WOWCON: online writing conference for writers of children's fiction

25th-27th September 2020

WOWCON, WriteMentor’s annual writing conference, brings together our supportive community for a weekend of expert talks, interactive workshops, panels, a pitching event, and agent 1-2-1s.

  WOWCON is proud to be both affordable and accessible. A ticket to our conference welcomes you into a friendly, supportive, and inclusive space where you can improve your craft, network with experts, mingle with like-minded writers, and feel part of a wider community – all from the comfort of your own home. 

  The theme for this year’s conference is VOICE. 

Read below to find out more about our keynote talks, workshops, panels, 1-2-1 agent pitches and #WMPITCH, as well as our scholarship opportunities, and keep updated via our social media pages and #WOWCON2020.

General Ticket

£10

Includes 3 Keynotes and 1 panel

Workshops

£10 each

Each lasts 1 hour, timetable below

Panels

£10 each

Agents panel included with general ticket

Agent 1-2-1s

£30 each

15 minute Skype call on 10 pages or Picture Book text

KEYNOTE talks

Enjoy three one-hour keynote speeches as part of your WOWCON ticket. Leading, award-winning authors interpret the WOWCON 2020 theme of VOICE, drawing on their own perspectives, experiences and writing expertise. The speeches are pre-recorded, which means they are available at any time and to watch again and again (for 1 week after WOWCON).

Chitra Soundar Keynote topic: Giving voice to characters Chitra is an internationally published, award-winning author of over 40 books for children. She is also an oral storyteller with a loud voice and she writes trade fiction, non-fiction, poetry and theatre. Her stories are inspired by folktales from India, Hindu mythology and her travels around the world.
Patrice Lawrence Keynote topic: All Characters Matter to Zendaya – An A to Z of Writing Characters That Aren’t Like You! Patrice’s first book for young adults, Orangeboy, was shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award and won the Bookseller YA Prize and Waterstone’s Prize for Older Children’s Fiction. Indigo Donut, her second book for teenagers, won the Crimefest YA Prize. Both books have been nominated for the Carnegie Medal.  
Simon James Green Keynote topic: Be a voice, not an echo Simon is a Carnegie-nominated, award-winning author and screenwriter. After an eight-book deal with Scholastic, his picture book Llama Glamarama was published in June, with a Young Adult Heartbreak Boys and a Middle Grade Life of Riley: Beginner’s Luck to follow later in the year. His Noah books have also been optioned for television, and he contributed to the PROUD anthology.

Workshops

  How do you create a realistic character, a strong narrative voice, a believable world? What’s a synopsis? How can you edit a manuscript? What’s it like to work with agents? From Picture Book to Young Adult fiction, our interactive workshops, led by published authors, give you accessible and affordable craft advice and industry insights. A chance to learn from experts, take part in fun, inclusive writing activities, and connect with a community of writers.

