Read What You Write

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.
Simple as that.”  ~ Stephen King

I don’t like the horror genre (it gives me nightmares), so I’m not a fan of Stephen King. But when he’s right, he’s right.

Romance writers read romance. Science fiction writers read sci-fi. Historical novelists read historical fiction. And children’s writers read children’s books.

ReadYou may have heard the illustration describing how Treasury agents are trained to detect counterfeit money. The illustration explains that Treasury agents study genuine money until they are familiar with the smallest details. They are taught to recognize characteristics such as the feel of the paper, color, background patterns, and watermarks. After in-depth study of the real thing, counterfeit money will be obvious.

What does counterfeit money have to do with writing for children?

Many writers who wouldn’t attempt to write for adults think writing for children is easy. After all, they reason, how difficult could it be for a college-educated adult to write a thirty-two-page book for a six-year-old?

Truth is, it’s extremely difficult. Even more so than writing for adults. Children’s writers must communicate their subject using age-appropriate vocabulary. They must write in a way that will hold the child’s interest, because children have short attention spans and fickle interests.

Writing in rhyme requires more than the ability to match similar-sounding vowels. It requires the ability to rhyme words without sacrificing the essence of what we wish to communicate and without forcing the rhyme.

The children’s author also needs to understand meter. Writing in rhythm is not just about counting syllables. We need to recognize the difference between various meter patterns, too.

Creating excellent children’s writing means refusing to take shortcuts. Children’s writers must hone their craft as much as those who write for adults. We start by reading the genre we wish to write, whether it’s board books, picture books, beginning reader books, or chapter books.

Writing for children may be difficult, but it has its rewards, too. You and I have the opportunity to change the way a child thinks and behaves. We can entertain and instruct. We can communicate joy and wonder. We can write a book that a child will someday read to his children. Through the power of the written word, we can create memories that will last a lifetime.

Read what you want to write. Then go write it.

What children’s books have influenced your writing?


Ava Pennington is a writer, Bible teacher, and speaker. Her most recent 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 Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse, Today’s Christian Woman, Power for Living, and Called.

In addition to her writing, Ava also teaches a weekly, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class. She is a passionate speaker and teacher, and delights in challenging audiences with the truth of God’s word in relevant, enjoyable presentations. For more information, visit her at



Where is your writing place/space?

Do you have a special place where you like to write? What makes it work for you?

Kathleen M. Muldoon wrote a chapter in her book Sowing Seeds: Writing for the Christian Children’s Market about the importance of setting up a place to write. Here are the first few paragraphs from Chapter 3, “In the Beginning”:

The book I most re-read while growing up is Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. This semi-autobiographical novel chronicled the lives of the four March sisters growing up during mid-19th century America. Despite the fact that I read this book from my favorite reading spot, the fire escape of our inner city tenement building, I still fancied myself as Jo, the second oldest of the sisters and an aspiring writer. Her need for private space in their cozy Concord, Massachusetts, home resonated with me. Whenever inspiration struck, Jo headed for the only place she could have some private writing time—a cubby she’d carved out for herself in the dusty attic.

Writing is a solitary, personal activity that requires a special place. Before you begin writing, determine where you will write. Before you crunch numbers to see if you can afford to rent an office somewhere, let me describe my “office” space.

I do not own a home nor do I rent an apartment. For the past 16 years, I have rented a single room in a friend’s two-bedroom, one-bath house. That room (one of the two bed-rooms) is about 10’ x 10’, and it suits me just fine. My friend allows me the run of the house for cooking, bathing, and entertainment. But my rented space is where I live and work. My writing nook is the 4’ x 4’ northwest corner of my room. I’ve set up a computer hutch in that corner, next to a window on the right that looks out onto our street and neighborhood. On the left of the hutch is my dresser, on top of which sits my printer and a three drawer Rubbermaid “thingy” that holds printing paper and envelopes. Going clockwise around the room from my computer hutch, on the other side of the window are two bookcases which form an “L” in the northeast corner, my twin-sized bed, a nightstand, a two-drawer file cabinet, my clothes closet, a chest of drawers, the door to my room, and a small roll-top desk which abuts the dresser. Oh, and on the carpet beneath the window is a cat bed meant to sleep one large, literary feline named Walter. Of course, Walter much prefers stretching out on the bottom of my bed, from which he can jump into my lap while I’m writing.

