Friday, February 29, 2008

Ten Nitty-Gritty Facts for Children's Writers

1. Writing for children is not a starting place for a writer to work on their craft nor for the faint of heart. A lot of children’s stories consist of approximately 800 words or a 16-200 page book. Within this framework you've got to have realistic characters, an enthusiastic storyline, a believable plot and dialogue. Also, the child protagonist has to be the one who solves the problem---not the adult.

2. Never talk down to a child reader. Don't assume they can't understand above their level. Children need and want challenge to learn and grow in their reading. Give them real problems that can captivate them.

3. Understand a child’s needs. Children need to be loved, to have friends, to feel secure, to learn and grow, to find entertainment just as adults do.

4. Always show them a good time and you will have a reader for life.

5. The characters of your story will grow as they experience their adventure, and your readers may grow as well. Children can learn that life is not always fair but there are ways to survive and have hope. They can understand that it is normal to be jealous, afraid, angry or lonely. Through your words children can see how an attitude can change their life. However, don't fall into the trap of "preaching" to them. If you let them see a young thief grow and change they will have learned a lesson in a non-threatening way.

6. Understand the market. The children's market is tight and the competition is fierce. Read good and bad books that are being read by kids. Have a talk with your local librarian. She or he will be able to point you to the most popular books children are reading. Join the Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators (

7. Nonfiction does not need to be boring. Remember how you despised those dry history and science books? A creative children’s writer can spice up the dullest history books with a little action thrown in and a well-written story line will enthrall the kids to the point they will not realize they are even learning.

8. Unless you or your cousin are a clone of Steven Kellogg, let the editor choose an illustrator for your picture book. Editors have the final say so on artwork and may not like it if you push a packaged deal.

9. What if you are not around children every day? No problem. Spend some time at a playground with a notepad then eavesdrop and observe. You can also go to a restaurant popular with kids. Volunteer some time in a classroom. Watch how the kids react with each other. Study body language and listen to conversation.

10. Read, read, and read lots of magazine stories and nonfiction for kids. You will get a feel for genres, story lengths and what is popular. Get to know your reader and they will want to know you.

This post was inspired by children's author Kathryn Lay.
Write it down,


Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Lucrative Educational Market: Where Do You Fit In?

Announcing....... This Week's Teleclass for Members of the Children's Writers' Coaching Club at the National Writing for Children Center

If you've ever wanted to break into the children's educational market but just didn't know how, here's your chance to learn everything you need to know about this lucrative market.

On Thursday, February 28, 2008, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time, Rita Milios presents:The Lucrative Educational Market: Where do YOU Fit In?.... Session 1 in the Writing for Children’s Educational Markets Series

The children’s educational market is a HUGE writing niche. Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, books, articles or activities/crafts…whether you have teaching experience or not, there is a “place” for you in this vast marketplace!

  • Explore the many opportunities available for writers, including: books, workbooks, student activities, teacher pages, hi-lo (high interest, low reading level) and ESL (English as a second language) books and materials, test-prep and test assessment materials, science experiments, art projects, reading passages, nonfiction articles, creative nonfiction, fiction stories and more!

  • Learn the benefits (and challenges) of writing for these markets from a seasoned pro with more than twenty years experience.

  • Take the Education Writer’s Self-Discovery Quiz to see if YOU have what it takes to be a children’s education writer.

  • Have your pressing questions (such as “How much can I expect to be paid?”) answered fully and frankly.

  • Gain access to valuable “insider information” that can save you hundreds of hours in time and gain you thousands of dollars in potential earnings.

Join Rita Milios, author of more than thirty children’s books, test assessment materials, workbooks, ESL materials–and all of the different kinds of educational materials mentioned above–in this fast-paced, crammed-packed, value-laden class.

To take part in this teleclass, join the Children's Writers' Coaching Club here

I hope you join us.
Write it down,

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Audio Books for Kids

Children love ipods and mp3 players. Instead of filling their ears with junk, buy audio books and your child will be entertained and filled with a love of learning at the same time. Check out this article by Toni Grundstrom


Parents everywhere can attest to the fact that small, enclosed spaces for long periods of time do not always work with children. They get bored watching out the window of your vehicle and want something to occupy the time. What is a great solution and can help keep your sanity while driving? Listen to children audio books available in many genres and for all ages.

