December 2016 Archives

Online Resources for Children's Writers and Illustrators


There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of writing and/or illustrating sites on the web, and many good ones. Here is a sampling to get you started for 2017.

AE - agents and/or editors
F - fiction
I - illustration
MG - middle grade
O - organizations
PB - picture books
YA - young adult

Agent Query AE

American Library Association O
Check here for information on awards. They have a section of author and illustrator websites, too.

Art of Storyboarding at Temple of the Seven Golden Camels I

American Booksellers Association/ABC Children's Group O

Bent on Books AE

Children's Book Insider

Children's Books

Children's Book Council O


The Drawing Board for Illustrators I

Edit Minion

Fiction Notes F

Fiction University F

From the Mixed-Up Files... of Middle-Grade Authors MG


Guide to Literary Agents AE

Helping Writers Become Authors

The Horn Book


Institute of Children's Literature


Jane Friedman

Kidlit 411

Literary Rambles

Literature and Latte - Scrivener

Manuscript Wish List AE

Monster List of Picture Book Agents AE PB

Picture Book Month PB

Publisher's Marketplace AE

Resources for Writers - including "Writing for Children's Magazines" and "Educational Markets for Children's Writers

SCBWI's Blueboard - for members and nonmembers

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators O

The 22 rules of storytelling, according to Pixar F

The Write Conversation

Write for Kids

Write to Done

Writer Beware

Writer UnBoxed

Writing and Illustrating

Writing, Illustrating, and Publishing Children's Books: The Purple Crayon

YA Books Central YA

If you have others you like, feel free to add in the comments. (If you can't see the comment box, click on the title above and scroll to the bottom of the resulting page.)

The Scourge

Scourge_LG.jpegThe Scourge (Scholastic Press, 2016) by Jennifer A. Nielsen is a compelling read with a likable main character, Ani Mells. (Despite the fact she can't sing!)

"Few things were worth the risk to my life, but the juicy vinefruit was one of them," is the first line of the book. What an introduction to this gutsy girl, one of the River People. Shortly after enjoying the vinefruit, Ani gets caught by the governor's wardens and will be tested to see if she has the dreaded plague. When it is determined that Ani does have The Scourge, and is being sent to the Colony on Attic Island, her loyal best friend, Weevil, joins her. There they discover a secret that will change everything in Kelden--if only they can escape and share what they've found.

I'd like to see this story on the big screen. Although we're all still waiting to see if the author's book The False Prince will be made into a movie... There has been some progress, but the movie business moves slowly. On her blog, Jennifer explains she might hear more in February.

Learn more about the bestselling author here.

Written in the Stars

Written_in_the_Stars.jpegWritten in the Stars (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015) by Aisha Saeed is a heartbreaking story that needs to be told (and read). It's natural for teens and parents to be in strife at some level, but in this story author Aisha Saeed casts the light on parent/daughter strife that has crossed into abuse when girls are forced into marriage.

Here's a brief introduction to the novel:
Naila in some ways is a typical American high school girl. In other ways she's living the culture her Pakistani immigrant parents order. She thinks her parents will understand her love for Saif if they just meet him. But she can't tell them about him as she isn't supposed to be dating. And now that's she's gotten an acceptance letter to college her parents are debating about whether she can even go. Disaster strikes when she and her best friend Carla cook up a plan that lets Naila go to prom with Saif . . . and her parents find out. Not only is Naila not allowed to graduate with her peers, her parents whisk the family to Pakistan for a "visit." Well, they'll be visiting. Naila will be forced to marry a Pakistani man and make it her home.

The book was listed as a best book of 2015 by Bank Street Books, a 2016 YALSA Quick Pick For Reluctant Readers, and was named one of the top ten books all Young Georgians Should Read 2016. (I'd like to see every teen read it!)

Aisha Saeed is a founding member of the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books™. She's also an example of a happy arranged marriage. Read more about her on her website.

The minute you suggest you

The minute you suggest you don't have anything else to learn, you've just proven how little you know.
Kim J. Justesen

The moment comes when a

The moment comes when a character does or says something you hadn't thought about. At that moment he's alive and you leave it to him.
Graham Greene

What is the worst thing

What is the worst thing that can happen to my protagonist, but will ultimately be the best thing that could happen to her?
Barbara Shapiro

Writing is like anything else

Writing is like anything else - the more you do it, the better you get at it, the easier it comes.
Wayne Dyer

Dead Boy

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Dead Boy cover.jpgDead Boy (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2015) by Laurel Gale starts right off with humor. The first sentence is "Being dead stank." The paragraph ends with talking about spray-on deodorant not masking the smell.

Besides the weirdness of his situation, I felt such empathy for the main character. Crow Darlingson is lonely--something we've all experienced. His mother won't let him go outside (the odor, maggots, and falling body parts) and he's not allowed to have friends (ditto). Then a new girl moves into the neighborhood and waves at him through the window. She even comes to the door to meet him. Of course, his mother won't let her in. But Crow's willing to risk a lot to have a friend. He just doesn't know how much he'll be risking. Or the truths he'll discover.

(BTW, I'm not a fan of horror, so if that's not your "cup of tea" don't worry that this book goes too far. The horrible elements in this story are balanced well with humor and Crow's positive traits.)

I love what author Laurel Gale says in a Thanksgiving blog post on her website: "I'm thankful for the magical doors books open." I agree and am thankful she wrote Dead Boy. Because of it we got to meet. :-)

Laurel also has helpful writing tips on her website.

Rhyming Picture Books


You hear it all the time, "don't write your picture book in rhyme." That's because many writers don't do it well. The story suffers to fit the rhyme; rhyme is forced; rhythm is off; there is no story.

I thought it would be fun to look at the openings of some recent rhymers.

HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez

Once upon a menacing time
two chicks knew a fox was at large.
Their Ma had been taken
and Pa was quite shaken
so Hensel and Gretel took charge.

First line does not rhyme, 2nd and 5th rhyme and 3rd and 4th rhyme. It sets up a pattern that the reader will expect. The same pattern is on the next spread. There's a fun twist in the old "once up a time" by adding the word "menacing." Again, we see a problem, and it feels humorous, so we expect humor to follow.


Snappsy the alligator wasn't feeling
like himself.
His feet felt draggy.
His skin felt baggy.
His tail wouldn't swish this way and that.
And, worst of all, his big jaw wouldn't SNAP.

Only two lines actually rhymed. Although the last two were "near rhyme" which some editors will not allow. But look how we see the Snappsy has a problem. Kids relate to not feeling that great. SNAP in all caps sets us up to expect fun language, and of course, there's obvious humor.

A DARK, DARK CAVE by Eric Hoffman

The pale moon glows
as a cold wind blows
through a dark, dark cave.

Those words are split across multiple pages. The pattern of rhyming two lines and ending with a dark, dark cave continues. This sets a mood. The reader is set up for something a bit spooky or mysterious in only 14 words.

In all three of these examples the writers are leaving out what the illustrators can put in.

They also used language that is kidlike. And there is rhythm. But most importantly there is story. Intriguing story. Picture book author Josh Funk says, "Story is most important. Rhyme, frankly, is least. More important, but sometimes less emphasized (pun intended), is Rhythm." For further reading go to Lesson #9 "Rhyming is all about Rhythm" in Josh Funk's Guide to Writing Picture Books.