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1. Good News for Children’s Writers

by Nancy I. Sanders

children reading

A week and a half ago, my husband Jeff and I packed our bags for Houston and headed to the airport early in the morning only to find out that the entire airport terminal was closed because of a bomb scare! Flashing lights. Police dogs. Helicopters. And crowds of people lugging suitcases standing at a “safe” distance. As we joined the crowd, workers informed us that a police dog had discovered a suspicious suitcase and given the signal for danger.

Well…that was quite a start for our trip, but I’m happy to say that after an hour of investigation they opened the airport and we made it to Houston safe and sound without even missing our connecting flight.

Why were we going to Houston? To attend Pat Miller’s amazing conference for nonfiction children’s writers, NF4NF. I was honored to be part of the faculty.

And boy, am I glad I got to go. Not only was it THE BEST conference I’ve ever attended, I came away with a sense of more hope for us as children’s writers than I’ve had in years.

You see, in recent years when I’ve taught in writing conferences and critiqued manuscripts for children’s writers, when it comes to submitting our manuscripts, I’ve had to paint a bleak picture. Most publishers were requiring agents. The overwhelming process of submission seemed doubly intimidating if not even impossible.

But I am happy to report that is not the case any more! Right now in the children’s industry there are a significant number of big name publishers who have an open door policy for unsolicited submissions. So for those writers who don’t have agents, this is good, good news. In fact this is GREAT NEWS.

The catch is that you do have to do your homework first. Some only take picture book submissions and not children’s novels. Some only take unsolicited submissions if you’ve already been published. Some are very very specific about what they accept and what they don’t. So click on each link to see if it’s a fit for your manuscript. And if it is, then submit! Yay!!! And do a happy dance because this is a wonderful opportunity right now for YOU!

Here is the list of trade book publishers that Pat Miller, the fearless and amazing leader of the NF4NF conference, gave each of us:


Arthur A. Levine Books

Albert Whitman and Co.

Boyds Mills Press


Chronicle Books

Creston Books

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Holiday House Publishers

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children

Ideals Publication

Kane Miller

Lee and Low

Peachtree Children’s Books

Isn’t that a great list? Now we have oodles of opportunity to submit our manuscripts in the trade book market!

About Nancy I. Sanders

Nancy I Sanders

Nancy I Sanders

Bestselling and award-winning children’s author of over 80 books, Nancy I. Sanders wants to help you experience success writing for kids! It’s hard work, yes, but it’s also lots of fun and very, very rewarding. Learn tips of the trade and secrets of success in her Yes! You Can series of how-to books for children’s writers. www.nancyisanders.com

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2. Write for Kids – How to Get Started

Note: Today’s post is for the letter “W” as part of the Blogging A to Z Challenge.


Have you been thinking of creating your own stories for children, but you just don’t know how to get started?

Then here are some tips to help you start your own career as a published children’s author:

1. Join your local chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Authors & Illustrators (SCBWI) and then start attending some of this chapter’s regular events. Just go online to www.scbwi.org to learn more about this wonderful organization for anyone interested in children’s publishing.

2. Take a field trip to your local book store or library and read all the children’s books you can. Be sure to read some of the most current books for children on the market. Children’s publishing has changed over the years and you need to know the types of books for children that are being published today. There are also different genres of books for children, so be sure to read books in the genre or genres that you wish to write. For example, if you want to write picture books, read picture books. If you want to write middle grade novels, read middle grade novels. If you want to write nonfiction books for children, read a wide variety of nonfiction books from many different children’s educational publishers.

3. Take a writing course that is specifically for children’s writing. Writing for kids is much different from writing for grown ups, so you need to take a class or workshop that will address all the elements of writing and publishing FOR CHILDREN. Try to find a class or workshop taught by a published children’s author and/or editor.

4. Join or start a local critique group for children’s writers. Be sure the group includes at least one or two published children’s authors. Otherwise, the group will be little more than “the blind leading the blind.”

5. Submit your stories and articles to publishers. You’ll never get published if you don’t send in your manuscripts. It can be scary at first. But you’ll soon realize that rejections are just part of the process.

6. Be persistent. Don’t give up. It can take a while to break in with any of the children’s markets. But keep trying. If you keep writing, keep learning, and keep submitting, eventually you’ll sell one of your children’s stories or articles.

Now…just get started!

Try it!

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3. Teaching Personification with Picture Books – This Week’s Teaching Tip by Amy M. O’Quinn

Can a little house on a hill smile happily while watching the sun and moon and stars all through the changing seasons?

Can a little train engine talk herself into pulling a bunch of heavy cars up a steep hill by repeating, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can?”

Can letters of the alphabet race to the top of the coconut tree?

Sure they can—if the writer uses a literary technique called personification!

Personification means giving human traits (qualities, feelings, actions or characteristics) directly to a non-living object. For example, the trees were dancing with the wind, the pot of soup bubbled merrily on the stove or the sun peeked over the hill. Obviously, trees can’t really dance, pots can’t be merry, and the sun doesn’t have eyes to peek over the hill. But what great descriptions for a reader to picture in his mind!

Many times an author will use this literary technique to add more fun, drama, sparkle, excitement, or interest to a story or to convey a certain mood. And because we are people, it is easier for us to relate to the object or to an idea that is being personified because we understand and identify with the human attributes that are being portrayed.

It’s all about exposure! We expect a person with a well-rounded education to be able to recognize the most common elements on the periodic table or name the capitals of major countries. So should he have a basic working knowledge of common literary terms or techniques such as personification, onomatopoeia, oxymoron, anthropomorphism, alliteration, etc. You can find the definitions of all these terms and more at MrBrainman. But learning these things can be a gradual process, and we can begin exposing our children to the terms and techniques while enjoying a good book together.