The fabulous aspect of children audio books is the fact that everyone can be entertained. Audio books are very common for business travelers because it offers more diversity than just switching on the radio. Children audio books are no different. Audio books for children are available from many of their favorite authors.

Audio books are created when an actor, actress or someone paid to read, reads from the book. Some offer embellished accents for certain lines and conversations. A common misconception is that the listener will become lost in the monotonous drone of children audio books and not pay attention to the actual story. The abilities of the reader are far more advanced than fourth grade reading groups where one child read aloud as others followed along with the book.

It is increasingly common for most popular children's books to become children audio books. Parenting groups recommend reading to a child from an early age. Children audio books accomplish this when the space or time frame does not allow for reading aloud, especially while driving.

Audiobooks are used in schools by teachers of second-language learners, learning-disabled students, and struggling readers or nonreaders. Audiobooks have proven successful in providing a way for these students to access literature and enjoy books. Audio books can be beneficial for all children when they are used to introduce new vocabulary or difficult proper names or locales, provide a read-aloud model, or provide a bridge to important topics of discussion for parents and children who can listen together while commuting to sporting events, music lessons, or on vacations.
(Benefits of Audiobooks for All Readers, Denise Johnson)

Whatever the child is interested in; there are children audio books in public libraries available at the cost of a library card. These free audio books can be checked out and listened to anywhere. If you don't have the time to stop at the library you can instantly download one from an online store and have it available for an Ipod, MP3 player or put on a CD. Bring them to parks, picnics, games, or traveling since these can all be times to listen to a good book. The audio books help develop the child and can begin a life-long love of reading.

Toni Grundstrom is a Freelance Writer. When you or your child do not have time to sit down and read, listen to a good book on the run. Check out the new audio bookstore, with thousands of titles to choose from. You're sure to find one you like. Click here to open up an entirely new way of enjoying a book.

Write it down,


Monday, February 18, 2008

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse - Book Review

An amusing little human-like mouse named Lilly learns about conflict and listening to her teacher.
Age group is 7 to 10
32 page Picture book.

Author and Illustrator: Kevin Henkes

Lilly loves life and her teacher Mr. Slinger. He wears cool shirts with crazy ties. He also provides yummy snacks for all his students and Lilly wants to be a teacher just like him. One day Lilly brings her new purple plastic purse that plays music to school. She irritates everyone and noisily displays it inappropriately. Mr. Slinger takes the purple purse away from Lilly until the end of the day and Lilly draws a mean portrait of her teacher.

At the end of the school day when Lilly gets outside and opens her purse she discovers a nice note from Mr. Slinger “…Today was difficult. Tomorrow will be a better day” and some tasty snacks. Lilly is overcome with guilt and decides to make up with her teacher the next day.

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse teaches a lesson about discipline and anger management. The book demonstrates that discipline is not punishment when Mr. Slinger shows understanding and compassion to Lilly. Learning to question and respect authority is a very delicate balance and an important lesson for children to learn. This is reinforced in Lilly’s home by her loving parents. Unfortunately, many children grow up thinking discipline is all about punishment when in fact it is teaching character.

Write it down,

Saturday, February 16, 2008

You're Never Too Young To Read A Good Book

The other day I was babysitting my year old grandson Gabriel. He is the smartest baby in the world just as all grandchildren are. His parents are smart too because they began introducing him to books when he was six months old. They let him touch and feel the books and of course read to him. Now when he sees one of his books he gets very excited. When I gave him his favorite picture book of the alphabet he grabbed it with both hands and began to “read” it. This kid will always be entertained by books, thanks to an early start.

This brings me to point out there is a huge market for writers and illustrators who wish to write for children of pre-preschool ages. It is so important to shape a child’s mind in a positive and caring way. You may think it would be simple to write “See Spot run” or words to that affect but children’s attention spans are short and the type of words used in toddler’s books need to be effective and descriptive. In today’s world it is not just learning to read the words it is about learning to describe them.

