Welcome!

Children's Author Lou Treleaven at the reading event at Hay's GalleriaHullo, I’m Lou Treleaven and I write picture books, junior fiction and early readers published by Maverick Arts Publishing, including the Letter to Pluto books.  I also run a critique service for writers and enjoy writing plays and sketches.  My next picture book due out in September 2018 is Not Yet a Yeti illustrated by Tony Neal.

You can email me at lou.treleaven@sky.com, or click on the links for events, book news or critiques.


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A bibliophile’s paradise – visit to Harrington’s Books

I was lucky enough yesterday to have a tour of Harrington’s Books in Chelsea.  Harrington’s have two branches in London where they sell rare books, illustrations and maps, and also make beautiful binding.  If you love books and have a spare grand or two, or even if you don’t, this is definitely the place to visit!

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The children’s section

First stop was the children’s book section, where I was thrilled to spot lots of familiar books from my childhood.  I was very lucky in that my mum kept lots of her childhood books and passed them on to me, so I grew up on E Nesbit, Noel Streatfield, Frances Hodgson Burnett et al, but alas, none of them are first editions which I quickly learned are what you should look for when you are checking the value of a book.  If the book is signed by the author this makes it even more special, of course, as can a beautiful binding.  It was fascinating to see a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where there is a mistake in the list of items Harry needs for school (2 wands!) so if you have this early edition, take good care of it!

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Can you spot the mistake in Harry’s list?

Many Beatrix Potter volumes looked out at me like old friends, and leafing (carefully) through them we reminisced how un-cutesy she was in her portrayals of animals, who could be quite cruel to each other.  I loved a large version of Treasure Island, illustrated in wildly menacing strokes by Ralph Steadman.  There was also a beautiful set of Pinnochio colouring books, untouched by crayon.  Unwanted gift?  Sometimes an old book in good condition tells a sad story.

Looking through the adult books, I found the cookery books oddly fascinating.  Did you know that you should boil potatoes for 45 minutes, and only eat ham once a week as it takes 5 hours to digest?  Also remember that scrambled eggs is a very strange recipe choice that is only included as an oddity!

In the history section I was reminded how prolific Winston Churchill was (how did he find the time to dabble in politics, one wonders?) and even more so when we saw a couple of his self portraits sketches on sale up on the wall.  A future present for my husband if I ever make the best seller lists myself.

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101 Dalmations with new binding obviously designed by Cruella de Ville

If I had to choose any of the pictures it would be a hard decision between Maurice Sendik’s iconic illustrations for Where the Wild Things Are, and Andy Warhol’s cat drawings, which were surprisingly endearing and easier to look at than Louis Wain’s grinning, unstable felines.

Sadly we had to leave with nothing but an increased knowledge in old books and respect for those who catalogue them, care for them and ultimately sell them on to appreciative book lovers or generous gift-givers.  Meanwhile I’m off to check my Mum’s complete Elinor Brent Dyer Chalet School series to see if there’s a first edition in there somewhere…

Many thanks to Susanna of Harrington’s for the tour, and to Jan for inviting me along.

 

 

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My birthday list.  Feel free to pick out your favourite for me, won’t you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiona Barker’s success story

I love sharing a success story, so if you haven’t heard of Fiona Barker and her passion for picture books, please read on and enjoy!  Fiona’s book Danny and the Dream Dog came through my critique service and I was thrilled to learn it will be published by Tiny Tree in October.

danny and the dream dog

Welcome to the blog, Fiona, and congratulations on your forthcoming book.  You started off as a self published author.  Can you tell us a bit about what that was like?

Thank you for inviting me onto your fab blog! Yes, I self-published a picture book ‘Amelie and the Great Outdoors’ in 2016. I had submitted it as a text in the conventional way about 10 years previously. Looking back now, my submissions were cringeworthy! Unsurprisingly I didn’t get anywhere so I shelved it for about 7 years. Then I came back to the story, which I still liked. This time around I investigated self-publishing. I worked with a freelance book designer and together we commissioned lovely illustrations from Rosie Brooks. Then I approached Matador who took me through the process of printing and publication. By now I knew that I had the picture book bug and so I started to view Amelie as a ‘practice’ for trying to get traditionally published. I won’t lie, it was an expensive process! But once you have a book in your hands you can get experience with events in schools, bookshops and libraries. I’ve learned so many lessons and I think that would all have taken much longer if I hadn’t self-published and had to market my book myself. My current publishers, Tiny Tree, told me that they were impressed by the fact that I had some history and a track record in promoting my book and that was one of the reasons that they signed me. So although I haven’t broken even financially, nothing is ever wasted. The experience has been invaluable.

