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Writing for Children: How to Write a Children's Book, Writing for Magazines, Getting Paid for Writing, Getting Published

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.
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Now displaying: Category: general
Nov 17, 2017

I'M GRATEFUL FOR WRITING

Writing for a living can be scary, frustrating, exhausting, and just plain hard. And things like rejection or lack of support from the people around us can cause us to lose sight of all the wonderful things about writing.

So, since Thanksgiving is a great time for meditating on good things: here are some of the things I'm most grateful for relating to writing.

I'M THANKFUL FOR READERS
Without readers, writing can still be a wonderful pastime. It can help you make sense of the world around you and within you. It can help us work through pain. It can let us relive joy. But all of those things are heightened when you bring readers to the table. Readers make the things we write bigger, because the reader brings thoughts, loves, hates, and beliefs into the reading experience and that means the words I write, or you write, can expand beyond our imagination. And readers give us an opportunity to effect. There are few things I enjoy more than making readers laugh or scare them silly or making them think. Readers rock. I'm so glad to have them.

For more of what I'm thankful for and inspiration to start your own grateful list, list to the full episode.

What's your question?

Tell us and we'll answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak.

NEW Expanded Critique Service
We've just expanded the IFW Critique Service! You can now get a full critique of your manuscript whether it's a picture book, middle grade chapter book, YA, Memoir, Fantasy, or Adult Fiction. It's time to make your story the best it can be before you send it to that perfect agent or publisher. Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

Nov 3, 2017

REWARDS AND CHALLENGES

Long ago, researchers were studying how creatures react to reward. They learned that if you put a "reward station" in a rat's cage and have a treat appear every time the rat pushes a button, the rat will push the button a lot at first, then taper off. Eventually, he'll push the button only when he wants a treat and his desire for the treat seems to lessen over time. But if you have the reward station only produce a treat sometimes, and give nothing the rest of the time, the rat will actually push the button a lot more often and that frequency will never taper off.

The whole model of action/reward is one to consider as a writer, especially a new writer. If you can write things that aren’t necessarily your favorite type of writing to do, you may get more rewards than failures. How? How-to, actually. Say you write a lot of how-to pieces. If you’re able to sell them to magazines, and are having a much harder time selling your fiction, the publication experience with the how-to pieces can give you enough reward to pull you through those dark, rejection blues.

I think this is something that can have value for any writer. If you’re getting the blues about the struggle to publish a picture book or the rough job of finishing a novel, consider taking a small break and doing a piece
 that will give you a treat at that reward station. You could write for a no pay market or write an essay on your writing journey as you've been living it and consider one of the online markets for it. You could offer a guest
 blog post on writing to a writing site. During the tough times, these rewards can be enormously helpful to morale.

What's your question?

Tell us and we'll answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak.

NEW Expanded Critique Service
We've just expanded the IFW Critique Service! You can now get a full critique of your manuscript whether it's a picture book, middle grade chapter book, YA, Memoir, Fantasy, or Adult Fiction. It's time to make your story the best it can be before you send it to that perfect agent or publisher. Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

Oct 27, 2017

WHO'S ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS?

There's is a lot of research that goes into figuring out which publishers and agents to submit to when your manuscript is ready. In this episode, Katie interviews Marni McNiff, the editor of the ICL Market Guides.

The Book Market Guide for Children's Writers and the Magazine Market Guide for Children's Writers comes out each year with updated information and new listings for publishers and agents. Marni and her team have done the legwork to help you find the perfect home for your stories.

Marni gives tips and tricks for using the Market Guides as well as a behind-the-scenes peek at how the guides are put together. If you're going to be ready to go out on submission in the coming year, don't miss this episode.

What's your question?

Tell us and we'll answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak.

