Writing for Children and Young Adults

With Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, Nicki Howard, Bob Johnston, Ivan O’Brien, Faith O’Grady, Sarah Webb

In Conversation with Aoife Murray from Children’s Books Ireland 

Sunday 17 November

Time: 10.00am – 12.30pm

Venue: Main Theatre, Smock Alley Theatre

€20/€18 concession, Booking advised


They say children are our future. Do you see a future for yourself in children’s literature? If you’re interested in writing for children and young adults, join us for a morning full of tips and tricks on how to jump start your writing career. The morning will consist of two panels of experts in children’s writing and publishing, sharing their professional expertise on how to get your future best-seller published. Our two panels of experts will discuss what publishing houses are looking for at the moment, provide advice on the best methods for approaching publishers and literary agents, share tips for writers on how to market one’s self and build a strong public profile, and examine what makes a current best-seller.

Ivan O’Brien is Managing Director of The O’Brien Press, a family-owned book publishing company based in Dublin. Nicki Howard is Director of Gill Books. Faith O’Grady is a literary agent with the Lisa Richard’s Agency. Sarah Webb is an award-winning children’s author. Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick is an award-winning Irish writer and illustrator.  Bob Johnston is owner of The Gutter Bookshop. Discussions will be led by Aoife Murray, Programme and Events Manager with Children’s Books Ireland.




Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick is a celebrated Irish author and illustrator for children. She has won ten CBI Awards, including four for Book of the Year. First published in 1991, The Sleeping Giant won the Bisto Award for Best Picture Book and quickly became a bestseller and a beloved classic. Marie-Louise has written and illustrated many children’s books, including The Sleeping Giant, There, You, Me and the Big Blue Sea, Izzy and Skunk, I’m a Tiger Too, I am I, The New Kid and Owl Bat Bat Owl.

Nicki Howard is Director of Gill Books, which is part of Gill, Ireland’s largest publisher and distributor. The company’s origins date back to 1856 when M.H. Gill & Son, whose portfolio included printing and bookselling, was founded in Dublin. The bookshop, which stood on O’Connell Street for 123 years, is referenced in James Joyce’s Ulysses. After the recent buyout of the Macmillan shareholding, Gill is once again a fully Irish-owned, independent company.

Nicki began her publishing career in New York 20 years ago working on children’s properties including R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Mary-Kate and Ashely Olsen. At Gill Books, Nicki oversees the publication of a bestselling and award-winning list which includes biography, cookery, history, current affairs, MBS, gift books, reference and lifestyle. She has recently led the expansion of Gill Books by entering the children’s and fiction markets with titles including Irelandopedia, The President’s Glasses, Oh My God What a Complete Aisling and The Gospel According to Blindboy. Nicki also sits on the Gill Executive board and the board of Publishing Ireland.

Bob Johnston is the owner of The Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar and Dalkey. He has worked as a bookseller for the last 30 years including jobs as an events manager for Waterstone’s, and as the head office book buyer for chains including Hughes & Hughes and Blackwell’s UK. When he’s not selling books, he’s either reading them or talking about them.

Ivan O’Brien is Managing Director of The O’Brien Press, a family-owned book publishing company based in Dublin. An interest in science led to several years investigating the stars before the world of books drew him back. Ivan built the website and worked in both sales and production before broadening his job to become MD in 2006. The world of books is changing all the time and The O’Brien Press has changed with it, embracing modern technologies and constantly exploring new areas of publishing for readers big and small. Ivan attends the world’s major bookfairs in Frankfurt and London. When he’s not working you’ll find him with his wonderful children, singing in a choir or out on a bike, climbing a remote hill somewhere.

Faith O’Grady runs the literary department at the Lisa Richards Agency, Dublin, Ireland’s largest talent agency. She represents a wide range of writers of adult and children’s fiction and narrative non-fiction (www.lisarichards.ie/writers) including Christine Dwyer Hickey, Alison Jameson, Paul Howard (aka Ross O’Carroll-Kelly), David O’Doherty (The Danger is Everywhere series), Amy Huberman, Matt Cooper, award-winning author Sheena Wilkinson, Niall Breslin (The Magic Moment, Take Five), and Gordon D’Arcy whose first book for 8-12 year olds, Gordon’s Game, is published autumn 2019.

Sarah Webb is a children’s author who combines writing with schools visits, reading and giving workshops at festivals, and teaching creative writing. She has won two Irish Book Awards for her children’s books (for A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea and Blazing a Trail), as well as the Children’s Books Ireland Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children’s Books, awarded in 2015. Sarah worked for many years as a children’s bookseller and was writer in residence for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in 2016/2017: she is currently the Children’s Literary Advisor to Listowel Writers’ Week. For more, visit www.sarahwebb.info

Aoife Murray holds an MPhil in Popular Literature from Trinity College. She has worked at Children’s Books Ireland since 2012, working in public relations previously. Aoife lives in Dublin with her husband and son. She is currently Programme and Events Manager at the organisation.