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1. Fiction Writing – 5 Top No-Nos

Fiction writing mistakes to avoid.Fiction writers who are good at what they do, enjoy what they do. They like creating something from nothing . . . well from an idea. They enjoy the craft and the process.

But, with that said, there are 4 top mistakes these writers make.

1. You make the beginning of your story all roses.

While we’d all love to live in a peaceful, happy land, readers need something to sink their teeth into, especially at the beginning of the story.

The beginning of your story is the hook. It’s where you GRAB the reader and make her have to turn the page and want to know what’s going to happen to the protagonist.

Here are a couple of examples of ‘hooking’ beginnings:

“I have noticed that teachers get exciting confused with boring a lot. But when my teacher said, ‘Class, we have an exciting project to talk about,’ I listened away.”
“The Talented Clementine” by Sara Pennypacker.

“My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.”
“Because of Winn-Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo

These two examples of children’s writing give you a good idea of what it takes to ‘hook’ the reader.

2. The dialog is weak, fluffy.

Having weak dialog can kill your story. You need your characters to have passion . . . to have life.

You want dialog that is strong and tight. You want the emotion (the conflict, the tension, the passion) to come through the words. And, you want to say it in as few words and as realistically as possible.

You want the reader to feel what the character is feeling at that moment.

If Bob is angry in the story, show it through his dialog:

“WHAT! Who said you could take that?!”
“Hey! What are you doing?!”
“No! You can’t. Now get lost.”
“Get your hands off of me!”

The tight, strong dialog goes for exchanges also:

“Hey! What are you doing?!” Bob yelled.

Gia spun around. “Oh, ugh, nothing.” Her eyes darted to the door then back to Bob.

3. The story is predictable.

You’ve got to have some surprises in the story. If you don’t, it will make for a rather dull, predictable story.

For this aspect of your story, think questions.

– Why is the character in that situation?
– How did he get there?
– What must she be feeling, seeing?
– How can see get out of it?
– What might happen next?

Try to come up with four or five options as to what might happen next.

In an article at Writer’s Digest, the author advises to “Close your eyes and watch your scene unfold. Let the characters improvise. What are some outlandish things that could result? If something looks interesting, find a way to justify it.” (1)

Let your imagination run wild.

4. Your characters are one-dimensional.

For readers to become engaged in a story, they have to develop a connection with the protagonist and other characters. In order for this to happen, the characters must be multi-dimensional.

Characters need to be believable and unique. You don’t want them to be predictable or a stereotype.

According to “Breathing Life into Your Characters” by Rachel Ballon, Ph.D., “The essential components for creating successful characters with emotional and psychological depth—feelings, passion, desires, psychology, and vision—reside within [the writer].”

So, think about it. What conditions or characteristics does your character have?

– Does he have a personality disorder?
– Does he have phobias?
– Is she dysfunctional?
– Is she a troublemaker or bully?
– Is he anxious?
– Does she have an eating disorder?
– Is she fearful?
– Is she a risk taker, fearless?

And, keep in mind that the more stressful an ‘inciting incident’ or event, the more reaction and/or adjustment there will be.

For example: If a child lost a pet, it wouldn’t be as severe as losing a parent.
If a woman became separated from her husband, it wouldn’t be as severe as having her husband suddenly die.

So, using your experiences and innate characteristics, along with research, you can create multi-faceted characters.

5. You dump information into the story.

This is more of a mistake that new writers may make. I had a client who created the entire first paragraph of her middle-grade story with ‘information dump.’

She had the protagonist talking to a stuffed animal, in a pretend interview. She gave backstory and other details she wanted to convey to the reader through the interview. She didn’t realize that this information needed to be layered or weaved into the story, not dumped in one big truck load.

You might also use a prologue to give backstory.

While there are other things to watch for in fiction writing, these are five of the top no-nos.

Reference:
(1) 5 Biggest Fiction Writing Mistakes and Fixes

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Writing – 6 Essential Steps to Publication
Why Hiring a Ghostwriter for Your Children’s Book is a Good Idea
Submitting Queries – Be Specific and Professional

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2. The Writing Life with Children's Author Michelle Nott

Before becoming an author, Michelle Nott enjoyed being a French teacher (pre-K to university levels) in the U.S., working for a French company in Paris and an art gallery in NYC. She has also edited and written articles for numerous on-line and print magazines in the American and European markets.

In 2004, Michelle moved to Belgium. When she noticed that her daughters' book collection included more French titles than English ones, she decided to put her creative writing degree to use. Many of these early stories can be found on her blog Good Night, Sleep Tight where she also reflects on raising Third Culture Kids.

In 2015, Michelle and her family returned to the U.S. But with American and French citizenship, they travel to Europe regularly. Their favorite places include the French Alps, the Belgian countryside, and the Cornish coast in the UK. Her family's life and adventures prove great inspirations for her stories.

