I’m fortunate to be taking a 10-week picture book class from Joyce Sweeney. I’m only one lesson into it, but loving where this class is taking me. I asked Joyce if it was kosher to share some of her tips here and she very generously replied.
Here are some of the lessons I gleaned from week one:
· To write for a child, you need to think like a child.
· A child's world is big and full of wonder.
· A young child's emotions are strong but come and go quickly.
· A child’s senses are key as they’re experiencing the world for the first time.
One way to think like a child is to remember how you felt when you were a child. But if you’re like me, it’s hard to remember two minutes ago let alone 20…or so…years ago. So when Joyce asked us to write about our childhood memories, I wasn’t sure I could.
Fortunately, I recalled two very strong memories and I was able to relive my emotions at those moments. It was an effective exercise for me as an aspiring children's book writer.
So I'm going to do it again:
I was about six years old growing up on a farm with acres of ground to imagine on. Everything, from the abandoned combines to the canals, was a place for forts and exploration. One day though, a new item appeared on our farm and I was intrigued.
We had gopher problems, it seemed, and my dad set up a trap in our yard, with several warnings not to touch it. That trap--a rusty-red, dual crescent with zigzag jaws that fit perfectly together when closed--was too alluring to leave alone.
So when my friend came over, I just had to show her the metallic mystery in my yard.
I felt pretty superior telling her how the trap worked. Unfortunately, my “telling” got a little too close and the trap snapped shut--right on my thumb.
At first I sat immobile, stunned at the impossible happening. But then the tears and screams broke through the shock, and I started hollering at my slack-jawed friend to "get my mom."
She ran to the house like the devil was upon her and my mom came running out like she was upon the devil.
My mother seemed the strongest woman in the world as she pried the trap open and freed my throbbing thumb.
Thankfully, my little digit had been pinned in the groove of the triangular teeth away from the sharp point. It was nothing that a piece of humble pie, a hug and a bandaid couldn’t fix, but it was one of the most frightening moments of my young life and the first time I suspected that my mom was bionic.Now it's your turn:
Remember a time in your childhood when you experienced an emotion: fear, anger, joy, sadness; or a memorable taste, smell, feeling, or touch that made an impression. Write about it.Share your results in the comments section if you like. And have fun.