Sneak Peek: Jean Matthew Hall’s Presentations for W2I 2018

by Jean Matthew Hall

Hello, everyone! This year’s Write2Ignite conference is coming up fast. As one of the presenters at the conference, I’ll be leading two workshops: “Children’s Book Categories” and “Writing from Childhood Memories.” Let me tell you about them.

“Children’s Book Categories”

Foundational to writing successfully for children is a clear knowledge of children’s literature, including knowledge about the distinctions among book genres and the different categories of books for children.

You might have many questions about book genres and categories. For example, maybe you’re thinking, “How is a picture book different from an early-reader book? After all, both are written for similar audience ages and include plenty of illustrations.”

My workshop “Children’s Book Categories”—which includes Q&A time—will help you gain a fuller understanding of how book genres and categories work. I’ll explain the difference between book genres and book categories and then define the commonly accepted categories of books for children and young adults. After attending this workshop, you’ll be better equipped to create stories, describe them, and pitch them to agents or publishers.

“Writing from Childhood Memories”

Remember the time you jumped off a dock and almost drowned? So embarrassing!

Or that time you tried to rescue your cat from a tree and got stuck while the cat jumped down to freedom? Really scary, huh?

How about that awful, terrible, messy divorce your parents went through when you were eight years old? Remember how you just wanted to curl up and die?

Remember the year your family moved to Texas? Remember how you had absolutely no friends all summer, and boredom, anger, and resentment filled your heart?

Inspiration often comes from our memories of childhood or from events in our children’s lives. But times change, cultures change, toys change, and technologies change. As a result, stories that we base on our childhoods, which might have happened twenty or thirty years ago, must also change.

Here are some tips to help you shape stories that are based on events from your childhood:

  • Don’t try to capture details of a remembered event in your story. Rather, capture the emotions you felt before, during, and after the event. Show your characters experiencing those same emotions. Change the details but keep the feelings.
  • Don’t try to accurately portray real people from a remembered event (unless you’re writing a biography). Rather, seize one or two traits of each person, and make those traits bigger, better, uglier, smarter, faster, slower, and more beautiful than they were in real life. Doing so will enable you to create memorable characters your readers can relate to.

That’s how to translate your own childhood experiences into stories that today’s kids will love.

Attend my workshop to learn more! I can’t wait to see you there.

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Jean Matthew Hall, who served as founding director of Write2Ignite Conference from 2008 to 2016, is a retired educator and administrator. Her experiences listening to “the hearts of teachers, children, and parents” have led to her goal of crafting “stories that encourage and edify both children and the caring adults in their lives.” This passion has fueled both her writing career and her past service in leading Write2Ignite Conference, which is designed to inform and equip Christian writers to create and publish quality reading materials for younger audiences.

To read more by and about Jean, check out her blogs and book reviews at her website, JeanMatthewHall.com. You can also read an interview about her pending book series with Little Lamb Publishing at LittleLambBooks.com.

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