Sunday, May 01, 2016

Writing Picture Books with Anita Loughrey


10th – 12th June 2016 at Grosvenor House, 2 East Street, Herne Bay, Kent. CT6 5HN

Grosvenor House must be one of the most idyllic and relaxing places in the whole world. I feel honoured to be able to teach a writing for picture book course here. What more could you ask for?  

Relaxing atmosphere, sea, good food and time to indulge yourself in something you love. 

This course is for ideal all writers who want to write picture books and wish to develop their writing skills by looking in depth at the structure, characterisation and plot of picture books. 
Course delegates will be given opportunities to develop their own characters and picture books in a supportive and friendly atmosphere. 
The methods and techniques taught can also be used for writing chapter books and novels for older children.

Myths of writing for children 
Writing for different age ranges

Common themes 
Structure and layout

Story arc
Plotting a picture book

Getting to know your characters
Finding your character’s voice

For further details about the Picture Book retreat and prices contact Frances Brown: 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Launch of new blog Papers Pens Poets

Today, I launched a brand new blog for a life-long fetish of mine – stationery. It is called Papers Pens Poets and is the place for writers and other stationery addicts to show their passion for paper and pens.
We have launched today to coincide with the start of National Stationery Week.

The blog is the brain child of my friend and fellow children’s writer Jo Franklin. She had invited me to the London Stationery Show, an annual event where stationery creators and retailers come together to network, and we were discussing travel arrangements and our plans for the day over messenger, Thursday 21st April at 16:34. Jo said:
“Let’s tell the stall holders we are going to create a stationery review blog called something like Papers Pens Poets aimed at writers and we are looking for products to review with links back to their websites.”
To which I replied:
“Wow. Sounds cool. We should do that.”
So we did.

Over the weekend we created a website with blog and contact facilities. Our current header was designed especially for us by the wonderful, Chitra Soundar, children’s book writer and stationery enthusiast. We set up author interviews, made and ordered business cards, found quotes from famous authors to go on our business cards, set up a Twitter page and an Instagram page and also wrote and scheduled several posts. We were very, very busy.

We are going to be doing lots of stationery reviews, articles and interviews with writers and illustrators. If you are a writer, artist and avid stationery lover and would like to be interviewed about your passion for stationery please let me know by leaving a message.

You can also follow and comment on our blog on Wordpress, pop over and wish us a happy launch day on Twitter @paperspenspoets and follow and hashtag us on Instagram. You can read my post about National Stationery Week and the writing matters campaign here.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Columnist or Feature Writer? That is the question

I have been writing for the national writing magazine Writers' Forum for over ten years. I started as a freelance author, interviewing other writers I met on courses and conferences, about their writing and writing process and would send these features in with fingers crossed hoping the editor then, John Jenkins, would accept them. More often than not he did.

When the magazine changed hands the new editor, Carl Styants, was not so interested in off-spec features and after a few rejections, follow-up emails and a discussion over the telephone, he asked me to write on a more regular basis on the theme of research, something that has always fascinated me.

So in October 2008, I started to write a monthly double-spread feature on research techniques with tips on researching from successful authors across different genres. The focus is on what works for them and how this could benefit other writers. The column aims to give the reader useful tips on research - specific books and websites, museums and place to go to, etc and to show how the writer being interviewed used their research in their book. The feature is written up as though they are telling me about their research and the questions themselves do not appear.

Since then I have considered myself a columnist with a regular monthly column on writers and their research. However, I have recently been informed I may not be a columnist, I am a regular feature writer. When it comes to the crunch on considering whether I am a ‘columnist’ or ‘featurist’ (I may have just made-up that word) I believe it depends on what your definition is of a column and a feature.

As I found this idea very interesting, I decided to do some research on the topic. There is a lot of confusing and sometimes contradicting definitions. The best explanation for me was Keith Martin’s words on the Quora website. Using his reasoning then, technically I am not a columnist because I interview different people each month and although, the feature is attributed to me the voice and opinions are the writers’ being interviewed. This means I must be a regular feature writer.

This is also true of my new monthly slot in Writers’ Forum on Writing for Children, lunched in the May issue 2016. Although, I have announced it on Facebook and twitter as a new column, technically it isn’t. It is a monthly feature with tips from successful authors, agents, editors and other professionals from the children’s publishing world. The focus is on what works for them and how this could benefit children’s book writers. It is written as if they are talking to me, from their point of view and none of the questions are shown.

