Issue #8 • April 2018

Dear Readers,

Yay for spring!

To me, spring cleaning is sort of like editing. It is hard work, but so satisfying when you see the results! And I am seriously editing at the moment, working on self-editing my second book in the Winged Horse series. The first one, Wings of Olympus, doesn't come out until Winter 2018/19, but, yes, I'm already editing my draft of the second book (working title Colt of the Clouds). I don't have to actually send it to my editors until the fall, but I find a lot of my writing happens through re-writing and editing, so I always try to give myself lots of time to edit.

I decided to ask some of my editors for tips they had for writing--and wow! I am so excited to share them with you. I am not sure how many of you are working on your own stories, or helping students or children with their stories, but I really love their advice, and I am going to take it all on board as I work on my next draft of Colt of the Clouds!

Note, some of these editors are picture book editors and others are chapter book/novel editors--and many are both.

Advice from Editors:

"When writing a picture book, make sure to leave room for the illustrator to expand on the story." - Annie Kelley, Senior Editor, Schwartz & Wade (Annie was my editor for my picture books The Lost Gift illustrated by Stephanie Graegin and Secrets I Know illustrated by Paola Zakimi)

"I love working on children's books for many reasons. One is that I truly believe in fiction as a tool for building empathy. As readers, we naturally tend to care about characters who demonstrate their concern for others. When we see a main character take a risk to protect or defend something vulnerable--whether it's a friend, an animal, a special place, or anything outside of their own self-interest--we're drawn in. So if you're working on a story, remember that it's an empathy-building machine! Consider showing your main character caring about something or someone vulnerable... and taking some fun or exciting risks accordingly."  – Abby Ranger, Freelance Editor (Abby was my editor at HarperCollins on the Duck, Duck, Dinosaur series illustrated by Oriol Vidal, and was an editor for 12 years in NYC, including at HarperCollins, Disney-Hyperion and Scholastic but now she's moved into freelance editing; her website, for anyone interested, is here)

"My editing tip is that I try to every manuscript draft at least twice -- once with my reader hat on, so to speak, just looking to enjoy the story and once with my editor hat on, looking to pick it apart one word, one line at a time." - David Linker, Executive Editor, HarperCollins US (David is my editor for Wings of Olympus and Colt of the Clouds)

"When editing, I’m always trying first and foremost to ask questions (while restraining myself from making too many direct suggestions). One thing I love about editing picture books, in particular, is the luxury of being able to think carefully and critically with the author about each word they’ve used—every single one!" - Emma Ledbetter, Senior Editor, Simon & Schuster (Emma is my editor for The Doll Hospital, illustrated by Sara Gillingham)

“Make sure something that moves the plot forward happens in each scene or chapter. Or, for picture-books, create a book map and make sure each spread is doing its own work, and not duplicating another spread's purpose.” – Rotem, Executive Editor, Disney-Hyperion (Rotem is my editor for the Magical Animal Adoption Agency series illustrated by Alexandra Boiger and Heartwood Hotel illustrated by Stephanie Graegin)

"I think it was Roald Dahl who said something like, 'When you're writing something for children, remember what it was like when you were a child and a doorknob was at your eye level.' (Obviously not a direct quote!) I think of this often when I'm trying to figure out if I think something would speak to a kid -- it reliably helps take me back to that place for myself as an editor." - Jessica Burgess, Associate Editor, Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers (Jessica is my editor for the early reader based on Anne of Green GablesAnne Arrives illustrated by Abigail Halpin)

Isn't this all such fantastic advice? I was thrilled to get so many responses and I'm filing it away for myself as reminders on things I need to be conscious of when I re-look at my stories.

Hope you have a lovely month ahead!


Extra Fun

Featured Activity - Create your own mini-book!

This is for all the budding story-tellers out there, adults or kids: create a mini-booklet of your own.

This activity sheet leads you through a simple way of creating a mini book, that you can fill with pictures, words or both.

Download the activity here!