BBC Maestro

Hi everyone, I hope you’re all well and feeling creatively fulfilled! Speaking of being creative, I’m sharing something a little different with you today.

Recently, I was invited to try a new service offered by the BBC called BBC Maestro.
This is an online space that offers subscribers the chance to enrol in a course taught by the likes of David Walliams, Gary Barlow and Julia Donaldson (to name but a few) all of whom are, arguably, experts in their relative fields.
I enrolled in Writing Children’s Picture Books, taught by the brilliant Julia Donaldson and I thought I’d share my experience with all of you lovely people.

Writing Children’s Picture Books

Whenever I think of Picture books I immediately think of Julia Donaldson, mainly because her book The Gruffalo was a hit (or an obsession) with my nephew, as was The Detective Dog.
Her books are fun for both the child and the adult who reads to them, and they’re often funny and a lot of them rhyme, which I love – and since her books have sold over 100 million copies, and being that shes a former UK children’s laureate, who’s better qualified to offer insight into the art of writing them?

Now, I have always enjoyed writing – for both adults and children – but my attempts at children’s fiction have often fallen somewhat flat. I’m always on the lookout for tips and hints to help me to see where I may be going wrong or how to strengthen my ideas – and let me tell you, this course did not disappoint.

I should make it clear at this point that you do have to pay for these courses. They cost a one-off fee of £80 per course and at the time of writing, they’re actually offering a buy one get one free deal on course gift cards.
Access to your course lasts a lifetime, so you can learn at your own pace. There are no time limits and so there’s no need to rush through lessons, which is great. It means there’s no pressure to be finished by a certain date and I was able to fit the course in around my life, although to be honest, I enjoyed it so much I couldn’t stay away.

The courses are made up of 20 to 40  manageable chunks and consist of videos (filmed in 4k) and a downloadable book of course notes which is full of hints tips and exercises.
I found the videos to be very informative and found Julia herself to be very encouraging in her approach. In fact, I came away feeling more confident in my abilities and found that she’d helped me to quieten that little voice of self-doubt in my head if only a little.

Throughout the course, (this particular course is 27 lessons ranging from 1 – 21 minutes in length) Julia teaches about the different ways to craft original and unique characters, how to use themes and messaging in your stories and how to create interesting plots.

She even tells you some of her own tips and tricks on what to do if you’re a bit stuck for ideas.

There are so many interesting parts to this course that I wasn’t expecting. For example, Julia details how to storyboard a picture book and explains how the books themselves are made. She also talks a bit about how the relationship between the author and the illustrator works.

It’s easy to see that Julia loves her work. Her passion for writing and in particular for picture books shines. She’s actually very inspiring. She never says you can’t or you shouldn’t – she says to try, to give it ago, and tells you how fun and exciting writing picture books can be.

What I’ve learned

I’m coming away from this course feeling as if I’ve not been wasting my time in trying to write for children and I’ve also learned that picture books are important; they can help children to learn about the world, how to cope with their own feelings and to deal with things such as death, divorce or even war. I’ve learned too, that picture books can be about almost any subject or theme so long as it’s something a child might find entertaining. There’s also very helpful information within and throughout the course about what agents and editors are looking for and whether or not you actually need to use either.

In Summary

I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed this course. I’m so glad I jumped in – I feel like I’ve learned so much. I was already a huge fan of Julia and now I appreciate her even more.

I would definitely recommend this course to anyone who’s looking to improve their writing skills,  learn how to string a story together, or just learn more about the process of writing a Children’s Picture Book in general. It’s packed with way more information than I was expecting – and being that I’ve taken many a writing course over the years, I feel like I’m a bit of an expert on the matter.

You can check out the trailer to Julia’s course Writing Children’s Picture Books in the video below.

Or you can click here to be taken directly to the course page on the BBC Maestro website.

As always, thank you for spending your time with my words, I really do appreciate it!

Until next time,

George



Categories: Creative Writing, English Language, Generating Ideas, Writing Exercises

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  1. 5 Misconceptions About Writing – GEORGE L THOMAS

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