Small Publishers' Fair in Frome: Inspiring

by Fran Price

When I arrived at Frome's first Small Publishers' Fair on 2nd July, I made a beeline for a man in a trilby - Barry Cunningham of Chicken House - who had just opened the event.

'Even after Brexit, the UK is still leading the way in children's books,' he told me. 'Forty per cent of all books sold in this country are for children - and there are so many routes to getting published, including self-publishing. It is a golden era.'

Fran meets Barry Cunningham of Chicken House Publishing (and Harry Potter fame)
Although Barry is famous for having discovered the Harry Potter manuscript, it is perhaps less well-known that he was Roald Dahl's inspiration for Mr Twit, from the novel The Twits, in the days when he had a much bigger beard.

It's a golden era in children's books. –Barry Cunningham

Barry set up Chicken House Publishing in Frome, Somerset, in 2000, and the company was bought by Scholastic in 2005. It has close links with SCBWI, runs the Times/Chicken House Prize and Open Coop, a one-day event when it's open to submissions.

Frome, Somerset
'We get about 600 entries for Open Coop - it's been a huge success. Chris Callaghan's The Great Chocoplot, which won in 2014 and was published a few months ago, sold to five countries,' said Barry. 'Writing for children has never been more popular. It has saved the book industry.'

Writing for children has saved the book industry. –Barry Cunningham

He had this advice for pre-published children's writers: 'It's not about your creativity, it's about knowing your reader - who is your audience?'

Also at the fair was the Frome-based Golden Egg Academy (GEA), run by former Chicken House editor Imogen Cooper, which has helped hatch some great children's books, including the recently launched Apprentice Witch, by James Nicol, and Beetle Boy, by M.G. Leonard.

Golden Egg Academy editor Nicki Marshall
'We focus on developing the skills of the writer, not just the work in progress, so you can approach any work with confidence,' said Golden Egg editor Nicki Marshall. The GEA is currently refining its course structure, explained Nicki, so that every 'Egg' follows a set of steps rather than, as some were doing, relying on the editors to improve their manuscript without necessarily growing as a writer.

Joffre White
As I visited some of the other stalls, representing various book arts, self-publishers and the Frome Writers' Collective, I came across Joffre White, self-published author of the Frog series, whom my son raved about when White visited his school recently. As a boy Joffre was a reluctant reader, until he discovered The Beano.

'My love of Dennis and Gnasher led me to become an avid reader and a keen writer,' he said. Now he is a Patron of Reading and regularly visits schools, libraries and literary events in the UK promoting reading, literacy and creative writing.

I bought Frog and the Tree of Spells, published by Troubador, for my son. Inside Joffre wrote, 'Never lose your imagination.' I haven't read the book yet (neither has my son) and I know I shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but it did strike me as an example of how self-publishing done well can look just as good as a traditionally published book.

Lastly I visited, and joined, the Frome Writers' Collective and met almost simultaneously a woman who had just signed with an agent, and a woman who said she wasn't even considering traditional publishing for her historical novels.

What struck me as I left the fair was that there are so many ways in to this publishing lark these days and that all you need is talent, self-belief - and a bit of imagination.

Fran Price writes picture books and middle grade stories. Her middle grade novel was shortlisted by agent Gemma Cooper in the January Slushpile Challenge 2015. Her middle grade story, Nicole and the Paper Witches, inspired by her Mum's paper sculptures, was serialised in Aquila magazine. Fran lives by the woods and can often be found roaming around seeking inspiration for her stories. When she's not writing, Fran sketches, paints and makes pots. 

Twitter: @FranGPrice


  1. Thank you for this, Fran. Definitely something to put in my diary for next year.

  2. This specialized site offers not one, not two, not a dozen of inspiring quotes, but hundreds of inspirational sayings. Inspiring Stories


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.