Helen Holwill and Nicola Prentis preview their talk How to Write Graded Readers (a.k.a. Get Paid to Write Fiction), which they’ll be giving at the Pre-Conference Event at IATEFL, 1 April 2019, Liverpool (UK). See who else is talking at the MaWSIG–LitSIG Joint PCE here. Tickets are available here.


If you use graded readers in your ELT classroom, have you ever wondered how they are produced? Have you ever considered that perhaps you could write one? The creative types among you may have written stories before, or maybe you just have ideas for stories. Perhaps you’ve never thought about writing fiction, but you could if you knew how to find inspiration and flesh it out. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of literature and could distil classics or modern works down to their essence and maintain the voice of the original author, writing adaptations might be for you. Whichever route you choose, you’ll need to know how to get the attention of commissioning editors. And, unless you’re extremely lucky, you’ll need to know how to keep knocking on seemingly closed doors and dealing with rejections.

With 18 years’ experience of working on graded readers between them, Helen and Nicola will explore the different techniques involved in coming up with original ideas or adapting a classic. They will show you how the publishing process works, from commissioned book to final manuscript, including how authors grade grammar and vocabulary, and what makes a story work as a graded reader.

Helen Holwill is a freelance editor and author with over two decades of experience in ELT publishing. After teaching English in Spain for six years, she returned to the UK and began her career as an editor, working first for Macmillan Education and then for Oxford University Press. Helen has worked on a wide range of ELT materials and in recent years has focused on graded readers, which she finds enjoyable and absorbing. One of her specialisms is editing and authoring adapted classics and modern fiction titles.

Nicola Prentis is a freelance writer with experience in ELT and other publishing sectors. Having taught English in over seven countries, she is now based in Spain for as long as Brexit allows. Nicola slowly made her way from teaching to full-time writing after creating quizzes for BBC Learning English and then getting her first graded reader book deal. Since then she has written four more readers and co-written a fifth, two of which have won Language Learner Literature Awards. She has also written for a range of publications, including Cosmo US, WSJ, Quartz and Mental Floss, about the English language, parenting, travel, food, chest hair and anything else she thinks she can get paid for.