Friday, October 17, 2014

Have you joined SCBWI yet? (and why I did)


Are you a member yet???

After a couple of years of putting it off, I finally joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) at the beginning of October, and last week, my membership package finally winged (wung?) its way across the ocean and made it here to me.

Yes, it’s true.  I’m legit now.


Well, kind of legit.  They have a checkbox when you join that forces you to admit that, if you’ve self-published your kids’ books (even if you have been published for adult writing, which I have), then you are not exactly a “published” author.

That part didn’t feel so good.

Nevertheless, I was excited to have a good look through “the book,” the writing / publishing guide and directory that’s included with membership, but there wasn’t much there I hadn’t seen elsewhere.  There’s some good information about self-publishing, and a helpful guide to publishing companies as well as author services and other resources.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Are you the next Dr. Seuss? 4 "Doctor's Orders" to write rhyming books kids will love to shreds.

Thinking of writing in rhyme?

No wonder.  Thousands of new rhyming kids' books come out every year, and lots of them are snapped up eagerly by parents and teachers.  A great rhyming book can help a reluctant reader, lull a child almost to sleep, or turn storytime into a bouncy fun lap experience for parent and kid.

But the best books, the ones kids carry around until they're loved to tatters, pages hanging out, covers falling off - not from abuse but from sheer love - those are the books you probably hope to write someday.

(Me, too.  Who wouldn't?)

The great news is that you really can, with these four "Doctor's Orders," borrowed from the grand master of rhyme, Dr. Seuss (aka Theodore Geisel).

Doctor's Order #1.  Give them a name that's not quite the same.

Even though "Sam" is a pretty typical name, "Sam-I-am" certainly isn't.  In general, Dr. Seuss picked strange and memorable names for his characters.  Often, these were names that would fit in with the story's rhyme scheme.

He also kept them pretty short.  Dr. Seuss rarely went over two syllables with his names.  Yertle the Turtle; the Cat in the Hat; Horton; Sam-I-am; the Lorax; the Grinch.  One exception is Bartholomew Cubbins, but his books didn't rhyme.
  • Quick Tip from Seuss:  Pick names that will be easy to rhyme.  "Alexander" isn't great, but "Rosie" or "Miles" offer more possibilities.  This is optional - you can always avoid sticking your character's name at the end of the line (as Dr. Seuss did with Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now!).  But it's nice to have the choice and not back yourself into a corner.

Doctor's Order #2.  Some stories are worse if they're told in verse.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

“Can I have another free Microsoft Word children’s book template, please?”


Ooh, I thought you’d never ask.

I’ve been offering a free 8.5” x 8.5” children’s book template for a while and it’s very, very popular.  No wonder.  When I wanted to find a free template to give me some idea of how to format my kids’ books, I couldn’t find one anywhere.  So I made one, and then shared it with you.

Now, 8.5” x 8.5” is a great size.  I love it.

That size is perfect for a 32-page picture book, or even something a little shorter (for younger kids) or longer (for slightly older kids). 

But it’s not perfect.  That’s where 6” x 9” comes in.

You’ll probably discover the limitations of 8.5” x 8.5” most especially when it comes to slightly older kids.  Big kids don’t usually like to pick up a big square book.  They want something smaller, and sleeker.

That’s where the new 6” x 9” children’s book template comes in.


6” x 9” is also the most common size of self-published book out there, even for adult books.  If you like the template, feel free to use it for adult books (lower the font size a bit) or anything else you’d like.

Like the 8.5” square template, this one contains full instructions, and page numbering is set up for you already.  Add as many pages of text and images as you like, and it will expand to fit your needs.


There’s even an “About the Author” page at the end for you to fill in your personal details. (Take out my picture and stick in your own, of course)


I’ve included links on the download page so you can also pick up most of the fonts I’ve used (this template uses Garamond, which is distributed free by Microsoft with most versions of Word).  You can always switch things up and use your own, too, of course.

Like I said, this was something that never existed before – at least, not that I could find (and I’m pretty handy with Google).  And now that I’ve set it up it for my own books, it’s easy as pie to share it with you.

All I ask is that you sign up for my mailing list first. 

Sure, you can sign up and then quit the list right away.  But I’d really love it if you stuck around.  I send out one short email, once a week, with writing thoughts and inspirations, as well as links to any freebies I’ve got coming up.  No ads, no spam, I promise.

