Lou Treleaven, The Newest Member of CWLA
1. Do any of the books you write come from your own childhood?
I am very lucky to have had a happy childhood with lots of books and opportunities to be creative, so although I don’t draw directly from my own childhood I do love to go back in my head to that time and place when magic seemed real and the day was full of small adventures. One thing hasn’t changed: a blank piece of paper and a pen are still all I need to keep me amused for hours!
2. What are your top tips for writing a children’s book?
Write about something you really enjoy and find a voice for your character. Think about what could go wrong in that character’s world and what they need to do to solve it. My sneaky tip is to make your page small and your text big, so it feels like you are covering ground really quickly. Or write in a tiny notebook!
3. Where do you draw your inspiration from? How do you reflect this in your writing?
I love sci-fi, fantasy, fairy tales and legends so these tend to crop up in my work. I also love playing with words and creating rhymes and songs. I also find that whatever book I’m reading affects how I write because I hear that author’s voice in my head.
4. Which people or books have had the greatest impact on your growth as an author? Why?
My granny had a huge influence on me as she was a writer too. She wasn’t published but we loved her stories and she loved listening to mine. To know there is someone eager to read your work is a massive encouragement. These days I really enjoy following other authors on Twitter and following their writing journeys. I’ve recently joined a critique group and we meet up virtually each month and review each other’s picture book stories. This has probably been the biggest help technically and also makes working alone a bit more companionable!
5. What are 3 things which anyone starting in your industry should know?
Keep learning: do courses, attend conferences, explore online resources.
It may won’t be the first book that you succeed with, or the second or the third… Some books will be your apprenticeship and that’s okay.
Keep sending your work out there – the more you submit, the more chances you will have.
6. What are some challenges you face in your field of work and how do you overcome them?
Like everyone, my inner critic is a pain in the behind and constantly tells me what I’m writing is rubbish. I get round this by putting things aside and going back to them with a fresh eye. The inner critic has become much more logical and reasonable by this point!
I also suffer from migraines which is frustrating when I want to work. I try to think of these times as enforced breaks and I’ll be fresher when I return.
7. Do children around you strongly influence how you write your own stories? How do they influence or inspire you?
Having my own children was a great excuse to return to reading children’s books, both current and classic, but I’ve realised since then that you don’t need any excuse to read children’s books and I’ve recently been binge reading all my old favourites. I loved reading bedtime stories and carried on even when mine were teenagers. One of our favourite memories was when both were ill and lying on sofas in the semi-darkness while I read ‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar to them. Actually it probably wasn’t that fun for them but ‘Holes’ got them through it!
When I visit schools I always come back really inspired. I love the energy and enthusiasm of children and I can’t wait to scribble down my new ideas.
8. How do you help children relate to your stories?
I try to talk to children directly in my stories and I like to use humour and make the reading experience fun. I’m also lucky to have worked with brilliant illustrators who bring my books to life and engage the reader.
9. How have your writing courses helped and contributed to your career as an author?
I love doing courses because what could be better than studying something you love? As a younger writer I attended courses at my local college in the evening which spurred me to complete homework and work on new material. I then went on to regularly attend writing conferences which are brilliant as you get to attend a variety of courses and seminars throughout the day. During lockdown I did some sketch comedy writing courses which were so much fun and I loved being entertained by the other students. I think any learning that you do feeds back into your own writing; I even did some impro sessions via Zoom!
10. Are there any exciting new projects you are working on at the moment?
I like to work on several projects at once so I have a chapter book, a middle grade and several picture books on the go and I’m also plotting out a new chapter book idea. Writing is so exciting – anything is possible!