Dear Candy Gourlay, how do I become a writer?

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Today's the day my second novel SHINE is officially available in UK shops in hardback! If you can, please get it from a bookshop near you or order it from your nearest loveable public library!

Last June, I visited a school right on the edge of the Luzon electricity grid in the Philippines - Laurel Elementary School. I was taken there by the Sambat Trust.

I came bearing gifts - my book distributor for schools Anvil Publishing had given me a big bag of picture books (thanks Gwenn!) that I handed out as prizes for even the most trivial of questions.

So the children rapidly went from orderly bemusement:

To this:

Photo: Zarah Gagatiga

SUCCESS! I believe in making books exciting - even if I'm just bribing the children to answer questions.

I talked about how I became a writer and then signed books. In the queue I met this teenage girl from a nearby high school.

Photo: Zarah Gagatiga
She said writing was her passion. But how, she asked me, could she become a writer?

Y'know, it's funny how this is one question that I am asked over and over again by young people. I wonder if other authors get this question in their inboxes as often as I do.

Dear Candy Gourlay, How do I become a writer?

Luckily for today's young writers, they don't just have to aspire quietly in their bedrooms. With the internet, they can contact authors like me directly and ask this burning question. HOW?

The answer of course is a moving feast. Here's what I say to them:

To become a writer you must write and you must read. Lots. You must learn everything you can about the craft. You must decide who you want to write for and create work accordingly. It's a tough business, full of rejection, so you must keep an eye out for others who share your passion. They will support you through the tough times and you must support them. 

I try to answer what I can. But because of my busy schedule, I have to regretfully turn away pieces of writing that these aspiring writers attach to their emails - and I'm very sorry indeed that I don't have the time to help. If we all had the time to mentor young writers like these, what a fantastic literary world this would become!

So when Archway with Words, a new literary festival to be held in my neighbourhood here in North London invited me to create an event, I thought, how about something for young writers?

I came up with this:

23 September 2013, 5pm to 6pm, Archway Library - it's FREE.
It's a chance for young writers to show their work to authors - only 300 words ... 300 words is enough to get a flavour of the writer. I've rustled up a roomful of famous, cool and incredibly good looking authors (my very kind author buddies who are taking alcohol as their reward for showing up) to respond to the pieces.

This is not about criticism, this is about taking your writing to the next level.

Here's how it will work:

1. Submissions will be sent in advance to participating authors - they're attending my book launch which is why I was able to rustle up a roomful of them! Sadly places are limited because time is limited, so do submit sooner rather than later.

2.  On the day, a reader (I'm trying to get an actor) will read each text aloud. The authors will not be identified, though they can identify themselves if they want to later. After reading each text, the authors will respond to the work.

3. We only have 45 minutes to an hour to talk about the work. We will read as many as we can but the aspiring writer will not know if his or her contribution will get read. I attend events like these at writer's conferences and even if your work is not read, it's very, very educational.

4. Aspiring writers ages 12 to 18 submit 300 words (or thereabouts - no need to break off abruptly!) of a piece of writing - it may be fiction or an essay (for lack of time, no poems please). You can write something specially or maybe you've already written a novel or a longer piece - then you can show us a delicious excerpt! Send as an attached word document to me - contact me first via the contact form on the right for the email address.

5. Deadline: 18th of September 2013, Wednesday.

6. Format: Double spaced on one sheet. No fancy fonts please.

7. You can only send something in if you can guarantee that you can attend of course. Afterwards, there will be plenty of time to chat and hobnob with authors at the book launch. And the critiquing session will be a great ice breaker! You won't feel shy about chatting to the authors after the session!

Did I remember to mention that it's FREE?

If you are young and an aspiring writer, we all hope to see you there.

Here are the famous, cool and incredibly good looking authors 
who will be listening to your work

(Click on the images to visit our websites)

From left to right:

Fiona Dunbar's Truth Cookie series was made into the BBC show Jinx.

Tim Collins could be a character out of his hilarious Wimpy Vampire books.

Addy Farmer writes moving picture books like Grandfather's Bench and Siddharth and Rinki

Candy Gourlay wrote Tall Story about an eight foot tall boy.

Steve Hartley writes the Danny Baker Record Baker series and always travels with a giant bogey.

Jackie Marchant ghost writes the rib-tickling and highly suspicious books of Dougal 'It's not my fault' Trump.

Jane Mcloughlin wrote the Carnegie-nominated At Yellow Lake.

Cliff McNish is a lot nicer than his creepy Doomspell Trilogy and horror books.

Sarah Mussi's pacey Angel Dust is transcendent YA.

Sam Osman aka Sam Hepburn wrote the heart-pumping thriller Chasing the Dark.

Teri Terry's explosive Slated trilogy is winning prizes all over the place.

I leave you with this video of my hero Ray Bradbury talking (sometimes grumpily) about how to become a writer ...

And one more ...

It is the Sambat Trust's third year of building libraries in the Philippines. To celebrate, every new supporter who "likes" our Facebook page this September will be matched with a £1 donation- up to £500. Please ... go like!

Like books? Like children? Like libraries?
Click on the logo and 'like' us!

You might be interested in my recent postings. Click on the thumbnails to view:

How to Become a WriterMy Video ReadingUnboxing First Copies 

Q&A at Tamarind Books
Riffing on Rain in Shine
Chasing happiness