NEW Expanded Critique Service
We've just expanded the IFW Critique Service! You can now get a full critique of your manuscript whether it's a picture book, middle grade chapter book, YA, Memoir, Fantasy, or Adult Fiction. It's time to make your story the best it can be before you send it to that perfect agent or publisher. Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

Aug 26, 2017

HARD TIMES HAPPEN

People often tell me how lucky I am to make a profession from something I enjoy deeply. And I am thrilled that this has been possible for me. I love being a writer. Except when I don't. No profession is made up of only happy days. Since I line up deadlines, I then I have to meet them. All of them. Some days, that's hard. Some days the words not only don't pour out of me, they don't even dribble. Some days, it just feels too hard. And that's when the professional side is going well. There are also the surprises, like when a publisher cancels a project you've been working on or decides not to publish something they've already said yes to. Those days are rough.

For writers who have been published, and especially for those who have been published with some regularity, it can be difficult to talk about the hard days. You don't want to sound ungrateful. And you don't want to sound like you're actually whining about your success, or bragging through complaining. There are lots of ways to be a braggart and none of us want to fall into any of those. So it can be easy to let the hard days isolate you from other writers. But the community of writers is sometimes the only support we have, so we need to work through the hard days as well as dance through the good ones.

Do you have questions about how the children's publishing industry works?

Tell us and we'll answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak.

Is your manuscript submission-ready?
Submit your manuscript to our critique service and one of our instructors will give you a full critique to make your story the best it can be before you send it to that perfect agent or publisher. Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

Aug 4, 2017

Picturing Picture Book Summit

My guest today is fellow Picture Book Summit Co-Founder Julie Hedlund. This episode is a rebroadcast from my previous podcast Brain Burps About Books. In this interview, we talk about how Picture Book Summit came to be and what you, as a picture book writer, can learn from an online conference.

If you're curious how an online writing conference works, you're in luck! We are hosting a FREE Mini Summit on August 22, 2017. In "Don't Write Your Grandma's Picture Books," the Picture Book Summit Team will reveal how music, movies, and media have changed the ways kids read picture books, how kids today are in search of more sophisticated humor and shorter pacing, and how nonfiction has drastically changed in the last decade. 

You can see all the details at

http://bit.ly/PBMini2017

 

Do you have questions about how the children's publishing industry works?

Tell us and we'll answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak.

Is your manuscript submission-ready?
Submit your manuscript to our critique service and one of our instructors will give you a full critique to make your story the best it can be before you send it to that perfect agent or publisher. Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

May 19, 2017

FUN WITH SOUND
One way to add bounce to your writing is to play with sound. You can choose words that depict sounds like bump, crash, bang, or gong–that’s called onomatopoeia. Which means the word sounds like what it is, or the sound it’s making, like “zip.” Or you can play with sounds within words. That can be more subtle, but still lots of fun.

Alliteration is the repetition of similar word sounds, and can take the form of assonance or consonance. When a vowel sound is repeated, it is assonance; repeated consonants create consonance (which is often identified as simply alliteration).

Listen to the full episode for more fun ways to use sound in your stories. Read more in our show notes: http://writingforchildren.com/052

 

What's the writing question you have but are afraid to ask?

Tell us and we'll answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak.

 

Does your manuscript need a fresh set of eyes?
Submit your manuscript to our critique service and one of our instructors will give you a full critique to make your story the best it can be. Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

May 12, 2017

GET CRAFTY!

Crafts are one of those things that many writers don’t really consider when coming up with a publishable project. But the magazines that use crafts, need a steady stream. The reason crafts are a staple of many children's magazines is because they help to make content interactive. They don’t just offer a story or article, but let the child move beyond the magazine to create something new. Interactivity is a goal of many magazines, work that engages the reader and also leads to the reader doing something. A craft can fit this bill. Also, crafts and other hands-on creative activities are particularly popular with the “maker movement” that has taken over popular culture.


Craft how-to articles are not difficult to write, either, and you can be paid for them. In fact, writing a craft article has a lot in common with writing a recipe. You usually have a list of ingredients (materials and tools needed) and a list of directions.

Listen to the full episode for three keys to an effective craft for children’s magazines. Read more in our show notes: http://writingforchildren.com/051

 

What's the writing question you have but are afraid to ask?

Tell us and we'll answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak.

 

Does your manuscript need a fresh set of eyes?
Submit your manuscript to our critique service and one of our instructors will give you a full critique to make your story the best it can be. Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

Apr 14, 2017

Interviews with Champions of Children's Literature

Today we celebrate the National Ambassadors for Young People's Literature!

