All Stories, a free mentorship programme for underrepresented children's book writers was launched on 30th March 2021. Here, the eigth in a series of interviews with All Stories mentees, Words & Pictures Advisory Board member  A. M. Dassu speaks to Dawn Amesbury to find out more about her writing and experience as a mentee.


1. What made you want to write for children?


I was a keen reader as a child and found huge inspiration in the books I read. It made me want to write stories and hopefully, one day, inspire someone the way I had been inspired. In the last 12 years I’ve found that my writing has gravitated towards upper middle grade or early teen readers. I find this such an interesting part of a person’s life, where they are transitioning from childhood to adolescence; it’s a confusing time, as their body and mind change, they really begin to question the world around them, and to find out who they really are. And, as all stories are essentially about a key moment of change, a metamorphosing curious character fits in nicely with that.


2. Yes, it's a brilliant age to write about and for, I agree! How long have you been writing for?


I began writing stories at about six or seven years old. At the grand old age of eight, my headteacher entered my story into a Halloween story competition in a local newspaper and I won! As an adult I wrote on and off, but didn’t get into a regular writing habit until about 12 years ago.


3. A born writer! Can you tell us a bit about the book(s) you’re writing? (Age range, genre and anything else you’d like to tell us.)


I’m writing a middle-grade, historic mystery set in a Yorkshire village at the start of World War Two. 14-year-old Connie plans to escape her unhappy life after the death of her father at Dunkirk. But her plans are interrupted by a new friendship, the arrival of a German-Jewish family and a series of unexpected events. Putting her plans on hold, she and her new friends find themselves unwittingly drawn into a murder investigation and a hunt for a dangerous traitor. Things get worse when Connie’s friend’s parents are wrongly arrested for treason and the friends suspect the real traitor plans to sabotage the local munitions factory. With the local police dismissing their fears, can the friends somehow discover the traitor’s identity and stop them before it’s too late?


4. Sounds brilliant! What has your writing journey been like up to this point?


As an adult, I’ve taken short courses and one-day workshops, and attended a local writers’ group. About eight years ago I joined SCBWI and went to critique sessions with my regional group. Five or six years ago, I attended the SCBWI conference and a SCBWI retreat, which were amazing. I have written several first drafts of children’s novels and completed one MG novel which I submitted to agents without success. But for the past five years I’ve been a single parent with young children and a low income, so I can’t afford many things I’d like to do to further my writing. However, I write almost every day and keep looking for affordable ways to improve my writing.


5. What are your goals for the mentorship? How is the mentorship going so far?


My goal is to redraft my manuscript to a professional standard so that I can submit it to agents. I have made good progress so far; my mentor is helping me to improve the opening chapters, get my story to better fit the mystery genre and improve my pacing.


6. What’s it like to have a mentor for your writing? Is it what you expected?


It’s strange to be working so closely with someone on my manuscript, especially at such an early stage. Apart from All Stories, I had only shared my story opening with a couple of family members and my partner, so I had no idea what he was going to make of it! But Jon really knows his stuff and he’s helping me to build my confidence, and improve my pacing and plotting.


7. What are your thoughts on representation in children’s literature?


This is improving but it still has a way to go. I want to see more diversity, more ‘real’ working-class characters, stronger female protagonists, well-written northern characters, single parents who aren’t stereotyped, and different races and religions represented properly.


8. Yes to all of that! What is your favourite book and why?


This is too hard and I can’t answer it. I’ve read so many great books and I just can’t choose one, or even only two or three! I can say that any book which makes me laugh and cry and think about it for a long time afterwards earns a place in my ‘library’ (I can pretend can’t I?).


*Feature image courtesy of All Stories and profile image courtesy of Dawn Amesbury




Dawn Amesbury is a single parent of two children based in West Yorkshire. She’s been writing stories almost as long as she’s been reading, and even won a writing contest in a newspaper at the age of 8. Since then, Dawn has written several unpublished novels for children and teens and is currently working on an upper middle-grade historical mystery set in Yorkshire during World War 2.

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