Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Frida Kahlo: Portrait of a Mexican Painter

I was intrigued with Frida Kahlo. The early 20th century was a time of unrest and major social and political change throughout the world. Much like today. So you see there is not much new that is happening today that has not happened before. It does look as if history is repeating itself. Our hope for children of the future is in books with accurate stories. Let’s teach our children to learn from mistakes. This is why writing for educational publishers is so important. It is not filled with glitz and glamor but it is a teaching tool. A writer for children is a teacher who does not enter the classroom but has opportunity to enter a child’s mind nonetheless.

I am interested in writing for educational publishers as many writers are. A good way to find out how to enter this world is to study the market. Writing biographies and historical books for mid grade and young adults is a challenge. A writer must be able to communicate with appropriate age related words. Sentences don’t need to be choppy but they should be short and concise which is a real challenge for a writer who likes to talk without taking a breath. When I was writing college papers, it was not unusual for me to write an entire paragraph with only two sentences.

Is the Educational Market for You?

Are you interested in writing books for the educational market? Evelyn Christensen has wonderful resources. Click Educational Markets for Children’s Writers to go to her list. Feel free to peruse it but do not publish it anywhere else. Her email address is available if you wish to be on her mailing list.

Search out educational publishers on line. Enslow Publishers and Capstone Press are two that are well known. Spend some time there and get a feel for what they need.

Frida Kahlo – Portrait of a Mexican Painter was written by Barbara C. Cruz for Enslow Publishers. Dr. Cruz has published and presented extensively, focusing her research on multicultural and global education and equity issues. Enslow publishes high-quality educational non-fiction books for children from K through 12 grades.

Write it down,

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Drum Major Instinct

A Drum Major is the leader of the Parade. Everyone has their eyes on the grand and splendor. Dr. King’s speech, The Drum Major Instinct, February 4, 1968, discusses where the desires for recognition and praise originate. It is this instinct that the foundation of the ego's need for validation is born.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood the Drum Major instinct or impulse.

“We are born with this instinct. And there is deep down within all of us an instinct. It's a kind of drum major instinct-a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first. And it is something that runs the whole gamut of life.”

We all want to be important. When we do good things we like to get praise. We get this warm glow to our ego when we see our name in print. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. says, it is like Vitamin A to our egos. Nobody is unhappy when they are praised, even if they know they don't deserve it and even if they don't believe it. There is nothing wrong with this instinct or impulse. It is good if you use it right and don’t pervert it. Greatness must be earned.

Writers have a great responsibility to their readers. Don’t let the drum major impulse overshadow the purpose of your words.

I invite you to read Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message from February 4, 1968 just two months before his death. Click here then click on the lower right hand side “The Drum Major Instinct” with Dr. King’s picture.

Write it down,

Friday, January 16, 2009

Create the Writing Career of Your Dreams - Learn to Write for Children!

Do you love to write but don’t know how to put your thoughts into the right words?

Have you already written a story but don’t know how to go about getting published?

Are you an established writer that wants to learn more ways to market and promote your craft?

If you answer yes to any of these questions then the Children’s Writer’s Coaching Club is for you.

As a member of the CWCC you will work with both published children’s writers and illustrators and those who want to become children’s writers or illustrators without ever leaving home. How is that for convenience?

The good news is that membership is only $27 a month. The best bargain around. Here is what you will receive as a member:

* LIVE teleclasses EVERY month. Each teleclass is taught by a successful children’s book author and/or illustrator who knows the “tricks of the trade” of children’s writing, illustrating, and publishing.

* A monthly writing assignment, designed to become a finished project ready for submission to a publisher, usually be the end of the month, although some projects take longer. Each month we focus on some area of publishing. For example, one month we study how to write short fiction for children’s magazines. Another month we focus on writing nonfiction for children’s magazines. Another month we target writing picture books, etc.

* The opportunity to have your monthly assignment professionally critiqued, so you know if further revisions are needed before it is ready for submission to a publisher.

* The opportunity to network daily via an online discussion list with other members of the CWCC, as well as the instructors.

