Collaborative Writing

By Crystal Bowman

Crystal Daughter
Crystal Bowman & Teri McKinley

I’ve had a few co-authoring projects over the years that were one-time contracts with no further commitments to another author. But now that I’m writing with my daughter, Teri McKinley, this could be a long-term collaborative relationship!

Teri was only 8 years old when my first book came out. I often brought her to my book signings where she enjoyed being my “side-kick.” She studied journalism in college, but decided that wasn’t her thing and majored in interior design instead.

After she finished grad school, got marriage, and settled in TX, I began sending her my manuscripts, asking for her feedback. I was amazed at her insights, suggestions, and creative ideas, and she was amazed at how much she enjoyed being my personal editor.

When My Grandma and Me was published in 2013, I told my editor at Tyndale that my daughter’s name should have been on the cover since she helped me so much.  My editor said, “Well let’s get her name on the next book!” And that’s what happened. Teri and I co-authored My Mama and Me which received the 2014 Logos Bookstore Award for best picture book. Our next book for Tyndale was M is for Manger—an alphabet book which tells the Christmas story in chronological order. We’ve also been co-authoring for Discovery House and have helped them launch children’s products for Our Daily Bread.  The first two books are Our Daily Bread for Kids and Our Daily Bread for Preschoolers. Two new board books have just been released to launch Our Daily Bread for Little Hearts. Adam and Eve’s 1-2-3s and A is for Ark hit the shelves in March.

People often ask what it’s like working as a mother-daughter team. For us it has been a dream come true. We love how it keeps us connected since we live in different states. With our close relationship, we can push each other to do better because we don’t have to worry about hurt feelings or walking on eggshells. Our board books and picture books are written in rhythm and rhyme, so it’s good to have double input. If one of us feels the rhythm is off or the wording is awkward, we revise until we are both satisfied. We can be open and honest and just have fun with these wonderful projects that allow us to teach children about God.

I’ve been writing children’s books for over two decades and never imagined writing with my daughter. But it’s no surprise to God—to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we can ask or think. (Ephesians 3;20)

CrystalBowman100

 

Crystal Bowman

www.christianchildrensauthers.com

 

 

How To Hit the Side of a Barn Part 1

 

donna_s_headshot2-250x232Donna Earnhardt is the author of Being Frank, illustrated by Andrea Castellani. When Donna isn’t homeschooling or battling the laundry, she’s writing children’s stories, poetry, songs, and
mysteries. You might find her fishing the Pee Dee River, hiking in the mountains with her family, or visiting her
hometown of Cordova, NC. She lives in Concord, NC, and Being Frank is her first picture book.IMG_1550

Follow Donna’s personal blog here.

PART I

Several years ago, my hubby invited me to play “disc golf” with him. It is much like regular golf, but there are no balls, no clubs, and no holes in the ground. The “balls” are discs that look like Frisbees, the “clubs” are the arms/hands, and the “holes in the ground” are usually giant alien trash cans. (Okay, they aren’t alien trash cans, but that’s what they look like to me.).

We started the course and my hubby showed me what to do. He stood to my right, a good five feet. He pointed toward the alien trash can. “Aim that way,” he said, “and release.”

I looked straight ahead, kept my eye on the target, practiced my aim (like all good golfers do!) and RELEASED.

As soon as I let it go, it knew something went terribly wrong. My hubby did, too… because he immediately ducked.

“HEY!” he yelled pointing in the other direction, “I said aim THAT way!”

Thankfully, I missed him, too, or he would have ended up with a disc-shaped bruise in the middle of his face.

More recently, my physical therapist told me to bounce a ball off of a trampoline (while standing on one leg). He soon discovered what my hubby already knew. “You can’t hit the side of a barn.”

***

Like aiming and throwing a disc or a ball, it seems that writing “funny” would be as easy as hitting the side of a barn… but as I’ve demonstrated, it’s not always like that.

