Monday, May 27, 2013

The Chest of Charms Project

Shared-venture… The Crock of Charms Project.


Affordable Manuscript Assessments is looking for writers (illustrators also welcome) to take part in a book of short stories and poems called The Crock of Charms. 

Anyone interested may write to mail AT affordablemanuscriptassessments DOT com to claim a charm. First in, first served, but some charms (i.e. tools and dinosaurs) come in multiple shapes so more than one can be issued.


Three children have found a china or earthernware crock in the attic of a house that is being renovated as a boutique hotel. This is classic story-book land because it has to encompass such a variety of styles and genres. Since the crock has no identifiable owners, they open it. Inside is a hoard of metal charms.

Each of these charms has an associated story or poem, which will be written by contributing authors. The charms come in a wide variety of anything from butterflies to dinosaurs, elephants, hats, shoes, roses, clocks and so on. I will send each contributor a charm, either via emailed photo or by post, and the charm will inspire the story. A photo of the charm will appear as the header for each story.

The charm can be used as itself (i.e. a dinosaur charm can BE a dinosaur charm) or for what it represents (thus a dinosaur charm might become a living dinosaur, a statue, a fossil, a toy etc etc).

Length – up to 1000 words.
Genre – open
Age level – there are three; (1) children 4-7, (2) children 8 – 11, (3) junior teen.
Tone - MUST be suitable for general exhibition. 
Deadline – probably October 2013, to give time to get the books printed before the end of the year.
Authors may sub a bio, including links if they choose.
Authors keep the copyright for individual stories.
No payment will be made for stories.
Authors have the right (but not the obligation) to buy as many copies of the anthology as they please at cost. They may then use these for whatever they like, EXCEPT they may not photocopy stories by other people. (Suggestions are - gifts, prizes, fund raisers, author CVs.)
Stories will be edited and the edited version will be the property of the author.

Whether or not this goes ahead depends on whether enough people want to play.  As of 28/05/13 it's looking very likely to go ahead. It’s not a money-making venture (although anyone is welcome to resell copies they buy if they choose) but should make a lovely gift book and will also showcase author talents. If you’d like to be involved, let me know and I’ll add you to the list. Also, let me know which kind of charm you’d like to claim. The choices below are easy to come by, but if you have a specific subject let me know and I’ll see if I can source a suitable charm.

Some of the charms are pictured here.



ballerina/ dancer



pair of cats
steam punk clock 
more steam punk clocks still available

dinosaur  (two claimed)  (extra ones available)

more dinosaurs available


silver dragon 
bronze dragon



extra fairies available



running horse 




musical note



peacock 1 
peacock 2 

rocking horse 



teddy bear
tool  (axe claimed)   (extra ones available)


Friday, May 24, 2013

How to be an Awesome Author

The new title from Affordable Manuscript Assessments and Workshops is How to be an Awesome Author. This one is aimed at primary school children who love to write.

To buy, go to

Introduction 4

Why Would You Write a Story? 5

Ideas 7

Let’s Get Some Writing Tools 10

Beginnings 26

Middles 35

Ends 43

Characters 46

Plots and Paces 54

Settings and Periods 56

Awesome words and Not so Awesome Words 63

Dialogue 64

Voices and Tenses 71

Punctuation 76

More Awesome Words 79

Editing 84

Genres 91

Ms Tiggy’s Beginnings 92

Ms Tiggy’s Characters 95

Mr Bock’s Glossary 97

Go and be Awesome, Author! 99

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Truth in Advertising - er - in CHILDREN'S BOOKS

Truth in Advertising Children’s Books

Truth is the thing children’s books need above everything else. You could also call it integrity. Here are the five points in integrity as I see them.
1.   A children’s book should deliver what it promises.
We have all seen film trailers that promise non-stop action, romance or humour. Sometimes when we see the films themselves we realise the action, romance or humour in the trailer was all there was. The film itself is a disappointment. Children’s books should not be like that. If the title, cover, blurb and premise promise an adventure, a romance, a fantasy, a ghost story or some serious scares, laughs or wish-fulfilment, then the book had better deliver. If it doesn’t, then why should the young readers trust authors or books?
How can a book fail to deliver? Just like the film, it can have a few good bits with a lot of dull stuff in between. Or maybe it’s a lesson wrapped up in the thin rags of a story. Or maybe the wonderful adventure turns out to be a dream…
Children’s books should deliver what they promise.
2.   A children’s book should be faithful to its genre.

Understanding the way genres work is the thing that brings readers to their favourite kinds of books. Adult readers who enjoy a sweet romance will not be happy if the hero cheats on the heroine in Chapter Six and the heroine never finds out.  That is not what ought to happen in a sweet romance. Fantasy readers do not want to discover the fantasy elements in the story were all a dream, or a trick.

Young child readers are learning about genres, and so should be able to rely on what they learn. This doesn’t mean a book can’t or shouldn’t transcend genre. It can be bigger, better and more. What it shouldn’t be is false and less.

3.   A children’s book should be truthful about consequences.

Fiction is often escapist and written and read for entertainment. This is fine. However, I believe children’s books should be truthful about the consequences of action.