Why did you feel you wanted to pursued a traditional publishing contract?

Lots of reasons! I couldn’t really afford to self-publish again. Self-published picture book authors are at a disadvantage because they have to pay up-front illustrator costs and this puts it out of reach for many writers. Also, I had rediscovered a real passion for picture books and wanted to explore pursuing writing as a career. It’s hard to pull that off with self-publishing. I have massive respect for anyone who manages to do that. And, like it or not, there is still a stigma attached to self-publishing. Several bruising experiences when trying to market Amelie showed me that!

What attracted you to Tiny Tree?  How has the process been, working with them?

I found Tiny Tree through Twitter (which is my favourite and my best!). I saw a tweet by one of their authors and decided to look them up. The information on the website sounded great, they were quite new at that stage so I thought I might be in with more of a chance than with a more established publisher and they accepted unsolicited submissions! It felt like I might be in roughly the right place at roughly the right time for once but I wasn’t confident as I’d had so many rejections in the past! They have been brilliant right from the start. They agreed to work with the illustrator that I wanted and they’ve been very hands on in getting everything just right. It’s so different from self-publishing where absolutely everything is down to you. This feels much more collaborative and it’s great to have other people who are excited about your book!

Bit of a cheeky question coming up!  You had a critique done during the drafting process of Danny and the Dream Dog.  How do you think this helped you?

It was HUGE! I’d advise anyone to get independent professional advice on their texts. It helped me refine the style and voice. I also changed a couple of important aspects of the plot and one of the main characters names. So some quite major revisions! But I didn’t follow through with everything. There were a couple of times where edits were suggested but I decided to stick with the original, including the title! I’ll let everyone judge for themselves whether that was a good idea or not! But it was great to be forced to carefully consider and justify the things I kept. I’m sure the professional advice helped because no changes were made to the text by the publishers!

You are very active on the literary scene with Picture Book Club, school visits and adult events such as WI and U3A meetings.  Do you think this has helped your author profile?

Massively, especially Picture Book Club. That’s not why I did it though! I set up PBC as an affordable way for people (including me!) to meet and learn from established industry professionals. And it gives me something to tweet and blog about. The adult talks I do are just a chance to witter on about picture books for an hour or so. And I love doing school visits. That’s done a bit for my profile locally but I’m not famous enough to get many long distance school gigs (-; 

How did you find your agent Alice Williams?  Tell us a bit about what an agent does for you.

Alice was on my ‘hit list’ because she represents my SCBWI friend and fellow picture book author Clare Helen Welsh. I submitted to her and then met her in person at the SCBWI conference in 2017 and I signed with her shortly afterwards. She is awesome. She is responsive if I have any queries and takes quite an editorial role which I find very helpful (even if I cry into my laptop initially!). She also knows the industry and has the contacts that I will never have. Having spent years pressing the send button myself, it feels weird having someone else do that for you but she is getting my work seen by editors that I could only have dreamed of previously. 

As an audiologist, do you think your day job affects your writing life?

I only work as an audiologist 2 days a week so writing fits round that quite well. I also have incredibly supportive colleagues which helps enormously. I’m terrible at compartmentalising things though so I always have a notebook with me, even at work and I often have to break off from working on a story to take a call from a patient. I recognise that I’m very lucky to be able to maintain both though. Variety is the spice of life!

What are your ambitions?

Ooooo! In the short term, I have one or two texts that are very special to me which I would really, really like to see in print. In the longer term, I’d like to write something that has longevity. Something that might still be in print in 10 or 20 years time. It’s a bit of a pipedream but you might as well aim high! 

And finally, any words of advice to other writers?

My number one piece of advice would be to join SCBWI and find a local or online critique group. My own SCBWI crit group are, without exception, amazing writers who I continue to respect and learn from all the time. You will also meet so many other fantastic writers and illustrators as well as other industry professionals. I met Howard Gray, who has done a brilliant job illustrating Danny, at the SCBWI conference in 2016 and the rest is history!

