Brooke Van Sickle Presents: Her 6 Simple Steps to Write a Successful Kid’s Book.

Today it is my pleasure to share the blog with fellow children’s book author BROOKE VAN SICKLE who recently published a PB titled PIRATES STUCK AT “C”.  She is here to share her own process for writing picture books. She has tons of free material and some great links to get you started in writing for children.

Here’s Brooke:

Millions of people say they want to write a kid’s book, but not everyone does. There’s a lot of work and patience that goes into writing, and tons of rejection, after you’ve created your story, which causes many people to give up. But if you can make it through all that, it’s so worth it!

To help prepare you, here are 6 easy steps you can start today, in order to have a completed kid’s book to share with others this year.

How to Write a Kid’s Book that Attracts Readers:

 I firmly believe that every book deserves a place on a child’s bookshelf if you can write it well enough. And the writing part may not be as hard as you think! You don’t have to be a master writer or someone with a big degree in creative writing. (Let out that breath you’ve been holding!) You simply have to be willing to put in the work. This is what you need to do to write a book that sells:

 

Six Steps to Write a Kid’s Book Well:

1 – Decide what kind of book you’re going to write.

Businesswoman Reading Information On Laptop

All picture books are children’s books, but not all kid’s books are picture books. In fact, there are 6 main categories of children’s books! (If you’re unsure of what those are, here’s a helpful article with the full list to help you.)

 

The best way to decide on the type of book you intend to write is to think about the age of your reader. Who is going to read your book? About how old are they?

2 – Once you have an idea, make sure it’s saleable.

 An important step for writing a kid’s book is to make sure it’s going to sell. (No one wants to spend over a year on something only to get stuck trying to publish it!) There are a few things I do on this step:

  • Search your topic idea to see what already exists
  • Read books that are similar to your idea
  • Research and read top-selling books in your genre that have been published in the last 3-5 years.

Doing this research will help you find comp books to use later in a query letter, let you know if your idea already exists to know if you should change it or find a new idea, and help you understand what’s been selling or is popular already with readers and publishers. All of which are important when you decide to sell your manuscript!

3 – Join SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) and find a writing group.

I would never have been able to publish a kid’s book without the help of all my writing friends and SCBWI. You need other writers not just to read your work and offer critiques, but to also encourage you as you begin your journey. It can be a long and hard process, but with others who are going through it, it will also be some of the most fun you’ll ever have. Plus, you’ll have a group of supporters to celebrate with you when you finally get to hold your published book!

4 – Outline your story.

There are a lot of pantsers out there that would disagree with me on this step, but I think outlining is VITAL to writing any book. (You can’t find your destination without the direction for where you want to go!) Even if you change your mind later, or decide that you want to go in a different direction, it’s better to have a plan going in. At least outline who your characters are, what’s going to happen, and how you expect it to end before you begin writing.

5 – Write your first draft.

This is the exciting part! You know what kind of story you want to write and you’ve done your research. You’re ready. So start writing!!

6 – Edit your draft and write again and again until you get it right.

 Sorry, the first draft you write won’t be the only draft. In fact, it may take you 30 or 50 versions to get it right! And then your agent or editor may have even more edits!!

I’ve mentored some writers that get discouraged with editing or don’t think they need to edit their stories at all, but I would caution against that. No one gets it right on their first time. So don’t be afraid to listen to good critiques and to try again.

Your goal should always be to write the best story you can!

If you want to get started writing a kid’s book, get my “How to Write a Kid’s Book” guide here. It’s free and has everything you need to start writing your book idea today! And if you want to dive deeper, visit journeytokidlit.com for more articles to writing and publishing tips for children’s book writers.

IMG_20191219_115652

Brooke Van Sickle is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) and  Regional Webmaster for the Iowa-SCBWI region. She’s also a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MiPa).

PIRATES STUCK AT “C”, published by BiblioKid Publishing, is Brooke Van Sickle’s debut picture book. She also has 2 more books expected in 2020. When not writing her own books, Brooke teaches other aspiring writers how to write and publish kids’ books at www.journeytokidlit.com.