Parents can easily introduce the technique of personification when it occurs in picture books. Just have the child identify things that a non-living object simply cannot do. An object cannot act or feel like a real person—so that’s called personification. This is a great activity and one that can be handled naturally when talking about what can be real and what is pretend. The child probably won’t remember the term “personification” after just one introduction, but a base of knowledge is being built one term at a time. Again, it’s all about exposure! And I can almost guarantee that even a very young child will recognize when an inanimate object has been given human qualities! Children find such things to be very silly—and very fun!

Virginia Lee Burton was a master at using personification in her picture books. Who can possibly forget The Little House, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, or Katy and the Big Snow? Watty Piper’s The Little Engine That Could and Don Freeman’s Corduroy books are also classics in this technique. But there are many other picture books as well that can be used for teaching about personification.

Below is a great starting list. So check out these titles, and discover the fun of personification in picture books!

The Barn by Debbie Atwell
Best Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill
The Caboose Who Got Loose by Bill Peet
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr.
Corduroy books by Don Freeman
Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field
Jennifer and Josephine by Bill Peet
Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift & Lynd Ward
Little Toot by Hardie Gramatky
Maybelle the Cable Car by Virginia Lee Burton
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
Raggedy Ann Stories by Johnny Gruelle
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling
Smokey by Bill Peet
The Tree That Would Not Die by Ellen Levine
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams


Amy M. O’Quinn is a pastor’s wife and former schoolteacher-turned-homeschool mom of six. She is also a freelance writer who enjoys jotting down ideas around the fringes of family life. She specializes in non-fiction, and her work has been published in various educational and children’s magazines. She is also a product/curriculum/book reviewer for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, a regular columnist for TEACH Magazine, and a member of SCBWI. The O’Quinns live on the family farm in rural south Georgia. You can find Amy at her new writing site/blog, amyoquinn.com. Or visit her personal blog, Ponderings From Picket Fence Cottage.


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4. Teaching “Main Idea” Through Picture Books by Renee Kirchner

Renee Kirchner
by Renee Kirchner
Teaching Tips Contributing Editor


Learning how to identify the main idea and supporting details is an important reading skill that children must develop. It helps them to create meaning as they read. Teachers can use a variety of strategies to explain main idea. Basically, the main idea is the main reason the story was written. For example, the main reason for going to an amusement park is to ride the rides and have fun. A child might eat some yummy food like cotton candy or hot dogs at the amusement park, but that wasn’t the main reason for going.

Every story has a main idea. Sometimes the main idea can be found in the first sentence of the story and sometimes it is found in the middle of a story. Tell children to think of the 5 W’s, who, what, when, where, and why to help them look for the main idea. All stories have supporting details that are related to the main idea. There could be just a few supporting details or many.

There are many fine examples of picture books that you can use to main idea. Read some of the stories listed below and ask children to try to tell you the main idea. It might be helpful for children to have a visual. Draw a daisy on the board and put the main idea of a story into the center of the flower and write the supporting details on the petals. Ask them to do the same when choosing the main idea from other stories.

Picture books to teach main idea:
Thanksgiving is Here! By Diane Goode
August 2003, HarperCollins Publishers

Main idea: The main idea in this story is that a grandmother and a grandfather are hosting a warm family gathering.

Supporting Details:
1) A stray dog shows up to the party (but tell children that the story is not about a dog). 2) One of the guests brings a gift to the host and hostess of the Thanksgiving dinner.
The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry
March, 1990 Harcourt Children’s Books

Main Idea: The Kapok Tree is important to many rain forest animals because it is their home.

Supporting Details:
A man falls asleep while trying to chop down the tree.
A butterfly whispers in his ear.
The rain forest has three layers: a canopy, an understory, and a forest floor.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
September 1996, HarperCollins Publishers

Main Idea: The little mouse, Chrysanthemum, loves her name.

Supporting Details:
The students in class all have short names
The students tease Chrysanthemum about her name
The teacher is named after a flower too.


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5. Teaching Cause and Effect with Picture Books by Renee Kirchner

Cause and effect relationships are a basic part of the teacher curriculum for elementary aged children. Young children need to learn the basics of cause and effect to understand how the world works. Simply put, cause and effect is a relationship where one thing causes something else to happen. For example, if we play in the mud, we will get dirty. Playing in the mud is the “cause,” and getting dirty is the “effect.”

Picture books can be a useful tool for teaching the concept of cause and effect. Rather than listening to a lecture, children can enjoy a story and learn something at the same time. Before reading a picture book to your children, tell them to listen for key words such as, because, so, if…then, as a result of, etc. These types of words can usually be found in a story that has a cause and effect relationship.

There are three basic types of cause and effect relationships: stated cause and effect relationships, unstated cause and effect relationships, and reciprocal cause and effect relationships. For each type of cause and effect relationship, there are picture books to teach the concept. Here are some great examples to use with your students:

I. Stated Cause and Effect Relationship (it is clearly stated in the story).

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

Each time a young bunny imagines running away from home, his mother is right behind him. If he becomes a fish, the mother will become a fisherman so she can catch him. The mother rabbit loves her bunny so much that she will follow him no matter where he goes.

II. Unstated Cause and Effect Relationship (children will have to read between the lines)

Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens

This is the story of a lazy bear and a clever hare. They are putting in a garden and the hare is doing all of the work. The clever hare tricks the bear into choosing either the tops or bottoms of the plants they harvest. When the bear chooses the tops of the plants, the hare plants carrots and other root vegetables. When the bear chooses bottoms, the hare plants lettuce, and other vegetables that grow above the ground. This book teaches that if you are lazy you will not reap any rewards. Children will have to read between the lines because the cause and effect relationship is not spelled out.

