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


1. 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 write across the age-groups for children but I’m being mentored by All Stories for my picture book writing. Picture books are tough! They’re such a unique art form and I’m in awe of them. I particularly love fractured fairy tales and magical picture books. However, my manuscripts were in need of direction, which is why I applied for such a great opportunity.


2. They are tough, I agree! How long have you been writing for?


I was an avid reader and writer as a child and writing for children has been my lifelong ambition. However, when I hit my teens, life took over. I trained as a primary school teacher and channelled my creativity into that. It was only when I had my own children and reduced my teaching hours, that I felt I had the time to focus on writing again. I reopened my notebook in 2017 and creating stories has once again become a passion.


3. What made you want to write for children?


A number of reasons really. Firstly, I remember how intoxicating books were to me as a child. I was captivated by these endless magical worlds and characters who I felt were my friends and they were such a comfort too. To create something magical, which a child can enjoy, is a dream I’d love to fulfil. I’ve worked with children since I was 16 and I love how their minds work. They’re smart, brilliant, curious, funny and I always get pleasure from seeing them enjoy a book. I want to draw in that fidgety child at the back of the carpet and engage them in something they’ll love.


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


Having time to write is a luxury and I’m making the most of every minute because I just love it! However, the journey is a tough one. Imposter syndrome, rejections and having the funds to access opportunities are all challenges but then something unexpected happens and it all becomes worth it. If ever I start to feel low about where I am on my journey, then I just retreat into my shell and write for sheer enjoyment or turn to a writing community for support. Focussing on the positives, though, I have listed in several competitions including Writing Magazine’s picture book prize, the Writementor Children’s Novel Award and Guppy’s Middle Grade Open Submissions and one of my picture books was recently taken on by a small, indie publisher.


5. Congratulations! That shows you can write! What’s it like to have a mentor for your writing? Is it what you expected?


It’s amazing because rather than stumbling around in the dark, not knowing what needs fixing in your manuscript, you have someone experienced and objective who is able to pinpoint exactly what is not working. Natascha Biebow is amazing at this and together, we can discuss ways to move the manuscript forward rather than me going round in circles.


6. What are your goals for the mentorship – and beyond?


Ultimately, I want to improve my picture book craft because, although my manuscripts are promising, they’re just not hitting the mark where agents are concerned. Without an agent, it’s hard to get your work in front of larger publishers, so that is a big goal of mine. Having said that, I have become more relaxed about getting an agent. I’ve realised that writing better stories and continuing to enjoy the process is more important than getting stressed.


7. Definitely! What barriers have you faced as a writer?


Imposter syndrome is a big one. There is so much phenomenal talent in the writing world that it’s easy to feel like you’re just not good enough. The financial funding of courses and feedback opportunities is another one. I make sacrifices to be able to afford things but, since becoming a full-time carer to my daughter, that’s got harder and harder. The All Stories mentorship has helped so much with this and I can’t thank the programme enough.


8. Who’s your favourite author and why?


Wow! That’s a tough one because I have so many. My favourite book as a child was, without doubt, The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton but I loved Point Horror, Phillip Pullman and Tolkien as I grew older and, more recently, I’ve loved books by Padraig Kenny, Sophie Anderson, Rashmi Sirdeshpande, Simon James Green, Laura Ellen Anderson and Maz Evans. I’m very eclectic but I love either to be swept away by a story or made to snort with laughter. I feel like I’m missing someone out. I could literally talk about authors for hours.


                                  *Feature image courtesy of All Stories and profile image courtesy of Tracy Curran ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
All my earliest childhood memories come accompanied with a book or a notepad. I wrote and read from a young age, split between an urban suburb in the West Midlands and the coastal wilderness of West Cornwall. Aged sixteen, I moved to Cornwall full-time and eventually carved a career as a primary school teacher. This became my creative outlet, of which storytelling was a big part. I have now put teaching on the back burner to become a carer for my daughter and to follow my dreams of writing.


@writercornish -Twitter




Little Cornish Writer-blog


The Breadcrumb Forest- my book review blog

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