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Teachers as Storytellers

Posted by Marsha
Marsha
Celebrator of life. Lover of stories. Mom, wife, feeder of three cats. Author of award-winning picture books a...
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on Friday, 16 March 2012 in StoryMagician

This is for all aspiring writers, especially teachers, and especially teachers at Spencer Elementary who tell me they have stories tucked away that they'd love to see in print, but wonder how. Thanks for asking, Spencer Elementary, and thanks for skyping.

First, writing for children is not always the staid, gentle, or lucrative profession many seem to think it is.  Writers can be wild!  Writing for children is highly competitive.  It is filled with rejection.  And very few writers can keep roof overhead and food on the table by writing alone.  That said, there's no other profession I'd rather be in.

You asked for the names of my publishers.  Publishers are easy to find.  They are inside the book.  My publishers include the biggest, most respectable names in publishing.  Diel (Penguin), Random House, and Abrams.  These are traditional publishers, the only publishers I have experience with.  Publishing is changing dramatically.  Self-publishing has become more respectable.  E-books are available.  But I know naught of these.

Editors of books may be more difficult to locate, but sometimes an author will mention them in the dedication or elsewhere.  Look at the dedication page of my first book, Heart of a Tiger, and you will see it's dedicated to Diane Arico.  She was my fabulous, knowledgeable editor, but she left publishing years ago.  Editors and houses are constantly changing.  

The best way to keep up on what's happening in children's publishing is to join SCBWI.  Go to scbwi.org and check it out.  There's also Publisher's Weekly and lots of author and editors' blogs to assist.  Here are just a few to get you started: http://emmaddryden.blogspot.com/http://www.verlakay.com/,  http://blog.nathanbransford.com/ , http://janeyolen.com/, and http://janeyolen.com/.

And below is the blurb I send to those who ask for advise.  I hope it's helpful.

Re: your question, professional writing is a mixture of art and business.  Just as in any other profession, one must study in order to succeed. The three things I did at the beginning of my career that I think helped were:

1) I read almost every book I found in the library about writing in general and writing for children, specifically.  I visited bookstores to see what was currently being published for children.  This research work is vital.  It always amazes me the number of people who hope to publish a children's story, who've never done this homework. Go to a bookstore and find the Children's Book Section.  Bookstores are good because they'll have the most current and the most popular books out. Most of us do this, but if you're like me you usually don't read the books CLOSELY, you just scan them.  We can learn by scanning, but we can learn more by reading closely. Take an afternoon or an evening and settle yourself in. As you read a story ask yourself questions…..Why is this part so funny?  Why don't I like this character?  Why did the author begin with one particular scene and not another? In this way we're teaching ourselves.

2) I joined SCBWI.  Anyone who tells me they have a wonderful idea for a children's book and asks how they can get it published, I direct to SCBWI and the website:  scbwi.org.  SCBWI has most of the answers, including lists of publishers and insights on how not to submit a manuscript as well as how to do it the right way.

3) I started, with another writer, a writer's support group.  You can read each other your stories and help each other make them better.

Patience and perseverance are key!

Good luck with the storytelling, teachers!

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