Development Week 2021: The Confident Author

BookTrust Represents to host free industry workshops for authors and illustrators of colour

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Each year, BookTrust Represents offers free industry training to aspiring/emerging authors and illustrators of colour. With a mix of workshops, advice clinics and expert Q&As, the training sessions are hosted by well-known children’s book authors and illustrators and notable industry experts. Past hosts include Patrice Lawrence, Chitra Soundar and Dapo Adeola.

This year’s theme is ‘The Confident Author’ and we’re focusing on how to build confidence and make the most of networking as an author or illustrator. 
All Development Week sessions will be virtual and take place September 20-24.

Please see the full Development Week programme below:


Advice Clinics

Illustrator portfolio review

Are you an aspiring illustrator of colour for children’s books or a debut illustrator? Sign up to a group advice clinic with children’s publisher Little Tiger’s art director Rebecca Essilifie and Tom Truong, designer and publishing director. You’ll submit your portfolio in advance for Rebecca or Tom to review. Each session will allow for deep discussion and an opportunity to get expert industry advice tailored the area of children's publishing you are most interested in.

Tom and Rebecca will be hosting two advice clinics each. Sessions will be delivered in groups of three via Zoom. Spaces are limited. 

Rebecca’s sessions:

  • Wednesday 22nd September, 16:30
  • Friday 24th September, 09:00

To book a session with Rebecca, click here.

Tom’s sessions:

  • Wednesday 22nd September, 9:00
  • Thursday 23rd September 12:30

To book a session with Tom, click here.

Rebecca Essilifie has 17 years' experience working in the children’s book industry, giving her a strong awareness and deep understanding of both the UK and international picture book markets. 

She’s worked with publishers including Egmont, Scholastic, Penguin Books, HarperCollins and Macmillan Children’s Books. Rebecca’s varied experience means she’s had the privilege of working with leading children’s books illustrators including Sarah McIntyre, Alex T Smith, Rob Biddulph, Jim Field, Jill Murphy and Shirley Hughes. She was also the designer of There’s a Pig up my Nose by John Dougherty and Laura Hughes, which won the Oscar’s Book Prize in 2018, as well as the designer of Cerrie Burnell and Laura Ellen Anderson’s first illustrated children's book, Snowflakes. In 2019 Rebecca was delighted to see Sweep by Louise Greig and Julia Sarda, a title she designed, shortlisted for The Kate Greenaway Medal and 123 Do the Dinosaur by Michelle Robinson and Rosalind Beardshaw shortlisted for the BookTrust Storytime Prize.

Rebecca is currently the art director on the picture book and bespoke lists at the Little Tiger Group, where she manages a team of designers and artworkers in a fast-paced, creative environment.


 Thomas Truong is group publishing director of The Little Tiger Group, looking after its imprints — Little Tiger, Caterpillar, Stripes and 360 Degrees.

Truong first joined Little Tiger in 2003 as a designer. He has been publisher of Caterpillar since 2014 and in 2016 he launched 360 Degrees, specialised in illustrated factual titles, predicting then that the industry was "upping its game" when it comes to non-fiction. In 2018 Truong added Stripes to his portfolio of imprints.

Among Truong’s publishing successes are Britta Teckentrup’s peep-through nature books, Tree, Bee, Moon and Sea. He also was behind the development of the company’s My First touch-and-feel sound books, including the bestselling Noisy Farm. Truong published last year’s Waterstones Children’s Book Prize Illustrated Book winner, The Girls, as well as anthologies A Change Is Gonna Come and Proud, acclaimed for their efforts to improve inclusivity in books for young people.

Perfect your pitch

Writing to literary agents should be an exciting exercise. Often it is anything but. This clinic is for writers who are ready to start submitting to agents but are not sure if their pitch will make the cut. We’re giving you the opportunity to send your pitches to two renowned literary agents – Ben Illis of BIA and Davinia Andrew-Lynch of ANDLYN – for honest review and feedback. Sign up if you’re looking for expert constructive assessment of one of the potentially most important letters you will ever write.

Ben and Davinia will be hosting two advice clinics each. Sessions will be delivered in groups of three via Zoom. Spaces are limited.

Davinia’s sessions:

  • Tuesday 21st September, 09:30
  • Thursday 23rd September, 10:00

To book a session with Davinia, click here.

Ben’s sessions:

  • Tuesday 21st September, 12:00
  • Friday 24th September, 10:00

To book a session with Ben, click here.

 Davinia Andrew-Lynch is a literary agent and the founder of boutique agency, ANDLYN which predominantly represents children's and YA storytellers. Davinia also co-created the FAB Prize in association with Faber Children's (now going into its fifth year) with the aim of discovering black and ethnic minority writers and illustrators. The prize has acted as a springboard to many successful careers. 

Davinia loves pacy storytelling with heart.  She’s particularly looking for series fiction for the 5-7 market at the moment, and for older Middle Grade she's on the lookout for epic, bold, contemporary and fresh adventures. For Teen and YA, she’d like to find entertaining, high concept material and if it contains a heist or is a horror…that’s even better!


