I love writing picture books. I love teaching. I love knowing that I can make a difference in a young reader’s journey. Life is awesome!
I made a wonderful decision this past summer and decided to attend two writer’s workshops at the Highlights Foundation. One was about writing YA novels. One was about writing for the educational market.
I totally, absolutely, love writing picture books. They are amazing. But I’ve also written two YA novels that were definitely…lol…mediocre. Fortunately, I haven’t tried to market them. Yay! My third novel though, is a historical fiction about a young Hawaiian girl who wants to be a warrior, circa 1776, before Captain Cook ‘discovered’ the Hawaiian Islands. Now that it’s almost finished, I know I’ve finally written a novel I can be proud of. It was quite well received at the workshop too. I’m planning on sending it out in January of 2020. I can hardly wait to see it in the hands of young adults!!
The second workshop I attended was about educational publishing. I loved it! I learned so much about teaching STEM topics and writing for a particular grade level. Jan Fields, one of the presenters, was amazing. Funny, sarcastic, and incredibly knowledgeable, she ratcheted my writing up at least two levels. Maybe three😉 The result was that within two months I had contracts for four books. As you probably read on my intro page, I will be listing the titles as soon as I’m allowed.
Overall, I’m a lucky man. I can make a difference in the lives of young readers. What a spectacular thing to be able to say!
It’s never too late to restart something you’re passionate about.
I’m fresh off a 12-year hiatus from writing children’s books, and the unintended break has somehow managed to energize, and significantly improve, my writing.
It was the year 1999 when I began writing kids’ books. The inspiration for my first book came from a word game I played with my kids at bedtime. I would give them a riddle where the answer was two rhyming words, such as, “what does a grizzly sit on?”…a Bear Chair. Or “what does an octopus sip?”… an Ink Drink. When I ran out of ideas I searched for a book with more riddles but couldn’t find one. Thus, Pig Giggles and Rabbit Rhymes, my first book, was born.
That was followed by many more manuscripts and a few more books.
Then, about 2005 I turned my efforts to other projects. In addition, various life events added a few obstacles to my writing inspiration and I set down my pen, or computer keyboard, as the case may be.
So here I am 12 years later. I still have a full-time job. I still have life and commitments. I spend quality time with my wife and keep a strong connection with my kids, parents, and other family. So, I’m still busy.
But I realized I missed the writing. I decided to find the time, or more accurately, make the time to bring it back. Mostly it means waking up at five am in the quiet of the morning, sipping a cup of coffee and getting my creative juices flowing before heading off to work. But rather than tiring me out with the early mornings, it has proved to be, as I mentioned earlier, energizing.
How about you? Is there something you’ve let go of that you enjoyed in the past? A 12-year hiatus was plenty long enough for me.
Maybe now is the time to reignite your passion.
Family is a funny thing. We love them. We're frustrated by them. We want them with us. We want them far away. We are all human and each one of us has a set of rules and quirks and desires and needs and politics and religions. But the thing about family is that through it all, deep down, we love each and every one of these quirky, wonderful individuals who have been placed on this earth with us. I am fortunate to have a wonderful family and extended family. And even better, it continues to grow as my children and I develop relationships and bring new, incredible people into our lives (yes, like Louie and Jenna, and Victoria and Ben and Jake). So I thought I might reflect on the fact that although sometimes we are out of touch for too long, family has always been there for me, and I hope to always be there for them. Even well after the excitement of the holiday season passes.
As most of you might have guessed by now, I am a pilot as well as a writer. My earliest successful book, THE NOISY AIRPLANE RIDE, is about the noises you might hear on a typical airline flight. I wrote it not only to help keep kids calm, but also to help parents explain what the noises are. It actually took me three years to write the book...in a way...because for two and a half years I tried to figure out a unique format to use. The text itself took about six months. Airplane books are everywhere, so it is important to make yourself unique in any given market. I also pride myself on being extremely accurate. Although the plane is not any particular model of airliner (to make the book more timeless) , the controls are always in the correct position both inside and out of the plane. I have to thank Dave Gordon, the wonderful illustrator, who did this so well. So back to the point...I know airplanes! I have been flying since the age of 15 and I have flown everything from gliders to fighters to large airliners. I have also been an instructor in all of them. Thus, once I figured out the unique angle I wanted to use, my research was already done! How cool is that!! All I had to do was to write. And when someone reads the book, it's hopefully obvious I know what I am talking about. So this is my strength. Which brings me to my main point...everybody knows a lot about "something." Maybe you like dogs or needlepoint or scuba or cooking. Figure out a unique angle...then WRITE! Your expertise will automatically show through. And you will be surprised at how many people are interested in your chosen topic...they are out there now waiting for you. Time to get busy. :)
When people find out I'm a writer, there are a few typical conversations that occur. The three most common starter comments are: "How did you become a writer?" "I know a friend who should be a writer" and "I've always wanted to write a book." Today, I'll just reference the last two...in essence,,,"How does one become a writer?"
I personally started my journey exactly the way you should never start. Here is how NOT to do it. I thought about it. I had great ideas about it. I considered all the different types of stories I could write. I bought the correct computer software. I thought about titles and plots and how exciting it would be to have my name in print. I wrote a paragraph or two but it was never "just quite right."
Total output after months of the above...zero.
Then one day, I just grabbed a notebook and started to write. I wrote horrible first drafts...but I worked on them. I wrote riddles and stories and jotted down new ideas. And I wrote and I rewrote and I rewrote.
A typical picture book story that I feel is ready for publication will have about four major rewrites and twenty or more small rewrites. Every word counts!
Total output after my new system was in place?
Five published books, about thirty additional manuscripts of various sorts, from picture book to adult. Many will never become books, but several of them will. And with each word written I've improved as a writer.
So, as most writers will tell you...How does one become a writer?
As any writer knows, the process of making a book is time consuming, arduous, difficult...and wonderful, exciting, fun, thrilling and fulfilling at the same time. But as the adage goes...there is always some "hurry up and wait" involved. As a picture book writer, when a story was acquired I would work with the editor, refining the story to make it the best possible manuscript. Hurry. Hurry. Then the illustrator would go to work on it. Wait. Wait. My first picture book took two and a half years, yes-years, from acquisition to publishing. So I find it hard to believe that I am even complaining , but now I am anxious because I have to wait a full TWO DAYS before the ebook version of HIDDEN DOODLE CHRISTMAS RIDDLES will be released. Yes. Two full days! I don't mind laughing at myself, but it really shows how our expectations change along with current technology!
So how did I start writing riddles?
It began, like many other adventures, because of my kids. When I tucked them in at night, I devised what I thought was quite a clever gimmick...i began making up silly riddles which all had answers of two rhyming words. For example...What does a grizzly sit on? A Bear Chair. What does an octopus sip on? Ink Drink.
It didn't take long before I ran out of material. Fortunately, I was smart enough to search out books on Rhyming Riddles to increase my inventory of riddles! Alas, the only one or two I found were long out of print. And thus, PIG GIGGLES AND RABBIT RHYMES, my first book, was born.
It's Dec 7. For those of you old enough to remember...A Day That Will Live in Infamy!
Thankfully, 1941 is long past and the world has changed, as usual, for better and worse. Who would have thought in 1941 that Japan and Germany would one day be staunch allies!
For me, Dec 7 is a notable day because HIDDEN DOODLE CHRISTMAS RIDDLES has finally been published. YAY! Just have to finish the final proof read, give a thumbs up, and the rest is history:)