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 Olivia La Bastide.


I don’t think there was a certain point in time that I became a writer; I think being a writer has always been an intrinsic part of me. However, it’s only recently that I put my writing out into the world, starting with becoming part of the inaugural fiction class of the HarperCollins Author Academy in 2021.

Since then, I’ve gone on to receive scholarships for WriteMentor’s WMLit, Curtis Brown Creative’s Breakthrough Novel-writing Course for Writers of Colour, and the All Stories Mentorship, among other awards. If I had to give only one piece of advice for writers, it would be to apply for as many scholarships and competitions as you possibly can – the people you meet through these courses will become part of your creative army, because the publishing industry can be a battle, and you’ll need loyal soldiers to help teach you, and guide you towards victory.


I was blown away when I received the news that I had won a place on the All Stories nine-month mentorship last year, and I greatly encourage everyone to apply because they are the most amazing creatives you’d ever want on your side.


The novel I’ve been working on throughout the mentorship is a YA urban fantasy, Crimson Fire, which aims to be unique in combining both the otherworldly mysticism, magic and intrigue of supernatural fantasy with the deadly reality of contemporary science. Crimson Fire will hopefully offer a new and provocative look at the typical disguised dystopia and will have readers examining their own sense of morality. Within the first four months, my novel, and my writing craft in general, made more progress than they had in years. Most of that was due to the incredible teaching and guidance from my miraculous mentor Jenny Glencross, and I will be forever grateful to her. It’s incredible what a passionate and attentive teacher can do for your writing, and the feeling of creative progress is euphoric. It’s a high like no other because it’s personal. You did this.


While this feeling is a huge catalyst for my writing, the main reason I write is always at the forefront of my mind -- words are powerful tools, and if I could influence and inspire even one reader the way other authors have inspired me, then I will have done my job as a writer.


However, I can’t say that writing is without its challenges. There are many obstacles a writer can face, and in my personal experience, a writer’s own mind can be the worst enemy of all. Self-doubt, imposter syndrome and writer’s block can be crippling. Coupled with anxiety and depression, these obstacles have caused me more creative and emotional stress than I can tell you about. And to be fair, I don’t think my words could do justice to their power. I know a lot of writers struggle with this, and it’s to these writers that I say this – stop fighting. It’s said that when you’re caught in a riptide, you shouldn’t panic or fight against the current, even though that’s what your instincts are screaming at you to do. Your best chance of survival is to remain calm and float with the current. Battling against it will only waste your energy and fuel your panic. The same is true for writers. Trying to fight against writer’s block, or panic that you haven’t written for a week, is like trying to tame the sea. Even the strongest swimmers can’t fight a riptide, and even the strongest writers get pulled down by these things. Be kind to yourself. Float with the current to help reduce your anxiety and open your mind to clear thinking and inspiration, because it will find you when the time is right. That is a promise.


This is partly why I’m passionate about writing for children, because fiction is always an escape, no matter what you’re struggling with. My entire life can be road-mapped by the books that I’ve loved -- every point in time, every emotion I’ve ever felt, can be thought of alongside the books that I was reading. Starting all the way back to when I was three and my parents bought me Olivia by Ian Falconer. And that was only the beginning of my love of literature. There was the Rainbow Magic series when I was seven. Enid Blyton and Michael Morpurgo at ten years old. Stephanie Meyer and Suzanne Collins at thirteen. Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde at sixteen. Scott-Fitzgerald at seventeen, and Tony Kushner at nineteen.


Don’t doubt your writing, because there’s a child out there that needs your book – the next part of their roadmap – and only you can give it to them.





Olivia La Bastide studied English Literature at Buckingham University and has gone on to receive scholarships for the HarperCollins’ Author Academy, WriteMentor’s WMLit, Curtis Brown Creative’s Breakthrough Novel Writing Course for Writers of Colour, and All Stories Mentorship. Her poetry was published by Oprelle in 2022, and she’s studied the art of storytelling and editorial with some of the industry’s leading professionals, including the Publishing Training Centre and the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, of which she is now a member and a qualified editor. Olivia is passionate about inspiring writers from underrepresented backgrounds to be confident to succeed despite their race, gender, or sexuality. Working as a teaching assistant, Olivia writes snippets of fiction on her phone in the staff room, dreaming of the day when she hasn’t been exhausted at school and can find time to break out her laptop. You can find her on socials @olivialabastide

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