Freddy, Hoppie and the Eyeglasses is Michelle's first book for children. Her future children's books are represented by Essie White at Storm Literary Agency. She is a member of SCBWI, Children's Book Insider and Houston Writer's Guild.

Connect with Michelle on the web: 
@MimiLRN

What’s inside the mind of a picture book/early reader author?
Children! Their daily lives. New experiences. Scary experiences. Loving experiences.

What is so great about being an author?
One of the best parts of being an author is having an excuse to write every day, to dream every day, to invent people and places and other worlds. As an author, I also love interacting with my readers and the adults in their lives. I really enjoy book signings. And as I used to be a teacher, I am thrilled get back in the classroom for what I loved most about teaching – the interaction and excitement that comes from working with students.

When do you hate it?
Hate being an author?? This question perplexes me.

What is a regular writing day like for you?
A regular day is irregular. I try to get up at 5:30 and write before breakfast, go for a bike ride or a swim, come back and write for at least four more hours, take a break when my daughters come home from school, and then write more or read in the evening. When my day pans out like this, I feel like a superhero. But, there are days when life puts a wrench in the plan or I may have interviews, school visits, or social media or other networking opportunities planned.

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you?
I think some people have big egos and some don't. I don't think authors would have any bigger ego than anyone else. As far as the writers I know, I think we all understand that writing is a tough business and whether or not someone is published yet does not make them the better person. Everyone's writing journey is different.

So no, I don 't think I have a big ego either. There is so much more I can learn and do to improve my craft.

How do you handle negative reviews?
Publishing is a very subjective business. And readers each have their preferences when it comes to literature. As there are lots of published books out on the shelves that I do not particularly appreciate, I keep that in mind if someone happens to not like my book. It's just part of life. You can't please everyone all of the time.

How do you handle positive reviews?
It always makes me smile when I read positive remarks about my books. I'm always very flattered when people take the time to say something nice about my work.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?
Most people find it intriguing and mention how they plan on writing a book once they retire or ask what kind of books I write. When I say I write for children, the reactions are mixed. Most people find it very admirable, while others may say it's “adorable” and not think any more about it.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?
I do really try to sit and write no matter how I feel. But if nothing is coming, then I go outside. Usually a swim, a bike ride or a walk does the trick and then I rush home to write down all my ideas.

Any writing quirks?
I try to put myself in the atmosphere of the world in which I'm writing. For example, when working on a MG fantasy that takes place under water, I put out seashells and a sea-salt scented candle on my desk while listening to beach sounds. While working on a MG magical realism story that takes place in Brussels in the 1930s, I surrounded myself with images of particular places in Brussels and listened to French music of the era.

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?
Probably at first, on the inside, I'd be fuming. But then I'd calm down and remind myself that they just don't understand. They may never have been so overtaken by a sunset, or the scent of an unexpected plant in the forest, or the feel of a child's cheek on his to want to write it down so to never forget it, and to incorporate it into a story for other people to experience as well.

People who see writing as a hobby may not realize how touched their lives have been by a good book, or a beautiful phrase.

They may not realize that writing is the same as any profession. A certain amount of inner talent does play a role, but so does a lot of perseverance, discipline and hard work.

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate?
I love it. Always.

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?
Absolutely not. Sure, it would be nice if all writers could actually make a decent living from their words. But I knew from the start what a high expectation that is.

For me, success is when families, librarians, and teachers are enjoying my books and using them to send a positive message to children.

What had writing taught you?
Writing has taught me that many, if not all, of my life experiences have served some purpose. Even though many years went by before jumping into children's writing, all those years were valuable and rich with emotions and adventures that I can use in my current stories.


////////////////////////////////////

Title: FREDDY, HOPPIE AND THE EYEGLASSES
Genre: Early Reader
Author: Michelle Nott
Website: www.authormichellenott.com
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing

About the Book:

Freddy and his imaginary frog Hoppie jump into each day. But numbers smudge, words blur, and classmates snicker. By the end of the week, there is no more spring in their step. Freddy knows he should tell his mom about the trouble they are having, but how?

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3. Being A Multilingual Writer In The Digital Age

I've been meaning to write this post for a while, but I had a hard time crystallizing what it is I wanted to say. Then several things happened at the beginning of this year: A publisher I've been meaning to work with but couldn't reach agreeable terms asked me again to submit work. He especially wanted African language children's stories.  I read Lori Widmer's post about The Multilingual

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4. What are Primary Sources?

(written by Sandman, cat and writing buddy of Nancy I. Sanders)

cat

Everyone wants primary sources in their nonfiction and even references for facts in their fiction these days.

What’s a cat gonna do?

I tried hiding in a bag and never dealing with it, but then I got too hungry for tunafish tacos so I had to come out.

