Night Buddies - Adventures After Lights Out

Q&A Series Part III: Why Did You Decide to Write for Children?

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Hi all! Welcome to Part III of my Q&A series, where I use this blog to answer the questions you have for me! Just a reminder, you can send your questions my way via commenting on my blog, or through my Facebook and Twitter pages.

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This week I’ve decided to answer a question I’ve gotten many times since Night Buddies was first released: “What made you decide to write books for children?”

The truth is, writing for children didn’t feel like a choice to me. The idea for Night Buddies (which you can read about in this blog post) came to me so strongly, and I knew it had to be written for children—for people like my son, who needed Crosley the red crocodile in his life and his bedtime stories. When I was younger, I thought one day I might be a writer, and I dabbled in writing short stories intended for an adult audience. But the first time I ever felt that I had written something worthy of being published for an audience was when I wrote Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecake Scare, and I realized that writing for children was what I was meant to do after all.

Writing for children gives authors so much space for imagination, creativity, and fun. Kids are a fairly freeing audience to write for—all they are looking for in a book is to be entertained, and to be understood. They interact with characters like they would best friends, and once they are loyal to your story, they will love it for the rest of their lives. I love that I can create an entire world, be as goofy as I want, and work hard to make kids laugh instead of write something that seems “true” to real life. Writing for kids is a way to make me feel like a kid again.

But as fun and freeing as writing for children can be, it is also a tremendous responsibility. Writing a good book for children has the potential to turn them on or off to reading for the rest of their lives. But this is another way in which being an author of children’s books can be so rewarding; when you hear from a child whose life was changed by reading your book, you know all the work you put into writing it was more than worth it.

Who was your favorite author as a child? Did his or her work turn you into a lifelong reader? Let me know in the comments!

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Parenting 101: Ground Rules

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I’m not someone who has been much of a believer in “ground rules” for parenting, or one right and one wrong way to raise a child. Every family is different, has different beliefs as to how their kids should be brought up, and determines what kind of values should be instilled in them. However, after this past week where one child was left in the woods in Japan as punishment, while another somehow was able to get into a gorilla’s exhibit at the Cincinnati zoo, people are starting to question if maybe there are some “taken for granted” parenting rules worth spelling out.

For one, keeping an eye on your kids in a public place. When you lose track of a young kid, they could end up anywhere—kidnapped, lost, or, you got it, in a gorilla’s exhibit. People have raised the question of keeping all toddlers on leashes or in strollers, while others think that may be heading into “extreme” territory.

I think it might just be worth mentioning that you should keep an eye on all of your kids every couple of minutes—even when another one is needing your attention. Yes, parents aren’t super humans with eyes in the back of their heads. No, that doesn’t mean they are incapable of keeping tabs on their kids, making sure they stay in one spot while your attention is needed elsewhere.

And if you see someone else’s kid getting into trouble they shouldn’t be in, let’s collectively parent that kid and say, “Stay away from there kid!”

As for the parents in Japan, all I can say is, every parent has been in a car with a kid driving them nuts. But one too many, “Are we there yet?”’s rarely has them pulling to the side of the road and dumping them out—especially not for more than a minute, and then driving away without them.

My solution? I can’t say I know what needs to be done about child protection laws, or criminalizing parents for their lack of good judgment.

But I do know that these bizarre parenting stories are great inspiration for children’s authors everywhere! (“That Time My Parents Left Me in the Woods”…anyone else see the bestseller potential?)

What are your thoughts on this week’s bizarre news stories? Let me know in the comments!

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Top Obstacles Children’s Authors Face, and How to Get Past Them

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Hi All! Before I get into this week’s blog post, I do have an announcement to make.

Coming up on December 5th, I will be holding a reading and signing at Scuppernong Books in downtown Greensboro at 11 a.m.

I am so excited for this event. Holding readings where I can listen to kids’ reactions, see their smiles, and meet people who have shown an interest in my stories is one of the most rewarding experiences a children’s author can have. However, children’s authors (and all authors, at that) face a number of obstacles every day that make these rewarding experiences all the sweeter. Here are a few typical obstacles children’s authors face, and my tips on how to make the most of those difficulties.

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The number of children’s books on the shelves. How do we get our books to stand out among not only all the new children’s books coming out every day, but also among all the old classics (Roald Dahl books, Junie B. Jones, etc.)? Parents will often want to read their children the same books they loved as children, and they’ll pick up other, newer books as other parents recommend them.

So how do you make this obstacle work for you? Promote your books among parenting websites, among the parents in your town, among mommy and daddy bloggers—anyway you can think of to reach parents with your books, this is how you will get your book to stand out. Word of mouth is the best promotion tool there is!

Finding an original story to tell. Children’s books tend to want to promote good, moral values to children. But how many books can be written about being kind, sharing, finding self-assurance, being a good friend…the list goes on and on. The types of characters that interest children tend to be limited as well, with countless stories featuring princesses, and dragons, and animals, and magicians or wizards.

So how do you overcome this challenge? My biggest piece of advice is to focus on your characters. Maybe on the outside your story could seem like just another stereotypical, archetypal story, but if you put in the time to flesh-out your characters, your story will be original. Just like no two people are exactly the same, no two characters, if written well enough to seem like real people, will be the same either.

Balancing writing and a day job. Writing children’s books will not make you a living. Yes, I know there are exceptions (JK Rowling certainly made more than enough money to live on with Harry Potter), but don’t expect to be the exception. Most children’s book authors also need a day job in order to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. And it’s hard to come home from a day job and get back to that book that may or may not stand out and may or may not be original enough of a story to tell, but they have to do it anyway if they ever hope to put a book out to struggle in this world.

Overcoming this challenge is simple—choose writing. Choose to put in the effort. Sit down every day. Give your hands to your day job, but give your soul to your writing. You might not make money, you might not be the next massive success, but you will be able to fulfill your calling to be a children’s author, and hopefully touch a few readers’ lives.

No obstacle in the world should stop you from doing what you feel called to do. And no obstacle in the world will stop me from writing Night Buddies books.

What obstacles have you encountered as an author, or in following whatever passion you have? Have you found a way of coping with those obstacles? Let me know in the comments!

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