EVENTS Secrets, Spells & Sleuths: Writing Great MG


SCBWI Central East joined forces with the University of Suffolk on May 21st for their first in-person event in, well, in a very long time. Central East coordinators Siân Mole and Lindsey Scott report. 

The event took place in the beautiful University Waterfront Building with views over Ipswich marina. Secrets, Spells and Sleuths! Writing for Middle Grade was a day full of authors, an agent and enough sandwiches and cakes to sink a ship. It was also a chance for me and Lindsey to meet in person for the very first time.


Lindsey Scott and Siân Mole


The day started with the splendid Sophie Green, author of the spooky detective series, Potkin and Stubbs, published by Piccadilly Press. In her workshop, Sophie explored the key ingredients needed to create the perfect crime story for kids. Everyone was invited to line up their potential suspects and get to the scene of the crime.


Next up was delightful Darragh Martin, novelist and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Suffolk. His fantasy novel The Keeper, published by Little Island, was shortlisted for an Irish Book Award for Children's Book of the Year. In his workshop, Darragh gave detailed advice on how to write a fantasy novel for children. Participants were able to experiment with all sorts of ideas to create the next generation of wimps and wizards.


Siân with Darragh Martin


Next was lunch: a time for chatting about writing, books and everything in between. It was wonderful to meet with other writers – something the pandemic hasn’t let us do for a while. The room was humming with different conversations. There was also the chance to visit the pop up book shop provided by Andrew Marsh at Dial Lane Books in Ipswich. Guests got their books signed by the authors and took part in a series of raffles to win copies of the latest titles.


Andrew Marsh and A M Howell

The afternoon session started with the brilliant Benjamin Dean, a celebrity reporter based in London. His debut book for children, Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow (Simon & Schuster) celebrates family, identity and inclusivity and was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2022. 

In his session, Ben talked candidly about his journey as a writer and gave brilliant advice on how to write significant issues affecting young people and make them accessible for child readers. It was an emotional session and we all left realising how important it is for everyone to see themselves in a book.


Benjamin Dean and Lindsey


Last author of the day was the amazing A M Howell. Her second book, The House of One Hundred Clocks, won the prestigious East Anglian Book of the Year in 2020. Her fourth book, The Secret of the Treasure Keepers, was published in March 2022. In her workshop, Ann-Marie talked about the importance of writing historical fiction for children, why it's so popular, and how to make it feel authentic for young readers. A creepy photo of abandoned circus trucks as a writing prompt produced some fantastic story openers.


Finishing the day was agent Clare Wallace from the Darley Anderson Agency. Clare represents children's fiction (all ages) as well as illustrators and a boutique list of adult fiction. In her 45-minute session, Clare offered practical advice on how to land an agent for a children's book. This was followed by a 1-hour pitch event where selected entrants received valuable feedback on their story openings from the writers’ panel. A fantastic learning experience for all and a fabulous day.

*All images courtesy of Siân Mole and Lindsey Scott


Siân Mole is a library assistant at the Open University and lives in Cambridgeshire. She enjoys reading and writing MG horror as she likes to be scared — but not too much! She also believes you can't beat a good picture book.

Lindsey Scott teaches English at the University of Suffolk and lives not far from the seaside town of Southwold. She loves young/MG fiction, especially funny or spooky stories.


Fran Price is Deputy Editor for Words & Pictures magazine. Contact:

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