Tag Archives: children’s fiction

3 days ’til Christmas: The Literary Agency Advent Calendar

In the run up to Christmas, the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency will be posting an entry from one of our authors each day, offering anything from writing tips and their inspiration, to Christmas memories and their wishes for the year to come.

L.A. Jones

L.A. Jones

I have a confession to make. I sit and talk to people who don’t exist.

And no, I don’t have a mental problem (probably.)

I’m a writer.

If you’re one too then you probably do the same, because often the characters in our books are the closest thing to a social interaction that we get in our daily work lives!

Which is why my number one Christmas tip for other writers, if you haven’t already, is to join a local writing group. I’ve just come from Exeter SCBWI’S annual Christmas meet-up. (A good excuse for a bunch of book-obsessed people to eat, drink and talk writing without watching multiple eyes glazing over.)

And it got me thinking. Christmas is about being able to enjoy the festivities with people that you care about, to relax, to have fun, but also to look back on the year you’ve had, whether it be a good or a bad one, and decide what you can do to make the next year even better.

(Here’s where I talk about new year’s resolutions!) Making the decision to get involved with my local writing group was mine four years ago, and it’s the best thing I could have done for my writing. We meet every month, sometimes more, for word-count competitions and general chit-chat. We vent to each other when we hit a brick wall in our novels, we celebrate each other’s successes, and we help one another prepare manuscripts for submission. Through this group, I’ve met countless other writers who are just as enthused about books and writing as I am, and I’ve also become a member of two critique groups. The support I’ve received from these has been absolutely invaluable. Writing, whether published or unpublished, can be an emotional rollercoaster, and it helps to have friends that truly understand the process, to accompany you on your journey. Not only this, but being part of a critique group has seriously improved my writing and editing skills. The saying, ‘you can’t see the wood through the trees’ has never been more true, as often I can see that there’s something not working in my novel, but I can’t pinpoint what it is. Usually, it’s something so simple, that a critique partner will spot it immediately.

So if you’re not already a member of a writing group, make this your new year’s resolution for 2014. I promise you won’t regret it.

Happy Christmas!

RISE OF THE SHADOWMARES by L.A. Jones, the sequel to her award-winning debut THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY, is out now.

The Rise of the Shadowmares by L.A. Jones


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7 days ’til Christmas: The Literary Agency Advent Calendar

In the run up to Christmas, the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency will be posting an entry from one of our authors each day, offering anything from writing tips and their inspiration, to Christmas memories and their wishes for the year to come.


Dave Lowe

 On their Santa lists this year, alongside the usuals – stuffed toys and Sylvanian Families – both of my daughters (aged 9 and 6) have included ‘books’.  The older one, in fact, has put ‘fat books’, which makes me realise that she’s growing up, although I’m not planning to surprise her with Anna Karenina, as fat as that book might be.

As a children’s writer, of course, both of my kids being avid readers makes me very happy indeed.  Reading with them is one of my favourite things, and it has undoubtedly helped my own writing, too: it’s made me realise what I like in a children’s book.  I like short chapters.  Lots of humour.  Three dimensional characters.  And a plot where you can’t guess exactly how it will finish (although there’s always a very good chance it won’t end in a bloodbath, I suppose).

Another thing I’ve picked up from my daughters’ books is that there are no new ideas in kids’ fiction, not really: it’s just about taking something that’s been done before and making it different.  My first series, for example, is about a pet hamster, which a quick google will tell you is hardly ground-breaking, but I made the hamster in my books a bit different: he’s not at all cute – he’s grumpy, sarcastic and super-smart, and is given a very unfortunate name.

Anyway, I hope you have a great Christmas, and that you get whatever is on your list.  And if you happen to be asking Santa for books about a genius hamster called Jasper Stinkybottom, then so much the better.

Dave Lowe

The latest book in Dave Lowe‘s STINKY AND JINKS series, MY HAMSTER’S GOT TALENT, will be published in January 2014.


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12 days ’til Christmas: The Literary Agency Advent Calendar

In the run up to Christmas, the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency will be posting an entry from one of our authors each day, offering anything from writing tips and their inspiration, to Christmas memories and their wishes for the year to come.


