“They advise what does and doesn’t work within your story, but they also respect your decisions as a writer. Mentors definitely help build your writing confidence..“
Author Chris Galvin describes his experience of WriteMentor’s Spark mentoring programme and Children’s Novel Award, and how the experience of both led him to agent representation
Chris Galvin is a writer of middle grade and Young Adult fiction. He spent his youth reading books and comics, which grew into a passion for writing (and occasional doodling). Originally from County Offaly, Chris moved to Dublin to learn scriptwriting, and developed a love for acting and directing. He has written several short stories, plays and films (some of which have made it to short film festivals around the world).
In 2021, Chris’ middle grade fantasy novel, THE THING ABOUT GIANTS, was shortlisted for the WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award, and the Guppy Middle Grade Open Submission Competition.
Chris lives in Dublin with his partner, Lynn, and works in television as a presentation editor. He’ll always make time for a good book and a cup of tea (not necessarily in that order).
Chris describes his experience with WriteMentor’s Spark Mentoring programme and how this, alongside the shortlisting for WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award, led him to agent representation.
What made you apply to the WriteMentor Spark programme?
I was working on a YA fantasy novel, and it felt like I didn’t know how to shape it, no matter how much work I put into it. I had received feedback from agents saying they liked the writing, but didn’t know who I was writing for. I really needed guidance and to be pointed in the right direction. When the WriteMentor Spark programme popped up a few times on my Twitter timeline, it looked worthwhile, and I decided to apply.
What was your experience like?
Working with my mentor, Emma Smith-Barton, has been great. She’s guided me through different revisions, offering her honest, encouraging feedback, and helped me improve my novels (and yes, for someone who never thought I wouldn’t have the patience to write one novel, I now have three manuscripts under my belt).
Tell us about your writing journey from start until now.
I always loved writing, mainly short stories and short films. I didn’t have the patience for anything longer. Then I started writing my YA fantasy story and it turned out to be a novel! This experience taught me to have patience with the writing process.
I joined WriteMentor Spark in May 2019, and from then on, I started reading a lot more, writing a lot more, and developed writing as a craft. I started my second book, a Middle Grade fantasy called The THING ABOUT GIANTS in January 2020, at a WriteMentor weekend in Dublin (a few weeks before Covid brought everything to a halt). The initial drafts needed a lot of work and I had to figure out what the story really was. Once I finished that process, with help from Emma, I started to sub, perhaps prematurely, while I began another novel, this time a MG horror. When the WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award came around in 2021, I submitted THE THING ABOUT GIANTS, and was delighted to be shortlisted.
After the awards, Stuart White very kindly offered to send the runners-up manuscripts to agents. I said yes, never imagining that something might come of it. At around the same time, the novel was also shortlisted for the Guppy Open Submission, which was a real confidence boost. Then Stuart contacted me and told me that an agent named Christabel McKinley had read my manuscript and wanted to get in touch. Christabel and I talked soon afterwards, she said she loved the story and gave me some notes and ideas on how to improve it. When the next draft was ready, I sent it back to her, and after that she offered me representation! I couldn’t believe it, but was so grateful she took a chance on me and my writing. I’m currently working on a revised draft, and will hopefully be on submission next year.
Can you tell us a little more about the book you worked on and signed with?
THE THING ABOUT GIANTS is middle grade fantasy, and it’s about… you guessed it, giants! It’s set in a world where humans hunt giants for their bones, and use them to build their city. The story follows Jacq, the daughter of a giant hunter, and Corman, a giant, as they unexpectedly join forces to rescue Corman’s dad.
What is your best piece of writing advice that you learned on the programme?
How to edit. When you’re revising a draft, it’s important to know when to edit, but it’s equally important to know when to leave the writing alone. Don’t edit a line or a paragraph for the sake of it, if it reads well and lends itself to the story, move on.
Why do you think mentoring is important for writers?
I think it helps enormously. You have someone you can bounce ideas off, and they can help you figure out plot points. They advise what does and doesn’t work within your story, but they also respect your decisions as a writer. Mentors definitely help build your writing confidence, because there were days when I’d think I was the worst writer in the world, and then I’d get an email saying “this chapter really works”, or “this section is excellent”, and it spurred me on to keep working. We all have our up and down days with writing, and it’s nice to be able to admit that to someone else too.