courses · critique service · My Writing

Update and writing course

I hope you are all well and staying safe.  Just a reminder that my critique service is still going, and also that I have some free resources on my site at the moment if you are home schooling.  My next online picture book writing course starts on 6 May so if you are interested please fill out the form or pop me an email.

If you fancy a treat, tune in to Konnie Huq reading an extract from Letter to Pluto as part of her daily broadcasts to children on her YouTube channel.  I love her brief history of time and the planet she creates at the end!  Having watched her on Blue Peter I’m very honoured to have her read one of my books.

Turns Out 2 CoverMy latest book has been delayed until later in the year, but on the bright side this has given me a chance to add an extra surprise to the back which I hope will be fun for readers to find.  Of course with libraries and bookshops closed it’s a very odd, flat time in the book world, but I would urge anyone buying a book to see if their local bookshop is offering an online service as this may help them stay open during the crisis.

My very best wishes to you and yours and be well.



courses · picture books

September Picture Book Writing Course

Fancy a new challenge this autumn?  My next online picture book writing course starts on 4 September, and there are still some places left.

“Your course is the first one I have taken and I have learned so much over the 6 weeks’ duration.  I now know exactly where I have been going wrong all these years.  It has now given me confidence to start submitting stories again.”  S Stokes, May 2019 course student


A 6 week course starting on 4 September 2019

Price: £150


To research the market and practise picture book writing techniques in order to create an edited draft of a picture book.


Week 1 – Researching the market
Week 2 – Structure and characters
Week 3 – The importance of plot
Week 4 – Picture book language
Week 5 – Edit edit edit
Week 6 – Submitting to agents and publishers

Course materials and structure

The course takes the form of pdfs which contain the course information, handouts and exercises. These will be emailed once a week, but there is no time limit so you can take your time and fit the course in around work and family life.

Support from Lou throughout the course

As a published author of six picture books and another in production, I can help you work towards publication and will be with you every step of the way. I will give you feedback on each week’s assignment so you know you are on the right track before critiquing your final draft.

Finish the course with a completed picture book

Through the course you will research, plan, draft, redraft and ‘submit’ a complete picture book, which I will then critique so you will have the best possible work to go forward towards submitting to agents or publishers.

You will need:

An email address and access to the internet.

Time to do homework (roughly an hour a week minimum).

A passion for writing. That’s it!

How to enrol

Simply email me at to confirm your place, or use the form on my website. Payment should be made before the course starts either by PayPal to my email address, or please request bank transfer details. Payment by instalments welcome as long as the balance is paid before the start date.

courses · writing resources

Launching my Writing Picture Books online course

I’m very pleased to share with you that I can now offer an 6 week online course in writing picture books.  I’m really excited about this as it’s something I’ve been wanting to create for ages, and I’ve tried to include everything I wish I’d known at the beginning (and some things I’m still learning now)!

Writing Picture Books poster

The course covers researching, drafting, using appropriate language, crafting plots, creating memorable characters, how to lay out your text and how to approach publishers and/or agents.  By the end of the course you will have created a final (or close to final) draft of a complete picture book, with feedback from me all the way.  Although the course materials will be sent once a week, there is no time limit so you can set the pace yourself.

Payment is £150 payable before the start date of either 1 May or 4 September 2019.  Please email me if you would like to enrol or use the form below.  Looking forward to working with you!

Click here to download course outline

Click here to pay via PayPal (or contact me for bank transfer details)



Writing in rhyme

CautionaryTales-Belloc-Blackwell-coverRhyming stories have always been popular with children.  From Hilare Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for Children to Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter’s The Dinosaur that Pooped series, rhyming stories have had a place on our bookshelves and no doubt always will.  There’s something very satisfying about reading a good rhyme – it’s like putting the last puzzle piece into a jigsaw.  And rhyme and rhythm are great at helping with reading skills as well as making text easier to remember and above all – fun!

But for writers rhyming stories can pose a bit of a problem. It’s widely believed that rhyming books are much harder to get published, and this is to some extent true as it’s harder for the publisher or agent to sell translation rights.  The text either has to be translated word for word, losing the rhymes in the process, or almost completely rewritten.  However, the popularity of rhyming texts is testament to the fact that publishers are still publishing them; you only have to look at the success of Julia Donaldson.  But the text has to be good.  The rhymes have to delight.  There are plenty of pitfalls to stumble into when writing in rhyme, so I’ve put together a few tips that might help when you’re coming up with your own rhyming story.  The tips are geared towards picture book writers but hopefully will assist with any rhyming-based writing activity.the dinosaur that pooped

