Firefly launches second round of Ignite programme for writers from Wales

Firefly launches second round of Ignite programme for writers from Wales

Firefly Press is thrilled to announce Firefly Ignite 2, a follow-up to last year’s acclaimed programme for aspiring children’s writers from underrepresented backgrounds, born or living in Wales.

The original programme ran in May and June 2023 and aimed to demystify Young Adult and children’s publishing with sessions from agents, authors and editors. In 2024 we hope to build on the success of the first Ignite Programme with three new online workshops/ sessions developed from the Ignite 1 feedback.

In addition, we will be selecting up to 2-3 aspiring YA and children’s writers to take part in an exciting mentoring programme, in which they will receive mentoring from an experienced published children’s author between May and Sept 2024.

We are delighted to confirm that the next set of online sessions will be delivered by literary agent Gemma Cooper, editors Janet Thomas and Penny Thomas, and author Emma Smith-Barton. We can also share the exciting news that author Catherine Johnson will be joining the programme as a mentor.

More information will be available after Christmas, when you’ll also be able to book a place on this new programme of events. We look forward to welcoming new and familiar faces to Ignite 2.

This programme has been made possible through the support of Creative Wales, the Books Council of Wales and the New Audiences Grant.

Children’s Laureate of Wales Alex Wharton returns with a ‘how to’ poetry collection for readers 9-12

Children’s Laureate of Wales Alex Wharton returns with a ‘how to’ poetry collection for readers 9-12

A new book from the Children’s Laureate Wales, Alex Wharton is aiming to encourage a new generation of budding poets and lyricists.

An innovative poetry ‘how to’ collection aimed at school pupils, Doughnuts, Thieves and Chimpanzees, is packed full of fun poems, limericks, haiku, song and rap from Alex Wharton, all illustrated by Rhiannon Smith.

There are brief introductions to different types of poets and lyric-writing. And the collection also contains sections on how to create your own poems, songs and more, spaces to write them, and links from songs in the book to performances on Alex’s website.

Alex, who is based in Torfaen, has been a spoken word children’s poet for a number of years, and published a first collection, Daydreams and Jellybeans in 2020, which was shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year and the Laugh out Loud (LOLLIES) children’s book awards. He said:

Doughnuts, Thieves and Chimpanzees is curious, playful and imaginative. It is interactive, encouraging the reader to enjoy, collaborate on and participate in many forms of writing including limericks, haikus, raps and songs.

‘The book is fun, leaning towards the playfulness of language that I’ve found works so brilliantly in a school setting, after visiting thousands of students over the years. I hope the book inspires the reader to use poetry in their own lives, as a method of reflection, communication, solidarity, creativity, education or even therapy. The poems stir a sense of joy, and I hope that encourages a long-lasting connection with literature that is purposeful and developmental.’

Doughnuts, Thieves and Chimpanzees is to be published on 12th October 2023 by Firefly Press, and Alex also has a new collection of poetry out in February 2024, entitled Red Sky at Night, Poet’s Delight.

You can pre-order Doughnuts, Thieves and Chimpanzees here:

Superpowered and other stories – an empathy inspired creative writing project

Superpowered and other stories – an empathy inspired creative writing project

We are thrilled to share a digital anthology of creative writing from Year 7 students at Cardinal Newman Catholic School.

In preparation for Empathy Day, we visited Cardinal Newman Catholic School in Rhydyfelin, Pontypridd. Over two writing workshops, the students developed empathy-rich characters and stories through a series of writing prompts and activities.

After the workshops, the Year 7 students worked on the openings of these stories and we are delighted to share these with you today.

We’d like to thank the class teacher, Kathryn Jenkins, and the school for their help and support during the project, and a huge well done to all the talented writers.

The Headteacher, Justin O’Sullivan, said: “A fantastic project and a great opportunity for children to showcase their creativity and writing skills. It is great to see our pupils involved and contributing such high quality pieces of work. Well done to everyone.”

Please click on the cover to download the anthology.

Firefly Press acknowledge the financial support of the Books Council of Wales and Creative Wales towards this New Audiences project.

…And I Hear Dragons: new children’s poetry anthology to celebrate diversity and identity in Wales

…And I Hear Dragons: new children’s poetry anthology to celebrate diversity and identity in Wales

A children’s poetry anthology of ‘dragon-focused’ poems, conceived and edited by the National Poet of Wales, Hanan Issa, is due to hit the bookshelves next year.

The collection will be published by award-winning children’s and YA publisher Firefly Press. And the ground-breaking new anthology from diverse Welsh writers is aimed at children aged between eight and twelve, for whom both Hanan and Firefly feel poetry is ‘sorely underrepresented’.

The collection, entitled And I Hear Dragons, explores the concept of identity, and Hanan has written a poem of the same name that ‘celebrates the children of Wales as ferociously brave mythical beasts’, taking on discrimination, pollution etc, and upholding Wales’ tradition of croesawgar (welcoming).

A number of Welsh writers from diverse backgrounds across Wales have already been approached to write poems for the anthology, with contributors to be revealed in due course.

Announcing the collection, Hanan Issa said: ‘Wales has a such a rich history of poetry and I’m keen to continue encouraging that enthusiasm in the young people of Wales today. And I Here Dragons is a collection that roars in celebration of Wales’ distinct sense of identity and belonging!

Firefly publisher, Penny Thomas, added: ‘We were delighted when Hanan approached us with And I Hear Dragons! We had been trying to find a way to get a children’s poetry anthology from Wales off the ground for some time, but with Hanan’s insightful vision and knowledge of poetry from Wales, we are confident this

title will take flight and become a valuable and inspiring collection for children to enjoy and find themselves in poetry.

