Monday, September 29, 2008

Interview with Children's Author and Publisher, Vivian Zabel

Publisher, Children and Young Adult Author, Vivian Zabel talks about her writing and publishing career. Read my review of her YA book Case of the Missing Coach here.

Hello Vivian, I want to thank you so much for taking time to take part in this interview. You are one busy lady and I can tell that you give the word retire a bad reputation. You wear many hats and there are many words to describe you, author, publisher, entrepreneur, marketer…

Carma: How do you balance all the various aspects of your writing and publishing business?

Vivian: The fact that often I can’t sleep helps. However, if the business keeps growing, I’m going to have to have more help.

As I’m working with business needs of 4RV Publishing, often I’m “working” at the back of my mind on something I’m writing or about to write.

When I was younger, I could multi-task better than I can now, but thankfully, I still can to some extent.

I depend on notes plastered all around the computer to keep track of myself. You do realize, don’t you, that the purpose of name tags is to remind me of who I am?

Carma: What are you most passionate about outside of writing?

Vivian: That’s an easy question to answer: my family. My husband, three children, ten grandchildren, and four, soon to be five, great-grandchildren are the foundation of my life.

My faith is the only thing that comes before all of them.

Carma: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing with your life?

Vivian: Maybe a better question would be what have I done with my life. I’ve been the receptionist for a hotel, car hop, inventory clerk, office manager, insurance office manager, and then a teacher for twenty-seven years. If I weren’t writing, I guess I’d give up finally and vegetate.

Carma: Can you describe the time you realized you were indeed a “real” writer?

Vivian: I always knew I was going to be a writer. I started writing poetry when I was eight, but I told stories to my siblings and friends from the time I could talk. I remember the first time I shared my dream of writing a novel with a “friend” in the seventh grade. She laughed and spread the story, trying to make me a figure of ridicule. I didn’t talk about my plans any more: I just did them.

I’ve had poetry, short stories, and articles published for many years, about forty years in fact. My first book was a collection of short stories written by me and by Holly Jahangiri, Hidden Lies and Other Stories, which is listed on an online text book sight as a literature book.

Carma: You recently launched a new book called Midnight Hours; tell us a little about it and what was your inspiration for it?

Vivian: I have an online friend, who “adopted” me as her mom, yet she continued to be extremely secretive. I had no idea where she lived, except a general area. I couldn’t contact her. Other people I knew who “knew” her wondered why she was so mysterious. With my vivid imagination, I took her need to hide and developed Midnight, an online predator who targets disabled men. In fact, the friend helped with details and ideas developed in the novel.

And, no, the friend is not anyone dangerous, just a single woman who needed to protect her identity for valid reasons.

Carma: What other books or projects do you have coming soon?

The last of October, Prairie Dog Cowboy, a novel for younger teens but can be enjoyed by anyone, will be released. My husband was a cowboy and broke horses when young. I took some of his experiences and wove them into a story about a young boy who wants to be a cowboy. The young rancher next to Buddy’s family farm promises to hire him when Buddy can lasso a prairie dog. The setting of the book is the late 1890s through about 1913, and the historical aspects are well researched.

Next year, I hope Stolen will be published. We’ll see. The novel shows the struggle Torri Adamson faces as parts of her life are stolen. She works to rebuild her life after each traumatic experience, until her children are taken. She doesn’t know if she can recover or not.

Carma: What can readers expect when they read your books?

Vivian: I hope they find believable characters, realistic stories, and, even if the book doesn’t have a “happily ever after” ending, hope.

Carma: I noticed you have quite a few published authors at 4RV Publishing and it seems to be growing. Tell us what motivated you to start a publishing company?

Vivian: A friend, Jacque Graham, a daughter-in-law, Janelle Zabel, and I talked about the struggle authors, even very good writers, have little chance of being published with a major company. Finding a credible agent is almost as difficult. The already famous, whether they could write or not, have books out, but not many of the people who write and write well. Self-publishing has a bad rap because of the abuse of the process by too many people who “publish” just anything, and vanity presses produce, uh, well, not quality books.

We decided that someone, some company needed to fill the gap between the poor self-publishing/the vanity presses and the major publishing houses. After a couple of years of reading, studying, examining, asking questions, I started 4RV Publishing. Jacque and Janelle are my right and left hands.

