Friday, September 18, 2020

10 Tips for Beginning Picture Book Writers

Writing picture books can be a tough gig, especially when you are just starting out. So here are ten tips to help you on this mostly fun, often frustrating journey to becoming a published picture book author. 

1. Know why you want to write picture books.

Writing picture books is a noble pursuit if you're doing it for the right reason. And that reason should be some variation of: "I enjoy writing and stories and I want to share those stories with the children of the world." 

2. Read ten picture books every week. At least half of those should be recently published.

If you enjoy stories enough to write them, then this shouldn't be a problem for you. And if it sounds like a lot, that's because it is. But reading a lot of stories is an important part of being an author. That is for many reasons, including the seemingly mundane reason of knowing the current picture book market. But also, picture books can inform and inspire your own writing, they can help you know what kinds of stories you want to write yourself, and they can can be useful mentor texts that will help you to learn and grow as a writer.

3. Don't write in rhyme, unless...'re competent with rhyme and meter. Even then, there's probably a lot you still have to learn. 

You've probably heard the "don't write in rhyme" rule. But it's not really a rule. It's a cautionary statement. The thing is...rhyme is really easy to do poorly, even for someone who may have a knack for it. So, if you want to write in rhyme, learn what makes well-written rhyme shine, and be willing to work at least three times as hard as you would if you were writing in prose. 

4. Find a critique group.

This is one of the first things I did when I set out to pursue writing and publishing children's books. Not only will your critique partners help you improve your writing with their feedback on your texts, but doing the same for them will help you improve as a writer as well. You will likely make connections with people that will last throughout your career and beyond, both in your professional and personal life. And writing can be lonely work, so having a trusted group of people who can be part of the journey with you is invaluable. 

5. Build a platform.

To me, this just means letting people get to know you online. Use social media and/or a blog to show people who you are and what you write. This doesn't mean you have to be an expert in anything specific, but if you are, and you plan to use your expertise in your writing (a biologist writing books about animals, for example), then use that! 

6. Spend time with kids, particularly those the same age as your target audience.

If you want to write for kids, it helps to know them. Watch how they interact with each other. Listen to the ways they talk to each other. Let them tell you stories. All of this will not only help you write stories that kids will relate to, but it will probably lead to plenty of inspiration.

7. Learn about the craft of writing children's books any way you can.

Read children's books. Read books on craft by your favorite children's book authors. Go to conferences and workshops. Follow authors' blogs and/or subscribe to their newsletters. Join the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators and take advantage of the resources they offer. And, of course, write and get feedback (see tip number 4).

8. College degrees don't matter.

Okay, well, they do for some things. But you don't have to have a college degree or even any college at all in order to write a book. You just have to be good at what you do. So do it, and get good at it! Take it from a stay-at-home-mom who got married right out of high school. College is good. But for this job, it's totally optional. 

9. Don't do this unless you enjoy the writing and rewriting process.

As the saying goes, "writing is rewriting." You've got to love it, even when it's hard. And it will be hard most of the time. 

10. Be prepared to wait. A lot. For your entire career.

I once read that it takes the average writer ten years to get published. That's ten years of writing and rewriting and submitting and waiting. Mostly waiting. If you're wise, you fill the waiting with more writing. So get used to it. It doesn't get easier just because you get a book deal. 

So, what are you waiting for? Take these tips to heart and start writing! 

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Book Launch and Giveaways for TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST!

Book Launch & Giveaways for TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST!

I’m Mindy Alyse Weiss, co-host of #PBParty and #PBFest, and I’m thrilled to help Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez celebrate the launch of their newest book TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST. Huge congrats to Corey, Rebecca, and illustrator Hilary Leung on their amazing sequel to TWO TOUGH TRUCKS!

My website is under construction—so thanks for posting the contest info and Rafflecopter widgets, Rebecca.

You can earn lots of entries for these two giveaways…the highest points are for retweeting the contest post on Twitter with your response. 

One lucky person will win a copy of TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST signed by Rebecca J. Gomez. (US only) If you’re outside the US, don’t worry…there’s another amazing prize open to everyone below.  

Join these two tough trucks on their second picture book adventure!

Two tough trucks -- the fastest of friends -- love racing and chasing and zipping 'round bends. But when they chase and zip without paying attention... Mack and Rig get separated! Will they find their way back to each other, and to their parents?

In this sequel to Two Tough Trucks, we join preschool vehicles on an action-packed playdate that goes a little off the rails. Kids will love imagining themselves as Mack and Rig zipping around Hilary Leung's beautiful American Southwestern landscapes, and parents will enjoy reading the easy, bouncing rhymes.

Get ready to vroom and zoom your way to fun and friendship with these two lovable and tough trucks!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here’s another awesome prize…a picture book critique OR Zoom with Corey Rosen Schwartz! 

If you entered the signed book giveaway, the contest answer you tweeted and social media shares will count for this giveaway, too.

PB Critique OR Zoom with Corey Rosen Schwartz

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway will run through Saturday, September 5. Winners will be announced on September 6. 

