They say the darndest things: 7 things I’ve learned about children’s authors

Hi, everyone!

I hope this post finds you well and that you’re busy on a project or two!

Freelancing has afforded me opportunities I may not have found otherwise. One of my longest-standing clients, 7 Magic Islands, allowed me to reach out to children’s authors through the Wizards of Words section on the site’s blog.

Wizards of Words is a series of interviews discussing the work and process of children’s authors from all walks of life. It’s been a wonderful experience so far, and I thought I’d share with you some of the highlights of what I’ve learned from these fine wordsmiths.

1. Childish adults inspire great characters.

Kimberly Morris: For me, it’s grownups that inspire the best kid characters. It’s amazing how childish many adults are. If children had any idea at all how clueless most grownups are, they would NEVER listen to us. And they’d be justifiably terrified by what we might do next. (So let’s not tell them.) Most of the time, I just “miniaturize” a childish adult and voila! – I have a great kid character that’s funny and interesting. They have the emotions and aspirations of a child, and the planning and execution abilities of an adult. This can make them wonderfully lovable, fiendish, and fallible.

2. The authors keep up with their cartoons.

Sheila Sweeny Higginson: It’s so much fun writing as Adventure Time characters; I get to be wild and magical which is all I ever really wanted to be. The language of those characters, especially Finn and Jake, is just so…algebraic! I’m also a fan of Mordecai and Rigby from Regular Show (my ringtone is from Regular Show) and was able to incorporate the characters into a couple of graphic novels I did for Cartoon Network. And keeping with the CN theme, I had a lot of fun flipping the Ben10 scripts and writing the stories from Gwen’s point of view. If I could go back and relive my teen years (with magical powers) I’d want to be Gwen from Ben10 Alien Force.

3. Some got an early (and eccentric) start in the entertainment business. 

Bill Scollon:  By the time I came along, [my mother] was already an accomplished puppeteer, and she got me involved right away. As soon as I could sit up, she painted me green and sat me on a puppet stage. I played a giant as Lilliputian marionettes danced around me! No word on how many villagers I tried to eat.

4. In the author’s eyes, a book might never “perfect,” but “perfect enough.”

Lara Bergen: I prefer writing fiction, but mostly because I’ve written so much more of it. I do love researching and figuring out engaging ways to present nonfictional information, but I feel a lot of pressure to make sure it’s 100% accurate, and sometimes it’s hard to decide when enough research has been done. Once that’s the decided, though, my writing process is about the same. I like to start with a fairly detailed outline, even when I’m writing fiction. And honestly, even in writing fiction, it’s hard to decide when to stop revising and rewriting and say “This story is done!”

5. The authors don’t talk down to their audience.

Sheila Sweeny Higginson: [On her “You’re Getting A Baby Brother/Sister” books] It’s funny, the reviews on Amazon for those books are generally very positive, but there are a couple of very negative ones, too. I understand it, because parents want their kids to embrace the experience. I wanted the books to be an honest conversation with kids, not a “you’re going to be so happy and love your new sibling!” Kids may be small, but they’re not fooled easily. There’s a lot an older sibling has to give up when a new sibling is born.

6. Everyone has what it takes to write, and it can be fun!

Kimberly Morris: Everybody – kids and grownups – knows a whole lot more about story and structure than they realize. This means they already have what it takes to become good writers and readers. They need to relax, have fun, and quit thinking that it’s rocket science or some mystical process or a cage match with grim death. My workshops demystify the process and help people tap into what they already know. Reading and writing are supposed to be fun – at least when you start. So I make it fun, and in the process, I manage to teach people a heck of a lot in 45 minutes.

7. We can all help kids dive into the wonderful world of reading!

Bill Scollon: The best way [to encourage kids to read]  is creating opportunities for them to discover the special magic of books for themselves, such as library events, author visits and most of all, positive role models. When kids see other kids and adults enjoying and talking about books, their natural curiosity leads them to check it out.

Sheila Sweeny Higginson: I worry that in this day of standardized testing, we’ve been moving kids away from reading for the love it and more toward reading for the need of it. There’s something magical that happens when a reader finds THAT book, the book that makes a reader totally want to get lost in it. I am sure that the key to encouraging kids to read is getting THAT book into their hands.

Lara Bergen: Parents, read to your children! Even if it’s just one book, over and over! And children, read to your pets, your toys, your parents, and yourself, of course! I’m glad that schools encourage kids to read at home as homework, but I do hate for kids to think of reading as “work.” No one should stop looking at the library or bookstore until they find a book that’s fun! The #1 key to reading these days for my family (including me): Turn off the computer and TV!

7 magic islands

You can check out the full interviews of these authors and so much more at 

See you next week!

– Adam

 Special thanks to Anna Valbro and Lena Hinnelund for their support. Images and content used with permission from 7 Magic Islands.



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