Carma: Are you currently accepting unsolicited submissions? If so where can writers find your submission guidelines?

Vivian: Yes, we are accepting unsolicited submissions. The guidelines are found on on the Services page.

Carma: Do you prefer writing one genre over another? If so which one and why? If not, why not?

Vivian: I like most mysteries, and I like a bit of romance where possible. However, I write several genre. I don’t like excessive, gratuitous violence or sex. Let the readers use their imaginations.

I don’t write, read, or publish erotica or even excessive, unneeded violence, profanity, or sexual activity.

Carma: Describe a typical writing day if there is one or a typical day in your writing/publishing life.

Vivian: *searches through calendar and memory to find a typical day* I don’t think such an animal exists in my world. From the time I climb out of bed until I get to climb back in, I’m working on editing, marketing, promotions, answering email, sending contracts or rejections (which I hate to do), and squeezing in some writing of my own. Of course, when necessary I format books, set up accounts, order copies, pay bills, and prepare for book festivals, book blog tours, conferences, and whatever else needs to be done.

Carma: Is there a place or address where readers can reach you?

Vivian: My email for 4RV is My personal email is

Carma: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you and your works? Take as much space as you need.

Vivian: I post information about my work, 4RV authors and books, and other aspects of writing on I post writing tips on and writing tips for children’s and teen’s books on

My goal, other than being a good writer, is to help other authors and illustrators publish good books.

Carma: Thanks again Vivian.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Case of the Missing Coach

Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: 4RV Publishing LLC (September 29, 2007)
Reading age 10 to 14
ISBN-10: 0979751314
ISBN-13: 978-0979751318

Case of the Missing Coach is a contemporary mystery of deceit, sabotage and kidnapping. Who would have thought that Little League Baseball could be so exciting? The Jonesville Chargers are slated for national fame when they win the state championship but someone doesn’t want them to win. As they prepare for the Regional tournament all of the team equipment is found mysteriously destroyed and the team has to borrow equipment in order to continue. This devastating act may have crushed any other team but nothing could squelch the enthusiasm for winning that every Jonesville Charger had inside them. This confidence was encouraged by the Charger’s respected coaches. The destruction of equipment was not enough. Soon threatening notes are sent to players saying “You better start losing or something bad will happen.”

When the Chargers win the Regional tournament threats intensify and coaches do not take any chances. They report all threats to authorities and also set up a buddy system network so that no player will be left alone. Unfortunately, threats accelerate again when Coach Randy disappears and the FBI becomes involved. Overwhelmed by problems and the possibility of facing an almost certain defeat, the team comes together and wins the championship, proving that there is strength in numbers and that winners never quit.

Author: V. Gilbert Zabel paints a realistic picture of life inside a Little League Team with her wealth of knowledge of the game. Also, how she substantiates that coaches genuinely care for the players and protect them from harm is a major strength of this story. Baseball jargon is realistic and Zabel demonstrates her love for a good mystery with great dialogue and plot. Vivian wrote and studied writing for over fifty years. For 27 years, she taught English, composition, creative writing, newspaper, yearbook, and literary magazine. As she taught, she studied and honed her own skills.

Over the period of nearly fifty years, she has poetry, articles, and short
stories published. So far she has been published in five books.

With her experience in teaching and the "editing" required in evaluation
of students' work, the next step Vivian took was as a professional editor.
She has been on both sides of the writing coin: writing and editing.

Write it down,

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How to Write a Story in Three Acts

Many of our stories we write for children or anyone for that matter are inspired by our knowledge of real life. Often this can be helpful or at other times inhibiting. When you are creating a story and characters you need to fit them in their own little world.

The three-act concept is a take on beginning, middle and end.

Act I) Problem and Obstacle
In the first act the protagonist encounters his/her central problem and the first obstacle in solving it.

Act II) Conflict and Struggle
Here the main character encounters more choices that create more conflict. You need to ask yourself if the hero can achieve his goal despite this or despite that. Your plot should have at least three major obstacles to overcome and more challenging than the one before.

