Monday, February 21, 2011

Mentor Monday: Welcome to the World of Children’s Books

Some years ago, after I left teaching, I started a writers’ group for beginners. Lots of people had asked to join the Write Sisters but we had reached a point in our professional lives where we felt it was not advantageous for us to be constantly devoting meetings to starting over. This new group would be dedicated to newbies.

Several of the Sisters came along for the ride and we got to meet some great writers while keeping our own meetings focused on the sorts of things we needed as published authors. After about 10 years, I turned the group over to others.

I’d like to compare the experience I had with the beginner’s group to running a high school JV basketball team. When you’re the coach of the JV’s, you know that some of today’s team members are going to get to the varsity and some won’t. Some kids don’t have the talent. Some kids are there because their parents thought it was a good idea or because of peer pressure. Some kids want to see if they can do it. Other kids show up for a few practices and then drop out. Some kids are pretty good on their driveway hoop so they think playing with a team against another team shouldn’t be too hard. Others love to watch TV basketball and feel they know the rules well enough to play themselves.

Writers fall into similar categories. There are the “wannabes.” They think they want to write for kids. They dream of writing a kids book. But that’s all that happens, thoughts and dreams. They never put pen to paper or fingers on a keyboard. Or, like the kids that can’t ever learn to dribble a ball, these writers can’t seem to learn to write for modern kids.

There are the people who, like the driveway players, are pretty good writers. They might do other types of writing: technical writing, newsletters, journalism. How hard can it be to “write down?”

There are the people who have read lots of kids’ books: to their children, students, or grandchildren. They might be very familiar with children’s literature but have not really stopped to analyze the books they’ve read. Or, they are stuck reading their old favorites and have never moved on to contemporary titles.

One person who came to our group had taken a sabbatical from her job and had given herself a year to see if she could make it in kids’ publishing. How I wished she’d come to our group before she made such a life-altering decision! I did not have the heart to tell her that a year was not nearly enough. She did not even have a manuscript in progress. I foresaw 12 months of disappointment for this lady. She was looking to be on the varsity team and she had yet to come to a JV practice.

Tomorrow I will continue this topic with a list of ways to get yourself ready (realistically) to become a writer for children. Will you make it to the varsity team?

1 comment:

I'm Jet . . . said...

Wow, Mur. I was going to write on a similar theme next week. Can't wait to see where you're taking this!