Writing for Children

Do you want to learn how to write a children's book? Make money writing for children's magazines? Every Friday the Writing for Children podcast publishes from The Institute of Children's Literature. Since 1969, ICL has taught over 470,205 aspiring writers. Listen to the director of both The Institute for Writers and The Institute of Children's Literature and bestselling children's author Katie Davis host the show as she focuses on the craft of writing for children. She talks about how to write a children’s book, how to write for children’s magazines, how to get paid for your writing, and how to get published in the world of kidlit. There are listener questions, with answers from the experts at the Institute, plus hard-to-find resources, tips, and links included in every week's show notes.
RSS Feed Subscribe in Apple Podcasts




All Episodes
Now displaying: July, 2016
Jul 29, 2016

Unusual story forms

Stories for young children are sometimes written in unusual forms. These could be a great way to ...

Get Published in a Children's Magazine.

You’re probably familiar with the standard plotted story that appears on the magazine page with an illustration (or sometimes two). But there are others, and it’s worthwhile to know them, in case they’re exactly the right form for you.


This one is familiar to many (if not most) magazine writers. In a rebus story, concrete nouns are replaced (or illustrated in the line) by small pictures. Thus, if you used the word “tree” in your story, a tiny tree would pop up right in the middle of the sentence and either the printed word “tree” would be in tiny print below it or it would disappear completely. Sometimes there is a kind of “key” in the illustrations bordering the story that reveal what the pictures stand for.


Rebus stories are very short––often 100 words or slightly more. They often have some kind of twist or surprise at the end. They almost always use each concrete noun more than once and limit the number of concrete nouns overall. So, for example, a rebus with a fall theme might show us “tree” three times, “acorn” three times, and “squirrel” four times. They try to avoid nouns that cannot be illustrated, and stick to very simple concrete ideas.

Magazines that use Rebus Stories: Highlights, Ladybug, and Your Big Backyard (their rebus is done in-house, they don’t buy them––but you can see examples there.

Learn more when you listen to the entire episode!

Listener question of the week:

Geraldene asks:

Would today’s fourth grade children be interested in what life was like for kids back in the 1920s and 1930s?

Get the links to the articles below in our downloadable show notes HERE.

How to Write a Rebus

What a great way to get published!

Metafiction - What Is It?

Metafiction is not new, but it’s being used in new ways. This is a great article to learn more about it.

Wordless Spreads in Picture Books

How and why to use them. Awesome article!


Episodes you might like:

Episode 004 - Don't Tell Us A Story

Episode 006 - Holiday and Seasonal Material


Will you please review our podcast … It really makes a huge difference in iTunes. Thank you!  Click here

Jul 22, 2016

Creating Characters for Young Children 

Writing for Children

Stories for very young children tend to come in two flavors: the story with a plot and the story with a purpose. Now, a story with a plot can also have a purpose, but if you don’t have a plot, you better have a purpose. The purpose of a very young child’s story may be to introduce a concept like counting or colors. The purpose may be to introduce the child to a moral or character-building activity like sharing or patience. The purpose may be to introduce the child to a potentially scary activity they will soon face like going to the doctor or starting school. All of these purpose things can also have a plot (and will probably sell far more easily if they do). And if the story has a plot, it probably has a single main character as well.

So let’s think a bit about that main character. Your character needs to be someone the young child can (1) relate to and (2) care about. Your main character may not be the nicest person we know. Children are actually much more forgiving about the flaws of others than we expect. Most kids know that they are not always so nice themselves––especially inside. However your reader needs to relate to the character––the reader needs to find something in the character that feels real.

Listen to the show to learn more!

Listener question of the week:

Claudia asks:

Can a long poem for children, where a character doesn’t really grow, but the story does advance, be a picture book?

Want to ask your own question? Go to


Download the show notes and get the links to the following articles:

The Delicate Art of Character Folding

Advice on character creation in writing for older kids

Humpty Dumpty Submission Guidelines

This group now consists of two magazines: Humpty Dumpty (ages 5-7) and Jack and Jill (ages 6-12)

22 Lessons for Writing Narrative, Expository, and Persuasive Texts.

This is actually a site for teachers, but whoo-boy, is it great for writers to read!


Here's another episode you might like:

EPISODE 007 - The “Write What You Know” Loophole


Jul 15, 2016

Here's my heart.  Go ahead. Stomp on it. | Writing for Children 008

Why You NEED To Separate From Your Work

How to Deal with Rejection - It's Not About You

Anyone in any area of the arts knows it’s difficult to separate yourself from your work. Your writing feels like an extension of who you are. It hurts to hear anything negative said about a piece you’ve written. As long as you’re writing only for your own enjoyment, and not to be published, feeling totally bonded to each thing you produce is fine. But once you begin looking for publication, it can just kill you. Not only does rejection hurt, but every single step in the process of publication has fresh hurt for writers who cannot see the piece they produced as something other than a shard of their soul.