Learn more about her on her website www.brookevansickle.com and connect with her on social @journeytokidlit.

Brooke will return next month with a post about PIRATES STUCK AT “C”  and a give-away.

 

 

CRUSHING THE RED FLOWERS by Jennifer Voigt Kaplan

I had the pleasure of winning a copy of this amazing book chronicling the events and circumstances of KRISTALLNACHT told through the alternating voices of a two boys on opposite sides of the early days of WWII and the beginning of the Holocaust.  Since today is HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY, I thought it was fitting to feature the book. I will give away a signed copy of the book to one lucky reader who leaves a comment.

Here’s Jennifer to talk about her book:

Facts about Crushing the Red Flowers

Whether you’ve read Crushing the Red Flowers or not, read on!

COVER - FINAL front

Think you know the characters in Crushing the Red Flowers? Emil is a superstar at playing marbles and Friedrich loves his train collection. But can you guess their secrets? Their private hopes, dreams, likes, and dislikes? If you haven’t read the book yet, that’s okay, you can keep reading this blog. There are no spoilers that would give away big plot points. Just a few fun facts to give you an added glimpse into the characters’ worlds. I’ll even reveal a secret crush.

Crushing the Red Flowers is a middle-grade novel set in 1938 Germany over the pogrom commonly known as Kristallnacht. The story is written with alternating perspectives of two twelve-year-old main characters — Emil, a German Jewish boy, and Friedrich, a boy in Hitler’s Jungvolk.

What are Emil’s and Friedrich’s secrets?

Friedrich secretly wishes he could watch Emil beat the Jungvolk boys in a marble competition.

Emil secretly loves to play the piano. That is, he loves to create music, but hates being forced to practice. He wishes everyone would leave his house so he could sit by himself and invent melodies.

What jobs do Emil and Friedrich want when they get older?

Emil intends to become an upholsterer. He wants to learn to create furniture as fine as his favorite red velvet chair. His parents had always encouraged him to take up a trade instead of attending the Gymnasium (a German academic high school) because they thought knowledge of a vocation would be useful to him if he emigrated. And they also saw that it was becoming increasingly difficult for Jewish people to attend the Gymnasium. 

Friedrich would like to pursue an engineering apprenticeship. He wants to leave school and begin the apprenticeship in a couple years.

What are other fun facts about Emil and Friedrich?

Friedrich walks with a slight hunch because he doesn’t like to be noticed.

Emil hums when he strolls down the street because he always has a tune in his head.

Friedrich really wants a good friend. Yes, it’s true that he believes 95% of the population are fools, but he cherishes the honest connection he has with the other five percent. He had one close friend in the past, so he appreciates the significance of a solid friendship.

Emil loves learning Hebrew. The language makes him feel powerful. He pretends the foreign characters are a secret code language that only a few can read.

Friedrich longs for a closer relationship with his parents, like he had when he was younger. But he doesn’t know how to reconnect with them.

Emil wants to eat nut cake with his neighbor, Mrs. Schmidt, like he had when he was younger. To Emil, those years represent an easier, golden time when Jewish people were fully integrated into German society.

What about the other characters?

Papa (Friedrich’s father) hates kites. They remind him of the years of German hyperinflation in the early 1920s when everyone was hungry. The German currency had devalued so rapidly that neighborhood children used to fasten old, worthless banknotes together to create makeshift kites. Whenever Papa had seen a child flying one of these kites, he knew that child was not eating well. He never bought a kite for Friedrich.

Mother (Friedrich’s mother) fell in love with her husband because of his kindness toward her younger brother, Hilmar. When Papa came for visits before they were married, he would always bring him marzipan (almond sweets).

Vati (Emil’s father) likes to drive fast on purpose. Whenever Vati drives a car without his wife, he purposely speeds a bit too fast.

Mama (Emil’s mother) had started the visa application process long before Emil and his family realize. She never told anyone because, early on, they did not want to leave Germany. Mama knows her family is further along on the visa wait list than her husband thinks.

