Heather Fishwick is a writer of middle grade and young adult fantasy novels, represented by Lynnette Novak at The Seymour Agency.
She studied English and Latin literature at the University of Warwick, and recently returned to student life (long distance) to study for a master’s degree in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults. She currently lives in Northamptonshire, England, with her husband and two children. She has been a school librarian and a secondary school teaching assistant, but currently works for a small primary academy trust.
She has been a Wattpad Star since 2019, where she posts everything from short gender-reversed fairytales to dystopian stories about direct democracy and a verse fantasy novel where the stakes are sky-high.
In 2020 her gender-reversed Snow White retelling, Mirrored Snow, was long listed for the WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award, before being selected for the 2020 WriteMentor summer mentoring program, working with author Marisa Noelle.
What made you apply for the WriteMentor summer mentoring programme?
I’d had a few near misses with agents for previous stories and knew Mirrored Snow needed work and an outside opinion if I was going to take it a step further. I’d taken part in WriteMentor competitions in the past and think it’s a brilliant resource for aspiring writers. I hoped it could help me get Mirrored Snow to a place where it was ready to query.
What was your experience like?
Brilliant! Marisa was so enthusiastic about Mirrored Snow right from the start, but she also helped me to clearly see what wasn’t working and what still needed improvement. I was on the opening and synopsis part of the programme, but the advice Marisa gave me helped to reshape the entire novel.
Tell us about your writing journey from start until now
I self-published a trilogy of fantasy stories in 2013. In hindsight, my writing definitely wasn’t ready and I know I could do a much better job with the stories now (if only WriteMentor had already been around!) But I learnt a lot through self-publishing and I think my writing is stronger as a result of that early feedback than it would have been if I hadn’t hit publish. I’ve removed the books from sale now, but they’re still all available to read for free on Wattpad. Wattpad has been the other crucial part of my writing journey – there’s nothing like getting real time feedback as you’re working on something, and you can see exactly what readers are (and aren’t!) enjoying. I also started an MA in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults with Manchester Metropolitan University in 2019 and have learnt so much from two years of intensive writing and analysis of other works. The final part of my writing journey so far has been blogging. Reading and reviewing new releases in children’s literature has helped me to gain a greater understanding of writing and the (ever changing!) children’s book market.
Can you tell us a little more about the book you worked on and signed with?
Mirrored Snow is a gender reversed retelling of Snow White, told from the perspective of a girl stuck in the queen’s magic mirror. It started life as a short story on Wattpad, where it is now one of a series of five short gender reversed retellings. I posted an early version of the full novel on the site as part of a Wattpad mentoring competition, and it’s been really popular (in April it even featured in a reader podcast!) A number of revisions along, and with thanks to insight from my wonderful agent, it’s now a completely different novel though.
Why do you think mentoring is important for writers?
Unless you have an amazing critiquing group, most aspiring writers haven’t had honest, impartial feedback on their work when they start querying. When you’ve been working on the same story for months/years, living with the characters and world, it’s so hard to step back and see what isn’t working. Just because you know exactly what your character would be doing in each scene, or can see your settings down to the detail on the curtains, doesn’t mean you’ve out enough information in your novel for readers to do the same! A fresh pair of eyes can show you what’s missing, but also what’s working well (so you don’t fall into the editing trap of making changes for the sake of it, without actually making your story any better!)
Mentoring also teaches you how to accept criticism about your work, which is crucial if you want to progress to working with agents or editors