Once you sign up and confirm your approval, you’ll be taken straight to the download page.  As always, if this resource is helpful to you, I’d love to hear about it in the Comments section.  Probably others would as well.

See you on the list!

Monday, September 29, 2014

5 illustrated ways to overcome the “self-published” curse (and make your picture book look great).


Are you cursed?

Lots of writers would swear they are.

It’s sort of true.  There’s a “self-published” curse that makes many, many independent, print-on-demand and Kindle books look… bad.  Stinky.  Rotten.

Is yours one of them?

I don’t believe in curses, I believe in bootstraps.  I hope you do, too.

I believe that today every writer has a chance to succeed in publishing a kids’ book… by following these five tips (illustrated for your amusement) to help ensure that yours succeed.

Before you go on, here’s my confession:  I have made mistakes in all of the following areas.  Might be making them at this very moment.  Who hasn’t? 

That’s how we learn.

Let’s sit down and learn these five easy lessons (with illustrated examples by me!) together.

1.  Fonts – get serious.

There is a special place in purgatory for those who rely on Comic Sans to make their story seem childlike / innocent / fun.  Your book is made for reading… so make it readable. 

Script fonts can be hard to read, especially in large doses where there’s not enough whitespace around them.  Similarly, novelty fonts like this sawed-off-boards font make it difficult to read more than a little text at a time.  Finally, don’t mix more than three into your book.  I think the experts say four, per page… but I say three per book, so there.

image image

Sunday, September 21, 2014

One-star review?!? What to do when it happens to you.


Did you ever fall totally in love with your own book?

I sure hope so.

But as all the romance novels suggest, love makes us vulnerable.  In this case, vulnerable to… our readers.

Like that one reader in however-many who comes along and absolutely hates your book.


It happened to me two days ago, and I’m still reeling.

Let me tell you a little about my book Penguin Rosh Hashanah.  It’s all about the Jewish new year, and it’s also all about penguins.  Light on facts, heavy on cute. [The Kindle version is free until Wednesday, Sept 24, 2014 if you want to check it out!]

I made the book light on facts for a reason, by the way. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

RIP Crad Kilodney

The late Crad Kilodney, legendary Toronto street author.

Who’s your biggest influence as a writer?

Sometime way too long ago to admit, a friend told me about a guy who stood out on the streets of Toronto selling his books. 

A crazy guy, with a crazy name:  Crad Kilodney.

In an era before self-publishing (think 1972), he typed his own stories and printed them off himself.  Then stood outside, all year long, in all kinds of miserable weather, getting the word out thanks to sandwich boards around his neck.

This is how I first met him.

The late Crad Kilodney, legendary Toronto street author.

This is what he looked like.  Sometimes with the pipe, sometimes not.

Most pedestrians on the busy downtown sidewalks he occupied rushed past pretty quickly.  Trying not to make contact with the greasy-haired guy selling – ahem – literature.

Okay, so it wasn’t exactly literature.  Actually, it was the kind of crazy, train-of-thought, free-associated ranting my mother might refer to as “verbal diarrhea.”

Story and pictures by Crad Kilodney

I don’t believe my mother ever opened up one of those grimy little books that must have come home with me from time to time.

*** Caution:  a small excerpt of his writing is below which contains some NSFW / adult content.  I’m warning you now so you have time to shut the window.  (Also, any of these images of his stories could contain inappropriate language so don’t click if you don’t want to know.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Should you crowdfund your next book (on Kickstarter, GoFundMe, or PubSlush)? 3 reasons why not.


Should you crowdfund your next book (on Kickstarter, GoFundMe, or PubSlush or whatever tomorrow’s Next Big Crowdfunding Site happens to be)?


Well, that was easy, wasn’t it?

Now we can all go home.

What?  You want me to defend that statement?

Well, okay.  Here are three reasons.

#1 Your crowdfunding project makes me feel spiteful.

I’m not saying this to be nasty, I promise.

I love you, I love writers, I want to encourage independent writers to get their books in print and live their dream.  Really… I do.

But if you publicize your crowdfunding project in writers’ circles, you’re going to get a LOT of people staring at your post, thinking, “I paid to publish my books, darnit; you should pay to publish yours.”

Either that or they’re just plain bored. 

Bored with writers who hang out online on facebook, LinkedIn, and anywhere else writers hang out, telling me to fund their book… when they ought to be writing. 

Another question that may just cross our mind when you announce your crowdfunding attempt: