Have I got some recommendations for you!
If you click on the titles below, you’ll find some websites, groups, products, tools, courses and resources for writers that I recommend. Most I have personal experience with — in those cases I will give a brief evaluation of the item.
DISCLAIMER: These recommendations are made because I believe in the product. These are not paid advertisements. Not everything works for every person, so I urge you to research them for yourself and determine what is best for you before investing money or time in anything.
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ONLINE COURSES FOR WRITERS
JUST WRITE FOR KIDS — This is an 8-week self-paced online/home study course in writing picture books taught by author, editor, and educator Emma Walton Hamilton. Each week brings an email containing a link to a new lesson which introduces students to another aspect of the craft of picture book writing, each lesson building on the previous ones. By the end of the eight weeks, the student has a solid workable picture book manuscript, and the tools to move forward with revision. The course can be started at any time. Membership in a dedicated JUST WRITE CHILDREN’S BOOKS Facebook Group is included, and enhances the interaction between students as well as with Emma. I took this course in 2010, and it has informed and enhanced my writing — for all ages — ever since.
JUST WRITE FOR MIDDLE GRADE — Following the success of JUST WRITE FOR KIDS, Emma launched JUST WRITE FOR MIDDLE GRADE in January 2014. In 14 home-study lessons delivered by email over the course of 14 weeks (although as with JWFK, you can move at your own pace if you need more time) the student is introduced to the building blocks of writing chapter books and middle grade novels, with thought-provoking, challenging, and fun assignments. At the end of the 14-week session, the student has a solid draft ready to take to the next level. The course can be started at any time. Membership in a dedicated JUST WRITE CHILDREN’S BOOKS Facebook Group is included, and enhances the interaction between students as well as with Emma. I took this course from May to July, 2014. Even though I’ve been writing middle grade for a few years, and considered myself well-versed in the craft, Emma taught me so much! I am already using the techniques and worksheets to revise other writing projects, both middle grade and adult fiction.
JUST WRITE FOR YOUNG ADULTS – This course was launched at the same time as JUST WRITE FOR MIDDLE GRADE, and as the name suggests, it is a course dedicated to learning the ins and outs of creating young adult novels. It, too, is a 14-week course, delivered in the same way as the other JUST WRITE CHILDREN’S BOOKS courses. The course can be started at any time. Membership in a dedicated JUST WRITE CHILDREN’S BOOKS Facebook Group is included, and enhances the interaction between students as well as with Emma. Although I haven’t taken this course, I know from my experience with Emma’s other courses that this will be an excellent learning tool for anyone who wishes to write for teens.
MAKING PICTURE BOOK MAGIC — This is a month-long course, offered every month of the year, taught by picture book author and founder of the popular Perfect Picture Book Fridays, Susanna Leonard Hill. Lessons are given daily, but as I understand it, they are not onerous or time-consuming. There is a Facebook Group for class members, and membership continues (if you choose) after you have completed the course. I have not taken the course myself, but I have heard rave reviews from many picture book writers at all levels of experience, and it’s on my bucket list. Space is limited for each month’s class, so the experience is personal and hands-on. There’s also a self-directed version of the course, which doesn’t include the close personal contact with Susanna, nor the experience of being part of a class, but does let people who can’t afford the full course to learn the same information.
LYRICAL LANGUAGE LAB – The subtitle of this course, “Punching Up Prose … With Poetry,” gives you a good idea of the focus of the course. Although students do write some poetry, there is a great emphasis on learning to both identify and write lyrical language, and then to use lyricism to enhance one’s prose. The course is taught by poet and editor Renee LaTulippe, whose passion for words is evident in her writing and her speaking — and, I am sure, in her teaching. It is a month-long course, taught throughout the year, and class size is limited to enable Renee to fully interact with her students. There is a dedicated Facebook Group for each class, as well as an Alumni Group. I haven’t taken the course (yet), but I know others who have, and who speak highly of it and of Renee’s teaching abilities.
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ONLINE and IN PERSON GROUPS I RECOMMEND
The Children’s Book Hub Facebook Group — this ever-growing online group is a free opportunity for writers, illustrators and editors to share resources, encouragement, questions, and links of interest. It is a closed group, so people must request membership. I am honored to co-host this group with Emma Walton Hamilton.
KidLit411 Facebook Group — this amazing online group headed by Elaine Kiely Kearns and Sylvia Liu is another free community where writers, illustrators and editors share a plethora of information and support. It, too, is a closed group, so people must request membership. There is a manuscript swap group and a portfolio swap group in conjunction with the main KidLit411 Group, to allow writers and illustrators the change to give and receive feedback on their work. They also have a fantastic website, KidLit411.com, which is a compendium of links to information on pretty much any topic regarding writing or illustrating books for children. Their website has been listed in Writer’s Digest’s 100 Best Websites issue multiple times.