Many thanks Fiona and the best of luck with your new book!

Danny and the Dream Dog by Fiona Barker and illustrated by Howard Gray is published by Tiny Tree in October.  You can pre-order here, or why not order at your local bookshop or library?

Visit Fiona at fionabarker.co.uk or on twitter at @Fi_BGB

Find out about Picture Book Club.

And check out the wonderful dog charity Cinnamon Trust.

 

The Picture Book Prize 2018

Competitions are a great way to get your work seen, so any competition that is aimed at debut picture book writers and is judged by picture book supremo Amy Sparkes and superagent Julia Churchill is a must.  It’s also sponsored by Writing Magazine which features regular articles by Amy on how to write for children.

Entries of up to 800 words can be in rhyme or prose, and you have plenty of time to hone your masterpieces before submission as the entry window doesn’t open until 1 September 2018 (and closes on 31 October).  Prizes include consultations, critiques and cash, but most importantly being a prize winner can be an valuable step towards publication.

Details are on Amy Sparkes’ site and I recommend following her on Twitter to get her Wednesday Writing Tips.  And if you need any help prior to submission, why not check out my critique service?

Short stories wanted for new children’s magazine Zizzle

zizzle logoThis is exciting – a new international children’s magazine offering a paying market for short fiction.  The magazine will be online and is called Zizzle.  It is aimed at 9-14 year olds and will have a literary bent so bear this in mind for submissions.  They are looking for short stories from 500-1200 words and will pay US $100 for each story accepted for the inaugural issue.  After that, contributors will be paid as much as funds will allow.

Find out more about the magazine here and send your submissions to Yeutting Cindy Lam via the submissions form.

Success story – Juleus Ghunta

Tata and the Big Bad BullI am delighted to share the news that one of my critique clients, Juleus Ghunta, will have his book Tata and the Big Bad Bull published by CaribbeanReads on 31 May 2018.  The book is part fable, part adventure story as Tata attempts to get to school, overcoming various obstacles, not least of which is a fearsome bull whom he has to outwit.  I asked Juleus a few questions about his publication journey.

What inspired you to write Tata?

I grew up in Jamaica in a single–parent home with my mother and three siblings. Due to financial constraints I began formal schooling a year later than most students. While I was in primary school, mother struggled to pay for my lunch and bus fare. I was determined to go to school so I decided to take a shortcut through a pasture. The pasture was home to some fierce bulls but the route cut the distance in half. One evening, on my way home, I was attacked by a bull. We stared at each other for a few minutes before I climbed through the barbed wire fence. When I stepped into the pasture, he charged and I got stuck. I was lucky to escape unharmed. I sprinted the long way home. It was terrifying but the following week I was in the pasture again. I had no choice. The ‘big bad bull’ character was inspired by this real–life experience; however, the bull is also a metaphor for the wide–ranging challenges I experienced as a child and the way I endured and overcame them.

Because of financial and other challenges, I learned to read at age 12 and was the only student from my class who was forced to repeat the 6th grade. Learning to read improved my self–confidence but I was saddened by the fact that there were no books in the school library with stories about black boys like me. I vowed to write such stories, I’m glad this lifelong dream has come true. There are many “hidden” stories in this book that readers will never know unless I tell them. Hopefully, I will get opportunities to share.

How old were you when you realised you were a writer?

Juleus Ghunta

I spent much of my childhood in the home of the late Jamaican writer, C. Everard Palmer. I couldn’t believe that such an influential writer grew up in my village. It felt surreal. Becoming a writer was the farthest thing from my mind though. That didn’t seem possible. I started writing ‘seriously’ four years ago; however, I don’t think of myself as a ‘writer’, despite my success. Writing has been an outlet for my grief; the way I unpack my traumatic childhood. Maybe one day I’ll feel comfortable with the ‘writer’ designation. I’m not there yet. For now, I’m content with the way writing helps me ‘breathe’.

How did the critique process help you? 

It was a major turning point. Many of your suggestions made it into the book, including the very important point you made about humanising the bull by giving him a name. I was surprised by your detailed response and moved by your generosity. The book needed a lot of work, but you did not dwell on that. You showed me what was possible.

How did you find your publisher and what was it like working with them?