Lara Williamson

Sometimes a little bit of hope can go a long way… For me, Christmas is a time of hope. It’s a time for believing that anything is possible. When I was little I believed in magic so intensely that I was forever checking the back of our wardrobe. Would I have been surprised if I’d stepped into a snowy kingdom and been plied with rose-flavoured sweets – nope, in fact, I would have put on my big winter coat in a nanosecond and been ready for the adventure.

The magic of Christmases past would always kick off from the moment the first tree sprouted up in a window, its rainbow coloured lights shining like tiny beacons of hope. I was transfixed by Christmas trees, by glittery baubles, by fairy lights, by hopes and dreams, by the angel on the tree, by everything. Seriously, it was like a spoonful of magic medicine to a child. Nothing could touch it and, what’s more, it happened every year. At the time I believed that one day I’d find some magic of my own. I didn’t know what sort of magic it would be and, although I suspected I wouldn’t find a kingdom at the back of the wardrobe, I still hoped I’d find something.

Many years later magic did happen at Christmas and it happened in a way I least expected it to. I had been submitting stories for years, without success, but eventually I’d written a paranormal story which was longlisted for Undiscovered Voices 2012. While it was on submission I thought I’d write something completely new – mainly for myself. It was the beginning of December and I remember thinking I had nothing to lose in writing another story. And although I wasn’t writing about magic in the paranormal sense I felt there was a little bit of magic inside the eleven year old boy I was writing about. It was a quiet sort of magic – the type that comes from being rejected but always believing and always hoping. In fact, it was exactly the sort of magic found in real people up and down the country.

I spent the entire Christmas holiday writing about a boy I called HOPE. And his story was the one that got me the publishing deal I’d been dreaming of. In fact, it was the Christmas magic I’d been waiting for. I still believe in Christmas, and I still sometimes knock the back of my wardrobe. But most of all, I still have hope. And that’s the only advice I can offer, and what I live by. Keep hope alive and you can’t go far wrong.

HOPE you have a magical Christmas too!

Lara Williamson A BOY CALLED HOPE

Usborne’s Christmas tree

A Boy Called Hope by Lara Williamson Lara Williamson‘s debut novel, A BOY CALLED HOPE, is the story of Dan Hope and his quest to find his dad and make him love him again. Published by Usborne Publishing in March 2014.

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15 days ’til Christmas: The Literary Agency Advent Calendar

In the run up to Christmas, the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency will be posting an entry from one of our authors each day, offering anything from writing tips and their inspiration, to Christmas memories and their wishes for the year to come.


Geoffrey Malone

The Coldest Christmas

One of the coldest Christmases I have ever spent was ‘down-under’ in Fremantle, West Australia. On second thoughts  –  and in the interests of truth and accuracy –  that should really read, ‘One of the coldest moments of my life occurred when I was sun-bathing on a deserted beach ‘down-under’ near Fremantle, W.A. on Christmas Day.

Back in 1985/6 I was over there, running media relations for the Canadian Challenger in that year’s America’s Cup. ‘Canada 2’, our beautiful 12 metre yacht was one of a dozen or so other boats challenging to wrest the Cup away from its Australian holders.

Christmas day dawned with a brilliant blue sky, hot sun and the promise of being another scorching day. I had a BBQ planned that evening for the Press, and a local butcher had agreed to come along and grill a leg of lamb. So, ‘No Worries’ there. As there thermometer climbed into the nineties (35 Centigrade), I decided I needed a swim.

Twenty minutes later, I was sitting down in warm sea water, humming ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’. Behind me, hundreds of small, black flies hovered in a frenzy, along the line of sand. They knew where I was but for some reason known only to themselves, they could not or would not cross the strip of water between us. I was out of reach and not having flies buzzing around one’s eyes and mouth, felt like very good news.

I reached over to the ‘Kool Box’ I had brought and pulled out a can of beer. Bliss! The Australian Dream come true. By now, the sun was burning through my T-shirt. Time for a swim. I got up, stripped off and started to wade out.

As I did so, a large, black fin rose out of the sea not thirty feet away. A couple of seconds later and I would have been swimming in waist deep water straight towards it. I froze. terrified. Unable to breathe, let alone move. Looking back all these years later, a string of cliches come rushing to mind: ‘Blood ran Cold’. ‘Transfixed with Horror’. And they are all true. I don’t know how long I stared at it. Probably not more than a couple of seconds. The fin dipped and slid back under the surface. There was nothing to show where it had been. I waited motionless and then at some stage, began to inch my way back to terra firma. And my new best friends, the flies!

