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Interview with short story judge David Melling

23 Jun, 2017

Following the success of last year's competition, we are once again thrilled to have David Melling on the judging panel of our 2017 Children's Short Story Competition. Find out more about David's favourite stories and his advice to budding writers. 


David Melling short story judge


Where do you write? 

I usually do my actual writing at my studio although the scribbled notes and research are done in moleskine notebooks anywhere and anytime!

What was your favourite book as a child? 

I can’t say I have one single overall favourite but ONE of them would definitely be STIG OF THE DUMP by Clive King.

What book are you reading right now? 

I’ve just finished THE BOY IN STRIPED PYJAMAS by John Boyne.

Can you name one example of a perfect short story? Something you'd recommend our entrants read?

Two of my favourite books of short stories (well, fairy tales really), are FANTASTIC STORIES or FAIRY TALES by Terry Jones. Any story from either book will do!

What has been your most memorable journey?

My regular childhood summer holiday was spending two weeks in a cottage in the Scottish hills, 6 miles from the nearest town. The holiday began with a very exciting journey by car-rail (an overnight train). I shared the compartment with my younger sister, which had bunk-beds complete with a tiny toilet and basin in one corner. It was so exciting we loved it. We tried to stay awake all night thinking it was such a waste to sleep and miss all the excitement. Eventually, we did of course, and I remember waking to the gentle rocking of the train accompanied by that familiar sound of the rickety train track – diddle-dee…diddly-daa…diddly-dee…diddly-daa. Once we’d arrived at Stirling (from London), we drove to the cottage, slowly seeing the urban landscape recede as we drew ever closer to ‘our valley.’ The excitement built to fever pitch as we predicted which bend it was we would turn and first set eyes on the cottage, settled half way up a hill. Even now, I will occasionally dream that car journey, getting closer and closer to the cottage. Good times!

Where do you find inspiration for a story? 

My inspiration comes from the books I read, the films I see and from everyday life around me. I always carry a notebook and pen to quickly jot down something I may have seen or heard before I forget it. Great advice, given to me at college many years ago. In my experience, ideas will slowly drift and fade unless you write them down!

How do you celebrate finishing writing a story?

I don’t have a set routine once a book is finished but a celebratory drink is not unheard of.

What is your favourite cup of tea?

Peppermint tea.

What are your writing rituals?

I usually have two or three notebooks and sketchbooks of jottings and drawings. For me, drawing is a very important part of my picture book writing. It’s not unusual for me to draw the story first and then add words as I go along. I see it a little bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle. I write down and draw all the separate notes, sketches, doodles, each like a single piece of a jigsaw. Then, I’ll try and fit random pieces together. Some fit. Others don’t. But eventually, a picture begins to emerge which will help me develop a story idea. That’s brief outline of how I work. As far as rituals go, I do like to make notes, draw sketches in places other than my studio. Being in a different environment helps me think more clearly. When I’m ready to write, it’s 10.00 – 6-00 with a short breaks (for peppermint tea!), and lunch.

What is your number-one writing tip?

When I visit schools or talk and draw at Literary Festivals I am often asked ‘How do you get to draw like that?’ My answer is always the same; ‘Because I draw a LOT!’ Like any skill, whether it’s learning a musical instrument of a new sport, you can’t expect to sit down at a piano, or pick up a tennis racket and play well straight away. You need to practice…a LOT. Being able to write and draw is exactly the same. Simply, the more you do something the better you will become at it. So my tip is write everyday, even if it’s only for a short while.


David Melling's Hugless Douglas books have sold over 1.4 million copies worldwide, and the loveable brown bear has starred in a World Book Day book as well as his own theatre show. before becoming an internationally- acclaimed author-illustrator, David worked as an animation artist for films including the much-loved Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs. One of his most popular picture books The Tale of Jack Frost was animated and shown on BBC1 on Christmas Day/ He has been shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal, the Smarties Book Award and the Independent Booksellers Award - and this year, he takes a seat on the judging panel for the children's Dragonfly Tea Short Story Awards. He tweets at @DavidMelling1  

Short story interviewFind out more about our 2017 Short Story Competition here 


Read an interview with 2017 judge Paula Cocozza 

Read an in interview with 2016 judge Ireneson Okojie 

Read an interview with 2016 winner Jo Tiddy 



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