Tag Archives: children’s books

Word Shark Art by Janice Phelps Williams

A special thank you

You may have seen this Word Shark artwork by Janice Phelps Williams on my Facebook page. Isn’t it cool?

About Janice

Janice Phelps Williams has worked in publishing since the early 1990s and has brought over 250 books “to life.” In addition to designing, illustrating, and editing books for others, she is also the author of Open Your Heart with Pets: Mastering Life Through Love of Animals and is working on a middle-grade novel called Finding Pletonia. When not working on books, she likes to create altered books and take photographs.

Janice blogs about creativity at Appalachian Morning.

Find Janice’s book design business here. Book design, blog, editorial services, fine art, illustrations, photographs, and more!

Janice contributed to my Kids’ Week theme week. Her blog article includes a step-by-step list for working with an experienced illustrator. You can see Janice’s Kids’ Week article here.

Janice and her husband, Mark Van Aken Williams (a writer and a poet) live in Northern Michigan.

About Mark

Mark blogs at Shakes, Shivers, and Dithers. Read about his collection of poetry, Book Circus by Moonlight, and his novella, The Prophet of Sorrow, here.

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Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Illustrators & Illustrations, Special Events

Kids’ Week – Writer Allyn Stotz

Article by Allyn Stotz

I am so pleased to be guest blogging today and would like to thank Karen for allowing me to do so. She has asked me to talk a little bit about my road to publication. It’s not a very exciting story, but it’s MY story!

My road to publication began about four years ago; I am now 55 yrs. old. As a child, I enjoyed writing stories, inventing them, and playing them out with my siblings. We were always putting on some type of skit for our parents. They were so patient and tolerant! Until now, my career mostly consisted of administrative jobs and/or working in human resources. On those jobs, I wrote several procedures manuals, created newsletters, and did lots of memo writing. Those were always my favorite parts of the job. My husband’s company has transferred us many times so I’ve lived in several cities in Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi; therefore that led to me having quite a few different jobs along the way.

My family is made up of several journalists. First is my father, who owned and wrote our town newspaper. My mother helped him with that newspaper and wrote a weekly column. One of my sisters majored in journalism and is now a freelance editor and writer. So I believe that writing was always in my blood, it just never screamed out to me in volume.

The Wow Moment. Then one day while reading my brother’s blog, I came across a story he was toying around with. My brother is not a writer per say, but you wouldn’t have known that by reading his descriptions of a computer game he loved playing. After reading his descriptions of that fantasy game world, I had the big “wow” moment go off in my brain. My first thought was, “Wow, he can really write!” Then I thought to myself how fun it would be to write a fantasy story and I decided to investigate it further.

I did a little research about the subject of writing for children and then sat down to begin. The words just began to flow from my fingertips and have not stopped since!

Submissions and Rejections. My road to actual publication took a little over 1 ½ years, which in retrospect, was pretty quick. Some authors have to wait years before they are fortunate enough to become published. I did a good year of research on writing children’s picture books and enrolled in the Institute of Children’s Literature. After doing both of those, I finally became confident enough to send out my first submission. I was one of the lucky ones and had that first submission accepted by an online children’s magazine. From there, I spent the next ten months sending out more manuscripts and receiving many rejections. Then to my surprise, I finally heard back from FutureWord Publishing who wanted to publish my story The Pea in Peanut Butter. Talk about thrilling!

Getting published is not an easy process and most times, not quick but it is a journey that is well worth the time and effort. There is nothing more satisfying to me than hearing that a child or their parent enjoyed the words that I wrote.  But everyone’s journey is different and so is the outcome. If you are one of those people contemplating becoming a children’s writer I would say to you that your first step should be to find your truth. Dig deep into your soul and find the real reason you want to write. Then never forget those reasons, get out that pen and write, write, write! Always remember that you can’t get published if you don’t submit your work. But most importantly, never give up.

And on that note, I’d like to tell you all that after my 83 yr. old mother watched me get published, she decided to work on making her dream of writing a novel come true. She and my editor sister have written a book together and the first of the series will be published soon! So if we can do it, so can you!

