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Kidspiration by Susan Stephenson

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Musings -- Editor -- Susan Stephenson
 
 

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Kids can be a wonderful source of inspiration for writers. Even the fact their own darlings want to drag them away from the keyboard has been the subject of writers’ light-hearted essays. But there are so many other ways children can help with our writing. Like most things in a writer’s life, it’s a matter of being mentally prepared for those “kidspiration” moments.

 

For writer and marketing guru, Jan Verhoeff, her children ARE her inspiration. Jan says, “My world revolves around four precious treasures sent down from heaven. Like all writers, I need fresh innovative thoughts to put into my work. Luckily, I find them daily in my children. From the adoring looks they give me, when I read a story I've written, aloud to them, to the inspirational phrases they spout on a moment's notice if they’re asked a question, they truly enrich my life. Any moment can offer a new thought, a new idea or wonderful words... words that emanate from my four children. “

 

Jan believes if you write for children, you really need to listen to children. Recently, when working on a requested re-write for her children’s adventure series, Jan’s son strolled through the room.

 

“What cha workin' on Mom?"

 

"The adventure series." Jan stared at the computer screen, black print going gray on her as the scene in her book lagged.

 

"So, have you told them yet how hard it is to tie your shoe while watching your victim sitting in a tree?" Her son breezed past her, leaving Jan with a whole new tale to spin. (You can find out more about Jan’s writer and marketing services here: http://janverhoeff.com )

 

Kelly Curtis is a writer and speaker based in Northwestern Wisconsin. (For more information about her writing, please visit http://www.kellycurtis.com ) Kelly speaks of her children as “windows to the world”. One of her stories, “First Mate for a Day”, (July Issue, Chesapeake Family) centres round Kelly’s 8-year-old daughter’s experience on the 120-year-old skipjack, Rebecca. Kelly believes getting her daughter’s perspective on the adventure helped her to hone in on the target publication as well as giving a focus to her notes and photographs.

 

Kelly says she can rely on her children to “create chaos and humorous situations that generate great stories.”  When she and her husband traveled through Europe, they significantly adjusted the itinerary to accommodate their children. The result was an article in Transitions Abroad about the playgrounds that linked their destinations (July 2006).

 

Even when a travel writer is visiting a familiar place, sharing it with her children can add a new dimension. Being able to witness children’s experiences can allow a writer to share their feelings and “see” a place with new eyes. It’s a good idea to have a camera handy to capture those special moments, as Kelly found with this story Budget Travel published recently. (http://kellycurtis.blogspot.com/2006/04/chesapeake-blue-crab-article-budget.html )

 

If you’re a children’s writer, consider having children critique your work. If you don’t have access to children of your target age group, you might ask a teacher at your local school if she would be interested in allowing you to share your book with the class.

 

Depending on age, you could ask children to listen/look for answers to these questions:

  • What was the best/most exciting/funniest part of the story?
  • Who was your favourite character? Why?
  • How did the story make you feel? Why?

 

Questions like these give children a focus for their listening and can help you gain specific, helpful feedback rather than vague generalities like “good”.

 

Children’s own writing can be a wonderful source of inspiration and information. Here are three stories from children who were in Jogjakarta during the recent earthquake. I believe their tales give us an insight into the mind of someone who has survived a disaster. They would also make an interesting prompt for a story set near an active volcano.

 

Aditya’s Story

I will tipe my story for you. My name is Aditya and I am 8 years old. I come
from
India
but I was living in Solo when the earthquake happened. Here is my
story.


On Saturday morning at
6 am there was an earthquake and when I was sleeping
the earthquake was happening. When I was sleeping the glass was in pieces and
fell on my hand. On my hand there is a scratch. Actually 2 little scratches.
I was scared but now I am ok.

Olivia’s Story
My name is Olivia. I am 8 years old. I come from
Indonesia but I was born
in
Ohio in America
. Here is my story.

On Saturday morning at 6am there was an earthquake in Jogja. Everyone said
that it was Merapi but it was from pantai selatan ( southern beach). The
people from Merapi went to the south. People said that a volcano in Parang
Tritis erupted and they said "it's a tsunami" so they all went to utara (north). The road in front of my house was full of people panicking and they were so scared. I saw many accidents.

Rifo’s Story

My name is Rifo I am 8 years old and I am from Indonesia. I live in Jogja.
The earthquake came from the ocean south of Parang Tritis. And everyone said “Nyi Loro Kidul lagi bersalaman with Merapi.” (*) At my Hotel there were many big cracks. The first earthquake I thought it was from Merapi. And everyone ran outside and I was really scared.                   
                                                                            
(*) The queen of the south is shaking hands with (the volcano) Merapi.

 

There have no doubt been times in your writing life when you promised to greet the next childish interruption with a scream or threat of impending punishment, but don’t forget to involve kids in your writing. Remind them what a serious and important job it is, teach them about writing as a means of communication and share your writing with them. It will pay off for both you and your kids in the long run (or even hop or skip or jump!)

 

 

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QUOTE OF THE MONTH

 

“‘Thou shalt not’ is soon forgotten, but ‘Once upon a time’ lasts forever.”

(Philip Pullman, 1996 Carnegie Medal acceptance speech)

 

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Have you been to these sites?

 

http://www.scottishritechildrenstheatre.org/about.html

We are interested in original scripts for our children's productions.
To submit a script, consider the following:

*      Plays must be one act, 45-60 minutes in length
*      Our target audience is 4-10 years of age
*      No more than 4 actors per show, double/triple casting is encouraged
*      Plays must be audience interactive and invite the children's
reactions
*      Submit scripts either in electronic format to the Company Manager
aussrite4@swbell.net  Or mail a copy to Company Manager,
207 West 18th Street, Austin, Texas 78701.“

………………………………………………………..

 

http://www.bylinescalendar.com/guidelines.php

 

Call for submissions from published, paid writers. They want “succinct personal stories about the writing life.” The pay is only $5 but the exposure is good.

 

…………………………………………..

http://www.escapepod.org/guidelines

 

Escape Pod: the Science Fiction Podcast Magazine is a paying market, looking for shorts and flash.
…………………………………………
http://www.enneagraminstitute.com

 

Here’s a tip from Museitupclub member, Donna.

 

My favorite personality typing tool is the Enneagram,

http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/ and whether I do it consciously or not, my characters tend to fall into one of these nine types. It's an ancient system, based on the Seven Deadly Sins, plus two, and lots of fun to work with, not only in writing but for self awareness.

……………………………………………..

http://www.singerscreations.com/Software.asp

 

Stickit version 2.4

 

I use these virtual sticky notes frequently. It’s a free download which gives you the ability to write yourself a short message and place it on your desktop. I’ve had no problems at all with it, the notes remain until I delete them and don’t get lost in the paper war on my real desktop.

 

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http://www.rogerjcarlson.com/WritingHelp/TechTips.html

 

Roger has some free programs to help you identify problem areas in your writing

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Until next month, write on!

 

Susan

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