Lauren James | Working with agents Submitting your novel to agents, crafting query letters, synopsis and pitches, and creating a shortlist of agents to query.  Lauren is the twice 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. 
Rashmi Sirdeshpande | Finding your voice writing children’s non-fiction Finding a voice in children’s non-fiction that helps you stand out, tells a good story and shows the world who you are as a writer. Rashmi is a lawyer-turned writer, focusing on picture books and illustrated non-fiction. Her non-fiction work includes ‘How To Be Extraordinary’.
Serena Patel | A mystery writer’s guide to keeping the reader hooked What makes a good mystery? Explore the key elements of an exciting whodunnit and discover how to keep your readers guessing right till the end. Serena is the author of the Anisha, Accidental Detective series. Booktrust called the first book “a highly amusing fast paced debut.”
Kereen Getten | Finding your age appropriate voice How to find an authentic child-like voice for your protagonist. Kereen’s published short stories have won highly commended FAB prize, best short story for Adhoc fiction, and have been nominated for best short fiction 2018. Her debut novel ‘When Life Gives You Mangos’ comes out later in the year.
Marisa Noelle | Mental health in children’s fiction The importance of talking about mental health in children’s fiction and how to avoid making it too issue-based. Marisa is the writer of Middle Grade and Young Adult novels in the genres of science-fiction, fantasy and mental health. She is also a mentor for WriteMentor’s programme.
Maisie Chan | Rewriting fairy tales, myths and legends Finding the original sources of retellings and rewriting well-known and obscure tales for the modern reader. Maisie is the author of ‘Stories From Around the World’. She has retold famous stories such as the legend of Hua Mulan, Aladdin and Little Red Riding Hood.
Lindsay Galvin | Backstory blues  Why we need backstory in our writing, how to include it, and when to know how much is too much. Lindsay has written two children’s books, The Secret Deep and Darwin’s Dragons. She has worked with WriteMentor since the beginning, and is both a course leader and mentor.  
LD Lapinski | Worldbuilding in Middle Grade fantasy Building new fantasy worlds for readers aged 9-12. LD is the author of The Strangeworlds Travel Agency, which contains hundreds of different worlds. She has a cat, too many houseplants, a cherry coke addiction, and a Creative Writing MA.
Catherine Emmett | How to write in rhyme well Writing rhyming picture books and understanding rhyme, metre and stressed syllable patterns. Catherine is the author of picture book ‘King of the Swamp’, published by Published by Simon & Schuster, with another due to be published in 2021.
Dave Rudden | Hear Me Out: How to find your narrative voice Voice is one of the most nebulous and subjective concepts in writing, but it is the first thing a reader (or an agent) notices. Join Dave as he dissects the idea of ‘voice’ and shows you how to find your own. Dave is the award-winning author of the KNIGHTS OF THE BORROWED DARK trilogy, and Doctor Who anthologies.
Clare Helen Welsh | Stand-out stories: Picture Books How to make ideas bigger, better and more marketable, and where to find winning ideas in the first place. Clare is the author of fiction and non-fiction picture books and early readers. She is passionate about using creativity and the arts to promote a love of learning and emotional well-being. Clare also works as a WriteMentor tutor.
Sara Grant | Ruthless revision Tips and practical exercises to take your draft to the next level, finishing with a revision plan. Participants will need their first two chapters. Sara has inspired, written or edited nearly 100 books for children. She teaches master’s courses at Goldsmiths University, gives writing workshops in the US, UK and Europe, and is the co-founder Undiscovered Voices.
P. M. Freestone | Building believable worlds  How do you craft a setting that’s truly believable? Discover tips, tricks and tools to build a credible world that enhances your story, challenges your characters and transports your reader.  P. M. is the author of the Shadowscent duology, which has been translated into seven languages. She is a Clarion Writers’ Workshop graduate, a Scottish Book Trust New Writer’s Award winner, and was selected for SCBWI’s 2018 Undiscovered Voices anthology.
A. M. Dassu | Representation and authenticity in your children’s book Using her personal perspective, A.M. will show you how to sensitively and accurately represent communities in your writing that you are not a part of. A. M. is the author of Boy, Everywhere, deputy editor of SCBWI-BI’s Words & Pictures magazine, and a director of Inclusive Minds. Her work has been published by leading media platforms including The Huffington Post. She won the international We Need Diverse Books mentorship award.
Alexandra Sheppard | Protagonist deep dive Getting your protagonist right is crucial! In this workshop, discover how to craft a main character that is relatable, flawed and will hook readers from the first chapter. Alexandra Sheppard is a Young Adult author based in North London. Her debut novel Oh My Gods, published by Scholastic, was shortlisted for the Bristol Teen Book Award and featured in The Guardian, The Independent and Buzzfeed.
Priscilla Mante | Writing memorable characters for middle grade Advice on creating multi-layered, compelling and believable protaganists with strong characters arcs. Priscilla is a London based Scottish writer of Ghanaian heritage. She used to manage arts and literacy programmes for young people but now works in communications. Priscilla was selected for the inaugural London Writers Awards delivered by Spread the Word. She is a mentor for AuthorMentorMatch Round 7.