Act III) Is obviously the end of the story but without characters, plots and sub plots a story is empty. If you would like to learn how to insert believable characters into your three-act story, Join the write for children ">for only $27 per month.

You will learn how to write fiction that editor’s love, receive a critique each week, attend Live teleclasses with special instructors, learn how to submit a children’s novel and much, much more. Click write for children " logo to join instructor and award winning Writing Coach Suzanne Lieurance and give your writing career the boost it deserves.

Write it down,

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

We all need a kick start once in a while. This weekend was no exception for me. Here are some great visual exercises to jump start your imagination and take you for a ride. These kick starters are courtesy of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. If you write or illustrate for children's writing market you are missing out on good information if you do not belong to this organization.

Can you meet the challenge of writing a thousand words from this photograph? You can do it. That translates to approximately four pages. Let me know if you were able to do it.

1. Describe Grandma's dream.
2. Describe the baby's dream.
3. Imagine this scene takes place on a holiday. Write about the holiday and what has happened to make this pair so sleepy.

Have fun,

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Magic Rabbit: A Book Review

The Magic Rabbit
Author/Illustrator: Annette LeBlanc Cate

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (August 28, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0763626724
ISBN-13: 978-0763626723

Ray is a street performing magician and his best friend is a rabbit. They live together. They do everything together. Ray and his best friend Bunny eat popcorn and watch TV. Bunny even sleeps in the magic hat on Ray’s bed. There couldn’t be any closer friends than Ray and Bunny.

Well you guessed it. Bunny is the rabbit that Ray pulls out of his top hat during their Saturday magic show downtown. One Saturday just as Ray was to say the magic word and wave his magic wand, Bunny was supposed to jump out in a spray of golden stars. A juggler crashed into Ray sending Bunny flying on the sidewalk when a pug dog spots him and begins to chase Bunny down the sidewalk into the busy street. Bunny makes it safely to the other side but now he is lost. Everywhere Bunny goes people walk along together and when evening comes everyone is going home to dinner. Bunny feels sad because no one seems to notice that he is lost.

I like the way LeBlanc Cate illustrated Bunny’s harrowing trip across the street. It is similar to a comic strip frame with captions under each picture. The black and white illustrations capture a cosmopolitan feel about city life and performing on the street. Tiny glittering gold stars are the only color in LeBlanc Cate’s black and white story. Gold stars and popcorn play a significant role uniting Ray and Bunny before the night is over with a touching reunion in the subway station. Friendship is serious business in LeBlanc Cate’s story and it may even suggest it to be a little magical.

This is a wonderful story between unlikely friends and business partners who cannot live happily ever after with out each other. When Bunny follows a popcorn trail he finds in the alley the reader is not told who or what put it there. The little bit of magic through the glittering stars hint that the reunion was not due to Bunny’s keen sense of direction. I guess it really doesn’t matter because Ray is a magician, after all.

Annette LeBlanc Cate studied at the Art Institute of Boston and was the art director for the animated television series DR. KATZ, PROFESSIONAL THERAPIST. She lives in Pepperell, Massachusetts.

Write it down,

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Kids Cook! Fabulous Food for the Whole Family

Please welcome my guest blogger Judy Ferrill. She is an EZine article expert, connoisseur of healthy food and a full time freelance writer. It is important to instill good eating habits in children at a young age. When it comes to healthy food Judy knows what she is talking about. Enjoy her book review below and then go visit her at Local Food Connections. Thank you Judy for being my guest today.

Kids Cook – Fabulous Food for the Whole Family
Sarah Williamson & Zachary Williamson
ISBN 0-9135899-61-6
Copyright 1992

Notice the copyright date on this book.... 1992. I bought this book for my daughter the year it was published. It does not carry the endorsement of any celebrity chefs, but like any great cookbook – it is timeless in many respects. It was written with family recipes and traditions. I don't think you can beat that combination.

What I like about this book is the kid-friendly foods, but there are also recipes to start them on a path to appreciating "more adult" foods. The book emphasizes healthy food choices and alternatives. Kitchen safety and rules are discussed and recipes are labeled with a degree of difficulty by the number of spoons. Safety notes are included and there is a section on cooking terms, substitutes and equivalents, as well as kitchen appliances and tools.

