Showing posts with label children's authors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label children's authors. Show all posts

SCBWI Book Critique Boutique

I've got exciting news.

On December 10th, I'll be at Touro College in Bayshore, Long Island selling books and giving 10 minute critiques for ONLY $10.

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators is having it's first ever (as far as I know) Book Critique Boutique!
(If this has been done before by SCBWI, please let me know in the comments!)

If you're in the area, stop on by. I look forward to seeing you!


A First Look at Writing Historical Fiction

Your approach to writing historical fiction can go one of two ways, according to the Writer's Relief article, "How to do Research for Historical Fiction: Balancing Fact and Fiction:" Research then write or create your story, then weave in the facts from your research. For Book Two in my mystery/ghost series for 7-11 year olds, I chose the latter approach. And I'm glad I did. Here's why.

Walking a Fine Line
There is a fine line between "historicizing" fiction and "fictionalizing" history. Or simply put, in finding the "truth" in historical fiction. (The Alan Review: this article is geared to teachers, but the discussion is excellent for historical fiction authors on what's at stake.) Other helpful observations for writers of historical fiction from this article include:
  • As we know, careful research is a must.
  • Weigh any bias that might be present in historical accounts.
  • Historians examine the complexities of history.
  • Novelists create clear characterizations and forward-moving plot lines.
  • "A danger for the novelist lies in achieving [resolution often denied to history] at the expense of excluding significant nuances and complexities."
  • Please consult this excellent article for more thought-provoking information.

Ready for a Supreme Balancing Act?
Decide to write historical fiction and you will be launched into one of the most delicate balancing acts of your life. Solution? Find a happy medium. For years, the story of Book Two had taken up occupancy in my head. Curiosity got the better of me a few years ago when I decided to explore the historic event I wanted to illuminate: what the people were like. The times they lived in. More think-time ensued. Recently the muse came knocking: Enough! It's time: get to work! I began to write the book and now it's half done! Now it's time for a breather from the writing and return to the historical facts the book is based on. That changed everything. I realized the story must change.

Children's Writers have Yet a Tougher Line to Tow
Novelists of children's books beware! In children's books, "Events must be more closely winnowed and sifted; characters more clearly delineated, but without condenscension or over-simplification." (The Alan Review article) And there's more. As is true for all historical fiction authors, children's authors must:
  • Find the optimum balance between fiction and history, such as zeroing in on the details: clothing, food, transportation, etc.
  • Be accurate: accuracy is another balancing act. In writing for children, the historical fiction author must weigh the facts describing life "the way it was" while keeping the information appropriate to the age group.
  • Language must be accurate: the vocabulary of the period must ring true.
What I Learned
Upon the second examination of my research for Book Two, I decided to throw out my original idea. The event in history is just too horrifying for young readers. The historical event took place during the Civil War and involved the burning of many farms and mills in northern Virginia. But ghosts die, right? Not in a fire while trying to rescue the ghost's horse as first imagined: way too graphic. No, I've decided my ghost needs to save her horse from a burning fire and dies later of natural causes. Much better. If illumination of the historical event is possible with elementary students, I plan to first speak with teachers of my age group for their opinion on whether a discussion of the event should be addressed in their classrooms. If a teacher agrees, then I will tell the full story of the event in history and how I came up with the idea for the novel.

My toe-dip into historical fiction has been fruitful. This story takes place in the present day, is pure fiction, is loosely based on a true event, and I think works for this particular series. Ideas for a completely different book set in history are popping up in my brain like mushrooms. This is going to be fun!
Image found on Pinterest, saved by: Source: Ethel Traphagen: The Wiley Technical Series Costume Design and Illustration (New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1918.)

Additional Source: Writing Historical Fiction: Create an Authentic and Compelling Story Set in the Past, by Emma Darwin.

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she has completed her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, and is hard at work on Book Two in the series.  Follow Linda at

Interview with Author LeeAnna Kail

We want to thank LeeAnna Kail for letting me interview her for the blog today. Ever since LeeAnna Kail was little, she had an interest in writing. In fact, when she was in the fourth grade, she completed a career project and dressed as an author with dreams of writing her own book one day.

LeeAnna attended Duquesne University with a double major in political science and English with intentions of attending law school after graduation. While studying abroad in Rome, Italy, LeeAnna had a change of heart and decided to continue her education at Duquesne studying elementary education instead. She knew she found her niche the first day of class. Inspired by an assignment from a children’s literature course, LeeAnna's dream of writing a book has come true.

LeeAnna currently teaches in Pittsburgh and hopes to be an inspiration to her students to follow their dreams.

LeeAnna, can you share some writing experiences with us?

