So you want to write?

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As a teenager I wanted to to be an overseas correspondent. I naively saw myself in dangerous zones in the world, risking all to send gripping reports back to European headquarters. The overseas bit worked out (and I did get caught up in one Coup d’Etat in Africa!), but as life would have it the correspondence has always remained at a personal level across the seas. Many times I have thought of transforming my newsletters and  journals into travalogues or novels, but it was during my years as a school librarian,  immersed in narrating around 100 stories a week to K-5 kids, that the desire and ideas to write picture books were kindled. I loved this work and just adored seeing how much pleasure these children received from a good story and illustrations. Even the most disruptive student can be happily quieted the length of a good book, I wanted my opportunity to craft a story that would produce such enjoyment.

As with so many ideas, it was put on the back-burner, until recently, when I felt this yearning to return to more active, creative pursuits that had been dormant far too long  (apart from my cooking, which has always remained a creative outlet ;)). During the fall I started reading a lot more book, movie and theatre reviews and this progressed onto some authors’ blogs, including Emma Walton Hamilton’s. I had already read a number of books that she had co-written with her mother, Julie Andrews Edwards, and had listened to interviews Emma had given, speaking on literacy and the arts. So when I saw that she was offering an online training program to learn how to write picture books, I knew the time was right and I had confidence in the quality I would be receiving. I have not been disappointed!

Just Write For Kids is a program of 8 lessons, one a week for two months  (you can, of course, take as long as you need to complete each assignment) sent by email, providing step-by-step essentials on creating a publishable Picture Book. Thank goodness I didn’t launch into this without learning these basics.It has surely helped me avoid at least some of the typical beginners’ errors. I have plans/outlines/tips/resources that I will consistently reuse in the future, even with writing different genres. The site has space for comments and questions and Emma’s feedback is incredibly concrete and specific, geared to equipping and encouraging participants, not just giving information.

I am just finishing the final week of JWFK, doing lots of tweaking, editing and rewriting, creating a draft which is ready to go to the next stage, of feedback (more on feedback and editing in a future post). It has been a very rewarding course; exceeding my expectations in the foundation I have received and the vision it has given me for my future!

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4 Responses to So you want to write?

  1. I’m so glad you found JWFK so rewarding! It exceeded my expectations, as well, and I feel has stood me in good stead for my future writing, although of course I still have a great deal to learn.

    Emma’s teaching style makes me feel comfortable. In the class, I felt safe to express myself and my ideas to her, knowing that she’d be positive and encouraging in her responses, even when urging me to dig deeper and improve my writing.

    I’m looking forward to hearing more about your writing process and progress. When the first one of our little group gets published, oh what a celebration there will be!

  2. Joanna says:

    Beth, I cannot wait to celebrate the first one of our successes. I feel JWFK came along at just the right time for me, with a smooth transition into the Hub too, of course 😉

  3. Patricia Tilton says:

    So happy to see you share your experiences with JWFK on your blog. Agree with both you and Beth, that the course exceeded my expectations. I would have miserably failed if I had submitted a manuscript for a children’s book without studying those months without learning the style basics required in today’s competitive literary world. As Emma always says, writing for children is decptively difficult. We all have learned so much — and continue to learn more in the virtual literary world she has created for authors and aspiring authors.

    It will be a a huge celebration when one of the JWFK students or Hub members become published.

    Just realized you linked to your facebook – Hooray!


  4. Joanna says:

    Yes, Pat, I would have no hesitation in recommending JWFK to other aspiring Picture Book Writers.

    I am linking all my blog posts to Facebook, but often find it can take 24 hours for one of my Facebook posts to be displayed.

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