Archive for November, 2011

How to choose a children’s book for Christmas

children's bible stories of king davidWell it’s that time of year again and we are all desperately trying to buy just the right present for our loved-ones. Books are always a popular gift and while we still have them in physical form, we should enjoy them. As writers (which the majority of readers of the Crafty Writer are) we all need to pull together to keep the industry afloat. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti e-book (in fact I’ve recently released my own novel,The Peace Garden on e-book) but I do still love holding a ‘real’ book in my hand. And so do most young children. A few years ago I wrote a guide on how to choose a good children’s book. I think it’s worth repeating here, but before I do, may I just recommend two of my own children’s books that have been recently published? David and the Hairy Beast and David and the Kingmaker are beautifully illustrated tales which address issues commonly faced by young children, such as their sense of identity and self-worth, facing fears and making friends.

And now, here are those tips for choosing a good children’s book (apart from mine!): Continue reading ‘How to choose a children’s book for Christmas’

David and the Kingmaker rules

It’s here! David and the Kingmaker, the latest book from your charming Crafty host, Fiona Veitch Smith, has arrived from the printers and is ready to ship to bookshops. It looks absolutely gorgeous. As usual, my illustrator Amy Barnes has done an incredible job. I did a reading of the book on Sunday to a lively group of under 7s and their parents. They loved the antics of the sheep and were wide-eyed when Young David was chosen to be king.

I know everyone says it, but this book and its prequel, David and the Hairy Beast, will make great Christmas presents. You can place an order through any bookshop in the world (that’s right, anywhere on planet earth) or, if you want it quicker, you can order directly from the Crafty Publishing website.

If you are in the Newcastle upon Tyne area on Saturday 26 November, Amy and I will be giving a talk about our creative process and how picture books are written and illustrated. Click here for directions and details.

Showcase your writing with Circalit

I’ve just come across a great new resource for writers called Circalit. You can showcase your novel, short story or screenplay online through one of the many community fora. You can get feedback from other users. In addition, Circalit run periodic competitions with their partners which include book publishers and film producers. Some of these competitions are free. For more information visit

Writing and producing web drama on a shoestring

My very talented friend Rachel Cochrane is busy writing and producing a web drama. She told The Crafty Writer how she went about it:

When I started scriptwriting 10 years ago, the only outlets for scriptwriters were the major TV & film companies, competitions, minor cash-strapped production companies and cumbersome commissioning processes.   With the advent of digital media I took the initiative to produce my own work.  I set up spoken word entertainment website as a showcase for my own radio plays performed by local actors and for other writers’ recorded work.

Recently I have added film to the content and I want to share with you the experience of making a pilot episode of my webdrama, Celia, a to-mirror monologue of a middle-aged woman and a mid-life crisis and how I aim to bring it to a more mature audience and fund it.


Rachel Cochrane, scriptwriterIf you want to make a film from virtually no resources then you have to factor this at the writing stage.  To strip away a reliance on lots of different scene changes, a cast of thousands and endless props will focus your mind on what the story really is about. For this reason, I chose to set the entire story of Celia in her bedroom, where with each episode we could view a different snapshot of her journey.

If the short film you are making is to be shown via You-tube, you also have to consider length (max 15 mins) per episode.


Writing is a solitary occupation but to achieve your objectives you have to leave your comfort zone, get out there and network. I met Shirley, camera, co-director and editor after gaining a place on a Creative Entrepreneur scheme at a local business school.  Penny, the actor, I met at a local theatre when she was performing one of the monologues written by the theatre writing group of which I was part.

Both Shirley and Penny brought so much to the production that I alone could never have achieved.  Shirley’s idea to use two cameras for Celia’s monologue – one to the side for addressing the audience, the other as if through a mirror for her private thoughts. Penny really developed the character, gave her a dimension beyond the page with mannerisms, subtext and body language.

Both agreed to work for free with the agreement that any profit made after expenses would be shared.  They also signed rights over to me so that effectively I became the producer of the work and would be able to promote and show it. I recommend that all agreements are made in writing at the start of working together to avoid any misunderstanding.


The pilot was funded with goodwill, my housekeeping money and the hope that it might attract sponsorship.  During the preparation, filming and editing, we kept a record of all expenses and time spent to use as a guide when planning a budget for the remaining episodes. I am now looking for funding by advertisers placing their logo on my film. I am going through a process of identifying potential companies who may be interested, initially for the pilot and then for subsequent episodes.  Potential for product placement will also be explored.

Again, a writer must be prepared to be out of their comfort zone.  There have been a few rejections so far and I am working my way through a list, starting with local businesses who may wish to target my audience.


Social media is now used by an older demographic but there is very little online entertainment aimed at this group, which I hope to attract to my webdrama, Celia.  Prior to this I am raising awareness through the release of Celia – The Trailer available to view through

I am also planning a tour of local film clubs operating mostly from village halls, which would help me to reach a wider audience who do not necessarily use social media and also to gauge reaction to the film.  To do this I will need to obtain certification of the film from each local council where the film will appear or a single coverage from the bbfc which may prove costly.