Writing a Query Letter & Writing for Children
This month we'll pick up where we left off about how to write a query letter to literary agents or publishers. Come with questions! Then we will discuss some things to remember when writing for children, whether that's picture books or young adult novels. Join the conversation!
May 9, 2019
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Writers Circle: Writing a Query Letter and Writing for Children
Presented by Debbie Worman and Diane O’Neill
May 9, 2019
Debbie Worman: Okay, I want to welcome everybody to our writer's circle group. It's nice to meet every month. It's really nice to get on early. I agree with Marilyn who said it's a nice time to connect with other people. Once we get our group up to 40 people, 50 people, it's sometimes hard to get to know everybody, so if you want to sneak in early it's a good way to connect with people. So Marilyn I let your secret slip out.
So what we're going to do to start is, my name is Debbie Worman and I co-host The Writer's Circle with Diane O'Neill and we're very happy to have you join us and I will let you know that this is being recorded and we post the recordings on the Hadley website. So Diane if you want to tell everybody how they can, I'd better unmute you, hold on. Okay so Diane is going to tell us how you can raise your hand when you want to speak and we ask that you do that. I keep everybody muted and I will call on people when it's time to speak. So Diane do you want to share how to do that?
Diane: Sure, hello everyone this is Diane O'Neill, and whenever you want to participate and say anything, to unmute yourself, raise your hand. What you do is you press *9 on the telephone. On Windows you do ALT Y and on a Mac you do Option and Y. That will raise your hand and then Debbie will unmute you. Again, if you have a telephone it's *9, Windows computer it's ALT plus Y, if you have a Mac it's Option plus Y. Okay, thanks everyone.
Debbie Worman: Okay thanks Diane. So there's a few people that have their hands up. We're going to go ahead and get started and then I'll call on you as we move forward. Okay? And what we wanted to do to begin this week is, or this month, last month Diane told us a lot about query letters, Q-U-E-R-Y, those are letters that you send to publishers or literary agents if you want to be published. And there were so many hands up when we ended the discussion that I thought we'd start off this month with just some follow-up. So, Diane if you want to just regroup a little bit and then we'll open up the microphone to those who have any more comments about the query letter.
Diane: Sure, Diane speaking. Basically a query letter is what you send to a literary agent or a publisher trying to get them to read your work. Sometimes you might send it with your work, sometimes you might send it asking if they want to see your work. But, you're trying to get them to read it, so it's a very important document. You might write the greatest book in the world but if your query is so-so, maybe that won't intrigue them to look at your book and your book might be terrific. So, it's important, and it's basically very simple format. You write a paragraph that's a hook and encourage the, maybe include a cliffhanger moment or something then the next paragraph you tell a little bit about yourself, have you been published or something about your life that makes you qualified to write about this, just something small it doesn't have to be major and then you mention what genre it is and the word count and then you basically close saying thanks for the consideration look forward to hearing from you and of course include your contact information. But those are the basic parts to it, the hook and the basic information about what you’re sending and your bio.
What questions, I know there were a lot of questions last time about the query letter, what questions do people have?
Debbie Worman: We could have questions or if you have suggestions that we haven't shared or any experiences that you have I will call on people who have their hands up, okay? So Sunshine 89. Sunshine 89.
Jim Thun: Can you hear me? Ah, there we are, can you hear me?
Debbie Worman: Yes, who is this?
Jim Thun: Excellent, this is Jim Thun, this is my first time joining your group.
Debbie Worman: Welcome.
Jim Thun: I've been wanting to but I usually have a 4:30 Pilates class that I go to on Thursday and there's no way I can do both, but anyway, I do have a quick question about the query letter. Maybe it's two questions actually. I have a couple of, it could be a short story, I'm thinking of it as more as a possibly the first chapter of a book, I'm still thinking about whether to try do it serial or the publish, do the whole think as a book. My question one, the difference between sending a query letter for something that's a confirmed novel and something that is a very possibly a short story, and two, is it still the case that one should include in an S-A-S-E, a self-addressed stamped envelope, when you send a query letter or send in a story.
Diane: Diane speaking. Those are good questions. Usually if you're sending a novel you would include more of a summary of what's happening in the novel, you wouldn't necessarily say the ending but in your hook paragraph when you're giving the cliffhanger you'd be more detailed because there's more happening. For a short story you might just have one sentence say about the story's about X, Y, Z. Or you may not, I've heard different points of view, if you even need that but you wouldn't need much about it because again it's a story. So that's what I know about it but other people may have, I'd like to hear other people who had other experiences.
