If you are new to writing for children, you may not know that there’s a whole community for children’s writers in Ireland. You don’t have to be published, you don’t even have to be trying to get published, to discover this community. All you need is to love children’s books, and even better, love writing them.
Here are some ways to get yourself out there, and join the community:
1) Conferences and festivals
There are a number of conferences and book festivals every year in Ireland. Attending these events is one of my favourite parts of being a writer. Not only do you learn invaluable information about the world of children’s books, but you also get to meet people in the same boat as you. The more events you go to, the more you start to recognise the faces of other writers. Feeling connected and understanding how the world of children’s books work, is an invaluable first step to joining the community.
As I have no background working with children, other than being a mum, one of the things I love about going to festivals is the opportunity to see how kids react to stories. It is a good way to learn about the relationship between children and books; what parts of the story do they ooh and aah at, what part do they laugh at, what authors attract the largest crowds. It is also pretty special to watch kids meet their favourite authors- often their heroes.
If you are writing a children’s book, or want to write one, I strongly advise going to a workshop. Try and find a workshop specifically for writing for children (I attend workshops in the Big Smoke Writing Factory). Not only will you get feedback from other writers who know and love children’s books, but you just might make some excellent friends and collect some cheerleaders on the way.
3) Book Launches
Going to book launches lets you mingle with bookish people. It’s a good way to discover what books are out there, and to meet people from the industry in a non threatening situation. It does require confidence, especially if you’re going alone and know nobody. But the perk is that you have a topic to open conversation; the book being launched. Book launches can be fun, and certainly inspiring. Especially when you get to see an author you admire stand up and address the room.
4) Get Online
By getting active online, whether on WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever your chosen social media site, you can connect with people you wouldn’t otherwise. Join in open discussions, contribute to the conversation, ask the questions you wish to know. Children’s writers, in my experience, are open and encouraging, and more than willing to share their knowledge, once you ask and join in respectfully. Social media is also helpful for finding out what’s going on, what events are coming up, what competitions are open etc.
It’s important to get to know the market, and learn what books are out there at the moment. If you want to get published, I would advise you to read books from the age group you are writing for. Find out what books are doing well, what children these days are reading. Think about how your book will fit into the market. Knowledge is power, and being able to talk about books, and understanding the market, will you the confidence to attend events and join in the conversation.
6) Find Out Who is Who
By going to events and getting involved in the community, you will slowly start to learn who is who in the book industry. If you want to get published, this is very valuable. Not so that you can push in and befriend people who have power, but so you can get informed. Find out about the different publishers, agents, mentors, opportunities, organisations. This way you will know who to ask for advice and support, and know who to submit to when the time comes.
7) Remember Your Manners
It’s well and good going along to events, and getting to know who is who. But there is a fine line between being a respectful enthusiastic new writer, and a rude stalker who barges their way into every eavesdropped conversation and demands to pitch their book. Like every area of life (and yes that does include the online world, although a lot of people seem to have forgotten that), people want to be treated with respect. There will be always be the one writer that thinks they’re the new J.K. Rowling, and chooses every opportunity to blast their book at people in the industry, demanding they listen and sending angry emails when they don’t. Don’t be that toddler. Pack a notebook, and your manners, and soak up information from the people who have walked theses footsteps before you. Learn from them, but don’t harass them.
So take a deep breath and get yourself out there. Start calling yourself a writer, and you’ll start believing you are one. Be patient, it takes time to get to know how the book industry works, so take any opportunity you see and attend events. There are often free events at festivals that you can go along to, but some bigger events are worth saving for, and prioritising in your calender. The more you put yourself out there, the more confident you’ll become.