In college, anytime I wrote a paper, which was many of them since I English was one of my majors, I always listened to the band, The Fray. I would sit at my desk with headphones in and just type. I ALWAYS waited until the last minute to turn my papers in. I am a procrastinator who works best under pressure and I would get in my zone with The Fray and just write. I got a lot of As on my papers.

What are some of the things that have influenced/inspired your writing?

My dad, who published a children’s novel last November, has been a major influence on my writing. Growing up, he would always help me with my papers. Because of that, I adopted some of his writing techniques. I used writing in my everyday life, whether it was a paper or diary entry. Writing was an outlet for me.

It has been my experience, some things come quite easily (like creating the setting) and other things aren’t so easy (like deciding on a title). What comes easily to you and what do you find more difficult? 

The hardest part for me is starting. I needed to find inspiration to start my story and it didn’t come for many weeks. Once I had my idea, I then had difficult of discovering the problem. I thought, “Okay, if an owl can’t ‘WHOO,’ what else could it say? Why would it need to say those things?” So, coming up with the main parts of the plot was difficult.

The easy part for me was the title. I think a title says a lot about a book and I had that right away. I knew what I wanted it the main idea to be.
Please describe to us your relationship between you and your editor. What makes an author/editor relationship a success?

An author/editor relationship requires patience and understanding. The author has to remove any kind of feeling from the book and realize that though the author may be good with words, the editor knows the way in which they flow the best. My editor did a wonderful job of taking out the “telling” I was doing in the story. She did however; take out my favorite part in the story where the bullies end up coming to Ollie for him to teach them his cool words. I think that is such a special moment, and I just couldn’t get rid of it.
When they write your obituary, what do you hope they will say about your books and writing? What do you hope they will say about you?

I hope they will say that I used my book (hopefully books at the time) for good. This past year, I did a fundraiser with my dad that had all the proceeds of our books go to a child suffering from cancer at my school. For my book signings elsewhere, a portion of the proceeds go to Make a Wish Foundation. I didn’t write this story to make money off it, it just sort of happened because of a class. Fate has a funny way of happening. Because of that, I want especially to use my book for good.

I hope they say that I loved deeply and showed others to accept themselves.
Is there any particular book when you read it, you thought, "I wish I had written that!"?

There are so many! As a teacher, I’m constantly reading children’s books. I especially love “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs.”

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it?

Of course! Who hasn’t! I have several techniques of overcoming this monster: take a walk, grab a snack, plug in my headphones with The Fray blaring, bounce ideas off others, or revisit it the next day.

What type of books do you mostly write?

I especially love children’s literature books, although I have many unpublished poems.

Who or what inspires your characters and/or plots?

Random things at random times.

Tell us about your writing space.

It depends on the year. I have a Macbook. The places I go with it are endless!

Is there anything you'd go back and do differently now that you have been published, in regards to your writing career? 

No. Everything happens for a reason!

Do you do first drafts on a computer or by hand?

By hand! The art of handwriting has sadly decreased with the amazing technology in the world today. I am one who needs to write things down though.

How do you see the future of book publishing, both traditional, electronic and print on demand?

Well, two years ago, I went to King of Prussia Mall. All I wanted to purchase was the Hunger Games series. After an hour of searching for a bookstore, I ended up calling the information desk. Would you believe that they do not have a book store in that GIANT mall?! I was so upset. I am one who LOVES the smell of the paper, the feel of turning to the next page, and the feeling of accomplishment after physically seeing the book you just read.

With that said, I think there is an inevitable decline of a traditional book. Until then, I will continue to support the local libraries and bookstores.

What advice would you give to a new writer?

Keep writing! Believe in yourself and your work.


You can find out more about LeeAnna Kail, her debut children’s picture book and her World of Ink Author/Book Tour at

Follow LeeAnna Kail at
Twitter: @LA_Kail

“Join Ollie on his adventure in searching for his sister and learning the significance of being different.”

About the Book:
Ollie is known for one thing in his village: he is the only owl who cannot “WHOO.” The other owls tease him for saying “WHEERE!” or “WHEEN!” or “WHYY!” and sometimes “WHAAT!” All Ollie wants is to fit in, but when his little sister gets lost in the woods, Ollie discovers he can help.

While providing insightful perspectives on diversity, The OWL Who Couldn’t WHOO offers educators, libraries, parents and young readers a fresh new look on anti-bullying and self-confidence.

Title of Book: The Owl Who Couldn’t WHOO
Publisher: Halo Publishing, Int.
ISBN Number(s): 978-1-61244-129-0
Genre of Book: Children’s picture book
Publication Date: Feb. 2013

Places where available:,,, by author

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