Tag Archives: children’s writing


27 Apr

As creators, we must find places to unleash our imaginations. What better place than space? We can’t let those pocket protector geeks (purposeful stereotype) hold exclusive rights over the galaxy. It’s time for us imaginators to flex our creative muscles where no one can hear you scream.

This week’s installment of ‘imagicises’ will continue to help you get into tip top writing shape while going ‘where every man has gone before:’ Outer Space.

For those wishing to ‘tone’ their creative muscles, simply spend 5 minutes on each prompt. For those ‘bulking up’, spend an additional 5 minutes writing or follow the specific instructions with each prompt.

* For further directions on ‘Imagicise’ click here.


  • Day 1: TO EAT YOUR OWN – this year you’re cooking the thanksgiving feast, there’s only one catch, you and your guests are cannibals. So what’s on the menu? This is good practice for imaginators in getting past ‘yucky’ topics and seeing them from the perspectives of their ‘eccentric’ characters. If you can, dive deep and create a plethora of inventive dishes out human anatomy or embrace wordplay. Howabout a ‘hand shake’ for dessert?

  • Day 2: Human Herbivores – What if humans were strictly vegetarians? How would the world as we know it change? Please examine the consequences and how life as know it would have developed differently. Feel free to simply brainstorm a list, dive deeply into a couple of scenarios, or continue on a cause and effect roller coaster. One example scenario could be the domestication of pigs, since humans don’t eat meat, they probably wouldn’t have bothered to keep pigs, and as such “Charlotte’s Web” would have never been penned, and kids would not call each other ‘pigs.’

  • Day 3: Culinary Creator – I’ll never forget weird al munching through a ‘twinkie weiner sandwich’ in the movie UHF. While it looked gross, the name itself was deliciously cute! Use your working knowledge of foods from around the globe and create a list of new foods by combining words. Think visually or phonetically/rhythmically instead of focusing on how the dish will actually taste. Also don’t limit yourself to only edible items. ‘crunchy cereal salad,’ ‘Roasted chewing gum’ and ‘Ham and Sneeze Sandwich,’ all make the menu. For those bulking up, choose one of the foods and write a step by step recipe for it.

  • Day 4: PERSONIFIED FOOD PROFILES – Writers need to know their characters so much that they could fill out an annoyingly long survey about them. Choose any edible item and complete a ‘character Profile’ for them. Feel free to create your own questions or borrow any existing personal survey/character profile available online. For those bulking up do a minimum of two profiles, one for a food you enjoy and one you find disgusting.

  • Day 5: Best/Worst Food Fight Weapons – An edible war is upon us, and you must prepare for battle. Create a T-Chart (two columns). On the left side list the best possible ‘weapons’ in a food fight, and on the right side list the worst foods to use. For example a scoop of ice cream would soar through the air and smack your enemy in the face slowly dripping down their face, but a handful of frosted flakes wouldn’t make it five feet. Also try to think globally and certainly don’t feel guilty about those starving or harming anyone because in make-believe, it’s all fun and games and no one can lose an eye! Consider this battle a life or death dituation and give it your creative all.

Shopping List: A Writing Exercise

20 Apr

Each and everyday there linger biological and societal tasks we all must attend to: laundry, a trip to the little boy/girl’s room, and even opening the door for a total stranger. Usually they have nothing to do with our lives as writers, until now. It’s important for us imaginators to apply our creativity to as many daily ordeals as possible. Consequently, I present to you today’s writing exercise: ‘The Shopping List.’

Much like ‘Day in Disguise,’ this exercise gets your creative juices flowing. ‘The Shopping List’ allows you to play maestro masterfully conducting words to score the otherwise mundane grocery  list. Regardless of who does the shopping in your house, creatively re-name each item. Be sure to imploy figurative language, sensory details, and/or pop culture references.

Disclaimer: Make sure your list is appropriate for all ages, especially easily offended grumpies. By the way, I never take my own advice.

  • Milk: Udder Juice
  • Lamb: Mary Doesn’t Have This Anymore
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: E.F.O – Edible Flying Objects
  • Eggs: Plastic Nest
  • Mayonaise: Causasian Spread
  • Paper Towels: Liquid Huggers

Not only will it help get the creative juices flowing, it’s a fun activity for couples, roommates or the whole family. Have others try to solve the ‘riddle’ for each item. It’s important to see if your remixed names are merely beautiful letter parades or if they actually relate to your audience.

