What to Write About: Choosing Topics

SendakWrite about kid friendly topics.

It’s one of those bits of advice that initially seem helpful.  But then you find yourself asking — what topics are kid friendly?  Let me answer that by asking you a question. What are you interested in now? You may approach things differently than you did when you were 7 or 8, but your genereal interests are probably very similar.

What am I interested in now?  History, reading, archaeology/anthropology, rocks, cooking, knitting in particular and crafts in general.

As I child, I devoured history.  I didn’t realize that that is what I was doing.  I thought I was exploring the ruins and living history sections of the Fort my father and grandfather took me to see.

I didn’t call it anthropology back then but I also dove into any experience that let me see how someone else lived.  My parents knew they had better keep a close eye on me not because I would get into trouble but because I would grow so absorbed I would wander off.

I could go on but let’s say that everything I’m devoted to now has a childhood correlation, and I don’t think I’m unique.  I’m currently taking an online Human Evolution course taught by Dr. John Hawk of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In his video lectures he interviews a wide variety of anthropologists and paleontologists.  He always asks them how they got into their field.  The vast marjority explain that they have been interested in similar things since childhood.

No, what interests you now might not interest every child.  But you can’t write for the mass that is “children.”  It is too big.  They are too complex.  Instead, find a topic and write for the child who loves the same things you did.



Capstone Press

This fall (2014) Capstone Young Readers is launching a YA imprint, Switch Press.  Switch Press will publish contemporary nonfiction (cookbooks, craft and how-to titles) narrative nonfiction, historical fiction, fantasy, graphic novels and poetry in both hardcover and digital formats.

John Rahm, Capstone Young Readers senior product manager, will oversee Switch Press.   He will be assisted by both of Capstone’s editorial directors, Michael Dahl (fiction) and Nick Healy (nonfiction).  Rahm explained that Switch Press aims to turn YA readers on to new ideas.

The fall titles include:

  • The Isobel Journal, an illustrated memoir by 18-year-old Isobel Harrop (August)
  • Grace and the Guiltless, a historical novel with a Wild West setting, by Erin Johnson (August)
  • Half My Facebook Friends Are Ferrets by J.A. Buckle, contemporary fiction (September)
  • and a second historical novel, this one set in Victorian London, The Diamond Thief by Sharon Gosling (October).
These will be followed by 4 to 6 titles in the spring and 8 to 12 each subsequent year.  
The web site will launch this May with book trailers and chapter previews.
You can find out more at Publisher’s Weekly.

Focus: Decluttering to help you write

DeskSome days I have no problem sitting down to write.  I come into my office, sit down and get right to work. Other days, my mind bounces around and refuses to settle on the task at hand.  While there’s no one cause for this, often my problem comes down to clutter.

I’ll be the first to admit it.  I am not naturally neat.  If anything, I am just the opposite.  This is obvious at my desk and in my home office.  I move from job to job leaving a trail of files, books, papers and craft supplies in my wake.  Sure, there are those rare times that I pick up after myself before moving on to the next task but those times are rare indeed.

As much as I loathe picking up and putting away, I have to admit that once my work area reaches a certain level of entropy, it is distracting.  I am pulled out of the task at hand when I can’t find what I need, can’t find someplace to put down my coffee cup or get caught in what I lovingly call a crap-alanche.

I may never be a truly neat person but I have learned that to be productive I have to keep certain areas of my office semi-neat.  These include the spare chair and the area immediately around my computer.  I’m slowly but surely reducing the clutter throughout the room as a whole but for now these are the places i am focusing on.

The other area that distracts me if it becomes cluttered is my to-do list.  Maybe it’s because we are natural list makers but many writers I know admit to having out-of-control to-do lists.  For me, a list that is too look keep me from working efficiently.  To find out what I do about this, read today’s post at the Muffin.


Call for Manuscripts

An update on what Red Squirrel wants as well as Amazon Children's Publishing.

Rejection letters are something we all have to deal with as writers.  Maybe you’ve dealt with them by writing a humorous poem or short story.  Or perhaps you’ve crafted an off-beat essay.  If the answer is yes, I have a market for you to look into.  Cairn Press is publishing an anthology about rejection letters.  Pay ranges from $10 to $100 depending on the length of the piece accepted but it is definitely something to look into if you have something to say about rejection.  You can find full guidelines here.

Marketing: Stop It Now

CraftI’d love to say I was surprised when I saw the post, Stop Learning How to Market Your Book . . . Please, from agent Scott Eagan.  In his post, Eagan calls to writers to stop taking classes on self-publishing, e-publishing and using social media to find readers.  Instead, he calls on readers to do something altogether different.

He begs them to learn their craft.

I’d love to say this plea surprises me, but it doesn’t.  We live in an instant society.  Dinners that used to take an hour or more in the oven (now called the conventional oven) can be nuked tasteless in 15 minutes are less.  Apps on your phone mean you don’t have to wait to get home to check your messages, send an e-mail or post a photo.  You can do it wherever you are, right this very minute.