‘We are so looking forward to working with the National Poet and all the contributors on this.’

Hanan Issa is a writer, poet and artist, as well as the co-founder of the Where I’m Coming From open mic collective, whose debut pamphlet My Body Can House Two Hearts was published by Burning Eye Books. Her work has been performed and published on platforms such as BBC Wales, ITV Wales, Huffington Post, StAnza Festival, Poetry Wales, Wales Arts International and the British Council. Alongside her short narrative film The Golden Apple, she is currently working on an essay anthology Welsh: plural, published by Repeater Books, as well as a children’s short story contribution to Unbound’s The Mab, a retelling of the classic Mabinogi stories.

Firefly to publish new children’s fiction series from Wales

Firefly to publish new children’s fiction series from Wales

A young adult novel about schooldays in north Wales, an illustrated story for younger readers, and ‘a darkly comic tale of what it means to be alive, 17 and living in Port Talbot’ will be the first three titles in a forthcoming series of Wales-based children’s and YA literature from Firefly Press.

The first three signings in this series are Patience Agbabi, Zillah Bethell and Emma-Jane Smith-Barton. The books will publish from autumn 2024 onwards, and it is hoped that there will be at least another three in the series of contemporary Welsh children’s fiction.

‘We felt there was a lack of children’s and YA stories that reflect what it is like to live in or grow up in Wales in recent times,’ said Thomas. ‘When we approached established authors about this, we were thrilled with the hugely positive reaction from writers who may never have been asked to write about this part of their experience before! We are also looking at publishing them simultaneously in Welsh, to ensure as wide a reach as possible. All this has been made possible by New Audiences Fund from Creative Wales and the Books Council of Wales, and we can’t wait to read the results!

Born in Papua New Guinea, Zillah Bethell has lived in south Wales for many years. Patience Agbabi was born in London and attended secondary school in Colwyn Bay, north Wales, while Emma-Jane Smith-Barton is from south Wales.

Patience Agbabi is the author of four critically acclaimed poetry collections and three middle-grade novels one of which, The Infinite, (Canongate, 2020) won the Wales Book of the Year: Children & Young People category.

She said: ‘I’m delighted to be working on a young adult novel with Firefly. I first got into literature and popular culture at school in north Wales so I can’t wait to recreate that setting through my fictional protagonists.’

Emma-Jane Smith-Barton studied English and Creative Writing (BA) at the University of Warwick and has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. Her short stories have appeared in various publications such as Mslexia and The Bristol Short Story Prize anthology (under a pseudonym for her adult writing), and in 2017 she was one of twelve writers chosen from over 2,000 applications for WriteNow, a scheme run by Penguin Random House to increase diversity in literature.

Her first novel, The Million Pieces of Neena Gill was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Award, the Branford Boase Award and the Romantic Novelist’s Association Debut Romantic Novel Award.

Growing up between cultures in south Wales has heavily influenced her writing and she is especially interested in exploring themes of identity and belonging. Before writing, she taught in secondary schools for six years, and is passionate about increasing awareness of mental health in young people.

Emma will be writing an illustrated story for 7-9 year-old readers, set in Wales. She said: ‘As a Welsh-Pakistani woman I would have loved a book like this when I was growing up, to help me navigate the difficulties (and discover the beauty) of belonging to more than one culture, and I hope it will help children in a similar position to feel seen and less alone in that challenge.’

Zillah Bethell lives in the south Wales valleys with her partner and two children. She has written some four books for adults and four middle-grade titles for children, including The Shark Caller (Usborne 2021) which was shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Award.

Her as yet untitled YA novel for Firefly is set in Port Talbot, and features protagonist Apricot Jones. Zillah describes it as: ‘A darkly comic tale of what it means to be alive, 17 and living in Port Talbot!’



Firefly Press is excited to announce Firefly Ignite: a programme of free online sessions for new and aspiring writers from underrepresented backgrounds. These sessions are open to writers born, raised and/or living in Wales, and aim to demystify children’s publishing.

You can find out more about the sessions below.

Firefly Ignite: Shining a Light on…

  • Agents – with literary agent Anwen Hooson – Tuesday 23rd May at 7pm
  • Editors – with Firefly editors Penny Thomas, Rebecca F. John and Rebecca Lloyd – Monday 5th June 7pm
  • Authors – with authors Yvonne Banham, Claire Fayers, Luke Palmer and Alex Wharton – Monday 19th June 7pm

These sessions are perfect for those who want to write for children, teens and young adults but don’t know where to start, or what to do next. Each session will provide an introduction and insight into a different stage of publishing and share some top tips for aspiring authors. There will also be an opportunity to put your own questions to any of our guest speakers.

The Firefly Ignite programme is eligible to writers who are currently underrepresented in children’s publishing. This includes (but is not limited to) LGBTQ+ writers, writers of colour, writers from working-class backgrounds, neurodiverse writers, writers from ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, and writers with a disability/ illness. We ask that you self-identify and do not ask that you prove your eligibility.

All events are free and will be held on Zoom. The sessions will be in English, but we welcome both Welsh and English language writers to join. Unfortunately, as Firefly does not publish picture books, we will not be discussing books for this age group.

If you would like to attend, you can register free here:

This opportunity has been made possible through support and funding from Creative Wales and the Books Council of Wales.

Firefly are an award-winning independent children’s and YA publisher based in Wales, publishing quality fiction in all genres for 5-19 years olds.

If you have any questions about the programme or eligibility, feel free to email

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