Laura Atkins
 

It has been a while since I've sent out a newsletter - but watch this space for a winter 2013 newsletter coming soon. You can write to me at laura@lauraatkins.com to join the mailing list.

December 2011

Image from Franto.com

 

Dear friends and colleagues,

As the winter grows colder, I wanted to send everyone festive wishes for whatever you celebrate. Here's my latest newsletter, with information about what I'll be doing, and what I've been doing. Please do get in touch with me if you have questions or want to discuss anything here.

 

HEADLINES

 

* Online “Writing Children’s Books” workshop in the works *

* Critiquing and mentoring gift vouchers *

* Writing resources available on the blog *
recording of author/editor Sara Grant’s talk, blog posts on plotting, writing a best seller,
point of view, and more

Read on for details…

 


 

ANNOUNCEMENTS AND UPCOMING EVENTS

I try to keep these newsletters to a minimum – which is around once a year. The best way to get more regular updates from me, and to find out when I am running events and workshops, is to “like” my Facebook page.

 

 

New on-line writing workshop. I am developing a six session online “Writing Children’s Books” workshop series, which I plan to run in spring/summer 2012. As a senior lecturer at Roehampton University, I teach “Writing for a Child Audience” on the MA in children's literature and to creative writing undergraduates. I am building on this experience, as well as the seven years I spent working on editing children’s books in the United States, to put together this online programme.

"I attended one of Laura's Writing for Children courses to give me some inspiration when I was working on my Creative Writing MA dissertation. I found her teaching invaluable. She was enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of writing for children. I know that if I want high quality, focused feedback she is the person to ask."
—Astrid Holm MA, shortlisted for Chicken House Award, and now represented by Ben Illis of A.M. Heath

Please get in touch if you would like to be kept informed.

 

 


Gift vouchers are available for the holidays. I am offering gift vouchers for manuscript critiquing as well as my mentoring services (see rates on my website). I can mentor via Skype and/or email, so there are no geographical boundaries. I'm happy to look at drafts, notes, or just take some time to discuss ideas.

“Since meeting Laura I've taken not only my novel more seriously, but my overall craft. Laura's brought new dimensions to my work I wouldn't have previously thought possible, with a professionalism and attention to detail that's helped build my confidence both in the work and as a writer."
—Andy Dickenson, Production Journalist, ITV Meridian

 

 


Nigerian Publishing Success. I work with Nigerian publisher, Cassava Republic Press, helping to edit their children’s books. Two of these books have been shortlisted for the Association of Nigerian Authors literary prizes: Preye and the Sea of Plastic  and Mayowa and the Masquerades. Eno’s Story, a middle grade book about children being accused of witchcraft, was one of the three finalists for the Nigeria Prize for Literature (NLNG).

“Laura is an excellent editor with a keen eye for detail. As a young publishing house based in Africa, we very much appreciate her skills and most importantly her interest and commitment to presenting a diversity of children’s worldview from across the globe.”
—Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, Publisher, Cassava Republic Press

 

 


 

ON-GOING SERVICES

I thought it would be useful for people to learn a bit more about the services I offer. Here are some particular examples of what I’ve been doing over the last several months.

 

Critiquing

 

 

Illustrator YoungJu Kim approached me to look at two beautifully-illustrated books she had developed. Here is what she said about working together: "I recently graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design, MFA Illustration and found Laura during my thesis research about multicultural picture books. Laura's consulting for my picture book projects were accurate and superb. She knows illustration too. I highly recommend Laura for anyone who is seeking professional help for his or her children's picture book."
—YoungJu Kim, burgeoning children's book illustrator, www.kimyoungju.com

 

 

I also worked on a fascinating project with David Freedman, a blacksmith and sculptor who runs Mill Forge. He collaborated with artist Mike Kelly to create a mock up for their picture book, Stunt Crow. Here is what he said about my critique: 'Laura's detailed commentary has been invaluable. Her insights and suggestions are constructive and sensitive to my ideas. Her knowledge of issues around publication have helped to give new direction to my work.'
—David Freedman, www.millforge.org.uk

 

Mentoring

I offer an on-going mentoring service to a variety of authors and illustrators. I started working with Carol Lindstrom when she was the highest bidder for a critique in the Authors for Japan auction (which raised over £12,000 for tsunami relief efforts). Carol is an aspiring author brimming with ideas, for picture books and now a teen novel – many of which draw on her Native American heritage. Carol said of our work together, “Laura has been instrumental in my growth as a writer. Not only is she knowledgeable about the children’s writing market, but she is also incredibly supportive and encouraging, which is something all aspiring, and even published writers, need. She has a great eye for details and an amazing knack for getting to the heart of a story. She gives me confidence to dig deeper within myself to make for a stronger story.”

