Dublin Book Festival Guest Blog by Sarah Webb:
On Saturday 5th March (1.00 – 1.45pm) I’ll be talking to Mags Walsh from Children’s Books Ireland and Kevin Stevens about writing for young adults.
My very first book, published in 1996 by the Children’s Press, was a book for children called Kids Can Cook. I was working as a children’s bookseller in Waterstone’s, Dawson Street at the time (now sadly closed) and I spotted a gap in the market for a cookery book that included Irish recipes, along with all the old favourites. So I wrote one myself. I’d never written a book before and a lot of it was trial and error.
This book sold very well and encouraged me to write more non fiction books for children. Then, inspired by Marian Keyes and other Irish women writers who were starting to break though internationally, I wrote three chapters of a novel for adults, sent them off to Poolbeg Press, and so began my fiction writing career.
Eight adult novels later I had an idea for a teen character that just wouldn’t go away, a 13 year old agony aunt. I wrote the whole book, sent it to my agent (who luckily loved it and found me a fantastic publisher in Walker Books) and thus started a new chapter in my writing career. I’m now writing for both adults and children. My 4th Ask Amy Green book will be published in September, and my 10th adult novel, The Shoestring Club, comes out in early 2012.
So what advice would I give to other YA writers? Firstly and most importantly, read as much contemporary YA as you can get your hands on, especially in the genre you are interested in writing in – speculative fiction, romance, family/friendship, dystopia etc. There are some exceptional books out there for teenagers that are just as good as, if not better than many adult novels.
Some of my favourites include:
How I Live Now by Meg Roscoff – about the summer that changed one girl’s life. War, chaos, romance, adventure, this book has it all and more.
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – Todd is the last boy left in Prentisstown. Breathtakingly original. Multi award winning.
Wilderness by Roddy Doyle – two boys go on a husky safari with their mum and end up saving her life. Meanwhile their older sister is back at home, meeting the birth mum who abandoned her. Funny, sad, exciting – a brilliant book.
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead – a family drama with a time travel twist - one of the best young YA novels in years. Winner of last year’s Newbery Medal.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – extraordinary dystopian series. Fast and furious.
There are hundreds of good YA novels out there, ask your local bookseller or librarian for recommendations.
Secondly, remember what it felt like to be a teenager. If you have old photographs or diaries, pull them out and let the memories wash over you. This will help you create your own authentic teenage voice.
For more tips – come along on the day! I’ll be talking about genres, what’s selling, what editors are looking for (including Paddy Doherty from Puffin Ireland) and lots more. See you there . . .
Sarah will be talking to Mags Walsh from Children’s Books Ireland and Kevin Stevens about writing for young adults on Saturday 5th March (1.00 – 1.45pm).
If you’d like to know more, Sarah blogs about writing here: www.sarahwebb.info