Maybe that’s a bit part of why so many writers believe they should be published now.

Whether you plan to publish traditionally or self-publish, I’d like to second Eagan’s play.  Learn how to write.  Go to conferences with craft sessions.  Read books on the craft.  Attend a critique group with, if possible, published writers.  Read everything you can get your hands on.  Write and rewrite.

Study your craft first and your marketing second.  Be hard on yourself and be hard on your writing, because you better believe — your readers will be.



Some interesting publishing news.  Dreamworks Animation, known for blockbuster movies like Shrek and How to Train a Dragon, is moving into children’s publishing.

The idea behind this is that they are already in the storytelling business and this is a way to expand on that.
The report that I read in Publishers Weekly (see it here) explains that their focus will be on new material.  Dreamworks will continue to work with publishers who already have licenses for Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon and Madagascar, because they have no plans to publish everything themselves.
The first list produced by Dreamworks Press is expected to be out for the holiday season in 2014.

Book Trailer: The importance of mood

Falling snow.  White feathers.  A young All-American teen.    Snow angels.   A child’s voice reciting a prayer.  The trailer for The Ether: Vero Rising by Laurice Elehwany Molinari starts out so sweet and innocent.    Why start out that way if it isn’t the mood of the overall story?

Vero isn’t just an ordinary boy.  After his twelth birthday he discovers that he is a Guardian Angel, one of the fiercest warriors ever.

But when you start with sweetness and light before you go to ominous, ominous packs a bigger punch.  It is delivered through grotesque shadows, a sword, a woman’s harsh voice and music full of strident strings.  Something big is about to happen and the viewer of this trailer (see below) will have to buy the book to find out what.

What mood would you want to set in the trailer for you own WIP?  What visuals and sounds would you use to accomplish it?  And how would it hook your reader?




Freebies: The sample chapter

The Girl, the Gypsy & the Gargoyle by Darcy PattisonYesterday, I wrote about using Pinterst to promote my work.  Pinterest provides potential readers with visual links to your work whether it is work published on a web site, such as my crafts and activities on Education.com, a blog, or samples on your web site.

Another way to promote your work is to give away samples of your writing.  Think of all the samples they give away in the grocery store or the big box stores.  Give people a taste of something fabulous and they are going to want more even if they have to pay to get it.

As a writer, you can do this in two ways.

Give away a chapter.  Think about how you shop for books.  You flip it open, read a few pages and then decide.  Do I buy it or not.  A sample chapter lets your potential reader do the same thing.  For the reader, it is a no risk way to try out a new-to-them writer.  For the writer, its a chance to hook a buyer.

Give aways a short story, prologue or novella.  Instead of giving away a piece of that particular book, you can introduce readers to your characters and story world through a separate piece of writing.  Think of it like hooking reades on a series.  If they pick up book one and love the characters, they are much more likely to read books two and three.

Both of these methods are being used to market Darcy Pattison’s latest novel, The Girl, the Gypsy and the Gargoyle.  Sample her work here and see if you aren’t tempted to buy.  You’ll also come away with some ideas about how to market your work.




Call for Manuscripts

If you have written a young adult or new adult novel, then you might want to take a look at Clean Teen Publishing.  When I first saw the name of the publisher, I thought that they must limit what they publish.  No sex here!   But that’s not how the approach it.

This publisher acknowledges that some teens won’t read a book that isn’t at least a little sexy while others aren’t comfortable with much beyond a kiss.  That’s why each Clean Teen book receives a rating in four different areas:  substance, swearing, violence and sex.

Where many publishers want one book and, following a view of your sales, will decide if you have a series, Clean Teen wants more.  They want either the first two novels in a series or a novel and a prequel novella.

I don’t know much more than this about Clean Teen but I find their approach intriguing.  For more on their submissions guidelines, click here.

Good luck!


President’s Day

PresidentsHappy President’s Day!  In spite of the many snow days we’ve had this winter, my son has the day off so we’ll be spending some time together today.  Why?  Because we all need to take the time to recharge our batteries.

One of the ways that I like to do this is by reading great books.  With that in mind, why not pick up one of these books about a US President?

  • The Many Faces of George Washington by Carla Killough McClafferty shows us why we need current source materials to show the latest and greatest information that is available about these and other people.
  • What To Do About Alice by Barbara Kerley isn’t exactly about Teddy Roosevelt but it does give you a good idea what it was like to grow up in the Roosevelt household.
  • The House that George Built by Suzanne Slade gives us a inside look at building the White House and laying down the ground work for future presidents and it is done in a House That Jack Built rhyme.
  • You’re On Your Way Teddy Roosevelt by Judith St. George has always been a favorite because it introduces us to a side of this rough and tumble President that few people today remember.

If you have a favorite I didn’t include, be sure to tell the rest of us in the comments below.