We’ve been talking about ways you can create products that will help connect your writing to the homeschool market. So far, we’ve discussed copywork and unit studies. We’ll look at some more products you can create in the upcoming months, but I wanted to share with you this month ways you can put those products to work for you.
1) Posting the printable on your website and sharing the word about it through social media is an obvious choice. You can also consider making the printable a subscriber-only freebie available only to individuals who subscribe to your blog or follow you on Facebook, depending on your goals.
2) Link up with other bloggers. Linking up exposes your work to a broader audience. Every link up has its own unique set of rules, and just like submitting work to an editor or agent, research is needed to find the ones that are the best fit for your work. Here is one collection of link ups I’ve found: Upside Down Homeschooling (Please note, I cannot endorse or recommend every site found here. Please use discretion when researching these avenues.) There are many collections of link ups out there to discover!
3) Can you turn your printable into a how-to or do-it-yourself post? I enjoy making printable board games for various history facts and wrote a guest blog post called, “How to Create a Board Game in Microsoft Word.” It has been one of my most popular posts!
4) That leads to another way to get your work out there—guest post on other blogs who target your niche. Read about what they are looking for and brainstorm creative ways you can meet their needs.
6) Find Facebook groups and Pinterest boards all about freebies! They are a great way to get your work out there, build your platform, and bless others with your creativity.
7) I work for SchoolhouseTeachers.com, the curriculum arm of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine. We are always interested to hear from writers who want to put their talents to use on our site. There is a free webinar you can listen to titled: How to Write for The Old Schoolhouse and the TOS Family. You can send me a note or question any time at writebonnierose (at) gmail (dot) com.
So what are you waiting for? Share what you’ve created with the world! You never know who might be blessed because you did.
Samantha Bell is an author, illustrator, both a writing and art teacher, and a homeschooling mom of four. Her stories, poems, articles and illustrations have been published both in print and online in magazines such as Boy’s Quest, Clubhouse Jr., Hopscotch for Girls, Learning Through History and Kids’ Ark. She has written several non-fiction books for children and has illustrated eleven picture books. Samantha is also the author-illustrator of It’s Birthday Time, Jake and her newest release, The Perfect Pet.
Recently, we caught up with Samantha to find out about her book launch of The Perfect Pet.
Congratulations on your new book, The Perfect Pet.About how long did it take you from the first draft to publication?
Thanks so much! I wrote the story in 2012, and it was accepted for publication in 2013. It was well suited for the publisher, Sylvan Dell, as it covered one of the topics they were looking for at the time.
What is more challenging for you, writing or illustrating?
They are both challenging in different ways. When I write, I have to revise many times. But I think illustrating for me is still more time-intensive. It involves dividing the story into page breaks, deciding on a story board, locating or taking reference photos, doing the rough sketches, and then finally, the finished artwork.
Share with us how you planned your book launch. How did it go? What did you learn from it?
I think the book launch went really well, although there are a few things I’d do differently. It was at a local bookstore on a Friday afternoon. It involved puppies from the Humane Society, balloons, snacks, and books!
Things I learned:
a. Invite everyone you know. Not everyone will be able to come, but you’ll still have lots of support.
b. Serve some type of refreshments. Since this was for an animal-themed children’s book, we had goldfish crackers and animal cupcakes. If the store offers to supply some of the refreshments (mine offered to supply the paper products and punch), bring back-up supplies, just in case.
c. Have some freebies like coloring pages and bookmarks. You can sign the bookmarks, too, so that young readers will have your autograph.
d. I had some door prizes to give away, but I don’t think I’d do that again. While they were fun for the kids who won, others looked SO disappointed.
e. If anyone offers to help, say “Yes!” Some of my friends offered to help out, which was such a blessing! One friend made nearly 150 cupcakes, and another served the punch.
What is next in the form of marketing your book?
I did a couple of school visits this past fall and attended the National Science Teachers’ Association one day with my publisher. I also recently did an online radio interview on Book Bites for Kids. It has been such a busy school year, though, so I may have to focus on social media marketing for while.
Have you started your next project yet?
I think I always have about three going on at once. I just completed writing a set of three nonfiction books for an educational publisher. I have a chapter book I wrote that was accepted by Guardian Angel Publishing; I’m finishing up those illustrations. I have two work-for-hire illustrating assignments to complete this month too. I have a really fun assignment coming up, too — I’ll be painting a bench for Greenville’s Children’s Museum.
What have you learned this past year?
I learned how boxfish swim, how volcanoes form, and how totally amazing God is with his creation! (Can you tell I’ve been writing a lot of nonfiction?
What are your goals for 2014?
It’s quite a list! It includes pulling out some older manuscripts and getting them in the mail. I also have a few new stories I’d love to see in print.
Samantha, thank you for sharing with us. You are a blessing at Write2Ignite! May the Lord continue to bless you, and the work of your hands.