If the book has one drawback, it does not have illustrations, but does have great black and white pen drawings that are fun and add to the personality of the book. The book is appropriate for ages 8 and up, but can work with younger children with adult supervision.

The recipes run the gamut – simple french toast breakfast, a fresh cucumber salad, an antipasto plate, to faux lasagna, chicken cordon bleu, and creamy asparagus. There is a variety of kid's favorites – desserts.

Here is an example where older children can easily manage the preparation and a younger child can participate with adult supervision.
Recipe from Kids Cook! Fabulous Food for the Whole Family.
No-Bake Chocolate Graham Cracker Cake
Serves 6 – 8

28 graham crackers
½ cup chocolate syrup
Homemade Whipped Cream

1. Make homemade whipped cream (In chilled metal bowl, beat 1 pint whipping cream, 3 Tablespoons confectioners' sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until soft peaks form.)
2. Whip the chocolate syrup into the cream mixture.
3. On a serving plate, make a square with four graham crackers.
4. Cover with a layer of whipped chocolate cream.
5. Repeat the layers – graham crackers and then whipped cream until you have 7 layers.
6. Cover the entire outside of the cake with the remaining whipped cream.
7. Decorate with chocolate chips or shaved chocolate (rub a chocolate bar over a grater).
8. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Best served the same day.

The book is available on and Barnes and Noble with an average price of $11.00

Monday, September 15, 2008

Children's Writers! Stop Sabotaging Your Writing Career

It is so easy to fall into the saboteur’s pit. Here is a link to children’s author Anastasia Suen’s blog. She has posted links to seven individual articles written by Jane Friedman from There Are No Rules blog.

Titles for the seven sabotage articles are listed below. They can also be translated into “What Not To Do if you want to become a successful writer.”

#1 Attempting to Get Published Too Soon
#2 Looking Out For Yourself Too Much
#3 Expect Your Publisher to Market Your Work
#4 Treating Online and Multimedia Activities as Optional
#5 Be High Maintenance
#6 Assuming A Work Deeply Felt by You will Be Deeply Felt by All
#7 Become Bitter

Do these titles pique your interest? Jane Friedman’s thoughtful analysis of how these self-sabotage traps can throw you off the road to success is worth reading. Each article is an eye opener for the new and seasoned writer. At the end of the day it is not about You, it is about your reader.

I couldn’t decide which quote to use so I used both.

"A great secret of success is to go through life as a man who never gets used up" (Albert Schweitzer). And also from Schweitzer: "Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success."

Write it down,

Friday, September 12, 2008

Scritch Scratch - Book Review

Author: Miriam Moss
Illustrator: Delphine Durand
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Orchard Books (July 25, 2002)
ISBN-10: 1841211125
ISBN-13: 978-1841211121

The parent of every elementary school child has had to deal with infestation of lice at one time or another. Scritch Scratch examines the lice dilemma in a humorous way yet does not treat the subject carelessly. However, an irritable situation soon becomes bearable and funny.

The illustrations of cartoon looking classroom and students draw attention to various shades of hair color, short or long hair, and braids that attract this tiny little louse that no one notices until it is too late. All through the book, classroom antics are revealed in rich detail with kids pulling hair and throwing paper airplanes. The louse that is the star of the story has a sunny disposition. “The little louse closed her eyes, held her breath and dove through the air. It didn’t matter where she landed. Any head would be the perfect home.”

After she lands on Ms. Calypso’s long red curly hair, she sings a happy tune as she sticks her eggs to each hair on Ms. Calypso’s head.

“Oh…No one knows from where I came,
A nit, a nibbler with no name,
But watch the teacher scritch and scratch,
When my creepy, crawly babies hatch.”

I even laughed out loud to this tune. After the baby lice hatched and climbed on Ms. Calypso’s cascading curls, they began to hop on to new heads when she goes Scritch Scratch while helping a student. Before long all the little lice had perfect homes of their own.

An infestation of lice at school calls for action from Mr. Trout the principal. He sends letters home to the parents telling them to treat the children’s hair. However, the lice come back because Ms. Calypso lives alone and didn’t have anyone to help her treat her own hair. Mr. Trout offers to help and they end up falling in love. But that is not the end of the potato-looking louse. You will have to read the end of the story to find out what happens.

