Posts Tagged ‘Writing for Children’

My word! All full day of Word on the Street.

yesterday was the Word on the Street Book and Magazine festival in Toronto. It’s been in my calendar for weeks now. I even compiled a list of things I wanted to cover at the event. I’m fortunate enough to live just a streetcar away so I didn’t have to worry about traffic or construction or parking or protests.

Protest? Parade?

Protest? Parade?

Actually I don’t think this was a protest but a parade. But it did seem a little odd to host a parade just blocks away.

I brought my oldest daughter with me while my husband watched the other two. Yes, I’m sure all my kids would have liked going but there’s only so much distraction I can handle. We hit Kid Street first. I could say it was because I brought my daughter, and that’s partly why, but since I have an interest in children’s books also, that’s the real reason we started at Kid Street first.

I was able to finally meet Joanna from Annick Press and what a wonderful lady. And super cheerful. While we waited for Ruth Ohi to read her newest book CHICKEN PIG COW ON THE MOVE (which I’ll be reviewing this Wednesday as part of Write a Review Wednesday), my daughter wanted to try her luck at the Annick Press String Pull Booth. For a loonie donation (that’s a dollar for those non-canadians) she pulled a string to see what prize she would win. You could win a small Annick book, a paperback, a hardcover or the big prize, a collection of books. Well third times the charm.

Persistance pays off

Persistance pays off

We then headed over to the Children’s Reading Tent to catch Ruth Ohi. I was looking forward to hearing her read because I enjoy her books but I never expected to be so entertained. Ruth Ohi was energetic and enthusiastic and was right into the kids. Beyond just reading from her book, she shared how she created it, the process and even showed some early sketches. She also offered the kids a chance to experiment with their own illustrations by giving them printouts of Chicken, Pig, Cow with space to include their own background. I think my daughter will be busy drawing.

Ruth Ohi reading from her book CHICKEN PIG COW ON THE MOVE

Ruth Ohi reading from her book CHICKEN PIG COW ON THE MOVE

Doughnuts and jellybeans, how to draw by Ruth Ohi

Doughnuts and jellybeans, how to draw by Ruth Ohi

After the entertaining reading we were able to catch Ruth Ohi at the Annick Press booth and get her to autograph our copies. She personalized my daughter’s book with a wonderful sketch of my daughter. My daughter was delighted.

Ruth Ohi personalized my daughter's book..

Ruth Ohi personalized my daughter's book..

...with a wonderful sketch.

...with a wonderful sketch.

And before we had a chance to catch our breath my daughter and I were back at the Children’s Reading Tent to catch Patricia Storm read from her new book PIRATE AND THE PENGUIN. Actually, read isn’t quite right. Instead she performed her book in a wonderful play. I’m just sorry I didn’t film it. Of course I had to pick up a copy of her book also. Can’t wait to share it with my kids.

Patrica Storm as the pirate

Patrica Storm as the pirate

Patrica also gave the audience tips on how to draw their own penguin and pirate

Patrica also gave the audience tips on how to draw their own penguin and pirate

With the readings out of the way (though I was disappointed I missed Carey Fagen and meeting Sylvia from Tundra Books), it was time for a late lunch. The nice thing about the Word on the Street festival this year, they had more than just exhaust dogs. There’s nothing like a sweet corn roast and lemonade.

More than just hotdogs

More than just hotdogs

The corn was perfect

The corn was perfect

We did another round of the festival. Cheerios had a tent giving people a chance to send CHEER postcards to the Canadian Olympic Athletes. My daughter couldn’t pass that up. Plus there gave out little sample bowls which was perfect since I didn’t pack any snacks (I guess I didn’t expect to be at the show for as long as we were).

Sending a little Cheer to the Olympic athletes

Sending a little Cheer to the Olympic athletes

And just before leaving, we ran into an old friend, Chirp. I say old friend because Chirp magazine has been coming to our house for over four years now. My daughter couldn’t resist a hug.

An old friend, Chirp

An old friend, Chirp

There was music and dancing and performances too.  All and all a full and entertaining day. Luckily neither my daughter nor myself fell asleep on the streetcar ride home. But maybe our heavy bag of children’s books kept us away (perhaps some future Write a Review Wednesday books in there too). Until next year.