Ben Illis has worked in many guises in the publishing industry for well over two decades. As part of the branch management team of Books Etc, he bought children's and YA books in stores across the whole of London for almost 7 years. He was a co-founder of Old Street Publishing and has been both sales director and marketing director of small publishers. He has acquired, commissioned and edited; worked in publicity, picture research and ghost-written, all ahead of moving across into agenting in 2010. Ben is a published writer in his own right and has had the experience of working with agents both good and bad from the other (your) side of the fence. ​

Prior to the above, Ben initially trained as an actor – where he first discovered a passion for story-telling – which he did professionally for just over ten years. His favourite part of the agenting process is rolling his sleeves up and getting stuck into a manuscript, trying out avenues and working towards an electrifying end point in an editorial space, just as he did for years in a rehearsal space. His day job during those acting years, alongside the bookshop, was as a freelance travel writer and photographer, with a special focus on adventure travel and wildlife stories, so any manuscript that transports the reader to an exotic landscape and/or uses all the senses to engage the reader is almost guaranteed to get him excited.


The Role of an Agent and How to Hook One!

In this comprehensive two-part workshop, literary agent Felicity Trew will walk you through a day-in-the-life of a literary agent and how you can hook one. This fun, inspiring and practical workshop covers what a literary agent does, how to write a great submission letter and make sure agents want to open your manuscript and/or portfolio.

Part One will aim to lift the veil on the business of books and collaborative everyday working relationship with your agent to answer the question, ‘Why do I need an agent?’. Felicity will explore the everyday role of the agent, the selling of rights, books fairs and contracts in order to show how books in business are always developing and growing and just how vital an agent can be in that ever-changing marketplace.  

Part Two will explore the tricky art of submitting your work to an agent. Felicity will workshop the submissions letter for authors and illustrators alike, tackling the letter/email itself, the dreaded pitch line (invaluable for that inevitable question ‘so, what’s your book about?), the pesky synopsis and vital artwork portfolios – all of which are standard agency submission requirements. The submissions letter/email is the first example of your writing an agent will ever read, so getting it right is make or break. From dissecting the DNA of the perfect letter to analysing examples of the good, the bad and the ugly, this session will help you perfect the tricky art of pitching yourself and your work.

Felicity's session:

  • Monday 20th September, 16:00

To book the session with Felicity, click here.

 Felicity Trew joined the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency in 2012 where she began her career in publishing and became an agent in 2015. Since then, Felicity has energetically been building-up a list of highly talented authors for both adult and children’s books as well as representing a stellar roster of award-winning illustrators. Clients she already represents include this year’s World Book Day author and CLPE Award­-winning poet and performer Joseph Coelho; international number one bestseller and illustrator of The Wonky Donkey titles, Katz Cowley; this year’s 2021 CILIP Carnegie Shadowers’ Choice Award winner, Manjeet Manjeet; and the Branford Boase Award-winning author Mitch Johnson, to name but a few on the list. Felicity was one of The Bookseller's Rising Stars of 2016 and shortlisted for this 2020 RNA Agent of the Year award.  

Confidence Toolbox: Building confidence and dealing with imposter syndrome and rejection

As a creator, self-esteem can be hard to come by and even harder to maintain. If you’ve experienced a lack of confidence, struggled to deal with rejection or been hit with imposter syndrome, this interactive workshop is for you. Confidence coach Sophie Carefull will help you define confidence on your own terms and connect with the most courageous part of yourself. You'll leave with greater self-awareness, a deeper connection to your unique values and gifts, and lots of practical tools you can use time and again to summon courage and cultivate confidence whenever you need it.


Sophie's session:

  • Tuesday 21st September, 16:30

To book the session with Sophie, click here.

Sophie Carefull is a coach for creatives craving more confidence, fulfilment, and joy. She trained with the Co-Active Training Institute. Sophie is based in Bristol in the UK and works with courageous humans anywhere in the world to cultivate their own version of confidence so they can live happier, more fulfilling lives.


Live Q&As

The importance of peer support over competition with Rashmi Sirdeshpande

In this talk, award-winning children’s author Rashmi Sirdeshpande will share her experiences of finding peer support within the children's book world. She’ll explore how to build your author/illustrator network, why it matters, and the difference it can make. She’ll also talk about social media and the risks of comparisons and competitiveness and how to deal with them - how to connect but still protect yourself. During the talk, Rashmi will look at the different ways in which children's book creators can support each other and grow. Because there's room for everyone in this industry.

Rashmi's session:

  • Thursday 23rd September, 17:00

To book the session with Rashmi, click here.

Rashmi Sirdeshpande is a lawyer turned children's author who writes a mix of fiction picture books and uplifting illustrated non-fiction. She was one of 11 mentees on the Penguin Random House WriteNow mentoring programme for underrepresented writers. Two of her books have been Editor's Choice in The Bookseller and two have featured in The Times and The Guardian. Her first picture book, Never Show a T-Rex a Book, illustrated by Diane Ewen, won the Society of Authors Queen's Knickers Award in 2021 and has been shortlisted for the Lollies. Rashmi also hosts a series of weekly #KidLitBookBoost Instagram Lives to promote children's authors and illustrators and their brilliant books. 