I did research to see who’d be interested in publishing Tata and received many rejections. I’m glad those publishers said no, because I kept searching and eventually found CaribbeanReads. I could not have asked for a better publisher. CaribbeanRead’s editor, Carol Mitchell, helped me rewrite and reshape the manuscript. It is a much better story than what I submitted. Her patience and vision are legendary.

Did you have any involvement in the illustrations? 

CaribbeanReads helped me with the storyboard. I sent instructions to the illustrator, Ann–Cathrine Loo. Ann–Cathrine and I come from very different cultures. She grew up in Sweden so many of her initial sketches were inspired by images from her childhood. I instructed her on every detail of the illustrations and she did a truly remarkable job.

What do you hope children will gain from reading Tata?

The book reminds readers of the importance of compassion and forgiveness. There are lessons inside regarding how children should respond to bullying and ‘othering’. I hope Tata will encourage children to think more deeply about the emotions and experiences of others, especially their peers. Tata is a gift to children whose courage, resilience and leadership are needed in this troubled world.   

When will you launch the book?

Tata will be launched on 30 June 2018 at Bradford Lit Fest. Please check my website for details.

And finally, what’s next for Juleus?

I’m working on a picture book manuscript and a poetry collection.

You can pre-order Tata and the Big Bad Bull on Amazon.  Juleus can be found at www.juleusghunta.com and on Twitter as @Ghunta100.  He is currently pursuing MA Peace Studies at the University of Bradford.  His poetry has appeared in several journals including The Missing Slate, Moko, Easy Street, Chiron Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, and has been anthologised in Cordite 81: New Caribbean Writing and In This Breadfruit Kingdom. He was awarded the Catherine James Poetry Prize by Interviewing the Caribbean in 2017. In 2015 and 2016 he was shortlisted for the Small Axe Poetry Prize.

 

Publication day giveaway!

Homework on PlutoThis weekend I’m celebrating the release of my new junior fiction title, Homework on Pluto published by Maverick, and as part of that I’ll be giving away a free signed copy to the lovely readers of this blog.  To take part, just comment on this post and I will choose a winner at random on 15 May by printing them out and putting them in a hat.  (A sou’wester probably, judging by the weather at the moment…)

Junior fiction or chapter books are great fun to write.  Here are my tips:

  1. Write to the right length.  6-10,000 words are what you are aiming for.  So think in terms of 6 chapters of 1000 words each to give you a rough outline.
  2. Keep it punchy.  You’ve got a lot to fit in to make a complete book work within this small space, so don’t waste words on lengthy descriptions or long dialogue exchanges.
  3. Write a series.  Readers this age (around 6-10) love series.  Conversely, your first book should be able to stand alone, just in case it doesn’t get followed up.  And you only need present one book to the publisher, as long as it has series potential.
  4. Create memorable characters.  Think Mr Gum, Horrid Henry, Flat Stanley… The character is the book.
  5. Utilise humour.  Don’t be afraid to be silly.  Silliness is underrated.

Homework on Pluto is available to order from all good bookshops, The Book Depository or Amazon.

The Caterpillar Poetry Prize

Caterpillar poetry prizeThe Caterpillar is not only a beautifully produced, high quality quarterly children’s magazine featuring stories, poetry and art, but also has a rather spiffing annual poetry competition.  The prize is one thousand euros and publication in the mag.  Judging is by renowned children’s poet Chrissie Giffins.  Entry is open to anyone over 16 but the poem must not have been published or online.  Entry costs twelve euros per poem and entry details can be found here on the website.  Closing date is end of March so why not sort through those poems and give it a shot!

I’m on CBeebies Bedtime Stories!

suranne-jones-snowflake-mistake-012- snippetWell, actually I’m not, but my book is and it will be read by the amazing actress Suranne Jones (of Dr Foster fame) on Friday 15 December at 6.50 pm on CBeebies.  That’s tomorrow!  I’m so excited.  I’ve had to keep this quiet for a long time as I found out by accident when the BBC Pronunciation Department (who knew?) emailed me to find out how to say my name.  That was way back in April so I presume the reading was filmed then, though judging from the photo they have definitely got into the wintery mood with snowy clouds and even the Snow Queen’s ice palace in the background!Snowflake-Mistake-LR-RGB

The illustrator, Maddie Frost, has done such a gorgeous job on the illustrations and I’m so happy for her that they get to be seen up close on screen.  All her textures are scanned in from a variety of different materials and found objects which makes her work unique.  I love it.