Emma Read | Oh no! I need a Synopsis??

Spoilers? 1 or 2 pages? Sub-plots? No wonder it’s called the Dreaded Synopsis. Love or hate them, we need them. You think once you’ve signed with your dream agent the nightmare will be over, but no! There will be more synopses. I’m here to help!

Emma is the author of Milton the Mighty, one of The Times Best Children’s Books. She is a WriteMentor mentor, workshop leader and reader for WMCNA and Bath Children’s Novel Award.

Yasmin Rahman | Creating Distinct and Rich Voices in YA

How do you write multiple perspectives? Learn how to create distinct and rich voices for your characters.

Yasmin is a British Muslim with a Carnegie-nominated debut ‘All The Things We Never Said’. She has an MA in Creative Writing and in Writing for Young People, and also makes bookish fan art. Her designs are sold worldwide on behalf of John Green. 

Sophie Cleverly | Writing different points of view Learn how to write from multiple perspectives and how to make these voices distinct. Sophie is the author of the bestselling Scarlet and Ivy series, as told through the eyes of the titular twins. She has a BA in Creative Writing and an MA in Writing For Young People. Her books are published by HarperCollins worldwide, as well as being translated into five different languages so far.
A.J. Sass | Ripple Effect: How a solid pitch can create material for your query and synopsis A pitch can be a powerful tool to catch reader (or agent) interest. Learn techniques to develop your pitch and how to expand it into a standard query and synopsis format.  A.J. is a writer, editor, and occasional mentor who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his boyfriend and two cats who act like dogs. Ana on the Edge is his debut middle grade novel.
Gabrielle Kent | Creating characters and subverting unconscious bias Learn methods of developing characters with depth, from protagonists and antagonists to secondary characters, as well as subverting readers’ expectations and your own subconscious bias. Gabrielle’s experience of childhood in the eighties came together with her love of writing and videogames when she was asked to write a series of novels based on the videogame, Knights and Bikes, soon to be a TV series.
Maz Evans | Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Hints and tips for planning your story Pantsers: Access Denied! Only for those who like/need to plan their novels before setting out. Come and hear how Maz goes about it – and share your top tips for roadmapping your work. Maz is the bestselling author of the WHO LET THE GODS OUT? series. She has taught creative writing at all levels and will do pretty much anything for a Ginger Nut.

Jenny Pearson | Story Climax

Learn to be a ‘closer’ and discover the tricks to writing a story climax that delights your readers.

Jenny is the author of The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates published by Usborne this year following a major 8-way auction. It has already been sold in 18 languages and was Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month. She is represented by Sam Copeland of RCW Literary Agency.

Jasmine Richards | The Title is Where Your Heart is

Discuss the importance of your title and why working out what the real heart of your story is will make coming up with your title so much easier.

Jasmine is an author, writing coach and founder of Storymix, a book incubator of inclusive stories. She has over 15 years’ experience in commissioning and editing fiction including roles at Hamish Hamilton, Puffin, and Dutton Books.

Danielle Jawando | Creating Contemporary Young Adult Characters

An interactive workshop exploring how to create compelling, three-dimensional characters that leap off the page.

Danielle is a writer and Associate Lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Danielle’s first nonfiction book for children (about the life of Maya Angelou) was published by Laurence King in 2019.

Her debut Young Adult novel And The Stars Were Burning Brightly was published by Simon & Schuster this year.

Vashti Hardy | Get To The Heart Of Your Novel

Discover practical ways to get to the heart of your story, from initial concept to polished draft. Writers juggle many threads, so you’ll consider ways to articulate what lies at the core of your idea and to tease out its uniqueness.