  • Put the stronger rhyme second
    When you’ve got two rhyming words that end your lines, think about positioning them so the weaker rhyme goes first, followed by the stronger rhyme.  This gives the impression that a great rhyme has slipped naturally into place rather than just because it fits.  For example, in my book Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip, Professor McQuark is looking at the other inventions in the science fair and the couplet reads as follows:
    “A yo-yo with slo-mo, a door with a zip,
    But nothing as fine as the Oojamaflip.”
    This is much stronger than if I had written it the other way round, where it would sounds like I have come up with the “door with a zip” invention just to fit the rhyming pattern.  Of course I have, but positioning it first makes it seem like I haven’t!
  • Don’t forget the rhythm
    Rhyming books aren’t just about the last words, they are about rhythm too.  Imagine a song where you have to fit the words to the notes.  If in doubt, read it out!  You’ll soon hear where the words don’t fit.  You can also beat the rhythm out on the table (or get your drum kit out).  Try this with master rhymers Julia Donaldson or Dr Seuss to get an idea of the ‘beats’ you might use.
  • Don’t mess with sentence structure
    You do need to think about positioning your words, but try not to end up with a strange sentence structure just to fit the rhythm.  Chief suspects are the words  ‘it’ and ‘did’ which are sometimes sneaked into rhymes in order to make up the right number of syllables, such as in this made-up example:
    “The clock it struck twelve, time to leave for the show,
    So off to the big circus tent we did go.”
    If you don’t speak like that in real life, it won’t sound very convincing in a rhyme either.  If you find yourself tempted, try to rethink the sentence so you get the right number of syllables in a more natural way.200px-Fairuse_Gruffalo
  • Alliteration is good in small doses
    “She ran to her shed and she banged and she battered,
    She sawed and she sanded, she clanged and she clattered.”
    Yes, I love alliteration, but almost too much.  I have had whole lines rejected because I have turned them into tongue twisters.  So use as much alliteration as you like, but make sure you can say it without getting your tongue in a knot.
  • Look for internal rhymes
    An internal rhyme is a rhyme occurring in the middle of a sentence.  For example, in the Professor McQuark extract above, “a yo-yo with slo-mo” rhymes with itself and adds a little extra icing to your rhyming cake.  It’s amazing how often an internal rhyme can slip in, so if you see one, celebrate it.
  • Don’t let the rhyme tell the story
    It’s hard to let a brillant rhyme go, but sometimes you have to when it just doesn’t fit the story.  The rhyming words should serve your story structure, not dictate  it.  Try to think of what you want to say, then say it in rhyme, rather than thinking of the rhymes and then making them into a story.220px-Seuss-cat-hat.gif
  • Harness the power of repetition
    Fortunately for picture book writers, children love repetition.  Not only do they like to hear the same story again but they like the same phrases again.  The Gruffalo is a great example of this with its repeated phrases, the repeated scene with a variation for each animal and ultimately the story itself repeated but reversed.  A repeated phrase allows you to reuse rhymes, but beware of overdoing this as readers still need a surprise or two along the way.

And finally…

  • Make it look easy
    Good rhymes look easy but may be anything but!  Personally I find that sometimes the rhyme just pops into my head, but more often than not it’s a result of a long dog walk and twenty minutes of washing up before the right word or phrase is finally sifted from the detritus of my brain.  I also find that most rhymes can be improved by twiddling with the sentence or swopping an odd word here and there, to make the rhyme look more natural.  And don’t feel guilty for looking in a rhyming dictionary or online, but try not to let it seduce you with its long and clever words.  Sometimes the best rhymes are the simplest.

You’ve read my advice and are raring to go.
But if you have other tips, please let me know!

publishers · Submissions · unsolicited manuscripts

Maverick accepting unsolicited manuscripts for picture books

Thanks to reader Kaytie for spotting another children’s publisher to add to our list!  Maverick publish a range of lively and colourful picture books.  They are looking for quirky, interesting reads with strong storylines.  As a guide, their books are usually 32 pages long and no longer than 1,200 words and they prefer text only, not illustrations.  Email submissions are preferred as pdf or Word attachments together with a covering letter or email, but you can also submit by post.  Find all the details on their submissions page.

And lastly:


If you like to write stories that rhyme,

Most publishers have to decline.

Though your verse may fill them with delight

They must consider foreign rights,

And your carefully crafted creation

Loses something in translation.


But sometimes a publisher will have a go –

At the back of their mind there’s a Gruffalo –

And I’m happy to tell you that Maverick

Will consider your stanzas, so make ’em slick!

(If your rhyming, like mine, just gets rubbisher,

You may not find a publisher!)