Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Child's Play

And now for something completely different.

A month or so ago, I wrote three children's books. Having two young kids, I am saturated with picture books every day, and wanted to take a crack at it. I'm sure nearly every parent reading this will commiserate.

And I was so utterly sick of reading Dora, and her like. Oh, Swiper, enough with the damn swiping already! We get it. You're a sneaky fox.

Give me Frog and Toad any day. Love those guys.

So my agent (who only handles my adult work) put me in contact with an old colleague of his, now working as a senior editor at the children's division of a publishing company. I submitted one of my books, and heard back from her a couple of days ago. She liked it, but still had some problems. Hence, revisions . . . and me pulling out my hair trying to cram everything into a 32-page format.

So in the spirit of my newest project:

What was your favorite children's book growing up?
Which picture books do your kids most enjoy?
Have any of you engaged in a little child's play, too?

And Swiper, no swiping!

(Oh, Mannnn...)


Jaye Wells said...

That's good news! I feel you on the Dora thing. My faves growing up were the Sweet Pickles books. I bought a set for Spawn a couple of years ago and he loves them too.

moonrat said...

i LOVED The Country Bunny, about a little girl bunny who wants to be an easter bunny, even though she's not big and strong like a jackrabbit. just writing about it makes me tear up.

Aine said...

Congrats on the interest in your book!

My kids loved "The Missing Piece" by Shel Silverstein. My eldest daughter's all-time favorite book was "A Log's Life." I guess she inherited my biology-loving genes. In fact, she still prefers the non-fiction section of the library. And my youngest's favorite was "Knuffle Bunny."

I don't think I had a favorite picture book when I was young. I enjoyed Dr. Seuss, but then again, he gave me my first nightmare (something about an empty pair of pants chasing me through a dark forest...ha!). My parents used to read "big" books to us, like "The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew" and Pinocchio (the 96-page hardcover version).

Church Lady said...

Yes, Congratulations are in order!

You should take advantage of the 'in' that you have. The picture book market is brutal. People think it's easy to write a story in under 1,000 words. But it's not. Now, the trend is toward 500 words.

So, in 500 words you have to:
-Write so it has enough action/transition for an illustrator to fill 32 pages.
-Show character development and a complete story arc.
-Stand out from what's already there.

This is a topic close to my heart. I didn't mean to ramble. I just want to caution you that practically all parents think it's easy to whip out a book when they have young children. So, practically everyone who thinks this writes something and sends it here, there and everywhere.

A small publishing company (who doesn't take unsolicited submissions) opened up for the month of November. In the first two weeks, they received over a thousand Picture Book Stories.

If yours is well-written (which I'm sure it is because you're a great writer) and you have a contact, jump on it while you can.

And best of luck!!!!


Sarah Hina said...

Great books, guys. I remember The Country Bunny, Moonrat. Classic. And Jaye, I'll have to look into Sweet Pickles. If your Spawn loves 'em, mine probably will, too. ;)

Aine, I adored Shel Silverstein growing up. Still do. I cannot read The Giving Tree without tearing up. And I've read it dozens of times.

I'm not surprised you had a Dr. Seuss nightmare. His books are great, but they have their sinister elements. That Vug under the Rug...

CL, you are so right about the children's book market. Completely saturated. The reason I'm so nervous about this revision is that I don't want to screw it up. I know how lucky I am to not be in the slush pile right now.

Thanks for your words of wisdom...



Anonymous said...

My daughter gets a kick out of different books and we have quite a few. My wife is a kindergarten teacher and she wants to teach children's literature at the college level.

I would say my daughter really likes reading the pop up books. Specifically "The Little Red Plane"

Personally, I loved "Duck Feet", "Curious George" and "The Crayon King" - I think that's what it's called.


Anonymous said...

I'm not gonna embarrass myself with stories of Robinson Crusoe, but my kids love the Gruffalo stories. You will too, I think.

Church Lady said...

The Gruffalo!! I took my kids to see that as a play when they were 2and 4 years of age. Awesome!! The 'Gruffalo' was pretty scary too!

I miss reading PBs. They are so sweet and endearing. I love the pictures. They used to have some drawings in middle grade books a long time ago, but now they don't as much.

My favorite PB was "Giraffes Can't Dance." The children liked it too, which was a bonus. I also really like "Joseph had an Overcoat."

An older one I like (which is in a style they don't do anymore) is "Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine."

I better stop before I start crying. I miss the days when they would curl up on my lap and gurgle with pleasure.

Sarah, I am imagining your books to be poetic and filled with soft pastel pictures. :-)

Are they about Paris? ;-)

Shameless said...

Am I allowed to mention Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? Loved it. I must have been about six. I used to say shitty shitty bang bang, knowing very well that I was saying it wrong. That was my shamelessness coming out, even at an early age!
Congrats on the interest in the book. Kids can never get enough of good stories and writing. :-)

Shameless said...

But now you've got me thinking ... and I've just dug through a cupboard and found my FAVOURITE book as a kid. Given to me by my mum when I was five. The Bears' Picnic, by Stan and Jan Berenstein. Fabulous pictures and story for a kid. I dreamt of these scenes many times. :-)

Sarah Hina said...

Thanks for stopping by, Edge! That's really cool about your wife. I didn't realize that children's lit was taught at the college level, but I would love to take a course.