Vashti’s breathtaking Middle Grades fantasies are published across the world in several languages. Wildspark won the Blue Peter Book Award ‘Best Story’ in 2020 and the FCBG Children’s Book Awards and Brightstorm was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, Books are My Bag Awards, among others.

Tita Berredo | Making picture-books – the visual storytelling

Find out about the role of the illustration and its balance with the text when bringing a picture book to life. Learn about perspective, composition, characters, and all you need to create a truly engaging visual story.

Tita is a children’s writer and illustrator born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She has a Master’s degree in Children’s Literature and Illustration from Goldsmiths University of London. Tita works as a freelance illustrator in Glasgow, and she leads her own children’s writing and illustration workshops across the country.

Emma Smith-Barton | The Road to Publication

Whether you’re a beginner writer or polishing your draft for agents, learn what makes a stand out submission. Look at aspects of craft, from voice and characterisation to editing, to get your novel the best chance of publication.

Emma was born in South Wales to Pakistani parents. Her first novel for young adults, The Million Pieces of Neena Gill, was shortlisted for this year’s  Waterstones Children’s Book Prize; Branford Boase Award; and Romantic Novelists’ Association Debut Romantic Novel.

Selom Sunu | Drawing for fun

Talking about the importance of enjoying the drawing process.

A British-born Illustrator of Ghanaian heritage, Selom has in the publishing industry for about a year and a half. So far he has illustrated five covers for Jason Reynolds including Ghost.

His drawings also feature in Penguin book The Puffin Book of Big Dreams publishing in September 2020.  

A devout Christian, Selom lives in London with his wife and daughter (a toddler).

Panels

From writing a book to seeking agent representation to releasing your debut, hear from leading agents, editors, and authors about different stages of the publishing process. Panels are pre-recorded and participants will have the opportunity to submit questions for our panellists beforehand.

AGENT PANEL

Agents share advice on the submission process and how to stand out from the crowd. Panellists: Chloe Seager (Madeleine Milburn), Christabel McKinley (David Higham Associates), and Clare Wallace (Darley Anderson) Moderator: Florianne Humphrey (Chief Editor of WriteMentor Magazine)  

FIRST PAGES

An editor, author, and agent discuss the opening pages of manuscripts from their position in publishing.

Panellists: Asmaa Isse (Assistant Editor, Penguin Random House Children’s), Dave Rudden (Middle Grade author, Puffin), Lydia Silver (Agent, Darley Anderson)

Moderator: A.M. Dassu (Middle Grade Author, TU Books)

PICTURE BOOKS

Ask questions about publishing, the submission process and the author-agent-editor relationship. Panellists: Alice Williams (Agent, Alice Williams Literary), and Ellie Farmer (Senior Editor, Little Tiger Press) Moderator: Clare Helen Welsh (Picture Book author, Little Tiger Press, Quarto, Andersen)

DEBUTS

Children’s authors share the highs and lows of publishing their first book. Panellists: Jenni Spangler (Middle Grade author, Simon & Schuster), Kathryn Foxfield (Young Adult author, Scholastic), Nizrana Farook (Middle Grade author, Nosy Crow) Moderator: Jenny Pearson (Middle Grade author, Usborne)

Agent/Editor 1-2-1 sessions

Pitch your manuscript to a leading literary agent during a 15 minute one-to-one session. After sending 10 pages of manuscript in advance for your chosen agent to read, this will form the basis of your discussion during the session, with a chance to ask questions and receive feedback.

PLEASE CHECK that the agent is doing your age category before booking the slot; the day of the slot, as there is a large variation; and the time zones, as some agents are based in the USA. More information can be founded via our ‘read more’ page and by clicking on the agent’ names below. 

