Subject: Children's Writing Update 4



edited by Jon Bard

Welcome to the new look of the Children's Writing Update!  We've redesigned everything to make it easier to read, easier to print out and more concise.  Also, we'll now be offering shorter Updates and sending them out a bit more regularly.

Thanks to everyone for the great feedback that helped us with the redesign!


1. Another Video For You!

Just uploaded:  How to Write a Picture Book that Shines.  This quick video offers three powerful steps that can take your picture book manuscript from blah to brilliant!



 2.  Canadian Children's Writing Event

The bi-annual CANSCAIP Prairie Horizons 2009 Conference will be held September 18-20, 2009 in Lumsden, Saskatchewan, Canada. It is for children's authors, illustrators, and performers, or those who would like to be. Cost is $150 (Canadian) for everything. More info:



3. Get Ready for Bootcamp in the Rockies!


Spend a beautiful fall weekend in picturesque Boulder, Colorado -- while learning exactly what you need to make it big as a children's writer!

Children's Authors' Bootcamp is a children's writing weekend you'll never forget --  a step-by-step journey to children's writing success that's fun, fast-paced and packed with advice you'll never hear anywhere else!

Join Laura Backes, Publisher of Children's Book Insider, and Linda Arms White, Christopher Award-winning author of Too Many Pumpkins, Comes a Wind and many other great children's books, for the ultimate children's writing workshop:

October 10 and 11 at the Best Western Boulder Inn, in spectacular Boulder, Colorado 

CAB features two full exciting days of world-class instruction and exercises on writing fiction for children of all ages, with emphasis on character and plot development, dialogue, descriptive writing, point of view, writing strong beginnings, editing your own work and submitting manuscripts to publishers. If your dream of writing children's books needs a shot of adrenaline, this is the place to get it.

Because it's a step-by-step program, CAB is great for beginners! No previous experience is needed to benefit from this workshop, and you'll leave on Sunday with everything you need to know to write your masterpiece!


The Bootcamp changed my life. Linda and Laura are spectacular. They took me from a "wanna be..." to a bona fide children's book illustrator and author, working under major publishers. I still use the literature and information from the Bootcamp on a weekly basis. My writer's bookshelf would not be complete without the notes and books from their program. Laura and Linda continue to be amazingly supportive of my efforts. I count them as two of my most powerful colleagues in the business. It's simple - Bootcamp works. I'm proud to be one of their students, and their friend.

J.H. Everett, co-author and illustrator of the upcoming series "Haunted Histories" from Henry Holt. 

For a complete class outline and registration information (including information on booking hotel rooms), see, or contact Linda White at (303) 747-1014, or

Reserve Your Spot Now!

Visit for all the details.




4. Miss My Tweets? Here You Go!

I've been happily Twittering away and have shared many links with folks that are following along. In case you're not on board yet, here are some of my recent favorites. If you want to follow along, you can find me at

Jumpstart Your Career As An Author by Asking "Why?"

The 4 Traits of Successful Children's Book Writers

100 Search Engines for Writers

New Imprint: Comics For Younger Readers


5. What's in July's Children's Book Insider?

If you're new to the Update, you may not know that we publish a monthly subscription-only newsletter for aspiring and working children's book writers that's jam-packed with market leads, advice, inside info and much more. It's called Children's Book Insider, and we've been sharing it with subscribers across the globe since May, 1990! (And remember, every subscriber to Children's Book Insider gets total access to the incredible CBI Clubhouse website!)

Here's a look at what's in the current issue of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers:

Market Tips:

*  New Teen Imprint Launches
*  New Independent Press Seeks Picture Books
*  Nominations Accepted for Award for Outstanding Nonfiction
*  Christian Magazine Accepting Submissions
*  Publisher Seeks Nonfiction and Learning Materials

In-depth Articles:

* How to Jump on the Multimedia Brand-Wagon
* Author Melissa Thomson on Writing Early Chapter Book Series
* Finding Humor in Teenage Drama
* The CBI Challenge, Part 3: Fit Writing into Your Daily Life
* Save Time (and Your Sanity) By Saying "No"

If you enjoy the information offered in this e-mail update, wait 'til you see what we've got in store for you each month in the pages of CBI! 