After much deliberation though, I have decided I am going to keep the heading ‘My Columns’ in the menu of my website because I think it sounds better than, ‘My Regular Features’.

I would be pleased to hear your thoughts and suggestions about whether you consider me to be a columnist, or a regular feature writer, or even what I should call myself. (Please be polite)

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Writing for Children with Anita Loughrey

Fri 13 May 2016 to Sun 15 May 2016
This course is ideal for beginners who want to write fiction for children of all ages and also those who have started to write and wish to develop their skills further
Friday 3.00 p.m. to Sunday 12.30 p.m.
13-15 May 2016
The Hayes Conference Centre Swanwick Derbyshire
All inclusive fee £245 Single en suite. All meals and refreshments.
Free Parking. Non-participating partners welcome
Attend as a Resident or Day Visitor
Book early and pay by instalments

This course is ideal for beginners who want to write fiction for children of all ages and also also for those who have started to write their books and wish to develop their writing skills further. 
Topics to be covered: 
• Different types of Writing for Children – genre/age groups 
• Plot and structure 
• Themes. 
• Writing picture books
• Writing chapter books 
• Developing characters 
• Opening and first pages

The weekend course is informal and fun - go home with an idea for a picture book and an idea for a chapter book for older children. Write in a supportive atmosphere, discuss your ideas, how to develop them and where to pitch them. 
Please let your group know about our weekend Creative Writing Courses. Every effort is made to keep the fees at cost and offering you the convenience of paying by instalments.
The emphasis is on ‘Relax & Write’ - Groups are kept small so that you can benefit from the ‘Relax & Write’ writing experience. The venue is an ideal place for writers, meeting  other writers and enjoying the beautiful gardens. A Programme and Badge is handed out on arrival. Free Parking available.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour

Sue Eves asked me to join The Writing Process Blog Tour and talk a bit about my writing process and then post it on my blog. You can read all about Sue’s writing process on her blog:

Although I said, ‘Yes! I’ll join the tour!’ as it is not like me to turn down a chance to try my hand at writing something new  - I feel a bit of a fraud for two major reasons:
  •   I have not actually posted anything on my blog for over two years.
  • At the moment, I have no commissions - I am working on nothing!

Well, actually this last statement is not necessarily true because…

What am I currently working on? 
I write something every day, even on days I don’t think I am writing anything.
  1. I am researching, writing and sending out questionnaires to authors about their research for my column Research Secrets in Writers’ Forum . I am also editing several completed questionnaires, cutting and formatting the authors’ answers to the required length and ensuring they meet the brief of being about their research into their book, before sending them to my editor. He has three features on file from me at the moment. This means I have filled my slot in the magazine until August, so I am not in any particular hurry.
  2. I am working on a picture book text, honing and polishing and trying to get it perfect before sending it to a commissioning editor at a large publishing company in the hope that they may want it. There is no deadline as nobody knows I am writing it, so I am not in a particular hurry.
  3. I am writing the very last two chapters of a middle grade time-slip fantasy novel using Scrivener, which I have not used before but I wanted to explore it to see how it worked. For this novel, I’ve realised my antagonists are a bit shallow and want to explore this a bit and make them more formidable and also change their appearance. But… there is no deadline and nobody has expressed a real interest in it, so I am not in a particular hurry.
  4. I am thinking, researching and writing notes on an idea for a new novel, which is YA. This is for an older age range than I normally write fiction for. It is very dark and maybe totally inappropriate for children! I have written the first eight chapters and plotted out the rest of the book. I know who, what, where, when and how and want to concentrate on building the characters’ emotional arc. But… there is no deadline and I have not told anybody much about it yet, so I am not in a particular hurry.
  5. I am writing this for my blog, in between checking out Facebook, watering my virtual garden and playing spider solitaire. It is not due until the 12th May and it is still April (just). I have not posted on my blogs for years and I seriously doubt anybody is going to read it really. I also know I can edit and change it whenever I like… so there is no urgency and consequently - I am not in a particular hurry… but I know I will be!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Writing to commission for the educational market is different to writing for the general fiction market because you know it will be published and you usually have very tight deadlines. You are also writing to a brief. I get some very tight briefs and I am not talking about my underwear! For example, the last project I was working on and finished in February, was for a Spanish toy company, World Alive S.L.  I was asked to write 24 pen-friend style letters for four different kits for their adventure passport project. The letters each had to be a separate adventure to include the destination, photos, food and animals they had previously decided.