So I decided to try a new tactic. I’d hunt those primary sources down and pounce on ‘em! First plan of attack was to sneak around the house, hide behind the couch, and jump out at any unsuspecting spider crawling by.

But that didn’t get me very many primary sources.

What are primary sources anyhow?

I looked up the definition of primary sources in my cat-dictionary and discovered they are:

Autobiographies: Whenever a cool cat writes a book or article about her own life, it counts as a primary source.

Diaries: My cat friend, Pitterpat, keeps a diary and in it she chronicles every detail about Devin and Derby, the two Rat terriers who live next door. Pitterpat knows those little yappers are up to evil designs and she’s determined to prove it! Diaries are a primary source.

More primary sources include

• letters people actually wrote

• artifacts, buildings and landmarks that were actually there during the era

• e-mails, interviews, photographs, official documents

• and speeches people actually spoke

But how do you FIND primary sources? I’ve tried digging in the dirt in every single potted plant in our house, pulling out all the tissues and reaching in the bottom of a tissue box, and shredding every paper that comes out of the printer, but that only got me in trouble!

So then I tried a new tactic. I already had a pile of picture books and books for kittens on my topic. This time, however, I went to my library and borrowed every book on my topic written for mature cats. These books have FOOTNOTES. (I think they should call them pawprints.) And these books list many many primary sources in the back where they cite those pawprints…I mean footnotes.

Plus these books have PHOTOGRAPHS and PAINTINGS from the actual era of my topic. I looked in the back for the places who own those primary sources and made a note to contact them and find out what kind of permissions they give to cats who want to use them. (Like me.) And when I contact them I’ll find out if it’s free to use them or if I have to pay them to use it. Plus they’ll tell me how I can get the right resolution to use on my website or in my article or book.

Then I went online and googled my topic. I didn’t look at Wikipedia like I normally do. (Okay, okay, I know that’s a no-no for research but it’s handy!) Instead, I read articles that looked official on my topic that were posted by museums and universities and national archives. I looked at THEIR footnotes to see where they got their primary sources. Plus, a lot of them have digitized primary sources such as diaries and ancient autobiographies and paintings and images of artifacts. So I checked on each of their pages for “rights and permissions” and details about how I can use the information from their sites. I even e-mailed the contact e-mails and asked people about rights and permissions, just to cover my bases.

So when my writing buddy, Nancy I. Sanders, was writing her book on Frederick Douglass for Kids, I gave her some tips and advice.

For example, I told her she could find this photograph of Frederick Douglass at the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs site.

It says: Rights Advisory: No Known Restrictions on Publication

I assured her she could be pretty safe using that photograph in any way, shape or form as long as she included the credit line with it.

What kind of credit line, she wanted to know. Yikes! Does a cat have to know everything?! I told her to dig around on the Library of Congress site to see what kind of credit line they say to use. I also told her to check in other books by the same publisher that she was writing for (or another current publisher who uses stuff from the Library of Congress) and see how they are citing the Library of Congress.

But then I told her she had to be careful about using this photo of Frederick Douglass from the Library of Congress because it did NOT include that same line about rights advisory. She’d have to try to find out who owned it and ask THEM for permission to use it and details about how that could be done.

Plus I told her to check out museums and historic sites on Frederick Douglass, so she did. She found out that places like the National Park Service would let her use their digital images for free on her website as long as she included the credit line they want. So she did! You can see how she did this and you’ll also see this awesome painting of Douglass that’s on her book’s website by clicking here. Plus, she found out she could use images for a cost in her book. They told her the steps to take and the fees it would involve. So she did!

I guess you could say working with primary sources is like hunting for ants. I can hear them marching behind the baseboard inside the wall, but I gotta figure out how to get them out here in the open where I can eat them. I’ve tried smearing tunafish next to a little nail hole. That worked for a little while. They came out by the hundreds! But then the pest control guy was called out to spray them. So now I gotta think about my next strategy.

The bottom line is that there is no specific strategy for hunting ants except for search and dig around and search and call or e-mail the people you gotta call. It’s the same for working with primary sources. It’s just what a cat’s gotta do.

For more information, tips, and techniques on research, visit the site of Sandman and his writing buddies at https://writingaccordingtohumphrey.wordpress.com/writers-notebook-worksheets/ or get Nancy’s how-to book for children’s writers, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career at http://yesyoucanlearn.wordpress.com

Want to learn how to write a children’s nonfiction book in just one month?

Register for this online audio workshop, below.

Find out more at www.writeachildrensnonfictionbook.com.

write a children's nonfiction book

 

For more informative and cat-chy articles by Nancy’s cats, please visit their website at:
https://writingaccordingtohumphrey.wordpress.com

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5. Picture Book Study: Meg Goldberg on Parade by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum and Christopher Lyles

This is a children’s picture book structure break down for Meg Goldberg on Parade by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum and Christopher Lyles. This breakdown will contain…

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6. Learn to Write for Educational Book Publishers and Book Packagers

Writing for educational book publishers and book packagers can be financially lucrative and a great source of ongoing work for freelancers.

