Monday, December 5, 2011

So You Want to Write Children's Books

For some time now, I've been nagging Rebekah Jensen for a contribution to Book Blather. In fact, I'm surprised she's still speaking to me. Becky loves children's books and is a walking encyclopedia of the genre. She's working hard to improve her writing skills and I have no doubt you will be buying her book someday. So, keep reading for a peek into an up and coming children's author. Welcome back, Becky.

Two years ago I had the brilliant idea to write children’s books. I’ve worked with kids for over twenty years and have always been a children’s literature nut. I took a story idea that I told to kids and wrote it down. There, I was done; I’d written the perfect story and just had to get it published (some of you are cringing in horror at my complete ignorance of the process).

I sent it into an agent I’d liked and promptly heard back (which doesn’t happen very often). She liked my writing style but wondered if I could turn it into a chapter book. Of course I said and spent several months hammering out not one but two chapter books. I sent them back in and received the nicest rejection letter ever. She basically told me that I was telling her about the story and needed to work on how I wrote a story.

I shed a few tears and set it aside. I was now a real writer, I’d been rejected but where did I go from here? Luckily I’d had the sense to join the Society for Children’s Book Writers (International membership) and became involved with the regional chapter for Western Washington.

I’d joined a critique group, went to regional monthly programming and decided to go to the annual conference. At the annual conference I learned that writing is a process. It takes time and patience and lots of hard work. Most of us don’t have the luxury to write full time and so we find little pockets of time to write and rewrite and rewrite some more. Many published authors and illustrators have taken years and years to get where they are at now (their stories are inspiring and also make you feel SO much better about where you’re at in the process). I became a volunteer on the Advisory Committee, which has been a huge help in getting to know fellow members.

I have learned that having support and accountability is vital for success in writing. The support I receive from my writing family helps me when I haven’t written anything for a week or when I’m frustrated at my fifth re-write. Being part of the SCBWI family also means that you can go to national conferences. I went to the national conference last summer and it was amazing! Everyone there is passionate about writing and illustrating for kids. I got to hear Judy Blume, Gary Paulsen, Jon Scieszka and other amazingly talented people share their journey in children’s literature. In addition, I met so many amazing people just like me who were figuring things out and trying to become published.

I’ve learned that pursuing your passions is an exciting and aggravating process. You learn, discover and grow with each new person you meet and experience. I’m not published YET (you have to be optimistic to be a writer), but am working on a project I’ve started after attending the conference. I’m determined to learn more about writing as I write each chapter. I’m also a little wiser about the process and my skin has gotten just a little thicker too. I wouldn’t trade the rejections for anything because one day I can share them with others who want to become writers. 
My advice to those of you who want to write is two-fold. First READ! The best writers are avid readers. Read books in the genre you want to write and then read other genres and then read some more (if you don’t have your library card then get one!). The next piece of advice is to get connected with other writers. Join SCBWI or find a writing buddy, but find people who are passionate and who want to grow in their passions. Now that I’m done sharing I need to work on my book. Happy Writing and Reading!!


  1. I'm so glad you keep on me Marilee. I really love writing and need that reminding.

  2. If there's one thing I'm good at, it's nagging! So glad you sent me something. Keep it up.