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Allyn Stotz

Allyn’s first children’s picture book titled The Pea in Peanut Butter was published by FutureWord Publishing in June 2011. Allyn graduated from the Institute of Children’s Literature and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

The Pea in Peanut Butter is available in paperback, Kindle, and coloring book format on Amazon as well as other online retail stores. It is also available at Cavalier House Books in Denham Springs, LA, Barnes and Noble, Mandeville, LA, Bible and Book Store and Learning Express, both in the Baton Rouge, LA area. Allyn lives in Baton Rouge, LA with her husband, two crazy dogs and one fat cat.

Connect with Allyn on her blog, Twitter, or on Facebook.

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Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Illustrators & Illustrations, Kid Stuff & Children's Books

Kids’ Week – Illustrator, Book Designer, Janice Phelps Williams

Creating a Children’s Book!

Article by Janice Phelps Williams

As a child I spent most of my time taking dance lessons and practicing ballet. I loved Swan Lake and my toe shoes. But when I reached junior high my best friend and dance partner moved away, and I made the choice to discontinue lessons. I started playing guitar instead, and then I discovered drawing and crafts when I was 14 years old. I had to spend a lot of time in bed due to an illness, so I would gather my papers, pencils, sewing basket, small TV, and toy poodle all up on my bed and draw for hours. I was lucky to have a friendly art teacher, Mrs. Lotze, and she shared with me her love of watercolor paints and taught me how to draw.

I also loved to read and when I was healthy again, I went to the library and checked out all kinds of books. This is a love that has continued throughout my life.

When it came time for me to graduate from high school and go to college, the only thing I wanted to study was art. I was always happiest when I was creating something, so I did study art and graduated from Kent State University in Ohio.

As life went on, I found many opportunities to keep drawing and creating things through a variety of media. Sometimes I was paid for my work, at other times I worked just for the joy of creating.

In 1997, I started working as a book designer. In 1999, I started my own company and began designing book covers, designing the pages of books (layout), and editing books. I was also given the opportunity to illustrate books. A few of the books I illustrated were novels for adults: the books in the Will Turner Novels series by British author Chris Davey, for instance (www.turnerlogs.com).

Then, I was given the chance to illustrate a picture book by Kidzpoetz author, Robert W. Kurkela. The book is Still Her Spirit Sings and is about a wonderful real-life dog named Spirit. Here are two illustrations from the book. They were done in Sharpie and Prismacolor permanent markers.

Last year I was very excited to work on creating the illustrations for a book written by David Boyce: Two True Blue Dragons. I presented the author with pencil sketches, then black and white ink drawings for approval. Once those were approved, I colored the drawings in with Prismacolor colored pencils. I loved drawing these friendly dragons!

I have just finished illustrating a fun picture book for kids of all ages. If you check my website in September, you’ll be able to learn more about this surprising book. Below are a few little watercolor “snippets” from the new book.

My work for authors and publishers involves many steps:

1) The author provides me with the electronic file for the text of the book.

2) I then begin thinking about the story, how it will flow on the book’s pages, where the breaks in the text will be and what scenes should be illustrated. At this point I begin making a storyboard, which is a map for how the book’s pages will be laid out.

3) I send the author sketches of the main characters so that he or she can approve the look of these important figures.

4) I then draw two or three illustrations in pencil and send to the author for approval. (All of this is done using email.)

5) When approved, I then complete these two or three illustrations as they will establish the look and style of the book.

6) I refine the storyboard and come up with basic looks and illustrations for each page.

7) I send the pencil drawings for each illustration to the author for approval. If any changes are requested, I make them.

8) Then, I finish each drawing and send to the author for approval. Changes are difficult at this point, but if any are needed, I make them.

9) I then design each book page, importing the author’s story and my illustrations. At this point, it begins to look like a real book! We also work on any editing to the story that might be needed.

10) While all this is going on, I am also creating the book’s cover. Some books are paperback, others are hardcover, others have dust jackets, and others are also in ebook format. Each format has special issues to consider.

11) When everything is approved, I then consider the printer’s requirements and prepare PDF files for the printer, following their guidelines very carefully.

12) The day the books arrive from the printer is a very happy day.

Designing, illustrating, and editing books has been a wonderful way to earn living. I have met so many interesting people through my work and I am happy that I studied art and had the opportunity to work in publishing.

When I am not illustrating books for authors and publishers, or designing book covers, I am at work on personal projects such as a book I am writing called “Finding Pletonia.” It will be for 10-12 year olds and will be illustrated with drawings of all sorts of fantastic imaginary animals. Like this “elusive poplyn!”

