The Magic of Writing Children's Books

by Edith Tarbescu

If you can remember how you cried when your best friend moved away or how you hated the birth of a sibling, you'll probably love writing children's books. Trends come and go but feelings remain. Children love to laugh and cry as well as wonder what Martians really look like. They assume, of course, that Martians exist. Children aren't cynical. That comes with age.

Start with a strong protagonist and the plot will follow. Some writers work from outlines. I prefer not to know what's going to happen. I like to be surprised but it's a matter of preference.

Children love being entertained. They also like to empathize with the characters they're reading about. If you don't feel passionate about your characters, it's a sure bet your readers won't either.

Young people know when they're being spoken down to or when the story is teaching a moral. They love realistic stories but they also love fantasy and magic. They don't say, "That's not plausible" when Mary Poppins arrives via 'Umbrella Airlines' or when Peter Pan flies in through a window.

At the moment, multi-culturalism is the "ism" of the day. But don't travel to Cambodia or Korea hoping to find a story. The story has to take root in your heart as well as in your mind. Use your imagination and keep your senses alive by listening, looking and feeling.

Use the tales told to you by family members; they can be a springboard for artistic license. Whether your book is fiction or non-fiction, it's important to feel strongly about your characters. You're going to be living with them a long time: from first draft to final revision.

When Isaac Bashevis Singer won an award fro his book "Zlateh the Goat," he said, "There are a hundred reasons why I began to write for children but to save time I will mention only ten of them." Here are three of my favorites:

1. Children read books, not reviews. Kids don't give a hoot about critics.
2. They have no use for psychology.
3. They detest sociology.

If you want to write for children, hang out at the children's section in libraries and in book stores. Then read, read and read some more. The three "P's" will also help: patience, perseverance and postage. But don't forget what Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "The future belongs to those who
believe in the beauty of their dreams."

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