Geoffrey Malone‘s latest novel DEAD BOYS’ CLUB published by Hodder, follows the story of Sam Mbale, aged 12, who is captured from his village in Uganda and forced into becoming a boy soldier. 

DEAD BOYS' CLUB by Geoffrey Malone

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Dave Lowe shortlisted for the Sheffield Children’s Book Award

Sheffield Children's Book AwardChildren’s author, Dave Lowe, has been shortlisted for the Sheffield Children’s Book Award with his début fiction for kids, MY HAMSTER IS A GENIUS.  This is the first in a series of hilarious hamster books published by Templar in the UK.

Details of the complete shortlist can be found here

‘The Sheffield Children’s Book Award began in 1988. The project was first started to encourage children and young people to read and also to highlight the very best children’s books published each year. Their award is voted for entirely by young readers themselves.

Over the award’s lifetime, many established authors – such as Jacqueline Wilson, Robert Swindells and Michael Morpurgo – have experienced success with the young readers taking part in the award. However, over the years, our young readers have also been amongst the first to recognise the talents of new and exciting authors; for example, back in 1998, a certain J K Rowling was awarded Overall Winner for her very first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone!’

We are all delighted for Dave at the Agency.  The second book in the series will be published on March 1st 2013:  MY HAMSTER IS AN ASTRONAUT.  We have just tied up a new deal with Templar for 3 more books in the series.


Dave Lowe                  My hamster is a genius by Dave Lowe

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Having trouble knowing what genre your work falls under?

When I talk to writers at Writers’ & Artists’ conferences, a lot of them tell me that they find it difficult pitching their books because they have trouble knowing what genre their writing falls under.

The word ‘genre’ is a French word derived from the Latin word genus which implies “type or sort”. It is used as a way of categorising or identifying a certain kind of book and therefore makes it easy for readers to know what to expect. In literature there are tons of genres, and it can really help your pitch if you can describe to an agent the genre you are writing and the readers your book may appeal to.

Some writers simply say to me that their book cannot be categorised into a specific genre, and this can definitely be the case with literary fiction which can be impossible to pin down, turning certain genres on their head. I remember the only way I could describe an accessible literary novel I was selling was ‘genre-bending’.

There is a very useful feature by the children’s author Malorie Blackman on the Writers’ & Artists’ website. She looks at different genres of children’s books to help writers define their own work or even help writers decide what kind of story they should write: genre list for children’s fiction

For adult fiction, I think the List of literary genres on Wikipedia is really helpful.

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Templar launch ‘STINKY & JINKS’







Congratulations to Dave Lowe for the fabulous publication of his first novel for kids, MY HAMSTER IS A GENIUS.  This is the first in the ‘Stinky & Jinks’ series about Benjamin Jinks and his genius pet hamster, Jasper Stinkybottom.  These stories will literally have you and your children in stitches.

Templar Publishing will publish two books a year in the series.  The first one has just been released in the UK and Hachette Children’s Books will soon release it in Dave’s home town in Australia.  Dave will be on tour in the UK this September to promote MY HAMSTER IS A GENIUS.  He will be appearing  at book festivals including The Bath Festival of Children’s Literature.

Here’s an extract from MY HAMSTER IS A GENIUS:

‘”You’re looking twitchy,” I said.

“I’m a hamster,” he said.  “We’re twitchy.  That’s what we do.”

“Twitchier than usual, I mean.  You must be nervous about tomorrow.”

“Nervous?” he said.  “Me? Whatever for? Being jiggled up and down in a lunchbox all day? Or being surrounded by hundreds of giant kids?”

He was pretty sarcastic, for a hamster.

But when I thought about what Stinky was going to do for me, I was really grateful for the little ball of fluff.  He’d helped me so much, and so I made a big decision, even if it did mean my homework would go back to being rubbish.  Giving Stinky his freedom seemed like the only way to repay him for all his help. 

“It isn’t fair that you’re stuck in that cage, Stinky,” I told him now.  “So, after tomorrow I’m going to let you go free.  Outside.  Forever.  I’ll miss you, Stinky, and my homework won’t be…”

“ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY INSANE?” he spluttered.  “Have you lost your mind?  Are you completely bananas?”  He jabbed one tiny paw towards the window.  “Why would I want to go out there?”…   Continue this story

Take a look at the dedicated ‘Stinky and Jinks’ blog, Notes from the Hamster Wheel 

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