Writing for children is a multi faceted specialty because of the wide range of age groups and subject matter. Would you like to become a Children’s writer and play an important role in a child’s life? Join the Children’s Writer’s Coaching Club as I did and begin to learn from writing coach and founder, Suzanne Lieurance, and authors like Margot Finke and Lila Guzman.
Write it down,

Monday, February 11, 2008

Learn to Write Picture Books with Margot Finke

Join the Children's Writer's Coaching Club at the National Writing for Children Center and you'll have access to FOUR 55-minute teleclasses each and every month.

If you've ever wanted to write a picture book for children but just didn't know how to go about it, you won't want to miss this week's fun and informative teleclass with children's picture book author Margot Finke.

Just look at all Margot will cover in this class:


*Good grammar and punctuation
* Tight writing — use a few carefully chosen words to write a "big" story.
* The benefit of bringing powerful verbs into play.
* How to paint word pictures that will stick in a child’s head.
* How to write active paragraphs that easily translate into illustrations
* How to FOCUS on what is important to the story — and cut the rest.
* The art of crafting characters kids will identify with and root for.
* Develop a writing "voice" that is unique.

This LIVE teleclass will take place on Wednesday, February 13, 2008, at 4:00 pacific time.

To receive an email invitation to this event, along with any handouts needed for the class, join the Children's Writers' Coaching Club at:

The Children's Writers
Coaching Club

I hope to meet you in class this Wednesday evening. But, if you can't attend the LIVE teleclass, as a coaching club member you will also receive a link to the recording of this class on Thursday, so you can listen to the class at any time. Have a great writing day!


Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Diary of a Worm

Written by: Doreen Cronin
Illustrated by: Harry Bliss
Hardback: 32 pages
Published by: Joanna Cotler Books
An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Ages: 6 and older
ISBN 0-06-000150-X
Published: 2003

The theme of Diary of a Worm is set right away with the title and then each event is dated by month and number. This delightful humorous picture book by Doreen Cronin is about a loveable worm who finds out that there are some good things in life and not so good things.

His mom tells him there are three things he should always remember: 1. The earth gives us everything we need. 2. When we dig tunnels, we help take care of the earth. 3. Never bother Daddy when he’s eating the newspaper.

And there are three good things about being a worm. 1. I never have to go to the dentist. 2. I never get in trouble for tracking mud through the house. 3. I never have to take a bath.

The illustrations by Harry Bliss are really the highlight of this book and the cartoon images on the inside of the book cover are meant to look like family photos of the little worm. In addition the protagonist tries to teach his spider friend how to dig but the spider gets all his legs stuck in dirt and in turn the spider tries to teach the worm how to walk upside down, only to discover that worms cannot walk upside down. All ages can relate to the humor in this book.

Adults and children can share a fun read together. I observed my seven year old granddaughter as she read Diary of a Worm to me. She carefully studied the pictures on both pages before reading. Although the words were for her grade level, the pictures enhanced her confidence with her reading.
Write it down,

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The World Between Cardboard Covers is a Whole New World

Our children become what they read. However, they are not reading as much as they should unless it is on line and at best they are just skimming words. Haven’t we all done that? Reading text is becoming old-fashioned because a world of instant gratification surrounds us with internet, television, video games, movies and should I say more?

Hope Clark of Funds for Writers sparked the subject of teaching children to love reading stories in her Newsletter FFW Small Markets. Hope says “Not only does reading create memories, but it exercises the mind. It empowers a child to write.”

As adults, we are negligent and a major part of the problem. When was the last time you read any of the books your child is reading or do you even know What your child is reading? Consider reading your child’s books and having discussions about the story. When children see how excited their parents become about reading they will want to imitate. When the adult loves the written word so will the child.

I am afraid that we (society) are creating a world where the only quality reading a young person prefers is Cliff Notes where the emphasis is on shortcuts and not the story. Create a love for the story and you will create a love for reading in children.

