Tips on writing for children with Davina Bell

Author and editor Davina Bell has spent a lot of time thinking about how to infuse picture books with magic. A former senior editor at Penguin Books, Davina currently works on the children’s list at Affirm Press in Melbourne, and she’s authored a number of award-winning picture books. Her most recent book, Under the Love Umbrella, was published in 2017. We spoke to Davina about the market for children’s books and her top tips for writing a bestseller.

What can aspiring children’s writers do to make their books jump off the shelves and shout, ‘Buy me!’?
Come up with an original and yet familiar concept that will appeal to adults buying and kids browsing. Oh—and a killer title. (So easy!) Alternatively, you could become a celebrity or comedian, because their books are jumping off the shelves right now.

How can writers make certain their work resonates with young readers?
Keep the child reader in mind always, and forget about impressing yourself or anyone else with fancy lexical fireworks. It’s all about the voice – how authentic it is, how it sounds read aloud, and how it captures a universal experience in a fresh and fun and enjoyable way.

What tips should children’s writers bear in mind before submitting their manuscripts for publication?
Know the market—research exactly where your book would sit on the shelf of each kind of shop that sells books, and similar titles that it would sit alongside in terms of age group, format, content. And write what truly delights you. There’s no substitute for an author’s passion, and no formula to capture the spark it gives to their work.

Davina’s one day course, The Enchanting World of Picture Books, will run on Saturday 26 May, 10am-4pm. For more details, or to book in, click here.

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