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Peggy's Pages Blog 

A Writer's Work-in-Progress

Book sale volunteers, from right: Peggy and Katie, with children's book browsers
Getting published in the children’s field is often a long, hard journey. So it’s good to have a plan. While you wait for that acceptance, here are some things that you can do to help move you closer to your goal.

1—Read children’s books
Read to find out what children are reading. Read to see what publishers are buying. Read to learn how to write. Read the type of books that you want to write, but read other genres, too. And don’t forget children’s magazines. Get to know your children’s librarian and the children’s book coordinator at your local bookstore. They can tell you what they like. They can tell you what kinds of books they want more of. And they’ll be rooting for you when you get your first book published!

2—Read about writing for children
There are books on craft, books on marketing, and books about the children’s publishing business. There are books about how to write for children, from picture books to YA and everything else in between. Gather tips from authors and editors by reading magazines and newsletters for children’s writers. The Children’s Writer and Children’s Book Insider, are excellent examples. Writers’ Digest magazine occasionally prints a special issue about writing for children, and Publishers’ Weekly has two issues per year about children’s books.

3—Check out websites for children’s writers
Many good websites offer articles about the children’s publishing business and writing for children, as well as current marketing news. Be sure to check when the site was last updated, and the credibility of the website’s author. Check out authors’ websites and blogs, and discussion boards for children’s writers.

4—Research the market
Read children’s books to see what’s being published. Check out the current Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market Book, which is updated every year. Keep up with the trends and markets by reading magazines and newsletters, specifically those for children’s writers.

5—Submit to magazines
A good way to feel instant gratification is to get something out in the mail. Stories, puzzles, or jokes for magazines are shorter, and take less time to write. Children’s magazines are usually quicker to respond. Rejections may pile up, but they also show that you’re writing. And acceptances help your writing credits, validate your writing, and boost your enthusiasm.

6—Join a critique group
Writing is a lonely profession. Critique groups keep you in touch with other children’s writers. In a critique group you can get feedback on your writing, get a push to get something finished, and share marketing news, writing experiences, and good news. If possible, join a group of children’s writers. The process of writing for children is different than writing for adults, and feedback from writers who write only for adults can sometimes be off the mark.

7—Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI)
SCBWI is the only international organization for children’s writers and illustrators. It opens up many excellent opportunities, such as grants, and conferences. SCBWI provides more information than you can get from any other source, and includes the bi-monthly SCBWI Bulletin, the yearly updated market survey, and many other publications. It offers opportunities to connect with children’s authors and editors from around the globe.

8—Attend conferences and events related to writing for children
Choose your conferences carefully. Attend those that are specifically geared for children’s writers. Networking with other children’s writers, both published and to-be-published, meeting editors of children’s books and magazines, and opening up markets for your manuscript that are otherwise closed to submissions are benefits in addition to the information gained from speakers’ presentations and handouts.

9—Find opportunities to attend other local events related to children’s books and writing
In addition to conferences, find out when children’s authors will be speaking at libraries and schools in your area, and plan to attend. If you speak to a school librarian ahead of time and explain that you are a children’s writer, they are usually happy to let you sit in on an author’s presentation. If a national event such as Book Expo or an ALA event is planned in your area, don’t miss the opportunity to attend.

10—Enter contests and apply for grants
You won’t get published if you don’t submit, and you won’t win if you don’t try! Besides the possibility of winning a contest or being awarded a grant, there are some hidden benefits. Getting something completed within a deadline, gathering tips on what editors and judges are looking for and tips on ways to promote your work are obvious. But earning a letter of merit, or placing in a contest is something you can put in a cover letter. And you never know when one of the judges, perhaps an editor, might take an interest in your manuscript and ask for your submission!

11—Set realistic goals
Begin with a goal that you can accomplish. Once you’ve reached that goal, re-evaluate and set higher goals. Starting with small, attainable goals will give you a sense of accomplishment rather than a feeling of failure. Re-evaluating and setting higher goals along the way will give you a push to keep moving forward. When you reach a goal, reward yourself with a small treat—a piece of candy, an outing, time to yourself or with friends.

Check with your library, your child’s school, and in your community to find opportunities to help with events where you will be surrounded by children and children’s books. Go a step further and volunteer to help with events planned by your local SCBWI. Besides the good feeling you get from helping others, and the vast writing material you get from working with children, you never know who you might meet that will help you along the way in your career as a children’s author or illustrator.

