Tag Archives: writing for kids


I saw this on the Mental Floss channel on YouTube and just had to share. Some amazing stuff in here. Which fact blew you away the most?

Slide1I’ve been busy working on a poster to post in the window of Womrath’s bookstore in Bronxville, NY, the location for my next signing. After I was finished with the poster, I started looking for crafts for the kids. So far, I’ve bought flower pinwheels to hand out, but I’m still looking for any ready-made crafts that involve dandelions or sparrows.

Does anyone have any suggestions? For the authors, what has worked best for you to make a signing a fun time for your young fans?

Oh, and if you’re in the Bronxville area in 2 weeks, stop by and say hello!

The importance of illustrations in picture books was never more apparent to me than when I sat down and wrote a little story for my daughters when they were 3 and 5. I was pretty proud of what I wrote and couldn’t wait to read it to them.

I gathered my girls around me on the sofa and proceeded to read a tale written just for them. You know what I got?

Yawns. A look that said can we go now? 

Here is my expert artistic rendering of their reaction to a picture-less picture book.


Years later, when that little story was made into an actual picture book by one of the best publishers around, reaction has been very different. The illustrations make the story come to life. Rob Dunlavey took an idea and made it even better.

And those little girls of mine are now teenagers and ready to help read the story to other little kids. If they yawn now, I’ll assume they were up all night texting with their friends. 🙂

Now, before you call social services on me, this post isn’t as bad as you think.

When I say ‘kids’, I’m referring, in this case, to the children’s books I’ve written. My agent hates it when I call my work my kids because she’s always asking me to delete parts and change them and trash sections that don’t work well. As a man, though, this is the closest I’ll ever come to giving birth.

Why am I stashing my kids…books…in a drawer? Simply, because not everything I write is pure gold, or ready for the world at this time, if ever. Writing for publication is a hit and miss game. My golden idea that sounds perfect in my head may not sound so wonderful to my editor. Or, the idea may be similar to something that was recently published, or is on the docket (that I can’t see) to be published within the next year.

Writing in any genre is about skill, luck and timing. All three have to come into play at the exact same time to lift your book from your laptop to the printed page on a book shelf. And even after you’ve landed your big fish, that doesn’t mean you’re going to pull up a marlin every time you drop your line. (and if you’re fishing for marlin, make sure you have a crew ready to help!)

Over the past 2 years, I’ve written several picture books and 2 middle grade novels. Where are they now? My drawer. Some aren’t just right…yet. Others need some tweaking. One may never see the light of day. So what’s the use of writing these books and sticking them in your drawer? Because that drawer will become your portfolio somwhere down the line. That book that your editor passed on may be just what another is looking for.

So I have a drawer full of kids, waiting to come out and play. Until then, I look in on them from time to time to make sure they’re well fed and happy.

If you want to increase your drawer, I mean portfolio, you may want to look into Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 course, where you work with experts and other authors to write 12 picture books in 12 months. These are 12 first drafts, mind you, but it’s invaluable to have them at the ready.

How many kids do you have in your drawer? How many have gone from the drawer to publication?

My actual kids were not harmed in the making of this blog post. In fact, they were out getting their nails done. 🙂

I found this on Publisher’s Weekly. Click here to read the full Q&A.

One of the best things you can do as a writer is follow the journey, pitfalls and successes of other writers. It  helps you to build a roadmap to your own success. Michael is most certainly a success story.

In her first outing, Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake (2011), the precocious preschooler wants to eat nothing but chocolate cake, and in the subsequent Betty Bunny Wants Everything (2012), she has her heart set on buying everything in the toy store. Michael B. Kaplan’s heroine returns this month in Betty Bunny Didn’t Do It, which has the crafty rabbit blaming the Tooth Fairy for a broken lamp. This Dial picture book features illustrations by Stéphane Jorisch, as did the series’ earlier installments. Kaplan, who is also a playwright and has worked as a television writer and producer on 12 prime-time shows (including Frasier, for which he received an Emmy for best comedy series as a member of the producing staff), talked to Bookshelf about stepping into his new role as children’s book author.

Betty Bunny obviously came to be well after you’d established yourself as a writer in other media. How did you first find your calling as a writer?

I started writing plays in high school, and continued writing plays and musical revue material for the Triangle Club when I was at Princeton. When I graduated, I moved to New York to try to become involved in theater. My playwriting there led to my coming to the attention of a TV agent. I was always interested in TV and film, but had no idea how to access them. This was my opportunity, so I moved to L.A. to write for TV, which I’ve been doing for more than 20 years. And now I’ve added children’s books to my list of writing activities.

Betty Bunny

Click here to read the rest.

