Olympic athlete Christine Ohuruogu spoke to over 100 children at an event at Stratford Circus yesterday organised by Newham Bookshop. Christine was promoting her new children’s books Camp Gold which are inspired by her experiences in running. Christine talked about her inspirations, her hectic training schedule and gave advice to those aspiring to follow in her (very fast) footsteps. Christine then signed copies of her books, much to the excitement of the children and posed happily with the children for photographs. Christine is currently training for the 2012 Olympics.
Earlier in 2012, we gave you the chance to submit your writing to us. The ‘Aspiring Authors’ competition asked people to submit either a piece of fiction or a picture book extract. Two lucky entries would receive a professional review from our editors and a copy of the Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2012.
Editor’s Joe and Parul had a very difficult job on their hands as we were inundated with entries. But they finally chose two lucky winners. For the Fiction category, they chose Denise Gibb for her novel The Secret Life of Dylan Jones. Parul said: ‘Denise’s submission stood out: she writes with a nice style and opened with a great chapter that had clearly been pared down and edited. As a result, there were no excess words and each sentence made an impact.’ In the picture book category, Joe selected Swapna Haddow, with her text – Don’t Eat That, Phoenix. He said: ‘‘Don’t Eat That Phoenix is a very sweet story with a funny, lovable central character. The simple repetitive structure is a great way of gaining a young reader’s attention and holding their concentration, so that they know what to expect and will enjoy reading along with their parent once they’ve heard the story a few times.’
Congratulations to Denise and Swapna and thank you to everyone for entering. Look out for future writing competitions on the Tamarind blog. It’s so exciting to see so many people with a passion for writing. We can’t wait to read more! In the meantime, check out these top writing tips from Parul and Joe.
– Read: Browse through the shelves in your local bookshop and online. Reading popular books should give you a flavour of the books that today’s children enjoy reading. Don’t forget to look at award shortlists too (Guardian Children’s Book Award, Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize and Carnegie, to mention a few). Remember that the content of children’s books has changed and continues to evolve. As an editor, it’s easy to tell when a writer hasn’t read a modern children’s book.
– Compare: Think about whether your proposed storyline will have enough to interest the intended child. There is a market for all types of stories: literary, light-hearted and moral… but all these books must have one thing in common – they must be compelling to the editor, the publishing house, the bookseller and most importantly – the reader. If you have an idea – perhaps research a little bit more– has this idea been done before? If so, what angle was taken? How will you differentiate your book?
– Language: Think about the language used by children today – how formal or informally do they speak – can you weave some of this into your story that the speech is authentic? (unless you are writing historical fiction)
– Storyline: What type of story is this? How quickly will the reader know this? As a rule of thumb, it’s good to have started the main storyline by chapter three – so that the reader knows where the story is leading them.
– Synopsis writing: Imagine you’re travelling in a lift with a friend. You have ten floors to give your book pitch. What would you say? It’s useful to be able to compare or highlight the main concept of the story. ‘A coming of age story set in the deep south’ or ‘Clarice Bean meets Mallory Towers’ – these are quick examples, I’m sure you can do better! Don’t be afraid to use these pitch lines when starting the synopsis – it’s often how publishers pitch a book to booksellers.
Picture Books hints
– Not too long: It’s very unusual that a picture book text should stretch to more than 800 words, and 400 words is much more common. Of course it will depend on the publisher and the target age of the book, but if you are writing more than 600 words then do start to think about whether you should be cutting and tightening.
– Developing characters through what they do: There is a tendency to describe what’s happening, rather than showing the reader things about the central character through their actions. There’s nothing wrong with a little description, but often a little dialogue or a funny action is preferable, and there needs to be a balance between the two styles.
– Keep the pages turning: In a picture book, it’s vital that the child is always itching to find out what happens next. Make sure that there is enough happening that you will have an exciting chunk of action on each double page spread, and that the reader will be left at the end each spread wanting to know what happens next.
– What’s it all about?: Sometimes it wasn’t clear from the submissions what the emotional journey was that the central characters were going on – what was the problem that they faced, how did they overcome it and what did they learn on the way. A really good picture book usually contains these features and a sense of clear progression/development from start to finish. Of course people break the rules, and some of the best picture books don’t take their characters on a journey or leave the reader with a lesson learned, but is this right for your story? This is at least something worth thinking about as you write.
Best of luck with your future writing!
It seems that every day I’m adding to the list of fans for Now is the Time For Running by Michael Williams. This book was acquired quietly, thus without an auction or much fanfare so perhaps you haven’t heard of it… yet. Of course, it can be fun (and nerve-racking*) to win a book in a heated auction, but there is a particular delight in acquiring a book quietly, like finding a precious gemstone which you slip into your pocket and treasure, sure that you will delight everyone when they finally see it…And delighted they are:
Today I received a lovely email from the latest fan, Jason Wallace, who said: Thank you for letting me read it, that said, I did find it quite difficult keeping my enthusiasm down to a minimum number of words!!!!. Jason’s quote (see below) will join the inimitable Bali Rai whose quote will also feature on the front cover. And there’s more: Michael Williams has fans at the Bookseller, Bookbag, Goodreads and Kirkus. That comes on top of a marketing, sales and publicity team who have phoned and emailed me to say that they were touched by Michael’s writing, that they shed tears and that they simply love the book. High praise indeed – our sales team don’t cry easily.
With all this good will, what next? Well, the book hasn’t been published in the UK yet, so we wait and hope that it will find a home in the hearts and bookshelves of those who love children’s and YA literature. As a reader, an editor, I wish this with all my heart.
*obviously not nerve-racking like heart surgery but for the delicate sensibilities of an editor, auctions can be rather heart pounding.
REVIEWS SO FAR
The triumph of human endeavour against a harrowing landscape… A gripping, powerful tale that will more than touch your soul. Quite simply, this story needs to be read. Jason Wallace
A wonderfully written, thought-provoking novel that brings the grim reality of life for ordinary Zimbabweans into sharp focus. It deserves a wide audience. Bali Rai
Heartbreaking, unputdownable tale of prejudice, resilience and brotherly love. Fiona Noble, Bookseller
I found this story incredibly troubling and moving; Deo and Innocent will stay with you. Clare Poole, Bookseller
Extremely powerful and it wrings every possible emotion out of its readers. The football is as exhilarating to read about as it is for Deo to play. Bookbag
Gripping, suspenseful and deeply compassionate. Kirkus Review
Wonderful. A must-read for anyone who loves international YA fiction . . . very brave. Goodreads