Friday, April 19, 2013

You Won't Know if You Don't Try

Aaaah.... children's books.

We've been reading them in Spahnville since Charlie was born.

When I think back, we've definitely evolved in our literature.  Early favorites included
authors like Sandra Boyton and Karen Katz and the board versions of Are You My Mother?, Goodnight Moon, and The Big Red Barn.

When we were knee-deep (literally) in board books, I thought the day of real-paper picture books would never come.  But it did happen; somewhere along our journey, we seamlessly transitioned from reading "baby books" to reading everything.  Charlie has always had an incredible attention span for books-- many times exceeding that of most elementary students.  Every book is his favorite book and he seems to remember all of them.  Just the other week he piped up at suppertime, "Remember when that ant was on the railroad track? And he ate the big man's sandwich?  That was so funny!" (We had checked out I Saw an Ant on the Railroad Track while we were at the cottage in August.)

While Charlie and I are snuggled up on his bed reading, I often daydream about writing children's books.  My mind wanders to the conflict of the story and gets stumped with delivering a clever resolution.  During Guidance lessons, I find myself dreaming about better examples to utilize with students--stories about kids living in poverty, kids with deployed parents, kids with loved ones battling diseases, kids with school problems, friend problems, parent problems.  Or maybe could we please just have a few more books about good friendships and good families and good people in this world?   Sister wants to see more children's books with the main character wearing glasses, without the book being about the glasses.  I'd love to see more books with little girls in hiking boots and little boys who are afraid of spiders.  Sometimes in the evenings, Charlie and I will create an elaborate story (usually with Binga's help) to have it re-told the remainder of the week.

I think about my wish list and our evening storytelling and I have a fleeting thought of: "I should just write a book......"

Of course, there are a few problems stemming from this thought.
1.  I know nothing about writing children's books.
2.  To be a children's author, I think you need to know something about writing children's books.
3.  See #1.

But lately, I've been realizing that I'll never know if I don't try and maybe I can't keep putting things off.  Does everybody feel as lost about what their life is supposed to be as me?  Do we all just flounder around, treading water, getting by little by little each day?  Because, that's kind of how I feel in my professional life.

So, I signed up for another online class.  (Maybe I''m subtly achieving my dream of being a permanent student after all.) Here's the description:

Writing for Children:
Join a former executive editor of Scholastic children’s publishing and discover what you need to know to write for children.   If you're a beginning writer, this course will help you transform your book idea into a finished product that could potentially land in the hands of an editor or agent. And if you're already a successful writer, this course will help you explore new opportunities and markets for your work.

In this highly interactive, hands-on course, you'll take pen to paper and begin work on your first fiction or nonfiction manuscript. In the process, you'll explore the changing world of children's literature and understand the various formats, whether it’s early readers, picture books, chapter books, middle grade or young adult novels. You'll get insights from publishing professionals to gain a better understanding of the needs of today's market.  By the time you finish this course, you'll have all the tools and resources you'll need to begin navigating the world of children’s publishing and to continue growing as a writer for children.

About The Instructor

Eileen Robinson
This course includes a knowledgeable and caring instructor who will guide you through your lessons, facilitate discussions, and answer your questions. The instructor for this course will be Eileen Robinson.
Eileen Robinson is a former executive editor for Scholastic publishing. She graduated with a B.A. in English and has more than 13 years of experience in publishing children’s books for the educational, school, and library markets, as well as helping writers revise and polish their work for the trade market. She has worked with both new and published fiction and nonfiction authors, and has helped beginners improve their writing and navigate their way through the publishing industry.  She has taught many writing workshops at conferences devoted to publishing for children, and she is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

Yesterday I took the course pre-test and scored 30%, which confirms my initial suspicion that I have a lot to learn.  And though I may not ever write a story that lands on bookshelves across the country, at least I'll have a better idea of writing for children-- which may come in handy the next time Charlie, Binga, and I put our creative heads together.  

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