Networking for authors

Want to be a successful author but have no publishing connections? This seminar with Dan Parsons will show you how a simple networking strategy can help kickstart your writing career.

Whether you’re an introverted newbie or an experienced author looking to make friends and create opportunities, Dan will show you how networking – in person and online – can benefit authors. He’ll walk you through a networking strategy, the best places to go, general etiquette and ways to strengthen relationships once you’ve established them.

Dan's session:

  • Wednesday 22nd September, 10:30

To book the session with Dan, click here.

Dan Parsons writes the bestselling Creative Business Series for business savvy authors, as well as chart-topping teen fantasy and horror novels (as Daniel Parsons). To date, he’s sold books in over 20 countries, hit bestseller status in five and had his work used to promote a major Hollywood movie. Besides writing his own books, Dan has worked for three traditional publishing houses and managed two bookstores in the UK. Now, he is the Publishing Production Manager at The Alliance of Independent Authors and writes a weekly blog for The Self-Publishing Formula. For more on his work visit, check out his non-fiction books online or join his 80,000+ Twitter followers. He loves hearing from readers and fellow authors. 

Pre-recorded Talks
(All pre-recorded talks will be available to watch at any time from September 20)

From Self to Published: How to go from being a self-published author to a published author

So, you self-published your book but discovered you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Maybe you’ve been wildly successful and you’re now wondering how to leverage that success. Join Tọlá Okogwu as she lays out the route she took to landing several multiple book-deals with major publishers after successfully self-publishing her own picture book series.

In this workshop she will:

  • Take you through her own self-publishing journey and share how she successfully published three picture books
  • Discuss why she decided to pursue a traditional publishing route
  • Share her top tips on how to secure an agent and land a deal
  • Explore the benefits of self-publishing over traditional publishing and the potential of using a hybrid model.

Tọlá Okogwu is a British-Nigerian Author, Journalist and Hair Care Educator. Her self-published picture book series, Daddy Do My Hair has sold over 4,000 copies and is a firm family favourite. A recipient of the Arts Council England Developing Your Creative Practice grant in 2019, Tọlá’s work has been both commended and highly commended in the Faber Andlyn Prize for underrepresented writers. The first book in Tọlá’s new middle grade series with Simon & Schuster will be published in June 2022. She also writes as part of the dynamic duo, Lola Morayo and the first book under this partnership, Aziza’s Secret Fairy Door was published by Pan Macmillan in June 2021.


Navigating identity as a ‘minority’ in the publishing industry

We talk to Nikesh Shukla about keeping authentic and navigating community pressures, race and diversity. 

Nikesh Shukla is a novelist and screenwriter. He is the author of Coconut Unlimited (shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award), Meatspace and the critically acclaimed The One Who Wrote Destiny. Nikesh is the editor of the bestselling essay collection, The Good Immigrant, which won the reader's choice at the Books Are My Bag Awards. He co-edited The Good Immigrant USA with Chimene SuleymanHe is the author of two YA novels, Run, Riot (shortlisted for a National Book Award) and The Boxer (longlisted for the Carnegie Medal)Nikesh was one of Time Magazine’s cultural leaders, Foreign Policy magazine's 100 Global Thinkers and The Bookseller's 100 most influential people in publishing in 2016 and in 2017.

He is the co-founder of the literary journal, The Good Journal and The Good Literary Agency. Nikesh is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a member of the Folio Academy. Nikesh’s new book, Brown Baby: A Memoir of Race, Family And Home was released on Bluebird in February 2021.


Top Tips for delivering read alouds and developing storytelling workshops

Are you keen on connecting with the children you’ve written your book for? Read alouds at schools, libraries and book events are the perfect way to reach your audience. But how do you prepare for the perfect read aloud? In this video, author and journalist Davina Hamilton shares her top tips for preparing and delivering a fun and engaging storytelling session for young readers.

Davina Hamilton is a children’s author of three rhyming picture books: Riley Can Be AnythingRiley Knows He Can, and Ella Has A Plan (2020). The former arts editor of British publication, The Voice newspaper, Davina’s titles have been praised for their positive representations of black identity, garnering international coverage in publications including Huffington PostBuzzFeedThe Jamaica Gleaner and The Independent, which hailed Riley Can Be Anything as one of their 12 best children’s books with empowering black characters.


My journey as an illustrator

Award-winning illustrator Diane Ewen talks to us about her illustrating career: dealing with rejection, having the confidence to push back and stay true to her ideas, and how it felt to collaborate with other black illustrators on Dapo Adeola’s Hey You! project.

Diane Ewen is a British Illustrator. In 2020 Diane saw her first illustrated picture book Never Show a T-Rex a Book with author Rashmi Sirdeshpande, published. It has since gone on to win The Queens Knickers Award 2021.

Some of the other books illustrated by Diane include Coming To England written by Dame Floella Benjamin and Never Teach a Stegosaurus to do Sums written by Rashmi.  She is also one of the 18 illustrators on Hey You! written by Dapo Adeola. 

BookTrust Represents

Our project promotes and supports children’s authors and illustrators of colour, so young readers find the books that represent them.

Learn more about BookTrust Represents