Even if the list is just for you, give it a whirl. If you can’t find the peanut butter simply ask the clerk, “Excuse me, where is the greasy peanut  poop?”

Happy shopping imaginators!


19 Apr

As creators, we must find places to unleash our imaginations. What better place than space? We can’t let those pocket protector geeks (purposeful stereotype) hold exclusive rights over the galaxy. It’s time for us imaginators to flex our creative muscles where no one can hear you scream.

This week’s installment of ‘imagicises’ will continue to help you get into tip top writing shape while going ‘where every man has gone before:’ Outer Space.

For those wishing to ‘tone’ their creative muscles, simply spend 5 minutes on each prompt. For those ‘bulking up’, spend an additional 5 minutes writing or follow the specific instructions with each prompt.

* For further directions on ‘Imagicise’ click here.


  • Day 1: NAME THAT PLANET – You can count the number of planets with two hands, but thanks to imaginators george lucas and other science fiction writers, our vocabulary is filled with a vast array of planet names. The time has come for you to name the planets in your galaxy. This is a great way to notice trends in your style. Where does your brain look to for inspiration? Are there any particular sounds or themes that are often repeated? For those ‘bulking up,’ spend an additional 5 minutes describing one of the planets as if you’re writing it’s travel brochure.

  • Day 2: ALIEN FAMILY RESTAURANT – What’s on the menu at a family Restaurant for aliens? Use ingrediants present on Earth, but don’t limit yourself to edibles. For instance, a used car salad with gas tank slices, rubber tire croutons, and dusty car seat morsels sprinkled with rust and marinated in unleaded fuel is worthy of the menu. Try not to limit yourself to ‘technologigcal’ or ‘scientific’ themes, allow your menu to branch into whatever realm your culinary creativity desires. For those ‘bulking up,’ spend an additional 5 minutes describing the restaurant with sensory details.

  • Day 3: SPACESHIP REALITY – Imagine you are a cast member of a new reality tv show set on a spaceship. The intended audience should be the same as the audience you intend to write for (ex. children, adults, intelligent canines). Choose 5 (10 for those bulking up) spaceship mates, fictional or real, that will naturally create infinite storyline possibilities. Consider this imagicise as practice for assembling an ensemble cast of characters by learning how characters must play off one another or support the protagonist, which in this case is you.

  • Day 4: TAKE ME TO YOUR DENTIST – Science fiction often portrays aliens landing on earth to destroy mankind. While this creates universal conflict, it’s also cliche. Let’s have some fun and create a list of reasons aliens may land on earth. For example, “they need to borrow some mayonaise,” “They want to study spanish,” “A young alien was punished for bad behavior and sent to earth,” or “they arrived for the sole purpose of telling earthlings to kindly keep the noise down.” For those ‘bulking up,’ choose one of the scenarios and spend an additional 5 minutes crafting the dialogue between the aliens and a group of earthlings.

  • Day 5: Alien Google Trends – The google empire has invaded the outer limits. While daily google trends can range from sports, to celebrities and current events, imagine what would be the most searched for items on a galactic google.

Day in Disguise: A Writing Exercise

13 Apr

Between each sunrise, writers should have written…something.

After a busy day, it’s difficult to swim in your imagination. If you need a help transitioning from the adreline pumping confines of reality into a writer’s groove, forget curious liquids, there’s a writing exercise waiting to assist you.

Remember, writing is the key: you don’t always have to pen a staggering slice of a novel. If you’ve had a full day, use the activities, events, and experiences of the day to your advantage.

Say hello to the “Day in Disguise” writing exercise. Simply recall all of the things you did today but instead of writing them down like any Joe Shmoe (no offense to the Shmoe family), enlist your creative dominance over the letters to remix the day.

For example, “ate grapes” becomes “savored the flavor of juicy spheres after ripping them from their umbilical cord.” Or “watching the movie Sorceror’s Apprentice” becomes “Witnessed a skull faced motorcyclist who could be gone in 60 seconds wait 1,000 years to train a dork who previously scored a girl “out of his league” to be Merlin’s apprentice.”

You can also choose keep it simple by remixing “took a nap” to “visited the dream SPA.”

For each “Day in Disguise,” start from the beginning of your day and simply list all of the things you did or want to remember. Then one by one, until you’re satisfied, in the writing mood, or successfully defeated writer’s block.

In addition, you can use this list to test the power/humor of your writing, while entertaining others.  Bring it to work or school the next day and have your peers try to see through the figurative language and guess what you actually did. Remember, sharing is caring, and there’s nothing better than to easing others into reading your work.