 

 

Martin Lowe is a designer and aspiring children’s book author and illustrator. He has always dreamed of creating a picture book series, and we’ve been working together to refine the ideas for the series as a whole, and to create the first book within it. We’ve had very productive meetings at a Brighton-based pub. Martin says, “Working with Laura has been so helpful in getting my stories off the ground. As well as being incredibly supportive she has been able to take the bones of my ideas and help me craft then into well-formed narratives that really work.”

 

 

I’ve also had a mentoring session with Daryl Wells, who I worked with many years ago on Two Mrs. Gibsons at Children's Book Press. And I had a meeting with published author Jane Stemp to discuss an as-yet-unpublished manuscript.

 

Self-Publishing Support

 

I worked with Wendy Hue to help her to get her book, Tópé Arrives, into shape for her to self-publish. Wendy has done a fantastic job producing the book (with illustrations by recent book group member, Zara Slattery). And she has been learning about distribution and school visits, selling a good number of books along the way. You can read interview with her on my blog.

“I came to Laura a bit tattered and torn, despite my passion, as I had previously had a literary agent, met with mainstream publishers and been on loads of creative writing courses for children, but was still getting nowhere with my writing.  Finding Laura was the piece of the jigsaw that had been missing for me.  We've worked together on several manuscripts and I have also attended one of her fabulous writing workshops in Brighton.  I can now say that, due to my connection with Laura, I have my first book in print, called Tópé Arrives.  This book is in a good number of libraries across the UK now and has had mentions in international newspapers, such as Nigerian Punch and Chinese Weekly. The manuscript was also long-listed for the Times/Chicken House fiction competition.” —Wendy Hue, author, Tópé Arrives

 

illustration by Zara Slattery from Tope Arrives

 

Writing Group

I continue to run a very supportive monthly writing group. Two members have signed with agents over the last year, and a group of us attended the SCBWI British Isles conference together. We worked as a group to write reports for my blog – see links below.

"Laura's monthly writing group and critiquing service helped me to take the kernel of a story idea and polish it enough to win a great agent. Through my agent I'm currently talking to a publisher about a multi-book deal, a position I couldn't possibly imagine being in two years ago. Stumbling on her website and then finding the courage to pick up the phone and take the next step was the best move I ever made. I really can't recommend her and the group dynamic highly enough. As value for money goes, she's hard to beat!"
—Kirsten Wild MA, represented by Ben Illis of A.M. Heath

 


RECENT EVENTS AND RESOURCES

 

 

Recording of Sara Grant Talk. Sara Grant gave an excellent talk to my writing group and others on 18th May, 2011. She discussed the Undiscovered Voices Award from SCBWI British Isles, talked about being an editor at Working Partners, and finally, told about her own long journey to getting her first book for children published: Dark Parties. You can listen to a recording from this event here.

 

 

Summer Writing Workshop. I ran a one-day “Writing Children’s Books and Getting Published” workshop on 23rd July with an enthusiastic group of ten participants. There are two blog postings if you want to read more about the day – this one from published illustrator Guy Parker-Rees and Jenny Jewiss, and this one from Ann Perrin. I’m not sure when I’ll be running the next on-site workshop series – but am thinking about doing a picture book course in the spring. Get in touch if you want to know more.

 

 

Evaluating Pop Up Festival. I was hired to evaluate the first Pop Up Festival (8-10 July). Pop Up is a new social enterprise model, developing programmes in which authors and artists are brought into schools, followed by a free literary festival – working in lower income communities to help develop a love of storytelling, writing and drawing. I am currently working with Pop Up and the Runnymede Trust towards running a new programme to develop diverse authors and artists to create children's books. Watch this space - and keep an eye on Pop Up.

SCBWI Conference. I went with several members of my monthly writing group to the recent SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) British Isles conference. We learned a great deal from talks by Frank Cottrell Boyce, Anthony McGowan, Chris Riddell and others. As a group, we blogged reports for those who weren’t lucky enough to attend:

Andy Dickenson on the conference as a whole
I wrote this post about the Frank Cottrell Boyce keynote lecture
From me and Olivia Heminway, Anthony McGowan on Controversy in YA Fiction
And also from me and Olivia Heminway, Anthony McGowan on Plotting
From Astrid Holm and Emma Bayley, Judith Heneghan on Point of View
Sarah Carron attended Chris Riddell’s session on Character
Olivia Heminway wrote up The Edge author panel: Hooking Teen Readers
From Astrid Holm and Lizzie Strong, Lil Chase on Books That Sell and Sell Well

 

Race, Ethnicity and Publishing Conference. This conference will take place in Aix-en-Provence, France, March 23-24th, 2012. Building on my published essay, “White Privilege in Children's Publishing,” I am working towards developing interactive workshops to run with editorial departments at publishers, and will be sharing my initial ideas at this upcoming conference. I have carried out interviews with authors of diverse backgrounds based in the UK, USA and Canada. I will update my website, blog and Facebook page with results from my research - but get in touch if you are particularly interested in knowing more.