Adults reading the aforementioned sweet romance know perfectly well these stories are not realistic and that they’re not meant to be. Adult readers of murder mysteries know most crimes are not so clever, or so complex. Adult readers of Utopian science fiction know we cannot “fix” the human condition by removing this or that barrier or attitude. Adult readers of adventure romance know perfectly well the hero who got shot in the shoulder this morning will not be carrying the heroine out of a burning building (or anywhere else) tonight. In other words, adults realise the consequences in books are not what they will be in real life. And if they don’t they ought to.

Children, though, don’t have that much experience. If a child reads a book where a bully is “cured” by Little Tina explaining how her sister felt when the bully stole her lunch and expects that to happen in real life, then that child is set up for ridicule or worse. If a child reads books in which every child who confesses to doing something wrong is praised for being truthful, then what happens when s/he confesses and is punished?

Life is a variable experience, and what should happen doesn’t always, or even often, so remember that when writing for children. By all means use clever plotting and character development, but show what really would happen in these circumstances to these characters.

4.   A children’s book should show a balance of characters with a wide variety of abilities, attitudes and beliefs. Avoid the obvious. Let there be some nerds who do not wear thick glasses. Let there be grandparents who are not old and retired. Let there be mothers who are sometimes busy, dads who ride bikes to work, teachers who occasionally don’t know something, and doctors who do not have an appointment as soon as you need one. Let the occasional standoffish new kid continue to be standoffish and the one who claims to be good at singing really win that competition.

This may appear to run counter to the advice about genre, but in fact it helps bust those stereotypes and lets a genre book transcend that genre.


5.   A children’s book should be the best book you can write.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Don't Do That!

Don't do that!
Don't do what?
Don't send your manuscript, book, request, entry anywhere before you have read the guidelines, rules or requests at the recipients' websites.

If picture book contest rules ask for texts of under 500 words without illustrations, then don't send a text that is 520, 780 or 1900 words. And don't send illustrations.

If a manuscript assessor asks for manuscripts in 12 pt TNR, double spacing and without extra blank lines between paragraphs, don't send your ms in 11 pt Calibri Body, 1.15 spacing with blank lines between paragraphs.

If a market asks for mss in MS Word .doc or .docx, don't send a PDF.

If a contest is for a fantasy story, don't send sf.

If a review site is listed on a third-party website, check the site before you send your review request. Some review sites accept only one specific genre. Some don't accept unsolicited review copies at all. 

If a market asks for mss in plain text, without fancy formatting, don't send it with text boxes, drop caps and large fonts.

OK. Rant over.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

New Writing For Children Course

Affordable Manuscript Assessments and Workshops announces a new virtual course on writing for children. The cost is $50.00.. which is paid upfront and access is via a private invitation-only blog. Some lesson material will be available at the blog, which is where students may interact with others taking the course via the comment form. Access will last for six weeks from the beginning of each course. Other materials will be e-mailed directly. 

To take part, you will need internet access, a google account/password (which is free) a printer, and scissors or a paper cutter. The fee may be tax deductible to people in the writing and related businesses. The first run of the course begins on the last Monday in May 2012.

To join up, or to ask questions,  send me an email at mail AT affordablemanuscriptassessments DOT com. This course is meant for adults writing for children.  At the end of the course you should have several viable ideas plus one manuscript either finished in rough draft or well on the way.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Contest Winners

The Sixth Paperback in Your Hand contest has been won by Ian Harrison for his black comedy/satire, DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?

The First Writing FOR Kids contest has been won by Catherine Pelosi for A Fizzle Plop Day.
Runner up was Helen Nolan, for Crumbs!

The new contests are now under way. Visit and click on CONTESTS AND OPPORTUNITIES for details.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Why they Won: Legacy of the Skywasp

The sixth Paperback in Your Hand contest, run by Affordable Manuscript Assessments  has just closed and judging is underway. Now is a good time to look back over previous winners and explain, from the judge's point of view, why they won.

First, what does the judge (or judges... we're flexible) look for in this contest? Since the prize is a full edit and a paperback copy of the winner, we look for a manuscript with wide appeal. We look for an engaging story that has originality and charm. We especially look for that difficult-to-classify attribute; "sparkle". We also, obviously, prefer a manuscript that is well-presented and self-edited.

The winner of the second contest (pictured) was Legacy of the Skywasp, a glorious science fiction novel by Margaret Watts. You can read the blurb below.

Skywasp! Despite the heat, a shiver shoots
down my spine.

Nick lives in a futuristic Terra where everything is
regulated. He and his girlfriend Zandara know exactly
how their lives will progress. But then Nick meets
someone he thought dead and is sent much against
his inclination to the distant and dangerous world of
There, he will relive Jethroy Blake’s experiences with
the wasp cult and become embroiled in a power
struggle as he seeks to solve the mystery of his
father’s relationship with Doriana, the Maiden of the

The characters (a generation apart), the settings (an ultra-civilised dome and a dangerous planet) and the premise (a reluctant son carries out the last wishes of a father he barely knew and had cause to resent) were all immediately captivating. The manuscript needed a bit of tightening and some extra explanation and clarification of the more complex passages, but the finished product was judged easily as good as many well-loved science fiction novels. This is a very human story, with flawed characters and no easy answers. The author was pleased with her prize and ordered some extra copies for gifts and for sale. Perhaps if you live somewhere in the Hunter Valley region of NSW you might have seen this book.