These markets are expanding in today’s world of Common Core Standards and the subsequent emphasis on quality supplemental classroom nonfiction materials.

But this type of work is not for everyone, and breaking into educational publishing is somewhat different than publishing trade books.

write for book packagers and educational book publishers


In this workshop/teleclass, children’s author Melissa Abramovitz presents information on what educational book publishers and book packagers are, how to evaluate whether or not this type of publishing is for you, and what is involved in breaking into/writing for these markets.

In this workshop you will learn and discover:

• What educational publishers and book packagers are and how they differ

• How to evaluate whether or not this type of work is right for you

• Trends in educational publishing, with tips and information from educational book publishers and book packaging company insiders

• How to find educational book publishers and book packagers that work with freelancers

• How to put together a pitch/query/resume to use in seeking this type of book assignments

• What the advantages are of working for educational book publishers and packagers

• Answers to your questions about educational book publishing and book packagers

REGISTER HERE NOW to get immediate and unlimited access to the full audio and handouts for this workshop for only $20.00!

About Melissa Abramovitz

Melissa Abramovitz has published hundreds of nonfiction magazine articles, more than 45 educational series books for children and teens, numerous short stories and poems, two picture books, and a book for writers. Melissa graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a degree in psychology and is also a graduate of The Institute of Children’s Literature. She is a member of SCBWI and The Working Writer’s Club. Her goals in 2016 are to find an agent to represent her in marketing several fiction and nonfiction picture books to publishers and to start writing the YA novel that’s been simmering in her brain for ten years. In her spare time, she buys cute clothes for her grandchildren, volunteers at a local animal shelter, and occasionally sleeps. Visit her website at www.melissaabramovitz.com

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7. Learn to Write for Educational Book Publishers and Book Packagers

Writing for educational book publishers and book packagers can be financially lucrative and a great source of ongoing work for freelancers.

These markets are expanding in today’s world of Common Core Standards and the subsequent emphasis on quality supplemental classroom nonfiction materials.

But this type of work is not for everyone, and breaking into educational publishing is somewhat different than publishing trade books.

write for book packagers and educational book publishers


In this workshop/teleclass, children’s author Melissa Abramovitz presents information on what educational book publishers and book packagers are, how to evaluate whether or not this type of publishing is for you, and what is involved in breaking into/writing for these markets.

In this workshop you will learn and discover:

• What educational publishers and book packagers are and how they differ

• How to evaluate whether or not this type of work is right for you

• Trends in educational publishing, with tips and information from educational book publishers and book packaging company insiders

• How to find educational book publishers and book packagers that work with freelancers

• How to put together a pitch/query/resume to use in seeking this type of book assignments

• What the advantages are of working for educational book publishers and packagers

• Answers to your questions about educational book publishing and book packagers

REGISTER HERE NOW to get immediate and unlimited access to the full audio and handouts for this workshop for only $20.00!

About Melissa Abramovitz

Melissa Abramovitz has published hundreds of nonfiction magazine articles, more than 45 educational series books for children and teens, numerous short stories and poems, two picture books, and a book for writers. Melissa graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a degree in psychology and is also a graduate of The Institute of Children’s Literature. She is a member of SCBWI and The Working Writer’s Club. Her goals in 2016 are to find an agent to represent her in marketing several fiction and nonfiction picture books to publishers and to start writing the YA novel that’s been simmering in her brain for ten years. In her spare time, she buys cute clothes for her grandchildren, volunteers at a local animal shelter, and occasionally sleeps. Visit her website at www.melissaabramovitz.com

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8. 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:

TRADE BOOK PUBLISHERS THAT ACCEPT UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPTS

Arthur A. Levine Books

Albert Whitman and Co.

Boyds Mills Press

Charlesbridge

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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9. 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.

laptop-work-1260785-m

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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10. 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!

WHAT IS 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!

WHY DO WRITERS USE PERSONIFICATION
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.

WHY TEACH PERSONIFICATION
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.

HOW TO TEACH ABOUT PERSONIFICATION
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!

PICTURE BOOKS THAT CAN BE USED TO TEACH PERSONIFICATION
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

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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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11. 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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12. 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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13. 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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14. 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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15. 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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16. 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:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BIGGESTKIDLITQUESTION

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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17. 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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18. NEW YEAR’S BLESSINGS!

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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19. 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…

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20. 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


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21. 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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22. 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:

http://goldstarmagic.com

https://www.facebook.com/SpeakOutGirlfriend

@terrynicholetti

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23. 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.

http://www.kidlitauthorsclub.com
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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24. 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.

Why????????????????

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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25. 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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