Join the Children’s Writers’ Coaching Club today and you’ll be on your way to creating your own part time or full time career as a published children’s book author and/or illustrator. You will be glad you did.

">Click Logo to Join

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Who Has Time to Worry About Correct Spelling? 5 Things Children's Writers Must Do.

Are you a writer who corrects spelling as you go along? Turn off spell check and grammar check when you are creating. Correct spelling is the least of your worries in a draft or two or three or…well you get it. This article explains how to break that habit and why. Enjoy this article by Jan McVeity, National Literacy Champion.

Should I correct my child's spelling? That's one of the most common questions I get asked.
My answer: No.
Well this is going to be the shortest column in the world!
Perhaps I should explain. When a story is created, there are a huge number of things a writer has to do. Here are just a few:

The Plot
Create the main character - you have to make them brave, strong and clever, but they need a couple of faults too.
Create the villain - they have to be just as strong as the hero or heroine. Otherwise the good guys win too easily.
Create the secondary characters - the faithful sidekick, the weird best friend, the teacher who cracks great jokes...
Decide on the Main Problem - this is not something simple like failing a test. It has to be major. Failing a final exam which means you didn't get into the sports team which means your chance of being a star footballer is utterly ruined.
Brainstorm an interesting setting - where should it all happen? A beach, a boat, a beaten up old house?

Still with me? But wait, that's only the plotting done. Now the writer has to start selecting...

The Writing Techniques

How can I make the fight between the two kids convincing? I know - I'll use dialogue and have them shouting at each other across the playground.
How can I make that scene of the ski race really tense? Hmmm, maybe if I have the clock counting down the seconds of the time he has to beat.
The start seems a bit boring, should I start that morning? No, maybe I should begin right when the kids start screaming for help.

Exhausted yet? Now what about the style the author selects to write in?

Click Here to keep reading more.

Write it down,

Monday, January 12, 2009

Are Newbery-Winning Books Too Challenging?

The buzz that the Newbery Medal Award for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children makes these books inaccessible to children is all over the blogosphere according to this article in the Washington Post. For instance from the past twenty-five winners and runners-up chosen from 2000 to 2005, four of the books deal with death, six with the absence of one or both parents and four with such mental challenges as autism. Most of the rest deal with tough social issues.

There are many pros and cons. “The criterion has never been popularity,” says Pat Scales, president of the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association. “It is about literacy quality. We don’t expect every child to like every book. How many adults have read all the Pulitzer Prize winning books and the National Book Award winners and liked every one?”

Winning books become instant bestsellers and almost a guarantee of future success for the author. Also some Newbery winners have become classics, such as Louis Sachar’s “Holes” in 1999 and even some runners-up like “Charlottes Web” by E. B. White in 1953.

To get a more in-depth view and other opinions go to this Washington Post article “Plot Twists: The Newbery may Dampen Kids’ Reading” by Valerie Strauss here.

The Newbery is very prestigious and books that are awarded this high honor are expected to stretch children’s minds and thought processes not to mention introduce them to a variety of real-life issues. Does this criticism of the award hint of jealousy by other organizations or just another point of view?

Of course a child wants to read stories that reflect their lives and that is why some critics of the Newbery believe it to turn kids off to reading. Some critics may think Newbery Medal winning books are far too mature for young readers under twelve.

What do you think?

Write it down,

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Beginning, A Muddle, and an End

Avi’s middle grade book, A Beginning, A Muddle and an End juxtaposes a perspective on the writing profession through wit and humor of a snail named Avon and an ant named Edward. I have posted a sampling of dialogue from chapter four where Avon ponders about continuing as a writer. At this point Avon has managed to write one word-- “Something”—

This is a funny and philosophical story full of wisdom and humor. My eight year old granddaughter even “got it” in most places.

Here is an exchange between Avon and Edward as Avon ponders writing as a profession.