In my early years of submitting to children’s magazines, one of the editors was kind enough to write a short editorial note on one of my rejected stories. She complimented me on a thing or two, but then told me WHY they rejected it. “You made the children in the story the ‘butt” of the jokes. We don’t publish stories like that.” She went on to explain that they love humor, but not at the expense of their targeted audience.

To be honest, I was shocked when I read her words. I couldn’t believeJean Donna 2012 I’d written a story like that. That was NOT what I’d intended to do. But when I went back to read what I’d written through the lens of her critique… I realized she was right. I thought my story would make the readers laugh – but instead, the reader would have felt laughed “at”.

That was never my intent. I tried so hard to get a laugh, that I failed to realize that I missed the target completely (much like my incident with the disc golf!).

So how DO we “write funny”? How do we learn to “HIT THE SIDE OF A BARN”?

Part II NEXT FRIDAY, FOLKS!

Bringing Big Doctrines Down to Kid Size

How can we teach Bible doctrine to children in ways that they can understand?

By Crystal Bowman

CrystalBowman100As a Christian children’s author, my main message to children is that God loves them and cares about them very much. But I believe children can understand some deeper biblical truths as well. The word ‘doctrine’ describes what we believe and why. So how can we teach Bible doctrine to children in ways that they can understand?

  • Is God Real? Children can be taught that there’s a God in heaven, but we can go deeper when we explain the evidence of God’s existence in nature. In Our Daily Bread for Kids (Discovery House) I wrote a devotional “Can You See It?” which explains that even though we cannot see the wind, we can see what it does. Wind blows a sailboat across a lake. It blows the leaves on a tree and carries a kite through the air. Children understand these examples from everyday life. In the same way, we know God is real because we can see what He does. We can look at the sun, moon, and stars He created. We can see God’s beauty in rainbows and sunsets, and we can see His power in a mighty ocean. Children can have a greater awareness of God’s existence by learning to see Him in the world around them.

 

  • What Is Grace? The way to teach grace is to help children understand that God already loves us and we don’t have to earn His love. God gives us blessings we don’t deserve. It’s like getting a present when it’s not your birthday, or getting an A even though you got the answers wrong. One of my picture books Do You Love Me More? features a child who is trying to do everything right to earn God’s love. The mother finally explains to the child that God already loves him, but by doing good things we can show God that we love Him back.

 

  • What Is Faith? When teaching a concept such as faith, a writer needs to give examples of what that looks like, since concepts are concrete objects. Noah had faith when God told him to build a boat even though it had never rained. Abraham had faith when God told him to move to another country, even though God didn’t tell him where to go. Through sharing stories like these, children can learn what it means to have faith and trust in God.

Of course, there are many others Bible doctrines that young children can understand if they are taught with age-appropriate examples and kid-friendly language. Whether it’s kids’ devotionals, Bible story books, or picture books, writers can reach little children with big doctrines by using carefully chosen words—and that’s one of the challenges of writing for children!   

CrystalBowman100Crystal Bowman is a former preschool teacher, award-winning author, national speaker, and Mentor for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). She has written more than 100 books for children, three books for women, numerous magazine articles, and Bible study materials. She also writes stories for Clubhouse Jr. magazine and lyrics for children’s piano music.

She has written books for many popular children’s series, such as Little Blessings, The Berenstain Bears, and I Can Read. She is the co-author of Our Daily Bread for Kids, Our Daily Bread for Preschoolers, My Mama and Me, and M is for Manger. She and her husband enjoy living in both Florida and Michigan (wherever the weather is best!)

 

 

 

 

Most Significant Books Part 1

a3-thin-copy-973-x-200I follow the A3 blog-“Almost An Author.” Several weeks ago a post challenged me to list the ten most significant books I have read. At first I thought of that question “If you were stranded on an island alone what three books would you want to have with you?” I would have extreme difficulty picking just three, I think.

So I started my list. I quickly thought of ten, then another one, then two more…you get the picture. I scanned the spines of almost every book On My Shelf and finally settled on the list that follows.

