Welcome to Justin’s Debut-Dance Ball, a virtual party to celebrate SCBWI-BI members’ debut publications. This month, Justin welcomes Middle Grade author, Cath Howe to his ball, and invites her to take a turn on the dance floor, whilst he asks the questions only a newly-published writer can answer! 

Cath, this is your party and you get to choose the tunes. Is there a piece of music you like to dance to, or perhaps a song that gets you in the mood for writing? 

Mr Blue Sky by ELO because I’m a huge optimist.

Ella on the Outside by Cath Howe, published by Nosy Crow 2018

Many congratulations on your debut children’s novel Ella on the Outside. Can you remember where you were when you heard about your deal?

Yes, in my kitchen, cooking pasta sauce.

How did you celebrate the good news?

Meal with family and by running into school next day and telling random children I was having a good day.

As you know, SCBWI members love a party! Tell us about your launch – was there cake?

Not exactly- homemade cheese straws and “Pizza Jellybeana” which is a crumbly sliced cake thing with jam that comes up in my book.

Ten seconds to describe Ella on the Outside. Go!

New girl, Ella, joins school part way through a term. She’s unconfident, suffers with eczema and is protecting a family secret. She chooses the worst possible friend and things go badly wrong. A story about friendship, lies and secrets.

Can you describe Ella’s journey to publication? When did you start writing the book? Did you find an agent first? How long did you spend on edits with the publisher? 

I found an agent first; Anne Clark. I had been corresponding with her for a year and sending bits of writing before she took me on. I knew she was the right one. It was Anne who suggested I write with a more personal feel. Edits with Nosy Crow editor Tom Bonnick took a few months, but we had the same vision for the book, so the edits were a pleasure and not major structural changes.

Cath, you work with key stage 2 kids – did your professional role inspire you to write for them, or did you always want to be a children’s author?

I have been hugely influenced by spending so much time with children aged between 9 and 12. I began by writing drama scripts for festivals. Children in school keep me ‘grounded’ and hopefully keep the writing real.

You’ve published educational books before. How did that process prepare you for bringing your novel to life? 

I knew about the editor’s role and not to stand in the way of their often excellent ideas. I’m used to working to deadlines. I don’t find it hard to collaborate, in fact I love it.

In your teaching role you run writing and performing workshops, so author visits with Ella on the Outside shouldn’t pose any problems! What do you have planned for them? 

I plan to focus on the ‘new child in school’ theme - how can we handle transition to Secondary school in a positive way? I’m looking forward to meeting new groups and challenges as I introduce my book.

Cath, you’re currently Writer in Residence at Kingston University Writing School. What does that involve?

I’ve done some teaching of adult writers and some writing events for children. I’m also Writer in Residence at two Primary schools, running festivals and regular creative workshops.

SCBWI has a lot to offer us as writers: critique groups, network events, conference and slush pile challenges for example. How has being a member helped you? 

SCBWI has helped me understand the industry. I’ve attended lots of events, conferences and masterclasses. In SCBWI your commitment to writing is taken seriously.

And now, as the music fades, there’s just time to for you to tell us what’s up next for Cath Howe, children’s author. Are you working on a new project? 

Yes- A drama book with Bloomsbury Education - Let’s Perform monologues, duologues and performance poems, due to be published this September. And a second standalone middle grade book with Nosy Crow due out next year. I’m working on both projects now.

Thank you, Cath for joining me at the Debut-Dance Ball.

Ella on the Outside is out now, published by Nosy Crow.

Cath Howe

Cath Howe writes for and works with Key Stage 2 primary children running workshops in schools on everything to do with writing and performing.

Follow Cath: 
Twitter: @Cath_Howe 
Website: www.cathhowe.com 


Justin Nevil Davies

Justin Nevil Davies leads two distinct lives. In one, he flies around the world as cabin crew. In the other, he writes middle-grade novels with the aim to make kids laugh. Sometimes, his lives converge. Justin is co-coordinator of SCBWI South East Scotland

Follow Justin: 
Twitter: @flyingscribbler 
Instagram: flyingscribbler 
Blog: The Flying Scribbler 


Louisa Glancy is a features editor for Words & Pictures
Contact: writers@britishscbwi.org 
Twitter: @Louisa Glancy 

Feature Illustration by Louisa Glancy

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