Good luck everyone!

Monday, August 24, 2020

30 Non-writing Skills Every Children's Book Author Should Learn

It's no secret that being an author involves a lot of writing and writing-related skills. Storytelling, proofreading, plotting, revising...the list goes on. But there are just as many--possibly even more--skills that have nothing to do with writing that are key in helping you be a successful children's author. Many of these skills I've started developing over the past few years, and I've used them all! Most of these skills are essential. All of them are useful.

This post was originally published in March 2017, but it's gotten a fresh update for 2020!

1. Reading aloud

This may seem obvious, but some people are naturally better at this than others. Practice reading aloud using inflection and facial expressions. You don't want to read your book aloud in monotone and put your audience to sleep!

2. Dressing in a way that disarms children without alarming adults

Kids are drawn to fun patterns, book/movie characters, and colorful shoes! Be professional, but kid friendly! 

3. Public speaking

Essential for any author that wishes to do school visits or book signing events. Brush up on those high school speech class skills. Practice with small crowds of people you know.

4. Social media networking

Social media networking will help you connect with authors, educators, and other book people, which will ultimately lead to people learning about you and your books!

5. Graphic design basics

Even if you're the kind of person that will hire a graphic designer to create postcard and bookmark designs, you'll want to learn some graphic design basics. This will help you quickly create timely images to share on your website, blog, and social media sites. I like Canva, which is easy to use and has lots of templates that you can use for free!

6. Talking about yourself with cheerful confidence

This isn't just for those public speaking events! Conversations will naturally lead to questions about what you do. Be prepared!

7. Using Zoom or other video chat programs

Seriously. This part of being an author should not be missed!

8. Taking criticism well

Negative reviews are going to happen. Learn from them, but don't take them too hard! Also, you don't have to read reviews at all if you don't want to. 

9. Kid humor

Even if you don't write "funny" books, knowing how to elicit a few giggles from a crowd of kids will be a handy skill to have!

10. Crafting

Book themed crafts are good extension activities. Design your own or search for some that will work with your books. Either way, be a master with scissors and glue!

11. Introducing yourself to strangers

Like book store managers and people at conferences and book fairs!

12. Explaining your book's plot quickly and concisely

The last thing you want to do is bumble your words when describing your book! An "elevator pitch" can be useful in everyday conversation.

13. Waiting without obsessing

Of all the non-writing skills, this one may be the most helpful in keeping yourself sane.

14. Playing

You write for kids. Do I have to explain this one?

15. Creating printable activity pages

A handy skill that will save you some money. Kids seem to love word searches, by the way.

16. People watching

Not to be confused with stalking. But it's good to observe people, especially kids, and pay attention to how they interact with each other. Volunteering in a classroom or in the kids' area at church can help with this.

17. Signing your autograph

Trust me. It's not like signing a check.

18. Video editing basics

Whether you want to create a book trailer or simply record a video for Instagram or your blog, this skill can be very useful in helping you engage with your audience.

19. Photography basics

People like visual content. So take pictures. Good ones. I like using Instagram because the available filters and other editing tools can help make almost any photo look great!

20. Powerpoint

Useful for creating slideshows for school visit presentations. Also handy for putting together activity pages.

21. Reading for research

You need to know the market. What's being published? What's selling well? Read mentor texts, old and new. Plus, kids will ask you what your favorite books are. It will be wise to share about new books as well as old favorites.

22. Engaging a rowdy crowd of youngsters

Nobody wants to present to a group of kids that aren't interested. Learn how to engage with kids who seem disinterested. Interactive presentations are a good start. This may require some trial and error. Of course, enthusiasm on your part is vital!

23. Creating an attractive table display

For school visits, author appearances, book fairs, etc. Stuffed animals are a big draw. And other props. Make it fun and inviting, but not overly busy. 

24. Planning extension activities

This goes beyond crafts and activity pages. Coming up with unique games or group activities that you can share with teachers or use during your visits will help you stand out in a crowd, and make you a hit with the kids.

25. Navigation

Even in the age of GPS, it's good to know how to get around. When you're driving to an unfamiliar area for a school visit, you're gonna want to be able to get there even if technology fails you. Hint: Ask your school contact about traffic issues, parking, construction, etc.

26. Time management

Building a platform, maintaining a platform, promoting your books, visiting schools, writing. You've got a lot on your plate. Finding a good balance is essential.

27. Self-promotion

You're going to have to promote your own books, even if your publisher does publicity too. It can feel a little awkward at first, but it's necessary. The good news is that much of this is just getting out there and getting to know people. But you've got to talk about your books too. Don't be shy!

28. Bookkeeping

Keeping track of income and expenses is essential, and being organized makes tax season much simpler.

29. Thinking on your feet

Kids (and adults) might ask questions you didn't anticipate. So, expect the unexpected, and practice pausing without saying "umm."

30. How to inspire a child!

Writing a book that children love is part of it. But there's more to it than that. Hint: Think of your own childhood. How can you use that to connect with children today?