Wayne, the Gruffalo series looks great! I'm getting all sorts of ideas for Christmas, thanks to you guys...

CL, I keep trying to remind myself when my son brings me the same book three times in a row that I'll miss it someday. ;)

That giraffe book you mentioned sounds great. One of the stories I wrote is titled When Giraffes Wore Pants, but that's not the one I'm revising right now. It's about a girl who's so excited to go to the zoo the next day that she starts imagining herself as different zoo animals. Very high energy (lovin' the exclamation point all of a sudden...!!!!....can't you tell?).

Shameless, you are truly shameless. ;)

My kids love the Berenstein Bears series, too. Some things do endure.

Anonymous said...

Hey Sarah, I'll be reading your progress right here. Seamus, don't tell anyone, I just watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang again last weekend. Shhhh . . .

Church Lady said...

Oh Sarah, you *will* miss it!! And as an aside, children wanting to read the same book over and over is why I think Lookybook will be successful. You can't just 'cheat' and read it online. There's that snuggle factor....

Your book sounds charming! Lots of room for fun visuals!!!

I love this blogosphere, being on journeys with other writers. This couldn't have happened ten years ago.


Sarah Hina said...

I think we need to have a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang revival. ;)

CL, thank you so much! It is amazing that all of our paths are able to intersect the way they do. It makes for a much funner journey. :)

Ello said...

That's very cool! My kids still love Green Eggs and Ham. But I also love this book called Sometimes I'm Bombaloo which talks about when a child loses it and turns into Bomboloo - kind of a monster. It is really well done.

I could go on, but have to get ready for class! Will stop by again. And want to hear about your book!

strugglingwriter said...

Congrats on the interest in your book.

My favorites growing up were The "Velveteen Rabbit", and especially "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel".

We have a Dora book and my 1 and a half year old like to say the "Oh man!" part.

Her favorites, though, are the Dr. Seuss books, such as "Go, Dog, Go" , "Are You My Mother", and "The Cat in the Hat".

Anonymous said...

And what would you do if you met a Jabboo?

Our older daughter was freaked out by that Dr. Seuss page too.

I'd like to do a children's book based on the twilight vibe at the Clarity of Night. I should really sit down and write it. The fact that it would be so dependent on artwork kind of freaks me out, though. An editor would have to buy into the concept and find the right illustrator.

Sarah Hina said...

Ello, my two-year-old is definitely a Bomboloo today. ;) That book sounds great--I'll have to check it out.

Strugglingwriter, thank you! I hear you on the Dr. Seuss books. We've been through almost all of them, I think. My daughter likes the longer ones now (Horton Hatches An Egg, The Lorax), but they're all great.

Jason, you should do it. It's a lot of fun to stretch a different muscle of your writing brain. I feel like two of my picture books are very dependent on the illustrations, too, but I think children's editors are accustomed to thinking outside the written page.

What would be great is if you could find a narrative to build around some of your beautiful photos. I've been seeing more photography children's books lately. They're really gorgeous.

Either way, give it a try if you feel like it. I'd love to see what you'd come up with. :)

Jo said...

Favorite children's book... I'd have to say Hilda Van Stockum's "The Mitchells" series. The characters were my childhood friends and still remain very close to my heart. (Beautiful illustrations to boot!) Then of course, any of the Beatrix Potter books offer a beautiful delve into unspoilt innocence... thank you for taking me back to think upon them, my friend! Your blog is beautiful, encouraging, and a true resting place, and so I gather that your home is one in itself: a safe haven. Keep on writing and blessing countless others with your gift.
- Jo

Anonymous said...

You raise a really important point (and maybe you could me a huge favor). I wanted to do the photography myself and submit the book whole, but I got scared off when I learned that the publishers view the "illustrations" as a separate element that they arrange. I'm afraid that submitting the whole package would be frowned upon.

I've been holding back some photos that I view as a cut above what I post. I do think that I would do a good job. If you ever have the opportunity to ask the editor you're dealing with if a children's book publisher would consider a package (both writing and photos), I'd be tremendously in your debt.

John Elder Robison said...

I used to make up the stories for my son when he was small. You may see some kids books from me yet . . . I've been travelling since that Church Lady contest adn I went to send your book and I've lost your address. Would you email it so I can get it out tomorrow?

I got you a first printing. Given that the book's been reprinted 10 times in two countries, those are the ones to have, if you're a book lover.

best wishes

Sarah Hina said...

Thank you, Jo. That was such a lovely comment, and I look forward to stopping by your blog in the future.

Jason, I e-mailed you. :)

Sarah Hina said...

Oh, wow, John. I love first editions! We have a little collection going right now. Thank you! And I think it's great that you're considering kids' books.

E-mail's on the way!

Anonymous said...

Hey you have a great weekend!

Abhinav said...

Hi Sarah. I'm just out of teens. You reminded me of some of these fun things I used to do just some years back. Thanks a ton :-) Due to you, I caught up with some of them.

Sarah Hina said...

You too, Wayne!

I'm glad to hear it, Abhinav. It's fun to look back at our childhood pleasures. :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent, I feel the same way about children's books there are so many good ones and it is tiresome to always hear about the lateset fad in the collection of learning books.