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Calendar of upcoming events

9th December: #WMChat with Lauren James
16th December: #WMChat with Amy Wilson
4th January: Maz Evans (MG) and Lauren James (YA) course start dates
4th January: WriteMentor Community Learning Hub opens
31st January: WriteMentor Children's Novel and Picture Book Awards close
1st February: Preparing for Submission starts
16th February: WriteMaster starts

Success Stories

Jess Birch was a 2020 WriteMentor mentee, who worked with author Louisa Reid on her Young Adult retelling of Macbeth, Lady Em. Originally written in 154 sonnets, Louisa helped Jess rewrite her novel in free verse.  

She shares the catalysts that led her to writing Lady Em, her experience developing the novel with her mentor, and advice that she learned from the programme. 

Tell us about your writing journey from start until now.

Like lots of us, I wrote from an early age. During secondary school and my degree, I focussed on plays, writing and directing my own play whilst I was at Newcastle University. After leaving university, I moved into writing for children (although I’ve no idea why). 

I ended up back in Lincolnshire during a recession and had to find something to do with my English degree…and so I became a teacher. My writing stopped pretty much overnight. I found that teaching took up all my creative and emotional energy. My PGCE, NQT year, RQT year, an engagement, a house move, a wedding and a baby meant the years slipped by.  

Then, in Autumn 2018, several catalysts woke me back up. 

Catalyst 1: Val McDermid 

I went with my mum to see Val McDermid give a talk at The Collection organised by my local independent bookshop Lindum Books. Val spoke passionately about her life as a writer and I knew that I had to get writing again. 

Catalyst 2: Year 9 Macbeth

I was teaching “Macbeth” to both the top and bottom sets in Year 9 when one of my students said “why do we have to study this?” and I (blasphemously) said “trust me, the story’s great if you can look past the language”.

Catalyst 3: Planet Child 

This ITV documentary said that girls begin to doubt their own intelligence at the age of 6. I grew up in a grammar school town and those of us from my primary school who passed the 11+ were all girls. I then went to this all girls’ grammar school and left, at 18, as head girl – I had never had cause to doubt my own intelligence. 

In Autumn 2018, my daughter was approaching 2 years old. I couldn’t allow myself to be one of the reasons that she doubted her own intelligence. I knew I therefore had 4 years to prove to her that I was doing something that I aspired to. 

Catalyst 4: UKLA

That academic year, I was a teacher judge for the UKLA book award. On the longlist were “Moonrise” by Sarah Crossan; “Long Way Down” by Jason Reynolds and “The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo. Not only did I discover verse novels for the first time, I also (arrogantly) thought “I can do this”. 

Catalyst 5: 2nd Pregnancy

Around Halloween, I fell pregnant again. I saw this as an opportunity: in 9 months’ time, I would get a break from teaching. 

Read more here.

WriteMentor Children's Novel
and Picture Book Awards

Our awards open for entries TODAY! (1st December)

To help you prepare your entry, we share with you some of previous successful entrants, winners and judges best pieces of advice:

Interview with 2021 Picture Book Award Judges Justine Smith and Paul Moreton

Interview with 2021 Novel Award Judge: Lauren Gardner

PB AWARD Winner SOPHIA PAYNE: my WMCNA experience

How to win the #WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award by Alexandra Page

How to almost win a novel competition by Kathryn FOXFIELD

4 reasons to enter a novel competition (even if you’re not planning to win)

Five tips for winning the Write Mentor Children’s Novel Award 2021

Read more details about the award, including the judges, prizes and key dates here.

Online Courses

We have a new page for all our online courses! 

We hope it's much easier to navigate now. Read below to see how you can be the very first to sign up for newly published courses.
New course dates announced!
Start Date: Monday 1st February to Monday 8th March 2021

Dates: Tuesday 16th February to Tuesday 23rd March 2021

Dates: Tuesday 16th February to Tuesday 23rd March 2021

WriteMentor Magazine Issue 4 is on sale!

WriteMentor Magazine Issue 4 is now on sale. Featuring industry insights, writing advice, and the winning entries for our short story and flash fiction competitions. For all writers of children’s fiction, from Picture Book to Young Adult.


  • How the magic of storytelling helped Amy Wilson through personal trauma
  • About day in the life of a picture book (Clare Helen Welsh) and a middle grade author (Vashti Hardy)
  • Lucy Cuthew’s advice on writing a verse novel 
  • Pádraig Kenny’s advice on writing horror for children
  • Why Maria Kuzniar chose to write a children’s feminist novel
  • Lauren James’s top tip for exercising writing muscles
  • Kathryn Foxfield’s experience of the WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award
  • The witticisms of our Honest Writer
  • The winning entries for our flash fiction and short story competitions
  • Your recent writing achievements

All for £3! Buy your copy now

*A reminder that our magazine is digital, so check your confirmation email when you purchase for details on how to read it digitally.

Article pitch: WriteMentor Magazine Issue 5 

Are you a published author who writes children's fiction?

Our submissions are open for pitches for articles to feature in Issue 5 of WriteMentor Magazine.

The deadline for the article will be January 25th 2021, so please make sure you are able to meet that deadline before pitching an idea.

We are flexible on content, as long as the article has a focus on the craft of writing children's fiction and/or the publishing industry, as our readership is mainly writers. 

Children's fiction covers Picture Book, Chapter Book, Middle Grade, Young Adult.

As always, we want to promote as diverse a range of voices within our industry as possible, so do mention if you’re from an underrepresented group when you pitch.

WORD COUNT: 500 to 750 words.

PAYMENT: £25 per article.