A subscription to CBI and full access to the CBI Clubhouse costs about the same each month as a latte! 

For more information and to order, go to

"If you are "thinking" about subscribing, DON'T!!! Just do it. I waited for almost 2 years before I did, now I'm wondering why I waited so long"  Frederick Claus 

"I won a subscription to CBI at a conference few years ago. I've been renewing ever since -- 450 magazine and 4 book credits later! Thanks for the best information published. I rely on your newsletter!" Lorri Cardwell-Casey

"I knew if I was going to keep getting published I'd need some help so I did some research and discovered your newsletter. It seemed made to order so I ordered it! Five books and over thirty-five articles later, I'm still subscribing and finding Children's Book Insider as useful and inspiring as ever. " Lynne Stover

If you're not sure whether joining CBI is the right move, consider this: I got a book contract from a lead on the first page of my very first issue of CBI! How's that for results? Marci Mathers

6. Can You Ever "Tell, Don't Show"?

by Laura Backes, Publisher,  Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers

When it is okay to tell, not show, in your writing? This is the question that's being debated right now on the CBI Clubhouse message board. Let's begin with some definitions for those of you new to these concepts.

Telling uses abstract, general terms that can be interpreted several ways. Telling is often (though not always) done with a "to be" verb, such as is, was, were or are. With telling, the reader simply has to accept what the author states to be true: The dog was mean. It was cold outside. Telling statements are flat and don't generate a strong response from the reader. Akin to telling is using weak verbs that don't give the reader much information: Sam went to school.

Showing uses specific, concrete, precise nouns and verbs to convey exactly what the author has in mind. The words contain layers of meaning that evoke sensory responses from the reader. The reader can see, hear, touch, smell, taste the description or action. The author provides evidence, and the reader is convinced of the meaning. The author and reader are on exactly the same wavelength:

The dog flattened his ears and curled back his lips to show long, pointed teeth. When I stepped outside, I felt the cold air slap me across the cheek, leaving my face numb. Sam trudged to school. (Note how the meaning changes with the verb: Sam skipped to school/ Sam staggered to school/ Sam sauntered to school.)

Telling is considered a big no-no in writing, to be avoided at all costs. But there are a few occasions when telling makes sense.

When you're stating an essential, objective fact. Consider this:

Jenny looked at her watch. It was five o'clock. "I'm such an idiot!" she muttered. "How did it get to be so late?"

"It was five o'clock," is technically a telling statement, but really, what's the alternative? Jenny noted the sun's position in the sky and calculated the angles of the shadows to determine it was probably five o'clock. Not likely. In this example, the reader needs to know the time, and then move on to Jenny's reaction. The author can simply state that it's five o'clock because there's no room for interpretation. Showing isn't necessary.

"Objective" is the key word here. Now look at this sentence: Mrs. Grub was very tall. Though Mrs. Grub's height doesn't fluctuate, calling her "tall" is subjective. Suppose Mrs. Grub is 5' 7". I'd look her right in the eye, so I wouldn't consider her taller than average. But she'd tower over a child who is under four feet. In this case, Mrs. Grub's height is being interpreted by the viewpoint character, and needs to be shown: Mrs. Grub stood up. Her shadow trailed over Jake's chess board, blanketed the picnic table, and tickled the paws of Jake's dog lying under a tree. Jake tilted his head back and squinted to read Mrs. Grub's expression. "Sorry I captured your queen," he said.

Within dialogue. We "tell" all the time during conversations, and it would sound unnatural for your characters to do otherwise. But you still need to provide evidence so the reader can judge whether or not what your character is saying is accurate. For example:

"Mr. Strand is so unfair!" exclaimed Denise.

