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Talking to Publishers 3


Writing for and about children: Our Street Books

Maria Maloney

Writing for children is one of the most popular - and difficult - markets to break into.
Our Street BooksAn Imprint Of John Hunt Publishing. For children of all ages, deliver a potent mix of fantastic, rip-roaring adventure and fantasy stories to excite the imagination; spiritual fiction to help the mind and the heart grow; humorous stories to make the funny bone grow; historical tales to evolve interest; and all manner of subjects that stretch imagination, grab attention, inform, inspire and keep the pages turning. Our subjects include Non-fiction and Fiction, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Religious, Spiritual, Historical, Adventure, Social Issues, Humour, Folk Tales and more., an imprint of John Hunt PublishingExplore the "Our Imprints" section to learn more about our uniquely qualified publishers and their supporting teams. , offers writers the opportunity to write for and about children in fiction and non-fiction - from tots to teens. Here Maria Moloney offers her advice about getting the proposal right to Suzanne Ruthven.

Non-fiction about children

This is also one of the most popular non-fiction ‘LifeStyle' topics in mainstream magazines - so there are plenty of opportunities for writers in this genre but as Maria Moloney, publisher of Our Street Books points out: "Competition is stiff. There are many writers, primarily parents, writing about their experiences. To compete you need to find your ‘niche', whether this is about aspects of pregnancy, being a working parent, raising a toddler or a teenager, nutrition, or coping with a disabled child. Come at it from a unique angle, use your personal experience and provide tips and useful additional information. Use an easy style of writing and avoid jargon."
One of these unique angles is demonstrated by teaching religion via a title A Clean Camel Is A Happy Camel by Paul Symonds. This shows that learning can be light-hearted and fun, regardless of the subject, as Maria Moloney understands. "Learning can be fun; it doesn't need to be a chore. Children relate particularly to humour. Illustrations also need to be colourful and fun. Our bestselling ‘Relax Kids' series is creative, imaginative, fun, humorous, and beautifully illustrated. Non-fiction still needs to enchant the reader and develop imaginations. Those that teach need to be extra imaginative and come from a new angle if they are to attract parents, guardians, teachers, and most of all, the children."

Our Street Books cover a wide range of topics including religion, spiritual, historical and social issues, including ‘Parenting Steps', a new series that covers child rearing, which includes both conventional and alternative ways of bringing up children, including bringing up baby, coping with physical disabilities, and how to support a child who is gay. Should such submissions be in the form of practical how-to, or autobiographical?

"Most definitely a how-to," says Maria, "but even then they need to come from a new perspective. Straightforward memoirs tend not to be a popular buy as everyone has a sad tale to tell, and yours probably won't be any more interesting or traumatic than anyone's else's, no matter how much you think it is. Occasionally a traumatic story of coping with disabilities or illness might work as long as the author provides tips along the way. Perhaps the author found new ways to cope with grief, or new treatments that worked, or invented new tactics to save their own sanity. The books in general need to be helpful to the reader who might be in a similar position and is at a loss as to what to do or how to cope."

And when it comes to content... "Speak directly to the children on their own level and not at them or down to them. It is helpful if you have an educational background or write from experience. Ensure you aim the style of language at the appropriate age group. Sophisticated language won't suit the very young for instance. We often get picture books for children 3-6 with language more suited to teenagers."

Is there any type of material Our Street Books doesn't want to receive? "I would say memoirs, but also rhyming picture books. Rhyming picture books are the most difficult to get right, and few succeed. Not everyone can write good rhyme, with rhythm, and avoiding making the line fit the rhyme, and inverting sentences to fit the rhyme. Picture books have to be brilliant and illustrations professional. In addition, we don't accept folk/fairy tales written in the old-fashioned way of ‘telling'. Books need to ‘show' not ‘tell'.
Has Maria any additional advice for authors interested in submitting proposals for Our Street Books? "Ensure you have worked on the book to get it the best you can. Most writers work very hard on their book, perfecting it, ensuring it's well edited. Don't jump on the bandwagon of the latest book craze, there is only one Harry Potter. For any book proposals, be it for parents or children, fiction or non-fiction, I would advise the author to look at what is popular now, what is selling. Go to visit libraries and bookshops, look on Amazon. The tone of writing you enjoyed in the 1950s will not suit today's young audiences."

