Today I’m excited to welcome Shelly Roark for an author spotlight and a few tips on writing for kids. Read all the way through to see how to enter the giveaway for a copy of her latest book.
Two tiny hands slapped together with a loud “SPLAT,” followed by a squeal of delight. She threw back her head and giggled at the character’s silly antics. It never grows old.
I read a book to a child recently and we both had a blast.
When you read a story you’ve written to a child, the pay-off is immediate—wide eyes fixed on you . . . giggles and clapping . . . ready questions and comments . . . participation without abandon. So, how do you write a story that will engage young children and teach them a nugget of truth?
While my debut picture book (The Bubble Who Would Not POP!) only releases this month, I’ve written children’s stories for many years while volunteering in children’s ministry. Here are a few things I’ve learned to consider when writing for children:
Keep it simple. The wonderful thing about writing for children is the clarity with which you can write. The more simple and straightforward the point, the better the impact on little hearts and minds. When considering your idea for a children’s book, boil it all down to one main point. What do you want to accomplish with this story? Do you want to make them smile? Do you want to teach them a Scriptural or moral truth? Once you have your singular focus in mind, your story can take flight!
Engage your young audience. Write participation into your story. Children love to join in the storytelling! If you have a unique phrase throughout, they will look forward to it and shout it out. Write in animal noises or sounds that they can repeat as someone reads them the story. Ask questions.
Tickle their senses. Whatever your story, involved the senses. Describe smells and sounds, how things taste or feel to the touch.
Wash, rinse and repeat. When writing for adults, variety in your language is the key. But with children, repetition is a good thing. Repeating a question, a phrase, a rhyme or even a funny word helps them remember and engage in your story.
Keep it moving! As authors, we are competing with a lot for their attention. Grab and hold onto short attention spans by keeping the story moving along. After you write your story, go back through with a critical eye and remove any unnecessary copy. Read it outloud and see if anything drags or causes friction to their understanding.
Take it out for a spin. Read your story to a child. There is no better test run. See how the child reacts and make note of any areas that lose their interest.
Writing for children is so rewarding! If you’ve never attempted a children’s story, try it as a creative exercise. But don’t just write it . . . read it to a child. You will be glad you did.
Author Interview Questions:
- What do you enjoy most about writing?
What I love most about writing is sharing the emotion of stories. The written word is such an amazing way to connect with others. In my career of writing for ministries and non-profits, I’ve been able to share the stories of amazing people doing incredible things—feeding hungry families, finding orphans forever families, rescuing victims of human trafficking and so much more. Through stories, we can feel, empathize and connect with people we may never meet in person.
- What can your readers expect from you next?
My next children’s book, “Gracie Lu Wants a Zoo,” should be out next year. It’s about a tenacious little girl who gets ahead of God’s plan and finds herself in chaos. She discovers the wisdom of patience and trust in God’s timing.
- How did you get started writing?
I wrote for my high school newspaper and was hooked! Out of college, I wrote for a newspaper for about a decade. For the past 16 years, I’ve written for ministries and non-profits. My children’s book combines my love of writing with my passion for children’s ministry (a hobby of mine for many years).
Readers, Shelly has a question for you… What’s your favorite children’s book? Mine is anything from Dr. Seuss
Leave a comment below to enter for a chance to win a copy of The Bubble Who Would Not POP! (Contest is open to U.S. residents only)
The Bubble Who Would Not POP! shares the adventure of a determined bubble asked to take a little girl’s prayer to heaven. Along the way he learns some surprising lessons about God’s love and the power of prayer. The book is available online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
Shelly and her husband Geoff have been married 26 years. Their home is blessed with three teens, a sweet black lab and a not-so-sweet kitten. Shelly has been writing professionally her entire adult life—from early years as a newspaper reporter to ghost writer for ministries and non-profits. Today she writes for Focus on the Family. Her debut children’s picture book—The Bubble Who Would Not POP!—launches September 28.