Sarah (Emil’s sister) loves spending time at the Bund, a Jewish social club. She joined after Jewish people were no longer allowed to use public places as they previously had. Sarah learned to play table tennis (ping pong) there and quickly became the best player.

Ari (Sarah’s crush) also has a secret crush on Sarah because she plays table tennis well.

Günter hates being a Jungvolk leader. He has no patience for mediocre young boys and believes he can make greater contributions in another position. He longs for advancement and wants to prove himself. He keeps details on boys’ strengths, not their faults as Friedrich believes, in his notebook, in case he is permitted to take favored boys along with him after he leaves. His favorites are Johannes (for his athleticism), Fritz (for his obedience and loyalty to Nazism), and Friedrich (for his ability to solve problems).

1Headshot-Closeup

 

Jennifer Voigt Kaplan is an award-winning author of children’s fiction. Her debut children’s novel, Crushing the Red Flowers, was published November, 2019 by Ig Publishing. The manuscript was endorsed by James Patterson and recognized in six literary contests before its publication, including earning a Letter of Merit for the SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant and winning the middle-grade category of Publishers Weekly Booklife Prize for Fiction. Jennifer was born in Germany, raised in Philadelphia, and now resides in the New York City area. 

Follow her Facebook author page, facebook.com/JenniferVoigtKaplan, or visit her website, JenniferVK.com, to stay informed of her latest projects.

Here is Darlene’s review of the book:

CRUSHING THE RED FLOWERS by Jennifer Voigt Kaplan is a brave and powerful story, uniquely told, of what it means to be human during a time of insanity and chaos. In 1938 Germany, the voices of a German-Jewish boy and a boy in Hitler’s Jungvolk alternate their stories in a compelling and heart-rending tale. Vivid details of time and place, and fully developed characters with empathy, confusion, and conflict, raise this story to the top of the holocaust genre. Based on the author’s true family experiences, this is a novel that will generate many class discussions for an overlooked time period just before the outbreak of WWII. Highly recommended for middle school and up. A stunning debut.

 

 

Making Their Voices Heard: Vivian Kirkfield ‘s New PB + A Give-away.

Hi Darlene! Thanks so much for inviting me to stop by to visit. I’m especially honored because today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and my new nonfiction picture book, Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe, aligns perfectly with what Dr. King stood for. It’s so important for us all to make our voices heard…when something is not right, we need to stand up and speak out. But more than just speak out, we need to do something. We also need to listen to all of the voices around us. Yes, we need to create a culture of allyship – and this is what my story is about. Who would have thought that a picture book about an event that happened over 70 years ago could be so relevant today?

Ella Marilyn cover

Most people who remember jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald and movie star Marilyn Monroe only know their celebrity persona…but each was a multi-faceted individual. One of the main reasons I wanted to write this story was because I think it is so important for the world to embrace inclusivity and allyship…and what better place to start than a picture book that a parent or teacher or librarian will read with young children.

inside spread nightclub 2

Ella was Queen of Jazz and First Lady of Song to many and was the FIRST African American singer to win a Grammy. Not only did she win a Grammy…but she won TWO Grammys in 1959, the very first year they were awarded. She was celebrated here and abroad, but because she was African American and not beautiful in the Hollywood sense of the word, there were still doors that remained closed to her, especially in the United States. But Ella did not believe in violence, much like Dr. King. When she was bumped from a flight during a connection in Hawaii and missed a concert in Australia, Ella didn’t hoot and holler. She sued TWA, went to court, and won! And that was before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus. Ella was a great admirer of Dr. King and, in 1968, after he was murdered, Ella composed and recorded a song as a tribute: It’s Up to Me and You. A few lines:

Use common sense

Not violence

We can live in harmony

Here’s the link in case anyone wants to listen: https://youtu.be/7VpI_0nlV8I

The second main character in my book was known as the Blonde Bombshell and in 1999, over thirty-seven years after her death, People Magazine voted Marilyn Monroe the Sexiest Woman of the Century. Back in the 1950’s, studio bosses called her strawhead because they thought she was stupid, but she wasn’t. She loved reading…and she wrote beautiful poetry. She was the first female movie star to own a production company…and her hero was Abraham Lincoln. In a time when blacks and whites didn’t mix much, Marilyn was a proponent of Civil Rights and she defied her studio to visit New York City jazz clubs. She loved jazz…and she loved Ella and Ella’s voice. It was because she studied Ella’s recordings that her own vocal ability improved…and that led to her studio bosses giving her more control over her future scripts. When asked who was her favorite singer, Marilyn replied, “Well, my very favorite person, and I love her as a person as well as a singer, I think she’s the greatest, and that’s Ella Fitzgerald.”

inside spread 1

So, it’s not surprising that when Marilyn found out that Ella was having trouble getting a booking at a top nightspot in Hollywood, the two ladies put their heads together and came up with a plan. Marilyn called the owner of the club and promised to bring the media if he would book Ella for a week. And the rest is history…after the performance, Ella said, “I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt … she personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him – and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status – that the press would go wild.

The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman – a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”

ella and marilyn in nightclub

I feel so fortunate to share this story with young and old alike. In these divisive times, we need stories like this to bring us together… to build friendships with people from all cultures…because in the end, no matter what we look like on the outside, on the inside, just like Ella and Marilyn, we are “full of hopes and dreams, and plans of what might be.”

Here is Darlene’s review of MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: An engaging and delightful journey through the talents and friendship of two of the most popular stars of their era. This story highlights and celebrates “girl power” and how friendship is not bound by race, gender, or upbringing.

Vivian will give away EITHER a SIGNED COPY of the book OR a PB CRITIQUE to one lucky winner drawn at random. To enter the give-away, leave a comment below. The winner will be announced on this blog.

picture-130-bw viv sitting

Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing, banana-boat riding, and visiting critique buddies all around the world. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog, Picture Books Help Kids Soar where she hosts the #50PreciousWords International Writing Contest and the #50PreciousWordsforKids Challenge. She is the author of numerous picture books. You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found.

 

 

 

Celebrate National Popcorn Day! Make Popcorn Balls.

Sunday, January 19th is NATIONAL POPCORN DAY.  popcorn

Why not celebrate one of our favorite snack foods by having the kids make up some popcorn balls. Here is an easy recipe for MARSHMALLOW POPCORN BALLS taken from the I (heart) Eating website:

https://www.ihearteating.com/easy-popcorn-ball-recipe/

Ingredients

1 bag natural microwave popcorn*

1/4 cup butter

10 ounce bag mini marshmallows

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Pop popcorn according to package directions; set aside.
  • In a large saucepan, melt butter.
  • Continue cooking until butter begins to turn golden brown.
  • Add marshmallows, and stir constantly until marshmallows have melted.
  • Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla.
  • Add popcorn, and fold into marshmallow mixture.
  • When mixture is cool enough to handle, lightly spray your hands with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Scoop about 1 cup of the popcorn mixture and smoosh it into a ball.
  • Place on a sheet of waxed paper, parchment paper, or silicone baking mat to cool.

Notes

*Or about 9-10 cups of popped plain popcorn
**You can press candy pieces into the outside of popcorn balls.

***Nutrition values are estimates.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1popcorn ball: Calories: 131kcal (7%)Carbohydrates: 23g (8%)Fat: 4g (6%)Saturated Fat: 2g (10%)Cholesterol: 12mg (4%)Sodium: 63mg (3%)Sugar: 16g (18%)Vitamin A: 140IU (3%)Calcium: 1mgIron: 0.1mg (1%)

Popcorn balls with M&M's on the outside

More popcorn ball recipes

HAPPY POPCORN DAY!

One Resolution For the New Year:Help Teachers Serve Those Underserved.

As students get back into the school routine after winter break, many classroom teachers might be struggling to help the most needy in their schools. You can help those underserved students, and the teachers who serve them, by donating school supplies.

DonorsChoose.org is an organization that empowers teachers in public schools across the nation to request materials and experiences greatly needed in their classrooms. Recent statistics indicate that 81% of all public schools in the US have at least one teacher who has posted a project or request on its website. Most of the schools who participate have more than half of the student population coming from low-income families. Requests can be as simple as paint to freshen up a classroom, mulch and topsoil to create a garden space, art supplies for a classroom, and more.

