Five Tips to Become a Children’s Writer

Marie reading from Not a Lot, Robot!
Marie reading from Not a Lot, Robot!

I recently had an opportunity to read my books and talk about being a children’s book author to a group of school childen. I also enjoy giving workshops or speaking on panels with other authors and publishers, especially when we share our very different paths to published writing.

Here are my five best tips:

1. Believe in yourself. Keep writing. Write stories, articles, journal entries, nonfiction — whatever. Attend workshops and classes, and find like-minded writers who want to help each other by forming critique groups. Join professional writing associations, like the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild (SWG) and CANSCAIP, among others. Above all, don’t give up on yourself or your writing. Send your work “out there” by mail or email or any other method, and keep sending it. Enter your work in contests, take it to conferences, and send it to submission calls wherever you may find them.

2. Be a lifelong learner.  Read a lot, and try to read like a writer: to figure out what the author did and how they did it. I highly recommend taking classes and workshops, attending conferences, and striving always to be a better communicator. Workshops that helped me along the way included the Sage Hill Writing Experience, as well as SWG- and CANSCAIP-sponsored workshops. So far, the biggest challenge — and possibly benefit — was going back for a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia (UBC) — after I turned 50 years old. Now, with 40 published books, I’m giving lots of classes and workshops. But I still sign up to take workshops and webinars in topics that interest or challenge me, too.

3. Treat it like a job. Introduce yourself as an author. That was a big step for me, because I’ve always had a day-job. Often I’d mention the day-job first in my introduction, and never get to the word, “author.” Then a young writer friend began introducing herself as an author, even though she was unpublished and had a day-job — and within a year or two, she was a published writer. Lesson learned!

4. Schedule time to write. Write when you’re tired, when you’re busy, and when you have something else to do. Write in the corners of your life. You might have five minutes when you’re waiting in the car to pick up the kids at school. You might have 15 minutes if you get up a little earlier in the morning. Don’t worry about how much or how little time you have. Just write.

5. Follow your own path. My path to published writing included university classes, workshops and courses, and finding a community through groups and associations like CANSCAIP, SCWBI-Canada West, and SWG. I also wrote nonfiction for publication, which led me to such associations as PWAC and Editors Canada. Most recently, I’ve joined the Creative Academy and I’ve found a community of like-minded authors online.

These experiences give me the courage to seek traditional publishing opportunities, and have given me a writing life with published nonfiction and fiction for children, youth, and adults. But this is just my path. Every author has a different version of this story. You will find your own path — and best wishes along the way!

Speaking of: What’s your best tip for becoming a published writer, or just getting the writing done? Post a comment, and let’s talk!

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