Writing for Children: Books for different age groups

We don’t generally grade books for adults by age. But in children’s books the age group really matters. Writing for a 5-year-old is not the same as writing for a 12-year-old. Children’s experience and understanding grow and develop all the time.

Everything is changing:

●  their vocabulary: the words they know

●  the ideas they can grasp

●  the level of complexity they can cope with

●  their interests and preoccupations

●  their feelings and emotions

●  their experience of life

●  their likes and dislikes, the things that amuse and entertain them

A writer needs to know this, to study the particular age group he or she has chosen. Be prepared to eavesdrop!

●  How do they speak?

●  What topics concern them most?

●  How do they look at the world? (It won’t be the way you view it.)

Many books have been written about child development. Dip into one of them. Many studies have been made of vocabulary—the words (and concepts) it is best to use for different age groups. Take note of these things if you want your readers to understand and enjoy what you are writing. They won’t read what is way beyond their grasp, but you don’t have to stick to word lists with a strictly limited vocabulary. A little bit of stretching can be good.

This article was excerpted from MAI’s booklet, Effective Story Writing for Children, by Pat Alexander and Larry Brook. The booklet offers several practical tips for mastering the important craft of children’s writing. Check out resources on writing and publishing on MAI’s website.

Photo above courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Why bother with theological conferences?

Prior to the Latin America Congresses on Evangelism (CLADE) held in Costa Rica last July, some publishers had asked, “Why is it important for us to be in an event like CLADE?” After all, it was a forum for theological reflection for Christian leaders across the continent. For MAI and participating publishers it was worthwhile for several reasons:

CLADE congress participants chat with author and MAI board member Keila Ochoa Harris (left)

First, this was a book devouring audience, and therefore an excellent opportunity to sell books. And, direct contact with this public gave us invaluable feedback on the books being published and an opportunity to hear recommendations.

For lonely editors, it was valuable to meet grateful readers who in turn will become natural promoters of our books.

Publishers had the opportunity to hear the issues being debated. In a continent as large and diverse as Latin America, it’s challenging to put your finger on the pulse of the Church. A congress like this provides an unequalled opportunity for market research.

We also met potential authors, some of whom had already been in touch with a publishing house, but face-to-face contact had never been possible. Other potential authors would perhaps never have contacted a publisher: some conference or workshop speakers are wonderful communicators, with perhaps limited gifts as writers, but with a message that needs to be published abroad. A creative publisher can find ways of doing that with the help of a ghost writer.

In the same way, writers could interact directly with publishers and understand their respective focus and style, plus listen to issues being discussed. Noone wants to write or publish in a vacuum.

The event also served as a focus group on communication tools; what blogs people are reading; if they were reading our social media and web sites; and the type of technological devices they are using. We were surprised to discover who was using iPads, laptops, smart phones… and who wasn’t!

So, why not take advantage of theological conferences in your region to learn, network and promote your books?

By Ian Darke, MAI’s Latin America regional trainer

>>Related post: Ochoa reflects on Latin American interest in Christian publishing

God is here

Laura Bonney of Canada drafted this poem in a LittWorld writing workshop led by Lillian Tindyebwa and fellow members of the Ugandan Faith Writers Association. Laura’s poem speaks of the unity experienced by participants from vastly different areas of the world.

God Is Here

The birds, God’s alarm
clock, reminded me
of the Creator’s Presence
before dawn. Yesterday on the
bus ride, children with
broad smiles waved from
the side of the road, welcomed
us offering their friendship.
Today in the workshop, as
the Ugandan team share,
I am reminded of the living
God who binds us together.
Although we come from
different countries and
cultures, we can identify
with one another. Most
of us have desert experiences,
trials in life. The common
things of nature: sand,
rain, rocks, sky, help
us process experiences
and give our souls
perspective and hope.
The team work and
beautiful faces of the
Ugandan team blesses
me – their songs, stories,
bring tears to my
eyes. God is here.

By Laura Bonney

Illustration used by permission of Didier Millotte