A book festival isn't complete without books

A book festival isn't complete without books

Next Steps – August 3/09

I knew this day would come, just not this soon. I’ve been looking over my next step list and have to honestly say I didn’t accomplish much. Actually, I didn’t accomplish anything that I wanted. Being out of town and getting sick certainly didn’t help much. So I’m taking last weeks unaccomplished list and moving it into this week:

  • Work on Chapter Book material – When I write, I like to write by hand so I want to set a goal of writing one to two pages a day for my story. Also I need to avoid editing any work I do write (that’s one way I knock myself off track, editing before I’m done)
  • Reading research – I think I need to find some chapter books that deal with serious topics and read them as a reference (not sure how I’ll find this list yet)
  • Review additional magazine story – I have another story I’ve written for a children’s magazine. I’m not sure if it works, but I need to revisit it and see if I can make it work or if it should just be scraped

Hopefully I’ll be more successful this week.

Next Steps – July 27/09

Another week has passed since my last Next Steps list for working on my writing. But first, how did I do on last weeks next steps:

  • Submit my magazine story – Yup, I licked the envelop and sent it off. Now I sit and wait and pace and check the mailbox. Fingers crossed for the next six or so weeks. But it’s done.
  • Write an outline for my Chapter Book idea – I wrote a brief synopsis of my story, as well as a chapter outline. I also started to write descriptions of the main characters in the story. I was so excited I started to write the first chapter too.
  • Reading research – I haven’t done a very good job of this. I’ve been taking out picture books for my kids to read as part of the library’s Summer Reading Club. There are so many chapter books, but I think because my story idea deals with death I need to find books with a similar feel. So no Captain Underpants.
  • Picture book manuscript feedback – And this I haven’t done at all. I have found someone, an author, who’s offered to read it, but it’s based on her availability so this might have to wait a bit.

So moving forward into the next week:

  • Work on Chapter Book material – When I write, I like to write by hand so I want to set a goal of writing one to two pages a day for my story. Also I need to avoid editing any work I do write (that’s one way I knock myself off track, editing before I’m done)
  • Reading research – I think I need to find some chapter books that deal with serious topics and read them as a reference (not sure how I’ll find this list yet)
  • Review additional magazine story – I have another story I’ve written for a children’s magazine. I’m not sure if it works, but I need to revisit it and see if I can make it work or if it should just be scraped

A shorter list this week, but perhaps more writing will be involved.

Next Steps – July 20/09

It’s been a week since I first outlined my Next Steps for working on my writing. So let’s see, how did I do with last weeks tasks:

  • Renew my library card – Done. I reserved a few writing books too (Hopefully I can pick them up this week)
  • Finalize magazine stories – I’ve revised one story, ready to send out. The second story, after reviewing it, I’m not sure if it works still and I’m not sure if I can make it work.
  • Revise my picture book manuscript – Done, now I need to run it by a second pair of eyes for feedback.
  • Research the difference between Easy Reader/Chapter Book and Middle Grade Book – I’ve been reading and thinking about my story idea and I think I’ve settled on the EA/CB route.

So I’m feeling pretty good having completed the tasks I set-out for my first week. I’ll also admit they weren’t the hardest. Now we’re starting a new week and with that a new set of Next Steps:

  • Submit my magazine story –  Write a cover letter and submit the story to the children’s magazine for consideration.
  • Write an outline for my Chapter Book idea – I have a synopsis and now that I’ve decided to go the Chapter Book route, I want to develop an outline for each chapter.
  • Reading research – I need to take out and read a whole collection of Chapter Books
  • Picture book manuscript feedback – I’ve revised my picture book manuscript which needs a new set of eyes on it. I should also investigate critique groups too (I’m a member of SCBWI but have never really taken advantage of my membership).

So another week and another set of tasks. I’m always good at starting something, let’s see how good I am at continuing it.

Next Steps – July 13/09

So I’ve had some time to think about my writing/blogging dilemma (and I’ve received some great feedback and advice from people too). Instead of pitting one against the other, trying to sort out what’s more important, I’ve been thinking of ways to better use them to support each other.