Michale Morpurgo of The Telegraph in the UK says “Our mindset has to change. We have to stop proclaiming reading as a ladder to academic success. Treated simply as an educational commodity, some kind of pill to be taken to aid intellectual development, it is all too often counter-productive and ultimately alienating.”

Write it down,


Monday, February 4, 2008

Writing Biographies for Children: Show Me the Money!

If you would like to learn how to generate more revenue by writing biographies for children, you need to join the Children's Writer's Coaching Club.

Biographies can be a strong revenue generator for children's authors. What are the secrets to breaking into the field? What are the rewards and the pitfalls? How are biographies different from other non-fiction writing?

You can join Lila Guzman, author of nine biographies for young readers, in a lively discussion of this specialized field if you join the CWCC today.

Points of Interest that will be discussed are:
1. Dead or Alive: special problems when picking a person to write about
2. Trusting your sources: Dealing with conflicting information/Doing research
3. Making it understandable to young readers
4. Word Count and the "Formula" for a children's biography:
a. 5 chapters
b. Timeline
c. Biography (for kids)
d. Words to Know
e. Pronunciation Guide (To Spanish Words)
5. Getting permission/pictures.
6. How to get a contract.

To receive an email invitation to this LIVE event - plus the link to a recording of the class on Friday - join the Children's Writers' Coaching Club today.

As a club member, this week you'll also receive a short writing lesson.You can also have one of your manuscript's professionally critiqued during our manuscript critique telesession Wednesday night.

You do not have to attend the critique session to have your manuscript critiqued. You'll receive the link to a recording of the session on Thursday.

I hope you'll join the club. It's the easiest and most enjoyable way I know of to take your children's writing career to the next level!

Write it down,

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Dick and Jane Don't Cut it Anymore

If you are interested in writing and or illustrating children’s books, young adult books, fiction, or non-fiction, you will need to study various aspects of the industry before you try to find a publisher.

I ran across a great site for Children’s authors, published or not. America Writes 4 Kids. There are just loads of links for anyone looking for some good quality resources. The Children’s Book Council, Highlights Foundation and more. The recommended read for February is “Can You Keep a Secret” by P.J. Petersen. Click here to visit his web page and take a look at the books he has written. Titles like “The Sub” and “I Hate Weddings”

I also found some great do’s at America Writes 4Kids to help guide you on the way to success. I’m going to follow them myself.

1. Learn the market. Spend lots of time in your local bookstore and library, reading through current bestsellers.

2. Perfect your craft. Before worrying about seeing your name in print, really learn how to write. Take courses, read "how-to" books, join a writing group, and so on. Master dialogue, characterization and plot. Write for the sake of writing, and enjoy the journey -- you'll have plenty of time to chase a publishing contract later.

3. Focus your attention on "hot" areas in children's publishing. Publishers continue to look for multicultural stories, nonfiction for all ages, horror stories and easy readers.

4. Request publisher guidelines and catalogs before submitting your work to a publisher. Study these to make sure your work is what the publisher is currently seeking.

5. Learn to write a crisp, upbeat query letter that will grab the attention of a harried editor.

6. Be persistent. Success as a writer rarely comes easily or quickly. Don't get discouraged by rejection...just keep writing!

Another very important DO is to join the Children’s Writers Coaching Club where you can learn all of the above from inspiring professionals. Learn to create a part or full time writing career of your dreams. Click here.

Now that you know WHAT to do, here is what NOT to do.
1. Assume today's kids' books are just like the ones you read as a child. Juvenile literature is more sophisticated, creative and far-ranging than ever before. Dick & Jane don't cut it anymore!

2. Get bogged down in clichés. Editors are sick of cute talking animals, "ugly duckling" stories about shy wallflowers who save the day, and moralistic tales that shout "it's OK to be different!" Strive for originality.

3. Treat kids like babies. Don't talk down to your readers. Use rich and interesting language that evokes strong visual images.

4. Preach. Your job as a writer is to entertain. If your story has a message, tell it through the plot and characters, not by a "moral" tacked on to the end.
Write it down,