As well as the brief, we had several Skype sessions discussing the project and how I was going to proceed.

The most difficult part was inventing 24 different adventures that included the stickers and photographs for each country that they had all ready put into production. You might think it sounds like a nightmare but I enjoyed every second of it, even the editing of the stories to reduce word count and take into consideration cultural significant facts I was previously unaware of. I believe I did an excellent job fitting it all together.

Why do I write what I do?
I write for the educational market because it is fun! I have a good knowledge of the school curriculum and the levels which children work. I also enjoy working to a brief and fitting it all together like a jigsaw puzzle. I love the fact I have a deadline and the majority of the time I work as part of a team discussing, changing and manipulating ideas as we go. Each project is like its own adventure.

How does my writing process work?
I saw this posted on Facebook a few weeks back and it struck me as so true. I have edited it a bit to make it more relevant and take out the swear words in case my mother decides to read this post!

Honestly, this is how my writing process works.

I say on my website I work well to a deadline! What I mean is if I don’t have a deadline the work probably will not be done. I need the sense of urgency to get myself into gear! This is why I am brilliant at working to commission but not so good at writing my own stuff which nobody has asked for!

So that is it folks maybe for another two years. But who knows maybe I will get the urge to post again!

Meanwhile take a look at the excellent writers I am going to pass the baton on to and they will tell you all about their writing process next Monday 19th May.

David Seow

David Seow was born and raised in Singapore. He studied at Anglo-Chinese School, Oregon Episcopal School and the University of Portland, Oregon. After a stint in sitcom writing, David embarked on a career in children's literature. David is the author of several well-received children's books, including The Sam, Sebbie and Di-Di-Di series. His book ‘There's Soup on My Fly’ was shortlisted for the Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award and was dramatized at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in 2012. His latest books are "If I were a Blue Kangaroo" and "Emma’s Elephant" and “At the Night Safari” and “A Day with the Duchess”. 
Read about his writing process at:

Emma Nicholson

I am a born scavenger, picking up ideas from all walks of life. I've lived abroad on and off, and am currently in Singapore where my first book was published in January. I've made my writing life out here, and am involved in lots of projects from picture books to mystery-adventures set in the tropics. 
Read about my writing process at:

Alex Woolf

Alex Woolf has worked as a writer and editor for over 20 years and has published around 80 works of fiction and non-fiction, mainly for children and young adults. His non-fiction encompasses a whole variety of subjects, from science and the natural world to politics and social issues, but his favourite subject is history. By far his biggest work to date is his Short History of the World, which has sold over 45,000 copies in the English-speaking world and been translated into seven different languages since it first appeared in 2008.

Alex’s fiction includes the Chronosphere series, a a time-warping science-fiction trilogy, and Aldo Moon and the Ghost of Gravewood Hall, described by best selling crime writer Peter James as witty, ghostly and at times deliciously ghastly. He’s also written Soul Shadows, a horror novel about shadows that come to life, which has been shortlisted for the 2014 RED Book Award. Alex is a regular author for Fiction Express, online publishers of interactive stories for schools. He writes a chapter a week, and children vote on how the story should continue. 2014 sees the release of Iron Sky: Dread Eagle, his first foray into the world of steampunk. He lives in Southgate, North London, with his wife and two children.

Read about Alex Woolf's writing process at: 

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Using Story to Teach ICT

Wow! I'm so excited!

What should be delivered to me this morning but, six beautiful copies of Using Story to Teach ICT ages 5-6. It is the first book in a series of four on teaching ICT in a creative, cross-curricular way and was published by Hopscotch Educational.

It is great being able to hold the books in my hand. This is the absolutely best things about being a full-time writer. I LOVE IT. Can you see my name on the cover?

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Colours Around Me

You know it has been five months since I updated my blog.

Five Months!!! A lot can happen in five months. I have had several new books published for a start. These are the covers for my Colours Around Me Series published by QED.There are four educational picture books in the series, aimed at 2-4 year olds and they are designed to help children recognise different colours in their own environment.