Three ways to get great ideas for children’s stories

Before I started to dedicate myself to writing children’s stories, I always wondered where people got their ideas. Sure, I would get ideas, but to me it seemed one came only every few years. After I took my children’s writing course, the ideas finally came to me, fast and furious.  Here are three ways I found that my ideas appeared:

1. Immerse yourself in children’s literature. Read as many books as you can and read in all genres. Read picture books, emergent readers, middle graders, young adult novels, fiction, non fiction…You will not only find what writing style suits you better, but also find that the ideas start coming to you.

2. Spend some time in a child’s world. And don’t only observe it, live it. When your child tells you to join her in a leaf bath, do it. You’ll be amazed how suddenly an idea comes to you as you lay in the leaves, staring into the sky. Or make fake footprints in the snow. Again, don’t just observe, participate.

3. Use children’s guided activity books to help you out. I find that there aren’t too many guided writing books that focus on adults writing children’s stories. But there are plenty of books that are designed to help children learn to write more creatively. Here is a recent gem that I found called:

Read! Write! Publish! Making Books in the Classroom

This is also a good book for homeschoolers or parents who want to encourage their children to write outside of the classroom. My daughter has already had a lot of fun making the pop up book (a story called “Carrot the Parrot”) and the journal.

What about you? Where do you get your ideas from?

 

Three children’s book publishers accepting unsolicited manuscripts

One of the hardest things in the children’s book industry is to find a publisher that is accepting unsolicited manuscripts. It takes hours of research in order to find a few and then you have to research more to find if the publisher is the right fit.

Of course there are excellent books to be had on the subject like

2013 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market

However, a lot can be done on the internet now. Another way to go about finding someone who is accepting an unsolicited manuscript is to go on the publisher’s website. Then read some books that the publisher has published in order to get a feel for what they are looking for. You can also choose to follow a publisher via Twitter, get on their e-mail mailing list, or read their blog.

Research takes a lot of time, so here’s a head start for you. I am sharing three publishers who will accept an unsolicited manuscript:

1. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

There are three divisions of the children’s group, which all have distinct styles, i.e., Clarion Books, so you must do some more research to find your fit. They are looking for picture books, novels, and non fiction.

2. Charlesbridge

Charlesbridge asks for exclusive submissions. They are looking for picture books, transitional books, and non fiction books.

3. Kane Miller (educational)

They accept picture books, chapter books, and middle grade fiction.

Here’s a publisher that accepts query letters:

Greenwillow Books

Although they are not accepting unsolicited manuscripts, at least they are willing to look at query letters. The query letters must be sent by snail mail to a specific editor, which means more research to find the editor who suits you.  They publish children’s books for every age.

Remember that it is important to find a publisher that fits your personality. I find that lately I have been reading books, discovering the publisher styles I really enjoy,  and then taking down names.

What about you? Do you have any children’s book publishers who are accepting unsolicited or unagented manuscripts that you would like to share with us?

UPDATE:

Check out my new page called “Publishers Accepting Unsolicited Manuscripts” for a more detailed list.

Fairy Tales

Fairy tales. They have gotten a bad rap over the years: outdated, sexist, culturally irrelevant. But whatever you think of them, they have enchanted children for hundreds of years.

Some stories remain in their original form, because they continue to have something to teach us. Stories like “The Three Little Pigs” have been told to generations (whether or not in your version the wolf meets a horrifying demise).  Others change details depending upon the culture they are told in, like Cinderella, which seems to have a counterpart in every country, starting with Yeh-Shen in China. Still others become updated as the times change. Lately there have been a lot of spoofs of fairy tales. What happens when the three bears become three dinosaurs? What is the real story behind the big bad wolf blowing down those houses?

I loved fairy tales growing up. I particularly liked Hans Christian Anderson’s tales, especially drawn to the bittersweet ones like “The Little Mermaid” (not at all like the movie version), probably because they reflected my life more accurately.

A particular favourite of mine was “The Ugly Duckling”. As a child it gave me hope, hope that one day I would really find my niche, and grow up and not feel so ugly. And in fact that did become true. In writing I have found finally found peace and confidence.

What about you? What was your favourite fairy tale and why? Or did you not like them?

Children’s Stories

The other day my daughter came home from the library with a “learn to read” book. The characters on the front were familiar. They were from a recent popular cartoon movie, one that I had never seen, and one that she had seen but had not really liked.

So why had she chosen it? Perhaps because it was familiar. She has always liked books more than movies, and so maybe she thought that the book would be better.

I read it to her and discovered something that disturbed me: the story did not make sense. It was obvious that there were huge chunks missing from it. I know why these were cut out. The creators wanted to make the text at an appropriate reading level. But in trying to adapt their movie to a book, a lot was lost in the translation.

I decided then and there I wanted to explore children’s stories in a blog. I want to explore what makes good children’s literature.

These days a lot of parents are reaching for books that are based on movies and TV shows, because that is what they know and what their children ask for. Now that’s not to say that some of them aren’t good.

But I have my own opinions about what I like and dislike, and I want to share them with you. And I want to hear what you think too.

I also wish to blog about my writing journey, and to hear what others have to say about their own.

So come along with me for a fun filled, thoughtful and entertaining look at children’s stories.