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Janice Phelps Williams

Janice Phelps Williams has worked in publishing since the early 1990s and has brought over 250 books “to life.” In addition to designing, illustrating, and editing books for others, she is also the author of Open Your Heart with Pets: Mastering Life through Love of Animals and is working on a middle-grade novel called Finding Pletonia. When not working on books, she likes to create altered books and take photographs.

Janice blogs about creativity at Appalachian Morning.

Find her book design business here.

Janice and her husband, Mark Van Aken Williams (a writer and a poet) live in Northern Michigan.

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Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Illustrators & Illustrations, Kid Stuff & Children's Books

Kids’ Week – Tweens Author Darlene Foster

Writing for ‘Tweens’

Article by Darlene Foster

“Too many people grow up. That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up. They forget. They don’t remember what it’s like to be 12 years old.”
– Walt Disney

What inspired me to write children’s books?  In some ways I don’t believe I have ever gone much past 12 years old myself. I relate well to children. Perhaps you have heard the saying – “You are only young once, but you can be immature forever!”

I travelled to the United Arab Emirates a few years ago to visit a friend who lived there at the time. I had an amazing time and felt as excited as a child visiting the circus for the first time. Everything was so unique, exotic and ancient. My friend even commented that I behaved like a twelve year old. When I returned home eager to share my experiences, I started to write them down through the eyes of a twelve year old, who I named Amanda.

I love the 8 – 12 age group, currently called the ‘tweens’ or middle readers. They aren’t yet teenagers but they are no longer little kids either, so they are in between. They still have that eagerness for knowledge but are starting to question things. It is really the end of innocence, I guess. Writing stories from the point of view of a ‘tween’ has been a lot of fun.

However, the journey to publication has not been easy. Fraught with many obstacles and self doubt, I often thought I should just forget the idea of having a book published. I work full time as an employment counsellor and also tutor ESL students evenings and weekends, so my writing time is limited. It took me three years to complete the first book, Amanda in Arabia – the Perfume Flask. Then it took five more years to find a publisher. I had no idea that would be the hardest part. I was often discouraged but I persevered.

In those five years, in between sending the story out to many, many publishers, I wrote the second book, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting. When I eventually found my wonderful publisher, Central Avenue Publishing, I had one book completed and another almost finished. Amanda in Arabia was published in 2010 and Amanda in Spain in 2011. Now I just can’t seem to stop. Amanda in EnglandThe Missing Novel will be published this fall and I have started on Amanda in Alberta. Amanda may have many more adventures around the world before I am finished.

Was it worth it? You bet! When I held that first printed book in my hands, it was like holding my first born. Sheer joy! When someone tells me how much they enjoyed one of my books, I have to pinch myself to make sure it isn’t just a dream. Although my books are written for the ‘tweens,’ many adults enjoy them also. Perhaps they are the adults who remember what it is like to be 12 years old.

Some people think writing for children would be easier than writing for adults or young adults. I don’t think so. You have to remove yourself from the adult world and think like a child would. I like to hang around kids, listen to the words they use currently, the gestures, the looks, the trends. I read a lot of kid’s books too. In my latest book I feature a couple of teenagers from London that Amanda befriends. I had to use words and terms young people from England would use. With the help of my English husband, his niece and a number of British friends, I feel I got it right. I also watch a lot of British TV. My husband thought it was amusing when I watched TV with a pen and paper in hand and wrote down a word or phrase that I might use.

My hope is that my books will encourage children to travel and see the world one day, and in doing so, accept other cultures. I believe if you have the heart and spirit of a child, you can write for them. It may take a while to become published, but never ever give up if you believe in your story!  A kid wouldn’t.

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Darlene Foster

Darlene Foster is a writer, employment counsellor, ESL teacher, wife, mother and grandmother. Brought up on a ranch in Southern Alberta, she dreamt of traveling the world and meeting interesting people. She lives with her husband on the west coast of BC with their black cat Monkey. She has written three children’s travel/adventure books, Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting, and Amanda in England-The Missing Novel. She believes everyone is capable of making their dreams come true.

See Darlene and many other authors at Central Avenue Publishing.

Connect with Darlene at her website, blog, Twitter, and on Facebook.

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Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Kid Stuff & Children's Books