Think you can write a children’s book? Joan Aiken can help…

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So how is the book coming along?  You still have a couple of weeks to send in your entry! All you need is a wonderful idea for a story you really want to tell, and we’ll give you the encouragement to write it – and that’s what is being offered here. You have until June 30th to send us your idea for a children’s book that could become a classic of the future.

Julia Churchill, Joan Aiken’s rep. at London literary agents A.M.Heath who are sponsoring The Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize (and hoping to discover a new talent!) tells you what we need:

“To get a good sense of the voice, concept and where the character is headed, we’d like to see the first 10,000 words PLUS a short description of the book (a few lines) AND a one page outline that shows the spine of the story.”

Sounds simple? Joan Aiken might have other ideas, having turned out over a hundred books herself, she knew it wasn’t exactly a piece of cake, and writing for children she felt should always be the best. But she also helps you fight the fear and do it anyway…

She imagines a test – an inquisition even – for the would be writer:

W2Write inquisition

Well we aren’t the Spanish Inquisition, but what we are looking for is someone who has a story they really want to tell,  and which they think children will enjoy…!

As Joan Aiken also said, all she ever wanted to do was give children the same wonderful pleasure that she herself had from reading as a child.

W2Write Vision

Well, she has plenty more advice and encouragement to give:

Take time to write regularly, brood about your story before you fall asleep and let your dreams take over, listen for the voice which will tell your story, find your imaginary reader and tell it to them…

All these thoughts and much more come from her very entertaining and generous little book The Way to Write for Children, but of course as she also says. there are many, many different ways, and we are waiting to hear yours…!

w2w web page

Find the book here, and much more about Joan Aiken and her writing life

on the Joan Aiken Website

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And get writing! 

Full details of conditions & how to enter are here on the A.M.Heath site

Open to un-agented writers in the UK and Ireland

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Joan Aiken on the Joy of Writing…

Even better than reading – get lost in writing your own book!

How to get there?  Thoughts from a master escapist…


More thoughts on writing from Joan Aiken in

The Way to Write for Children

See also The Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize 2019 

Now being offered by Joan Aiken’s agents A.M.Heath for a New Children’s novel

Apply from March 20th 2019



Sharing Aiken Gold with Fellow Writers

Way to Write cover

     It would be perfect  if Joan herself were here to write this blog!  With her many years of experience from her own early days of struggle and rejection slips,  her wide reading and appreciation of all kinds of life and literature, and her great sympathy for fellow writers, she would have had so much to share.

     She valued her peace and privacy, and had already firmly rejected the computer as a writing tool, preferring to handwrite and use a familiar typewriter, so I don’t know how she would have taken to the world of social networking and instant internet communications. But I also know she was a faithful correspondent and replied to hundreds of letters in her lifetime; she valued letters from her readers enormously, and wrote many appreciative and thoughtful reviews of other writers’ work.

     Joan was at one time persuaded to write a book about writing for children, and although writing methods and publishing possibilities may have changed since then, what she has to say is still both inspiring and encouraging – even if the world is now flooded with more information and advice for writers, in books and on the internet, than any of us can possibly make sense of – she still has treasure to offer,  and I am very happy to pass it on. She dedicated it to her wonderful friend and mentor, Kaye Webb, the Puffin Books editor who did so much to promote new children’s writers.

Here is a short sample from The Way to Write for Children (not her choice of title, of course, she said there are many, many ways!) which I hope will spur you on:

     What should a children’s writer write – and not write?

       “A children’s book is not something that can be dashed off to order – children have huge needs…which reading will help to fill.  A good children’s writer may be particularly well equipped to do this…as a kind of lunatic or poet…they are the sensitive points in a civilisation.”

Way to write 1a

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Read more about Joan’s The Way to Write for Children  on the Website

Published in the USA, but you can find it here

And scroll down to find lots more posts on Writing Advice from Joan Aiken

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Don’t forget the 2019 Joan Aiken Future Classics prize is now open!

  Find all the details here