Writing Young Fiction Workshop with Stay-At-Home Lit Fest

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Thank you so much to everyone who joined the session. It was an absolute delight to spend an hour in the company of so many writers.

Here are the notes for my ‘Writing Young Fiction’ workshop with Stay-At-Home Lit Fest on Friday 10th April.

What is ‘Young Fiction’?

‘Young Fiction’, also known as ‘Junior Fiction’ or sometimes ‘Early Readers’ are the books aimed at 5 year olds to 8 year olds. They bridge the gap between picturebooks and middle grade fiction. These books can vary in length from 2000 to 20,000 words. Young Fiction also tends to be illustrated and can vary from full colour illustrations throughout to 100 or so black and white spot illustrations spread over 20,000 words.

What works well for this age group?

Fast-paced action that keeps the reader engaged works really well. These are books for newly-confident readers so you want them to engage and enjoy the experience – humour is a winner if you can get it right. But that’s not to say all books for this age group need to be loud and slapstick – children like variety so stick to a genre you are comfortable in.


Readers at the age really invest in the characters so develop your character! Plots can be secondary to this. Your reader must be able to identify with someone in your story. Imagine your character and answer the following questions:

What is your character’s name?

Is your character a human? Or are they an animal? Perhaps they are neither. Perhaps they are from a completely different planet or universe.

How old are they?

What do they look like?

What is the world like that they live in?

Do they have any companions? And what is their relationship to them?

What is the one thing they wouldn’t want anyone to know about them?

What was the most interesting thing to happen to them yesterday?

They wake up, what is the first thing they think of?

If they were making a quick escape, what one thing would they grab before they left?

You should add to this list with your own questions and really get to know your characters.


Put yourself in the shoes of your character and ask yourself these two important questions:

What does your character want?

What is going to stopping them from getting it?

Punchy first lines and keeping your reader hooked

Dramatic first lines are what hook your reader. Don’t worry about backstory, just launch into the action if you can. Be bold and give your reader a reason to read on.

Dialogue is a great way to maintain the pace of the story and keep your reader engaged, especially for the younger age group. Eavesdrop on conversations, listen to the radio, watch the TV with a blindfold on and really listen to how dialogue works when people converse.

This is a super exciting age to write for and I love it. I hope you will too.

Good luck with your writing!

Swapna xx

Dave Pigeon in The Guardian

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It’s lovely to see Dave Pigeon mentioned in Lucy Mangan’s round up of books to keep kids entertained during lockdown.

Photo from @MrTRoach on Twitter

If you are at home and looking for something to do, do feel free to download the worksheets in my ‘Fun Stuff‘ section. I’ll be posting more activities over the next few weeks. And if you can send me pictures of your work, I’ll make sure your work goes up in the ‘Gallery‘.

Stay safe and lots of love,

Swapna x

Dave Pigeon (Royal Coo!) makes the Alligator’s Award longlist!

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I’m thrilled to announce that Dave Pigeon (Royal Coo!) has made the Alligator’s Award 2020 longlist! This brilliant award celebrates illustrated young fiction, the often unsung heroes that get children hooked on books for life. I couldn’t be more proud of Team Dave Pigeon and to be amongst so many brilliant books.

Hugest congratulations and jammy biscuits to everyone!

Torn Apart: The Partition of India, 1947

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I’m so proud to reveal the cover for my new book Torn Apart: The Partition of India, 1947, designed by Jamie Gregory and Two Dots Design Studio.

It’s October 1947 and two young boys find themselves thrown together during the dramatic changes of Partition. As the new India and Pakistan are born, can a friendship between these two children rise above the tensions between the two countries?…

Described as a thrilling and moving account of the largest movement of people in history, Torn Apart: The Partition of India, 1947 tells both sides of the story through the voices of children at the heart of Partition and publishes this August with Scholastic.

This was a very important story for me to write and I was thrilled when Elizabeth Scoggins and Charlie Wilson at Scholastic approached me with the project.

I was born in the UK but grew up aware of a historical tension between India and Pakistan that no one really defined for me as a child. Researching this story gave me a chance to delve deep into Indian history and answer questions that I had long been unable to ask. It wasn’t easy as I had to face some heartbreaking truths about this very gruesome and cruel time but I also discovered some of the most wonderful examples of humanity I had ever come across. There were beacons of hope shining through this dark time and in telling Ibrahim and Amar’s story I hope readers will see this.

I can’t wait for this book to be out in the world and I hope the friendship between Ibrahim and Amar shows that peace can triumph.

Happy World Book Day from New Zealand!

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It’s World Book Day and I wasn’t going to miss out on all the fun back in the UK so I was chuffed to be invited to speak to the Writing Extension group at Kaikorai Primary School, where I met with sixteen brilliant young writers.

We talked about planning stories and shared ideas on writing. And then we played a game of beat the buzzer and invented a story all about a witch before the pupils created brilliant foldover stories together.

I had an absolute blast and can’t wait to hear all the stories the pupils come up with. Thank you so much to Miss Ferguson for inviting me to join the Writing Extension group.

Happy World Book Day to all of you celebrating today. I have loved hearing all your messages about your Dave Pigeon adventures and I have been thrilled to see so many of you dressing up as Dave Pigeon characters to celebrate. Here are some of my favourite costumes from World Book Day 2020:

My Dad is a Grizzly Bear

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Happy New Year, readers! I’m so pleased to share the cover of my debut picturebook, illustrated by the very talented Dapo Adeola, coming in May with Macmillan Children’s Books.

The story follows a boy with a wild imagination and his lively family.

In this family, it’s just possible that Dad is a grizzly bear . . . He has fuzzy fur, enormous paws and loves the outdoors. He sleeps a lot, even in the cinema and when he’s awake, he’s always hungry.

What else could Dad possibly be?

Watch this space for more exclusive beartastic reveals in the run up to May!