Go to the show notes HERE to get the links to the article included below.

Listener Question of the Week:

Wendy asks:

How do I handle back matter in a picture book? Is it included it in the word count, should the font be different, and how would I include it––as a separate document or within the story?

You can leave your question at If it’s featured on the show, you’ll receive the fab embroidered ICL cap.


Maybe It’s Your Punctuation?

This little PDF about using different punctuation marks is well worth printing out and putting up beside your computer.


12 Tips of Creating an Engaging Flawed Hero

Heroes can be tough. We have to be able to connect with them, but no one should be perfect. Here are some great tips to achieve the balance.


If Only My Mom Owned the Publishing Company

Rick Riordan on having connections. (Do you have any?)


Episode 007 has a question about rejection…click here to listen to the answer.


Join us at our webinar!

Click here to register. If you entered the novel contest, it’s free, and if not, it’s basically a $7 lesson from ICL on how to a whole bunch of great stuff every writer should know how to do!


Jul 8, 2016

It’s the Writing for Children Podcast, with your host, Katie Davis. Katie’s an author and is the Director of the Institute of Children’s Literature, where, since 1969, aspiring writers have learned to write for children and get published.

Young children do not consider themselves unreasonable. They also don’t consider themselves tiny and adorable. They don’t consider their arms to be tiny, their hands to be tiny or their faces to be tiny. All of those things are adult perspectives and they grow out of adults writing about kids from the viewpoint of adults.

Does that mean you can’t write kid stories from life? Sure you can.

Listen to the show to learn more!


Whoohoo! Congratulations to our two winners of the podcast launch giveaway:

  • Laura Ceville
  • Julie Thompson

You'll be getting the huge package of writer's courses and products. Thanks to all who entered!

We have our ongoing writing for children contest right now with $1,300 in cash prizes. Every contest is following by an instructional webinar with the faculty from ICL. All the info is on our homepage, at the bottom.

The Institute for Writers market guides are available here and if you want your odds of getting published to improve, get either the Book Markets or Magazine Markets for Children’s Writers. Book Markets, for example, has

  • over 1,311 (total) entries
  • 101 all-new listings (in total)
  • ways to find out where the latest literary agents are!

 This week's tips are linked in the downloadable show notes:

Research: A Writer’s Best Friend and A Writer’s Worst Enemy

“I have always considered “Write what you know” one of the most useless pieces of advice a beginning author gets…”


Clean Teen Publishing

Accepts teen and new adult manuscripts. 


Rainbow Rumpus

The magazine for youth with LGBT parents.

Rainbow Rumpus pays $300 per story on publication.


Another episode you might like:

Episode 002 - Three Keys To Writing Nonfiction For Children


Don’t forget to leave your questions:

The faculty of the Institute of Children’s Literature answers the podcast questions.

You can leave your question at


“My journey began with an ICL course and now I have five traditionally published books (in Christian teen fiction trilogy, middle grade fiction, and marriage nonfiction) and a cheeky little self-published picture book.”

Laura Caron Thomas, ICL graduate (Writing for Children and Teens and Writing Children’s Books)


Jul 1, 2016

Really? Now you want to talk about the start of summer?

Writing Holiday and Seasonal Material


Whether for Christmas, Independence Day, Fourth of July, Hanukkah, or whatever, magazines are a prime spot to sell your writing for children, but you need to submit it way early! Holidays as a cultural experience are welcome at many magazines. They expand reader horizons. You can also do well with holiday crafts, recipes, and activities. These are especially welcome if they offer more of a season feeling than a tie to a specific holiday. If a treat can be shaped like a Christmas tree or a Chanukah dreidel, you can probably find an interested magazine but if it can be shaped like a snowman, a snowflake, or a snowy tree, you'll have even more takers.

Learn more by listening to this episode.

The tips in the show notes, which you can download at include:

Chase’s Calendar of Events -

If you're looking to tie a promotional event to a special month, travel to a music festival halfway around the world, blog about a historical milestone or do a celebrity birthday round-up on your blog, Chase's Calendar of Events is the one resource that has it all.

Goofy Days of the Year -

Get inspiration for new stories, or tie your book into one of these funny holidays.

How to Tie Your Book Into a Holiday -

One creative way to publicize your book is to tie it to a holiday or special event. You'll be able to reach your audience on a more personal level by promotion your book alongside a holiday, theme month, or cause.

Our listener question of the week is from Angelique and she asks, "What are the key differences between writing a story for a magazine and a book? How can we tell if our story is better suited for one or the other?"

Episodes you might like: Episode 002 - Three Keys to Writing Nonfiction for Children

Episode 006 - Magazine Nonfiction That Connects