Legend of the Persian Carpet by Tomie de Paola

When a precious jewel is stolen from the palace of King Balash, he is very upset. He loved to go into the room in the palace with the jewel because it was filled with light. Many people try unsuccessfully to solve his problem until a peasant boy is able to help him.

III. Reciprocal Cause and Effect Relationship (One effect will cause a second effect and so on).

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

This is a classic cause and effect story where one actions leads to another action and then another. If you give a mouse a cookie, he will need a glass of milk to go with it. The story gets sillier and sillier before it circles back around to the beginning again. It ends on the same note that it began with the mouse asking for a cookie.

The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble

Jimmy and his class go on a field trip to a farm. The children think the field trip is very dull until Jimmy pulls out his boa constrictor and then all kinds of chaos ensues.

Picture books can be used very effectively in the classroom to teach a number of reading skills. Once you start studying picture books there is no end to the classroom uses you will find for them.

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6. Back In The Room…

It’s good to be back! I have taken time off from writing this blog to concentrate on writing children’s books. It takes a while to create meaningful, exciting and engaging characters who jump off the page, climb up your nose and playfully mess about with your brain. I shall be posting soon about some exciting new […]

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7. January Blues…

I love January, but my sweet homeschool kiddos don’t seem to love it quite as much. Thus, a blues poem for my girls and all the students who wish they were still on  Christmas vacation…   School is in session Equations are flying Students are moaning Brain cells are frying Reading and painting Dividing and…

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8. January is here — and I’m loving it!

It’s strange. From October to December, there seems to be very little time to do much other than marvel at how fast time flies. I do as much as I can to get done what needs to be done. I love that time of year, even the hustle and bustle of it all. But from…

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9. What’s your biggest question about writing children’s books?

Question Mark ConceptHappy New Year!

As a children’s author, editor and writing coach, I spend a lot of  time talking about writing and/or publishing books for children and young adults. I feel so blessed to do the work I do, and to belong to such a warm, supportive and buoyant community of fellow readers, writers and children’s book lovers.

So I thought I’d start this New Year off a little differently. I want to begin 2015 by listeningreally listening, in order to help me best serve those who share the dream of writing or publishing a children’s book or young adult novel in the year ahead. Will you help me? Please tell me…

What’s your #1 question about writing and/or publishing books for children or young adults?

What holds you back? What do you feel like you don’t know, or need to do or have in order to fulfill that dream?

To answer, simply click on the link below and write your response in the box provided:


Thank you for sharing your dreams and questions with me, and here’s wishing you all possible success in your creative endeavors in the year ahead!


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10. Resolutions?

I had someone ask me last night what my “new year’s resolutions” are for 2015. I replied, “I don’t usually make them.” They insisted that I must. So I replied, “My resolution is to NOT make New Year’s resolutions.” Everyone in the room laughed and pointed out that my resolution was a resolution FAIL. I’d…

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From my heart to yours… May your year be glorious and may you find where you belong May your steps all have a spring and may your lips be laced with song May you always see the good and may your days be filled with grace May your love be overflowing… as you seek the…

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12. Thinking Out loud about the College Conundrum in America

Warning… this is long, but really not a rant, just an observation after reading a ton of articles about the current job market, watching the news for the last few years and talking to young folks that I know and love. How can we expect our high school students to have their careers and direction…

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13. Childrens Books by David Chuka in 2015

I’ve been staring into my crystal ball and trying to foresee what 2015 holds. I keep staring and staring but I can’t seem to see anything. A good clean job might do the job…ehm…nothing. I don’t think this is working.


If you know me, then you know the above scenario and a crystal ball would be the last thing I’d be staring at. I think sometimes, we want people to predict our future and lay it on a plate for us. The sad reality is that (like the saying goes) if it’s to be, then it’s up to me. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking of what I want to achieve in the coming year, especially with regards to my role as a children’s book author. I would like to write four books next year. Below are the David Chuka titles hopefully coming to your book shelf sometime in 2015.

Kojo the Sea Dragon Meets a Stranger – After the overwhelming success of Kojo the Sea Dragon Gets Lost, I just knew I had to write more stories with Kojo and his friends from the Zakari River.Sea Life Books Below is a review from a reader:

Such a vivid and colorful tale for such a simple, yet important lesson; listen to your parents. The illustrations are vibrant and imaginative as are the characters. Kojo the Sea Dragon Gets Lost is a very fun read!

In this episode, Kojo and his friends plus everyone in the Zakari River is looking forward to the BOOM BOOM festival. It’s a time of fun, dancing, singing with lots of food. Everyone in the Zakari River gathers in the town center and there are performances by different groups. Kojo is looking forward to doing a special dance with his friends. The day finally arrives and Kojo is having so much fun with his friends and is enjoying the sights and sounds. Then something happens with some yummy cake and an evil eel that makes Kojo learn something new about his world and talking to strangers. This will most likely be the first book I publish in the coming year, so watch this space.

Non-Fiction Book on Writing and Publishing Children’s Books – I get asked a lot of questions by people looking to write and publish children’s books and I think it’s time I crystallise all my experience into a book that get that can help other aspiring and established children’s book authors. Some of the topics I’ll be touching in this book will include working with an illustrator, doing research, getting reviews, social media, marketing etc. I’m excited about the challenge of writing this book and currently putting ideas together.

Billy and Monster Meet the President – Like my most recent book – Billy and Monster’s Golden Christmas – I had finished writing this book in 2013 but due to challenges in finding the right illustrator, its release was delayed. I am quietly confident that I’ll be able to get this published in May and just in time for the Independence Day celebrations.

A Book about Thanksgiving – I’m not really sure what the story or characters will be but I do know that it’ll something based around Thanksgiving.David Chuka Banner I could either place Billy or Kojo in a situation where they learn something valuable about Thanksgiving. On the other hand, I could create new characters and tell the Thanksgiving story through them. Will provide more details later.

