Monday, March 30, 2009

So You Want To Write For Children

You want to write for kids, but you don’t know where to start… have I got a deal for you. Carol Lynch Williams and Cheri Pray Earl, both published authors, have teamed up to put together an awesome course geared toward teaching new authors the basics of writing for kids. I have personally been to one of their sessions and I can tell you that it is worth every penny. For a small fee, a few hours of time and a lunch - you bring the lunch,(Cheri would probably like it if you would bring her lunch too- I believe Taco Bell is acceptable), you come away with loads of information. This isn’t the kind of class where you sit and take notes and yawn. You are involved from start to finish. Your input is expected and appreciated. You learn as you brainstorm and interact. It is the kind of class that you could go back to, take over and over and still learn from.
These ladies know their stuff. If you are serious about improving your writing, go check out their website. Luckily, its link is here on my blog. What a happy coincidence. It is called The First Story and it is under 'links for children’s writers'.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The UVU Forum on Children's Literature - 2009

The Forum on Children’s Literature this year was great, much due to the fact that Shannon Hale was one of the key speakers. She is such a kick. That girl had everybody giggling. She started off with a presentation about other authors that she knows well and presented it with photos that looked as if she had been stalking them. It included a photo of Shannon face down with an officer pinning her to the ground with hand cuffs. It was a very effective visual.
Shannon talked about her penchant for writing about girls in towers i.e. Rapunzel and Book of A Thousand Days. She said that she mainly picks the fairy tales that she will work on by the fact that there is something about them that really irks her and she can’t let it go.
In a later session, Ms. Hale said that she doesn’t believe in writer’s block. “Do plumbers get plumbers block?” she asked. She quoted Anna Quindlen, “People have writer’s block not because they can’t write, but because they despair of writing eloquently.”
Shannon said that she never gives up on a story. Her daily goal is 1000 words a day. There are lots of days that she looks at her laptop and thinks that she would rather be doing other things because writing is hard work, but she does find joy in it. She encouraged us to focus on the process and not the product at the end. Publication is only part of the journey.
We should recognize that we are part of a team. Along with book sellers, librarians and teachers, we are all about getting kids to love reading. Isn’t that why we started writing in the first place. She said, “The writer is the servant, the reader is more important than you are.”
As you can see, it was worth going to the conference just to hear Shannon. The classes were well done, and the agent, Abbey Ranger, although admittedly finding herself in culture shock, gave some great advice to all present. In Picture Book Gemology she said that great picture books are like gems. They should have a) clarity, b) precision, c) singularity, and d) symmetry. Of course there was a lot more detail, but you get the picture.
The gallery of illustration was incredible. Shawna Tenney and Manelle Oliphant (under my favorite illustrators link) both had a display. Mike Bohman and Greg Newbold also had incredible artwork there. The degree of talent at this conference was amazing.
If you couldn’t make it this year, mark it on your calendar for next year. You won’t want to miss it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Contests are a great way to jump start your writing. They not only inspire you to get busy, but there’s that added bonus of competition, the little adrenalin, I could win–thing. One of my favorite contests of the year is the one put on by the League of Utah Writers. There are many reasons why I like it. It is open to members and non-members. There are many categories to enter, from poetry to full length books. The entry fees are reasonable at about $3.00 - $6.00 per submission. When you get your work back, you get the added bonus of a professional critique telling you how to improve your work. Not bad for $6.00 bucks, eh.
After you win that contest, you have a nice little certificate to show for it and something to add to your list of credentials. Yes, that’s me, the writer, the woman that won 1st place for her stellar picture book, (can’t hurt, right).
If you are interested in the League of Utah Writers contest, just click on their link, which is here on my blog. The deadline is June 15th, so get cracking.
Other contests are easy to find if you Google “writing contests”. But don’t just jump into any and all contests that are out there. Some contests aren’t necessarily there for your benefit. To learn more about vanity contests go to and become educated. Don’t get paranoid though, contests are still a good thing, just not all of them.