One of my New Year’s resolutions was to take a children’s book writing class so I signed up for one through my local community education program: Children’s Book Writing with Margo Lemieux. She teaches art at Lasell college but has also written children’s books. Interestingly, she has not yet illustrated her picture books. I found one of hers at my local library and it’s perfect for a spring diversity pick.
Full Worm Moon by Margo Lemieux, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker
Native American parents tell their eager children the story of the Full Moon Worm which brings the earthworms to the surface, helping prepare the ground for planting. They stay awake all night to catch this phenomenon, and thus the spring rituals of planting begin. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Taking a Children’s Book Writing Course
I wanted to share with some of the benefits of taking a class if you are thinking about getting a children’s book published:
1. Meet Nice People Interested in KidLit.
My group had three illustrators so it was particularly stacked with talent: Jannie Ho is a published illustrator working on writing her books, Jen Betton teaches illustration and has a literary agent with queries out to publishers, and Katia Wish is the 2011 winner of the Tomie dePaola Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
2. Learn About the Publishing Industry.
Some of the handouts that Margo provided are available online:
Book Formats and Age Levels from UnderDown.org
FAQ’s from SCBWI.org
20 Tips for Writing Children’s Books by Pat Mora
From KeyBoard to Printed Page edited by Kim Turrisi
3. Get Writing Assignment with DEADLINES!
Our first writing assignment was to write the first sentence of our manuscript three different ways. Our group then voted for their favorite one.
Next, we wrote the back story to our book. The idea was to create a deeper character by telling the story before the actual story.
Finally, we submitted one page of our manuscript to three of our classmates for feedback.
4. Set Goals!
Four weeks — 8 hours of class in total — is not enough to turn yourself into a published author, but it’s a good place to get a lay of the land and get to work setting goals. Margo said that a Harvard Business School study showed that those who set clear goals were the most successful, therefore she made us write out our goals.
In the book What They Don’t Teach You in the Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack tells a study conducted on students in the 1979 Harvard MBA program. In that year, the students were asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” Only three percent of the graduates had written goals and plans; 13 percent had goals, but they were not in writing; and a whopping 84 percent had no specific goals at all.
Ten years later, the members of the class were interviewed again, and the findings, while somewhat predictable, were nonetheless astonishing. The 13 percent of the class who had goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent who had no goals at all. And what about the three percent who had clear, written goals? They were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent put together.
These are my goals for the year:
- Write 12 picture book manuscripts. I am also doing 12 x 12 Challenge: 12 Picture Books, 12 Months. I have 3 so far in various draft forms.
- Join a critique group. I joined a local group from SCWBI.
- Write the first draft of my middle grade fiction book. Not very far along with this.
- Go to one book related event. Have not figured this out yet.
- Submit manuscript to a literary agent. Will do so through 12 x 12.
- Research agents. I have done nothing towards this yet, but my dream agent is Danielle Smith of Red Fox Literary because I feel like I know her through her blog and social media.
- Make a list of personal contacts from blogging to get feedback when I’m ready. Haven’t done this yet.
- Take a grammar refresher class and/or read grammar refresher book/s. I own these and have to re-read. Margo says there’s a free EdX class called WRITE 101 which I might audit.
Typing up my goals reminds me that I better get to work! I am so behind!
p.s. Related posts:
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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.