Beware of these blunders in writing for children

Avoid these common misconceptions when writing children’s books. Award-winning children’s author Emily Lim shared these points in her recent MAI webinar, “Writing for Children: Commandments to follow & sins to avoid.”

1. Writing for children is easier than writing for adults.ID-10057976
This is very far from the truth. Adults may be willing to stay with you through many chapters before they stop reading. Children lose interest easily. If you don’t grab their attention from the first few pages, you have lost them.

2. You need to include a moral lesson in your story.
Don’t write a book to teach a moral lesson. Children get a lot of that already – in school and from their parents. Write a story that entertains them and pulls them in. Weave in what you believe – hope, second chances and God’s redemptive love. But don’t tell them what to do. Don’t shove the message in their face. Show it through your characters and let them arrive at that conclusion themselves.

3. Children can think abstractly.
Young children take things literally. You may have a story idea about a lonely girl and a magic man appears and takes her on a fantastic adventure. Your young reader may take it that it’s ok to go on an adventure with a stranger. So be mindful, especially when writing for younger children.

4. Children are simple thinkers.
Children may be literal but they more sophisticated thinkers than we sometimes realize. So, don’t underestimate them when you write.

Emily LimWhat other lessons have you learned? Tell us.

Photo above courtesy Freedigitalphotos

How far will your words go?

By Festus Ndukwe

Some years ago, I was discouraged, wondering if my ministry of the printed page was having any impact. Writing and publishing is like scattering seeds, without knowing which will bear fruit.

One night, I had a dream: a man standing on the road beckoned to me. I walkedOccupy_Inner_Vol29_Trimmed up to him, and he grasped my shoulder. Pointing to a mountain, he asked, “Do you see that mountain?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Because of the work you are doing, there are missionaries laboring on that mountain,” he said. I cried until I woke up. God gave me this dream to encourage and assure me that my labor in publishing is never in vain.

Our work is to publish; God’s work is to scatter our words and cause them to bear fruit. The wind can carry a tract, article, or the pages of books and cast them places we never imagined.

A man stopped for a shoemaker to repair his shoe, only to discover that the nail that stuck in his shoe held a tract. While the cobbler worked on his shoe, the man read the tract. He converted and became a missionary, pioneering a churchplanting work among the Hausa people. Now he is churchplanting in another West African country.

Another Christian brother stumbled upon our mission magazine in a garbage can in southern Nigeria, and subsequently became involved in missions.

Eternity is yet to reveal the power of the printed page. Thousands of people over the centuries have been transformed by it. Even when the author has passed on, the words still speak.

The preacher may fear the response of men, the printed page does not. It is not apologetic of its message. It does not consider the reader’s position as a king or a slave, president or servant, CEO or janitor. It comes to you the way it is written.

A Christian youth group gave birthday present to the president of a West African country: the book, Born Again by Charles Colson, an American statesman and evangelical leader. They wondered if the president would read it. The president’s daughter confirmed to a missionary that the president carries the book in his briefcase.

The printed page is like Joel’s army. “They climb the wall like men of war…they shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief” (Joel 2:7, 9).

Where a person cannot go or preach, the written word can. This remains the strength of the printed page. Those who are called to publish should do it faithfully. We can never know how far the words will go.

d5_358-worship---Festus-&-FFestus Ndukwe (left) is the editor of Occupy magazine, dedicated to cross-cultural missions. He serves in Nigeria with Calvary Ministries (CAPRO), one of Africa’s first indigenous missions agencies, at work in 32 countries worldwide. ([email protected])

Interview: Award-winning Children’s Author Emily Lim

Author Emily Lim of Singapore offers insights on her journey as a writer and tipsEmily Lim on writing for children in this exclusive interview with MAI. Enjoy this preview of her upcoming MAI webinar on May 20.

MAI: Your children’s stories have great characters and story lines. How do you come up with your story ideas?

Emily: My first four titles (which make up my Toy Series) were inspired by my personal journey and written very subconsciously. My first book Prince Bear & Pauper Bear, about a teddy bear whose toymaker forgot to stitch him a mouth, was influenced bPrince Bear & Pauper Bear by Emily Limy me losing my voice to a rare voice disorder for 10 years and recovering it through my faith journey of coming to know Christ personally. The book themes cover brokenness, grace, second chances, redemptive love and restoration. I did not plan on the themes but uncovered them after writing the story.

Your books appeal to both general and Christian readers. Is this intentional? What advice would you give to Christian writers who want to target a general audience but incorporate biblical values?

Emily: I wrote intentionally for a broader market as I wanted to reach beyond the Christian market. My advice would be to write from your personal experiences, emotions and struggles through your own faith journey. Don’t tell your readers what to believe. Show them why you believe through your story and let them come to that conclusion themselves.

MAI: Are there any cultural or other particulars you keep in mind writing for an Asian readership?

Emily: No. So far, I gravitate toward universal themes in my writing, so it connects with my readers regardless of where they are from.

MAI: What advice would you give writers who want to try their hand at writing for children?

Emily: #1. Read as many books as you can of the kind of books which you are interested in writing about. Understand the market and your audience.

#2. Connect with other writers and form a writer’s group to exchange manuscript critiques. It can make a huge difference in your writing.

#3. Read up on expert advice from children’s writers who have written successfully in areas of your interest. There are so many free resources available on the net these days.

#4. Write from your heart and what you are passionate about. Don’t chase trends because any themes which may be popular today will have been overwritten by tomorrow.

MAI: How can people around the globe purchase your children’s books?

Emily: You can buy my children’s books from the online bookstore Closetful of Books and Finding My Voice as an e-book. You can also read more about my books and contact me through my blog.

