The Golden Egg Academy: Giving Authors the Magic Touch
Founded by Editorial Director Imogen Cooper, the Golden Egg Academy works with budding children’s writers to help their novels blossom…
Hi Imogen! Thank you so much for taking the time out for this interview. Could you tell us about the Golden Egg Academy and what inspired you to create it?
My pleasure! I love talking about what we do. The Golden Egg Academy was created at my kitchen table in 2013 after seeing so many unsolicited submissions with potential and talking to writers about a lack of industry-focussed editorial prior to publication. I felt that by pulling together experienced editor friends we could offer a solid grounding to talented writers, helping them to launch their careers. At the time Golden Egg started I was still working full time at The Chicken House. In 2015 I decided to go part time and launched a bigger programme of events. Since then we have helped over seventy-five writers secure publishing and/ or agent contracts.
You’ve worked in publishing for several years, where did you start and what has been your favourite role?
I actually started out studying theatre and wanting to be a director. The funny thing is that editing is like directing on the page! I met some publishing people on my MA in Cultural Studies and after a spell at Shropshire Arts a lightbulb went off in my head. I sent off CVs to various companies and ended up being accepted as a Junior Editor at Child’s Play International. It was here I began to understand the link between story, literacy and inclusion when working with wonderful organisations like BookTrust and Storysacks. I devoured MG and YA novels, wishing I could be an editor of some of those.
Then, at a literary conference I heard Barry Cunningham speak. He spoke passionately about finding Harry Potter and the power of story to change the lives of children around the world. At that moment I knew this was the man I wanted to work for! I was lucky enough to secure a Junior Editor role at The Chicken House. There were many highlights, from accompanying Cornelia Funke to the Cheltenham Festival, working with the great translator Anthea Bell, winning the Branford Boase Award with author Lucy Christopher for her novel Stolen, watching Inkheart being filmed and The Golden Compass rough cut in the studio, presenting to the Scholastic Sales force and acquiring bestsellers like The Maze Runner.
Can you tell us about some of your favourite success stories from the Golden Egg Academy?
They are all my favourite! From M.G. Leonard’s Beetle Boy to Vashti Hardy’s Brightstorm to Simon James Green’s Noah Can’t Even and Jennifer Killick’s Alex Sparrow and The Big Stink. All prize winners and all fabulous. There are seventy others I could mention, so it’s a bit difficult to answer that question!
Please can you give us some more details about some of the programmes the Golden Egg Academy offers?
I believe in quality teaching of the craft by highly trained editors and all of our courses involve this. There’s my short twelve-week course Write Your Successful Children’s Novel where writers join me for live webinars, videos and exercises. Our year-long Writing for Children and Young Adults course assigns each writer with an editor for the year, full day workshops and weekly online seminars. Our aim is to get as many writers to publication level as possible. If we spot a novel nearly ready for submission, we accelerate the writer to one2one editing with industry editors who get the manuscript ready for agents and publishers.
There are lots of universities out there offering Creative Writing courses. What are the differences for budding children’s authors joining the Golden Egg Academy?
University Creative Writing courses can really help writers find their voice. Golden Egg is about providing writers with tools to create a sellable novel or picture book and they can fall back on these tools throughout their writing career. Our year-long course has been compared to taking an MA in your own novel and the children’s publishing industry.
A career in writing can be a tricky one, a juggling act of finances and making quality time for your craft. For those writers who are starting out and might not be able to afford one of your programmes, what advice can you offer them?
It’s really tough. Very few writers earn enough to live on and most have a day job. With regard to our courses, we try to make them as affordable as possible, whilst maintaining quality. We offer a Diversity and Hardship Award and we make sure that our writers can pay in monthly instalments.
You work closely with several renowned agents and publishers to give your eggs the best chance. Can you tell us more about any of those relationships?
I’ve already mentioned Barry Cunningham at The Chicken House who has a number of bestselling Golden Eggs on his publishing list and reads anything I recommend to him. We have a First Look deal with Chicken House which means that Barry can have an exclusive first read, but our writers do not have to accept any offer. We have a great relationship with many other publishers including David Fickling, Guppy Books, Scholastic, Firefly, Little Tiger, Orchard, Egmont and Simon and Schuster. We also have very close relationships with many agencies including the Kate Shaw Agency, the Miles Stott Agency, Pickled Ink, David Godwin Associates, Marjacq Scripts and the Andrew Nurnberg Agency who have been very supportive over the years.
For more information on the Golden Egg Academy and their courses, check out: https://goldeneggacademy.co.uk/