I’ll be visiting more schools in 2015 and looking to share my stories with more of my target audience. Thanks for all your support and do have a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2015.

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14. Interview with Nancy Viau and The Kid Lit Authors Club!

I first met Nancy Viau at a workshop she presented for the NJ chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in 2011.  Her middle grade book SAMANTHA HANSEN HAS ROCKS IN HER HEAD (Amulet 2008) had been published.  She, along with some fellow authors, were talking about their books and the group they’d formed called the Kid Lit Authors Club. Here’s Nancy:

First give me some of your own background and how you came to be a children’s book author.
I started writing down ideas and creating silly rhymes when my youngest was about three. I wasn’t sure what to do with the picture books (I use that term loosely because they weren’t even close to being picture books!) that rolled out of my head onto paper, so I joined SCBWI and sat in many, many sessions where I soaked up info on how to write, what to write, and where to send manuscripts. Early on I had success with Highlights, Highlights High Five, Babybug, Ladybug, etc. but no picture book acceptances. A friend encouraged me to write for an older audience so for a while I wrote Op-Ed articles for the Philly Inquirer, popular anthologies, and a mish-mash of parenting magazines. An idea for an older character lead to my middle-grade novel, Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head, and even after that was published, I never let go of the dream to be a picture book author.

Where and when did the idea for KIDLIT AUTHORS CLUB originate? What’s the philosophy/premise behind the group?
A year after my middle-grade novel came out (2009), I came to the realization that it’s not easy to promote a book and get author gigs. Publishers do not do a lot (*sigh), especially if your book is not a best-seller. Another author, Keri Mikulski, and I thought it might be a good idea to band together with a diverse group of picture book, middle-grade, and young adult authors to help spread the word about our titles. We wanted a book-signing or a general visit to be fun and interactive, an event the entire family could enjoy, and that we could enjoy, too. We wanted to make an irresistible buzz for our books, and never again find ourselves sitting alone at a book signing.           KidLit-logo jpeg

How many members and from what genres?
Membership fluctuates every year, but we try to keep a balance between PB, MG, and YA. Some years we have 20; sometimes we have as many as 26. We try not to go over 25 or 26 because what happens then is that people step back and let a select few do the work. We all work to find opportunities for signings and presentations by reaching out to librarians, booksellers, teachers, conference directors, festival organizers, and others.

How has being a member of the group changed the way you present and promote your books? What are the advantages of such a group?
I feel like I have a marketing team behind me. Whereas I am one individual who may find a way to promote my books, with the KidLit Authors Club behind me, I have 20+ others who are also promoting my books. Sure, I still do events by myself, but at those events I talk up members’ books, and hand out the club’s bookmarks and marketing materials. We share the love. Big time. A picture book author may come across an event suitable for YA authors and will pass it along. A middle-grade author may find an opportunity to appear on a panel, but picture book authors are needed as well. Voila, we’ve got that! We provide a multi-author resource for bookstore owners and conference or festival organizers looking to fill program spots.

Nancy Viau and Alison Formento, members of the Kid Lit Authors Club

Nancy Viau and Alison Formento, members of the Kid Lit Authors Club

What advice would you give other writers looking to collaborate and form a similar club?
Find others who enjoy getting the word out about their own books, but would be open to helping others do the same. Get together and hash out a plan of action. A marketing group made up of authors can take many forms. Look at groups such as the Liars Club or the “Class of” groups that started with the Class of 2k7 and continued on with the Tenners, Elevensies, and so on. I saw how successful my class was–the Class of 2k8, but felt that limiting a group to authors of novels was not in our best interest. Members of our club all benefit when seasoned authors mentor debut authors, older titles are mentioned in the same breath as current ones, and new titles are celebrated and given a presence.

Any final thoughts?
Working with a group of wonderful people who have the same passion and vision as you is priceless. (I sound like a MasterCard commercial…) It’s really hard being an author—harder than most people think, but it’s much more enjoyable when you don’t have to go it alone.

Making every event a celebration of children’s books!     

Some Kid Lit Club Authors

Some Kid Lit Club Authors

Nancy Viau
Nancy Viau is the author of City Street Beat, Storm Song, and Look What I Can Do! (nominated for the 2014-2015 Keystone to Reading Book Award). Her middle-grade title, Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head, was published in 2008. Viau enjoys presenting assembly programs and writing workshops, and along with the young writers she meets, she finds inspiration in nature, travel, and her job as a librarian assistant.
Website: http://www.NancyViau.com

Facebook: Nancy Viau
Twitter: @NancyViau1

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15. Terry Nicholetti ~ Author of Noralee’s Adventures on the Planet Ifwee

Terry Nicholetti, Founder and Chief Encourager of Speak Out, Girlfriend!, is a former teaching nun and professional actor/playwright and author, with nearly 30 years experience in sales and marketing. A speaker, consultant and member of National Speakers Association, Terry helps clients, especially artist/entrepreneurs, find their voice and tell their stories.

For the past five years, Terry has been studying Mindfulness Meditation, and loves to share a simple yet profound process for becoming more “mindful or “present” at difficult moments, for example, when one is nervous right before a presentation. A member of Unity Worldwide Ministries congregations for more than a decade, Terry has built her Speak Out, Girlfriend! 9 Steps to Get from Fearful to Fabulous in part on Unity principles, especially that the spirit of God/Source/Universe lives in each of us, and that we create our life’s experiences through our thoughts.

