Writing for teenagers: it’s not all OMG and LOL

I’ve been thinking about running an online writing course for a while now and I thought I’d finally get my backside in gear and do it. It will run for six weeks from the middle of January (to give us all time to recover from Christmas/New Year) and I’ve based it on a course I ran last year with Winning Words.

On this six week course you’ll learn:

What teen fiction actually is (and how to decide what age group you actually want to write for)

How to come up with inspired ideas

How to create believable characters

How to write convincing dialogue

How to grab readers right from the first page and keep them hooked to the last

The teen fiction cliches you may want to avoid (or not!)

How it works is that I will send you the course notes at the beginning of each week, along with some homework and a writing prompt – it’s entirely up to you whether you do the homework/prompt – I know some people won’t be at that stage yet or simply won’t want to write to order like that (I did a journalism course years ago at an adult education centre and my heart sank when the tutor set a writing challenge) – and then we’ll have a forum where we can discuss that week’s topic in more detail and where I can give you advice and feedback if that’s what you need.

It will basically be six weeks’ access to the contents of my head. But, you know, in a good way.

I’m running it for an introductory price of £50. For the full course. Payable in advance via Paypal. (Places are limited, but I appreciate pre-Christmas may not be the best time to shell out extra money, so feel free to email me to register your interest and pay after Christmas.)

Any questions, please email me.


“Keris mentored me through my first YA novel – she was honest without being too harsh and was brilliant at spotting bits which didn’t work or weren’t very teen as well as helping out with plot and structure issues. Since then I have written two more YA novels, am currently working on my fourth and have secured myself a literary agent.” Catherine Cooper, journalist.

“Keris is an inspiration. She’s been there, worn the tee-shirt and she’s brilliantly at advising, coaching and giving you the specific ‘how-to’ of making your writing dreams into a reality.” Suzy Greaves, Life Coach and creator of The Big Writing Club.

“Keris Stainton was a fab tutor and made things simple to understand and fun. Great to have advice from someone in the industry and who uses her own tips daily.” Laura Heath, Book blogger (SisterSpooky)


Keris Stainton has had three novels published by Orchard Books:

Della Says: OMG! “A fun, delicious treat you’ll want to eat up in a single bite!” Meg Cabot

Jessie Hearts NYC “A breezy summer rom-com with oodles of New York glamour.” The Bookseller

Emma Hearts LA “In-depth characters make this a light read that’s not frothy at all.” Kiss magazine

Before writing her own novels, she co-founded the influential teen books blog, Chicklish and, according to The Bookseller is “well in touch with what teen girls want.”

Image courtesy of Just2shutter / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Weekend in Wigtown

I was thrilled to be invited to attend the Wigtown Book Festival this year. Or rather, the teen part of the festival: WTF (Wigtown, the Festival – I like what they did there). I didn’t actually know very much about it before I went – I didn’t actually even know where Wigtown was – but I set off from Preston on Saturday to get the train to Lockerbie. It was an absolutely gorgeous journey, through beautiful countryside. The sun was shining, I had a pile of books and a coffee and I felt very lucky.

Through the train window

I got to Lockerbie at 6.30. I’d been told that someone would pick me up and it was about an hour’s drive to Wigtown. There’d been a misunderstanding and no one picked me up. After I phoned, the organisers arranged for a taxi to get me, but it didn’t arrive until 7.30 and the driver told me Wigtown was two hours away. It was dark. My phone was almost out of charge. Two hours in a car in the dark with nothing to do. Oy. I did try to do some work on my book (in my head) and I did actually think of something that I then had to scrawl in the back of the book I’d been reading, in case I forgot it (fortunately it is actually legible) and then I had a little snooze.

Oh and the lovely author Karen McCombie had contacted me to say she was in Wigtown too and would I like to have dinner? She’d booked the table for 8.45 and so I had to reserve a smidge of energy in my phone so that I could contact Karen. Last orders at the restaurant were at 9, so Karen even texted me the menu, so she could order on my behalf. It turned out the taxi driver had exaggerated the journey and I think I arrived at the restaurant pretty much dead on 8.45. Karen is LOVELY and it was great after such a journey to sit down, eat ham hock (or “hammock” as Karen had texted 🙂 ), drink wine and talk and talk and talk.

After dinner, it was time to find the place I was staying. I knew I was staying with a local resident, only I didn’t know who. I’d been told that the details would be left at the restaurant for me, but when I came to leave found that they hadn’t (actually they had, they’d just been missed – it was really busy). So lovely Geri from ReadingLasses did a bit of ringing round and then, when she couldn’t find anyone to take me in, suggested I stay at her house. How lovely is that? It turned out, though, that my hosts (Sandra and Alan) were at the ceilidh with lots of other book festival people and so Geri dropped me there.