Happy creative listing imaginators!


*Can you guess what they are?

  • Gave my teeth a bath.
  • Was attacked by an indoor rain storm.
  • Calmed the waves of the blanket ocean.
  • Fancy footwork accelerated two circles towards my destination.
  • Mowed my facial fields.
  • Avoided the temptation of Ronnie M’s dead cows and feasted on a bowl of green.
  • Co-workers laughed at the color of my refrigerated urine.

Magazines: A Writer’s Oasis

22 Mar

“Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it.”  William Knowlton Zinsser

All writers wish to see their name on a creation of their own imagination. It’s ego that drives the need, though current ‘supply and demand’ pummels our ego into fairy dust. Instead of brushing the remaining particles into the trash bin, we should instead sprinkle the fairy dust into the medium of magazaines.

Of course, we won’t see our name on the cover, will be limited in size/scope, and we won’t enjoy a  flow of royalties. But writing for magazines  provides a cushion of cash, while still reaching audiences with your creativity. Much like aspiring entrepreneurs, writers would rather have their ‘own business,’ than go to work for an existing enterprise. If anything, writers should see magazines as sports franchises. Become a fan of a few, and try out for the team. You never know, with enough practice, you may be under their spotlight.

The road to publication does not entirely center on the quality of your writing. Every book publisher takes a huge financial and professional risk on a new author, by providing a reel of magazine credits you prove that you’re level of writing and professional has been honed by the publishing experts. While an agent is a crucial piece of the puzzle, magazine writing credits may prove to be an equal weapon towards convincing an editor you’re a safe bet.

Having written over 60 picture book drafts, I’m now going back to see which ones don’t necessarily need 32 pages of pictures. Also, if your manuscript doesn’t lend itself to page-turning, you may also want to consider sending the manuscript to a magazine. In addition, you work doesn’t even need to be fiction. Magazines accept poems, puzzles, games, photos, and even recipes.

While I would love to provide a list of useful links, I’m so happy that others did their homework and are allowing us to cheat off of them. Please visit the two sites below for information regarding submissions for children’s magazines or consult Writer’s Digest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.

Kid Magazine Writers: An epic resource of links and submisison guidelines for children’s magazines.

Children’s Magazines: Kathy Temean provies a helpful list at her blog “Writing and Illustrating” listing the average payouts for various children’s magazines.

Happy submitting imaginators!

PICTURE BOOK FACTORY – Online Critique Seeks New Members

14 Mar

Click to join pbfactory

Click to join pbfactory

Looking for a place to comfortably and safely have your picture book manuscript stabbed by a rubber sword? If yes, then please join the ‘Picture Book Factory,’ CraveWriting’s official online critique group.

Moderated by Crave Cravak and looking for new members we only ask that all Factory workers write/share/critique often using Yahoo! Groups with occasional live Skype Chats. Submissions are limited to a maximum of 2,000 words per month. PB Factory is ideal for writers who wish to solely focus their creative/constructive efforts on picture book or early reader texts. If there is an interest in chapter, middle-grade, or young adult, CraveWriting will gladly sponsor additional online critique groups.

All picture book writers, published/un-published, are welcome!

To join simply visit the Picture Book Factory’s group page (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pbfactory/) and request to join. Please keep in mind, you’ll need a Yahoo! account to join.

Happy collaborating imaginators!

Morning Ritual

10 Mar

“Each morning sees some task begun, each evening sees it close; Something attempted, something done, has earned a night’s repose.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Writing is not a task; it’s a lifestyle. To climb the mountain of success, every imaginator must live the life of a productive writer each and every day. Just as breakfast is empowered as the ‘most important meal of the day,” what better time to swim in the currents of writing than morning?

Over the past few months I’ve developed and am ‘owning’ a morning ritual. It has nothing to do with push-ups, orange juice or tooth paste. Instead, this ritual is all reading, reading about writing. Monday through Friday when I arrive at work, I’ve conditioned myself with 4 tasks. Now keep in mind I have a desk job, meaning I literally (95% of the time) sit at a desk. I’m left to do whatever I desire, and take advantage by stocking my shelf with writer-friendly texts.

The first task is reading the daily entry from Eileen and Jerry Spinelli’s “Today I Will: A Year of Quotes, Notes, and Promises to Myself.” It’s short, simple and provides a motivational sting to start the day. The Spinellis use excerpts from children’s literature providing me with a crash-course in authors, titles, and quotable phrases. While this book was intended for youngsters, with 365 days, it gives me consistency, while instilling patience.

