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How to Choose Your Educational Writing Sample | Writing for Children 088

THE SECRETS TO SAMPLES Many who write for educational publishers are very familiar with samples. These are the bits of writing publishers use to judge whether you're a writer who can do the job for them. If you've never handled writing samples, they can be scary. How do you know if the sample you're sending will wow the publisher? What about reading levels? The questions and fears can build to the point that you let a great potential opportunity pass simply because you were too scared to...


Making Your Submissions Plan | Writing for Children 087

WHAT'S YOUR PLAN? There is nothing like the thrill of finishing a story or article or book. You're worked hard on it, you know it's the best you can do, and you're probably still a little in love with it. Now all you have to do is send it out. So you scramble for an agent or market. You discover it's harder than you thought to find a place that really fits with what you've written, and that's discouraging. But you pick somewhere. It fits okay. You send it out. And then you either haunt...


Top 3 Submission Tips

TOP 3 SUBMISSION TIPS In this episode, I interview author and 12 x 12 founder Julie Hedlund. Along with Emma Walton Hamilton, Julie co-created the Complete Guide to Picture Book Submissions. With experience on both sides of the submissions desk, they know what makes a query stand out—in any genre. Julie Hedlund is an award-winning picture book author, 21st century publishing expert and founder of the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge. Since 2012, 12 x 12 has encouraged thousands of...


When You Have No Ideas | Writing for Children 085

WHEN THE IDEAS WON'T COME One of the questions writers tend to be asked a lot is "where do you get your ideas?" Of course, two other questions are "can you read something for me?" and "can you pass this on to your publisher/ agent?" but let's stick with the question of ideas. Ideas are both the most valuable and the least valuable thing a writer can have. They are valuable because an idea is the seed from which a story grows. They are the least valuable because no one is paying you just...


Idea Theft | Writing for Children 084

WILL SOMEONE STEAL YOUR IDEA? Writers sometimes worry that someone will steal their idea. It's rare. If a publisher sees an idea that suits their publishing line and is executed really well, it's improbable they do anything but buy it. But if they see an idea with amazing potential that isn't realized in the story––well, it is possible to be unethical and go looking for an author who can make that idea blossom. Still, one of the best ways to protect your idea from creative theft is to...


Idea Mining | Writing for Children 083

WHERE DO IDEAS COME FROM? It is a common question that is difficult to answer. Ideas are elusive and their sources hard to pin down. In her guidebook Take Joy: A Writer’s Guide to Loving the Craft, Jane Yolen, prolific author of more than 300 books for children and young adults, reflects, “How much easier it would be if there were some central warehouse where ideas were stored, waiting to be claimed.” Alas, this is not the case. Yolen offers the image of writers as idea archeologists....


700,000 Copies and Six Figures Later ...

FROM SELF-PUBLISHED TO PUBLISHER In this episode, I interview bestselling, self-published children's book author and publisher Maria Dismondy. Award-winning author and founder of the publishing company, Cardinal Rule Press, Maria Dismondy inspires and educates others in the book industry. Maria’s background in early education and research enables her to touch lives the world over while touring as a public speaker in schools, community forums and at national conferences. Maria also...


How to Make it a Happy New Year | Writing for Children 081

HAPPY NEW YEAR: NOW WHAT? The New Year is galloping toward us at an alarming rate. Are we ready for new challenges and the work to meet them? For many of us, preparing for the New Year means setting goals. Now, goal setting can get us in trouble as we either set unrealistic goals, goals dependent on the behavior of people and factors outside our control, and goals that reflect what we think we ought to do rather than things we are actually motivated to accomplish. This year, I've decided...


Be Kind When You Rewind | Writing for Children 080

A KIND ASSESSMENT OF YOUR YEAR (AKA DO NOT USE YOUR PAST YEAR TO BEAT YOURSELF UP) For many of us, as the end of the year creeps closer, so does the inevitable assessment. • How did I do at meeting my goals? • Where did I fall short? • Why did I fall short? And those are perfectly reasonable questions as long as they’re not used as a stick with which to beat ourselves up. For many of us, the yearly assessment looked good for the first month or so. And then we began to slide farther...


Writer's Hibernation | Writing for Children Podcast 079

ARE YOU FEELING WRITER'S HIBERNATION? It's been my experience that one of two things happen this time of year. Editors work in a white-hot frenzy to clear out all submissions before holiday break (so things you've been waiting to hear back about forever may suddenly pop up with responses) or editors become covered over with all the “stuff" that comes around this time of year and anything you submit basically gets an extra month or two added to the response time. So, I said all that to...