At the ceilidh, I got a very warm and apologetic welcome from Anne (the event organiser) – and a glass of wine from Anne’s husband – and then sat down to watch the dancing. It was so much fun to watch that I almost got up and joined in (but I didn’t have a partner). I laughed out loud, drank my wine and thought… I’m in the middle of Scotland at a ceilidh with strangers. Huh. I love those times when you find yourself somewhere completely unexpected and it’s ace. I did get up at the end, for Auld Lang Syne. Then I was introduced to Sandra and Alan (and two friends whose names I’m afraid I’ve forgotten) and we all went back to Sandra and Alan’s house, where we proceeded to stay up until 2.30, drinking tea and talking about travelling and politics.

I was woken up by bright sunshine and hopped – okay, staggered – out of bed to take a photo. Look!

Sandra and Alan made a fantastic cooked breakfast (and we talked and talked some more) and then Alan dropped me at the County Building to meet Karen again.

Karen and I went for a walk and stumbled upon an art gallery that turned out to be showing the Edinburgh Book Sculptures on tour. I you haven’t heard about the sculptures, go here and read right to the end. They are so beautiful and I was thrilled that I got to see them in real life. (Thanks, Karen!)

We went for a coffee in the Writers’ Retreat in The Bookshop, which was very fancy and would’ve been a fabulous place to have lunch – if not for that huge cooked breakfast – and then on to my event, where I met some lovely girls, including the amazing and talented Zoe Bestel, who I’ve been Twitter friends with for a while. It was really informal and chatty and I so enjoyed it. Would love to get the chance to go back next year, so I really hope they enjoyed it too.

Me and Zoe. (That’ll teach me to go out with wet hair.)

After the event, I was driven back to Lockerbie station, along with an author named Lari Don. We talked – from children’s books to JK Rowling to balancing writing with promotion to feminism to politics –  the entire way. It was great.

Thank you so much to Anne, Zoe, Christie and everyone involved in the Wigtown and WTF festivals for inviting me, to Geri for offering to take me in and driving me around, to Sandra and Anne for the bed, breakfast and fabulous conversation, to David for driving us to Lockerbie, and to Karen and Lari for even more fabulous conversation.

The theme of this weekend was definitely conversation, which makes sense for a book festival, no?

This one time, at BlogCamp…

Photo by Sally Whittle

When I got my book deal, my editor asked me if I’d be willing to do school visits, etc., and I almost threw up. I said yes, yes I would, but I remember thinking “Yeah. When hell freezes over!”

Giving ‘talks’ was my absolute worst thing at school (I did one on budgies and another on Bucks Fizz). And then at university (by which time they’d been renamed ‘presentations’). The thought of standing at the front with everyone looking at me… *shudder*

But then I got invited to do a school visit and I loved it. Okay, some of it was mortifying and I still feel slightly sick remembering it, but it was also thrilling and inspiring. I haven’t done loads of visits, but I’ve done a good few and I get more confident each time (I’ve been really lucky that I’ve done most of them with a couple of Lancashire librarians who are so lovely and supportive that they make it very easy for me).

But then I was invited to speak at BlogCamp. And that would be in front of grown-ups. My first thought was “Hell no!” but then I remembered this

Can’t find the original source, sorry.

and so said yes.

And I really enjoyed it. I was terrified, spent the last few minutes attempting to talk with absolutely no moisture in my mouth at all, and didn’t stop shaking for about fifteen minutes after, but I still enjoyed it. No, really.

And – as with the Vanessa Show fiasco experience – I was just so proud that I’d done it.

Thanks so much to Sally Whittle for organising it all and inviting me and thank you to all the bloggers who were so encouraging on the day (when you’re not really sure that you’re making any sense, it’s really helpful to see people smiling and nodding) and who have tweeted and blogged lovely things since.

(No flutes were harmed in the making of this post.)

Back to reality

Friday lunchtime I went to Preston for the Lancashire Book of the Year Awards. Yesterday just after lunch I headed home. So I was gone for just over 24 hours and Preston’s only 20 minutes away, but I feel like I’ve been away for a week. I’ve got that discombobulated feeling when you come home from holiday, have to get back to reality and aren’t quite sure what day it is.

So I’m not really up to writing a blog post about it yet, but fortunately the Bookwitch has summarised yesterday’s event beautifully with wonderful photos too (I’ve only got one slightly dingy camera phone shot from Friday afternoon).

So while I try to get my brain back in gear, here’s a really wonderful video on how to stay creative:

{video via Not Your Average Ordinary}

Come and meet me at GobbleDEEbook

I am so excited to be appearing at GobbleDEEbook, Chester’s new children’s literature festival. I’m particularly excited to be appearing on a panel with Tamsyn Murray, Rook Hastings, Catherine Forde and Jon Mayhew. (Also? Nervous.)

It’s on Tuesday 26th October at 10am and tickets are just £1 for children (11+), adults are FREE! We’re going to be answering questions and apparently there’s going to be cake. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

There are loads of other fabulous events taking place from Saturday 23rd to Saturday 30th October, including a family creativity day, a book swap, a monster drawing workshop, and a Horrid Henry fancy dress party, plus you can meet loads of wonderful authors.

Have a look at the GobbleDEEbook site for the more information on events and the chance to win some incredible prizes, including a goody bag of Little Tiger books and a starring role in Rook Hastings’ next book!

And it would be wonderful to see you there. I promise not to spray you with cake crumbs. Probably.