The second task is reading two entries from “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book.” This helpful resource furnishes readers with excerpts from children’s books, explanations by editor Anita Silvey, and comments from ‘famous’ people affected by the excerpted books. To avoid drowning in a sea of quotables, I’m purposefully reading this book slowly.

The third task is much like the latter, and I’m currently absorbing quotes from established children’s authors and illustrators in Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoof’s “The ABCs of Writing for Children.” This is a MUST own for any children’s writer. Though, reader beware. This book is so rich with insightful and inspiring words that if you take too big of a bite, you’ll end up with a toothache. I recommend choosing a section, such as ‘plot,’ ‘rhyme,’ or ‘book signings,’ and digesting its contents when best suited to your current stage of the writing process. For me, I simply choose one section a day and circle the sugary tidbits in pink. Previously, I used this slot in the morning to read “I Wish Someone Had Told Me That,” an e-book  from Children’s Book Insider with advice from a variety of children’s writers.

To complete the saga, I use the 4th task to read a chapter from a middle-grade or early chapter book. Previous selections include P.B. Kerr’s “Children of the Lamp: The Akhenaten Adventure,” and Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler’s “Hank Zipzer: Niagara Falls, or Does It?” At the moment, I’m playing in Neverland with Peter Pan. I’ve made it a personal goal to read all (most of) the classics. On deck is “Alice and Wonderland,” followed by “The Neverending Story.”

While some may argue that a writer should start their day writing, I do my best work at night. I’m more of a night owl than an early bird and therefore absorb in the morning, and create at night. More importantly, this ritual helps fill a void. Having not read as a child, and while currently living in Japan, I’m left out of children’s book society. But by ritualizing my mornings, each day I take a step towards the center of this joyous community.

Please comment below with some of your ‘writing-esque’ rituals.

Happy ritualizing imaginators!

When to Attack a Publisher

10 Dec

In the transient world of publishing, “keep your eye on the prize” is misleading and problematic.

While some writers focus on one picture book at a time. I’m a factory. Generating new ideas is not only a breeze, but also a subconscious excuse to avoid finishing a draft. But there’s no greater distraction then ‘eying the prize’ and imagining your own display in Barnes and Noble.

Upon finishing a handful of picture book manuscripts, I got the ‘fever for fame.” I became obsessed with longterm career planning and searching for the right publisher for books that were merely ideas. Like many, I picked up the most recent copy of Writer’s Digest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market guide book. In addition as a SCBWI member, I took advantage of their free and useful Publication Guide. For weeks, I hilighted and took down notes on prospective publishers.

Disillusioned, I felt having a personalized publisher list would make it easy to find the perfect home for each book as it came off the assembly line. This list was to be an excel file  complete with contacts, genres, leads, tips, etc. I got as far as scratching notes in various notebooks and failed to completed the list.

Presently, I have 37 manuscripts.Of these, 15 have been chosen for the next round. They’re currently in the factory being revised and examined and torn apart as they would at a publisher’s acquisitions meeting. As each piece is nearing the finish (though nothing creative is ever truly finished) The time has come to locate a distributor for my ‘products.’

Some say it’s best to write a book specifically for a publisher. I disagree. I think inspiration should come from the natural world and not the desire to be published. Though, I suppose one could be inspired from a catalog and then naturally develop an idea that comfortably snuggles in the publisher’s nest of titles. 

Instead of hunting for a publisher one book at a time, I decided to scan my un-finished list for leads. Evaluating the publisher’s core values, audience, genres, and style I would decide if any of the 15 titles were a perfect match.

I remembered Barefoot Books standing out. Now, most of my books are chaotically zany and initially felt they didn’t embody the soft and mature style Barefoot embodied. Nonetheless, I stopped by their website, and soon realized… I had a book for them! “Excuse Me Mr. Thunder” would work perfectly” I thought. “It compliments existing and selling titles such as “I Took the Moon for a Walk,” “Star Seeker,” and “Boy Who Grew Flowers.” I won’t be the illustrator, but I could picture the drawings matching Barefoot’s catalog. “YES!” I shouted. I found a prospective home for “Excuse Me Mr. Thunder.” Then I looked at their submission guidelines and read: “We appreciate hearing from members of our community, however, our publishing program is currently full and we cannot accept manuscripts, queries, or art samples. Thank you for your interest, and we wish you the best of luck!”

