FAQs from Kids
I’ve always loved to read and when my kids were young, I loved reading to them. It was then that I rediscovered the wonderful world of children’s literature. I had been writing for magazines and newspapers for a while, but then on a cross country road trip with my kids, while listening to a children’s audio book, I came up with an idea for my own middle grade novel. I got so excited that I had my daughter take notes on a map as I rattled off thoughts about my story. When I got home, I started writing. As I began to explore the craft of writing for children, with my kidlit creativity roused, I found that I was tuning in to story ideas all around me. And that extended to ideas for picture books. I love the economy, word play and poetry of picture books. I also love getting to work side-by-side with award-winning artists. I hope to publish a novel someday, but for now, my picture books are keeping me plenty busy.
Story ideas are everywhere. I find them in the funny – sometimes naughty – and tender things kids say or do. I find them in the crazy – sometimes naughty – things I did as a kid. I find ideas in art and photographs and on walks – yes, ideas are everywhere. You just need to look at the world and ask, “What’s the story here?” or “What if …?” – like “What if that lamp grew tentacles?” or “What if dinosaurs drove fire trucks?” or “What if your dog became principal of the school?” Once you start thinking like a writer, you’ll find it hard to turn off the story idea faucet.
My favorite thing about writing for kids is trying to think like a kid, and then when all the hard work of writing is done, watching that kid fall in love with a book.
I like to switch it up. When I write longhand it’s usually on scrap paper or in old spiral notebooks leftover from my kids … you know, the ones with a few pages left. It’s a green thing. I use those notebooks to scribble out ideas, play around with words, experiment with rhythms. When an idea starts feeling like a story, I open up a computer document and mess around there. But then I might print it out – always on scrap paper, there’s that green thing again – and revise and rewrite by hand. Then it’s back to the computer. I go back and forth like this until I think it’s done.
Whether you love to write or hate to write, my advice is the same. First, read, read, read. Read a lot. Read often. Comic books, magazines, cereal boxes, funny books, sad books, adventures, fantasies – whatever you like … and some things you don’t. Reading can be the best teacher of writing. I actually schedule reading time into my work schedule. Then write. Don’t be afraid of the blank page or the blank computer screen. Don’t be afraid of sounding stupid. Just do it. Get it down. Write fast. Really fast. Write when you’re not expecting to write. There are a million different ways to write. Start with something you enjoy. Make lists, doodle, rant, rap, write poems, wacky stories, diary entries. But just write. And if you want to, you can always go back and revise. The more you write, the easier it becomes, AND the better a writer you will be.
And if you’re thinking you might like to publish what you’ve written, my friends over at Teaching Authors have created this handy list of places that might publish your work.
I have loads of information on my website. Click around and explore. Read all the FAQs. Take a peek at my media kit. In there you’ll find pictures, interviews, book reviews and a whole lot more. If you have other questions that aren’t answered on my website, you may contact me and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible.
Crunchy peanut butter. Right off the spoon.
While I wish I could travel the globe to sign my books, unfortunately, I can’t. So the next best thing is an autographed book sticker for your book. If you would like one or more, please complete my contact form (mailing address is required) and include titles of the books purchased and personalization requests in the message box.
FAQs from Fellow Writers and Others
How exciting!! Congratulations!!
I suggest you first contact your local chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, explore their message board and check out all the resources they have available. Next, find a critique group either in your area or online. Here’s great advice about finding a group. Honest critiques of your manuscript are a necessary step in getting published. Then be prepared to revise and rewrite until it’s right. If you need a fresh read of your picture book manuscript, check out my Picture Book Peek Weeks on my blog. You can sign up to be notified of upcoming peeks via my contact form. Also, see my article “Does Your Picture Book Premise Have Power?” and test your manuscript against my list. When you’re ready to submit, The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market will be a valuable reference.
I’ve benefited from so much great advice over the years. And I’m forever indebted to the people who’ve shared it. But there is one thing I like to keep in front of me, kind of my go-to quote, where I try to land with all my kidlit writing. From editor Allyn Johnston “. . . the true goal of all this work we do together: a child, a story, and a deep and long-lasting connection between them.” That, in my mind, says it all.
I do donate books to many charities with which I am personally connected. I’m willing to schedule author events in conjunction with charity events that make sense with the audiences and themes of my books. As I’m only given a limited number of my books free, I have to purchase them for donation. This makes honoring every request impossible. However, if you would like to write to me about a specific charity or author event in conjunction with a charity, please contact me and I’ll consider your proposal.
FAQs from Teachers/Parents/Librarians/Book Clubs
Free Downloadable Teacher’s Guides tied to learning standards are available for all my books. Please check out my Schools/Libraries page.
Free downloadable materials and tools are available on my Schools/Libraries page.