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Children's writers flourish

4 December 2006

Children's publishing continues to thrive and new names are emerging every day. The Harry Potter effect has seen publishing firms bringing a new commercial focus to children's publishing and big money is now involved, with all the competitive strains that brings.

In what seems like an extraordinary dream-come-true for any writer, Nancy Yi Fan, an eleven-year-old Chinese girl, recently hit the headlines by having her manuscript taken on for publication worldwide by HarperCollins. She had simply emailed it to Jane Friedman, the CEO of HarperCollins, in her New York office. Now her fantasy novel about tribes of warring birds will be published in English around the world.

Nancy's approach is not usually the most effective way for aspiring writers to get publishers' attention, but Gerald Howe, a Jersey-based businessman has shown that, if you have plenty of drive and marketing nous, self-publishing could be the way for you. His Alfie's Adventures series, which follow the time-travelling adventures of seven-year-old Alfie and his dog, has already sold 320,000 copies, largely due to a deal with Virgin Airlines. Howe has also promoted the series online: 'I've got a website up now and there is a really nice interactive element to that. I've already had quite a few emails asking when the new books are going to be out and what my plans are for number five in the series.'

An innovative mother and child partnership has secured success for Diane Purkiss and her son Michael Dowling, under the name of Tobias Druitt. Purkiss relates how she followed her son's teacher's advice: 'Kids can write stories, but can't physically write as fast as they can think or type. If you type while he talks it will free his imagination.' This has been the way that the first three books in the Corydon series have been written, with the two of them writing collaboratively. 'Michael says: 'The only thing I dislike at school is creative writing because I have to keep the stories so short. I'm used to writing rambling epics now.'

Jacqueline Wilson's forthcoming autobiography, Jacky Daydream, which is written for children, tells of her own genesis as a writer: 'I know what's appropriate and what isn't for children. Without patronising them, you filter what you say. There were a lot of ferocious rows between my parents and I haven't put those in to the book.' The bestselling and much-loved Children's Laureate has used her time in the office to campaign to get parents to read aloud to their children, the basis for developing children's own reading in later years. These days children benefit from an absolute feast of good children's books, widely available, beautifully illustrated and well presented. And for writers, writing for children is still an attractive and potentially lucrative field.

Alfie's Adventures

Inside Publishing on children's publishing

Children's editorial services