As far as S-A-S-E that's an excellent question because nowadays a lot of places are saying don't even bother sending in, we're just going to recycle it if we don't like it because used to be S-A-S-E have the thing. Now if you're sending any kind of S-A-S-E it's more just like an envelope for them to mail you with a response.
Also check to before you send it what they want because some places still want the S-A-S-E some places don't. Some want it online only. Some don't want online at all. So, I hope that's helpful a little bit.
Debbie Worman: Okay, thanks Diane. We have 556 who wants to maybe make a comment. I'm going to lower your hand and unmute you. 556.
Wes: That's me.
Debbie Worman: Okay 556, who's 556?
Wes: My name is Wes Brummer, I'm in the process of writing a query letter to a small press called Wild Rose Press and they want theirs in electronic form. The thing about a query letter I always assumed that you should have your work done and all ready to go because if they do accept your query letter and want your work they're not going to wait around for you to write it. They want you to have it ready to go in final copy form, so I would think that the query letter would be at the backend of the process. The last thing you do whilst you got your work finished you'd want to, I mean you might want to fabricate your letter as your finishing your manuscript but once you write the letter you should be ready to go.
Debbie Worman: Okay thank you Wes, that's good advice, go ahead, Diane.
Diane: Yeah, Diane speaking, yeah, that's totally true because especially if you're sending something like a novel they assume it's all ready to go, it's not like you send a letter "Oh you want me to write this novel?" No, it needs to be all ready to go. So thank you for that point, Wes.
Wes: No, you're welcome.
Debbie Worman: Okay, I have 428, 428. Okay, 428 you're unmuted do you have something to share about query letters?
Speaker 5: Yeah, hi.
Debbie Worman: Hi.
Speaker 5: This is my first time with the group. I've been meaning to get on for three months and just babysitting happens and life happens.
Debbie Worman: Right, right.
Speaker 5: Excited to be here, so I have a couple of questions. Number one and this may seem like a dumb question but I'm going to shoot it anyway. You have to be, how do I say this? So I'm not 18 yet, so do I have to be eighteen to publish something or do I have to look a children's publisher. I know like I said this may seem like a dumb question but I don't know that's why I asked.
Debbie Worman: But first of all I don't think I've ever had you as a student so if I had you as a student, first of all I would tell you there's no dumb question, okay? So any question is fine as long as it's appropriate to the chat it's fine don't worry about it being dumb.
Speaker 5: Okay.
Diane: Diane speaking I don't think that's a barrier at all. There are a couple of publications that I've seen for writing for children where they'll actually want people who are under 18 to submit, and then I've seen other ones that say they want people over 18 to. The best thing to do is check out the published publication and see if they say anything [inaudible 00:09:46] at any age and good luck.
Speaker 5: Okay, thank you.
Debbie Worman: Okay, thank you, thank you and again this applies to everybody. I don't want anybody to feel any question, the only time I'll definitely mute you if the question's not appropriate to the discussion so, you people who've had me as an instructor know that any question is fine, okay?
So there's a couple more hands up, we're going to cover this topic a little bit longer and then we'll move onto our next discussion, so I have 511. I unmuted 511.
Diana: Okay it's Diana. I've been doing some research trying to figure out where to pitch something I've written and the press I'm going to approach is a University press and they have very definite things they want. And I'm looking at it and I'm thinking well how do I do this because they want a chapter, they want a precis of what the book is about, they want a short bio and then they want a letter of, oh what was it, the other one was driving me crazy. How I see my book fitting into this curriculum and that's the one that's throwing me I'm trying to figure it out but the reason I approached them was because they have a human animal studies department and my book is the chronicle of my 50 years of…the title is “50 Years of Walking with Friends” it's about my 50 years as a guide dog counselor and the nine dogs I've worked with.
Debbie Worman: That sounds very interesting and I think you bring up a really relative point here. Is this process, it's not easy, right, right, Diane?
Diane: Not at all and I know I say it too, every time I look in a site, once a month I make myself submit something someplace, I only do it once a month. I just hate the whole process because every place wants something different. You can have the same book, your book sounds terrific by the way, the same book, but one publisher will want one thing, one publisher will want another thing and some will want, for example, sometimes they'll want to know how your book is similar to other books, and sometimes I don't really know. Sometimes there's questions I really don't know, I mean, I'm going to open this up to the floor, my only thing is do the best you can with it. As far as you can do, if you can find more about their curriculum, but I'd send it anyway I think because it sounds so great. There's a lot of experienced writer's out there, but what do you think?
