Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

Not Really Nonsense

on July 27, 2012

I’ve been having trouble deciding on a topic to keep the blog going. Part of the problem is I’m still decompressing from the conference – almost two weeks ago now. So, might as well continue my commentary on that.

I was reminded time and again what makes good children’s literature. Much of what I heard was about nonfiction, but most of the tenets also apply to fiction.

Award-winning nonfiction author Sally M. Walker brought up these points:

  1. The most important thing is to relate to the reader. Think about what kids find interesting. It also helps if the writer is passionate about the subject and the aspect about which she is writing.
  2. Read with the ear, not with the eye. Read your work aloud.
  3. Use strong verbs. How many times have we all heard this? But hear this advice, internalize it, use it, and love it.
  4. Choose your adjectives and adverbs well.
  5. When doing research, follow the trail, wherever it leads.
  6. Look for the lost stories – the unusual forks in that trail.
  7. Try not to mix concepts, especially within one sentence.

Similar thoughts were expressed by Richard Peck, also a multiple award winner.

  1. You are only as good as your opening line. Grab that reader.
  2. Puberty may be the death of childhood, but it is not the birth of reason. This is mostly for young adult fiction, but I think it also means that the craziness continues.  If the writer is truly interested, the reader will be also.
  3. You always have less to lose than you think. Go for it.
  4. You learn the most from the experience you were avoiding. Take a chance.
  5. Observation, not experience. Research, not recollection. To me, this means that your own experiences can only serve as a starting point.

As I continue to decompress and try to work on my own writing, looking back on all these thoughts helps me to move forward.

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