How to write children's books

'Read, read, read.’ This was a key tip from Rebecca Lewis-Oakes (Magdalen, Classics), Editor at Puffin Books to would-be authors at the recent alumni professional networking event ‘Writing and Publishing Children’s Literature’. Lewis-Oakes also recommended spending time in bookshops and libraries to really get to know the market. 

With 90% of children’s literature still being produced in printed, as opposed to digital, books, it is a sector which shows no sign of slowing down, especially judging by the enthusiasm of more than 80 Oxford alumni in the room. The evening also boasted one of the broadest ranges of age and backgrounds seen at an alumni event – from recent graduates looking for that publishing role to retirees with a stack of novels already written.  Our panel assured us that it’s never too late to break into the industry and that you should be persistent: nobody gets things right on their first book or even their second or third.

The event at the Oxford and Cambridge Club in London on 14 October was chaired by Liz Cross (Jesus, Philosophy and Modern Languages), Head of Children's Publishing, Oxford University Press. The panel also included two authors; Wendy Meddour (St Hilda's) and Tom Moorhouse (University of Oxford's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit ‘WILDCRU’) who entertained us with their tales of the road to that elusive first publishing deal. Moorhouse’s first attempt apparently ‘died in a sea of inadequacy’ whereas Meddour described how she drew on her experiences travelling and living in North Africa.

Further points for discussion included working with agents, the value of social media and the merits of writing about what you know. In the case of Moorhouse and Meddour this was water voles and being a nine-year-old girl respectively!

Each focusing on a specific theme or industry, our professional networking events aim to offer the opportunity to make connections with like-minded alumni whilst offering industry insights from a panel of alumni experts.  For details about future events, sign up to the events mailing list and see our professional networking events page.

Catch up with our panelists on Twitter: @LizJCross @rebeccaeditor @WendyMeddour @Puttypaw