Getting started in writing and illustrating children’s books

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is a great first stop for aspiring US based writers and illustrators but their site can also direct you to chapters all over the world. The SCBWI’s British Isles chapter has loads to offer UK based writers and illustrators. The SCBWI Canada website can take you to all the regional chapters and their activities. Another Canadian site to visit is the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers. The French chapter of SCBWI has excellent events and workshops if you are ever in Paris!

Aspiring Scotland-based writers can find lots of resources at the Scottish Book Trust, including information on mentorships, courses, funding and retreats.

Editor Harold Underdown’s excellent site is updated frequently and informative for writers and illustrators. It has extensive information on current trends in children’s publishing.

There are many websites with tips for those starting out, such as Publishing Central and Writers Digest which have links to resources and tips on all kinds of writing. Here is a useful article about the children’s book market from Writers & Artists. The SCBWI has compiled this useful Frequently Asked Questions page with lots of links. I think it’s a great place to start. If you’d like to read some tips from me, click here!

Once you have written and polished your manuscript, you will want to research which publishers handle children’s books. Good online sources of publisher information for the UK are Wordpool and WriteWords. I also recommend the Children’s Writer’s and Artist’s Market for the USA and the Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook for the UK. They contain listings about publishers and their manuscript submission requirements as well as advice and resources to help you build your career.

Writing tips for young writers

I have met so many young people who love stories and would like to improve their skills! Here are some tips that I hope will help. Debbie Ridpath Ohi has some cool downloadable PDF pages to write your own story on, along with her tips. If you love Rick Riordan’s books, you might be interested in his advice to aspiring writers. Bestselling YA fantasy author Sarah J Maas published her first novel online at age 16 and she has some great suggestions.

Advice on becoming an illustrator

The Association of Illustrators is a great place to find out about starting your illustration career if you are in the UK.  Lots of illustrators have blogged or posted tips on their social media about how they got started. A couple of nice blogs to take a look at: Nate Williams and Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

Children’s book trade fairs and festivals

Book trade fairs are primarily business events for publishers but it is possible to obtain a visitor pass in some cases. I have attended the London Book Fair several times, just to see what current book trends are and to go to panel talks about the industry. It’s important for aspiring authors and illustrators to remember that publishers are at the fair to do business with their clients and partners, so it is not a good idea to show up at their stands to pitch your work. It’s better to use your visit as a chance to research the publishing industry and be inspired by all the contemporary books on show!

The leading global trade fair for the children’s books industry is the Bologna Book Fair. You do need to be an industry professional to attend but it is well worth following news through blogs and social media from the fair because it will give you an idea of trends and developments in the children’s publishing world.

Book festivals are open to everyone and there has been an explosion of new festivals over recent years. The large and established festivals, such the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Hay Festival (which has expanded to Peru and Abu Dhabi) and the Cheltenham Literature Festival in the UK have been joined by smaller regional and local book festivals, as well as events run by library services and schools. Other regional book festivals with strong children’s book events are the Bath Children’s Literature Festival, the Manchester Literature Festival and several Yorkshire festivals that are dear to my heart: the Bradford Literature Festival and the Ilkley Literature Festival.

Organisations promoting reading for children and their families

If you are in the UK, do check out Booktrust, a fantastic organisation that promotes reading and books. Their site is chock full of information, reviews and inspiration. I will keep adding to this list!

Professional organizations for illustrators worldwide

Illustrators Australia

Island Illustrators Society
Canadian Association of Photographers & Illustrators in
Communications (CAPIC)

Illustrators in Finland

Association of Dutch Designers

The Illustrators Guild of Ireland

Italian Society of Illustrators


Federation of Spanish Illustration Societies

Association of Swedish Illustrators

Society of Illustrators

Graphic Artists Guild
Illustrators Partnership of America

The Association of Illustrators

Writers and Artists Retreats

Places to recharge and be inspired in your work, based on my own positive experiences!

Anam Cara (Gaelic for “soul friend”) is located on the ruggedly beautiful Beara peninsula in southwest Ireland.

The Arvon Foundation hosts weeklong writing workshops in four stunning locations around the UK.