Alice Williams | Alice Williams Literary  (PB, MG) Hannah Sheppard | DHH Literary  (MG, YA) Ludo Cinelli | Eve White Literary (MG, YA) Jo Williamson | Antony Harwood (MG, YA) Chloe Seager | Madeleine Milburn (MG, YA) Megan Carroll | Watson Little (PB, MG, YA) Kesia Lupo | Chicken House (YA) Clare Wallace | Darley Anderson (PB, MG, YA) Laura West | David Higham Associates (MG, YA) Thérèse Coen | Hardman & Swainson (MG, YA) Lauren Gardner | Bell Lomax Moreton (MG, YA) Lucy Irvine | PFD (PB, MG, YA)

Lina Langlee | The North (MG, YA)

Anne Clark | Anne Clark Literary Agency (PB, MG, YA)

Lydia Silver | Darley Anderson (PB, MG, YA)

Amber Caraveo | Skylark Literary (MG, YA)

Joanna Moult | Skylark Literary (MG, YA)

Kat Kerr | Donald Maass Literary Agency (YA)

Rachel Mann | Jo Unwin Literary Agency (MG, YA)

Catherine Pellegrino | Marjacq (MG, YA)

Lynnette Novak | The Seymour Agency (MG, YA)

Becky Bagnell | Lindsay Literary Agency (MG, YA)

Christabel McKinley | David Higham Associates (PB, MG, YA)

Zoë Plant | The Bent Agency (MG, YA)

Scholarships

We will be giving away five (at least) scholarships this year, funded by WriteMentor Founder Stuart White. Each includes: ticket, workshop, panel, 1-2-1 (total cost £60). The following groups of underrepresented writers are encouraged to apply for each of the five scholarships, which will be allocated as listed below:
  • BAME writers
  • disabled/chronically ill writers
  • low-income/unemployed writers
  • trans writers
  • OPEN scholarship for any underrepresented writers (we want to ensure that we don’t leave anyone out, so use this one if you’re not represented in the four specific ones above)

Last year we got lots of offers from individuals to sponsor tickets and this year, we wanted to formalise this. If you’d like to support another writer to attend, you can make a small donation via the link below. This will go to towards the OPEN scholarship and if we exceed the £60 we will make a second place available for those who apply for the OPEN scholarship.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE

Scholarship applications are NOW OPEN.

We will close the application form at the end of July, and contact those who are successful in August.

PLEASE NOTE: It should be noted that you can apply to more than one scholarship, should you fall into more than one of these groups. However, application should only be from those writers who would otherwise be unable to attend the conference. Eligibility is down the writer themselves, and we do not require any disclosure of personal information.

Timetable

FAQs

Do I need to buy a general ticket to attend?

Yes. A reminder that in order to do workshops, 1-2-1s, panels, you will need a general admission ticket (£10).
The general tickets gets you 3 keynotes and 1 panel.
Are scholarships available?
Yes. If the cost is a barrier, we have several scholarships available.
We have specific ones, but also an OPEN one, where lovely people have made some donations towards.
Can I get a refund if I find I can’t attend later?
Unfortunately not. We have tiny margins in terms of costs and income, and we aim to break even. Refunds costs us transaction fees (in addition to time to sort out), so please ensure you check times before booking.
Can I do an agent 1-2-1 without Skype?
Unless there are circumstances which mean Skype is not an option for you, we do need you to create an account (free) and put in your username when booking in.
Where will the conference take place?

Online, via Slack. It’s a very intuative platform, which we used to some success last year. We are, of course, looking to improve all aspects of that for this year.
If unsure about Slack, we’d suggest watching a tutorial in advance on YouTube.
We will also invite all attendees to the Slack platform a few days in advance, to allow you time to get to grips with it before the weekend of the conference. This also worked well last year.

Can tickets sell out?

Yes, our 1-2-1s (8 max) and workshops (20 max) have limited numbers, so you’ll need to be quick to ensure a place for those.

If you are applying for a schoalrship, we will reserve 1-2-1s and workshop spaces for those who are successful.

Is the whole conference live?

Workshops and 1-2-1s are live. The keynotes and panels will be pre-recorded. This worked well last year and means less issues with tech on all fronts. It also means you can watch those at your pleasure across the weekend, if you’re unavailable during the first showing.

