Monday, February 22, 2016

Writing a Children's Holiday Story

I know we just passed Valentine’s Day and have not yet reached St. Patrick’s Day, but holiday books have been on my mind.  Recently I read-and rejected-a Christmas story that had many of the red flags I hope not to find in a manuscript.  I feel bad for authors when I send rejections, as I know that their heart and soul are poured into their work. As I’m already thinking about the catalog for the fall and the publication schedule for next year,  now seems like a good time to share my thoughts-scattered as they may be-on writing holiday books for children.

Leprechauns Never Lie

What am I thinking when I pull a holiday story from the stack of manuscripts waiting to be read? First, I hope that it won’t be written in rhyme. Too many people seem to think that stories for children must be written in rhyme. Rhyming is well and good if it suits the story, and the writer doesn’t try to force the rhyme. Yet I often find myself muttering, “Prose is a good thing. Give prose a chance.” as I go through manuscripts with an 8:2 rhyme to prose ratio.

Madison's Patriotic Project

I also hope that the story is about a holiday other than Christmas. Halloween is the second favorite for holiday stories, but Christmas holds a strong lead in the holiday stories submissions stakes. I’m quite fond of Christmas, but there are other holidays where new books would have a better chance of being noticed. 

Then there is the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Syndrome. That’s my phrase for when a writer uses a popular character in a story without researching if it is in public domain. Rudolph has an interesting copyright and trademark history. I won’t go into that here, but if you use a copyrighted/trademarked character in your story, two things happen. The words “copyright issues” come to my mind. I also immediately discard the manuscript.

Check out what holiday books are available. Think about what makes them work well. What ideas do you have that would appeal to readers?  Find out what the publisher chooses to publish.

Humbug Rabbit

Don’t include illustrations. Publishers have art directors who find professional illustrators for projects. 

Then send it to a publisher. We are always looking for the next holiday classic.

What holiday books has Star Bright Books published?

Visit to see our holiday books.

Monday, February 15, 2016

You Have an Idea for a Children’s Picture Book…

Now what?

You have a picture book idea. You’d like to write a children’s book and have it published.  Where do you turn to learn the process of writing a children’s book and submitting a manuscript?

You should start at your local library. Libraries not only have books on writing and publishing, but the Children’s Room is filled with books you should read to get a feel for what makes a picture book a pleasure to read to a child.

Notice how the text is spread out on the pages. How does the author describe the action, the characters, and use the dialogue to move the story along?  Look at the name of the publisher in the front of the book. Notice what kinds of books each publisher chooses to publish.

At Star Bright Books, some of the books we have published recently are:

Do you have a manuscript that would be of interest to us?

If you want to submit a manuscript to a publisher, please visit the publishers’ website for the guidelines. Visit Star Bright Books to see our guidelines .

Please follow the guidelines if you want your manuscript read.

FYI:  Publishers find the illustrators for the manuscripts they accept.  You don’t need to have your story illustrated. You can add notes about how you picture a scene, but remember that editors are used to imagining what a book will look like.

What’s the worst thing you do? The worst thing you can do is to call the publisher to pitch your idea. You aren’t likely to get to speak to an editor, and you show that you haven’t done your homework. 

Let me recommend a terrific book about getting a children’s book published. It’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books by Harold Underdown.
Harold Underdown is an editor with a wealth of experience.  Harold also has a website you should visit regularly.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Reading to Babies

The Friends of the Dallas Public Library recently started giving away copies of Read to Me by Judi Moreillon to new parents at the Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas. Read to Me encourages family members to read aloud to their children.  It’s a nice gift to welcome a baby to the community.

You can read the January 30, Dallas Morning News story about how the Parkland Health & Hospital System has partnered with the Dallas Public Library and the Friends of the Dallas Public Library to give babies born this year a copy of Read to Me, a board book about reading to babies and children.  The Dallas Morning News followed up with an editorial on February 2, congratulating the Friends of the Dallas Public Library for their efforts promoting early literacy skills that will help the children in the Dallas community.

Reading to Your Own Baby

For all the families who don’t own a copy of Read to Me, what tips can I, as a librarian, offer you about reading aloud to your children?

First of all, relax and have fun. The attention you are giving your child is making your child happy. You might think of yourself as a “bad” reader, but your child thinks you are a superstar.

Board books, those heavy cardboard books, are good for children 0-2 years of age. Board books are meant to be chewed, hugged, thrown and loved.  Chewing is normal. Babies test their world with their mouths.  That’s why publishers make books safe for babies to put in their mouths.

What should you read to a child? Infants and toddlers like books with photos of other babies. Your baby will probably pat the books when they like a face on the page. Infants will enjoy hearing your voice no matter what you read.

Older toddlers enjoy books about numbers, shapes, colors or ABCs. Rhyming books are a good choice too.

There is no rule that you have to read the whole book at one time. If your child gets up to run around, that’s okay. Books can be picked up and read at a later time. Or, if your child chose one of those really long stories and YOU are tired, you can just read one sentence or make up a story about the picture on the page. 

Now go read a book to your baby and have fun sharing a story together. —Jacquelyn Miller

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Valentine’s Day Amazing Facts

• Valentine’s Day is the second largest card sending holiday. Christmas is the biggest one.

• Who gets the most cards? In this order, teachers, children, mothers, wives, sweethearts and pets receive most of the cards.

• According to the Greeting Card Association, approximately one billion cards are exchanged on Valentine’s Day.

• Children, between the ages of 6-10 years of age, exchange more than 650 million cards.

 Valentine’s Day isn’t always filled with hearts and flowers. Humorous or caustic Valentine’s Day cards were created by John McLaughlin of New York in 1858. These are known as “vinegar valentines.” At one point in the 1800s, the Chicago U.S. Post Office refused to deliver 25,000 Valentine’s Day cards. The staff thought the messages were too nasty.

See more of these heart day jabs

 A kiss on Valentine’s Day is supposed to bring good luck all year. May you receive lots of kisses and luck on February 14.

You and the children in your life might enjoy two Valentine stories available through our website, your local bookstore, or at Amazon. We promise that there is no vinegar in either of these Valentine stories!

Bee My Valentine by Miriam Cohen How can the first-graders make George feel better when he receives very few Valentine’s Day cards?

A Sweetheart for Valentine by Lorna Balian Share this book from your childhood! A humorous tale of a town trying to find a sweetheart for their giant friend.

—Jacquelyn Miller