Do you have any interest in doing a blog post (or series) about career pathways for children/young adults to become children’s book authors?
I ask because my 8 year old daughter (aka Paprika) has wanted to be a children’s picture book author and illustrator since birth (practically). She has read every children’s book – knows all the Caldecott and Newberry winners – and in general, is just obsessed with Children’s Literature. She has taken a few classes on Craftsy about Children’s Book Authoring – and beyond that, I don’t really know how to guide her. She is just set on this (and has been for years) – and overall, it’s her mission in life.
The first person I thought of to help Erika is Erik because:
- He’s a published author (and is currently in 7th grade)
- He highlights kid authors on his blog in his series, Creative Kid Thursdays
- He participates in a picture book writing challenge 12 x 12 to write 12 picture book drafts in 12 months
Nancy Yi Fan is another published kid author. She wrote the series Swordbird which was accepted for publication by HarperCollins when she was 11-years-old.
When I grow up I Want to be an Author
Hi everyone! My name is Erik, and I write a blog called This Kid Reviews Books. As you may have realized from the blog name, I review books. 🙂 I am a 13 year old Middle School student. Today, I have the pleasure of co-posting an article about kids becoming published authors with Mia Wenjen of the fabulous blog, Pragmatic Mom. I’ve been blogging about books for four years now and I have learned a TON about the publishing world because of my blog. For kids wanting to become traditionally published authors, just like for adults, it is very difficult to “break into the business.” It may even be harder for kids, because we are competing against adults. Adults who have been writing for years. Not only that, I’ve found it’s hard to get a publisher or agent to take you seriously. Having said that, there are kids who are traditionally published authors or who have literary agents who represent them, so there is hope! Plus being a part of the writing community when you are young really helps you gain skills and learn what you need to be doing.
For me, I self-published a children’s book called The Adventures of Tomato and Pea, when I was 11. This was after trying to get an agent or a publisher to look at my story. I couldn’t even get a response after sending out 15 query letters. Finally one came back and it started “Dear Author.” That was me! I didn’t really care that it was a rejection letter (well maybe a little). I was an author.
I do have a poem and a couple of short stories published in anthologies from small presses. These came about through contacts I made in the writing groups I belong to or through my blog. For kids wanting to be writers, or that have a story to tell, joining writing groups, entering contests, having a critique partner or joining in events such as NaNoWriMo YWP (National Novel Writing Month Young Writers Program) or Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 or Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo gives you great experience writing and you get to meet professional writers who, in my experience, are super happy to help kids out. Asking a writer to be a mentor for you will help. My writing mentor, author Michelle Isenhoff, has helped me tremendously in my writing. I met Mrs. Isenhoff through my blog.
It would be cool if the world worked like it did in Andrew Clements’ The School Story (which was a marvelous book, by the way) where a school-aged kid masquerades as ZeeZee Reisman, literary agent of the Sherry Clutch Literary Agency for another school-aged kid author for a fair chance in the writing world, but it doesn’t. Joining writing groups or entering contests only helps you improve your writing skills and helps you write more professionally. It may sound funny, but when kids write, to be taken seriously, you can’t sound like a kid. I have to say that as a reviewer, if I get a book with mistakes or poor grammar or stories with huge holes in the plot, I don’t want to review it. Even in letters to agents or publishers, you have to be professional. I think that was one of the mistakes I made when I sent out query letters for my book – I sounded more book fanboy than a serious author. Still it was a good experience and I learned a lot.
Speaking of being professional, that is what landed me a monthly newspaper column. I write a column called “This Kid Reviews Books” (what else) for the Upper Bucks Free Press. I got the column assignment at a book signing event. The content editor of the newspaper heard me interviewing the author at the event. After I was done interviewing the author, the editor pulled me aside and told me how professionally I handled the interview. She was stunned to learn I was only ten at the time. I’ve been writing for the paper ever since.
I have a feature on my blog called “Creative Kid Thursday.” I interview kid authors, illustrators, bloggers and business owners on Creative Kid Thursdays. The majority of kids are self-published or published through a small press but it is so awesome to see so many kids doing great things. The kids who are writing are doing it because they love it. Some day they want to be a traditionally published author (hey, I do too).
Some practical things you can do if you are a kid and want to become a writer are:
1) Start a blog. Post things you write to it. You may get comments back or connect with people who can help you in your writing.
2) Enter writing contests. They help you focus your writing or get experience writing about things you usually wouldn’t think of. Plus there’s a chance you may win.
3) Get a writing mentor. Someone who will help you really grow as a writer.
4) Join a critique group. Find a group that is willing to have a kid or maybe make one with fellow kids. Just make sure the people in the group offer constructive criticism and aren’t the kind of people who just like to pick things apart.
5) Join writing events such as NaNoWriMo YWP or professional societies, if they let kids in. I tried to join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), but they won’t let anyone under 18 join (they were very nice and sent me some great resource materials though).
6) Attend writing classes offered in the writing community. I really enjoyed Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Making Picture Book Magic.” I never thought about writing picture books before. It was a challenge and the class made me a better writer.
7) Write, write, write!
8) Contact me and I’ll feature you on my blog. 😉
9) The best advice I’ve ever heard for aspiring writers came from Newbery Award-winning author and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Kate DiCamillio, “Read as much as you can.”
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.