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Helen Harvey | #WriterMentor 2019

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

Hi, I'm Helen! This is my first year mentoring for #WriteMentor. I'll be mentoring a middle grade or chapter book writer and I'm offering to help with your first three chapters*, cover letter and synopsis (as well as general cheerleading and emotional support).

Who am I?

My MG debut, How to Beat the Queen of Mean, is the story of a girl gamer who sets out to beat her bullies with the power of videogames. It won the 2017 Bath Spa/United Agent’s Prize and is currently out on submission. I’m represented by Lauren Gardner of Bell Lomax Moreton.

I also write chapter books for Twinkl Originals. At Twinkl, I write stories in every genre, about every topic, ranging from 1k to 20k words. Working for Twinkl has given me loads of practise writing pitches and synopses, as well as plenty of experience of being on the end of other people's editing notes.

What sort of story am I looking for? I love contemporary stories and fantasy stories that aren’t scared of technology. I like genre-bending tales and stories where seriousness and humour sit side-by-side. I’d like to see more stories where under-represented characters get to go on adventures. I like stories that break the "rules". I love middle grade and early teen but I’m also a fan of tight, witty chapter books. But, to be honest, my tastes are wide-ranging - give me a try. My absolute favourite author is Diana Wynne Jones: I adore her blend of fantasy, sci-fi, mystery and domestic drama. I love the way she portrays intricate plots with straightforward language and wit. So don't be afraid to send me something that defies categorisation. Some other authors I enjoy are: Maggie Steifvater, Alison Croggon, Susie Day and Robin Stevens. I'm privileged and I know it, but the world of children's books is much poorer when it doesn't include voices from every background. I want to boost voices who don't get heard enough. Let me know if that's you.

What's my mentoring style?

I know that when giving feedback the most important thing is to recognise where the heart of the story lies for you as the writer, and to help you write the best version of that story. I think identifying what a story's strengths are and why is just as useful and discussing areas that could benefit from development.

I think face-to-face feedback, where we can have a discussion, is often much more comprehensive and helpful than written feedback alone. So expect some video calls!

I have taught creative writing for over ten years and recently completed the Bath Spa MA in Writing for Young People, which placed a lot of emphasis on both giving and receiving feedback through workshops. I now lead a two writing workshops and participate in a regular critique group.

What I expect of you

I want you to be passionate about working to make your story the best it can be.

I expect you to be open-minded and willing to edit based on my feedback. However, that doesn't mean I'm expecting you to do everything I suggest. You are the author, and this is your story - I'm just trying to help you find the best version of it. I'm expecting you to find time to commit to working on your story, but I'm also expecting you to communicate with me (and I will do the same with you) if you need more time. We are all humans with complex lives!

I'm offering a submission package, which means I'm looking to mentor someone who is nearly ready to submit but wants to make sure their opening, query letter and synopsis are as polished as possible.

Have you ever heard the expression, "Write the first chapter last"? Although I'm only offering feedback on the first three chapters, you must have written the whole story (even if you are still editing it). There is no point doing detailed edits on the beginning if you haven't written an ending.

If in doubt, send it anyway! I'm really looking forward to reading your stories :)


*Depending on the length of your chapters; if they're particularly short, or if your complete chapter book is under 10k, I may look at more.


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