New feature: blog interviews

I’m a member of nine writing-related LinkedIn forums and just a few days ago on one of them I spotted the opportunity of being a guest blog interviewee. I was invited to answer some questions, which I did, and found it fun (as I did with a Who Hub interview a while back). Having also read comments from two other LinkedIn members, both offering the same service, one saying that she was currently closed for submissions (due to numbers received), the other picking up the gauntlet, I then (on Wednesday this week) threw mine into the ring and received 40 acceptances in the first 24 hours (with more coming in all the time… hoorah!).

Now armed with over a dozen completed questionnaires already, I’m planning on releasing one a day on this blog and the first, later today, will be from my fellow Radio Litopia colleague, horror / thriller / sci-fi writer Colin Barnes (www.colinfbarnes.com).

If you write (fiction or non-fiction) and would like to take part then all you need to do is email me at morgen@morgenbailey.com and I’ll send you the questions. You complete them, I tweak them (to reflect the blog ‘clean and light’ rating) where appropriate and then they join the queue to get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link (which will also automatically appear on my morgenwriteruk Twitter and Facebook pages) so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog and would like to interview me… let me know. 🙂

A couple of pieces of interest for those writing for children/ya

  • New independent publisher Mythmaker is looking for new writers to submit original children’s and young adult fiction. See www.mythmakerpublications.com.
  • Guardian’s new book website for children has content designed to encourage child-to-child reading … Michael Morpurgo, whose books include War Horse and Private Peaceful, said: “This new Guardian site will open up the world of books to children. It is wonderful to see a newspaper offering something for children and taking children’s books seriously. Sharing and reading stories from the earliest age can transform a child’s life.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/childrens-books.

Oundle Lit Fest day 3 (Mark Billingham & Michael Robotham) special podcast no 22

A 12-minute review of my third day spent volunteering at the recent Oundle Literature Festival is now available as ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ special podcast episode number 22 and features a talk with crime authors Mark Billingham and Michael Robotham. Links to iTunes, Google Feedburner, Pobean and Pocast Alley are available via my website (http://morgenbailey.com) and in the ‘Where to find me’ section of this blog.

Day 1 (released as special episode 16 on 25th April) featured Young Sherlock Holmes/Dr Who author Andy Lane and philosopher Nigel Warburton, and Day 2 (released as special episode 18 on 9th May) featured children’s author/illustrator Sarah McIntyre and the festival’s literature quiz.

Days 4 (featuring Nick Sharratt, Simon Scarrow, Warwick Davis and Michael Wood) & 5 (featuring Katherine Jakeways and the ‘Rhymer’s Revenge’ murder mystery events) to follow as special episodes in the not too distant future.

Next Monday’s episode will be the return of the standard format hints & tips (regular episode 33) and I shall be interviewing novelist Jane Davis that day so that will be a special episode later that week. The next interview will be with crime writer / tutor / columnist Adrian Magson at the end of June.

I shall then be interviewing crime novelist / tutor Sally Spedding at the Winchester Writers’ Conference early July, and currently have free interview slots from mid-July onwards; so if you write (published or otherwise) and think you’d make an interesting subject, do email me.

Extract from Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast episode 009 (Oct 2010) – recommendations

Publications

  • Puffin, part of the Penguin Group, is one of the most famous children’s publishers. Others include Bloomsbury (Harry Potter), Faber & Faber, Hodder, Little Tiger Press, Macmillan, Oxford University Press (OUP), Random House, Chicken House, Dorling Kindersley (Kinder meaning children in German presumably not coincidental, otherwise known as DK, who mainly produce educational books).
  • A magazine aimed at 8-12 years olds, ‘tbkmag’ is published quarterly (copies usually viewable at the library) by Winchester-based newbooks. Their adult version is called ‘newbooks’ and their website is www.newbooksmag.com where you can subscribe, browse book reviews and more.
  • ‘Young Writer’ is a quarterly magazine aimed at up to 18 year olds, published by the same company as ‘Writers News’ and ‘The Writing’ magazines. The website is www.young-writer.co.uk and the team welcomes submissions.
  • Writing guide books include the established ‘Teach yourself’ books. Their ‘Writing for children’ includes ‘improve your techniques’, ‘develop your range and ability’ and ‘get your work published’. The sections are clearly labelled on each page and there is a very comprehensive rear index. Other books in their range include ‘Creative writing’, ‘Crime fiction’, ‘English grammar’, ‘English language’, ‘English verbs’, ‘The Internet’, ‘Letter writing skills’, ‘Literature 101 key ideas’, ‘Screenwriting’, ‘Speed reading’, ‘Tracing your family history’, ‘Travel writing’, ‘writing a novel’ and ‘writing poetry’.
  • If you have something to send and don’t know where to send it to, a good place to start is The Writers’ & Artists’ Children’s yearbook. There’s also the ‘The Writers’ Handbook – Guide for writing for children’, Andrew Melrose’s ‘Write for Children’ and Pamela Cleaver’s ‘Writing a children’s book’.
  • The Bookseller magazine also has their own version: the ‘Children’s Bookseller’.
  • And finally, launched in 2006, ‘Quick Reads’ books by NIACE (The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education), although designed for encouraging adult literacy, are great for young adults as they are no longer than 128 pages and don’t contain particularly difficult words being usually limited to a maximum three to four syllables. There’s a really interesting article about Minette Walters which mentions her Quick Read book ‘Chicken Feed’ (www.guardian.co.uk/education/2007/mar/13/furthereducation.uk1).