Most of them are not about writing. They are about living. I hope you’ll be challenged to read a few of them for yourself. If you do, please let me know on my Facebook author page or by email at jean@jeanmatthewhall.com.

AND please share with us (in a comment) or (on my Facebook author page) a few titles that have impacted your life.

Roughly half the list follows. The next half will be right here waiting for you next Tuesday. Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts.

book-1209805_1280The Bible

God’s infallible, authoritative Word is the guide for my life. It lead me to salvation in Christ, and is the source of (hopefully) all of my decisions, and shapes my belief system and my worldview.

 

 

Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman by Anne Ortlund51fksy6rcpl-_sx316_bo1204203200_1

Helped me to organize and prioritize my life and my choices into three areas (God, Family, Others) which I later refined as two priorities; (1) My relationship and responses to Christ; (2) My relationships and responses to other people.

 

 

 

51csysefe3l-_sx302_bo1204203200_The Principles of Spiritual Growth by Miles J. Stanford

I read this the first time a few months after I accepted Christ. It revealed to me the depths of the Christian life and God’s desire for me to be more than “just” a Christian; and both challenged and equipped me to grow into a deeper relationship with Christ.

 

 

 

Keep a Quiet Heart  by Elisabeth Elliot91fk-cgvcgl-_ac_ul115_

This was one of the first devotional books I used as a maturing Christian. I’ve read it several times. Each entry encourages me to seek quietness and rest in my life.

 

 

512bzielreylDescending Into Greatness by Bill Hybels

Cemented for me one of the pillars of my life: the only way to greatness is to become a servant to God and to all the people who intersect my life.

 

 

 

 

Honest to God by Bill Hybels51wdafk7lzl-_sx326_bo1204203200_

Challenges me to live authentically and transparently before God and other people.

 

 

 

 

41ccck3jjel-_sx326_bo1204203200_Fit to Be Tied by Bill Hybels

Helped me to release the shame and guilt I lived with because my marriage wasn’t beautiful and harmonious. I am responsible to God only for MY part of our marriage. My husband is responsible to God for his part. The book also gave me hope that God will use our broken marriage for His glory.

 

 

 

Scribbling In the Sand by Michael Card51pci1e94kl

 

Challenges me to live and work creatively, and to allow God’s creativity to flourish in my life and overflow to bless other people.

 

 

Pam Halter & Kim Sponaugle Part 2

Pam Halter headshot

Pam Halter has been a children’s book author since 1995. She has published two picture books, Beatrice Loses Her Doll and Beatrice’s New Clothes (Concordia, 2001) . She was selected to attend the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop for Fantasy, May 2010, received Writer of the Year in 2014 at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference, and won the Reader’s Choice Award in a short story contest hosted by Realm Makers and Brimstone Fiction in 2015. Pam also is a children’s book freelance editor and the children’s book editor for Fruitbearer Kids. http://www.pamhalter.com

 

Kim Sponaugle head shotKim Sponaugle is a graduate of The Art Institute of Philadelphia and began working for David C. Cook Publishing designing children’s curriculum and products. But she soon found her heart’s vocation in children’s illustration. In 2001, Kim illustrated her first picture book series Beatrice Loses Her Doll and Beatrice’s New Clothes with Concordia Publishing House. In 2007, Kim started Picture Kitchen Studio and has had the pleasure of interacting and working with both traditional publishers and self-published authors. She has illustrated more than 60 picture books is also a children’s book cover designer. http://www.picturekitchenstudio.com

Now, as promised last week we are sharing here our advice for anyone who is considering self-publishing a children’s picture book.

* Make sure you hire a good freelance editor. It’s not easy to write for kids. You have to take a 10,000 word kind of story and tell it in 700-800 words.

* Spend time with kids. You can’t write a story that will hold their attention if you don’t know what they like.

* Read LOTS of current picture books (public libraries are great for this). See what’s out there already. Figure out how you can tell the same old story in a fresh way. Get ideas for fresh and wonderful artwork.

