Yesterday I attended a wonderful event at Cambridge Central Library in conjunction with The Society of Childrens’ Writers and Book Illustrators: SCBWI.
I had the opportunity to hear from not one, not two, but three authors: Rosemary Hayes, Gillian McClure, and Pippa Goodhart who are all based in East Anglia and published by http://www.troikabooks.com/
Rosemary Hayes happens to be the same age as my mum and writes for young adults (11+) my preferred writing age range!
Who says we are ever too old to read, or to write YA! Never…
All of these age groups offer differing opportunities and challenges, from picture books to teens, authors have the power to capture and keep a reader’s attention.
How inspiring is that?
Gillian McClure kicked off the panel discussion by talking about her journey into writing and illustrating picture books. Her advice for picture book writers is simple: focus on seeing the world from the 2 – 6-year-old child’s point of view. Imagine what it is like to be a small person in a big world. Be aware of the things in their immediate vantage point, such as a dog on a pavement.
Begin by using a blank dummy with post-it-notes so that during the creative process you can move the words around and find their best placement.
Pay attention to pace and tone, e.g. starting and stopping to create a sense of flow. Or using two characters, one to speed up the pace and the other to slow it down. Or perhaps introduce one character to pose a question and the other to deliver an answer.
Think visually if you can and make sure that the words flow well on the page so when adults read aloud to children the experience is delightfully seamless.
For a shorter story format use minimal text and the present tense. Sometimes it is useful to use the past tense for scary scenes to bring the young reader out of the sense of immediate danger.
The ending should suggest that any underlying fears are resolved and there should be a sense of hope conveyed.
Pippa Goodhardt joined the discussion next, with her experiences of writing for MG – (7 to 9-year-olds.)
Her introduction focused on the importance of encouraging a reading habit in young children, validated by her own experience as a poor reader and writer as a child. Opportunities and the right environment can change a poor reader into an enthusiastic one, or may even encourage a poor reader to become an author as it did in Pippa’s experience.
This age group has huge potential, this is when readers are made and begin to choose their own books. There is a growing sense of independence characterised by sleepovers and the like. Characters aren’t expected to be saintly, and should be given the opportunity to explore, and have independent adventures. More serious topics can be explored, (in an imaginative and perhaps fantastical way,) but with an awareness of what is appropriate to the age of the child.
Rosemary Hayes continued the discussion with her thoughts on encouraging empathy in children and fostering reading in the teenage age group.
Twelve to fourteen-year-olds question the world around them and are sensitive and impressionable. Consider various aspects when writing for this age group e.g. Do they interact well with their peers?
Authors should be encouraged to explore more challenging, edgy content as long as this is thoughtfully done. Focus on what you care about. Be passionate, grab the readers’ attention fast or they will lose interest. Be careful about the use of language – slang and the like can become out-dated very quickly..
Don’t write down to your readers, treat them with respect, write about what inspires and intrigues you and this should in turn intrigue and inspire them.
This event was organised by SCBWI – The Society of Children Writers and Book Illustrators: https://www.scbwi.org/
To find out more please follow the link, or leave a comment below.
I would be happy to answer any questions you have about this wonderfully supportive group.
Bye for now,
Buy Book: myBook.to/TheCurseofTime
Unique Selling Point: Unique, Imaginative, ‘Charming, enchanting and richly layered this is purely delightful.’
Social Media Links
Authors Website: https://mjmallon.com
Collaborative Blog: https://sistersofthefey.wordpress.com
Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon and @curseof_time
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It sounds interesting, Marje. The speakers presented age appropriate points and suggestions. Very worth attending!