Children's fiction

Our Street fiction also ranges from tots to teens, with a wide range of themes, including fantasy and science fiction, religious, spiritual, historical, adventure, social issues, humour, folk tales and more, with "a potent mix of fantastic, rip-roaring adventure and fantasy stories to excite the imagination; spiritual fiction to help the mind and the heart grow; humorous stories to make the funny bone grow; historical tales to develop interest; and all manner of subjects that stretch the imagination, grab attention, inform, inspire and keep the pages turning."
Is there any particular subject or theme Maria Moloney is considering at the moment? "Fantasy books seem to be very popular now, particularly for the 9-13 and Young Adult age ranges (without illustrations). We are happy to build on this. We would like more books for children in the 7-9 age range. Anything quirky, exciting, with perhaps a few quality black and white sketches, we would be happy to take a look at."

There are a large number of writers who believe that writing for children is an easy way to get published - what would she say to them? "I would say, think again. Writing for children, if anything, is more difficult than writing for adults. Authors need to get onto the same level as the children, not talk down to or underestimate them. Stories need to be imaginative, colourful, with lively characters, fast paced and exciting. Visit your local bookshop and library to see what's popular, what sells, and how the writing looks. A good tip is to read lots of books in the age range you are planning to write for. However, do be original in your writing."

What type of children's writing do you not want to receive? "Picture books with sophisticated language. Often we get submissions for children 3-6 with language even a young adult would struggle with. Artwork should also be professional. Another problem is with rhyming picture books, which not only lack rhythm, but also have words which are often chosen to rhyme rather than to make logical sense. This forced rhyming results in inverted sentences and awkward reading. In addition, using children's books to send out a message in morality is not a good idea; children do not want to be preached to. Harry Potter read-a-likes also spring to mind, please avoid trying to jump on the bandwagon. I would also say memoirs."

In addition to being a publisher, Maria Moloney is also a writing tutor, so has she any other advice she'd like to give to potential Our Street authors? "Your children, family or friends liking your book doesn't mean that it's publishable. If you are lacking writing skills, do take a writing course. In addition, please check your ms carefully for errors, particularly dialogue layout, as there are different rules for fiction. Opening any Our Street fiction book will guide the author to correct layout. Avoid too many adverbs within speech (i.e. he said sarcastically or she pleaded anxiously), and also limit colourful dialogue tags sometimes a simple "said" or an action instead of the tag will do just fine (i.e. mused, pleaded, cried, snapped, responded, agreed, announced). Do ensure you tie up all loose ends in the book, even if there is to be a sequel. Even within a series, a book needs to stand alone. Try not to have too many characters, particularly in books aimed at young children. Lastly, do think about how you will help market your book. Build an online presence; think about book signings and storytelling in your local bookshops."

Generally speaking, the publisher's requirements for Our Street Books will be the same as for any other competitors - but this publisher will give a verdict on whether your book is suitable within a week to 10 days. Have a look at the current and forthcoming titles on the Our Street website, and if you have written a book or children's story that you think might be of interest, send your inquiry in the first instance via the website at: or

Maria Moloney is the publisher of Our Street Books (children's books), Lodestone Books (YA), and Dodona BooksAn Imprint Of John Hunt Publishing. Offers a broad spectrum of divination systems to suit all, including Astrology, Tarot, Runes, Ogham, Palmistry, Dream Interpretation, Scrying, Dowsing, I Ching, Numerology, Angels and Faeries, Tasseomancy and Introspection (astrology, numerology and divination). Working for John Hunt Publishing for 5 years, she is a publicist, publisher, writes reader reports and is a copy editor. She is the author of five MBS books, and a children's fantasy novel and also teaches creative writing. Maria has a BA (Hons) degree in Imaginative Writing and Literature, and has studied both Writing and Research at postgraduate level. She lives in Ireland.

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