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Children’s Writing

Writing advice for authors of children’s books — including picture books, young adult novels, middle grade fiction, and more.

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by A.B. Westrick

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1. Stop trying to find time to write. Instead, make time. When you’re in “trying-to-find” mode, you’re not giving priority to your writing. Identify the time of day when you’re the most creative, then claim that time. Show up at the page. Get up early if you have to. Lock a door if you have to. Turn off your phone and Internet. Whatever it takes for you to carve out your time—do it. Make writing happen.

GIVEAWAY: A.B. is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: leadrian won.) Read more

Polish Your Work Before Submitting: 6 Revision Tips

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1. Listen to your critique group. When I first began to write, I was fortunate to meet some wonderful writers who became fabulous friends. We met regularly to work on our manuscripts. We worked to give constructive feedback to one another and because we listened to each other, our writing got better. We listened when the group told us the funny parts weren’t really all that funny. We listened when the group thought our chapters were too long. We listened when the group couldn’t relate to our characters. Listening to the group’s honest feedback made us dig deeper into our stories, making them stronger and better. Read more

Create Characters Agents & Editors Love For Middle Grade and YA Novels: Nov. 14 Webinar by Cheryl Klein (of Harry Potter Editing Fame)

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Readers may buy novels for their storylines—the facts that they can learn from the flap copy or an Internet blurb. But readers love books for their characters, because compelling characters bring feeling and meaning to what would otherwise be a mere list of events (also known as the plot). And if you’re trying to hook an agent or editor, nothing will make your opening chapters stand out more than truly distinctive characters: fictional people, whom you have made real, who compel that agent or editor to want to find out what happens next.

In this live webinar — titled “Create Characters Agents & Editors Love For Middle Grade and YA Novels” – Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic executive editor Cheryl Klein will teach you multiple strategies for getting readers interested and invested in your characters. She’ll draw on examples from popular middle-grade and YA novels to show you how successful authors work their magic, and provide a solid, actionable list of techniques that can be applied singly or in combination to strengthen your characterizations, from your protagonist and villain down to your supporting cast. By the end of the webinar, you’ll be well equipped to create characters who make agents and editors want to read more of your work, and eventually keep all readers turning the pages. It all happens at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, and lasts for 90 minutes. Read more

Ripple Grove Press Seeks Picture Book Submissions

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Meet Ripple Grove Press, they’re a publishing house actively seeking picture book submissions. Check them out and see if they’re a good fit for your work.

ABOUT RIPPLE GROVE: Ripple Grove Press is a family-owned children’s picture book publishing company started in 2013. “Our mission is to create picture books that come from life experiences, elegant imagination, and the deep down passion in our hearts. We want each Ripple Grove Press book to enlighten a child’s mind with fun and wonder. Ripple Grove Press searches for a powerful ‘timeless’ feel in each book we publish. Our stories will make you laugh or think or keep you guessing and dreaming. We hope our books find their way to the cozy spot on the floor and are the last ones read at bedtime.” Read more

New Literary Agent Alerts: Jodell Sadler and Loretta Caravette of Sadler-Caravette Children’s Literary

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Jodell is seeking: Jodell is interested in YA, MG (especially funny) , fiction and nonfiction, book proposals, and picture books. She will also coach writers wanting to self publish. She simply loves a well-paced story that moves her between joy and tears.

Loretta is seeking: Loretta specializes in MG fiction and early readers, and will focus on film rights management. Her academic article, Portrait of the Reader as a Young Child, was published in Children & Libraries: the Journal of the Association for Library Services to Children. Read more

Tackling Tough Topics in YA

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When I started working on my young adult novel My Life After Now, which is about a teenage girl who learns she is HIV-positive, the only thing I was thinking about was telling a good story.

Okay, I knew I specifically wanted to tackle the subject of HIV/AIDS because not only has teen literature largely skirted the issue, but society as a whole has become somewhat complacent about the virus, now that people aren’t dying from it at the rate they were twenty and thirty years ago. I also knew I wanted my character to contract HIV throughout the course of the book, as a direct result of her own actions, since that is how most people acquire it.