12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge and Community — Founded and hosted by author, writer-entrepreneur, and digital expert Julie Hedlund, 12 x 12 is an online group in which members are challenged, supported, and encouraged as they attempt to write twelve picture book draft manuscripts in twelve months. There are a variety of blog posts to provide encouragement and instruction. The two levels of paid membership allow differing intensities of participation — at the highest level, there is a monthly opportunity to submit to an agent. There is an active online forum and a Facebook Group for extra interaction. I was a member for the first three years the group was in existence, and highly recommend it, although my focus has turned to middle grade and adult fiction.
CBI Clubhouse (Children’s Book Insider) — CBI is an online compendium of information, learning tools, videos, and opportunities for networking for writers and illustrators of all levels of children’s books. It is a paid membership group. It was founded by Jon Bard and Laura Backes in 1990, and is still going strong under their leadership. I learn so much from the monthly newsletter and from the website.
KidLit Social with Laura Backes Bard — During the early days of the pandemic in 2020, Jon and Laura began offering a free, online interview/workshop called the KidLit Distancing Social. It is now known as the KidLit Social, and happens on the first and third Tuesday of each month. It is a fantastic and fun learning and social experience. You can learn more, and watch the replays of all previous socials at the link above.
SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) — This is a real life AND online international group for writers and illustrators of children’s books. If you can only join one group, make it this one! Their website is lush with resources and networking/connection potential, there are local/regional groups in which you can participate (all over the world), there are regional conferences, and there are two international conferences annually that should be on every children’s book creator’s bucket list. I have been a member of SCBWI since late 2010, and attended the international Summer Conference in Los Angeles in August 2011, and the virtual Summer Conference in 2020. I highly recommend membership in this group.
The Thesaurus Collection of Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is the most amazing collection of books listing descriptive words that anyone could imagine. My Greek language professor taught me years ago that the word “thesaurus” means “heaped up treasure,” and these books are certainly a heaped up treasure. Angela and Becca have created thesauri of character motivations, conflicts, emotions, negative traits, positive traits, settings, physical traits, and so much more, each topic in a separate book. Stumped for a word to describe a character or what they’re feeling? Check one of the thesauri. They’re bound to spark your imagination and give you a plethora of words to choose from.
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EDITORS AND EDITING TOOLS
It’s amazing what the practiced eyes and knowledgeable minds of freelance content/developmental editors can pick up on in a manuscript, helping the writer to make their finished product the best it can possibly be. Be aware that this is an investment both of time and of money, and so you should have your manuscript at the best possible level you can get it to on your own before taking the step, so that you receive the most benefit from the experience — but I believe it is well worth it. You can find specifics about each editor’s services by clicking their name.
Emma Walton Hamilton — I have worked with Emma on several projects. Her comments are insightful, wise and encouraging. I feel safe in her hands. I know that what she suggests will be spot-on, and will spur me on to dig more deeply into my manuscript and make it much more than I could have imagined was possible, and she will do this kindly, with my best interests at heart. Emma specializes in children’s literature — picture books, middle grade novels, and young adult novels, — and she is also known in kidlit circles as “The Query Whisperer.” She can help you make your query letter sparkle. Note that Emma is extremely busy these days, so may be unavailable.
Emma D. Dryden/drydenbks — Although I haven’t worked with Emma, friends who have done so recommend her highly. After working as an editor for publishers such as Random House, MacMillan, and Simon & Schuster, she launched her freelance editing business, drydenbks, in 2010. Emma also specializes in children’s literature, working not only with writers but also with illustrators, as well as doing career consultations.
Jordan E. Rosenfeld — I haven’t worked with Jordan (yet) but hope to be able to at some point. I have read and benefited from Jordan’s excellent book Make a Scene: Craft a Story One Scene at a Time. This is a book I highly recommend to anyone working on a novel-length project. When I read the book, I had to keep stopping to write notes — about the novel I was working on. Through her book, she helped me see clearly how to edit and revise the scenes to tell the best story possible. Jordan offers critiques, developmental editing, and copy-editing on novels, memoir, non-fiction, short stories and essays.
All three of these women are also writers, and understand the world and mindset of the writer, which is very helpful in terms of feeling comfortable with an editor as well as confident in their abilities.
Emma Walton Hamilton has a great product called EDITOR-IN-A-BOX, which offers a 6-step revision process, word use and grammar tools, formatting guidelines, submission guides, and much more. There are two products, one for Picture Books and one for Chapter Books and Novels. Owning Editor-in-a-Box will be (almost) like having Emma at your side as you work on revising your manuscript.
DISCLAIMER (one more time): These recommendations are made because I believe in the product. These are not paid advertisements. Not everything works for every person, so I urge you to research them for yourself and determine what is best for you before investing money or time in anything.