Archive for the 'Writing for Children' Category

Book Awards time

This last week has seen the announcement of our two biggest awards for writers here in Australia.

The most prestigious of our awards is the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards announced last Thursday. You can read all about the books here.

Probably of more interest to me, however, were the Children’s Book of the Year Awards for our best children’s books. We have arguably some of the very best writers for children anywhere in the world. You can see the list of winners in each of the categories here. This award has been run by the Children’s Book Council of Australia for many decades. The list of winners is a Who’s Who of children’s writers in Australia.

Writing children’s books

I am currently visiting my grandchildren who live interstate. It’s a joy I have only a few times every year, but so interesting to see their development and to play with them a whole range of games. Their ages are 4 and 1, so they are still developing in many ways, especially in their imaginations.

One of the special delights is cuddling up for story time. Both parents are book lovers, so their home has many books. Family and friends have also made sure the two little ones have plenty of books in their lives. And to add to the wonderful books in the home, a new branch library has just recently opened up in an old church building five minutes’ walk up the road.

In reading books daily to the grandchildren – and sometimes several times a day – once again has impressed upon me the importance of reading in the life of a child. So much language development occurs in this pre-school period. So many books are rich in wonderful language. But more than that, there is so much cultural heritage which can be absorbed by the young, developing mind. There are also the many environmental concepts which can also be introduced through non fiction. Last night my grandson and I spent nearly an hour pouring over a book about farming; he lives in Australia”s largest city so this is an excellent way of talking about my heritage; I grew up on a farm.

The case for reading to and with children is so important and soundly supported by the research. What is less emphasised, I feel, is the importance of reading children’s books if one desires to be writing children’s books. Just like in the importance of books in the life of a developing child, so is the reading of children’s books vital in the development of the aspiring children’s authors. You cannot read too many, and there are so many wonderful children’s books out there now you will certainly be entertained for many years to come.

Good reading.

Good writing.

Reading children’s literature

One of the units of study I have lectured in at university this year has been Children’s Literature, with a particular focus on using children’s literature in the classroom. All of my students for this unit are teachers in training, all of them eager to gather ideas for incorporating literature in their future classrooms.

It has been a rewarding time for me as it has renewed my enthusiasm for reading children’s literature. When I was a classroom teacher, and earlier in my career when I was a teacher/librarian, I would regard the reading of children’s books as a professional requirement. I am a voracious reader, so this was no hardship. After one little forgettable incident, I resolved never to read a book to a class without having read it privately first. I still believe this to be a wise policy for any classroom teacher or children’s librarian.

In recent months I have read a wide variety of picture books, chapter books for emerging readers, novels for older readers and non-fiction for various year levels. Sadly, I haven’t had time to review any of them here. In time I hope to regularly get back to reviewing the books I read. In the meantime, if it has been some time since reading a children’s book, why not borrow a few from your local library? Many of the titles published in the last decade are fine examples of excellent writing; some are just as challenging to read as adult books. And often far more interesting and captivating.

If you read a good book that you’d like to recommend – children’s or other – write about it in the comments section. I’d like to know, and so would my readers, I’m sure.

Good reading – and writing.

Writing about your childhood

I don’t get home to the farm where I grew up often enough. It’s only about a two hour drive in the country from where I now live, but I find life gets far too busy at times. A few weeks ago, however, I did have an opportunity to visit my brother on a day trip. Sure, it was only a few hours but pleasant all the same. Sadly I didn’t have time to visit the farm where I grew up, and where my nephew now lives.

While visiting my brother he showed me some photos I can’t ever remember seeing. These photos were originally on slides but John had converted them to digital images and could show them to me on his television. Many of the photos were of John’s pride and joy: his tractors. He thinks he has a photo of every tractor he ever owned – except one.

While this was interesting, what really grabbed my attention was that several of the shots showed me aged between eight and fourteen. It triggered in my mind a desire to focus a little more on writing about my childhood days. Here is a largely untapped resource of experiences that I can use in my writing. It is a deep well of interesting and colourful incidents that can only enhance my writing.

A word of caution is needed. Approaching a topic like this in a dry, journalistic way would be of interest to no-one. Except perhaps immediate family. A more creative method is required if you are interest a broader readership. This is not a problem if you are only recording your experiences as part of your family heritage.

If you do desire a wider audience for these stories, why not try rewriting your life experiences as a child (or an adult for that matter) as fiction? Take that incident with the bull when you raided a neighbour’s paddock while picking mushrooms and turn it into an exciting escapade, complete with other characters who may or may not have been a part of the original story. Turning fact into fiction can release those creative juices and you will never know where the story will end up. It will surely be a more interesting read than a dry narrative account of the facts.

You never know: one or more of these stories might end up being the text for a children’s picture book, or included in a magazine or anthology.

Good writing.

Finetuning a manuscript

I have written about my journey towards my Masters degree on many occasions. A few weeks ago I wrote about how I managed to pass my degree with a distinction for my thesis paper. This paper was a 40,000 word novel accompanied by a 10,000 word exegesis essay about the writing of the novel.

I was very humbled by the comments made by both examiners. They praised the story in many ways, and both agreed that my novel is of publishable standard. After all that hard work, long hours, many frustrations and long nights of doubt, the story had come through. One of the examiners said she couldn’t put it down; she had to keep turning the pages to see what happened next. Wow! Exactly the response an author hopes for from his readers. One comment like that makes all those anguished feelings just melt away into nothing. That’s why I write.

I am preparing to send the manuscript off the prospective publishers. In the meantime I have to do a few minor revisions before having a few copies printed and bound for the university library, the humanities department and for my supervisors. Just a few typos that slipped through everyone’s keen eyes. Then I’m done. And I get to wear the gown and funny hat in a few weeks’ time. I’ll get some photos to show off here when it happens.

Stay tuned.

Good writing.