In addition to all her writing, illustrating, and teaching, Samantha graciously serves on the Write2Ignite leadership team. You can connect with Samantha at www.Samantha-Bell.com or www.SamanthaBellBooks.com
Who can resist smiling when a child laughs? It’s like magic, the pure, almost musical giggle spilling out from a child’s lips. Wouldn’t it be great if we could hear that when children read our writing? If you can make them laugh, even a little, it’s likely they’ll continue reading whatever you’ve written. Using humor in your writing is an essential key to reaching children.
But what is humor, exactly? Merriam-Webster describes it like this: “that quality which appeals to a sense of the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous.”
After studying what makes kids laugh, children’s author Rick Walton feels he’s come up with a solid definition. “Humor is surprise without threat or promise. If the surprise comes with a promise – like winning the lottery, it isn’t funny. It’s wonderful and uplifting, but not funny. And if the surprise comes with a threat – it’s more likely to be scary than funny.” When you write for children, you must always remember the things they might find threatening and steer clear of them. Otherwise your humor falls flat and you end up scaring them instead of making them laugh. And never belittle, talk down to, or make fun of children, even in using humor.
So what do kids find funny?
The thing to remember as you add humor to your writing is your character’s (and reader’s) level of life experience. They won’t understand the humor if it’s out of their realm of experience, or the experience of someone their age. For instance, plays on words often won’t work for read-aloud picture books because the fun is in the different spellings of the words. Children who can’t read or spell yet won’t understand that type of humor.
Regardless of whether you write fiction or nonfiction, humor keeps your writing interesting and fun. So go back to that project that just didn’t seem to have enough pizzazz and try inserting some humor. It might be the secret ingredient that was missing.
You might think that’s a silly question. Of course we pray for our writing. But what, exactly, are we praying for?
If we’re honest, our prayers are often centered on requests for favor with agents and publishers. Book contracts, large advances, and strong sales top our lists. While these are not bad things to desire, here are some other things we could and should be praying for:
Everything we do, we do in Jesus’ name (Colossians 3:17) and for His glory (I Corinthians 10:31). This includes our writing, whether we’re writing for the Christian or secular market. It’s not about us. It’s not even about our readers. It’s about bringing glory to the Living Word, the One who gave us the ability to communicate through written words. Let’s be intentional about praying for His glory!
Our own spiritual growth
Even though our writing is not about us, we are still part of the process. I teach a weekly Bible study class. People often express wonder at the amount of preparation required to teach the class. But I don’t consider it work because I benefit from my study as much, if not more, than the class members. If I’m not growing spiritually, then I can’t be an effective teacher. It’s the same with my writing. I can’t draw water from an empty well. Whatever we write, let’s pray for the Lord to fill our spiritual wells with His creativity, wisdom, and insight as we grow in our dependence on Him.
The spiritual growth of our readers
We write our stories, poems, songs, and plays to benefit our readers. However, while our target audience may be children, our readers also include their parents, teachers, or other adults. It’s often an adult who makes the purchase, and, in the case of younger children, it’s an adult who reads to them. Are you praying for lives – both children and adults – to be changed and blessed as they read the words you write?
We belong to El Olam – the Eternal God. Although He created time, He is not bound by it. That’s sometimes difficult to remember because we are finite beings who are bound by time. We’re especially sensitive to the passage of time when we’re in the middle of a project and struggling with writer’s block or when we’re waiting for the response to a submission. But God is sovereign and His timing is perfect. Will you use your times of waiting to trust God for His perfect timing?
Years ago, I had a great idea for a series of children’s picture books. But while everyone I spoke to loved the concept, not one agent or acquisitions editor said yes to the project. After several years, I wondered if I should just file it and move on. Then I met a terrific children’s author who agreed to partner with me for the series. She applied her rhythm and rhyme abilities to the existing manuscripts and made them sing. The project was picked up by a children’s publisher soon after our collaboration. I’m so grateful for the early rejections because those initial drafts did not have the polish the published books have.
There’s nothing wrong with praying for commercial success for our writing. But something is terribly wrong if that’s our only focus. Our heavenly Father is continuously working to conform us to the image of His Son. If we want to look like Jesus, we need to share His priorities.
Now it’s your turn. What other topics can we pray for related to our writing?
Ava Pennington is a writer, Bible teacher, and speaker. Her newest book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, is endorsed by Precepts founder Kay Arthur. Additionally, Ava is co-author of Faith Basics for Kids. The first two books in the series are Do You Love Me More? and Will I See You Today? She has also written numerous articles for magazines such as Today’s Christian Woman, Power for Living, and Called.
In addition to her writing, Ava also teaches a weekly, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class of 150+ women. She is a passionate speaker and teacher, and delights in challenging audiences with the truth of God’s word in relevant, enjoyable presentations. Ava and Russ have been married for 35 years and live in southeast Florida.