* Spend the money for GREAT illustrations. Pictures are every bit as important as the story for a children’s book. Don’t skimp on them. If you don’t have enough money, wait to publish your story until you do. You won’t regret it.Storytime 3

* Read your story out loud. Have someone read it out loud to you. Picture books are meant to be read out loud. You’ll be amazed at what you hear.

* When you’re sure it’s ready, read it to a group of children. Kids are blatantly honest. My 7-year-old grandson thinks Willoughby is a wimp. Ha! But I’m not upset or worried. I know my story isn’t for every child.

* Writing/illustrating is mostly a solitary activity. Find or form a writers or artists group. There’s nothing like hanging out with creative people to help your writing and illustrating. It’s also good to have others you trust to bounce ideas off.

Willoughby cover - frontRemember that Kim and I are planning to offer mentoring workshops and weekends for picture book authors and illustrators. We’re hoping to start this fall.  Subscribe to my blog or Kim’s blog for updates.

www.pamhalter.com

www.picturekitchenstudio.com

Willoughby and the Terribly Itchy Itch is available through Amazon and at Fruitearer.com

Pam Halter & Kim Sponaugle Part 1

Pam Halter headshot

Pam Halter has been a children’s book author since 1995. She has published two picture books, Beatrice Loses Her Doll and Beatrice’s New Clothes (Concordia, 2001) . She was selected to attend the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop for Fantasy, May 2010, received Writer of the Year in 2014 at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference, and won the Reader’s Choice Award in a short story contest hosted by Realm Makers and Brimstone Fiction in 2015. Pam also is a children’s book freelance editor and the children’s book editor for Fruitbearer Kids. http://www.pamhalter.com

 

Kim Sponaugle is a graduate of The Art InstituteKim Sponaugle head shot of Philadelphia and began working for David C. Cook Publishing designing children’s curriculum and products. But she soon found her heart’s vocation in children’s illustration. In 2001, Kim illustrated her first picture book series Beatrice Loses Her Doll and Beatrice’s New Clothes with Concordia Publishing House. In 2007, Kim started Picture Kitchen Studio and has had the pleasure of interacting and working with both traditional publishers and self-published authors. She has illustrated more than 60 picture books is also a children’s book cover designer. http://www.picturekitchenstudio.com

I asked Pam to tell how she and her buddy Kim Sponaugle worked together to create their newest picture book, Willoughby and the Terribly Itchy Itch. 

Take it away, Pam!

Kim and I met through a friend in May of 1995. I answered the phone one day to hear, “My name is Kim Sponaugle. You don’t know me, but I got your number from Sue Smith at church and she says you write children’s books. I’m an illustrator and have been looking for someone to work with.”
We met, exchanged our work, and decided we wanted to work together. The result of that was publishing two picture books through Concordia in 2001: Beatrice Loses Her Doll and Beatrice’s New Clothes. We’re also the best of friends and have gone on many-an adventure, eaten a ton of brownies and drank gallons of coffee, and laughed (well, snorted) our way through some crazy fun story ideas together.
It’s a rare thing when a traditional publishing house takes an author/illustrator team, and while we’ve created many other books, no one has picked us up since then. We weren’t disillusioned because we knew God had put us together and it’s all about His timing. We continued to work on our projects as well as separate things. I’ve published a couple of magazine articles, some daily devotions, and have contributed to several anthologies. I’ve also taught many workshops and attended loads of conferences. And have won 2 awards for my writing.

We’ve learned so much about the craft of children’s books, we decided to go out on our own with Willoughby. Our goal with Willoughby and Friends is to teach children that it’s okay to be friends with people different from themselves. That sometimes it’s hard at first to really know someone. Kids can be rough and even mean, but there’s usually a reason for it. We need to be patient and try our best to see past the outside. Willoughby’s stories aren’t teaching stories, though. We show what we want our readers to learn by simply having it play out in the story. I like to describe Willoughby and Friends as The Smurfs meet Sesame Street, with Willoughby as our “Big Bird” who wants everyone to be friends. Our first book, Willoughby and the Terribly Itchy Itch, has Scripture in the beginning: Ecc.4:9 “Two are better than one … if one falls the other can help him up.”  It’s never said in the story. It’s shown in the story.