Denise has a right to her opinion, but how do we, as readers, know if we agree? Denise needs to show us what she considers "unfair". Now look at this example:

"Mr. Strand is so unfair!" exclaimed Denise. "He made me stay after school to retake a stupid geography test, and I missed the volleyball tryouts!"

We still don't have enough information, but we're getting closer. We now know that volleyball is important to Denise, geography is not. Depending on why Denise had to retake that test (did she flunk it the first time because she didn't study, or was she up the night before the test taking care of her sick mother?) we'll know if Denise's opinion of Mr. Strand can be trusted.

There is some discussion on the CBI Clubhouse message board whether gestures used with dialogue are telling. If your character shrugs, rolls her eyes, plays with her hair, chews his fingernails or bites his lip during a conversation, is this telling instead of showing? In my opinion, gestures show, because they give the reader visual cues to the character's emotional state. They provide a subtext to the conversation. Instead of writing "Kayla was bored," have Kayla sigh, roll her eyes, or stare longingly out the window. Of course, gestures, like any other writing device, become tedious if overused. Adjectives and adverbs fall into the same category. A little goes a long way. Instead, focus on those strong, specific nouns and verbs, and you'll find adjectives and adverbs virtually unnecessary. When you do describe a noun or verb, again remember "specific". Words like big. little, good, or bad don't add much information to the sentence.

In first person narration. In a first person story the viewpoint character is speaking to the reader, so telling is occasionally allowed because that's the way we talk. But again, back up the statements with details that allow the reader to understand the information on a sensory level. And if you're going to deliberately tell, try to surprise the reader:

I woke that morning to the sound of tree branches scraping frantically against the roof. When I opened my window, the first icy raindrops hit my forehead. I breathed deeply; the air smelled of decaying leaves, damp grass, and an undercurrent of frost. It was a beautiful day."

In board books, very young picture books, and early easy readers. When simple writing is needed, sometimes telling is your best option. Books for children under age four, or books for kids just starting to read on their own, use short sentences and words.

But picture books for kids ages 4-8 (the bulk of the picture book market) are meant to be read out loud to children who can handle more interesting language, and in those books showing is a must.

Just because telling's acceptable in a few circumstances, it's not a free pass for being a lazy writer who doesn't want to make the effort to show. In the end, it's all about finding the balance that's best for your book.

Want more great information just like this? Check out Children's Book Insider, The Newsletter for Children's Writers. Visit now for more info and a special offer.


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Copyright 2009, Children's Book Insider, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole, or in part, without the express written consent of the author. This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This information is provided with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or any other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the service of a competent professional should be sought. Therefore, the Author and Publisher expressly disclaim any liability for the use of any information contained herein, and this publication is provided with this understanding and none other.

Additionally, Children's Book Insider, LLC is not responsible for the availability of external sites, offers or resources mentioned in advertising or in editorial content, and does not endorse and is not responsible or liable for any content, advertising, products, special offers or other materials on or available from such sites or resources. Children's Book Insider, LLC shall not be responsible or liable, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with use of or reliance on any such content, goods or services available on such external sites, offers or resources.

We make every effort to verify the legitimacy of the publishers and magazines we include in our market listings. However, we assume no responsibility for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with readers' associations with such publishers. For information about investigating publishers before conducting business with them, see our special report "How to Tell If A New or Small Press is Legitimate" at

July 15, 2009

Children's Writing


Children's Book Insider, LLC
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Fort Collins, CO 80525

for complete listing of our success tools for children's writers, visit



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Spalding University in Louisville, KY, is offering a remarkable opportunity:
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For information, request brochure FA80: email or call (800) 896-8941x2423 or visit



Yes You Can!

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you're an inexperienced or unpublished children's writer!

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We've Got Solutions to Aid Your Resolutions!

Need insider secrets and fresh markets for your manuscript? Check out Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers + The CBI Clubhouse at

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