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How to encourage your child to write and illustrate books.

My Nine-Year Old Daughter, the Author

That’s right. Talk about living with the competition!

Guardian Angel Publishing, a company specializing in children’s picture ebooks and paperbacks, has started an imprint of books written and illustrated by children under twelve years of age. These books will be given the same amount of attention as those written by their adult counterparts, distributed to schools and libraries by Follett, Inc. (the largest distributor of children’s ebooks to schools and libraries), and sold through all the major online retailers as well as on order at any brick and mortar bookstore. The low expense of electronic and print-on-demand publishing has made this innovation possible.

Of course my daughter is thrilled… how can she not be? Already all her classmates have asked for her autograph and her school librarian bought a copy of her book. There’s no question a thing like this can do wonders for a child’s confidence and self esteem, not to mention the way it also encourages and nurtures a child’s artistic talents. She’s already planning a sequel and I can’t blame her. Take a look at her book

How did I find out about this publisher? How did my daughter come to write and illustrate a book?

Actually, I didn’t even know there were publishers who were doing this, and I stumbled upon this company while searching a publisher for myself. As to how did my daughter write and illustrate the book, it happened last summer… yes, on those long, hot, and often boring summer days when you have nothing to do and wish school would start soon. We turned the kitchen into an atelier — papers, paints, brushes, pencils, crayons everywhere. I wanted to teach her the whole process of how a picture book is made. She worked and I supervised. Sometimes I helped, too. When she faltered, I kept encouraging her. After five days (we worked about 3-4 hours a day) we had what is called a dummy!

When, a few months later, I stumbled upon Guardian Angel Publishing, I knew I had to give it a try. Lynda Burch, the publisher, answered the same day. She said she loved the book and would like to encourage my daughter’s talent. The rest is history. My daughter is the first author under this imprint, “Angel to Angel,” but there are books by other young authors in line as well.

Is this to remain an oddity or will it become a trend? I have devoted and plan to still devote time to promoting her book, but would a mom who is not an author know how to do this? What about book reviewing? So far I have not been too successful gathering reviews because most reviewers, while they congratulate my daughter on her achievement, aren’t sure how to critique a child’s work. As a reviewer, I fully understand, so I’m concentrating on gathering endorsements instead.

Guardian Angel Publishing is offering contests sponsored in elementary schools and will select winners for publication. If your child has written and illustrated a book and you would be interested in seeing it published, you may find more information and submission guidelines here. This publisher does the layout, cover design, and publishes the book in various electronic formats at its own expense. In this sense, it is a traditional electronic publisher in every sense of the word. For the paperback version, however, which is optional, there is a fee of $99 for the printer.

There are a few other publishers and ezines that are venturing into this new type of publishing and offering young authors the opportunity to express their talents and see their work in print. Some of these publishers are Kids Love to Write Children’s Publishing, and Booklocker, though this last focuses on novellas/novels and doesn’t do full-color picture books. There are fees involved so parents are advised to check the publishers’ websites carefully.

Another company that works with children is First Edition Originals. However, this company specializes in custom-made books and unlike the other companies mentioned, the books aren’t put for sale or distributed but rather sold to the authors to be given to friends and family members. The books by First Edition Originals can be quite expensive but are beautifully layout and bound, and can compete in quality to any hardcover book sold at major brick and mortar bookstores. I can attest to their quality and professionalism because my daughter has published two titles with them.

The low cost of electronic publishing has also made it possible for magazines to publish young authors’ works. Stories for Children, Launch Pad, Silly Books, Apollo’s Junior Muses, Wee Ones Magazine, and Kids Bookshelf are some of the ezines/websites that consider poetry, short fiction, and artwork by children.

For those kids who love reading and would like to review books, there are review sites specifically for young reviewers: Building Rainbows and Reader Views Kids. Kids Bookshelf (mentioned earlier) also publishes book reviews written by children.

There’s a book available to help children draw and write their own books. The title is Helping Kids Draw and Write Picture Books, written by Emily Hearn and Mark Thurman. There’s even computer software that helps kids ages 8 and up write and publish their work. The program is called Knowledge Adventure Books by You! You may find more about this software here.

In the end, I think this is something schools should definitely get involved with in order to encourage students to read and write more. There must be thousands of talented little authors out there who aren’t even aware of their talents and whose creativity needs unleashing and nurturing. Even if you don’t submit to a publisher (though I have to tell you, there’s nothing quite like holding your child’s published book in your hands!) writing and illustrating a book is a fun and educational activity for your child during those long summer holidays.

About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.

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