Contributing Blogger, Kourtney LaFavre
Children experience the world differently than adults. Writing for children may seem like an easy task to those outside the world of kidlit. But there is an extra layer to writing for children. Being a good writer isn’t enough. You need to know and understand the audience you are serving. Getting a degree in childhood development isn’t an option for most people, but you can gain a deeper awareness of the children you are writing for. An easy way to understand your audience (and find inspiration for children’s stories) is to go back to your own childhood. It may seem a little strange for some people but you can talk to your inner child too.
Here are some questions to ponder from your childhood or to ask your inner child:
Tap into the feelings that come up when you ask yourself these questions!
My inner child is where I found the inspiration for IF SUN COULD SPEAK, my debut picture book illustrated by Saki Tanaka. I was enrolled in a course with Children’s Book Academy, directed by Mira Reisberg. We were reviewing ways to think of enticing book topics, and she said to think of a problem or question you had as a child. That piqued my interest, so I set the intention to recall a childhood memory that would make a great story. It was the next day that a memory from my childhood popped up.
I think I was about five or six when I first discovered that the sun doesn’t actually rise and set. I had assumed that the sun was moving up and down in the sky, because the word RISE means to move upward. That was the definition that my five year old self understood, and five year old brains are very literal. It totally blew my mind that it was the earth’s movement that created sunrises and sunsets. And I felt mad that I was mislead to believe inaccurate information. I was frustrated whenever I heard people say anything about the sun RISING. That’s where the concept of a book told from the sun’s perspective began, to clear up any misunderstandings about the sun.
I took my childhood feelings and transferred them to the main character, Sun. Sun would be a feisty character, wanting to teach people the truth. I pictured Sun saying things like, “How dare they think I rise. I do not rise.” The title to my first draft was I DO NOT RISE. The main character, evolving through many revisions, kept a slightly egotistical trait. It happens when the world revolves around you. Sun had two goals when talking to readers: One is to share information about who Sun is and what Sun does. And the second is to inspire readers to wonder and search for discoveries.
Traveling back in time to your childhood is a wonderful exercise to gain a deeper understanding of children, and you can use it to fuel your writing for children. You may even find the inspiration for your next story while you are there!
IF SUN COULD SPEAK By Kourtney LaFavre, illustrated by Saki Tanaka.
Clear Fork/Spork Publishing, 2019
Kourtney LaFavre is a writer, educator, and a former elementary teacher. She lives and learns with the rhythms of nature in the woods of NH. As a homeschooling mother of four, she believes the world is their classroom and searches for beauty and lessons. She has 20 years of experience teaching and working with children and families in elementary classrooms, preschools, head start, and other community programs.
Kourtney is a lifelong learner, trying to live a life filled with purpose and passion. She writes to inform and inspire.
By Annette Schottenfeld
I’m an avid believer that inspiration for stories can be found anywhere. Simple things, such as watching a ladybug scurry across a leaf, observing a good luck ritual or hearing a child’s playful banter, can spark a story idea. Practicing mindfulness is a gift we should all give ourselves. This means being truly present, so we can capture each tiny moment.
The seed idea for OBI’S MUD BATH came while I was reading a newspaper article about an actual event that occurred in Southern Africa. On a scorching day, a little rhino bull named Mark was searching for juicy greenery. As luck would have it, his snout and horn became stuck in a tire, leaving him unable to eat or drink. A team of vets came to the rescue. They calmed down the rhino and pried off the tire. Mark made a full recovery.
Drought conditions throughout Southern Africa have been an ongoing issue for both the residents and wildlife. Litter, including nets and tires that had been discarded in bodies of water, is frequently found on the dried-up banks where Mark was grazing.
After I read this article, the incident kept playing in my mind. I pictured the little rhino full of determination, exhausted and then finally free. I envisioned a picture book that could not only entertain, but also bring attention to the important topics of respecting our environment and addressing worldwide water issues. The backdrop of Southern Africa, with its rich traditions, added to the appeal of writing this story.
And, OBI was born!
Check out www.water.org o to learn more about global water conservation. A portion of book proceeds from OBI'S MUD BATH will be donated to this fantastic organization!
Annette is the author of OBI'S MUD BATH, her debut picture book, launching late 2019 (Clear Fork/Spork Publishing)
Facebook: Annette Schottenfeld - Author