Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Want To Write Books for Children? Then Listen to What They want

I write books for children. I have four published books and 5 under contract. I publish my books through 4RV Publishing. It’s a small press and can’t put out as many books per year as I write, and the publishing house has MANY other good writers.

Why Am I Me?, my first book, helps children with a poor self-image discover what their place in the universe is. It teaches them that ALL things have a purpose and an importance in the universe so, they must, too.

Kimmy Finds Her Key follows a young girl as she and her bestie search for her key to happiness. It’s bigger than she ever realized.

If You Swallow That Seed follows the adventures of a pre-teen boy whose mother says all those platitudes that ALL mothers share with their kids. When she says “If you swallow that seed, a watermelon will grow out of your ear” he never realized that it would really happen. All her ‘momisms’ start to come true, and he must find a way to break the odd spell.

In Joy and Mary Save Christmas, Santa needs help. While he now uses a quantum transporter to deliver presents (although he does spot hit a few houses here and there with the sleigh and reindeer to keep up appearances), he has a big problem. All the presents are stolen by the imps on Christmas Eve. Santa has to replace them and he doesn’t have a lot of time. Joy’s photographic memory saves the day.

I am often asked where I get my ideas for my children’s books. They are a little off the beaten path. My response is always the same: Listen to children.

I have a 9-year-old daughter who was much younger when I started writing children’s books. She is my primary critic, the first one I read my new stories to. If she doesn’t like it or doesn’t think it makes sense, it is back to work for me, or the trash can for the story.

My daughter inspired one of my books directly when, as a 4-year-old, she asked, “Daddy, what if my bones were made of pretzels and my skin was jelly?” It occurred to me that a lot of kids might wonder about such things, so I wrote ‘What If My Bones Were Made of Pretzels (one under contract but not yet out).

My ideas often come from observing children. When I go to a bookstore or a library, no matter what I might be personally looking for, I always stop first in the children’s section. What are other children’s writers writing? What is selling (or being checked out)? If I go to a doctor’s office, I first grab the “Highlights” magazines or any children’s books there. I’m curious what children are reading. Sometimes I do wonder if people see me as some kind of freak, always lurking around the children’s area of book stores and libraries.

My point is simple: what do children want to read? What questions do they ask? What do they find funny? Believe me, it’s rarely the same things you and I might find funny. Their brains are just wired differently than ours.

Watch commercials during TV shows aimed at kids. What are they buying? Better still, observe them in Walmart and other stores that sell a lot of toys. Watch what they stop at, pick up, buy.

If you want to write for kids, you need to understand what they like, what they are interested in, and why.