I tell you all this because I want you to know that no matter what your circumstances, you should be able to find a cubby, however small, that will be used for only one thing—writing. One of my colleagues, a prolific author and mother of four, has her space atop a card table in the laundry room. Any place will do it if affords you some privacy, comfort, and quiet.

I learned about Kathleen Muldoon’s book, Sowing Seeds at one of the Highlights Foundation Workshops where we discussed the importance of establishing a writing space. One of the other authors attending the workshop shared that her writing space was in an unused closet in her home. I marveled that her home was so large that she had an unused closet that was big enough for a writing nook, and found it amusing that even her husband didn’t know she was writing in there. What a cool get-away place!

Where do you write?What writing tools do you keep at your fingertips? What kind of surroundings best inspire you to write? Please share in the comments below.


Sowing Seeds: Writing for the Christian Children's Market

Sowing Seeds: Writing for the Christian Children’s Market

On Amazon Sowing Seeds: Writing for the Christian Children’s Market


Copyright: undrey / 123RF Stock Photo (featured image)

W2I! 2017 Conference date is set

Note the date and mark your calendars. The date for W2I! 2017 is March 24-25 and the place is North Greenville University.

The W2I! planning committee has met several times and gathered ideas and information to make our spring conference a success. We are also looking for programs and services we can offer throughout the year so it won’t seem so long between conferences.

We are looking into possibly offering some online video conferences with some of our favorite presenters that you can take part in from home. More information is forthcoming.

Do you need a quality critique on a manuscript you have written? We are offering the “2 for 1 Critiques” again. You can get two critiques on your manuscript for the price of one critique through W2I! Look on our W2I! website under “Critiques” to learn more about this program.

We are also looking into ways we can offer our published participants’ books for sale on our blog. These sales will help the authors as well as W2I!

Do you have any suggestions to offer the planning team for the 2017 conference or for other W2I! activities? We would love to hear from you.

Be an Author – Do One Thing

Do you have dreams of being an author? Specifically, you may feel a calling from God to write for children. I challenge you to do one thing this summer. Pick something from the list below. Do one thing.

  • Attend a writers conference.
  • Join a critique group.
  • Subscribe to a journal for writers.
  • Spend 30 minutes sitting in the children’s section of a bookstore.DoOneThing
  • Follow a writing blog.
  • Have a conversation with a children’s minister about books that should be written.
  • Spend two hours a week writing.
  • Check out the new books in the children’s section of the library.
  • Volunteer to work with kids (church, library, community organization).
  • Have coffee or lunch with a children’s author.

What choices would you add to the list?

Many blessings on you and your desire to serve God through writing.


Free Photos for Your Blog

You’ve written a terrific blog post. Next step is to scour the Internet for the right photo to accompany your post. But just as our writing is copyright-protected, so are many of the photos we find on the Internet.

Free PhotosSo where can you find appropriate photos that are legal to us and also free?

Here are a few sources to consider:


“Canva is an online designing software that makes designing images simple and is easily accessible, allowing you to create designs for Web or print.” Registration is required.

Death to the Stock Photo

The free subscription provides access to a monthly email of free photos.

Life of Pix

This site offers “free high-resolution photos” with “no copyright restrictions.” It goes on to say “all images are donated to the public domain.”


Identifies itself as a source of faith-focused, cheesy-free stock photos.

A paid subscription is required for unlimited use, but if you are on their email list, they offer a free photo every week.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met has made more than 40,000 high-resolution images available online.


This site does not require registration.


Requires registration but the photos are free.


This site offers “Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos.”

U.S. government agencies
Many U.S. government agencies allow their images to be used without charge.

Pay attention to the various Creative Commons licenses. The most flexible Creative Commons license is Creative Commons Zero (CC0). CC0 enables you to use the photos for free, even commercially, without asking for permission or even crediting the photographer.

Always read any licensing fine print. Some free photos have restrictions preventing commercial use. Some sources require an attribution (e.g. “photo courtesy of …”) while others do not require that you credit the photographer. Still other sources provide the photo for free, but limit your use to one time only.

This list is just a sampling of what’s available, but it’s a good start. Have fun exploring these sources of free photos!