Debbie Worman: I have Anne, Anne, I'm unmuting you, you had your hand up, did you have something-
Anne: Well I've got a couple of comments. One for the girl, the younger girl who was asking if she was still too young to publish, no, and I can tell you this, a couple, maybe three months ago or so, I heard a story, and I actually read it on the local station app that I have on my phone about a boy who published at the age of 13.
Debbie Worman: Well that's very encouraging, thank you for sharing, that's very encouraging.
Anne: And you're right, different people ask certain things, and what Diane was talking about of how one book is similar to another, I've been listening to podcasts about this kind of thing and those are called comp titles or comparable titles, so yes, traditional publishers will ask you that or agents will ask you that.
Debbie Worman: Okay, well thank you, Anne. Thanks for that encouragement. We're going to take one more and that would be Abbie.
Abbie: Hi everybody. As I said before I would like to answer, first of all let me tell you what I'm going to say here. I would like the answer the young lady's question, try that again, I would like to answer the question from the young lady under 18 who was asking if you had to be over 18 in order to publish. And it depends on the publication, as I said earlier, I'm the president of Behind Our Eyes we're an organization of writer's with disabilities and we have to publish an online magazine called Magnets and Ladders. And we recently added to our guidelines that anyone under 18 can be published but they need to have permission from a parent or guardian, so that is something you will need to double and if the publication has that it would be in their guidelines. So check the guidelines but otherwise it wouldn't be a problem and good luck. Thank you.
Debbie Worman: Thanks, Abbie. Abbie is it okay if we post of the Hadley website information about Behind Our Eyes?
Abbie: Absolutely, do you have the URL or do I need to e-mail it to you?
Debbie Worman: If I Google it, will it come up?
Abbie: It should, I hope.
Debbie Worman: Or you can e-mail it to me, thank you.
Abbie: Okay, and is this Debbie, Deb Worman, I think I've got your address. Okay, yeah I can do that.
Diane: Yeah, thank you Abbie. For anybody that ever wants to e-mail Diane or myself feel free to do that, I can't always promise same day response, but I will try to get back to you as quickly as possible. My last name is Worman. W-O-R-M-A-N firstname.lastname@example.org, and Diane, what's your e-mail address.
Diane: It's Diane, D-I-A-N-E@hadley.edu and same thing I'll respond as soon as I can, may not be the same day but as soon as I can. I look forward to hearing from you.
Debbie Worman: So feel free to do that between meetings if you have suggestions for topics or wanted to say something and you didn't get your hand up or if you're looking for a resource, so we're going to move on, it's 10 til 4 we want to make sure that we cover our next topic which is children's books, writing for children. Writing for children is a massive topic and Diane and I just thought we'd touch on it a little bit and then just open it up to the floor to all of you to share what you wanted to share. Maybe some of you have written for children before, maybe some of you have questions, maybe some of you have tips and strategies. So Diane and I will do our little spiel and then we're going to open it up to the hands up. So, Diane, do you want to start?
Diane: Sure, sure. I thought I'd start with a couple of quotes by children's writers that I thought were kind of cool. Madeline L'Engle who wrote A Wrinkle in Time here's a quote she wrote about writing for children. "You have to write the book that wants to be written and if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups then you write it for children." Okay? I thought that was interesting. Another great writer Maurice Sendak and he says "I don't write for children, I write and somebody says that's for children." I thought that was interesting because I think writing for children it's basically good writing.
Whether you're writing for adults or children lot of the same strategies apply, but I think books are extra special because I think all of us when we think back to a favorite book. The books we read as children or that were read to us they have a certain emotional residence I don't think books you read as adults quite have.
So I think writing for children is very cool. And I just thought I'd share a couple of tips I've learned. One thing is for writing with children you don't want to preach I think we all know that, you don't want to talk down to children because that's one thing kids are really good at sensing that and agents and editors won't want it either. Very important, Debbie's going to touch on it too. Read. Read kids literature and don't just read the books you read when you were a kid. Read what's out there now, because there have been some changes and there's nothing wrong with reading Little Women or whatever you loved as a child but make sure you're reading what's current now.
When you're writing for children, children usually like to read about kids a little bit older than them, if you're trying to write for somebody who's eight you probably want to have the character be nine or 10. I'm trying to think. Yep, those are the few little [inaudible 00:18:28] words of wisdom but when you're writing for kids try to have the kids solve the problem, you don't want the mom or the teacher solving the problem, you want as much as possible to have the kids solve the problem because the kids like to read about that so agents and editors will like that and again as with anything all these are tips and suggestions you break them anytime if it makes the story better. Okay, thanks, Debbie?