Will the material be available after the conference weekend?

Yes, we will give you access for the week after the conference to allow you time to watch everything and gather all your notes from your workshops etc. However, we will not be selling post-conference access this year, so you have to get those tickets in advance.
How will the workshops work?
These will either be text-based workshops (our usual way of working in WM courses) or the workshop leaders might choose to use a video based appraoch, via Zoom or similar. Most used text-based last year, but some preferred the video, so both will be an option this year, depending on which suits the manner of the workshop best.

testimonials

If you want to learn how to write with more insight and skill, at speed, from the luxury of your own living room (or bedroom) then WOW-CON is the conference for you. This is a writing conference that celebrates the best of what technology has to offer by joining writers and sharing knowledge. It’s quite simply a force for good and a force for change in opening up the access to ALL writers within the children’s writing community. Natasha H
After a year of awful health, being housebound for the majority I’d lost confidence in my writing. Being able to access so many wonderful varied writing workshops/talks from the comfort of my own home has been an invaluable gift. It has been like being part of the world again. This was the first time I’ve done something completely for myself in a while and I realised how I needed that. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Katina

WOWCON has given me the chance to meet like-minded people and learn from some of the best in the business, which I never normally get the chance of due to various reasons. The fact it’s all online, and you can get so many  speakers and new friends for £10, is mind-blowing. Stuart has gone above and beyond to make it the best experience for those attending. Much like a rocker with a festival, I’m already queuing for WOWCON 2020 tickets!

Emma B 

There has been a wealth of information, inspiration and new ideas coming from all angles. As someone who lives in Scotland, works and has three kids, heading down south for conferences aren’t always doable. This was perfect in your own home and comfort zone and no travelling. It didn’t mean there wasn’t friendships made and new people met, I met and connected with several likeminded writers. Now, if only I’d booked them all.

Susan M
Well organised, fabulous speakers and workshops and superb value for money. WOWCON is totally inclusive – it reaches out to everyone, gives generously and leaves you totally motivated to continue your writing journey, whatever stage you’re at. Louise
WOWCON far surpassed expectations, and they were already high! As a working class single mother, I’m not able to attend many conferences without either financial or childcare help. WOWCON levelled the playing field by being affordable and accessible. Jenny S
I’m so grateful that so many writers gave their time and experience to help others in this way. It’s invaluable to be able to access all of this knowledge from the comfort of your own living room. What a fantastic weekend of writerly goodness. I hope it runs year after year. Julie ML
WOWCON was a writer’s paradise. A weekend of  some of the best, sharpest, funniest writers. The agent 1:1s were a wonderful opportunity, and their feedback was so helpful! Although I haven’t left my house since Thursday, I feel shattered in a good way! Sophie C

WOWCON has showcased for me how inspirational and hugely supportive the writing community can be. I’ve learnt so much and enjoyed every minute.

Alex A  

Everything worked brilliantly online and I got all the things I would have got from a face to face conference from the comfort of my house for a lot less money Emma U 

It felt like a particularly friendly and inclusive space, with so much information and encouragement from all involved. There’s genuinely something for everyone.

Elizabeth F 

WOWCON brought so many people and ideas together in one place in such an accessible format. I loved how supportive everyone was too – at every level.

Kate S 

I really loved WOWCON. I didn’t realise at the time of booking that I would be recovering from a rare illness so when the weekend came round and I could still participate it was extra brilliant! Catherine
What an amazing idea that grew into something so powerful. I work weekends and juggle three kids, so never get to go to real life conferences. Dipping in and out around my schedule was perfect for me. Carolyn W
WOWCON offered an opportunity to interact with other writers and learn from experts all from my home. This was the most accessible conference I have attended, and I’m already looking forward to WOWCON 2020. Julie
I live in a rural community. WOWCON was a chance to take part in a high quality writing conference without breaking the bank. I felt fully a part of what was going on, and I can’t wait until next year. Anna B