Websites

  • Wordpool’s ‘Writing for Children’ page http://www.wordpool.co.uk/wfc/wfc.htm currently has 22 categories including FAQ (frequently asked questions) for new writers and new illustrators, screenwriting for children, understanding young readers, writing picture books, writing series fiction and links for writers.
  • http://www.ukchildrensbooks.co.uk provides an incredibly comprehensive list (over 200) children’s authors, illustrators, publishers and listed under ‘others’, organisations, series, characters, events, news, reviews and booksellers.
  • www.lovereading4kids.co.uk is a good site. Although a bookstore it also has information, book/author interviews. Again you can sign up for their ‘email news’ as well as ‘1000s of free book extracts’.
  • I’ve mentioned this before but Jacqui Burnett’s website www.jbwb.co.uk is packed with submission information and both the short story and novel markets sections include outlets for children’s fiction.
  • On a general note, The Publishers Association’s website (www.publishers.org.uk) has a great ‘How to get published’ page which in turn recommends the publishing guidelines page of the ‘Spread the Word’ website (www.spreadtheword.org.uk) which although aimed at London-based writers has general links on that page entitled ‘Hints and tips’, ‘Dos and Don’ts’, ‘Case studies’, ‘Who to approach’ (literary agents, publishers, small presses), magazines, e-zines and useful websites. It’s part of their resources section which is heaving with information although the most relevant part for anyone listening to this podcast is probably the ‘For writers’ link which offers you a choice of six sub-links, the fourth of which takes you to the guidelines.

Extract from Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast episode 009 (Oct 2010) – ideas

In this section of the hints & tips podcast I provide a couple of story ideas or ways to get new ideas then list seven sentence starts picked at random from my http://twitter.com/sentencestarts; each one, if you’d like to use them, for a daily writing project.

  • Children love animals so either think about an animal that isn’t written about very often (can you think of a famous giraffe for example?) or perhaps pick an ordinary animal and give it a twist (perhaps a blue dog?).
  • Take an ordinary every-day household object, for instance a clock, and make something unusual or magical about it.

And episode 9’s sentence starts were…

1.    Irene clung for control as the tyre burst…

2.    Zara wondered whether she’d make it in time…

3.    “Guess who turned up at ______ today?”…

4.    It was only one pay packet…

5.    Matthew (or Marion) looked in the mirror and winced…

6.    As the window shattered, scattering glass…

7.    Sharon signed the paperwork and knew life would never be the same again…

Extract from Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast episode 009 (Oct 2010) – younger children

  • Picture books are obviously designed for younger children and there are many types available including board/cloth/padded baby books, pop-up books, flap books (where the child pulls tabs to reveal something), books with holes in the pages (revealing something exciting on the next page), pictorial consequences (pages cut horizontally in several places so you can make different pictures by turning one or more horizontal strip), picture books with minimal or longer text and wordless picture books. A good trick is to make a book educational without the child realising.
  • Things to watch out for when writing a picture book text include: dialogue – too much dialogue it’s said is tedious to read aloud and dull to illustrate because there is no action. Cultural differences – certain details may cause problems for the illustrator when co-publishing and overseas sales are considered: food varies so much from country to country; vehicles drive on different sides of the road; typical pets, landscapes, buildings and so on vary. Rhyming verse: there are mixed views on rhyming verse with some editors having reservations about verse-written stories as they can trivialise the story by making it sound humorous but the same story in prose may be revealed as flat and mundane. For the illustrator, a formal verse structure is bound to be reflected in a formalised layout, which will need to be varied by ingenious means if the book is not to look too repetitive. So the best advice really would be to write it, if you can in both formats, and see how it feels to you.
  • The Children’s Laureate, currently sponsored by Waterstone’s, is a position awarded in the UK once every two years to a distinguished writer or illustrator of children’s books. Anthony Browne is the current Children’s Laureate and Michael Rosen held this position from 2007-9, taking over from author Jacqueline Wilson (2005-7), Michael Morpurgo before her, Anne Fine (2001-3) and initially Quentin Blake (who illustrated most of Roald Dahl’s children’s books) 1999-2001. The idea for the Children’s Laureate originated from a conversation between Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes and prolific story teller Michael Morpurgo. The main website for reference is www.childrenslaureate.org.uk but http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children’s_Laureate also makes an interesting read and details other children’s awards including the Blue Peter Book Award, Nestle Smarties Book Prize and the Carnegie Medal.
  • The British Library released a CD around the £10 mark called ‘The Spoken Word: Children’s Writers’ which includes the only known recording of AA Milne reading ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ as well as contributions from JRR Tolkien, Roald Dahl and Philip Pullman amongst others. Order reference number is 0712315182.

