Before I wrote for children, I was already a writer. I’ve been scribbling ads, reports, brochures and web copy pretty much since I left uni.
So writing a children’s book would be a doddle, right?
I wouldn’t have got anywhere fast without three marvellous courses to help me on my way.
1. Start the book
City Lit’s Writing for Children
City Lit run lots of affordable courses for children’s writers (and since the pandemic, most have moved online).
But it was Lou Kuenzler’s Writing for Children courses that helped me start writing and keep writing.
Lou’s published heaps of brilliant children’s books , so she knows what she’s talking about, and can empathise with the trials and tribulations of finding agents, going on submission and holding your nerve as you wait (seemingly endlessly) for news.
She runs a course for beginners as well as a writing workshop, which is pretty much the best critique group imaginable. Lou’s an extraordinarily perceptive and constructive critic and creates just the right atmosphere to encourage everyone else to give useful feedback, too.
As well as finishing my first children’s book with Lou, I met many a brilliant word-wrangler and friend.
Recent alumni include:
- Bethany Walker – author of Chocolate Milk, X-Ray Specs and me
- Tom Vaughan – author of Bin Boy
- Terrie Chilvers – author of Michael the Amazing, Mind-Reading Sausage Dog (out 2023)
- Varsha Shah – winner of The Times/Chicken House Children’s fiction competition 2020 and author of Ajay and the Mumbai Sun
2. Stay inspired
I’m a massive Neil Gaiman fan, so when he designed a course for Masterclass, I was there. His words of wisdom always give me a lift. (My favourite being a reminder that if an early reader tells you something isn’t working, they’re probably right. And if they tell you how to fix it, they’re probably wrong.)
But Neil’s not the only reason I’ve stuck with my subscription.
If I’m ever after a fresh perspective, I bypass the writing courses and listening to the many actors, composers, comedians and artists on the site instead.
A bit like the old trick of reading your writing upside down to spot mistakes, looking at creativity from a different angle has a knack of unlocking knotty problems for me.
Of the three courses on here, this one’s the least interactive (for me). Technically it comes with forums and workbooks, but I can’t resist simply sitting back and enjoying the beautifully shot videos.
3. Edit the book
CB Creative’s Edit and Pitch your Novel
After finishing my first manuscript and getting a fair few agent rejections, I decided my book wasn’t quite as finished as I thought. And I turned to Curtis Brown’s 6-week online course for help.
Anyone can sign up, not just children’s writers, and the online platform made it easy to get to know people.
Within a couple of lessons, I realised my book REALLY wasn’t finished and, using CB’s excellent editing technique, I embarked on a major rewrite.
As well as helping you look at structure, the course covers perfecting your synopsis and agent cover letter. I also took the option to pay for an editor’s report at the end to get feedback on my whole submission package.
Before the course, I’d only had form rejections from agents. After it I came away with two full requests and found my agent!
If you’re not sure why your submissions aren’t working, I can’t recommend this course enough.