GIVEAWAY: Jessica is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: juliette19 won.) Read more

Making Your Children’s Book Shine and Stand Out Above the Rest — Aug. 22 Webinar With Critique by Agent Danielle Smith

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Picture this: You’re sending your children’s book manuscript off for its very first round of submissions, but you hesitate. Everyone questions their work and often wonder if it’s “finished.” After dozens and possibly hundreds of revisions when do you say enough is enough? When your hard work is ready to put into the hands of an agent, editor, or reader you want it to shine from the first to the last line. So how do you best accomplish this?

In this brand new live webinar, “Making Your Children’s Book Shine and Stand Out Above the Rest,” instructor and literary agent Danielle Smith will show you how to put the finishing touches on a manuscript and enable you to feel confident when sending it out to agents & editors. In addition to sharing her own tips and tricks, Danielle will examine pages from recently published picture and chapter books to show you examples of those spots that can often make or break your manuscript in the eyes of readers. It all happens at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, and lasts 90 minutes. Don’t forget that at three literary agents have signed writers after critiquing their work as part of a WD webinar! Read more

Debut Author Interview: Marcia Strykowski, Author of CALL ME AMY

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I love debut author interviews. I think illuminating the journey of these authors can help show a path to success that you can emulate and follow. Today, our interview is with middle grade author Marcia Strykowski.

Marcia works at a public library. Earlier between earning her BS in Fine Arts and raising her children, she worked for seven years in textbook publishing. After numerous magazine and anthology contributions, CALL ME AMY (Luminis Books, May 2013) is her first novel (middle grade). Publishers Weekly said, “Strykowski lovingly captures seaside Maine and the travails of adolescence in her quiet, sweet-natured debut novel.” The book was also praised by Booklist, Kirkus and Midwest Book Review. A second book about Amy is scheduled for a fall 2014 release. To learn more about the author and her books, visit www.marciastrykowski.com. Read more

Debut Author Interview: Jesse Klausmeier, Author of OPEN THIS LITTLE BOOK

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Anybody who reads this blog knows that I love interview debut authors and novelists. It’s a special treat to get to know debut author Jesse Klausmeier today, because 1) she is a debut picture book author/illustrator (and finding such a debut writer is not easy!), and 2) she used my very own guide, the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market to get published. How cool! So if you are writing picture books for kids or may in the future, listen to what Jesse had to say about her journey to publication.

Jesse Klausmeier is the author of the debut picture book, OPEN THIS LITTLE BOOK, illustrated by Suzy Lee, which was named an Amazon Top Pick for January 2013, and received a starred review in Kirkus Reviews, as well as many other very positive reviews. Find her on Twitter. Read more

Debut Author Interview: C.L. Clickard, Author of the Picture Book VICTRICIA MALICIA

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It’s time for another awesome debut author interview — illuminating the pathway of a first-time author who got their book published. Blog interviews like these are designed to show what writers did correct and how their books came to life. Today we meet picture book author C.L. Clickard and her book VICTRICIA MALICIA: BOOK LOVING BUCCANEER (2012, Flashlight Press). Publishers Weekly said of the book, “Rollicking, sea-chantey verse and slapstick humor make this a promising readaloud.” Read more

Debut Author Interview: Melanie Crowder, Author of the Middle Grade Novel, PARCHED

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It’s time to meet another debut author whose first book came to life recently. Debut author interviews are great to read because their paths to success are a roadmap for others who want to follow in their footsteps. Today’s interview is with Melanie Crowder, author of the debut 2013 middle grade novel, PARCHED. Melanie Crowder is a ceramist, painter, and sculptor who received her MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College. She lives in the foothills of the Rockies. Read more