About the author: Miriam is an award winning author of 70 children's books. She originally published 40 information books, but for the last 12 years she has written fiction. This has included picture books, novelty books and poetry, and recently short stories for the adult market. Her fiction has been translated into 21 languages.

Miriam has had wide experience of working creatively with children, as well as speaking in schools, libraries, at festivals. She offers lively, innovative large group performances, talks, interactive storytelling sessions, readings, seminars, creative writing and poetry workshops.

She was born in England but also grew up in Africa, The Middle East and China. After university she taught English for eight years in the UK and Kenya before becoming a writer. She now lives in East Sussex.

Write it down,

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

You Can Write Articles for Children Too: Follow These Eight Easy Steps

Read this great article below by children's author Pat McCarthy and let her take the mystery out of writing for children.

Eight Easy Steps to Writing an Article for Children

Have you thought about writing an article for a children’s magazine? Maybe you have an idea, but you’re not sure how to go about it. Here are some tips.

Step One. Choose a topic. It should be something that many children will be interested in. But it should also be something you know about or are interested in learning more about. Animals, sports, famous people, science and how-to articles are all popular choices..

Step Two. Narrow your topic. Concentrate on just one aspect of it. I wanted to write an article about birds. I’d just returned from Florida, so I decided to concentrate on the birds I saw in one place, Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. This was still too broad a topic, so I honed in on how different birds there eat. The article, “Dinner at Ding Darling,” was published by Children’s Digest.

Step Three. Research your article. Use both online resources and books and articles. Editors like a mix of print and Internet sources in a bibliography. Look for interesting little tidbits that will appeal to kids. Find facts with wow appeal and yuck appeal. Kids like the amazing as well as the gross.

Step Four. Organize your research. Jot down the main points you want to make, then go through your notes and plug them into your outline. It doesn’t have to be a formal outline. It just needs to get your thoughts in order. I love outlines. Once my outline is done, the article seems to almost write itself.

Step Five. Write the article. Decide what age you are writing for, then try to keep your writing on that level. Don’t talk down to kids but try to use words that age child would know and understand. Keep your sentences simple and fairly short. Use short paragraphs. Children are intimidated by large blocks of type.

Step Six. Revise and edit your article. To make sure it flows smoothly, read it aloud to yourself. That will enable you to notice the rhythm and to find repeated words. Be very sure there are no errors in spelling or grammar.

Step Seven. Research the markets. Get a copy of Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market or research children’s publishers online. Make sure your article is the right length, for the right age, and on a topic the magazine uses.

Step Eight. Submit your article. Then get busy writing another one.

Sound simple? Try it! With a little work and practice, you can be successful at writing articles for children.

Pat McCarthy is an instructor for the Institute of Children's Literature and the author of over a dozen books for children. Learn more about her books at her blog, If you have a question about writing for children, e-mail Pat at More resources for children's writers will soon be up on the blog.

Article Source:

Write it down,

Monday, September 8, 2008

Add a Dash of Silliness to Your Reading Time

Hello All, please welcome my guest blogger, Theresa Schultz of Stress-Free Parent blog. Theresa has a great solution on how to handle our little toddlers who want the same story read over and over.

It’s story time and your toddler comes running to you with her favorite book, an eager look on her face, ready to revisit her beloved characters one more time. The only trouble is that this is the fiftieth time you’ve read the same book and you don’t know if you can stand to read it again.

“Why don’t we read something else today sweetie?” you implore.

“But it’s my favorite. Please mommy. Pleeeeeease!”

You give in, but this time you’ve got a plan. You begin to read the story – Cinderella, let’s say. Only this time the story is about Cinder-fella – or Cinder-Rumplestilskin – or some other silly name you substitute for the real character. At first, your child thinks you’ve lost your mind, but she soon catches on. The mice become kangaroos, the pumpkin a watermelon, and the fairy godmother your great aunt Agnes.

Soon the two of you are laughing and giggling like crazy. You can barely finish reading the story through the tears in your eyes, but somehow, you manage it. Your little one looks up at you, her eyes filled with admiration.

“Mommy, that was the best story ever. Read it again.”

