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BSAB – Writing Middle Grade and Young Adult – Sean Williams








Sean Williams noted that at the heart of a writer is a child who loved a book.


For Sean, his love of books stemmed from his parents who were both teachers and his mother studied children’s literature. Sean’s house was filled with books and he had the freedom to read what he liked. This led to his love of reading and successful writing career, including:

Why does Sean like writing middle grade

Sean writes books that he loves and he likes books with young characters. Young characters are new, fresh and vivid, and they do and experience things for the first time. It’s an exciting time to grow and be stretched as they come of age. Sean also likes the limitations of writing for younger children: no swearing, violence or sex.

Five story senses, Middle Grade and Characters

Sean uses five senses in his writing and he shared why they are great for children:

  • Sense of humor
  • Sean encourages kids to tell jokes and if you make a kid laugh, they are a fan forever.
  • Sense of justice
  • Kids have a sense of fairness and crime is the second largest selling genre.
  • Sense of belonging
  • He likes to explore the changeable relationships children have in friendship groups and family; how they experience loss, e.g. a pet dies, move schools; and through denial and restrictions on what children are allowed to do.
  • Sense of peril or danger
  • Sean engages young readers sense of danger in a safe way and helps them to develop emotional resilience with his characters.
  • Sense of wonder
  • Sean wants to engage a kid’s curiosity—why, wow and what’s awesome.

Sean uses the five senses to diagnose problems in his manuscripts and it helps him find the voice of his characters.

Sean’s Tips

  • Write what you love!
  • You only know how to write the book you are currently writing.
  • Sean uses an Excel spreadsheet graph to motivate himself to write as he loves seeing the numbers go up.
  • Say yes to opportunities as you don’t know you can’t write it unless you try.
  • Vikki Wakefield’s books have timeless teenage characters with language that doesn’t date.


Read these fantastic articles Sean wrote that share his wisdom on writing, collaboration and the five story senses:

10 ½ commandments of writing

Collaboration made easy: 6 ways to build a writing relationship

Humour, justice, belonging, danger, and wonder: 5 story senses and the art of writing for children

Thank you, Sean for coming to Brisbane StoryArts and generously sharing all your advice with us at the conference.


Written by Rebecca Sheraton

Rebecca Sheraton a primary school teacher by day, a writer at all hours, a bookworm and library lover always. Her nonfiction article on peacock spiders was published in The School Magazine. Rebecca is an active member of the SCBWI, Book Links, a 12 X 12 volunteer elf, a coordinator of Write Links Children’s Writers Group and has presented workshops to the kidlit community. You can follow Rebecca on Facebook at

Photo credit: Dee White

Blog coordinator: Sandhya Parappukkaran

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