The question we hear the most is, “Where did you get the idea for Willoughby?”

Willoughby cover - frontI have to credit Kim with that. We meet often and brainstorm lots of book ideas. Usually over chocolate and coffee. Ha! And sometimes we get laughing so hard, we cry. It’s so much fun to brainstorm with a friend!

Well, one day, Kim said, “We need a story about unlikely friends. Like dragons and fairies. You know, big and small.”

I thought about it, wrote down some ideas and wrote the first draft of Willoughby’s Itch. Kim approved. We always collaborate together on both the story and the artwork. And after several drafts and a few tries to sell him traditionally, as I said above, we decided to do it ourselves. We’re very happy we did. Kids love Willoughby! And we’re having a blast marketing him.

Next Friday we’ll share Our advice for anyone who is considering self publishing a children’s picture book. Please come back to Jean’s blog for some tips and tricks Kim and I have learned.

 

Kim and I are also planning to offer mentoring workshops and weekends for picture book authors and illustrators. We’re hoping to start this fall.  Subscribe to my blog or Kim’s blog for updates.

www.pamhalter.com

www.picturekitchenstudio.com

Willoughby and the Terribly Itchy Itch is available through Amazon and at Fruitearer.com

Rhyming Picture Books The Write Way

51wewkwlxglRhyming Picture Books The Write Way by Laura Purdie Salas and Lisa Bullard is the second book in the Children’s Writer Insider Guides that I have read. It follows the same short and sweet format as Picture Books The Write Way. I like that. The ten short chapters are all focused on ten common problems writers have when writing rhyming picture books.

An Introduction, then ten chisled chapters helped me examine specifics about the rhyming picture book manuscripts that I am working on (either creating or selling.)

Also, every chapter is loaded with links to helpful websites and to author pages for the picture book examples Salas and Bullard use. I’m taking my Kindle with me to the local children’s library so I can read as many of these examples as I can find.

Aside: I have another list gleaned from Tara Lazar’s website Writing for Kids (While Raising Them). A list of NEW picture books. In Rhyming Picture Books The Write Way Salas and Bullard continually remind the reader (AKA ME) to read current picture books if I want to write in a way that appeals to current readers.

Okay, I’ll stop rambling now. Here is the long-awaited list of chapters in Rhyming Picture Books The Write Way:

  • Are You Targeting the Right Audience?
  • Is Your Manuscript Too Wordy?
  • Is Your Meter Imperfect?
  • Can You Do Even More With Meter?
  • Do You Use Rich Poetic Elements?
  • Have You Thought About a Refrain?
  • Is There More There Than Just Rhyme?
  • Is Your Message Heavy Handed?
  • Does Your Verse Sound Natural?
  • Have You Considered Nonfiction?

lisa-lauraSalas and Bullard give clear and specific ways to challenge my manuscript and correct whatever problems I find. For example, the chapter on Poetic Elements clearly explains rhyme, fresh rhyme, near rhyme, sensible rhyme, internal rhyme. Then provide examples of picture books (with links) that do the job well.

Thanks for reading here at On My (Kindle) Shelf. I hope some of the writing books that are helping me will also help you. Are they?

Hmmmm…

That question begs an answer from YOU, dear reader/writer. So, can you leave a comment here telling me if any of my summaries have helped, and which ones?

Or send me a msg on FB please at Jean Matthew Hall Author. And follow me there, please?

I’m trying to do this marketing/PR/networking/social media thing the best way possible. However, I think I’m still on the first page of that chapter of my life.

Blessings!

Jean

 

Six Steps to Successful Sharing

Many avenues are now available for writers to publish and publicize their books. Some of us choose traditional publishing. Some  choose self-publishinng, co-publishing or a dozen other options. The same might be said for marketing or sharing the books we write. My guest today, Alicia Broaddus, offers us a different take on marketing the works of her imagination. Her approach may be just the thing you (or a writing friend) are searching for. If so, please share Alicia’s post with other writers.