Debbie Worman: Okay, Diane, before I let you go, First of all, you said something about sharing the website for this society?
Diane: Yes, thank you. Yes, a really great resource is the society of children's book writers and illustrators S-C-B-W-I. And that's being put on, I don't know if it's in there yet but it'll be put with the recording and the transcript for this session. The society of children's book writers and illustrators it is the organization to join if you are writing for kids. It's a little expensive, let's see, I think it starts out being like $95 a year then when you renew it's 80 dollars a year and I know that's kind of high but you get a lot of resources of it, and actually, if you're submitting editors like to know that you belong to S-C-B-W-I and I've gone to some of the workshops they provide in person and online and if you have the membership they're free or low cost and that's where I found out about my critique group which has been invaluable to me.
I found out about that through S-C-B-W-I. So again the link to it, you can do a search for it, if you have online or else the information's on the website or if you have any questions about it e-mail me or call me. But I really suggest it if at all if possible you join it.
Debbie Worman: Okay and then the second question I had Diane and you and I talked about this before so you've had time to think about it. Share your favorite children's book with us.
Diane: I was thinking about that and I think my favorite is a children's book that I read as an adult and that's the Harry Potter series.
Debbie Worman: Okay, okay, and everybody who is at the session today, if you're going to raise your hand during this discussion I'd like you to start off by stating your name but also stating your favorite children's book.
I think that would be interesting to know. My favorite children's book is a book by Beverly Clearly and the name of it is Ellen Tebbits T-E-B-B-I-T-S and I have to tell you I've reread that book several times in my adulthood and I still laugh hilariously when she's changing into her dance costume in the broom closet.
Ellen has this terrible secret, her mother makes her wear woolen underwear and I read that book in the sixties, I'm dating myself, but I still like to read it and it still makes me laugh. So we all have favorite children's books, I'll just add a little bit to Diane's tips. I really think it's important if you're going to write for children that you read children's books, not only older children's books but as Diane said some of the new things that are coming out on the market, some of you may be familiar with Mo Willems his favorite book that he wrote that I like is Don't Let the Pigeon drive, or something like that, drive the bus. He also has a character called Piggie and Elephant and they're hilarious. So read what's current and then I'll circle back and read what you used to read in your childhood. It can be very enlightening and help you with your writing. If you're like me, I have an abundance of great nieces and nephews and the only presents they get from me are books and I always read them before I give them to them and they're very receptive to my gift giving. It was a little scary at first because they're used to money and technical toys but they really like that their Aunt Debbie gives them books now so, you could always read the books and share them with children.
The other point that I'd like to make is, we've been talking about publishing but don't always think of writing as wanting to be published. The beauty of writing for children is if you're a grandparent, think of the wonderful stories that you can write for your grandchildren or your great grandchildren think of them as bedtime stories or if you live in a different state for example think of sending them a book that you put together or a story or telling them a story as you Skype, so don't always put a lot of pressure on yourself that I'm a writer and I need to be published, think about ways that you can share stories without being published.
So those are just a couple of thoughts that I had. Let's open up the discussion, there's a lot of hands up, so I'll stop talking now, again when I unmute you I'd like you to state your name and then if you've had some time to think about it, what was your favorite children's book?
Okay, so I have 556. I have, Marilyn.
Marilyn: Yeah, I'm 634 but anyway-
Debbie Worman: Okay.
Marilyn: Okay, Nancy Drew were my favorite and when I read them in the fifties with my cousins who were about my age and my daughter's favorites were The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Beatie Bow which was another fantasy book, but with writing for young children you almost have to have illustrations, and that presents a problem for a lot of us who don't have the visualization to do that and you either have to do it cooperatively, because if you pay for it you don't have a finished book to try and sell, if you don't have illustrations in it, is there a way around that? You just have to get to know another person who can do illustrations and then another question is where is the line between where you don't have to have illustrations anymore and yet when does it turn into [inaudible 00:24:54] because there's fine lines there and there a lot of children's books that adults can enjoy.
Diane: Diane speaking, that's a wonderful question I almost bought it up earlier about pictures, okay because picture books are really fun but the cool thing about picture books is most publishers they have a staff of illustrators there, okay? And a lot of times, some people are writer illustrators and that's fine, but a lot of times they want the writer to just write the text and they want them to trust the illustrator. To give an example, magazines are the same way, I have a story published in Ladybug a few months ago and it very cool because I just wrote the words, I can only draw stick figures, okay, I am sighted but stick figures is my limit, okay? So I just gave a story and the illustrator did such an amazing job if I could've written what she imagined I would've, you know what I'm saying, it was just really wonderful, so you don't have to worry about that you just worry about putting good words together. Again, illustrations you don't think about, as far as when it becomes middle grade and young adult it kind of depends what you're talking about, are you talking about middle grade concerns? Are you talking about picture books?
