I gleaned many valuable tips from the terrific speakers at the Children’s Literature Conference this spring at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota—and I’m willing to share—a few. Over sharing is definitely not encouraged, but I hope the following tips will be useful.
- You’ve heard it before—read, read, read. But Susan Marie Swanson elaborated on this basic advice. She recommends reading new children’s books and taking note of what’s not out there currently, for example picture books much over 500 words. Also, read out loud—to a child, and watch their reactions. Susan is an award winning author of The First Thing My Mama Told Me (a Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book) among others.
- Make every-single-word-count.
- Donna Bray, an editor at Balzer and Bray, an imprint of Harper Collins, added—when looking at the bestsellers ask “…is there something in your work that could appeal in the same way?”
- “Write every day even if at the end you throw most of it away,” says Sarah Stewart. Her books include The Library, The Friend, and The Gardener—a Caldecott Honor Book. All of her books are illustrated by her husband David Small.
- Consider creating a “picture book dummy” with the standard 28-29 pages of text. This will help you take advantage of what the illustrator can do.
- Barbara LaCosta, author of Nighttime Ninja, recent winner of the Children’s Choice Book of the Year Award (K-2), says “…set up an expectation, then interrupt it for anticipation.”
- “When you need to revise using feedback from others—ask your character,” says Patricia Schmatz (author of Blue Fish, winner of multiple honors) “Use a Q & A format and write it out in freehand.”
- And this from me–consider avoiding age stereotypes in your writing. Read six reasons why here.
- Recommended next steps? Consider hiring a mentor, taking an online class, or applying for the Shabo Award—winners receive mentoring from an expert author. Check out The Loft’s website.