They come from all different directions. But they usually have one thing in common: we think they're brilliant when they first arrive.
Most ideas have been done already, so it's important that we bring our ideas to paper in fresh, original ways. Here are three considerations when taking that next big thing from your noggin to your notebook.
1. TRI-ANGLE APPROACH
There are plenty of back-to-school books, holiday books, bedtime books, etc. Yet we keep seeing new ones about the same-old topics getting published. Why? How? If you can take a familiar tale or theme and tell the story from a different angle, you have a new (and most likely interesting) story. The TRI-ANGLE approach is when you draft your story idea three different times, each time from the angle or perspective of a different character or narrator. When you're finished, you'll have learned something about which point of view is the strongest, and probably have an inkling of how to progress forward.
2. FRESH FORMAT
Sometimes I get an idea and just start typing sentences. But most times I sit back and think about the feeling and mood of my book. If it's funny or silly, I might try rhyme, all-dialogue (comic-strip style) or even metafiction (directly addressing the reader). If it's deep or literary, I might try writing it in free verse instead of straight prose. There are so many types of picture books out there, and finding a format that functions for the story will give you less headache. Think outside the paragraph!
3. REAL RESEARCH
Knowing what's out there helps you understand which of your ideas are truly fresh, and which might need some re-invention. Research is also imperative for understanding #2 and the many formats of picture books out there. Some of the things I do are... Reading. Searching library catalogs. Scrolling through Publisher's Marketplace deals (you can see what's going to be published). Reading. Amazon's filtered searches. Google. Asking friends. Visiting a bookstore. Reading. Browsing a classroom bookshelf. Attending ALA and other book or writing conferences. Reading.
When I'm asked where my ideas come from, that's a hard question to answer. They're cheap, easy, and everywhere if you're paying attention. Now...ask me how to wrestling that idea into something fresh, original, and salable and you've got yourself a really good question. That's the is the skill we really are mastering. Good luck, idea wrestlers!
Miranda Paul is a children’s writer who is passionate about creating stories for young readers that inspire, entertain, and broaden horizons. Miranda's debut picture book, One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, was named a Junior Library Guild Selection and received a starred review from School Library Journal. Her second book, Water is Water, illustrated by award-winning artist Jason Chin received two stars and a JLG selection. She is the Executive Vice President of Outreach for We Need Diverse Books™ and the administrator of RateYourStory.org, a site for aspiring writers. Her next title, Whose Hands Are These? will be published in January 2016 from Lerner/Millbrook. Miranda believes in working hard, having fun, and being kind. Learn more at www.mirandapaul.com.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about language learning and how daunting and complex a process it is. As the supervisor of an English language program, I’m with English language learners every day. So much so, that I’ve finally decided to learn a second language again. I studied French as a child when I attended public school in Toronto, Canada, but with little to no need to speak French outside of French class, I’m by no stretch of the imagination fluent.
My current French tutor is patient and encouraging, but I’m still a bag of nerves and totally inhibited when I attempt to speak the language. I worry that I might make a mistake, sound silly, and that people will judge me.
Truly the best time to learn a second language is in early childhood. Children are non-judgmental and generally uninhibited. Language is a gateway to culture. I recently came across a children’s book of nursery rhymes that celebrates multilingualism and multiculturalism.
My Village: Rhymes from Around the World Collected by Danielle Wright, Illustrated by Mique Moriuchi, is a treasure trove of nursery rhymes from around the world. Poems are told in English and the native language of each of the 22 countries is represented in this book. Moriuchi’s illustrations are the perfect complement to the nursery rhymes. The textured paint and collage images are whimsical and thoughtfully executed to represent the culture from which each poem was born.
Readers are gifted the opportunity to see and read poems in native languages. This rich collection allows multilingual families to see their mother tongue cherished. Additionally, it serves as the perfect starting point for parents and educators to discuss and teach cultural diversity, poetry and art. This book reinforces the fact that children and families from around the world are beautifully unique yet share so much in common. Readers will delight in uncovering the common themes in the poems and seeing that children from around the world, play, love, imagine, and simply want to make friends.