And that's also a good question about the age range because sometimes when you submit picture books they want, you're targeting a certain age but there's some picture books, especially non-fiction ones that can be for older children as well, so, does that answer your question a bit?
Debbie Worman: I muted her, so Marilyn I have to find you back so you can answer, I can't find you right now, so you'll have to raise your hand-
Diane: Sorry, Debbie.
Debbie Worman: It's okay, I will say that, I have to tell you, I'm sitting up at my local library because my home internet is down today so I had to come up here to the library to use their internet. I'm a book lover so I had to browse the shelves and I ran across a new book by the guy who wrote Game of Thrones and I was surprised…now this is an adult book and there's illustrations in that. I mean there's pictures of dragons all over the place. It would be up to you if you think it would enhance your story I would imagine and Marilyn, you raised a good point because publishing is a collaborative effort. You don't do that in isolation, you have the illustrator, you have editors, you have art directors, you have marketing staff, so yeah you have to be a team player when you're a writer. You might do your writing in isolation but even then you want to share it with other people and that's important to, to share your story. Try it out with family members, or friends or in your writing group.
Diane: Can I make a quick point about illustrating real fast, Debbie?
Debbie Worman: Yeah.
Diane: Just in case I didn't make it clear to, when you submit something you write, whether it's a picture book or a magazine story, you will not, to be really honest, you will not be collaborating with the illustrator, you will be trusting the illustrator. Okay, basically because the people in charge of the magazine or the book they will assign it to an illustrator, from the writers I've talked to you really don't have any interaction you just kind of trust them and it comes out and you see it. Rarely they'll contact you but that's very limited, usually you're just a matter of trust but usually illustrators are so wonderful.
Debbie Worman: Thanks, Diane. Okay, I have 458. 458. I'm unmuting you.
Kim: Hi, I'm Kim. I don't remember a lot of books from when I was little but I have nieces and nephews, now I've got great nieces and nephews and I've loved reading print braille books to them. Probably my favorite and this is my favorite even before I knew it had won a bunch of awards. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Oh, I love that one. I also love Goodnight Moon. I think that one If You Give a Mouse a Cookie I'm reading that trying to figure out well, why did this win awards? Well, she makes everything link together and it comes right back around in a circle. It's like Uh-oh, it's starting all over again.
Debbie Worman: It also has a subtle message doesn't it? The mouse, a cookie, books, if you give a moose a muffin, if you give a dog a donut those are wonderful books because it teaches children without preaching that there are consequences. Everything that mouse does there's a consequence and something else happens so in a very subtle way it's conveying a really nice message, thanks for bringing that book up.
Kim: Yeah, I am just right now I'm just thinking about writing. About the only thing I've written really so far have been poems, but I'm getting a book from National Braille Press called Writing Your Way and it's about how to write on the iPhone or iPad and I'm going to try but I've mainly written poems and journals, kind of like, journals. Everybody that I read them to says "Kim, you should write." And I'm a little intimidated like, "Oh, my gosh that takes so much work, you know?"
Debbie Worman: Well Kim, I encourage you to jump right in and I hope the Writer's Circle can be encouraging for you and we're going to post that name of that book we'll post that on the website as well, so thank you, Kim.
Diane: Good luck with your journey. Can't wait to read [inaudible 00:31:13]
Debbie Worman: Okay it looks like Abbie your hand is up, I'm going to unmute you and lower your hand, Abbie.
Abbie Taylor: Thank you, this is Abbie Taylor and my favorite children's book was The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum and this was the first book I read on my first closed circuit TV reading machine the school board bought for me here in Sheridan, Wyoming when I was in the sixth grade.
Debbie Worman: Oh that's wonderful.
Abbie Taylor: And it was setup in the classroom for me and two times a day when we had study period when I should have been studying. I would sit down and read that book, of course, because I didn't have one of these at home and so I couldn't read the book at home. So I would just do that and just do the homework and just take home more homework.
Debbie Worman: Sounds like it had a huge impact on you.
Abbie Taylor: It did, it did, it absolutely did. Now I was able to, at the end of the school year I was able to take the machine home and then I could read during the summer, so that was also very nice. I think that was my favorite book. I did read others, Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden and that kind of thing but I liked the Wizard of Oz, thank you.
