of our readers, over 90 of you in total (and I’ll list the adult readers below – for safeguarding reasons, we won’t name the kids involved but their input was invaluable), and also to you, the writers, who sent in your work.

It sounds easy to click send, but those are you precious words and voices and stories and I am so very grateful you chose to share them with us.

Everyone who entered should have received their feedback by now. If not, please get in touch.

And well done once again to the shortlisted writer, the runners-up and of course to our winner, Alexandra Page for WISHYOUWAS!

May the force be with all of you…always…