MAI: We appreciate your generosity in sharing your time and talents with writers around the world, Emily.

<<Reserve your spot in our free upcoming webinar on May 20, 8-9 a.m. CST,  “Writing for Children: Commandments to Follow & Sins to Avoid” with author Emily Lim of Singapore. Register online now.

<<Watch a news interview with Emily Lim about the rare voice disorder that prompted her journey into writing.

Truth Is Costly

By Miriam Adeneyadeney-miriam-thumb

From Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon they walk in, sit down, and plug in laptops or lay out pens and paper. These 17 writers are each working on a book in Arabic in the Christian Arab Writers’ Initiative, a joint effort of MAI and Ophir Publishers of Jordan. 

Topics include women’s oppression in the Christian home. Covenant Theology for everyday Christians. Fiction stories. And a handbook on how the Church can use new media.

Rashid is writing a novel. One evening he stood before us and read about a young woman who was kidnapjordanian-writers-at-work-2ped and raped repeatedly for two months. Her parents sold everything, even their home, to pay her ransom. Yet when she finally escaped, people shunned her. Even her family felt awkward around her.

Nuns helped her work through her trauma. “Come, help us with the other girls,” they invited her. But the “other girls” turned out to be Muslims. No way was she going to serve them. It was Muslims who had grabbed and hurt her so badly.

Over time her heart softened. Eventually, when she was offered a ticket to Australia, she declined. Why? She wanted to stay and help more rape survivors in months to come–even the Muslim girls.

egyptian-journalistRashid is from Syria. This is where the apostle Paul became a Christian and some of the earliest Christians lived. Last year 5,000 of Rashid’s fellow countrymen were killed in violent confrontations between the military and ordinary citizens. For 10 harrowing days Rashid’s brother was jailed and interrogated. Two of Rashid’s friends were shot and killed. Rashid was threatened, and fled the country last July.

Other writers in the workshop face their own challenges and uncertainties. The Egyptians headed to Lebanon one day after parliamentary elections: What does the outcome hold for Christians in their nation?

While words of truth and hope are penned in Beirut, the Arab Spring seethes around us. Writing the truth is a privilege, but it can also be costly.

Trainers for this workshop included Stephen and Alice Lawhead and Dr. Miriam Adeney.

<<Watch a 1 minute video from Beirut
“I discovered I have great potential to write,” said Ruba Abbassi, director of Arab Woman Today Ministries.

<<Watch the video: What Christians are reading in the Middle East with Lebanese publisher Sawsan Tannoury of Dar Manhal Alhat in Beirut.

This workshop was the second in the three-year “Christian Arab Writers’ Initiative.” Participating authors receive specialized training that will increase their writing skills and impact in the market. The program also involves coaching, as well a writing contest that aims to encourage them to complete and submit quality book manuscripts. Judges will select the top three manuscripts, and the winning writers will be awarded cash prizes. In addition, all good manuscripts have a chance to be published by different Christian publishing houses in the region.

cawi-logo3Book publishing in Arabic lags behind much of the world and depends extensively on translated works from other languages.

“Middle Eastern cultures are traditionally oral,” explained a Middle Eastern publisher. “Most people do not have much formal training in writing since the educational system favors oral communication over written.” Arabic-language Christian publishing in the region also faces challenges from the surrounding religious culture.

Without training for writers and investment in publishing, Arab literature will continue to trail behind the rest of the world,” he said.

The success of this project is a result of cooperation between several groups. MAI provided training expertise and the cost for developing the CAWI website. Salt Foundation Inc. provided scholarships for the workshop participants. Dar Manhal al Hayat publishing house in Beirut helped with local logistics and provided use of their facilities. Ophir Publishers gave birth to this initiative in consultation with MAI.


South Sudan: Fighting displaces writers and 1-million-plus people

The second of MAI’s workshops in a three-year program to develop local writers and publishing in South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, has been postponed due to fighting. We share this update after meeting last Friday in our office with Bishop Joseph Garang Atem of the Diocese of Renk of the Anglican Church of Sudan.

“Where are the writers, dead or alive? We don’t know,” Bishop Joseph told us Bishop Joseph at MAIafter his State Department briefings in Washington DC. Since last December, more than a million people in South Sudan have fled their homes due to an outbreak of fighting between government and rebel forces. Due to the scattering of local writers and continuing instability in the northern Upper Nile region, MAI’s writer workshop has been temporarily postponed.

South Sudan received independence from Sudan in 2011, but the 21-year civil war took a toll on the nation’s infrastructure and the people’s psyche. Fighting continues over the oil-rich land in South Sudan.

Bishop Joseph sees locally authored books as a key to “nation building” and a means for planting Christian values in society. “Let us have a heart for forgiveness to bring life to our country, not to repay evil for evil,” he tells his countrymen today.

writers-at-workA year ago, 18 South Sudanese writers gathered for their first training with MAI-Africa trainers Lawrence Darmani and Barine Kirimi. They worked on four potential books with a powerful message of spiritual truth and hope to both Christian and general readers: Prayers for South Sudan, Letters to My Children, a study of Christian themes in the South Sudan National Anthem, and a children’s picture book that is nearly complete.

Our workshop and the writers’ continued work on these four manuscripts has tentatively been reschuled for this September or October.

Please pray for lasting peace in South Sudan.

>>Read “South Sudan: What is the fighting about?” a recent BBC News update

>>Watch the video of Pastor Moses sharing his vision for raising up local writers in South Sudan (filmed at LittWorld 2012 in Kenya)

<<Have you registered yet for our free upcoming webinar on May 20,  “Writing for Children” with award-winning children’s author Emily Lim of Singapore? Register online now.