Please be aware that we can only accepted one or two pitches per issue so we can’t guarantee we can reply to or feature everyone.

Pitch your idea here.

WriteMentor Community Learning Hub

We have exciting news for all of you!

Starting from the 4th January, we’re launching our brand new WriteMentor Community Learning Hub, which is a monthly subscription course/community/learning platform and it comes with so many benefits, both in the short and long term for your writing.

Read more here.

Other Opportunities

Spark Mentoring

WriteMentor Spark is a monthly, online one-to-one mentoring service. Working with a children’s author, you will receive ongoing developmental editing, writing advice, publishing insights, and direct feedback on your manuscript to help you elevate your writing craft to the next level.

Spark Mentoring is always available if you need extra help or support each month.

Spark mentor Emma Read has offered to give ongoing free critiques to BAME writers - one free package per month of synopsis and 1st page.
Sign up here and she will work through the list, at a rate of 1 a month, so the quicker you sign up, the quicker you'll get some feedback.

Final word from...

The Taxing Side of Writing
by Alex Page
Sorry to blight your morning with such a fearsome topic as tax. Until recently, it’s something I didn’t give a second thought to in the context of my own writing, but have recently found myself frighteningly unfamiliar with. Just how does tax work for writers, and how can newbies avoid the pitfalls? (I apologise in advance that this is UK-focused. The tax laws in other countries are just as or even more complex than ours, not to mention authors who are dual-domiciled and taxed. Hopefully others can comment here).
This year, I earned my first (admittedly modest) advance. It felt enormous. We all make massive investments into our writing – joining societies, partaking in courses, prizes and mentorships, buying magazines, editorial services… not to mention pouring our hard-won time into developing our craft. So finally earning real, actual money in return is incredible. When I first signed with my agent and she asked for my bank details, I snorted. I couldn’t believe I’d ever reach the seemingly impossible point of being paid for something I’d written. Yet, a few weeks after signing the publishing contract, it hit me. I had become a professional. I had earned income – a small, highly prized income – that the taxman would want to know about. I felt utterly unprepared, with no idea how much I could spend and how much tax I owed. I’m also employed part-time. What did it mean and how was I meant to work it all out? 
Authors face a myriad of different income situations and taxation options. Personally, I found navigating the UK government websites daunting, confusing and unhelpful, so began scouring the internet for sources of useful information.
The Society of Authors is a great first port of call. This trade union is accessible to both signed and emerging writers. The SoA provides guides (some are free and others need to be paid for if you’re a non-member) and a free (for members) tax helpline provided by the accountants HW Fisher & Company. HW Fisher have also produced a free 24 page guide on tax for authors, which you can read here. Given everyone’s situation is slightly different, asking for professional tax advice is likely the best course when starting out.  
An excellent blog post penned by a US writer who is resident in the UK, describes the tax process in easily digestible terms for new writers, with further helpful links at the bottom of the page, including resources for writers who are dual-taxed in the UK and US. 
Another post by Christopher Fielden is very useful on the topic of prize money. As ‘hobbyists’, writing prizes are tax exempt, but as professionals, they may not be. Until now I’d always assumed that like the lottery, competition prizes were tax free. Sadly, not always.
Invariably, authors need to complete an annual self-assessment tax return for their trading income. But we can also benefit from tax-exempt thresholds and deduct many allowable expenses from this income. Remember that magazine subscription, writing course, computer repair, trip to a writing conference, mentoring fee or research cinema trip? If incurred wholly for the purpose of your profession, these count as expenses. A useful checklist of allowable expenses is here. Please, please, please, if you’re currently on submission to agents or publishers, let the one takeaway from reading this article be – TRACK YOUR WRITING COSTS! You might well find yourself in need of these details when you come to submit your first tax return. Rummaging through pockets for scrappy receipts and searching through months of bank transactions is never fun. Neither is paying too much tax. Keep those receipts!
Other key points:
  • You only need to register to complete a tax return for the first time if your self-employment income is above £1,000 in the tax year, which runs from 6 April to 5th April (assuming you have no other self-employed income that takes you above the threshold).
  • There is now a £1,000 Trading Allowance that you can choose to use against self-employment income, instead of claiming expenses separately if these add up to £1,000 or less. But keep records of expenses nonetheless.
  • If you’re also employed, consider informing your work about your second income – particularly if you decide to operate through a limited company which may involve a second tax code. Some employers will have policies in place around this. It’s probably better to advise them anyway, rather than risk them finding out through a third party.
  • Think about tax year timings when planning payments. Normally payments for advance on royalties are staggered in instalments (e.g. contract signature, receipt of manuscript, publication). Being paid just before or after the 5thApril might make a big difference in tax owed, depending on your circumstances and income thresholds. 
  • The use of your home office is a valid expense (depending on % usage for writing) but according to HW Fisher, this is too frequently underused by authors.
  • The tax office is actually quite helpful. HMRC will gladly answer any questions related to self-assessments, expenses, or general queries concerning tax status. 
My own disbelief stopped me from thinking about tax sooner, but I wish I had. A little up-front knowledge and preparation can help a heap. I hope this has been useful! 
Do YOU want to be the star of this newsletter?

Do YOU want to have the final word?
We are VERY open to the content - it can be a personal story of your writing journey, it can be about something you're passionate about, within the kidlit publishing industry and community. It can be advice, or something you've learned, it can be an excerpt from your WIP.

As I say, we can't guarantee we'll be able to feature everyone, depending on the response, but we'd love to.

Writing can be lonely, but it doesn't need to be.

May the Force be with you!

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