The UAE has just completed a very successful Year of Reading, with books being celebrated everywhere from fairs to the beach, and we are now starting to see a slew of children’s authors emerging to capture the imaginations of young readers. So, what makes a good children’s writer, and how easy it is to take the journey from a story in your head to a fully-fledged book?
According to Rachel Hamilton, author of the highly celebrated The Case of the Exploding Loo, writing her first book was a way to invent her own bedtime stories for her children. She tells Time Out Kids: “I’ve been telling stories for as long as I can remember, but I first started making up tales for children when I had two of my own. My first book began life as a story for my kids at their bedtime, so it was fantastically surreal when it started appearing in bookstores around the world.”
Hamilton entered the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature’s First Fiction competition, which saw her bagging not only a literary agent but also a two-book deal. She was one of the lucky ones. But what about the many writers out there who are not so fortunate, and who struggle to find someone to publish their masterpiece?
David Roth, a Canadian expat, who has been living in the UAE for the past year, trawled around the publishing houses looking for someone to take on his book, My Dad is an Elevator. “Like a lot of authors, I just wanted to see my book published,” he says. “Publishers and agents rarely accept unsolicited manuscripts, so self-publishing has filled this void.”
Roth advises that for children’s picture books, the difficult part is finding the right illustrator who can bring the story to life and that even once the task of publishing a book is completed, the process has in fact only just begun.
“In essence, you need to become an expert in social media and marketing to get your book the right exposure,” he says from experience. “There are so many great self-published books out there; they just aren’t getting the recognition they deserve.”
Writing duo Becky Bell Davis and Samantha Wyatt have also self-published their book Ava’s Adventures Abroad.
Inspired by the beauty of the UAE, they noticed that there weren’t very many children’s books about Abu Dhabi, so they decided to create one. They believe that self-publishing is a great avenue for writers. “Self-publishing is a lot easier now than it has ever been,” says Davis. “There are several online platforms that an aspiring author can use.”
In other words, if you have long fancied yourself as the next J.K. Rowling – who, let’s not forget, started her whole billion-dollar Harry Potter franchise from the table in her kitchen at home – perhaps this is the year that you stop dreaming about it and actually make it a reality.
“That’s the realisation I came to,” says Rowling. “That I just had to get on with it!”
Three uae- based authors
Anaahita Chauhan the mystery of the lost plant
Two sisters end up on an adventure of a lifetime as they enter a magical world where flowers can talk and a butterfly queen is in charge. This is a very exciting read. Most excitingly, it was written by an eight-year-old!
Bell Davis & Wyatt ava’s adventures abroad
Becky Bell Davis and Samantha Wyatt’s book sees Ava and her camel guide Mike go on a treasure hunt that takes them to the many sites of Abu Dhabi, where they find truly amazing riches.
Dhs75. Nest for Kids, Abu Dhabi Mall (02 644 9919).
Julia Johnson the old man and his donkey
The heartwarming tale of a kindly old Middle Eastern man and his donkey is beautifully told and illustrated.