I donated to a classroom in MI asking for funds to purchase high interest Chapter Books for its students.

Feed  the hunger for knowledge by making a classroom teacher’s job a bit easier. To learn more: http://www.DonorsChoose.org

Book Giveaway: ROOSEVELT BANKS, GOOD-KID-IN-TRAINING by Laurie Calkhoven

Writing and Illustrating

Laurie Calkhoven has written a Chapter book titled, ROOSEVELT BANKS, GOOD-KID-IN-TRAINING illustrated by Debbie Palen. Vivian has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Laurie and Debbie!

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

“Broad humor lightens the…

View original post 662 more words

Reviewing Great KidLit Books: How Did I DO in 2019?

In January 2017 I began the year with a personal challenge to write a review for KidLit books from authors I admire. You can read about the original challenge here: https://wordpress.com/post/darlenebeckjacobson.wordpress.com/4428

In 2018, I bested the original count and posted 18 reviews of children’s books, and gave away 3 of those reviewed.  You can see the titles for that post here: https://wordpress.com/post/darlenebeckjacobson.wordpress.com/4946

Well, in 2019, I am thrilled and excited to say, I have written and posted 31 reviews for PB, MG, and YA books and gifted 9 of them in various give-aways. ( These give-away books are indicated by a red asterisk) Here is the list of the wonderful books I reviewed. All these titles are by authors I enjoy and who deserve recognition for their amazing writing for children.

1. HEDY LAMARR (PB) by Laurie Wallmark

2. THE DEVOURING LAND (YA) Josh Bellin

3. SEALED WITH A KISS (PB) Beth Ferry

4. SQUIRREL’S FAMILY TREE (PB) Beth Ferry *

5. RESCUE AND JESSICA (PB) Jessica Kensky

6. DUCK AND COVER (MG)  Janet Smart

7. FOLLOWING (YA) Jeffry W Johnston

8. FRONT DESK (MG) Kelly Yang

9. TEN RULES OF THE BIRTHDAY WISH (PB) Beth Ferry

10. HELLO LIGHTHOUSE (PB) Sophie Blackhall

11. THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY (PB) Hannah Holt

12. MR. REGINALD AND THE BUNNIES (PB) Paula Wallace *

13. BOB (MG) Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

14. GRANTED (MG) John David Anderson

15. NO PEACOCKS (PB) Robin Newman *

16. JAGGER JONES AND THE MUMMY’S ANKH (MG) Malayna Evans

17. NARCOSIS ROOM (YA) Louise Cypress

18. HOUSE OF EARTH, HOUSE OF STONE (YA) Joshua David Bellin

19. REMARKABLY YOU (PB)  Pat Zietlow Miller *

20. A BOX OF BONES (MG)  Marina Cohen

21. IN YOUR SHOES (MG) Donna Gephart

22. THE LAW OF FINDERS KEEPERS (MG)  Sheila Turnage

23. ASTRO PEA (BB) Amalia Hoffman *

24. I LOVE YOU, MICHAEL COLLINS (MG) Lauren Baratz-Logsted

25. BEAUTY AND BERNICE (MG)  Nancy Viau *

26. A ZEBRA PLAYS ZITHER (PB) Janice Bond *

27. SOMETHING IS BUGGING SAMANTHA HANSEN (MG)  Nancy Viau *

28. ALL COLORS (BB) Amalia Hoffman *

29. THE SCARECROW (PB) Beth Ferry

30. THE JOKE MACHINE (MG) Theresa Julian

31. GOOD-BYE, MR. SPALDING (MG)  Jennifer Robin Barr

I read a total of SEVENTY books for children and adults and am pleased to have posted reviews for nearly half. The best way to share great books with others is to post positive reviews on Goodreads or Amazon. Won’t you join me in 2020 to spread the word about great literature for children and write a review for a book by one of your favorite authors?

Here’s a printable calendar to keep track of those awesome books and reviews:

https://www.redtedart.com/free-cute-printable-calendar/