Jon Scieszka is the author of many bestselling children's titles, including The Stinky Cheese Man, which won a Caldecott Honor medal, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, and the Time Warp Trio chapter book series. Jon was the first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and served from 2008-2009.

Katherine Paterson is the two-time winner of the Newbery Medal (Bridge to Teriabithia and Jacob Have I Loved) and the National Book Award (The Great Gilly Hopkins and The Master Puppeteer). She was also name a a Living Legend by the Library of Congress. Katherine was named the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature for 2010-2011.

Walter Dean Myers has received two Newbery Honor Awards and five Coretta Scott King Awards for books including Sunrise over Fallujah, Fallen Angels, Monster, and Harlem. Walter served as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature from 2012-2013.

Kate DiCamillo is an award-winning author including winning the Newbery Medal for The Tale of Despereaux in 2003 and Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures in 2014. DiCamillo, the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature for 2014-2015, says about stories, "When we read together, we connect. Together, we see the world. Together, we see each other."

Read more in our show notes: http://writingforchildren.com/047

 

You've got questions. We've got answers.

Let us answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak.

 

Polish up your manuscript before you submit. Get a critique from an ICL instructor.
Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

Apr 7, 2017

ASK YOURSELF

1. Does your story have a clear main character? Short fiction can’t support a rambling assortment of characters vying for the main character job. Omniscient viewpoint nearly never works in short fiction – readers need a main character to relate to, care about, and focus on. The more you dilute the job of main character, the more you dilute the impact of your story.


2. Does your story have a clear problem or conflict facing the main character? The story problem needs to be important, challenging, and emotionally significant. The story problem needs to apply pressure to the main character. It should be clear that the main character could not simply walk away from this problem.


3. Is the story problem solved by the main character? Sometimes a main character cannot solve his own problem. It is simply too big for him. However, the resolution of the story must not be taken completely out of his hands. His efforts must be crucial in bringing about the ending of the story. For example, a child could not carry his hurt father out of the wilderness, but the child’s efforts would have to be key to bringing help to his father. Don’t take the job away from your main character.

For more questions to ask yourself about your short story, listen to the entire episode.

Read more in our show notes: http://writingforchildren.com/046

 

You've got questions. We've got answers.

Let us answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak.

 

Polish up your manuscript before you submit. Get a critique from an ICL instructor.
Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

Mar 31, 2017

WHAT NOT TO DO

Don’t try to give a manuscript to any editor or agent. If they want it, they’ll ask for it. It’s far more likely they will ask you to mail it to them so they don’t have to pack it. But nothing makes a bad impression on an editor or agent quicker than to have you hand them a manuscript. If the editor or agent shows interest in your work, offer a card with a note on the back saying you’re planning to follow up on the interest with a submission. No manuscripts; really.

WHAT NOT TO WEAR

Choose clothes that are comfortable. You’ll be doing two things a lot: sitting and walking. If your shoes pinch, it’ll be a lot harder to be cheerful and friendly, and being hot and sticky is no fun either. You can go funky, fun, or serious, but again, remember you are making an impression, and you can only do that once… for the first time at least.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?

For more no-nos, tips on freebies you can expect, and what to pack, listen to the entire episode.

Read more in our show notes: http://writingforchildren.com/045

 

You've got questions. We've got answers.

Let us answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak.

 

Polish up your manuscript before you submit. Get a critique from an ICL instructor.
Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

Mar 24, 2017

WHAT TO EXPECT AT A WRITING CONFERENCE
Many people sign up for writing conferences hoping they’ll send a manuscript home with an editor, or even better, be offered a contract right there at the conference. Has that ever happened at a conference? Probably. But you’re much more likely to come home with a cold than a contract. Does this mean writing conferences aren’t worth your time and money? Not at all. It does mean that you need to know what you can expect to gain from a conference so you can prepare for all it has to offer.