Debbie Worman: Thanks for sharing that, the fact that you connected it and you were so in love with it in that you were able to do it on your own and the person earlier who was talking about print braille books, that you're able to share those with a grandchild, you're able to sit, and you're able to be independent to do that, that really is a powerful message and really connects you. Deborah, let's see, let me mute you Abbie, let's go to Deborah, I'm going to unmute you and lower your hand.
Deborah: Hi, do you hear me?
Debbie Worman: Yes, I hear you.
Deborah: Thank you, I would like to share with you that my favorite children's books that I read as a child were the Trixie Belden series.
Debbie Worman: Okay.
Deborah: But as an adult now, I love children's books, one that I read, it's actually by a local poet, I do not know her, I'd never met her but I have read several times articles about her in the newspaper. Her name is Deborah Diesen D-I-E-S-E-N, and she is a wonderful poet writer for children books, she has a children's book series called Pout Pout Fish and she wrote one and it just really caught on. It was a publisher and she has this huge big series of Pout Pout Fish children's books and I just love her poetry. She's very very creative in her poetic expression and the illustration, I assume, is like you had just mentioned, with the publisher doing their own illustrations, they are very well illustrated. Like I said, I don't know her personally, but she is a local Michigan artist and gets good press on her books. Like I said, I've read them and they're very entertaining, her poetry is great. There's a Pout Pout Fish series of children's books by Deborah Diesen, so that's what I wanted to share.
Debbie Worman: Can you spell her last name again, Deborah?
Deborah: Yes, D-I-E-S-E-N.
Debbie Worman: Okay, thank you, thank you so much.
Deborah: You're welcome.
Debbie Worman: Okay. I have 556, if you're number ends in 556 I'm unmuting you.
Wanda: Hi this is Wanda, I think, maybe, there are two of us for the last three numbers, this is the first time I've raised my hand but you've called it like three times?
Debbie Worman: Oh, okay.
Wanda: My favorite children's book is, recently added to BARD is title is Finding Langston, as in Langston Hughes, L-A-N-G-S-T-O-N, but it's not, it's about a little boy who migrates north with his widowed father in the 1950's with the great migration to Chicago and he's able to seek refuge in a library because it was founded by a black resident for Chicago residents in the South, he wasn't able to go to the library. But what I love about the book is all of the mysteries that are revealed, the connections that are made and the redemption at the end, and all of this happens in two and a half hours [crosstalk 00:36:29] so there's a really good resource for writers at the University of Wisconsin and I might've told you before it's the cooperative, I should tell you the author, right? So Finding Langston is Lisa Cline. C-L-I-N-E hyphen Ransome, R-A-N-S-O-M-E.
Debbie Worman: Okay.
Wanda: So the cooperative children's book center at the University of Wisconsin is an amazing resource for children's writers.
Debbie Worman: Would that be open to people from out of state, or is that just -
Wanda: Yeah, I subscribed, I think maybe $20 or something, so that my sister in Florida who sells to all the school districts in Florida could get a copy of their choices. They get all the books that are published every year and review them by topic and age level. Finding Langston is for grades four to seven, for example.
Debbie Worman: Okay, well that's a good resource to know about, thank you for sharing that.
Diane: Book sounds wonderful I can't wait to read it.
Debbie Worman: When you were talking about adventures and getting pulled into mysteries that's another component and Diane touched on this earlier. Is when a child is reading a book they like to be part of the action, they like to be the solver of the mystery, they like to be the person, imagine themselves as that character. How many people, or how many adults even have imagined being a character in a Harry Potter novel? A good children's book really makes it alive for the child. As I hear a lot of you talking about your favorite books, I hear that that's what's happening so you're making a very good point. Is there anybody on here been writing for children or can you share some of your experiences? It could be a board book, it could be a chapter book, it could be a novel, does anybody have any experience writing for children? 764. 764.
Speaker 14: Hi, I'm writing a science fiction novel and in this discussion I'm trying to figure out whether it's an adult novel or young adult novel, how can you tell the difference?
Diane: Diane speaking. That's a good question. A lot of it depends on the age of the people in your story but, it's really as long as it's a fine line. I think that's the biggest division, the ages of the people in the story. If it's for young adults usually the main character is younger than 18. If the main character's over 18, it's probably for adults.
Debbie Worman: What are you leaning towards? What is your personal opinion? What do you think it's leaning towards? What was your intention?
Speaker 14: Well, to be an adult novel.
Diane: It might be, that's what it might be then because it's not like every book that adult's read is always about adults, there's some classic adult literature that is about children or young adults. I would go by, as Debbie's suggesting, I would go with your gut feeling on that.