One of my problems with my story writing, I think, is I don’t have any sort of deadline. It’s one of those things that gets done when it has to but if something else comes up (with a deadline) then that writing gets put aside. And the more I put it aside, the easier it gets to not pick it up. So, starting now, I’m going to set myself deadlines for my writing. And to make sure I follow through, I’m going to post them here, on my blog, every Monday. See. See how I’m using my blog to help my writing? Clever? Okay, maybe not. And this might not work, but I’m going to give it a try.

So here’s this weeks Next Steps:

  • Renew my library card. I can’t believe my library card has expired. I spend so much time there and seem to take out a lot of books (so my library fines indicate) but I’ve been using the kids library cards. I tried to reserve some writing books, which you can’t reserve with a child’s library card, and was told I couldn’t until I came in to renew my card. So that’s first on my list, renew my card.
  • Finalize magazine stories. I’ve written two stories for two different children’s magazines and have done nothing with them. I need to review them and finalized them and send them out.
  • Revise my picture book manuscript. I need to revise and get some comments on a picture book story I’ve been working on.
  • Research the differences between easy reader/chapter books and middle grade books. I have another story idea that I really like, but I’m not sure if the material is too much for an EA book. Need to get a better handle on determining which route to go.

Okay, there it is, spelled out for me (and anyone else who’s reading). Hopefully by next Monday I will have accomplished these and be ready to set a new list of Next Steps. Wish me luck.

Blogging is Killing my Writing

I love to write, especially fiction stories for children. I use to write regularly, full of new ideas. Then demands of work and my family started taking over and my writing slowly got left behind.

Recently decided to try blogging, thinking that would be a great way to get myself back into writing again. And it has, sort of. I do write on my blog fairly regularly. But now I seem to spend all my writing time working on my blogs (this one and the one at Everythingmom.com). And when I’m not writing on my blogs, I’m writing articles.

Beyond just sapping my writing time away, blogging also seems to have decreased my attention span. My mind seems to now be conditioned to write short concise pieces. I think that’s why I’ve moved into writing articles too.

Blogging also has a deadline I need to work towards. It’s sort of an unwritten deadline but if I want to keep my blog readers coming back or grow my readership from just my mom then I know I have to keep writing regularly.

I think the other reason I’m drawn to blogging over my writing is because blogging is easier. I blog based on an idea or thought. It’s just about me. Writing, even a short story or children’s picture book takes so much more work. First there’s the idea and you need characters as in more than one (most stories I’ve read don’t rely on just one character). Then you need your storyline with conflict and resolution, peeks and valleys.

And maybe I’m just tired. Maybe I’m feeling really tired lately and frustrated because I’m not spending more time on my writing. Maybe I can’t do both or maybe I need to have more discipline for both my blogging and my writing.

I’m curious what other writer/bloggers do. How do you manage your blogging time versus your writing time?

Write a Review Wednesday: Elephant and Pig: I’m Invited to a Party

Aspiring writer of children fiction and blogger Tara Lazar started a meme entitled ‘Write a Review Wednesday‘ as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week I wrote a review on Mrs. Crumps Cat, on of my oldest daughter’s favourites. This week I’m leaning toward my youngest daughter and her love of talking animals.

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Time to party!

Time to party!

If you have kids you’re probably familiar with Mo Willems, the author and illustrator of the Pigeon books and Leonardo the Terrible Monster to name a few. We have these and a number of his other books in our home library, but my youngest daughter’s latest book obsession has been with Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie adventures.  Out of the four Elephant and Piggie books we own, my youngest daughter, who is two, really enjoys I’ve Been Invited to a Party (age 4-8), published by Hyperion Books for Children.

The book features two lovable friends: an excitable, optimistic Pig and a cautious, grounded Elephant. In this story, Piggie gets invited to her first party and looks to her friend Elephant for advice. And Elephant ‘knows parties’.

The books line drawn illustrations resemble the work found in Mo Willems’ Pigeon books. Surrounded by lots of white space, images pop out of the page and make reading the text easier for beginner readers.

The simple, repetetive language offers a fun story for early readers, even my two year old knows the words at various stages in the story. She loves Elephant’s solution to Pig’gies party dilemma. And even with simple language, Mo Willems writes with a wit that even adults can enjoy, which is good since you’ll probably be reading this story over and over again.

If you would like to add this book to your home library, you can buy it on Amazon.ca

Anticipating what Elephant and Pig will do next.

