All Stories is an initiative that offers free opportunities for underrepresented children's book writers to develop their work. The second programme began in October last year and will end in June '23. Every fortnight, a new mentee introduces themselves and tells us about their experience so far. Please welcome Laura Warminger.


Winning a place on the All Stories mentorship scheme was totally unexpected, and it has made me really think about the reason why I love to write.


A few years ago, my eldest daughter came home from school with a blank cartoon strip printed on a piece of paper. Her homework task was to draw where she saw herself in five, 10, and 20 years’ time. She was only 13! It was intended to encourage her to think about what career she might choose, but all it did was terrify her. She worried about what to draw for a whole weekend. Finally, late on Sunday night I suggested that she draw a question mark in each box. I rarely make useful homework suggestions. The teacher was impressed and told her that the question mark is a powerful symbol. It can express doubt and uncertainty but also promises mystery and the unexpected.


I have often thought about this.


I always loved writing stories. I grew up in a council house on the outskirts of a tiny village in Norfolk. Long ago, at my own meeting with the school careers advisor, I asked her how I could become a writer. I vividly remember her reassuring me that my careers questionnaire showed that I would make the perfect environmental health officer, so I wouldn’t need to worry about that. I imagine she thought a writer was a very impractical occupation for a child like me. How I wish she had allowed me a cartoon strip full of question marks.


For me, the best thing about writing is all those questions. The terrifying uncertainty of a blank page. The unexpected twists and turns that make you gasp or laugh out loud. There is nothing better than bringing a character to life and letting them discover their own adventures. I never plan out a story, which is often a mistake! But I love the wrong turns, and the inevitable thousands of deleted words are all part of those adventures.


Writing for children allows your imagination to run free. Stories offer limitless opportunities for the characters to discover themselves, learn empathy for others and explore worlds. There are no boundaries or careers questionnaires advising you to seriously consider becoming an environmental health officer. Writing is just wonderful.


Spoiler alert, I didn’t take the careers advisor’s advice and I kept on writing. However, I never shared that writing with anyone until I was 40 years old. It was officially my midlife crisis. I began to wonder why I would gift my characters with the power to question who they were and go on wild adventures, but I wouldn’t grant myself the same luxury. It was a huge turning point and I have been incredibly lucky since then to meet some wonderful writers. I’ve been shortlisted a few times in competitions. Each small success has boosted my confidence and sent me off in new directions. I seem to delight in taking the long way round.


Working with Clare Whitston, my amazing All Stories mentor, has sparked lots more questions. Not just about my characters but about me as a writer. Catherine Coe has created a wonderful opportunity for writers from underrepresented backgrounds and I am so grateful to be part of All Stories. There are lots more mysteries to unravel and words to delete, but I am loving every minute of it.

*Header image credit: All Stories 

Laura Warminger is a MG writer from Norfolk and grew up in a small village just outside Norwich. Nothing ever happened there, so a good imagination was essential for passing the time! She’s had a variety of jobs including one in a local school, where she fought a long battle against the terror that was the lost property cupboard. Laura was selected for Undiscovered Voices in 2020 with a book called The Great Prime Minister Swap. Since UV, she has been shortlisted for the Penguin Books Write Now in 2021, the WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award 2022 and All Stories. Twitter: @laurastorybooks

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