Speaker 14: Okay, thank you.
Diane: Submit it to a publisher and they think it's more of a young adult, they'll worry about the marketing. You know what I mean?
Speaker 14: Okay.
Debbie Worman: Okay, Rick, Rick James, I have you back, let's try this.
Rick James: Hello.
Debbie Worman: Yes. Yes.
Rick James: Okay, you can hear me all right now, Debbie?
Debbie Worman: I can hear you now, yes.
Rick James: Great, I'm sorry about that, I think that was something on my end, I don't know there was something to do with the computer.
Debbie Worman: I don't know, if you know me and technology it was probably on my end.
Rick James: There's a good children's mystery right there.
Debbie Worman: Yeah, you got it. The gremlins in your computer.
Rick James: Well I have a couple questions but first I would share a favorite series that really goes to some 25 years ago as grandparents and the series that our grandkids were really into and my wife and I made a [inaudible 00:41:28] for a number of years really of reading books onto audio cassette. I still had a little bit more vision then and could do it [inaudible 00:41:40] Some of those we are digitizing now for the great grandchildren. So it's kind of a fun project but it really promoted the love for children's literature by their enthusiasm. One of the series that really comes to mind a lot, was this series, I don't know the author but the main character was a young girl who had photographic memory and her name was Cam Jansen, if that rings a bell with anybody?
Debbie Worman: Oh yes, absolutely. Those are fun. Cam Jansen mysteries, yeah.
Rick James: She remembered everything she saw and she was able to solve mysteries that way, [inaudible 00:42:23] but I was going to ask if anyone has an experience of doing that I kind of got involved and I enrolled in something called the Institute for Children's literature I wondered if anyone had experience with that? What's become of them?
Debbie Worman: The Institute for Children's Literature?
Rick James: Have you heard of it?
Debbie Worman: I have not, why did you enroll in it, what did you know about it?
Rick James: Well it seemed to be a nice sequence, there were assignments they would send to you, there were books, it was a very well laid out at the time when I enrolled, early on I wrote several things and submitted them but I got so busy with my work at the time, I didn't really follow up. So I sort of laid it to fallow a bit, but they seemed really to be good people and I wondered if any of you had experience or were aware of them?
Diane: I just looked online, they do charge but they seem to have a good rating by Better Business Bureau, I'm just going to look at part of it.
Rick James: Yeah, I wasn't, curious of if anybody had bad opinions or anything but I just wanted to make you aware of it. It seemed they had a very helpful type of way of doing things, some of the questions regarding writing that I might've mentioned is something, as I've been a volunteer for Bookshare [inaudible 00:44:09] any of you other students or whatever, what's the deal with the punctuation called the long dash? I've never written where you put that in there, who decides when long dash is required or suitable?
Debbie Worman: Well, that's a good question and I feel on the spot because I taught the punctuation course, and right of the top of my head I know there's a reason to use the long dash, but I'm very sorry, for the life of me, it's not coming to the forefront of my brain but there's different styles of punctuation and I think it's important to remember when you're writing to be consistent in the style you use. That would be my recommendation for writer's is that you pick a style and be consistent with it, so, I can't give you that definite answer on that long dash. But I can tell you when you choose your punctuation, be consistent in the style. Diane, do you have anything to add on that?
Diane: I was going to say, I use dashes a lot, I guess they're long dashes and I think I use them, for example in dialogue when someone's in a breakup of a thought. Like what was I going to say "Hmm" Or there's a breakup of a thought, does that sound like what you would do in your punctuation course, Debbie?
Debbie Worman: Yeah, a dash would be a digression or short digression, I don't know what the difference is between a short dash and a long dash. Does anybody out here have any wisdom on that? We can investigate it and get back to you because-
Rick James: I just think of it as sort of a pause.
Debbie Worman: Right.
Diane: Yeah, I think the short dash is more of a hyphen, the long dash is basically just the dash, I could be wrong with that but that was my impression.
Rick James: In the world of editing books submitted to Bookshare we're asked to replace them with two hyphens because, with synthesized speech, it creates a kind of mess so you put those in there, I think [crosstalk 00:46:22]
Diane: Yeah, with our courses a lot of times we're told not to use that.
Debbie Worman: Right, right.
Rick James: I don't even know how to type a long dash if I'm writing on a keyboard.
Diane: Yeah, I think you have to go to special characters or something, yeah because I usually just use the two hyphens to mean a dash, but yeah-
Debbie Worman: Most of the time the Word Processing program, if you write two hyphens in a row will convert it to the dash.
