Writing advice from top children’s authors

James Moloney and his story board

Last week when I was at the Somerset Writer’s Festival I listened to lots of really great authors talk about their books and writing in general.  I collected some great writing tips for children (and adults) throughout the week and thought I’d share some with you.

  • James Moloney – Just sit at your computer and brainstorm ideas.  When you brainstorm you’re mining for ideas.  You have to be able to put yourself in other people’s shoes – this is the key to a great story (and also reminds me of my favourite quote from one of my all-time favourite books, To Kill a Mockingbird).
  • James Roy – Entertain your audience by making your characters miserable – conflict is exciting.
  • Patrick Ness – If you have a good idea, wait – ideas always attract other ideas.  No matter what age you are, you are never too young to have ideas.
  • Melina Marchetta – Names are really important in a story and can tell you a lot about a character.
  • Anthony Eaton – Be an absolute eavesdropper and sticky beak, that way you’ll pick up lots of ideas from the world around you.  Also, look at real events and ask WHAT IF?
  • Gus Gordon – Spend lots of time looking out the window daydreaming and imagining weird things happening.
  • Markus Zusak – Take things that happen to you or other people around you and use them in a story, but don’t make it autobiographical.

All of these authors made writing sound really easy to me and I’m sure the children that attended their sessions were inspired.  So if you or someone you know wants to write all you need to do is start collecting ideas and write, write, write.

My idol Patrick Ness

Today at the Somerset Writer’s Festival on the Gold Coast I got the chance to meet my idol and one of my favourite authors, Patrick Ness. I went to his first session of the day where he talked to secondary school students about writing and his books.

He told these students that there are three things you need to do to be a writer:

  1. Write – as much and as often as you can because practice makes perfect.
  2. Read – the more you read, the more words you devour and the more writing styles you discover.
  3. Rewrite – because nothing’s perfect the first time.

He says that you get ideas from everything around you and that if you get a great idea for a story you should wait because ideas always attract other ideas.  His most important point was that you are never too young to have ideas and that anybody of any age can write.

I was very excited to be able to interview Patrick and to ask him some burning questions.  The full interview will be available on the library website next week, and if you want to win a signed copy of Patrick’s amazing book, The Knife of Never Letting Go (the first book in his Chaos Walking Trilogy), watch this space.

What question have you always wanted to ask an author?

As a bookseller and a librarian I’ve met lots of authors over the years.  Some I’ve never heard of, others I know of but haven’t read any of their books.  When I know they’re coming I try to read at least one of their books so that I can understand what they’re talking about and at least look like I’m a huge fan. 

These authors are always particularly grateful that you know who they are because they inevitably don’t get many fans lining up to get their books signed.  One author such as this (I won’t name names) who I met a couple of years ago at The Children’s Bookshop had so few visitors that he actually fell asleep in his comfortable chair in the shop window and I had to nudge him to wake him up when a young fan wanted her book signed. 

Then there are some of my favourite authors who I can’t wait to meet and almost count down the days until their visit.   I gobble up as much as I can of what they’ve written and find out what I can about them from interviews so that if I found myself having a conversation with them I’d know what to talk about.

When I go to the Somerset Writer’s Festival from 17-19 March I will be able to meet some of my favourite children’s and young adults writers including Patrick Ness, Markus Zusak and Derek Landy.  I’m trying to think of some profound and interesting questions to ask them when I get to meet them, as this may be my only chance.  My only problem is that when I’ve made my way through the line to get my book signed and am standing in front of them I get a bit star struck and have no idea what to say.

I’d like to know what question or questions you would ask your favourite authors if you had the chance to talk with them face-to-face?

Authors descend on Gold Coast for Somerset Festival of Literature

While others are gearing up for the New Zealand Post Writers and Readers Festival in Wellington, I’m counting down the days to the Somerset Festival of Literature at Somerset College on the Gold Coast from 17-19 March.  This festival brings together some of the top Australian authors and illustrators for children and young adults, such as Jackie French, Melina Marchetta and Markus Zusak, as well as some of my favourite international authors, Patrick Ness and Derek Landy.

The Festival consists of three days of author talks with primary and secondary school students, book signings, book launches and other entertainment on the Somerset College grounds.  There are loads of sessions I can’t wait to go to including Patrick Ness, Derek Landy, Jackie French, James Moloney, Anthony Eaton, and Markus Zusak.  If you have any questions that you’re dying to ask these authors, feel free to comment and I’ll do my best to ask them on your behalf.  I’m hoping to set up some interviews with a couple of the authors and I’ll be blogging from the festival so you’ll be able to hear all about it.

My only problem will be lugging a suitcase of signed books home with me again!