Inspired by missing her own grandchildren after a move, Terry created and produced the GoldStar Magic! Family Pen-Pal Kit ™, including the delightfully illustrated NoraLee’s Adventures on Planet Ifwee, to help children and their grandparents get closer together, one story at a time.
Links to your site/blog/FB and Twitter:




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16. My Euphoria at Discovering Anaphora: Part 2 by Beth Ferry

Last month we had the pleasure of discovering some amazing literary devices found in the humble PICTURE BOOK thanks to PB writer Beth Ferry.  Beth is back this month with more techniques you can use to enhance your writing and raise it above the mundane. Here’s Beth:

Asyndeton. This involves leaving out conjunctions, such as Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. It is a great way to lower your word count. In the same vein, Polysyndeton is the use of many conjunctions close to one another – “He ran and laughed and jumped with joy.” I use the latter much more than the former. I really like conjunctions.

Internal rhyme. A rhymer at heart, I love all rhyme, but this type of rhyme is my favorite and I try to pepper some internal rhyme even in my non–rhyming stories. It is also known as middle rhyme because a word in the middle of the line usually rhymes with the last word of the line.

Homophones. I love to use these to add depth to my writing. It is easy to confuse homonyms and homophones, so just to clarify: All homonyms are homophones, but not all homophones are homonyms. Homonyms look the same and sound the same, but have different meanings such as bear and rose. Often one version is a noun and the other is a verb. Homophones, on the other hand, SOUND alike, but have different spellings and different meanings. These will seem the most familiar to you (to, too, two). My favorite use of a homonym is this one: “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” –Groucho Marx.

Euphony. This is basically just the loveliness of sound and the opposite of cacophony, which, I must say, is an amazing word to say out loud. Euphony is created by the use of some of the aforementioned literary devices, especially alliteration, assonance, consonance and rhyme. And just a little tidbit: “Cellar door” is supposed to be the most pleasing sound in the English language. Something to consider and possibly say out loud a few times.

Lastly, there is one literary device picture book writers should absolutely, completely avoid: Periphrasis, which is the use of excessive language and surplus words to convey a meaning that could otherwise be conveyed in fewer words and in a more direct manner. Stay away from this one. Stay far away.

So, picture book writers, pull out your works-in-progress and see if you can identify any of these literary devices in your writing. Then experiment with some new ones. Add a little assonance. Sprinkle in some polysyndeton. Pop in a homophone. It may make a fun and beautiful difference in your writing.       Beth_Ferry_photo


Beth Ferry lives and writes near the beach. Her debut book, Stick and Stone, will be released on April 7, 2015 by HMH. Land Shark (Chronicle) will be released in Fall 2015 and Pirate’s Perfect Pet (Candlewick) follows in Fall 2016.


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17. My Euphoria at Discovering Anaphora: by Beth Ferry

The Use of Literary Devices in Picture Books: Part 1        Beth_Ferry_photo
by Beth Ferry

As parents, we are constantly teaching our children about the world: rules, facts and essential life truths such as: Be kind. Be patient. Bees sting. Eat your vegetables. Don’t eat the sand. Say please and thank you. Don’t step on that ant. As they grow older, teaching can morph into school related lessons: spelling tools, vocabulary words, and math tricks such as Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. As they grow even older, teaching becomes somehow more life affirming: Don’t drive and text. Be kind. Be true to yourself. Do your best. Hold your head up high. High school only lasts for four years.

In return, our children teach us how to be patient and forgiving. How to be creative and inventive. How to be happy. Watching them grow and learn has taught me a lot about myself, and I am a better person because I am a parent. But it is a rare event that I learn something academically new from my children. There are plenty of instances where I’ll encounter something I absolutely once knew, but have lost on the journey to adulthood, like, you know, the sum of interior alternate angles or how to balance a chemical equation. My college major was English after all. So imagine my surprise when, while reading aloud my new work-in-progress, my teenage son says “That’s anaphora.”

Stop the merry-go-round. What is he saying? Is it Latin? Text-talk? A new girl in his class? He explains it is a literary device he is learning about in AP English concerning rhetoric. What? He shows me his list of literary terms and I suddenly morph into a kid in a candy shop, marveling over this plethora of devices that I am unconsciously using and about which I have heard nary a whisper. I scurry off to devour this list, to taste each device and explore my own skill in using such lofty literary language without even knowing it.

There are reasons that these literary devices exist. It is because they work. The use of these devices makes writing stronger, more lyrical, more beautiful. Without even knowing it, I bet you will find your work peppered with polysyndeton, anadiplosis and euphony. Here are some of my favorites:

Alliteration. This one you will know as it is very common in picture books. I love alliteration and I’m sure you are familiar with the repetition of similar sounds in the beginning of successive words. I use them a lot in titles such as Stick and Stone or Pirate’s Perfect Pet.

Anadiplosis. This is the repetition of the last word of the preceding clause in the beginning of the next sentence. So it is almost like a word-segue between sentences. It’s hard to do, but very effective. The most recent and perfect example I can think of comes from the lyrics to the song “Glad You Came” by The Wanted:
Turn the lights out now
Now I’ll take you by the hand
Hand you another drink
Drink it if you can

Anaphora. This device is like alliteration but involving words instead of sounds. It is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of every clause or sentence. The opening of A Tale of Two Cities is the perfect example: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. . . It was the epitome of anaphora.

Anastrophe. Using this device allows the order of the noun and adjective to be reversed – think Yoda. It is also knows as hyperbaton, from the Greek meaning ‘transposition’. Poe uses this device to great effect, “Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing.”

Assonance. Like alliteration, assonance repeats sounds, but the sounds produced by the vowels only, such as “purple curtain”. In the same vein, consonance is the repetitive use of the consonant sounds, usually at the end – stuck, streak, luck. You probably use both of these without even knowing it.

Beth will return with MORE LITERARY DEVICES next month.  Rest assured…there are LOTS more!

