Sherri Winans
Whatcom Community College
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Amanda Westby
English 225
Explorations Project
Spring 2012

Writing a Children's Picture Book

Explorations Report

Part 1:

Part 2:

Explorations Reflection

The research I conducted throughout my explorations project really proved invaluable in the scope of my future goals. Not only did I learn ways to improve my children’s book writing, which has helped immeasurably in the task of crafting Otis the Great Horned Owl, I also learned what it takes to get published and got an idea of where I want to go from here.

From the place I stand today, I plan on doing what it takes to try and get published as a children’s book author. Ryan and I have the rare talent of being able to both write and illustrate, and want to see where it takes us. This research really gave us the idea to try and self-publish a children’s picture book in the future, and raise money to do it on Kickstarter, a platform to fund creative projects. However I think we’ll also try taking the “agent to publisher” route as well. This project taught me that there are many roads to take to find success as a writer and each is unique. But far before trying to get published, I learned that the actual work is what really counts.

On the whole, my ability to write a children’s book increased tenfold throughout my exploration. Not only did the sources of research that I discussed in my report prove invaluable, so did the work I conducted in Think Piece Two. I really got a sense of how children and adults view books differently after devising an experiment to see how an adult and child would illustrate the same picture book. Being able to compare and contrast Ryan and Landon’s versions of the books opened my eyes to the care that must be given to writing for the children. And thus, absorption of this information meant that my approach to Otis the Great Horned Owl was a far cry from I first anticipated it would be.

When I sat down to actually write, I began to think about what the words would mean to Landon. I thought about the checklist for picture books, the list of things children don’t like, the vast number of people that must approve of a picture book before it even reaches the hands of a child. I thought about what books have inspired me, picture books that have remained on my list of favorites all these years, why they have stuck with me. The myth that writing for children is easy was definitely debunked through my process, and equipped with the information I went through five or six serious drafts of Otis and the re-writes are still coming. I think the more time I spend writing the more developed these books will become, a piece of wisdom I acquired in additional research that came to me after I completed my report.

True to any effort of discovery, I received new information just this week in the form of an interview with busy children’s book author Bonny Becker. Bonny received a degree in psychology, decided she’d rather write and pursued journalism, and at age forty began to do what she really wanted: write children’s books. She gave me some really valuable advice and let me know that it could, and probably will, take five years for me to break into the field. Bonny also talked about juggling motherhood and writing, a balance I’ll be struggling with, and let me know that if I have the passion for it, it will happen. I asked her the question I posed in all my interviews, “Any advice for an aspiring children’s book author?” and Bonny said, “Just the same as you’ll hear everywhere. To be persistent, to keep working at it, to be realistic – no one would expect to get a degree in accounting or medicine within months. Think of this time in your writing as your apprenticeship and get comfortable with just learning and with knowing that many of your stories won’t get published. They are just practice.” I feel some of the most beneficial information I received in my research is boiled down in the responses to that particular question.

The answer each interviewee gave was unique because each represents a different perspective within the field. Bonny is a successful children’s book author, Jolby is self-published, whereas Jana is a publisher. Jolby answered my question by saying, “The best thing we did was to get our book out there and we got it into the hands of other publishers and said ‘we did this on our own, imagine what I could do for you!’ This has lead to a lot of other opportunities. So, I’d say, get your work out there as much as you can and in any way possible. Also, don’t give up. A lot of people can say ‘no’ to you, but it’s about finding the right audience.” Jana’s advice was to, “Never give up! Edit edit edit!!! Have others read your work and take their comments seriously. Then when you are published, promote yourself!” The act of combining this advice has provided me with a roadmap outlining where I need to go from here.

I do want to, as Bonny suggested, take these years of writing to push myself to become a better writer continually, to practice, to be an apprentice of writing. And it will bid me well to remember Jolby’s suggestion to persist and perhaps try self-publishing to have something tangible to show in the future. And of course Jana highlighted something that can’t ever be exaggerated enough: edit nonstop! Through all of the research through interviews, books, and the Internet, perhaps the most imperative takeaway I have is the realization that I can do this. I can write a children’s book. I can do the work it takes to get published. I can become a successful children’s book writer.

Works Cited

Becker, Bonny. Interview by Amanda Westby. 29 May 2012. Web.
Buccieri, Rojany and Peter Economy. Writing Children’s Books for Dummies. Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2005. Print.
Carlson, Linda. Children’s Literature Portfolio. Linda Carlson, 2012. Web. 20 April 2012.
Dils, Tracey E. You Can Write Children’s Books. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 1998. Print.
Laiz, Jana. Interview by Amanda Westby. 26 Apr. 2012. Web.
Lamb, Nancy. The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 2001. Print.
Nichols, Colby. Interview by Amanda Westby. 20 Apr. 2012. Web.
Seuling, Barbara. How to Write a Children’s Book and Get It Published. 3rd ed. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005. Print.

Copyright 2012
Amanda Westby


Funded through the U.S. Dept. of Education, Title III Grant PO31A980143
Sherri Winans, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA