Children’s literature

The Anti-Conformist Picture Book

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Mark Loewen is the author of an amazing new picture book, What Does a Princess Really Look Like?  In the book, he breaks gender stereotypes and features a family with two fathers. Please enjoy my Q & A with him:

-You hit a lot of powerful topics in this book. One take-away lesson is that princesses don’t simply “look pretty.” Being a princess also involves using your brain, as well as being courageous and strong. Do you think there is too much emphasis on appearance and playing up to feminine stereotypes in society?

Definitely. And it was always obvious to me. I think this was one of the male privilege aspects that I always saw, especially growing up in South America. But I really noticed how powerful this was when I observed how people related to my daughter. Strangers everywhere tell her how pretty she is – all the time. And I agree with them! But it makes me nervous that most people who talk to her when we are out say something about her looks. As she grows up, I want her to know that her looks are not the best or most important thing about her. It’s just one part of her.

I remember one time we went to the grocery store and she was wearing a superhero mask. A lady smiled at her and said, “I can see your beautiful eyes through that mask!” And I thought… even specifically dressing as someone strong and brave, people are commenting on her eyes. And this is all well-intentioned. But I don’t think boys get this message.

-What about in literature? 

Children’s literature plays into it because it sells. Even books or movies with strong females sometimes show that girls are “ditzy” or “clumsy.” I’m reminded of how Disney princesses like Anna and Moana both trip right at the end of a really big song. But I can’t think of male heroes portrayed in this way.

I’ve noticed that it’s becoming easier to find children’s books with strong female characters. Girl empowerment is big with publishers now, which is one reason why I found interest in my book so quick. What I do still notice is that books with strong female characters are still considered only for girls. But girls read books with strong male characters all the time. This needs to change.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Grade 5 Students Become Authors

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I love writing!

And, I love giving writing workshops. Especially when my students get really enthusiastic about their own writing!

I recently worked with two schools: Royal Vale Elementary and Edinburgh School. I had the privilege of teaching four classes of Grade 5, and our mission as to create a complete picture in just three days. I’m happy to say that we accomplished our goal! Here’s how it went down:

Day 1

We had an intensive first session to get the creative juices flowing. The students learned everything from character and plot development to how to write authentic dialogue. After a lot of back and forth, they also decided what the theme of the book would be.

Read the rest of this entry »

Grade 6 Rocks!!

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I love writing for children, especially the younger ones. My sweet spot is ages 5-7.

I also love giving writing workshops. I’m passionate about sharing my passion and encouraging literacy.

Side note: kids are hilarious. Seriously.

Every time I’m in a school, I bring a notepad and pen and sometimes take notes on the funny things they say. Kids are like little comedians. They’re not necessarily trying to be funny, but they just are.

I give workshops in elementary schools, so I deal with students aged 5-12. Now, when I walk into a grade 6 workshop, I honestly never know what to expect. Grade 6 students are not so innocent anymore. They’re branching off on their own and starting to truly find themselves. And I respect that. They’re on the verge of turning into teenagers and young adults. It’s another world!

But when I walked into Ms. White’s grade 6 class at Sherbrooke Academy, I was blown away by the students. They were friendly, bubbly, and bright. They participated in the workshop and we had a blast.

Sometimes, the energies align and magic happens. There are times where I feel I’m truly connecting to the students, and they’re receiving with open arms. Those are special moments. I appreciate them because they don’t happen every day.

That was one of the funnest workshops I’ve hosted this year. So thank-you Ms. White, and thank-you to each student who helped brighten my day!!

#PBPitch: An Awesome Twitter Pitch Contest for Kidlit Writers!!

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Twitter pitch parties have been gaining in popularity in the last few years.

What is a Twitter pitch party, you may ask?

Well, if you’re a writer and are seeking a literary agent or a publisher, they are amazing opportunities. If you have finished and polished manuscripts, just make an engaging (and short) pitch via Twitter. Add the hashtag #PBPitch, and presto, your pitch will be seen by a select group of literary agents and editors! If the agent or editor in question likes your pitch, then you can send it to them and cross your fingers.

The guidelines can be found in the official website, posted below.

I recently sat down with author and #PBPitch co-founder Pj Mcllvaine for a chat. Hope you enjoy our Q & A: Read the rest of this entry »

How to Stop Procrastinating and Write More this Year!

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So you’re a freelance writer.

Hooray! That means you’re your own boss and you get to create your own schedule.

But, oh no- this can sometimes be more challenging that it appears. Distractions and social media interruptions can be tricky to navigate though as you try to carve out time to dedicate to your craft. It takes an incredible amount of organization and discipline.

What often ends up happening is:

PROCRASTINATION!

We writers are experts at procrastination. We’ve all been there. We have a deadline, but somehow, we can’t get the ball rolling. Next thing we know, we’re pulling an all-nighter to get the job done.

Luckily there are strategies to help. With effort and planning, you can stop your procrastination habits. Here are 5 tips to help you remain aligned with your goals:

Read the rest of this entry »

The Face of Perseverance

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The path of the author is notoriously difficult. It’s filled with heaps of rejection letters and long hours of constant editing, not to mention the “snail pace” rhythm of the publishing industry.

So how does one survive these challenges and still retain an earnest love for writing? I sat down with author Debra Shumaker to get her perspective. After submitting 187 submissions to both agents and editors with 11 different manuscripts since September of 2009, she achieved one of her dreams and landed a literary agent. Here is our Q & A:

How did you remain so perseverant throughout the process?

Sometimes I wonder, myself, why I persevered in all the rejection. But that is the name of the game in Children’s Lit. And I should clarify, though I started subbing in 2009, I probably started subbing too early. I was a beginner. I had three little kids at the time so I just wrote and submitted when I “had time.” My manuscripts probably weren’t ready and my querying was a bit undirected. But, as I worked on my craft, participating in Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo (now StoryStorm) and joining Julie Hedlund’s 12×12, my manuscripts grew stronger and my queries more directed. Then in 2014, I started to get some nibbles: some personal rejections and one agent asked for a revise/resubmit. Though that one didn’t pan out, it gave me a confidence booster. In 2015, I received an R&R from an editor and three agents asking for more of my work. Again, those didn’t lead to offers, but I knew I was getting close. I just kept plugging away at learning craft, studying mentor texts, writing new stuff, and submitting. I am so grateful for having signed with Natascha Morris from BookEnds Literary in July. Read the rest of this entry »

The Face of Autism

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Studies show that 1 in 68 children are currently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism does not discriminate; it affects children of all races, ethnicities, gender and socio-economic groups. With the right support, all individuals with ASD can thrive. But understanding its complexities and raising awareness is critical.

Sally Meadows is a published author who travels to schools talking about her book The Two Trees (see summary below) and speaking to children about autism and the importance of being a good friend. I conducted a Q & A with her, and I hope her thought provoking answers illuminate you.

 What are the most important messages you bring to children regarding autism and the importance of being a good friend?

I am a former teacher and I use a teaching technique that encourages students to draw on their own experience and knowledge to ultimately bring out the important messages in my book. As a start, I ask the children (ages 5-9) to brainstorm practical ways as to how they could show friendship and kindness to Syd, the boy with autism in the story, if he went to their school. Then I ask them to share what they know about bullying. (There is a scene in the book where Syd is pushed up against a wall and the other kids throw balls at him.) I emphasize that when we say or do something hurtful to someone, it can stay with him or her throughout his or her life. Read the rest of this entry »