Extract from Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast episode 009 (Oct 2010) – writing for children

The ninth episode of my Bailey’s Writing Tips audio podcast was released on 18th October 2010 and the content has never been released other than website links (on my website www.morgenbailey.com) so I hope you find this information useful. In the first eight episodes (see earlier blog posts), I covered ‘show not tell’, the five senses, repetition, points of view, tenses, dialogue, characters, crime, poetry, short stories and novels. This episode talked about writing for children and young adults.

  • Publishers usually categorise their books into picture book then ages of 5+, 7+, 9+, 11+ and 13+ (or Teenage/YA – Young Adult). Bear this in mind when you’re writing your story. What age are you aiming at? Ideally read some books in your targeted age range (if you don’t have any the library, bookshops, charity shops, and the internet are great sources) but bear in mind that children like to read about a character a couple of years or so older than them so they can aspire to being like them. With any writing, you need to know your market.
  • Don’t limit your vocabulary. If your story is gripping, your reader will be hooked, and can either look up the words later (although the context of the rest of passage should be enough to make sense) or for younger children, their parents could explain. It’s good to have a challenge once in a while but don’t go overboard – it’s frustrating, even for an adult, to have to refer to the dictionary too many times!
  • Children love stories told through the eyes of an animal whereas most magazine guidelines say not to relay the story with an animal as first person unless writing a children’s story and for an adult certainly don’t make the twist where we find out at the end that the character isn’t human after all. Joyce Stranger is one of the most prolific animal storywriters and her stories work because they’re targeted at readers of that style of story, popular by the likes of People’s Friend for instance.
  • Don’t underestimate your reader – writer Joan Aitken likened children’s fiction to thriller writing. Certainly the skill of being able to keep the reader in delicious suspense and wanting to know what happens next is critical in children’s books. You can get away with more though with children as, in theory, adults have read more and are harder to please!
  • Do confront complex issues and create worlds that are not necessarily safe and cosy. Remember, some of the most brilliant children’s fiction deals with children who are powerless, isolated and afraid.
  • Don’t write for children because you see it as easier than writing for adults. It isn’t! There may be fewer words in a children’s novel but there should be the same amount of passion and commitment.
  • Always make sure the 5W/1H questions are answered…Who (characters), What (story), Where (location setting), When (time of day, year etc), Why (reason for conflict) and How (resolution).
  • Whilst there can be conflict, and certainly should be for older readers, children’s books for younger readers usually end happily. You can get away with a sad ending for older children or young adults but you don’t want a bawling toddler on your hands whose hero has died!
  • An excerpt from Basil Blackwell’s ‘Guide for Authors’ reads “The process of publishing fiction and non-fiction for older children does not differ in any significant way from that relating to the adult equivalents. Writing for younger children is a more specialist activity, and particular attention needs to be paid, for example, to vocabulary. Nearly all books for younger children are illustrated, sometimes by the author, more usually by a professional illustrator. Most publishers of children’s books will have a team of freelance artists and will try to assign to your book an artist appropriate to your style. You should certainly ask to see examples of the artist’s work; most publishers will show them to you automatically. If you are already teamed up with an artist, send examples of his or her work when asked to do so, taking care to pack them carefully and to send them to registered post. Even better, make an appointment and carry them to the publisher’s office yourself.” Nice and specific.

Educational periodicals are a good source of information if you are thinking of writing non-fiction. The Times produces their weekly ‘TES’ (Times Educational Supplement) not to be confused with their ‘TLS’ (Times Literary Supplement) which is available in most newsagents or by subscription. The TLS website (http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/the_tls) includes a ‘poem of the week’, ‘then & now’, blog and pay-to-access archive.