 

Prioritizing your Social Media Platform with Writing and Illustrating a Book –

Six Steps to Successful Sharing  by Alicia Broaddus

Six Steps to Successful Sharing

Penny_Pink_Takes_a_BathWhen Jean asked me to share my approach to marketing my new picture book, Penny Pink Takes a Bath, my first thought was that my purpose is to “share” rather than “market” the book. That subtle difference in wording is basic to my ministry, my approach to writing, and my approach to using social media. My purpose is to create a children’s picture book to share the plan of salvation. Writing, illustrating, publishing, and using social media were simply tools I would use to assist in my ministry.

I attended a number of writing conferences and found editors, agents, and publishers recommended developing a social media platform for marketing a book. And I found authors and illustrators were frustrated with the amount of time that effort took away from completing a book. I realized early on that I could not divide my time between a book and social media. I decided to prioritize and focus on completing a book. After all, I had to have a book in order to share it.

Here are my Six Steps to Successful Sharing:

  1. Pray for God’s specific direction for your book! Every writer has a unique calling. There is no one-size-fits all formula for the process. Gather information for a specific amount of time, and determine what publishing model works for you.
  2. Create a very basic mission statement and static web page about your book and a simple business card. Pray that you won’t be distracted with an elaborate web page or social network before your book is completed.
  3. Focus on completing your book! Pray that God will give you the inspiration, direction, and perseverance you need and get busy on your book!
  4. Build REAL rather than VIRTUAL relationships. Pray God will bring the right people into your life and that you will be a blessing to them. Form friendships with other Christians, not for the purpose of promoting books, but for the purpose of sharing life and ministry.
  5. When your book is complete, focus on your social media platform, website, and distribution. Now that you have something to share, pray God gives you opportunities.
  6. Find REAL ways to share in-person! Pray God will open doors as you seek opportunities to read to church groups, ministries, and relevant community groups.

 

AB_Headshot_400x400Most of Alicia’s career she has been a technical illustrator, technical writer, and graphic designer. But her true passion is writing and illustrating children’s stories. She is originally from a small town, Irvine, Kentucky. She now lives near Charlotte, NC. She spends as much time as possible illustrating and sharing her stories.  

Ten things to do by Linda Ashman

la-cropped-as500kb-300x294Many thanks to author Linda Ashman for permission to “borrow” this page from her website.  Linda is the author of more than thirty-five delightful picture books and the creator of The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books. Her books have been included on the “best of the year” lists of The New York Times, Parenting and Child magazines, the New York Public Library, Bank Street College of Education, and the International Reading Association. She leads writing workshops and gives presentations about writing and children’s books at conferences and schools.

Thanks for the great advice, Linda!

Ten things to do if you want to write picture books:

  1. Join SCBWI. And find out what’s happening with your local chapter.
  2. Read craft books. You might start with (ahem) The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books and Ann Paul’s Writing Picture Books.
  3. Read picture books—lots of them. You’ll find recommendations at our group blog, PictureBookBuilders, and many more in The Nuts and Bolts Guide.
  4. Read children’s poetry. Notice the sound, the rhythm, and the way a story can be told or a world created with very few well-chosen words.
  5. Write. Obvious, I know, but somehow it’s easy to let other things take precedence.
  6. Revise, revise, revise. Think you’re done? Revise some more.
  7. Make a dummy or storyboard. Nothing better demonstrates the unique structure of a picture book or shows more clearly if your text is working in this format.
  8. Think visually. Imagine your story as a movie, and leave out anything that doesn’t move the action forward.
  9. Cultivate patience—with your writing (don’t rush!) and with the publishing industry (nothing happens quickly).
  10. Hang in there. Rejection is part of the business. It’s good to have a supportive critique group and/or at least one sympathetic friend.

http://lindaashman.com/how-to-write-picture-books/more-resources/