Vanessa Harbour is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Winchester. She writes middle grade and young adult fiction: her middle grade novel, Flight, was published in 2018 by Firefly Press. She is currently working on a book, commissioned by Palgrave, titled Writing Young Adult Fiction: Creative and Critical Approaches. Her blog chaosmos—out of chaos comes order explores all aspects of creative writing. Vanessa also works with The Golden Egg Academy, mentoring aspiring children’s authors.


In difficult times, children’s books provide an important source of hope and escape. This paper will discuss how children’s books can provide mirrors and windows on the world for readers: where they can see characters just like them or walk in the shoes of others. This idea is developed by using the prism as a way of exploring the expansion of knowledge through reading.

Creative judgment and the issues of writing young adult fiction

Philip Pullman suggests that there is no subject too big for children’s literature, while Melvin Burgess contends that young adults can deal with any issue if it is placed in context. As a writer of young adult fiction that often contains contentious subjects such as sex, drugs and alcohol, I am conscious that applying creative judgment is a vital part of my writing process. As an author I have an element of responsibility. This article first considers the relevance of the story with particular emphasis on the vicarious experience and why this is so important for the young adult reader. It then explores my own creative processes and how I make these creative judgments.