For more information, visit her at www.AvaWrites.com
As the Write2Ignite Blog gears up for this year’s Write2Ignite conference I find myself wishing I could hop on a plane, cross the Pacific Ocean and settle into enjoy it with you all. For me (all the way over here in Sydney, Australia) it will be an impossibility. But writing about, and thinking about, the Write2Ignite Conference has made me reflect on why I make an occasional writers’ conference a priority in my writing life. This is not to say I am a writers’ conference junkie. I might attend one conference per year if I’m lucky. I am also particularly careful how I decide which events to attend (once you are a member of several organisations for writers there can be a proliferation of options). There are also financial and practical constraints (like: who’s going to ferry the kids to school that week? Or how many extra commitments can our family handle?). I also do not believe that attending a writers’ conference will guarantee I turn out to be a better writer (or even get published!).
So, why do I make a conference dedicated to writers a priority? There are three main reasons:
Firstly, writers’ conferences allow interaction in an otherwise potentially lonely world. Writing is fundamentally a solitary task. It’s you and the computer (or notebook or…). It requires hours alone with just your thoughts, writing, re-writing, editing etc. Writers conferences allow space, time and opportunities to mix with a group of people who understand the ups and downs of this pastime. Fellow writers know what it’s like when that piece of text you have been rewriting feels so familiar you are no longer sure if it’s good or not. They can empathize with rejections and sore necks, know the hard slog an acceptance required and understand the dreaded necessity of marketing after the thrill of a new release.
Conferences can also allow opportunities for emerging writers to meet and potentially be mentored (be it formally, or informally) by more experienced writers. It allows opportunities to toss around your latest idea with people who won’t think you strange for considering a novel about ballet dancing penguins and vegetarian killer whales.
Secondly, writers’ conferences can provide opportunities for up-skilling and growing your understanding of the market. They often offer a range of workshops or seminars where you can learn or hone a particular skill. These can cover technical writing skills, publicity tactics, how to run a school visit etc. There may be editorial sessions, lectures on current trends in the market and so on. When rumors of diminishing sales and the death of the bookstore seem rampant it’s good to catch up with those in the know and gain a clearer understanding of the market you are aiming to write for.
Finally, writers’ conferences that are specifically targeted to faith inspired writers (such as Write2Ignite) allow unique opportunities for spiritual challenging in relation to our gifts. One of my favorite conferences is a local Australian event geared at encouraging and supporting writers of Christian faith inspired books (although while Write2Ignite is specifically for children’s writers, the Christian Writers Conference is for writers across all markets). The particular blessing of attending this type of conference is that you can meet with like minded writers and be challenged about your work, its authenticity of faith and the stewardship of God given writing skills and talents. We cannot allow ourselves any short cuts, just because we are writing faith based material. In fact our attitude needs to be the exact opposite! Conferences that encourage and challenge writers of faith inspired work keep us accountable.
So in this year’s calendar I’ve set aside a trip interstate to Melbourne Australia to attend the Christian Writers Conference in October. Maybe one year (after I write that elusive best-seller!) I’ll be able to book a plane ticket and make it over for Write2Ignite. Wouldn’t that be fun!
What’s in your writer’s calendar this year? Any conferences?
Will you be heading to North Greenville University for the 2014 Write2Ignite conference in March?
Penny Reeve is the Australian author of more than 15 books for children. She writes picture books, junior novels and non-fiction and loves to explore themes that help children respond through faith to the world around them. You can find more information about Penny, or her books, at her website or by liking her Facebook page.
A unit study is a great way for kids to learn about a topic that sparks their interest. It is also a great way for writers to share their work and use all that “extra” information your research uncovered that just wouldn’t fit into your final piece.
Unit studies take one topic—anything from quicksand to horses to the Civil War—and teach various subjects through that topic. They can be short and cover only a few subjects such as reading, history, and math; or they can be long and tackle every subject of study you can imagine. The length of the unit study is up to you.
Let’s take the Civil War as an example. You have written a series of fictional stories set in the Civil War, targeted at readers ages 8-12. How could you write a unit study that connects your readers with your topic?
We’ll start with reading and writing. You could give the students three writing prompts that relate to the Civil War. You could challenge older students to write a letter from a soldier to his family back home. You could assign a short research assignment. You could ask the students to identify parts of speech by giving them sentences to work with that are related to your topic.
What about math? You can create math problems based on the number of troops present at a battle; you could explore units of measurement using the weight of a pack or the length of a firearm. You could recreate a battlefield map and explore working with scale.
History abounds in a subject like the Civil War, obviously. Explore it. Create puzzles and games; challenge them to find the answers to questions; create a timeline and allow them to fill in key facts and dates.
But the unit study doesn’t have to stop there. Ask them to create a picture of an historically-accurate dress or uniform for art study. Science could look at how gunpowder works. Home economics could share recipes from the home state of one or more of the characters in your novel or story.
The possibilities are endless. So the next time you sit down to write, consider taking five minutes of uninterrupted time and brainstorm any activity or assignment you can think of that is related to your writing project. You may find yourself holding the outline for a unit study! Be sure to stop back and let me know how it turns out!
Here are some great online resources for creating unit studies: