I was delighted to attend the Get Writing Conference at the weekend as a delegate/author. Organised by Veralum Writers, the conference has grown each year and now attracts some amazing speakers and workshop leaders. I attended two workshops: comedy sketch writing with Mark Keegan and writing historical fiction with Emma Darwin. Both were hugely helpful and I now feel fired up to have a go at both disciplines while their excellent advice is still ringing in my ears. The great thing about writing children’s fiction is that you can encompass so many genres and styles. So watch out for a historical crime comedy thriller picture book in the distant future!
Here’s some pointers I picked up during the day (which also included talks and panels) that I hope will be useful to you too.
- Some people read a book a day, and two at the weekend (lizlovesbooks.com).
- Psychic distance is a thing and it’s rather useful (thisitchofwriting.com).
- Writers love cake. Not a tip, but it helps to know you are not alone.
- Successful comedy sketches are often about subverting the balance of power between the characters.
- You don’t have to be a ‘plotster’ (planning) or a ‘pantser’ (not planning) – there is a middle way. You need to choose the route that works for you.
- The British love a bit of wordplay, ambiguity and, of course, innuendo.
- Research before or after writing, not during (unless it’s crucial).
- BBC Writers Room is an oft-recommended resource and for good reason.
- Don’t blog unless you enjoy it. But if you do, it can help open doors.
- Use Google Scholar to search for academic articles about your chosen subject.
- Notice what your character notices – look through their eyes, not your own.
- Comedy can have dark undertones.
- Don’t sweat about the synopsis. Shock horror – half the time agents don’t even read them! Even if they do, it can be just a quick glance to make sure you’ve got the story in hand. Your letter and sample chapters are much more important.
- Use escalation to take your comedy sketch from mundane to ridiculous (in a good way).
- Watch Andrew Stanton’s Ted talk – The Clues to a Great Story.
- Go to writing conferences. Attend workshops. Keep on learning. Keep on writing.
PS – I will be randomly selecting the winner of the signed copy of The Snugglewump on Friday. If you haven’t entered, just comment on my previous post to be in with a chance!
Thank you to everyone to entered the draw to win signed copies of my new books The Snowflake Mistake and Letter to Pluto. To be in with a chance, I asked you to comment with your favourite writing tip. If you haven’t read the comments, there’s some brilliant tips there including keeping a compliments jar, listening to conversations around you (in the non-stalker sense!), using prompts, spending time with nature and reading widely.
The winner is…. Michelle Zal! Michelle, please email me at lou dot treleaven at sky dot com with your address and the dedications you would like on the books and I will post them off to you.
I had a lovely time recently doing two workshops and some book signing at the Booktastic Bedford Children’s Book Festival, which was held this year at the Panacea Museum. I got to meet author Guy Bass too, author of Stitch Head and about a million other books (would love to be that productive and talented!). The event was sponsored by Rogan’s Books, a new independent children’s bookshop which is not like any other bookshop you will have been to – it even has a secret door! Check it out here.
I will be running some Blogging for Beginners courses for Luton Adult Learning in the next few weeks. Each course is a one-off workshop and the first one is on Saturday 9 March 10am-3pm in Luton, Bedfordshire. The workshop will cover all the basics you need to start blogging, including setting up a free WordPress blog, creating content to attract readers, assigning categories and tags so your posts will be picked up in search engines, managing comments and design. By the end of the day you will have an attractive, content-rich blog to be proud of! Ideal for people who want to start blogging to promote their own small business, share a hobby or as a creative writing venture. The cost for the day is £54 and includes a free USB stick – but bring your own lunch!
Please spread the word or, if you are interested in attending, contact Luton Adult Learning on 01582 490033 to enrol.
Verulam Writers’ annual conference, ‘Get Writing’ is being held on Saturday 20 April at the University of Hertfordshire. I have attended this conference a few times and it is going from strength to strength, having started originally in a small school with just a few workshops and speakers. This year they are featuring workshops on crime writing, editing, writing for children, writing for radio and television, feature writing and even neurolinguistic programming – sounds intriguing! There are also question and answer panels, 5 minute pitches and the chance to book 10 minute pitches for an extra fee of £10. The cost for the day is £55, including lunch.
More details can be found on the website. Click on the yellow button over the spinning sign which takes you to an animation you can work through. Personally I found the animation very difficult to navigate. Finally I found a way to download the provisional brochure which is much easier to read, plus a pdf of the workshops. Unfortunately both the animation and the brochure seem to be half finished with lots of typos and in places what looks like draft text, but the event is usually run very professionally so I’m sure this is just an oversight!
A Ministry of Stories? Hidden behind the facade of a Monster Supplies shop? It sounds like something out of JK Rowling crossed with Roald Dahl, but it’s actually true – there is now a Ministry of Stories in London and several more across the Atlantic, and they sound like the most magical places.
It all started with inspirational American author Dave Eggers, who wanted to encourage children to write. He and his team began hosting writing workshops and mentoring programmes in an old shop, but the condition of the lease meant they had to sell something. In a stroke of genius they decided to sell Pirate Supplies. Soon there were more of these surreal places cropping up in America, getting children involved in being creative, and this inspired UK author Nick Hornby to bring the idea to London in the form of the Ministry of Stories.
So what’s our own Ministry of Stories like? Well, you can visit the website at www.ministryofstories.org to find out more about it. The website is great; it has an official, government feel about it combined with a sense of wacky adventure. They are just starting up so need volunteers and donations (items as well as cash – see the list on the site). The shop part sells amazing stuff children will love like pots of ‘human snot’ and jars of Mortal Terror.
Could this be the start of a whole range of surreal outlets concealing creative enterprises? I’m looking forward to seeing a Pick ‘n’ Mix Plot Store with a secret attic for collaborative writers, and a Shop of Lost Memories fronting a photography exhibition. Or how about a Weather Supermarket where you can fill your trolley with sunshine for your holiday before going on to study the science of the real thing in a backroom filled with sand and deckchairs?
Congratulations to everyone at the Ministry on a marvellous endeavour. And to all those children who visit and benefit from the workshops and mentoring – I envy you.