Anticipating what Elephant and Pig will do next.

Write a Review Wednesday: Mrs. Crump’s Cat

Aspiring writer of children fiction and blogger Tara Lazar started a meme entitled ‘Write a Review Wednesday‘ as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. I love reading and writing stories for kids but I had never written a book review before until last weeks’ WARW, The Man on the Moon. So it’s Wednesday again and I wanted to pick something from our collection that my children love but isn’t perhaps well known. Actually my seven year old suggested this weeks pick.

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Mrs. Crump's Cat

Mrs. Crump's Cat

We are large cat lovers in our family, so we’re partial to books about cats, especially my oldest daughter. So when we stumbled upon Linda Smith and David Roberts book Mrs. Crump’s Cat (age 4-8), we had to add it to our personal library.

‘Found: One sneaky finichy troublesome wet yellow cat with fleas’

Okay, maybe Mrs Crump isn’t a cat lover, at least that’s what she thinks when a stray arrives on her doorstep one rainy night. From the moment the cat arrives Mrs. Crump is determined to send it on it’s way. But each day she seems to find another reason to not let it go.

The story paints a picture of a lonely older woman who, by way of opening her own front door, encounters a cat that causes her to open her heart. With each moment Mrs Crump spends in the presence of the cat, which she is determined to get rid of, she seems to not be so sad or lonely. She now greets the shop keeper, something she never did before, and her walks home don’t seem as long as they use to before.

Art deco illustrations add warmth

Art deco illustrations add warmth

David Roberts art deco like illustrations add to the warm of the story. The wonderful golden cat appears like a bronze art deco statue, lean with clean, smooth lines

My kids have read this story many times and they still enjoy revealing what Mrs Crump will do or buy next that keeps her from releasing the cat. Cat lover or not, I think readers can relate to the desire to feel wanted, needed and loved and Mrs. Crumps Cat, published by Harper Collins Children’s Books, illustrates this delightfully.

If you would like to add this to your personal library you can buy at on Amazon.ca. Or perhaps one of these other books reviewed as part of Write a Review Wednesday:

Becky Levine’s review of Mouse was Mad

Tara Lazar’s review of Guess What I Found in Dragon Wood?

What’s your family’s favourite book to read?

Sisters reading together.

Sisters reading together.

Write. Rewrite. Revise

I’ve been working on a new story for a children’s picture book. I know, I thought I had given up on the picture book genre, but I keep being drawn back in. I’m a big fan of them I guess. Plus I think this idea works best in a picture book.

I have to thank my oldest daughter for the idea. She’s been practicing her writing (and illustrating) by writing her own short stories. One of the stories she shared with me had a character I really loved. That night I started an outline for a story to see if I could make it work. A few days ago I finished my first draft. It’s funny, computers add so much ease with doing work, but I prefer to write out my outline and first draft by hand. I don’t know what it is. The words seem to flow easier with a pen I guess. Perhaps it’s because I can carry my notebook anywhere and write when the mood strikes. Sometimes it’s hard to make out my writing. I always start off very neat but as an idea builds in my head my writing becomes a little more excitable, mirroring my feelings about what I’m writing.

So now that the first draft is done I start the long phase or rewriting and revising. Although I like to write my first draft by hand, I perfer to review a typed copy, which means transcribing all my notes. Sometimes when I’m typing I catch parts of the story that don’t make sense or are in the wrong order or should be expanded or removed. I try not to edit myself when I’m transcribing, but instead just type in everything I’ve written. Only once I have a clean printed copy do I start reviewing and revising.

To some people the rewriting and revising stage may not be as exciting or as enjoyable as writing the original piece, I actually enjoy it. I can see a mini movie of the story in my head as I read it. I can see and hear where things are confusing or unnecessary or boring. Sometimes new ideas come up that I hadn’t thought of in my draft. Some that work and some that don’t. I scribble between the lines, in the margins and on the back, all my revisions. Then I edit my electronic version.  I print another clean copy and go through the process all over again.

I’ve just started this stage and I know I will be revising a number of drafts. I know the likely hood of this story being printed is very slim. I think I keep doing this because I really enjoy the creative process. I guess the day I start to write for the sole purpose of having something printed is the day I should stop writing.