Saturday, February 17, 2007

Another Great Writing Book: The ABCs of Writing for Children

A few days ago I began reading “The ABCs of Writing for Children: 114 Children’s Authors and Illustrators Talk About the Art, the Business, the Craft, & the Life of Writing Children’s Literature” compiled by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff.

I first saw this book in the Writer’s Digest book catalog and later ordered it from Amazon with the credit earned from the commission earned from my blog readers buying books through my blog (thank you!).

This book is what I’ve been looking for as it is the advice from experienced, published authors. Yes, this book is specific to children’s books (all genres) but much of the basic advice is true for all book writing. So far I’ve learned a few things that I should have known about the industry but didn’t yet know but more importantly I am getting inspired and enthusiastic that perhaps, yes, I can really do this.

The book is over 300 pages and has 46 chapters divided by subject. The entire book is comprised of quotes from authors and illustrators. Most of the quotes are quite short and to the point. There are also some in-depth interviews with certain authors.

I really like this book because it is not one author writing their opinion of the “one right way” which may or may not be accurate or inspiring to me.

I am really enjoying this book and can’t put it down. I like reading things like how long it took a great author to get published, how they persevered, how they fit in time to write or illustrate, where their ideas came from, and other such things. By reading what these authors and illustrators went through I am getting a better picture of what it takes to become a children’s book author and am getting closer to figuring out if it is do-able for me. The more I read the more I think, yes, I can do this if I put my heart, mind and soul into it.

I have always wanted to be a writer. I began writing my first book when I was ten years old. I used an out of date hardback diary/calendar which someone gave to my father. I named the characters and defined who they were and wrote 1.5 pages then quit as I was stuck without a story and developed the fear of the blank page. Writing in a hardback bound blank book is not a good idea, I now know, it leaves no room for ripping out pages and second drafts.

In 1990 or 1991, I read “Wishcraft: How To Get What You Really Want” and one exercise was to write out what a perfect day was. It included me being married and waking up to eat breakfast and a little of the newspaper before going off to write in a home office. While I loved that book I will admit to not following the advice or plan to get what I wanted. I take that back. My ideal plan was to be a self-employed writer and I did not follow that path. But my reality plan was to move forward with my career in a money-earning 9-5 day job and I did create a plan for that and I did fulfill that wish. That included going back to college at night and on weekends to earn a bachelor's degree and also changing jobs to a corporate job and then climbing that corporate ladder. Then I left to be a stay at home mother who homeschools her children, and here I am today.

Later when I began dating my now-husband I told him I wanted to write a book and could do it if only I had a computer (writing on long hand annoyed me since I was used to typing quickly at work). He surprised me by giving me one (but I didn’t go on to write anything as I was busy with a corporate job and getting a bachelor’s degree at night).

When in that corporate job, once when in an interview for a promotion in 1996, the interviewer asked me if I woke up tomorrow in my dream job, what would it be. The question threw me for a loop as if I told the truth it would not be anything like the corporate job I held nor did it describe the position I was applying for. I worred that the true answer may not be good for getting the job. I told the truth and said I wanted to be a self-employed non-fiction book writer as I love to write and I love to research and to learn about a subject in depth plus I liked to work with autonomy and to be my own boss. I didn’t get the promotion.

I have had a couple of magazine articles published and some book reviews published, and for two years I was the editor of a column for a magazine. I have written hundreds of book reviews on Amazon. And anyway here I am approaching my 40th birthday still not a published book author. I also have two years of steady blogging under my belt and also am writing something daily and yet still hesistate to call myself a writer.

One good thing going for me is that a bunch of the advice for children’s writer wanna-be’s is stuff I am already doing or have done. Those would be: read a lot of children’s books, as a reader are able to identify what works and what doesn’t work, which is great writing or illustrating vs. not, when sometimes the art is great but the writing is poor. To know what is out there and if there is a gap or a need for a book that I may be interested in writing about. Also to read to children to see their reactions to books, to know what children are like and what they like and don’t like, to be a teacher and to use books to teach children is helpful. Lastly the advice to write every single day to put your “butt in chair” (BIC) and to just write and flex the writing muscle. Well I am doing all of that, so perhaps I have a bunch of the prep work done already!

Lastly if you are not interested in writing a children’s book but love to know about the craft and the industry, and want to hear some quotes from some authors and illustrators whose books you’ve read, you might find this an interesting read.

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1 comment:

Jennifer said...

How wonderful! I'm beginning to feel like I might want to try writing for children, and this sounds like a great place to start.