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How to Write for Children and Young Adults

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25th February 2017 - 9:30am to 5:00pm


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Are you the next Julia Donaldson? If you want to write for children or young adults, learn from the best with a day of writing workshops and panel discussions with leading children’s publishers and literary agents. 

Meet the gatekeepers of children’s publishing and find out what they’re looking to publish next, how to improve your writing and how best to increase your chances of getting published.

The day includes: a two-hour writing workshop with an author of your choice; networking drinks reception with the speakers; and informative and interactive panel discussions with highly regarded commissioning editors and literary agents looking for debut authors to add to their lists. 

In the morning, three successful children’s authors offer their advice on how to improve your writing with an engaging and interactive workshop with exercises and feedback. The afternoon sessions will help you navigate the current market, warn you of what to avoid in a submission to an agent and give insight into the minds of leading publishing industry figures. 


09.30-10.00 Welcome coffee and tea 

10.00-10.15 Introduction to the day

10.15-11.15 A writing workshop of your choice: either writing picture books with Kes Gray, writing for middle years with M.G. Leonard or writing YA with Lisa Williamson.

11.15-11.25 Short break 

11.25-12.45 Writing workshop continued 

12.45-13.30 Lunch break (lunch not included but teas and coffees available)

13.30-14.30 What are children’s publishers looking for and what are today’s children reading? Alysoun Owen, Editor of the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook and Children's Writers' & Artists' Yearbook chairs a panel discussion with children's publishing industry experts; Stephanie King, Commissioning Fiction Editor at Usborne Publishing and Chloe Sackur, Fiction Editor at Andersen Books. 

14.30-15.30 Commissioning Fiction Editor at Usborne Publishing Stephanie King and author Tamsyn Murray in discussion on the editor/author relationship

15.30-16.30 How to submit your work to an agent: panel discussion with leading literary agents Jodie Hodges, Felicity Trew and Julia Churchill

16.30-17.00 Drinks reception 

Speaker Profiles

Kes Gray has been listed by The Independent as one of the Top Ten children's authors in the UK. His picture book Eat Your Peas, the first of several titles in the acclaimed Daisy series (illustrated by Nick Sharratt), won the overall prize at the 2001 Children's Book Awards, and has since become a three times category winner, with over 40 published books. Most recently Kes has written Ready, Steady, Mo! in collaboration with Olympian athlete Mo Farah.

M.G. Leonard has a first-class honours degree in English Literature and an MA in Shakespeare Studies from Kings College London. Until recently, Leonard worked in London as the Senior Digital Media Producer for the National Theatre, she now freelances for them, and previously worked at the Royal Opera House and Shakespeare’s Globe. Leonard spent her early career in the music industry running Setanta Records, an independent record label, and managing bands, most notably The Divine Comedy. After leaving the music industry, she trained as an actor, dabbling in directing and producing as well as performing, before deciding to write her stories down. Leonard's debut novel for children, Beetle Boy, was published in 2016 by Chicken House - it became an instant bestseller and received critical acclaim. Beetle Queen, the second book in the trilogy, is published on 6 April 2017. Leonard lives in Brighton with her husband and two sons. 

Lisa Williamson was born in Nottingham in 1980. She spent most of her childhood drawing, daydreaming and making up stories in her head (but never getting round to writing them down). As a teenager, she was bitten by the acting bug and at 19 moved to London to study drama at university. 

Following graduation, Lisa adopted the stage name of Lisa Cassidy and spent several happy and chaotic years occasionally getting paid to pretend to be other people. Between acting roles, she worked as an office temp and started making up stories all over again, only this time she had a go at writing them down. 

Her debut novel, The Art of Being Normal was a bestseller in both hardback and paperback and won the Waterstones Children's Book Award 2016 in the older fiction category. Her second novel, All About Mia will be published in February 2017. 

Tamsyn Murray writes for all ages from picture books to YA, including Usborne’s Completely Cassidy and Tanglewood Animal Park series, and Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart. Her YA Afterlife series was published to widespread critical acclaim, with My So-Called Afterlife Highly Commended in the Teenage Booktrust Prize, and My So-Called Phantom Lovelife shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association YA Romantic Novel of the Year.

Stephanie King is Commissioning Fiction Editor at Usborne Publishing, where she joined as Editorial Assistant in 2007 following a graduate job in children’s brand licensing. She's worked with many authors on a variety of projects including multi-award-winning L. A. Weatherly, Quills winner and Carnegie-nominated Vanessa Curtis, Tamsyn Murray, Pseudonymous Bosch, Claire Barker & Ross Collins, Newbery Honor winner Ann M Martin, and iBooks Best Book of 2016 author, Meredith Russo. She's also worked in-house developing Usborne Young Reading series, Fairy Ponies, and looks after Usborne's YA blog, She commissions for readers aged 5+ to YA, and is always looking for strong, authentic voices, compelling storytelling, humour, irreverence and magic