“Edward,” he finally said, “do you remember when you told me about the need for writers to be punctual?”
“That was a short time ago.”
“All the same, I’ve been thinking about it. Since writing is so hard, perhaps instead of becoming a writer, I should become an author.”
“Avon, you can’t become an author until you first become a writer.”
“Why is that?”
"A writer is someone who tries to get the words right. That’s why they are called writers. But an author is someone who has written the words wrong. Any critic will tell you that.”
“Is it hard to write right?”
“If a writer isn’t right, he’s bound to be left behind.”
“I’d still like to try.”
“What will you write?”
“That’s my biggest worry. I’m afraid I’ve not had an exciting life.”
“Then write about what you haven’t done.”
“Is that allowed?” asked Avon.
“You should know that the number one rule about writing is: Write what you know. So if you know what you haven’t done, write about that.”
“What if you don’t know what you’ve not done?”
“Then you go on to rule number two.”
“Which is?”
“Write about what you don’t know.”
“Is there a third rule?”
"Yes, stories do usually have three rules. Rule number three is: Write about what you don’t know as if you did know about it.”
“Any fourth rule?”
“Absolutely: Make sure that when you’re writing about what you don’t know as if you did know, conceal the fact that you don’t know what you’re doing.”
“Is there a fifth rule?”
“A crucial one. It’s: Always leave your readers guessing."

I am enjoying this book and learning from it as well. When Avon is asked by Edward, what kind of writer he intends to be, Avon said

“A writer who attracts readers.”
“Then for heaven’s sake, don’t write writing. Write reading.”

Great advice, don’t you think?
Write it down,

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How to Understand the Young Reader

There is an important difference between writing about a child’s world and writing through the view of a child’s eyes. To write effectively not only means writing about what a child is doing but also seeing a child’s world. If you write about a child’s world through adult’s eyes it may appear unrealistic to the child reader but if you share a child’s view you will allow your reader to share it too.

Have you forgotten what it feels like to be a child? Try to imagine being dependent on another person in order to move around as a small baby would. Things look a little different from the floor don’t they? Now imagine you see a toy you want on the table. How can you get it? You can’t walk or talk. How does the world look from this position?

Next get up on your knees and look around. How has your world changed? Finally stand up and walk around the room. Have your feelings about your world changed? Try to remember how you felt as a child. Following are ten questions you can ask yourself as you explore your inner child.

1. What was my favorite book when I was a child?
2. What was the scariest thing that happened to me as a child?
3. What was my greatest happiness as a child? Why?
4. What was my greatest fear? Why?
5. Where did my monsters live? In the dark? Under the bed?
6. What were my monsters like?
7. What made me feel most secure as a child?
8. What was my best school experience? What was my worst?
9. Who was my best friend when I was growing up? Why did we like each other?
10.What were my ambitions/hopes/dreams as a child/teenager?

Begin studying the work of other children’s authors. Do they write from an adult world view or that of a child world view? Listen to their voice. Do they speak as an adult or as a child?

Find out what children worry about or what a key issue in their life is. Think about the realities of life. There are many issues children have to contend with such as bullying, making friends, school exams, attending a new school, environment, and so on.

Authors who live with young children or exposed to them on a daily basis have a wealth of research available. If you do not live around children but have fond memories, hang out at a library after school. Listen to what children have to say. Also try to remember how you felt but don’t write about past experiences. Write about the reality of life today unless of course you are writing a historical piece.

Have you ever visited a place from your past like a house or school? Did you notice that the image does not fit your memory and somehow everything is much smaller now? It feels kinda weird and is a good example of perception from two different view points.

Put some of these suggestions into practice and your writing for children will take on a whole new language.

Write it down

Friday, January 2, 2009

Nine Tips for 2009


1. Set schedules and priorities.
2. Get organized.
3. Use your non-writing time to pre-think.
4. Try a new writing time.
5. Try new surroundings.
6. Stay busy.
7. Set goals within goals.
8. Keep a daily log of writing accomplishments.
9. Set deadlines.

If you want to make more money writing you probably will have to write more.

Forming good work habits is my weakness but this year that will all change. What is your weakness? What have you begun to do about it?

The January issue of Carma's Window Newsletter has been sent to all subscribers. If you would like to have one, sign up and I will send you a copy.

Write it down,