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True Story Blog

Writing Tips for 2020!


Happy Holidays Kidlit writers! Need a few writing tips for 2020? Here are some favorites from #5Favorites contributors:

(Click on the author's name to see the full Q&A.)

Type up a favorite picture book to see the words without the art.

Susan Hood

My favourite writing tip is from Nicholas Fisk who said "The plot can be allowed one thumping lie (say, the invasion of earth) but only one. Everything arising from the thumping lie must make sense."  I try to follow that.

Susannah Lloyd


If something is not working, shelve the idea for later and write something new.

Baptiste Paul


Instead of worrying about getting everything perfect the first time, get the first draft FINISHED. If there are detail-y bits you still need to work out, stick in placeholder text like "<something amazing here>" or "<xxx>" that you can search for later, if you need to. You will be revising later, but you can't revise

a blank page.

Debbie Ohi Ridpath

Write down what your intention is for your manuscript (to entertain, evoke feelings, offer an opportunity to reflect) as well as what the main question of the story is (Ex. How do you make a friend, what happens when you lose your lovey, etc.) and keep it by your computer. It's helpful to be reminded of both and it will keep your writing focused. 

Jodi McKay 


Read everything you write aloud.

Heidi Stemple 


If you have only 15 minutes to write, use all of those 15 minutes to write. Set a timer. Turn off your phone. (Not silenced, off.) Block out the distractions. You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish if you don't wait for that perfect block of uninterrupted time.

Casey W. Robinson 


When I'm writing, I try my best to be an empty vessel.  Meaning, to not think of any book that I'm writing as "my" story but to approach it as though this is a story that has chosen to come into the world through me.  And so my job (and my responsibility to the story)  is to be the best listener that I can be.   If I'm not a little surprised, I'm usually doing something wrong, being too controlling. I've found that most of the best stories and poems have a life of their own, and my job is to stay out of the way.

Corinna Luyken


Be true to your story, not true to 'trends.'

Shana Keller



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Book Events To Check Out in 2020

Are you a Kidlit writer or illustrator who wants to add some book events to your 2020 schedule? Then check out these favorites from #5Favorites contributors. (Click on the author's name to see the full Q&A and event links.)


I don't make it to a lot of big book events, but every year, I go to the Empire State Award luncheon at the New York Library Association conference. It's always a joy to listen to the current winner's speech and get a book signed. The award is given annually to a children's author or illustrator living in New York State, and we have a lot of authors here! 

Rebecca Donnelly 

My favorite has always been nErDcamp Michigan. I always learn so much from the educators at the event, and I love that nErDcamp has always been focused on educators and their young readers rather than the authors, and am grateful to the behind-the-scenes volunteers to run the event.

Debbie Ohi Ridpath 


I have to say that the one that is nearest and dearest to me is the one that I have done the longest which is the Hudson Children's Book Festival held on the first Saturday of May in Hudson, New York. I've also never missed the Chappaqua Children's Book Festival held every October. And I'm one of the co-founders of the Schomburg's Annual Black Comic Book Festival in Harlem in January.

Jerry Craft

Multicultural Children's Book Day coming up January 31, 2020. This is our 7th year of celebrating diversity in children's books

Mia Wenjen


The New England Regional Spring Conference held in Springfield, MA in early May. (Full disclosure: I am Conference Co-Director for the 2020 conference!)The New England SCBWI region is so large and vibrant, yet the conference manages to feel close-knit and intimate. It's worth checking out if you've never been.

Casey W. Robinson

BEA New York City (Book Expo America) - I only got to go to it once, but it was exciting to see all those new books, authors, publishers, and agents in one place.

Susan Montanari 

I've been lucky enough to attend the ALA and NCTE conferences in the past few years, and I always come home energized from hearing great presentations, meeting friends old and new, and collecting armloads of advance reader copies!

Andrea Wang 

I absolutely loved KidLitCon this year. It was a cozy and wonderful blend of authors, librarians, and bloggers. I learned a lot and got to spend quality time with old and new friends.

Gina Perry 


nErDcamp, without a doubt. My first was a few years ago on Long Island, and after that one, I started going to every single one I could -- New Jersey, Kansas, Michigan, Vermont, Northern New England... There is nothing like the energy and spirit of nErDcamp. The events celebrate and put into highly productive practice the belief that kids' educators and kids' book creators are colleagues, that our missions are, at the end of the day, the same -- to improve and enrich the lives of kids through reading and books. The more we work together, the better work we can all do.

Jarrett Lerner


My favorite book event of the year, as both an attendee and a speaker, is the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Maryland. Amazing authors from around the country in a homey civic park atmosphere. With the occasional tooting of a passing train! (Books, parks and trains are an evocative combination to me.)

Jonathan Roth


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5 Favorites from . . . Jonathan Roth!

Author/Illustrator Jonathan Roth

Jonathan Roth is the author-illustrator of the chapter book series Beep and Bob (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin), which is aimed at elementary kids who like funny, exciting stories and cute, bluish aliens. Jonathan travels daily through both space and time, from his Rockville, Md. home where he lives with his wife and two kitties, to the school where he teaches art to the creative minds of today and tomorrow.


So what are Jonathan's 5 Favorites?:

My favorite place to write:

I keep meaning to find my muse in scenic riverside cafes. The mundane reality is that most of my writing and drawing is done at an old wooden drafting table in my small home office.Though when kids ask where I get ideas, I tell them much of my best thinking is done as I'm walking or cycling. Butt in chair, but also move that butt too!

My favorite mentor text:

For wit and wisdom, humor and heart, I probably owe Charles Schulz and Peanuts more than anyone. As for my sense of fantastical space absurdity, where would it be if not for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? And I can't neglect a plug for Lynda Barry, whose Picture This, What It Is and now Making Comics are mind-blowing texts on creativity.

My favorite writing tip:

"No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader." I would also substitute "fun" for "surprise". This doesn't mean writing isn't sometimes (usually) a terrible struggle, but if you're not also hitting those zones of pure creative enjoyment, then what's the point?

My favorite marketing tip:

Be part of a diverse, genuine a community of writers, artists, librarians, booksellers and educators, even well before you have a book out, and pay it forward. I prefer to do this locally and in person, though I have the benefit of a large metro area (DC).

My favorite book event of the year:

My favorite book event of the year, as both an attendee and a speaker, is the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Maryland. Amazing authors from around the country in a homey civic park atmosphere. With the occasional tooting of a passing train! (Books, parks and trains are an evocative combination to me.)


To learn more about Jonathan and his work, visit his website.

 As always, if you have read any of the books discussed here, please consider writing a quick review using the links above.

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