Rick James: I see.
Diane: Yeah you can accept that.
Debbie Worman: That's why I think some of the speech programs don't read that as such, and I remember from teaching punctuation that was a problem. Many times the word processing program, if you do two hyphens it will change it to the dash, and you raise a good thing about punctuation is in writing you can be a little creative with punctuation and Diane says she liked using dashes once she wants to have a pause or add a thought. Are there other ways that you could use punctuation marks in your writing to make it more interesting? I know in my punctuation course we always said don't overuse exclamation points.
Diane: That's my sin.
Debbie Worman: We will absolve you, Diane, don't worry about it.
Diane: Thank you.
Debbie Worman: Did that help you, Rick?
Rick James: Oh yes, thank you very much, I really appreciate your thoughts and all of these things that I have been attending lately on Hadley. Good job.
Debbie Worman: Thank you, thank you and this time we have that on recording, earlier we were talking beforehand somebody was thanking us and I said "Boy, I wish that I had that on recording." And now we do, thank you, Rick. Okay I'm going to move to 428.
Julia: Hi. Can you hear me?
Debbie Worman: Yes, we can hear you.
Julia: Hi, my name is Julia and I wanted to make a comment about the US thing about how can you make punctuation more interesting, how can you use punctuation to make your story more interesting? And it actually ties into one of my favorite children's books, I don't think they're very popular, it's called the Eddie Dickens trilogy.
Debbie Worman: Oh yes, I know that one.
Julia: Yes, and they're so funny and ridiculous and there's really no point to them but I noticed and another favorite children's series I had were the Books of Beginning by Michael somebody, I don't remember what his last name was but the first name was Michael, but what I noticed in the Eddie Dickens trilogy was the author used parenthesis to add in random little facts, he'd be going on about, I don't know, messenger geese or something and he would put in parentheses, a messenger goose is two feet long. So if you're trying to go for a humorous aspect I don't know why but adding stuff in parentheses, little random facts about non-nonsensical things in parentheses, I don't know it just always did it for me. It depends on what you’re writing too I feel like, if you're writing something more serious that might not be the way to go but if really want to make a funny little children's book: parentheses. I don't know why but I was just thinking about that.
Debbie Worman: Okay, well, thanks for adding that, this is all good information for writer's to store away, so thank you. I'm going to take Marilyn's comment and then we're going to wrap up for the day, so I'll unmute 428 and then I'll go to Marilyn. Okay Marilyn, you're on.
Marilyn(2): Okay, another interesting punctuation thing is to use the ellipses the dot, dot, dot for thoughts dragging or fading away and it's interesting to use that with a quote, because you can show a break in a conversation, you can show that pause talk about, you can show that pause where nobody knows what to say or whatever with that ellipses at the end of the sentence and then a closed quote. And another question I have is about quotes within quotes, is it common to use the apostrophe for the inside quote?
Debbie Worman: Yeah, that would be a single quotation mark.
Marilyn(2): Yeah, Okay.
Debbie Worman: So when you have a quote within a quote, you have the double quotation marks but then when you have the quote within the quote you do the apostrophe which stands for a single quotation mark, so oh good, I'm glad I remembered that from Punctuation. So thank you, really good comments today and really good resources, I have to tell you my favorite part was hearing about all your children's books that you enjoyed, they just bought good memories back to me. I read most of them so it was exciting, so what we will be doing before we sign off, Diane's going to give you a prompt your writer's prompt for next month, that's something you can be writing on. Our next meeting will be June 13th so it's always the second Thursday of the month and what we're going to do next month is we're going to have just an open session. We're not going to have a topic. I want people to come with ideas and resources and questions so that we can just get to know each other, talk a little bit about your writing.
So it's going to be an open ended discussion, we're going to try and do that every three months, so that we don't have a real structured topic. So we hope that you enjoy that, Diane's working on getting a speaker for us, for some time during the summer, so we're going to introduce some speakers to our sessions and as always, if you have ideas please e-mail Diane or myself and we'd be happy to explore topics to discuss, I'm going to sign off and let Diane finish up with the prompt, but I do want to thank everybody, I appreciate hearing everybody's comments and your courtesy in raising your hand and being participants, because you're the one's that makes this work so I thank you, so Diane, you want to send us off with a writer's prompt?
Diane: All right. I actually have two prompts and they way you can choose which you want to do, just for fun. Write a story about a dream or write a story about a window. Here are them again, either, write a story about a dream or write about a window. Well thank you everybody for participating this has been so much fun and happy writing.