How to Know Where You Can Get Published Part 2 | Writing for Children 078

WHO'S ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS? There's is a lot of research that goes into figuring out which publishers and agents to submit to when your manuscript is ready. In this episode, Katie interviews Marni McNiff, the editor of the ICL Market Guides. The Book Market Guide for Children's Writers and the Magazine Market Guide for Children's Writers comes out each year with updated information and new listings for publishers and agents. Marni and her team have done the legwork to help you find the...


Thankful | Writing for Children 077

I'M GRATEFUL FOR WRITING Writing for a living can be scary, frustrating, exhausting, and just plain hard. And things like rejection or lack of support from the people around us can cause us to lose sight of all the wonderful things about writing. So, since Thanksgiving is a great time for meditating on good things: here are some of the things I'm most grateful for relating to writing. I'M THANKFUL FOR READERS Without readers, writing can still be a wonderful pastime. It can help you...


You Have No Option | Writing for Children 076

WHEN WRITING JUST ISN'T AN OPTION It’s the end of the year when it's difficult to find time to write, and nearly impossible to write every day. Sure, some people can manage it. But if you can't, that makes you just like many other writers. The holidays can be stressful, crazy busy, and filled with things that need your attention. So if you can't write for the next few weeks, what should a writer be doing? Listen to the What's your question? Tell us and we'll answer your writing...


Treat Yourself | Writing for Children 075

REWARDS AND CHALLENGES Long ago, researchers were studying how creatures react to reward. They learned that if you put a "reward station" in a rat's cage and have a treat appear every time the rat pushes a button, the rat will push the button a lot at first, then taper off. Eventually, he'll push the button only when he wants a treat and his desire for the treat seems to lessen over time. But if you have the reward station only produce a treat sometimes, and give nothing the rest of the...


How to Know Where You Can Get Published Part 1 | Writing for Children 074

WHO'S ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS? There's is a lot of research that goes into figuring out which publishers and agents to submit to when your manuscript is ready. In this episode, Katie interviews Marni McNiff, the editor of the ICL Market Guides. The Book Market Guide for Children's Writers and the Magazine Market Guide for Children's Writers comes out each year with updated information and new listings for publishers and agents. Marni and her team have done the legwork to help you find the...


Authentic Kid Voices | Writing for Children 073

CREATING QUALITY VOICES A while ago on the Institute's Facebook page, someone was asking about dialogue, which made me think again about this important writing tool. Readers love dialogue because it makes a scene and a character come to life. Dialogue puts us into a specific moment within a story and that's a powerful thing for readers. But many writers struggle with dialogue and with making it feel lively, purposeful, and real. So what should you do first in the pursuit of good...


Look in Your Junk Drawer

CLEANING OUT THE JUNK DRAWER Personally, I love revising. I love the process of carving really good prose out of potentially questionable prose. For some, revision is more of a necessary evil, and one you must constantly, consciously focus on or else the old "let's make up a new story instead" nature can take over, and you may end up sending things out that really aren't ready. I've critiqued a lot of pieces of students and clients, often after it’s been rejected, and I'd say the number...


Five Things to Worry About | Writing for Children 071

FIVE THINGS WORTH SWEATING OVER There are some mistakes editors see so often that they've become sore spots, things they simply think writers ought to take the time to overcome. Every single one of them is something I've done at one time or another, so I'm not saying these mistakes are deal breakers or will keep you from ever being published, but they are so common that they're worth making their correction part of every single revision. So here are five small things that can make a big...


Let's Solve That | Writing for Children 070

THE PATH TO SOLUTION IS RARELY KIND Ultimately, the nature of plot is problem. The main character faces something that must be overcome or completed or defeated or endured, and the efforts that main character makes to do just that causes ripples that change the circumstances … and not always for the better. We take our beloved characters and we throw them into deep water, then when they try to get out of it, we drop a rock on them. In other words, that path to solution is rarely...


Five Tips for Success | Writing for Children 069

HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS? At this point in my writing career, I have never won any of the biggest prestigious awards, but I do make a living from my writing so I feel pretty successful. Success means something different to each of us, of course. If your idea of success involves the words "J.K. Rowling," I probably can't give you many tips. That level of success comes from a creative mind, a strong work ethic, and a good solid scoop of luck. But if you're defining success by being...


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