Reality’s ugly fingers took a needle and popped my hopes and dreams. Last year when I had begun compiling the publisher list, Barefoot Books was accepting unsoliticed manuscripts. For whatever reason, they aren’t now. Of course, in the future they will again open their doors, and hopefully not to agented material only. In the meantime, what should I do?  Fast track to an agent to work their magic to get me in the door, or perhaps ‘pucker up’ make a contact at Barefoot? Those may appear to be brave and bold acts proving a writer’s passion for the piece, while in truth they are merely acts of desperation. We can’t forget the cliche, “There’s plenty of fish in the sea.” While the number of publishers accepting unsoliticited manuscripts is dwindling, the fish are still biting. Just make sure you’ve got the right bait.

I always consider a manuscript as a draft until I find the publisher. This way if I have to slant or tweak the piece to meet the publisher’s needs, it’s easier to do since I’m not attached.

Consequently, don’t even look at prospective publishers until you know your piece is ready for that final treatment. Sure it’s ok to keep a journal of notes of possible publishers, but don’t foster expectations. It’s fun to think you’re a social services worker. and think “We’ve got this great kid who we believe in, now we just have to find the right home that will equally believe in him.” Though, wait until that child is born before you start looking for its home.

Keep your eye on the product, and not the prize (publisher).

Wild Resources

25 Nov

From fierce fangs, to snorting snouts, to treacherous trunks, kids love animals! Any children’s book full of molting, stampeding, or even hibernating creatures will instinctively leave its readers’ drooling.

While some publishers frown upon personified animals, allow them to inhabit your story. But whatever you do, PLEASE BE ACCURATE!!! I don’t claim to be Jack Hanna, and my subscription to Zoo Books expired over a decade ago, but I know enough to spot a fake. Unlike the world of fur, when it comes to children’s books, real is better!

While frolicking through many a picture book it’s hard not to notice inaccuracies, mistruths, and utter laziness. For example, why is a gorilla eating meat? There shouldn’t be a carnivore in an exhibit with gazelles. And a book about Africa certainly should exclude tigers. Unless of course they are tourists or apart of an exchange program.

Please break the rules, but these ‘exceptions’ should be treated as such. For example, in my picture book ‘Bo Eats a Burger,’ a cow dreams of escaping exile after accidentally chomping into a cheeseburger. Cows aren’t supposed to eat meat, so when Bo Vine does, he has to fight his way through the consequences.

In addition, you can stay true to the natural order of things while dazzling the short attention spans of your reader. Instead of calling a seal ‘Sammy,’ look to the scientific world or the ocean for a ‘thematically savvy’ moniker. The animal kingdom is rich in history, stories, and names. Apply them to your stories!

Below is not a holy doctrine, but a mere starting point for online resources. Writers of non-fiction may be asked to provide print sources, but there’s nothing wrong with beginning your search on wikipedia. Please Note: This list will continually be updated as new sources are discovered. Last updated: 11/15/2010

Go wild imaginators! But please be responsible.


Animal Name Lists:

Enchanted Learning’s Names of Animals, Babies and Groups

Indian Child’s Animal Names List


Animal Bytes

World Wildlife Fund

CyberSleuth Kid’s Animal Links

The Electronic Zoo

Wikipedia’s Lists of Animals

Quote Parade #1

16 Nov

Human fascination with quotes exemplifies our love of language. In fact, a quote is really just a delicious sentence. Well, I’m hungry.

In this first installment, here’s a random list of quotables from famous peeps and commoners alike dealing with writing, motivation, children, or albino zebras confused with horses. Please note, I claim no accuracy and attribute full credit to the original authors.

“Children aren’t dumb, they’re just shorter.”– Mo Willems

“I don’t know why grown-ups don’t believe what they did when they were kids; aren’t they supposed to be smarter.” – `Eric’ in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

“After I blow a hole in somebody and slip around on their guts, afterwards I always like to make balloon animals.” – ‘Cowboy Dan’ (Steven Martin) in Parenthood (1989)

“Every performer needs to know what it’s like to be booed, or worse, ignored.”  – Nick Adams from “Making Friends With Black People.”

“Fear is the hardest act to follow.” – Lifehouse – ‘In Your Skin’

“I keep on dreamin’ because I can, even though my eyes don’t close.” – Katy Rose – ‘Because I Can’

“Confidence is the most important thing you can give a child.” – Jill Biden

“Goals are for people who know what they want.” – Rebecca Behrendt

“Success is only a sentence away.” – Crave Cravak

“Wondering if wondering is my fate.” – Evan and Jaron – ‘From My Head to My Heart’