Note to Parents: I used this technique with my kids to change things up a bit. It made for a fun and memorable time, but I have one bit of advice for you. Do NOT try this with the bedtime story. You’ll never get your child to settle down.

Happy Reading!
Theresa Schultz

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Tale of Despereaux: Book Review

Title: The Tale of Despereaux
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Timothy Basil Ering
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (April 11, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0763625299
ISBN-13: 978-0763625290

Newbery Medal winner for 2004 is The Tale of Despereaux, being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread. It is also a story of love, hope and forgiveness. However, as clever as it is there is some sadness and violence with some seedy characters and some without any morals at all. Despereaux has the odds stacked against him. I think this is why so many children will love this story. Who can resist a lovable underdog?

The new baby mouse, Despereaux is born with his eyes open and extra large ears. He does not fit in with the rest of the mice. Despereaux is the knight in shining armor of the story and a romantic who can also hear sounds his fellow mice cannot. He follows the sound of beautiful music to find Princess Pea who he falls madly in love with. This causes his father to turn him in to the Mouse Council for falling in love with a human. His brother helps to carry out the life prison term in the rat filled dungeon which is a sure death sentence. Despereaux is rejected by his family and fellow mice because he is different.

Enter rejected, Mig Sow, whose father sells her for a handful of cigarettes, a hen and a red table cloth. No one cares what Mig wants. She is hit upside the head daily until she is almost deaf when a quirk of fate frees her and sends her to the castle as a paid servant. The rat, Roscuro, short for Chiaroscuro, an artistic word, which means the arrangement of light and dark together accidentally becomes attracted to light. Rats are not supposed to like light. His brief exposure causes him to set out on a quest to bring light to the depths of his dungeon home. Roscuro successfully finds a source of light but sees himself for the first time as a rat. An ugly rat that no one likes.

“Rat.” He had never before been aware what an ugly word it was. “Rat.” In the middle of all the beauty, it immediately became clear that it was an extremely distasteful syllable. “Rat.”….It was then Roscuro realized he didn’t like being a rat.

The twist of the story’s ups and downs of Despereaux is never dull.

About the Author: Kate DiCamillo is also the author of Because of Winn-Dixie and Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. If you want to be a writer, write a little bit every day. Pay attention to the world around you. Stories are hiding, waiting everywhere. You just have to open your eyes and your heart.

I also discovered how much time and work goes into creating stories. In college, teachers often complimented me on my writing, and I made the mistake of believing I had a talent for it. I finally realized that talent really doesn't have anything to do with it, but working does. So five days a week, I get up, drink a cup of coffee, and then go to the computer and write. Two pages a day are what I ask of myself. I never want to write, but I'm always glad that I have done it. It takes me about a year to finish a book.

Write it down,

Thursday, September 4, 2008

10 Tips to a Terrific Picture Book

Writing for children is not easy. An author's words and an illustrator's pictures must be chosen carefully because a young child's vocabulary is quite short. They do not understand long drawn out sentences. Please enjoy this article by Emma Walton Hamilton. She lays out the specifics of picture book writing in a most organized way.

Writing well for young readers can be deceptively difficult - almost like writing haiku. Here are ten tips to make the most out of your picture book manuscript:

1. Craft a simple, clear plot based on a single situation. What does your main character want, what's in their way, and how do they solve it in the end?

2. Tell the story from the point of view of someone the same age as your reader. The main character should ideally be a child, or a character (even if animal) of the same age or spirit as the reader, so that the reader can identify with him or her.

3. Write what you know. Research is important, but nothing will make your writing more compelling than drawing on your own knowledge and experience of people, places ands things. For example, use what you know about being a parent (or having one) to make a mother character (albeit a bunny, or an alien) seem truly authentic. Even in fantasy or historical fiction, try to infuse your characters, situations and storytelling with details from your own personal knowledge and experience to make them really come alive.

4. Jump right in. Start your story immediately, and don't take up too much time with settings or descriptions. Which grabs your attention better?

Chutney was a small white dog.


Chutney was lost.

5. Think visually. The average picture book is 32 pages long, including title pages, dedications and acknowledgments. Try laying out your manuscript in dummy format, with 16 pages folded in half to make 32 pages. What might the corresponding illustrations look like? At what point in the text will the reader turn the page? Think in terms of action - what makes your reader want to turn the page to find out what happens next?