Carol Higgins-Lawrence wrote her first story at the age of five. Her father paid her a quarter for it and she's been writing ever since. She's taken a variety of courses in writing for children. Multicultural perspectives are of particular interest to her. Carol is of Jamaican descent and was born and raised in Canada. She has a BA in Communications and Sociology and she has completed coursework towards a MA in TESOL. She has worked as a literacy educator for the past 15 years. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two young children. You can visit her website at carolhl.weebly.com
Birthdays have never really affected me...until now. I’m turning 40 tomorrow and I thought it’d be fun to wax poetic on 40 of my favorite books, or 40 great writers or 40 ways to procrastinate when you have a writing deadline...but let’s face it, a list of 40 is just too long!
So here’s a 40 word poem.
In my sentence of life
40 seizes a semicolon;
detaching the past from the future
40 exclaims authentically!
and questions unequivocally?
But I’d prefer that 40 pause.
anticipating the page turns
of the rest of my life.
How would your age be represented in the sentence of life?
Kirsti Call is a homeschooling mom of five. Her debut picture book, The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall, came out December 2013. Her family band, Calling Out, plays songs written by her children. She contributes to Writer's Rumpus, and Kids are Writers. If you visit her house, you’ll likely find her reading or writing a picture book. You can find out more about her at www.kirsticall.com.
Ever have a manuscript that you just can’t sell? You’ve spent hours crafting just the right words, in just the right sequence. Your language is lyrical. Your voice is spot-on. The plot and character arcs are perfectly rainbow shaped.
You’ve sent your piece out over and over and gotten no response. You say all the typical things to yourself:
“It’s not ready.”
“I need to tweak it some more.”
“The timing isn’t right.”
So into a drawer it goes. To sit… and wait.
Well, what if you could take that piece and use it to earn money?
Think it’s impossible. It’s not.
What you can do with that manuscript is to use it as a sample writing piece and submit it to an educational publisher for a work-for-hire (WFH) job.
As most of you probably know a WFH job is one where a publisher sends you a contract to write a book to specific guidelines under a set timeline. They give you the topic, age range, readability level, and back matter requirements and you write the book to their specifications.
WFH is a great way to establish yourself as a writer and build credentials for your resume, all while putting money in your bank account. I am proud to say that I’m the author of over 20 WFH books for kids and I have successfully used my experience to translate that into trade contracts.
The biggest employers of WFH are educational publishers and book packagers, although pretty much every major publisher has a WFH division.
Educational publishers are companies that write specifically to sell to schools and libraries. Book packagers are companies that are hired by other publishers to create books for their list.
So where does that manuscript you have sitting a drawer fit in? You can use it in you’re the WFH submission package that you send to these companies.
A WFH package consists of 3 things:
The manuscript that you have sitting in the drawer would be a great example of your writing. So polish it up, and send it.
To get you started, here are a few educational publishers that are develop WFH nonfiction picture books:
Infobase Publishing http://www.infobasepublishing.com/ContactUS.aspx?Page=AuthorSubmission
And here are a few book packagers to check out:
Red Line Editorial http://reditorial.com/reach-us/work-for-us/
Bender Richardson White http://www.brw.co.uk/contact.html
Publishing Solutions Group http://publishingsolutionsgroup.com/about/careers_at_psg/
To find more educational publishing opportunities, check out the awesome Evelyn Christenson’s blog here: http://evelynchristensen.com/writers.html
Or the SCBWI “The Book”
Feeling motivated? Good! Now go get that manuscript out of your drawer and put it to work!
Tips from my 'Writing for Love and Money" class with Mira Reisberg. Look for that class to be offered by The Children's Book Academy in early 2016!!
A self-professed science geek, Jennifer is the author of over twenty nonfiction and fiction books. She has 3 books coming out with National Geographic Kids (2015 & 2016) and one with Charlesbridge (2016). Her book “How Hybrid Cars Work” (The Child’s World) received a starred review from Booklist and also a Top 10 Books for Youth 2012 Award from Booklist Online. Several of her other books have received “highly recommended” reviews from the National Science Teacher Association, as well as School Library Journal. “Body Bugs” (Capstone Press) was a 2012 Tri-state Book of Note and designated an award winner by the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association. You can find Jennifer at www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com
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