BEGIN BY BEING CHOOSY
When choosing a conference to attend, it’s easy to think “big” is “best.” Some writers start right out with one of the two big national conferences from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators as their first. But these huge conferences can be overwhelming. It’s difficult to connect with other writers in the bustling conference atmosphere (unless you’ve preplanned to meet up with online friends) and virtually impossible to chat with any of the conference presenters (with the huge number of people in attendance, the conference often has to limit contact for the presenter’s welfare). You will receive a wealth of valuable information, but if it’s your first conference, your overall impression may be that you didn’t “do it right” because you didn’t talk to people much.

Smaller conferences can be better because you’ll get more chance to meet other conference attendees, and there is more chance to interact with presenters also. However, not all small conferences are created equal. It’s important to choose wisely. One way to do that is to “check out” certain things.

For more helpful advice on making the most of your conference experience, listen to the full episode.

Read more in our show notes: http://writingforchildren.com/044

 

You've got questions. We've got answers.

Let us answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak.

 

Polish up your manuscript before you submit. Get a critique from an ICL instructor.
Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

 

Mar 17, 2017

What's an ISBN?

It’s an International Standard Book Number. It’s a unique number code given to books so that anyone who wants to buy or stock a specific book can find that specific book. Bookstores, libraries, readers, publishers, or your fans can search and find your book based on its ISBN.

Every ISBN consists of thirteen digits, though it used to be ten until around 2007-8, and whenever it is printed it actually says ISBN right in front of the number.

You can buy an ISBN through CreateSpace, which means they’ll be listed as the publisher, however, if you ever want your book to be carried by an independent bookseller, spend the money and purchase what you need through Bowker. Why? Bookstores do not usually like to carry books published by Amazon, and Amazon owns CreateSpace. Self-published books, though gaining ground (especially if you produce them correctly by using aprofessional editor and designer), still do not have the caché that traditionally published books have, so you want every advantage you can get.

To hear more about ISBNs including when you do and don't need one, listen to the full episode.

Read more in our show notes: http://writingforchildren.com/043

 

You've got questions. We've got answers.

Let us answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak.

 

Polish up your manuscript before you submit. Get a critique from an ICL instructor.
Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

 

Nov 18, 2016

Robyn asks:
Can you explain the importance of stressed and unstressed syllables in prose picture books to help guide the rhythm. Can you explain it? (Better than I just did!)


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


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?


Angelique 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?


Kimberley asks:
How do you know when you’ve hit the right audience age range? Do you need to have kids in that age group or just read a lot of books targeted to that age?

Now leave us YOUR questions!

The faculty of the Institute of Children’s Literature are ready to answer your writing questions. Leave your question at http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak. If it’s featured on the show, you’ll receive an awesome embroidered ICL all cotton baseball cap!

For more information on questions featured in this episode listen to this episode.

Read more in our show notes: http://writingforchildren.com/026

 

What’s Working in Your Manuscript, What’s Not, and How to Fix It:
Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

Sep 30, 2016

BE A GOOD PARTNER!

These tips come from notes taken at a Writer's Retreat several years ago when the wonderful illustrator Brian Lies helped us gain an illustrator's eye view:

* Think about how things look as you write.


Sometimes we writers choose creatures for a story based on how funny they sound to our ear. We might giggle at the idea of an elephant who goes to live with a family of mice––but think for a minute about the job of the illustrator. How big is an elephant? How big is a mouse? How do we make them both fit on a page? Are we saddling the illustrator with choosing between showing the whole elephant (and little dots of mice) or showing the whole mouse (and just the tip of the elephant's trunk or perhaps a toe).

* Consider little things that make illustrations interesting.

It might be interesting to read a story that is a conversation between two kids––but after the first illustration, it's pretty dull to draw it. Keep the characters moving --new actions, new places, and new times of day can go a long way to making the story look good.

Find out how to be a good partner for your illustrator by listening to this episode!

Read more in our show notes plus get a handy guide on word count in today's children's publishing market at http://writingforchildren.com/019

 

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 http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak. If it’s featured on the show, you’ll receive an awesome embroidered ICL all cotton baseball cap

What’s Working in Your Manuscript, What’s Not, and How to Fix It:
Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

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