Emma Pearl is the author of picture book Mending the Moon (Page Street Kids, 2022). She was a mentee on the WriteMentor 2020 summer mentoring programme and is a mentor this year. She travelled the world back when that was possible and now lives with her family in the shadow of a beautiful mountain in New Zealand.
What made you apply for the WriteMentor programme?
I’d been involved in the WriteMentor community for a while, just on the fringes, but I was blown away by how supportive and kind it is. Not to mention the success rate of the mentoring programme! As soon as I had a manuscript ready I applied.
What was your experience like?
I was so excited to be chosen by Lu Hersey. I had read her book Deep Water a long time before and absolutely loved it, so to have her show an interest in my work, let alone choose me as her mentee, was just amazing. That in itself was a huge confidence booster. The mentoring process was great. Lu picked up on all the parts of the manuscript that I knew in my heart were wrong, or just not quite right, and gave me questions to answer for myself as well as some brilliant suggestions about how to tackle the problem areas. I found the collaborative process really enjoyable and having another perspective on my work gave me renewed inspiration and love for it.
Tell us about your writing journey from start until now
I’ve always written stories, since before I started school. I wrote hundreds of poems as a teenager and a novel in my 20s (it was rubbish!). But I only started writing seriously for children about four or five years ago. I’ve always had a passion for children’s books – Roald Dahl was my great uncle, which probably had something to do with it! And I worked in children’s publishing for a couple of years a long time ago (kind of always regretted leaving, tbh!). And when I started down the path of writing for children I just felt I had found my space. The ideas keep flowing and I have about a million books I want to write – I just need to find the time to write them now!
Can you tell us a little more about the book you worked on and signed with?
On the mentor programme I worked on my Middle Grade novel The Mirrorbirds. I received quite a lot of interest in the showcase but no offers. It’s still a work in progress and I still have high hopes for it, but it’s been sidelined a little in the last few months with other things going on in my life (moving from UK to NZ being one of them). As a way of continuing to write when I only had a small amount of time, I began to focus on my Picture Book texts. In October last year I entered some of them into the #PBPitch Twitter event. I’d done this a few times before and really enjoyed it – it’s a fun way to make new contacts and hone your pitch skills – but I never imagined anything would come of it. However, I received a like from an editor in the US, sent her my manuscript and the rest is history! We did a few rounds of revisions before they made a formal offer and now the illustrations are in progress. It’s so exciting seeing my story coming to life!
What is your best piece of writing advice that you learned on the programme?
It wasn’t a specific piece of advice, more a skill – which was learning to let go of all the bits of the story that you hold dear to your heart. Sometimes it’s these very things – whether it’s a character, a scene or just a line – that are holding you back from finding the right way forward. If you’re prepared to cut anything and everything, you’ll find it much easier to progress.
Why do you think mentoring is important for writers?
It’s so important to have fresh eyes on your work. It’s really easy to get caught up in your own work to the point where you can no longer see the wood for the trees. The most valuable thing I took from the programme was having someone ask me the questions I needed to answer in order to unlock the story and the characters.