Beth Ferry lives and writes near the beach. Her debut book, Stick and Stone, will be released on April 7, 2015 by HMH. Land Shark (Chronicle) will be released in Fall 2015 and Pirate’s Perfect Pet (Candlewick) follows in Fall 2016.  stick and stone cover

3 Comments on My Euphoria at Discovering Anaphora: by Beth Ferry, last added: 11/18/2014
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18. Creativity begets Creativity

I am learning to crochet things like hats, scarves and amigurumi. Yes, amigurumi. This is a Japanese word for crocheted or knitted stuffed toy. They are sooo adorable! I am not fluent in that type of crocheting yet, but I do want to be one day. I think those little boogers are adorable! Here are…

8 Comments on Creativity begets Creativity, last added: 11/14/2014
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19. Wow! What a woman! Wow! What a GOD!

I am one of the teachers for our 6-8th grade Sunday School class. I love those kiddos and all the questions they ask. They make me think. Today, we discussed the fact that Abram was told by God to leave his country, and to leave his father’s family. God said He would lead Abram to…

2 Comments on Wow! What a woman! Wow! What a GOD!, last added: 9/15/2014
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20. This is one of those posts with a numbered list…

I read a great article today about youth pastors and how important it is for congregations to support them and their efforts to bless and teach our children. As the parent of a teen and two preteens – I am in 100% agreement! I’ve added a few things below from my own perspective. 1. You…

1 Comments on This is one of those posts with a numbered list…, last added: 9/22/2014
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21. Joy And Celebration: The Launch of WHEELS OF CHANGE!

Yesterday was a monumental and long awaited day for me: The Official Launch of my debut novel WHEELS OF CHANGE. I held the festivities at the local BARNES & NOBLE on the campus of Rowan University, in Glassboro NJ. It was a thrill to see so many people from all phases of my life turn out to show their support and help me celebrate.  Here are some photos of the day:   photo 2


The "Arrival Survival" Team from B&N set everything up for a successful day.

The “Arrival Survival” Team from B&N set everything up for a successful day.

Friends make everything better...

Friends make everything better…



Having my daughter and husband at the event made it extra special.

Having my daughter and husband at the event made it extra special.







Teachers LOVE books...thank goodness! I LOVE teachers!

Teachers LOVE books…thank goodness! I LOVE teachers!

bs8bs29bs 23bs 15Many smiles brightened the day, many hugs were given and taken, many books were happily signed, many words of congratulations were heard.  It was a wonderful way to send my book out into the world.  Thanks to everyone who made the event possible.  You are ALL wonderful and I will be eternally grateful for your generosity, enthusiasm and love.


bs4 bs13bs25bs6bs14It Was truly a “most Excellent Adventure” and a Five Star Day!      bs24bs21bs26bs37bs45bs38bs20

The first stack of books...came and went.

The first stack of books…came and went.

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22. Interview With YA Author Janet Fox.

I “met” Janet after reading her fabulous YA historical novels and letting her know how much I enjoyed them.  She was kind enough to read  WHEELS OF CHANGE before it was published and wrote a wonderful blurb that appears in the book. We’ve had an e-mail friendship ever since. I couldn’t wait to talk to Janet about her YA novels and her new venture: a debut MG. Janet was also kind enough to feature me on her blog today.  You can check out that post at: http://www.kidswriterjfox.blogspot.com

1. SIRENS takes place in the “Roaring Twenties”. What attracted you to writing about that era?                   Sirens front cover.indd
SIRENS is set in New York City in 1925. When seventeen-year-old Josephine Winter’s father ships her off to live with her rich cousins on the glittering island of Manhattan, he says it’s to find a husband. But Jo knows better–there’s trouble brewing, and in 1925, all that glitters is not gold. Caught up in a swirl of her cousin’s bobbed-hair set–and the men that court them–Jo soon realizes that this world of jazz and gangsters and their molls hides a nest of lies. But when she befriends the girlfriend of one of the most powerful and dangerous gangsters in town, Jo begins to uncover secrets–secrets that threaten an empire and could destroy everyone she loves. Jo is faced with a choice: hang on to her soul, or lose herself in the decade of decadence.

My first two YA historical novels were contracted for together, and I linked them by tying in  characters, although the second is not strictly a sequel. Just as I was putting the finishing touches on FORGIVEN my publisher contacted my agent and asked if I would be interested in trying my hand at a novel set in the 1920s. I said yes, and wrote a proposal, and they accepted it.

I don’t always say yes to suggestions like this. But I’ve always been fascinated by the twenties – it was a time of such rapid social change as to be explosive. Plus there are nuances like the fascination with the supernatural and the subtle political rumblings that led straight toward World War II. I had a lot of fun researching and writing SIRENS.

2. You wrote two other wonderful YA Historical Fiction books: FAITHFUL and FORGIVEN. How did you come to be a writer of historical fiction?

Thank you! It was a total accident. I don’t consider myself to be an historical fiction author, and in fact most of my current projects are anything but. FAITHFUL, my first novel, was really written as a way for me to deal with the sudden death of my mother. When I went to craft Maggie’s story about her search for her mother, I picked Yellowstone as a setting, and 1904 as the year only because I was interested in that period of history and it’s a fantastic period within the Park.                Faithful high res

FORGIVEN carries on from FAITHFUL but I set it in San Francisco because as a former geologist I wanted to write about the 1906 earthquake.    Forgiven with award

3. As someone who also writes historical fiction, I’m interested in how you conduct your research. Tell us about your process.

I almost never research ahead. It’s important to me to know my character first, so I often write quite a bit before I feel the need to dig into research. Once I know my character, then I try to craft a story that will delve into the rich human experience. And then I often research on the fly – hunting for material that I need to know.

