Wednesday, February 23, 2011

eReaders For Kids

VTech's Flip eReader
When my baby chews on the corner of a book, I call it Early Literacy.

When I hand him a book in the car, I call it Healthy Entertainment.

When I put him on my lap and look at a book with him, I call it Snuggle Time.

I recently learned that eReaders for young children are available and becoming popular.  At first I wondered how any eReader could survive in the hands of young children.  I have kids.  I've taped pages back in books and repaired bindings more than once.  Then I saw the companies involved.  VTech.  Fisher Price.  Nintendo.  These giants are experts at making indestructible electronics.  I have "computers" from VTech and Fisher Price that have survived seven kids and four years.  I can imagine them making a durable eReader.

The real question is, "Would I want one?"  It could mean less time in my book repair shop.  It could mean happier car rides.  Is there really anything wrong with a book that reads itself?  I do think kids' brains receive helpful sensory input when they feel textures and turn pages, but buying an eReader wouldn't mean throwing away all our books or canceling library trips.  The fact is, I can imagine Early Literacy and Healthy Entertainment with an eReader.

When I imagine Snuggle Time with an eReader, I start to cringe.  Then I realize what is really important: the snuggles.  And learning to read, of course.  As long as snuggling doesn't get replaced with the newest technological trend, I won't fight the eReader.

How do you feel about eReaders and kids?  Is there a place for them?  This article lists a few eReaders for preschoolers and this article announces VTech's newest plans.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Beating a Fear of Success

Mytikas Summit by Bignoter
I remember a student I once had in a high school Biology class.  He was a smart kid, but deliberately failed Biology so his Dad would not expect him to continue to perform well.  A blog post I saw a few weeks ago reminded me of this young man.  I commented on the post and moved on, but I keep reflecting on the idea of fearing success.

Perhaps it is more common than I had thought.  In the writing world a published author is expected to continue to produce excellence.  Is that something we should fear?  Very successful authors become very public people.  Is that something we want?  Many people picture authors living in rosy homes with no real-life stresses.  Are we comfortable with that?

While these are interesting ideas, I can't imagine them providing enough motivation to sabotage my plans!  Since I've spent the last few weeks musing on the idea I thought I'd share a few coping tricks for beating off any occasional fears of succeeding.

  • Be afraid.  Really, it's okay.  We're all afraid sometimes.  Just keep writing (or querying or editing)!
  • Ask yourself, "Exactly what is so scary?"  It's easier to convince that inner voice that it is safe when you know what is scaring it.
  • Adjust your expectations.  "Happily ever after" is still a lot of work.  Embrace it!
  • Remember who YOU are!  (I know, enough Mufasa!)  But it is important to believe in yourself.  You have a spark of creative genius that can give life to anything you choose.  So, do it!

In the end, I think not pursuing a dream is worse than not passing Biology.  Biology is a goal someone else imposes on teenagers; our dreams are our own.  We can make them happen!  What do you think?  Are you ever afraid of success?  What are your coping strategies?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Beauties of Being Down

Photo by Malingering at Wikimedia.
My daughter has been doing a lot of somersaults and assisted flips lately--she's in a gymnastics class at The Little Gym.  While she had no problem climbing, jumping, and flipping, the balance beam was intimidating.  She wanted someone to just give her a finger so she wouldn't tip while she walked.  What she needed was to fall.

If she fell, she would see how painless it is.

Writers need to fall too.

It's important.

Sometimes we need to write that story just to get our ideas down and start over.  It's not nearly as painful as you expect.  Sometimes we need rejection letters to really find our best work.

The beautiful thing about being down is that you don't need to be afraid of falling.  You know exactly how it feels.  The only thing left to fear is success!

I'm happy to report that my daughter has fallen off the balance beam.  Now she is more confident on it.  Sometimes it is good to fall down.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lessons in Learning How to Write Picture Books With I Ain't Gonna Paint No More

Today's case study book is I Ain't Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont.  It is a captivating story about a youngster who got in trouble for painting the "ceiling and the walls and the curtains and the door" and was told "Ya ain't a-gonna paint no more!"

Here are six shining writing tips from its pages:
  1. Make every word count!  Besides coming in at just over 250 words, the text fits "It Ain't Gonna Rain No More" perfectly.  You could sing the entire story.  In fact, as you read it, you want to sing the story. 
  2. Be illustrate-able.  I love the pages where the pictures tell as much story as the text.  For example, "...there ain't no way that I ain't gonna paint no more" is accompanied by the kiddo on top of a self-made tower to reach the paints on the top shelf of the closet. 
  3. Let the child be the authority.  Mama might put the paints away, but that isn't what stops our hero from painting.  The end of the adventure comes only when circumstances created by the child main character impose a real stop to the creative process.  
  4. Make the rhyme perfect.  The rhyme and meter is so perfect I want to sing the story.  That is no accident!
  5. Relate to children's lives.  Is there such a thing as a child who has not been in trouble for drawing where he shouldn't?  This instantly makes every reader the main character and they love it!  
  6. Let the story be fun for adults too.  After all, they have to read it over and over and over. I still haven't decided if I identify with the Mama or the kid, but I have enjoyed the story many times.
These writing lessons are easy to apply.  Do you think they are absolutely required?  I think some are.  Every story is a little different.  I Ain't Gonna Paint No More is a joy to read to all ages, and that is most important.

Learning how to write picture books is a challenge that I enjoy daily.  In an effort to learn what is successful, I am studying picture books that my children and I love.  Lessons in Learning How to Write is a blog series to keep track of brilliant strategies great authors have used to write for children.