6. Make every word count. Illustrations reveal as much about your story as words do. Choose your words carefully, and don't write what the illustrations will show. Avoid excessive use of adjectives and unnecessary detail. Economy is key - try to synthesize what you want to say into as few words as possible, artfully chosen.

7. Know your theme. What's your point? What message do you want to convey to your readers, what thoughts or feelings do you want to leave them with? Great books do more than entertain - they leave the reader with new ideas, a fresh perspective. Whether called message, moral, or point of view, your theme is best revealed through the actions of your characters and the events of the tale - as opposed to any heavy-handed "and the moral of the story is..." summations or direct address.

8. Use verse with caution. It's tempting to think that rhyme alone makes for an engaging story for a child - but many aspiring children's book authors neglect story structure for the sake of rhyme. If your story is in verse, make sure you craft a version in prose as well. Focus on finessing the story to make sure you've addressed the key points - character, plot, setting, theme - and then convert it back, to let the verse be the frosting on the cake, not the cake itself. Finally, be sure your verse is top-notch - that the rhymes are true and the meter scans consistently. Never try to bend the phrasing or emphasis to accommodate the rhyme.

9. Offer hope. OK, this is more a personal view than a professional one... but I believe children's books should ultimately be optimistic, even if the subject matter is sad. The world is hard enough. Young people need to know that there are solutions to problems, and that adversity can be overcome with faith, courage and right action. Think carefully about why you want to write for children, and what you want to leave them with. Their future may depend on it.

10. Polish, polish, polish! Because children's books are shorter than adult books, it's tempting to think you're done after the first or second draft - and rush ahead soliciting agents and publishers. But nothing can kill your chances of publication - or of success when published - faster than slipshod writing. Writing is all about re-writing. Read your book out loud to as many children in the target age range as you can. Notice what works, and what doesn't. Where do they get fidgety? What don't they understand? Read scores of books in the same genre, so you can see what makes the good ones sing. Consider hiring a freelance editor or writing consultant to evaluate your manuscript or provide a line-edit. Give it the care and professional attention it deserves. Your readers will thank you for it!

Have your manuscript edited by a bestselling children's book author and acclaimed editor! Visit for more information.

Emma Walton Hamilton is a bestselling children's book author, editor and arts educator. She has co-authored 16 books for children, four of which have been on the New York Times Bestseller List (including #1) and serves as the Editorial Director of the Julie Andrews Collection publishing program. Emma works as a freelance editor and speaks regularly on arts and literacy issues.

Article Source:

Write it down,

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Write Short Fiction for Children

Have you ever wondered how some writer's are able to write such great stories for children? Especially short fiction. Children's short stories are fiction stories that are usually under 100 pages long.

Ideas for Children's short stories can range from animals, fairy tales, scary, or funny. Learning to write short stories deals with the same elements of long stories. The writer still needs to have a POV and most importantly a beginning, middle and end. However, children's short stories are not condensed stories from a larger version. Confused? The best way to learn how to write a short fiction story for children is to join the Children's Writer's Coaching Club now this week. During the month of September all CWCC members will be able to work on a short fiction story and have it critiqued before submitting. Does this sound like your cup of tea? Don't hesitate. Click on the logo below and sign up today.

Write it down,

Monday, September 1, 2008

Monday Writing Links for "In the Know" Children Writers

Welcome to Monday Links everyone and Happy Labor Day!

Writers are always on the lookout for relevant sources that will benefit a writing project. There are literally thousands of sources to check out and it can be overwhelming when you don't know where to click. One terrific site for children and Young Adult authors and publishers is Harold Underdown's The Purple Crayon. Here are a few links to groups of articles covering the basics of how to get started in publishing and detailed information articles that address specific subjects and specialties.

Basic Information Articles

Specific Information Articles

Also Harold Underdown is the author of the revised and updated "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books," third edition.

This link will take you to The Complete Idiot's Guide page where you can access Chapter 3 The World of Children's Literature and Chapter 17 I Need an Agent! In addition you will be able to find some third edition FAQs and where to buy this book.

Write it down,