“How I Write a Picture Book” — Author Steve Light Explains His Process

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The sketchbook is filled with pictures and possibilities of what the story can be. I leave it up to my Editor and Art Director to pick out the things that they think our audience will respond to. Then I start figuring out what is going to happen inside this wonderful 32-page picture book I get to create. Some writing will take place at this point but only of plot points or beats I want to hit in the story. Sometimes a line or a phrasing will appear. Read more

Debut Author Interview: Kenneth Kraegel, Author of the Picture Book KING ARTHUR’S VERY GREAT GRANDSON

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It’s rare to get to sit down and chat with a debut picture writer. It seems that because picture books are sometimes a tough sell, finding a true blue debut is not the easiest task. But today I am lucky to sit down and talk with Kenneth Kraegel, author of the 2012 debut picture book KING ARTHUR’S VERY GREAT GRANDSON (Candlewick), which features the title character seeking out adventure and facing down monsters. Along with getting a starred review in Publishers Weekly, the book was a New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2012 as well as a Wall Street Journal Children’s Book of 2012. Read more

5 Tips for How to Write a Young Adult Crossover Novel

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1. While you should certainly feel free to include characters of whatever age you choose, make sure there’s at least one teenager. While young adults often read books without teenaged characters (I was partial to Somerset Maugham stories and Solzhenitsyn, to cite a needlessly bizarre example) those generally aren’t considered part of the YA genre.

2. Make things more complex, not less. You may feel an impulse to simplify things in an attempt to make your story more accessible, but I would resist that. Read more

Mike Jung: An Interview With the Author of GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES

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How did you find your agent?

Mike: EMLA agent Ammi-Joan Paquette contacted me after reading whatever lunacy i was spouting on my blog back in 2009, and I ultimately signed with her in June of 2010. A few months earlier I’d already hurled my manuscript onto Arthur Levine’s slush pile in a fit of megalomaniacal optimism, and in August 2010 I took Arthur’s master class at the SCBWI summer conference. We hit it off, and shortly thereafter Joan called to tell me that Arthur wanted to publish my book. So the final offers of representation and publication happened in kind of a whirlwind. Read more

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Michele Jakubowski

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7. Write everything down. I came up with the initial idea for the Sidney & Sydney series as I was falling asleep one night. I knew myself well enough to know that I had to get up immediately and write down my thoughts. I had been burned several times before when I thought I’d remember my ideas later. I never do. Now I have scraps of paper all over my house with thoughts on the book I’m currently working on or for future projects. Now if only I could work on my handwriting so I could read all of those great ideas later.

GIVEAWAY: Michele is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: sfullmer won.) Read more

Picture Books Are Not Just for Children: 10 Reasons Why

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2. Picture book language is often more sophisticated than the first chapter books that children read, and therefore an excellent way for children to learn language. It is here that children, and others, can learn vocabulary, imagery, rhythm, shape, structure, conciseness, emotional power.

3. The picture book is the most flexible of all literary formats. You can do almost anything in a picture book. This flexibility encourages creativity, in both writer and reader. It broadens the mind, and the imagination. And given today’s challenges, we desperately need more creativity, broadened minds and imagination. Read more

Author Interview: Tamera Will Wissinger, Author of the Debut Middle Grade GONE FISHING

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I am a huge fan of debut authors and new writers, which is why I interview so many on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog. Today’s getting-to-know-you interview is with Tamera Will Wissenger, author of the debut middle grade contemporary adventure, GONE FISHING (Houghton Mifflin, March 2013), illustrated by Matthew Cordell, which uses poetry in its writing. Reading how debut authors got published is a great roadmap for those looking to follow in their footsteps. Read more

Debut Author Interview: N. Griffin, Author of the Young Adult Novel THE WHOLE STUPID WAY WE ARE

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I love sharing interviews with first-time authors here on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog. I think they’re a great resource for others trying to get published, as each interview serves as a mini-roadmap of what a writer did correct on their journey as well as what they wish they did different. Today I’d like you to meet N. Griffin, author of the young adult debut THE WHOLE STUPID WAY WE ARE (Feb. 2013, Atheneum Books). In a starred review, Publishers Weekly said of the novel, “Griffin’s portrayal of [the main characters' friendship and their] sense of injustice, frustration, and rage is wrenching and difficult to forget.” Kirkus Reviews said, “Readers who invest in this quirky set of characters and circumstances will be rewarded.”

GIVEAWAY: N. Griffin is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: DanielJayBerg won.) Read more

Debut Author Interview: Laurie Boyle Crompton, Author of BLAZE

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I love introducing my blog readers to the debut author of today. I believe that showing them the paths of those writers who have found success recently is an excellent way to provide roadmaps to those looking to follow in their footsteps. Examine what people did right — and learn from them! Today’s debut author interview is with Laurie Boyle Crompton about her young adult novel, BLAZE (OR LOVE IN THE TIME OF SUPERVILLAINS), out Feb. 2013 from Sourcebooks Fire. Read more

Writing Historical Fiction Based On A Family Story

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1. Research Comes First. Because I new little about tuberculosis or life on a farm in the 1920’s, I began reading novels set in that time period, North Carolina history books, memoirs written from sanatoriums, and doctors’ accounts of the disease. I consulted experts at the North Carolina Museum of History and the Swannanoa Valley Museum. It took about six months of dedicated research before I was ready to write.

GIVEAWAY: Shannon is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: madeline40 won.) Read more

WD’s February 2013 Bundled Collection is “Writing for Children & Young Adults” (at 83% Off!)

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Writer’s Digest’s new Premium Collections are a pretty cool deal. What happens is that a bunch of our products and/or services are bundled together and sold at a ridiculous discount. For February 2013, the “Writing for Children & Young Adult” collection is 10 awesome products bundled together and sold at 83% off. Each collection has a limited number — and is sold for a limited time — so check out this amazing premium collection (and get your book for kids published!) before it sells out. Read more

6 Reasons Being a Pirate is Like Being a Writer

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Here are 6 things I learned from a pirate about writing. It turns out pirates and writers need the same things in their arsenal. Every pirate (and writer) needs:

1. A hook: Hooks grab the reader in the first few sentences or can be found at the end of a chapter to keep the pages turning. EXAMPLE: “Captain Hook stood on the edge of the plank. Below swam a wide-mouthed crocodile chomp-chomp-chomping at the air between Captain Hook and the sloshing sea…” Read more

Literary Agent Interview: Susan Hawk of the Bent Agency

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This interview features Susan Hawk of The Bent Agency. She came to the agency from Children’s Book Marketing, where she worked for over 15 years, most recently as the Marketing Director at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, and previous to that as the Library Marketing Director at Penguin Young Readers.

She is seeking: Susan represents authors who write for children of all ages: babies to teenage. She is seeking young adult, middle grade books, and picture books nonfiction and fiction (especially literary fiction). Within the realm of kid’s stories, she likes fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, and mystery. Read more

YA Trends: How to Stand Out in a Competitive Market — Dec. 5 Webinar (With Critique) by Agent Kathleen Ortiz

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It’s no secret that the YA is a competitive market and saturated with several of the same genres. You have this great idea that no one else has thought of and then POOF: you see a listing for a similar project sold. Should you keep writing? Should you even bother to query it? Is it really even considered a YA book? What’s this ‘crossover’ thing people keep talking about?

Literary agent Kathleen Ortiz shares her ideas on what agents are looking for in the YA market and explains how to determine if you should keep writing (hint: writing is never something to stop). This live webinar will explain the differences between MG, YA, new adult and crossover, and how to determine which one your book is considered. Examples of each will be shared. Then she’ll review how to take your idea and create a pitch that is so incredibly compelling, an agent won’t be able to help but to read the pages. This new webinar — “YA Trends: How to Stand Out in a Competitive Market” – takes place at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, and lasts 90 minutes. Don’t forget that at least 4 agents have signed clients after seeing their work as part of a WD boot camp or webinar. Read more

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