Children’s Non Fiction Workshop by Maggie Bolton

I’m so glad I braved November’s dreichy drizzle to attend Maggie’s workshop. Children’s Non-Fiction seemed a big shift for this Fiction writer but at the end of the evening I was certainly inspired to have a go.
So why write non-fiction? Maggie gave encouraging reasons:-
1. It’s easier to get published.
2. This diverse market offers many opportunities.!
3. Your own skills can be presented. If you’re not that expert, learn new skills in advance of writing.
4. It’s not necessary to have an agent.
5. Publishers are looking for new angles, high impact, exciting, unusual topics with wide appeal.
A workshop involves work…
Maggie produced a variety of objects and we were asked to select one and consider how many aspects of the object might be starting points for your writing. There was a mobile phone, wooden clog, battery, egg-timer, button, comb and pen.
Suggestions for the clog were history of shoes, different woods, social history of clog wearers, clog dancing, the Netherlands and shoe design. The egg-timer prompted history of recorded time, time travel, pace of life – then and now, sailing ships (life on board), and sun dials. The button prompted family history, collectables and different fasteners.
Different types of non- fiction include Biography – with a modern approach to engage the reader, as a cartoon perhaps; ‘How to..’ books with interesting lay-out and engaging pictures; Narrative – ‘In My Pocket’ an example and Informative e.g. ‘Horrible Histories’ which are predominately visual, age appropriate and FUN!
We were then asked to choose an age group, category, think of a gimmick and write the first paragraph.
Kirsty suggested a Narrative non-fiction for 12 year olds giving advice to a younger self re. bullying/ growing up in general. Other suggestions included a ‘How to’ Science book featuring battery power, history of energy with basic chemistry and experiments using things children could source for themselves e.g. static electricity. A History of Writing might include different implements, exploration of cave drawings to computers with children encouraged to try different implements.
Having decided on a topic, check Amazon to see what else is out there then find a publisher to suits your needs. (Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook)
Write a cover letter for your proposal package which includes target age group, proposed lay-out, illustrations, a sample chapter showing your style/craft and your Unique Selling Point.
If you get no response try a different publisher. If your pitch is rejected but the publishers like your style they may contact you for other work.
Maggie’s workshop was lively, well prepared and well presented.
I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling more confident to attempt non-fiction for children.
Thank you Maggie.
Greta Yorke

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