The following puzzle describes all of us who write for children:
No matter what stage we’re at in our quest to be a part of the children’s book world, we are always a Work in Progress!
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The Children’s Choice Book Awards program, launched in 2008 by The Children’s Book Council (CBC) in association with Every Child A Reader, was created to provide young readers with an opportunity to voice their opinions about the books being written for them and to help develop a reading list that will motivate children to read more and cultivate a love of reading.

On May 3rd the Children’s Book Council announced the following winners of the Children's Choice Book Awards for 2011:

Author of the Year
Rick Riordan for The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, Book 1) (Disney-Hyperion)

Illustrator of the Year
David Wiesner for Art & Max (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year
Little Pink Pup by Johanna Kerby (Putnam/Penguin)

Third Grade to Fourth Grade Book of the Year
Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Knopf/Random House)

Fifth Grade to Sixth Grade Book of the Year
The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, Book 1) by Rick Riordan (Disney-Hyperion)

Teen Choice Book of the Year
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (Dutton/Penguin)
--from Children's Book Council
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Indiana SCBWI Spring Conference Wrap-Up

Kerry Martin, Mary kole, Lisa Yoskowitz, and Rebecca Kai Dotlich at the Panel Q&A (questions & answers)
April came to a close for Indiana SCBWI at our Spring Conference for Children's Writers and Illustrators in Indianapolis. We welcomed the spring weather, and renewed our spirits with inspiration as well as information coming from experts in the field of children's writing and illustrating.

Our speakers included--
Lisa Yoskowitz, editor at Disney*Hyperion Books for Children,
Kerry Martin, Book Designer for children's picture books at Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
Mary Kole, literary agent for children's writers at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and
Rebecca Kai Dotlich, poet and children's author and Golden Kite Honor recipiant for her picture book, "Bella and Bean."

We kicked off the week-end on Friday evening with open mic readings by attending authors, and portfolio reviews by illustrators who were there. A great way to get some quick feed-back from other children's writers and illustrators, as well as from the speakers.

Saturday morning got us into the meat of the conference.

Rebecca Kai Dotlich started us out with a peek into her writer's studio. She talked about how she writes, and her journey to publication--the ups and downs, rejections and then the acceptances--and gave tips for aspiring writers.

Lisa Yoskowitz then talked about creating suspense in our stories. Some advice she gave--
*Stay true to the world and the characters that you've created.
*Create strong characters that will make the reader care about what happens to them.
*Introduce conflict, to stir up the plot, and to stir up the characters
*Keep the stakes high; good suspense stirs up the reader's imagination.

Mary Kole talked about what an agent does, and how to choose an agent that's right for you. She shared some tips on writing a query letter to an agent, including--
Always follow the agent guidelines.
Personalize your query to the agent.
Include what you think the selling point of your manuscript is, who your audience will be, and the word count.
Include a short bio related to your writing.
Be brief and professional.
She then read some query letters submitted by attendees, and talked about the strong and weak points of each.

Other breakout sessions to chose from (such a difficult decision!) were offered--
Rebecca Kai Dotlich, on A Banter of Basics, for beginning writers.
Lisa Yoskowitz, on Marketing your Manuscript to Stand Out in the Sluch Pile.
Kerry Martin, on How to Make the most of Your Illustration Marketing, using some real-life illustration submissions as examples.
Mary Kole, on what Separates Aspiring Writers from Published Authors.
And Kerry Martin again, on The Lauguage of Picture Books, interesting to writers as well as illustrators.

All of our speakers listened to anonymous First Pages of a manuscript submitted by attendees, and looked at illustration submissions. The speakers commented on whether they would be drawn in by that first page and continue reading, and why they would consider an illustrator based on their illustration sample.

In between sessions, four published Indiana authors were spotlighted and we heard a five-minute account of their journey to publication.

And at the end of the day, all of the speakers formed a panel to answer questions from attendees.

Sunday morning highlighted the writer or illustrator intensives, with another opportunity to receive input on manuscripts or portfolios.

Part of the value of the conference experience was to meet and talk to other children's authors and illustrators who were attending the conference, which adds to the value of the conference. Great feed-back after the conference confirmed that attendees came away encouraged, and committed to their work.

Thanks to all of the speakers, and the wonderful volunteers who helped make the week-end a success. Happy writing or illustrating to all!  Read More 
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