So I’m getting ready to put on my dressing gown and slippers, grab my hot cocoa and enjoy.  But I won’t be going to sleep – oh no.  I’ll be watching it another fifty million times first!

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Seasonal signed books giveaway!

As 2017 thinks about putting on the kettle for its hot water bottle and taking its nightly medication, I would like to thank the followers of this blog for another year’s loyalty with a signed book giveaway.  This will be for my new picture book Daddy and I, sumptuously illustrated by Sophie Burrows, plus my two early readers that came out this autumn which have delightfully cute pictures by Dean Gray and David Creighton-Pester.

To be entered into the random draw, just comment below by the end of November, and I’ll get them signed and sent to you in time for… shh!  You know what!

An interview with Tiny Tree

Following blog subscriber and critique customer Fiona Barker’s picture book acceptance by Tiny Tree, I caught up with James Shaw from Matthew James Publishing to ask him about his new picture book imprint and what he might be looking for in a submission.

Tiny Tree logoWhat made you decide to launch a picture book imprint?  How many picture books are you planning on publishing each year?

Not only am I a big fan of literature in general, I am also a huge art fan and a very visual person. Since taking over MJP I was always excited by the prospect of working on picture books, and as a father of two small boys I am constantly surrounded by the wonderful possibilities so many other publishing companies had produced. For me it was an obvious step. Although it hasn’t been easy, it has been very worthwhile.

As a small independent we don’t have a quota for how many books we publish each year and can be quite picky. Next year though we already have about 10 titles on the way, with many more submissions still filtering through. We like to keep it to no more than 1 a month though.

What length picture book are you looking for?  And do you accept rhyme?

We like to have 32 page picture books, but we will stretch to 48 or drop down to 24 at a push. We have done much longer titles, but we prefer 32 pages as a rule. We accept rhyming and non-rhyming books, the story is the important thing, and as long as it is told well it doesn’t matter if it rhymes or not.  Honestly not always fussed about a particular word count but we do find that around 600 words works best for children’s picture books.

Are there any topics that you are particularly attracted to?  Do you like books with a message?  What about humour?

Humour is really important to us. As a parent it is easier to read a book to my kids 40 times if it is funny. However, we at Tiny Tree love to provide books with a message. Bullying, friendship, loneliness, change, anything that could affect the life of a child is perfect. We want to stand out amongst the crowd, but we also want to provide something to the children, and the parents, above and beyond a beautiful book.

How are your authors paid, eg flat fee or royalties?  Do you pay an advance?  Do you sell foreign rights?

Our contract states a royalty of 10% on print versions, 25% on electronic versions. We also discuss with the author incremental increases in royalties based on sales. We don’t usually pay an advance unless one is required for a piece we absolutely must have. As a small independent we want to focus all our budget on producing and marketing a great product, and we like authors who are focused on that goal as well.

We can and do sell foreign rights, although we haven’t had much opportunity to up to this point. We have done our own translations for titles, to work with the authors from other countries though. Like any traditional publisher we are always looking for new avenues of sales for books and to make sure they get as much exposure as possible.

How do you find illustrators for your picture books?  Is this something the author would get involved in as well?

A multitude of ways really. Sometimes an author/illustrator will come to us with a title they have already illustrated, like Binx the Jinx. Sometimes an author will know someone who they would like to use or they have worked with before, like Russ Brown and Jamie Cosley. Sometimes we get portfolio submissions from illustrators which we keep on file for possible work.

There have only been a couple of times where we have had to find an illustrator from nothing, but there are so many organisations and communities out there that it always very simple. The only problem comes with trying to match up the work and trawling through hundreds of possible illustrators when there so many talented people out there.

What attracted you to Fiona Barker’s book?

Fiona’s book attracted me in a number of ways. First, it was a simple and heart-warming story. There is a message there, but it is surrounded by just a simple, funny, inviting story that makes it easy to read and something I could certainly see myself and others coming back to. Fiona herself is also easy to sell; she provided a great deal of marketing information, she already has a great presence and she has an approachable persona that makes it simple to plan around her.

She also provided us with an illustrator that worked perfectly for her title. Although having something illustrated before submitting can sometimes be problematic, in this case it really worked in her favour.

 

Details on how to submit to Tiny Tree here

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