I have to admit, when I first started writing, I would look at picture books and say to myself, “Man, that’s the life. Just put together a story that will only take a few hundred words, tops, and I could write and publish a dozen books a year!” Compared to writing a novel, it seemed an easy access to publication.

Boy, was I wrong.  While I was busy cranking out novels for grown ups, I one day decided to write a little story for my girls who were five and three at the time. It was a fun little piece to keep them entertained and mean a little something heavier for me. I called it The Dandelion’s Tale. When my wife first read it, she cried. When I read it to my kids, they showed nominal interest, mostly because it didn’t have any pictures.

Year later, my agent asked to see whatever I had hidden in my manuscript drawer. I sent her my lone attempt at a children’s story and figured she’d send it back and thank me for the effort.

Then a funny thing happened. She loved it. Within a month of shopping it around, we had Disney and Random House showing extreme interest. A couple of weeks after that, I was signing a contract with Schwartz & Wade, a division of Random House.

The hard part was over. I’d make a few edits with my editor and get cracking on the next. I was in the clear, right?

Here’s how wrong I was and what I learned.

  • My editor is one of the best in the business. Over the course of the next year, we whittled out a couple of hundred words and went through maybe a couple of dozen revisions. I’ve written full length novels that were revised far, far less. Perfecting a picture book is the hardest work you’ll ever do.
  • Every word counts! because you have to say so much in a very small space, everything you put on the page has to have meaning and move the story forward.
  • Your prose has to convey motion. When you write, you have to picture the illustrations in your head, even if you can’t draw a stick figure. It’s your story. If you can’t picture how your words will translate into images, how can your illustator?
  • You have to know the age group you’re writing to and make sure the message is spot on and conveyed in a way they can easily understand. Oh, and you have to entertain them so they’ll want to read it (or have it read to them) again and again.
  • The path from acceptance to publication can be loooong. We’re talking glacial. There’s a lot more that goes into the production of a picture book than any other type of publication. Patience is your friend.

After all is said and done, though it requires Herculean heavy lifting, it is also the most rewarding writing you may ever do.

And now that I’ve cleared up any misconceptions you may have, go forth and write! And come back here to tell me how the process has been for you. Do you think it’s the hardest writing endeavor you can take? Just think of those little faces smiling when they see your book.

Re-visioning Your Manuscript with Cheryl Klein

by Emily Goodman

Cheryl Klein, senior editor at Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, shared “Twenty-Five* Revision Techniques (*Subject to Revision)” to a full house at the SCBWI-New York professional lecture series on October 12, 2010.

“This talk grew from seeing how different writers approach the process of revising their manuscripts,” Klein said. She stressed that not all techniques will work for every writer.

For example, although she loves outlines herself, Klein understands that “some people would rather rewrite their entire book than make an outline.” She suggested that authors employ only those techniques from the list that will work best for their own writing style and sense of what their book needs.

Klein has divided the 25 techniques into three categories. The first group, she said, is designed to help writers reconnect with their original vision of their work and evaluate if they have achieved their goals. “After finishing your draft, take some time off,” Klein advised. “When you’ve just finished, you’re still seeing the manuscript through work eyes, not reader’s eyes.”

After some time has passed, Klein suggested writers draft a letter to a sympathetic friend describing their story and its larger themes and explaining what they wanted to do with the book. This, she said, helps writers get back to their original vision.

Other “vision” techniques include making a collage showing key images from the book, and making a playlist or soundtrack for individual characters or the book as a whole, then asking yourself why you chose those songs.

Then Klein suggested moving on to the second group of revision techniques, intended to help writers examine their work with fresh eyes.

Writers should reread the manuscript, she advised, and note what they think is good and bad about it. “Be totally shameless about praising the good stuff in your notes,” she said. “Then strive to bring everything else up to that higher level.”

Another of Klein’s techniques is to list the first ten things each significant character says and does. “This will show you how the character comes off to the reader,” she explained. “Be careful if the first ten things are all negative or unpleasant. You may know that a change in that character is coming, but the reader doesn’t, and may be turned off.”

She described several techniques for evaluating the plot. For novelists, she suggested identifying the key events of both the Action (outer) and Emotional (inner) plots, then checking them for coherence and consistency. “Do all the events fit together?” she asked. “Are there missing steps?”

The third group of techniques guides writers in polishing the manuscript. “Keep an eye on the effect your spot changes have on the whole,” Klein advised, “and make sure they don’t throw off the total effect.” She also suggested looking at the last lines of every scene to make sure they leave the intended emotional resonance in the reader’s mind.

Finally, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Get your manuscript to the best stage you possibly can,” Klein said, “then get it out into the world.”

For more revision techniques, a plot checklist, and other goodies, visit Klein’s website at www.cherylklein.com.

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