Chloe Sackur is Fiction Editor for Andersen Press, an independent publisher of children’s books. She began her career in adult non-fiction, before quickly making the leap to children’s fiction as an editorial assistant at Stripes Publishing. Chloe has been at Andersen for three years, in which time she has worked with award-winning and much-loved authors including Michael Rosen, Melvin Burgess, Tony Ross and Rebecca Stead. In 2016 she had the privilege to work on a special extended anniversary edition of Carnegie Medal-winner Junk with Melvin, a book that she loved as a young teen. Chloe commissions and edits books for children aged from 5 years old up to young adults. She looks for an original storytelling voice, imagination and humour, and most of all, passion. @ChloeSackur

Julia Churchill joined A.M.Heath in 2013 as Children's Agent, after four years building up the UK side of the Greenhouse Literary Agency, and six years at the Darley Anderson Agency where she started the children's book side of the list. She represents some fabulous writers including Sarah Crossan, Sarah Lean and Joanna Nadin. She’s always on the treasure hunt for new writing talent and considers the slushpile to be the greatest place on earth. She’s looking for debut and established authors with storytelling magic, from picture book texts right up to YA fiction. Follow her on Twitter:@JuliaChurchill

Jodie Hodges started working with Rosemary Canter in 2006, assisting her on her list. She was made an agent at United Agents in 2010 and always has an open list for submissions. In the spirit of adventure and not knowing what she's looking for until she sees it, Jodie doesn't have a wish-list of new clients. Her feelings don't change; she enjoys strong, original storytelling and a unique voice. Jodie has a passion for funny writing for 7-12s and also a penchant for the realisms of teenage life - be that gritty or hilarious - in writing for that age group. That said, she also loves classic, epic adventure stories and a sprinkling of the fantastic.

Additionally, Jodie is always searching for children's book illustrators or writer/illustrators with a contemporary, quirky style. A kind word of advice, though, please ensure your portfolio is ready for children's books. Make sure you're showing the best of yourself by showcasing the sort of illustration found in children's picture books in the UK. A quick browse in your local bookshop will work wonders.

Jodie's favourite books are Skellig by David Almond and Junk by Melvin Burgess; and her favourite piece of illustration is the night-time spread in The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr, in case you were curious.

Talented, enthusiastic and energetic, Felicity Trew is keenly building up a list of children’s writers and illustrators at the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency. Clients she already represents include CLPE award-winning poet Joseph Coelho, Paula Harrison, Swapna Haddow, Mitch Johnson and Wendy Meddour. 

Yuval Zommer, Sheena Dempsey and Carolina Rabei are among her growing list of illustrators. Felicity has a particular love for quirky and imaginative children’s books. Dream projects to arrive on her desk would be: a spellbinding novel of our time, a bold UK teen voice to rival the likes of John Green and Holly Smale, an accessible, well-plotted (and don’t hold back on the funny!) middle grade book, and a picture book classic of the future à la The Tiger Who Came to Tea. Felicity is also on a mission to find extraordinary illustrators who capture the life of their characters and have a real love of story-telling at the heart of their artwork.

Further speaker details will be confirmed as soon as possible.

Event details

The event will be held at Bloomsbury Publishing, 50 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP. Doors will open at 9.30am, with teas and coffees provided upon arrival.

The talks will begin at 10am prompt, finishing at 4pm for a drinks reception. 


'Accessible, informative, informal yet well-presented.' Kerry Corden

'It makes the whole publishing world feel more accessible - the spur I needed to keep going.' Tom Jordan

'Feel privileged to land a place on this course - now the rest is up to me!' Charlotte Turner

'Thoroughly enjoyed, very inspirational. Thank you so much for a great day with the right sized crowd and perfectly picked experts to share their knowledge.' Charlotte Scarborough

'I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for a wonderful and inspiring day on Saturday at the Writing for Children Conference. I spent Sunday writing up the notes I made and applying Matt Whyman's practical tips to my own manuscript. It was a pleasure to meet with so many other writers' who feel just as nervous as myself, apparently I'm not alone - who knew!' Shelley Wilson

'A lovely day! Very informative for someone new to the game! I'm super inspired to get cracking and get out there!' Rhiannon Holland

'This was an extremely helpful day, thank you! It was very well organised and informative - just what we needed. I was struck by how incredibly friendly everyone attending and running the workshop was. Being creative seems to bring out the best in people!' Astrid Weber

'Very well organised. Length of sessions was good, lots of variety and chance to ask questions.' Chelle Parker

'The conference offered a well-judged mix of practical advice and inspirational personal stories. The range of speakers – from literary agents, to publishers, to authors – meant that all aspects of the business were covered… [It] has certainly given me the tools to return to my own work not just with renewed enthusiasm but with a sharper editor's eye, too.' Becky Brewis

'Fantastic event. Thank you so much for all the great advice!' Margaret Kim

'Excellent course with so much to think about. Can't wait to get back to my writing.' Zita O'Rourke

'Very professional and friendly, inspiring and realistic. Heading home now to start the search for an agent!' Nikie Forster

'Loved the day, loved the speakers – thank you! Also thought that Alysoun was a perfect host for the day.' Kerensa Jennings


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