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January, 2008

Father Goose

When Writing For Kids (Kid's Lit)
Specific challenges and places to start
By  Steve Cross

If kids don't like your story they'll tell you, so consider it constructive criticism.
o you want to write for children? The first thing you need to do is ask yourself why. If you say, "I think it would be easier to write for children than it would be to write for adults," do the kids a favour and write something else.

Despite what some people might think, writing for kids is not easier. Keep in mind the specific challenges: You have to write something a kid doesn't want to put down; you have to write something as good as the books you used to read when you were a kid; you have to write something that will make a kid forsake his video game. It's not an easy job.

Have you read a good children's book lately? Read the kinds of children's books you want to write. Go back and read the children's books you read when you were a kid. Recently, I re-discovered one of my all-time favourite children's books. David and the Phoenix was first published in 1958. Re-reading this book as an adult, I re-lived all the childhood joy I first experienced when I read it as a kid. It refreshed my vision of what children's writing is all about.

If I asked you about your most favourite book when you were a kid, you would have no trouble not only thinking of a book but also giving extensive details about it. Think of the impact children's books made on your life. Can you imagine the joy that was in your eyes when you read those books? That delight is magnified by the memories associated with it. If you remember the happiness of being a child and would like to see that enjoyment in kids today, write for them.

Use your memories and their emotional impact on you to create compelling stories for today's children. Do you remember when you were a kid and your best friend betrayed you? How did that feel? Do you remember the first time someone you loved died? What was your experience surrounding that? Do you remember how the challenges your toughest teacher gave you not only developed your mind and creativity but also your sense of pride in your accomplishments?

Consider other memories from your childhood: Your first fight, your first boyfriend or girlfriend, the time you got away with breaking the rules, the first time you got in trouble at school, the first time you heard where babies come from. Childhood moments emblazoned in our minds and hearts are a great source for stories.

Another good way to get in touch with your inner child and connect with children is to volunteer at a school. You can tutor or serve as a reader. If you have good stories of your own, get involved with storytelling. Libraries and schools often have storytellers come in and entertain classes.

Perhaps you can start with the school you graduated from or the one where your children go. You may want to tell the teachers you are writing a book and you'd like to try it out on their students. The kids and the teacher might find it fun to help your endeavour to become a published writer. Be prepared; kids are honest. If they don't like your book or your story, they will likely tell you so. Consider it constructive criticism.

These are ideas to get you started. Above all, you have to tell a good story. Get your  stories directly from children you interact with and from your own childhood memories. Writing for kids is an opportunity to re-experience an earlier time in your life. Are you up for the challenge?

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Steve Cross has been a freelance writer/educator for over 20 years. During his career he has published fiction, poetry, non-fiction and several plays. In 2007, Wings ePress will publish two of his novels, both for middle grade readers. He lives in Arcadia, Missouri, with Jean, his wife; Megan, his daughter (a writer herself); and several pets. Email:

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Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
It’s how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

Double Vision
A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at

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