For example, with SIRENS, I knew Jo and I knew she was going to befriend Lou, and I knew the two girls would get mixed up somehow with a gangster and bootlegging. But it wasn’t until I heard a radio interview one winter night with the author of a book about the 1920’s magician Howard Thurston that I realized that the twenties’ obsession with spiritualism would be central to my theme. It fit my character, it fit the story, and it was an interesting aspect of the twenties that doesn’t get much attention.

That said, at some point I do the following: read newspaper ads and articles of the period; read something written in the period; read the society columns of the time; find vocabulary lists or terms popular at the time; find clothing catalogs of the time; look for popular pastimes. These all comprise my socio-economic understanding, the atmosphere that surrounds my character.

4. You recently sold your first middle grade historical titled CHATELAINE: THE THIRTEENTH CHARM. Can you tell us about that and how it was writing your first MG novel?

Actually CHATELAINE is much more fantasy than historical. Yes, it’s set in 1940 and the children are escaping the blitz; yes, there is a German spy and an enigma machine. But after that, it’s very much a story about ghosts, a steampunk witch, an immortal wizard, children who are disappearing, artifacts with magical powers, peculiar teachers, a creepy castle, the rainy Scottish Highlands…in short, a slightly scary run-for-your-life mystery.
I loved writing this novel. It came out of nowhere – actually it was inspired by a piece of jewelry I saw on the internet – but as I was writing I was remembering all those days as a preteen when I was holed up in the corner on a rainy afternoon with one of the Narnia books or an Agatha Christie novel. Kat is such a great character and I had so much fun writing her story and then embellishing it with wild and crazy twists and turns…I hope readers will love it, too.

It sounds amazing Janet. I will definitely be adding that one to my reading list!

5. Of all your memorable characters, which one is your favorite and why?

Wow. That’s like loving one of your children more than the others!

I guess if I had to be pinned to the wall, I would say Maggie, because she’s my first. But then there’s Kula, feisty Kula, who begged to have her story told. And Jo – she’s such a determined, strong-willed girl – and Lou, who comes from nothing and has street-smarts. Now Kat, she’s the pragmatic girl who has to develop her imagination…and then there’s Rima, from my next novel…obviously, this is the impossible choice!

Thanks so much, Darlene!                                    janet fox

Janet Fox writes award-winning fiction and non-fiction for children of all ages. She became a children’s author in the mid-90s, when her son’s learning differences led her to develop her non-fiction book for Free Spirit Publishing, GET ORGANIZED WITHOUT LOSING IT (2006). Other work for children includes short fiction (Spider Magazine) and science non-fiction (Highlights for Children). Her young adult debut novel, FAITHFUL (Speak/Penguin Group, 2010) was an Amelia Bloomer List pick, and was followed by a companion novel, FORGIVEN (Penguin, 2011), a Junior Library Guild selection and WILLA Literary Award Finalist, and a YA historical set in the 1920s, SIRENS (Penguin, 2012).
Her debut middle grade novel CHATELAINE: THE THIRTEENTH CHARM is an historical fantasy (Viking, 2016). She is a 2010 graduate of the MFA/Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, a former Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and a former high school English teacher. Janet lives in Bozeman, Montana, where Janet and her husband enjoy the mountain vistas.

You can also find her at http://www.janetsfox.com and at http://www.kidswriterjfox.blogspot.com

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23. Grief

Death. Grief. Sorrow. Those aren’t words that any of us like, especially when they involve those closest to us. I don’t pretend to understand sorrow, though I have experienced it many times. I experienced it when my grandparents died. I experienced it when my own father was in a car accident, and again when my…

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24. Dante’s Inferno and the Non-Fiction Writer: by Terry Jennings

I am pleased to bring you a post from a writer friend TERRY JENNINGS, whose specialty is CHILDREN’S NON FICTION.  here’s Terry:

If Dante had been a non-fiction writer, in the Divine Comedy he would have put a circle in hell for writers whose overriding vice is Pride of Research. I never read the Divine Comedy but I did read Dan Brown’s Inferno and I know Dante liked those little circles where you would burn for eternity to expiate your sins. So if at any time there is a writer’s confessional, I would have to own up to that vicious sin—researching so much and having such pride in my cool factoids and data that sometimes I forget that the research should play a supporting role, not be all consuming like the fires of hell. And the part that makes this whole thing vicious is that along with pride can come a bit of arrogance and infallibility. I’ve done all this research and I know all there is to know, right? Recently, during the editing of my fact-based picture book, Sounds of the Savana (Arbordale, 2015), fate (or my sweet editor, whichever you choose) knocked me off my high horse.

Normally, my problem is not to include every tidbit and morsel in a manuscript. That is a sin I have worked hard to overcome. I figure I have slaved to get those lovely little gems and I have to put them somewhere. They have to be of use. I try dropping them into cocktail conversation. For instance, “Did you know that vervet monkeys have different kinds of vocalizations for different predators?” Or “Did you know spiny mice slough off their skin if a predator catches them? All that nasty owl will get is a piece of skin—and the mouse’s skin regrows by the next day. Imagine that!” I eat up that kind of stuff, but it makes people around me fall asleep.

Since I can’t use them socially, I want to include all my new knowledge in my manuscript. After many rejections, however, I have learned to listen to the wise and include only what works organically in the story, what drives the story forward. I have had to, sadly, leave a lot of wonderful information behind, condemning it to that nether world of unused facts. At first it was hard, but working with Arbordale has eased the pain. They have back matter in each book. A place where I can display many of my beloved nuggets. And if there’s not enough room in the back matter, they have a website with lots more information and activities. And when I remembered my own website could be a third bucket into which I could drop the remaining morsels, I danced a jig.

Now that I have the perfect place for all my darlings, the stories flow more easily. They can be even more engaging. I don’t have to explain that sound waves are deflected by temperature differences in Sounds. All I have to do is have a lioness roar on one side of the lake and the wildebeest hear her as if she were right next to them. Then . . . in the back matter or the website, I can put all sorts of amazing stuff about how the layer of cool temperature over a warm lake can deflect the sound wave so that it travels farther than when the temperature is uniform. I can let them know that in a 60 mile circle around Mount St. Helens, no one heard the eruption. They saw it like a silent movie—all because of the temperature difference between the roiling volcano and the layer of cool 8:32-in-the-morning atmosphere above it.

Pride of Research can also lead to avoidance.  There is many a time when I’m almost ready to let the book go but I talk myself into just a bit more research so I don’t have to let my baby out into the world so everyone will say it’s ugly. Or the writing’s going bad and I dive headlong into a new strand of investigation so I don’t have to face my shortcomings.
With Pride of Research also comes a certain arrogance. Admit it. I know you’re out there. Just like me. We check and triple check every fact and have three page bibliographies for an 800 word piece. It doesn’t have to be overt self-importance. It can just be that cozy warm feeling that we’ve done your job well. We always try to do our job well. Carolyn Yoder (editor at Calkins Creek, an imprint for historical children’s books) would be proud.


That, however, is exactly how my pride of research came tumbling down around me.
“So, the illustrator wants to know what kind of owl would eat a spiny mouse?”
My sweet editor at Arbordale sent shivers of shame down my spine. In Sounds of the Savanna, “sound” shows up through predator and prey interactions. Since predators silently sneak, swoop, snatch, and stalk and prey squeak, squeal, heeaw, kerchew—actually make sound—when caught or almost caught, I foolishly concentrated on the prey. Every stalked critter, big and small was thoroughly researched. Its demeanor, its diet, its vocalizations, how it takes care of its offspring and of course, which animals preyed on it were minutely scrutinized. And it goes without saying I already knew they lived on the Savanna because that was my first criterion for choosing the species. But the predators? I had given them nary a thought. The research on the spiny mouse said owls eat them and that was good enough for me. Without much thought I could write that the owl swoops on silent wings with deadly talons—beautiful, although generic, tags—and that was sufficient. Was it arrogance or just plain forgetfulness? I know better. When I wrote my book about the recovery after Mount St. Helens’ eruption, I had tons of lists of the trees and animals that lived on the mountain and approximately when the species returned. I can’t believe I didn’t check on the spiny mouse’s predator. Turns out the Verreaux or Milky Eagle Owl loves spiny mice. And it didn’t take me too long to find it. Phew!

If that had been all, I might have come out with my dignity bruised, but still extant. But not long after the owl came the question about the vervet monkeys and their predator. Vervet monkeys have a vocalization for snakes. What snakes? All I could find was boas. My idea of a boa is huge. Vervet monkeys, not so big. I suggested they avoid the conundrum altogether by having the snake hidden in the grass. But by now I was absolutely distraught. Really? Two unidentified predator species? How could I? I checked to make sure there were no more hanging in the breeze and it turns out there weren’t. The other predators were well known dudes like leopards and lions, animals an illustrator can draw without getting down to differentiating between species.

I have been chastened, however. I promise to never let my pride of research make me blind to the shortcomings of my manuscript ever again. I will continue to do my job well, even better than I have because as non-fiction or fact-based fiction writers for children we are passing that information on to kids, and perhaps some day some one will take our book and use it as fodder to his or her pride of research.


Terry Jennings began writing in 1999. Her first piece “Moving Over to the Passenger’s Side,” about teaching her fifteen-year-old to drive was published by The Washington Post. She has written a few other articles for them and Long Island News Day, as well as Ranger Rick, and a family humor column in my local newspaper, The Reston Connection.

She also writes educational text for the Smithsonian Science Education Center and other educational outlets. Gopher to the Rescue! A Volcano Recovery Story (Sylvan Dell, 2012) was named Outstanding Science Trade Book by the National Science Teachers’ Association and the Children’s Book Council. Her other book, The Women’s Liberation Movement: 1960-1990 (Mason Crest, 2013) was named to the Amelia Bloomer Project’s recommended feminist literature for women birth to 18. Sounds of the Savanna, a book about sound as told through predator/prey interactions in the African savanna is on its way with Arbordale Publishers. It’s due out fall of 2015. Terry is currently working on a historical novel about the Cuban Revolution (1959-1961) loosely based on my childhood along with a couple of other picture books–one on Magnetism and one on Erosion.   IMG_0003

Contact her at:

website: Terrycjennings.com
science blog for kids: kcswildfacts.com

1 Comments on Dante’s Inferno and the Non-Fiction Writer: by Terry Jennings, last added: 10/20/2014
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25. Where’s The Book?: Find it and Win!

It’s been six weeks since the launch of my MG historical book WHEELS OF CHANGE.  WoCCover01Many wonderful friends and acquaintances have asked me how things are going and where the book can be found. I suppose things are going well…how does a writer really know?  As far as where the book can be found…I have no clue.  Except for the Barnes&Noble bookstore at ROWAN UNIVERSITY where the launch took place, I have yet to spot it in local libraries or stores. Which brings me to this:

For the MONTH OF NOVEMBER, I am hosting a challenge to all my viewers and supporters out there. If you send me a photo and brief description of where you spot the book, I’ll send you one of my handmade cosmetic/toiletry bags as a thank you. I’ll give away SIX…one for each week the book has been out in the world.  (They make great gifts if you don’t need one yourself).    It’s been said that it “Takes a village” to bring a book out into the world.  As an author of children’s books, it’s been one of my dreams to have my book in libraries.  If it’s in YOUR “VILLAGE” LOCAL LIBRARY, please let me know!  


So, WHERE IN THE WORLD IS WHEELS OF CHANGE?     I can’t wait to find out!

9 Comments on Where’s The Book?: Find it and Win!, last added: 11/9/2014
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