Highlights from Carmen T. Berneir Grand’s Presentation on Writing Children’s Books

Ashleigh RousselleNotes By Ashleigh Rousselle

Preliminary Research is important no matter what you’re writing; just make sure your research doesn’t take up your actual writing time.

Get as much information as you can. You’ll never know what you can use.  Check and keep track of all your sources.

Remember how children think (not liking someone because they don’t comb their hair).

Let publisher decide the appropriate age of people who would read your book.

Not everything should go into a children’s book (ie. if it follows history, skip the cannibalism)

Write with 3H’s: Head—ideas, Heart—feeling, and Hand—(hand-written first)

We all have a scary editor inside our heads who says, “This is garbage.”  Blindfold them.

When editing, read out loud

Writing groups—cool down for a few days and then re-look at comments

Don’t follow editors and attempt to tell them your story orally

Surprisingly, children’s stories can take years, especially if your illustrator gets sick and no one tells you.

Watch out for skin color of characters—it’s easy to accidentally insult people.

Information doesn’t have to be for just one book, you can take advantage of everything you write.

You need three-dimensional characters; you need to know what’s bad about your character.

Your book can become complete with illustrations without you even seeing sketches. Writers don’t handle that.

Editors often change where they work.  Keep on good terms with all of them—someday they might be in a position where they can help you.

It’s good to call and check up on your manuscript after you’ve submitted it for consideration, they may have lost it.

Don’t worry about illustrations unless there’s something that’s not clear from the text.  (Like gender of a character.)  Don’t send instructions. Try recommending an illustrator by letter instead.

Keep in mind if you partner with an illustrator—they may like your work and not the illustrators or vice-versa.

They nearly always include things you don’t expect—just let it be.

Self-published books can be picked up by publishing companies

When you have passion or talent, you should share it with the world.

Send your submissions to multiple places, otherwise it will take forever.

Keep writing—don’t wait on your mailbox.

Try writing folk stories in the way you would tell them today.  Though be careful—are they in the public domain or not?

Advances for children’s books are very small.

A good agent should be your cheerleader, and not constantly putting you down.  They should also be attending a lot of conferences, know the industry, and be a member of AAR—Association of Authors’ Representatives.

Keep your brain going—put it all down as quickly as possible.  Keep a little notebook with you at all times.

Writing is also thinking.

In cover letters don’t say, “The kids in my library love it”—they’ll decide.

Don’t send it out until 2 or 3 people have read it and until YOU are satisfied.

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