Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day 4 of Mayra Calvani's NWFCC Virtual Book Tour

Writing Tips from Children’s Writer Mayra Calvani

Writing original, engaging, fun children’s picture books kids will love takes A LOT more work than people think. Just being a mom or a grandma doesn’t qualify someone to write a children’s story. This is especially true for picture books. Writing great picture books takes special skill. Sure, a few lucky people possess a natural talent for it, but for most of us, it is a craft that must be learned.

Here are a few tips for aspiring authors:

It’s absolutely essential to learn the craft! If you’ve never written a picture book before, you need to learn its structure, elements, as well as the various types that exist. Study books on the technique of picture book writing. I especially recommend: Picture Writing, by Anastasia Suen and Writing Picture Books, by Ann Whitford Paul. Yet, don’t settle on just reading these books. Take online courses or workshops. As many as you can afford. Learning the craft of writing is a never ending process.

Join a good critique group. This is vital. It’s difficult for writers to be objective about their own work. They need those extra pairs of eyes to spot the weak parts in their manuscripts. Eventually, the greatest investment you’ll ever make in your writing career is to hire a professional children’s editor to go over your manuscript. Not just any editor, but one that has extensive experience with picture books. The editor I hired for one of my picture books, one that eventually landed me a contract with an agent, was a former editor at a major NY children’s publishing house.

Support, support, support! I’m a firm believer that most writers need moral support and encouragement to help keep them inspired and motivated. Join a local writers group or a club such as the Children’s Writing Coaching Club. You can also start your own group, either locally where you live or online.

Subscribe to a few newsletters and publications, such as Children’s Insider and Children’s Writer Not only will you read great articles on the craft but you’ll also keep up to date with new agents and publishers and what they’re looking for.

If you’re serious about starting a children’s writing career, you should consider joining the Society of Children’s Book Author’s and illustrators (SCBWI). You could join their local chapter. Plus, it looks great on your query letter!

Prepare a writing schedule. I know some beginning writers who have been working on only one story for years. You won’t grow as a writer that way. You learn by doing it. So you have to write. Write. Write. That’s the only way to improve and hone your craft. The more you write, the better you get and the easier writing becomes. It’s just like learning an instrument. Can a violinist improve her skill by practicing a few times a year? Then why should it be any different for a writer? It doesn’t matter if you can only write for 20 minutes 3 times a week. The important thing is to make your plan and to stick with it.

Finally, even if you’ve written a masterpiece, it will never see publication if you leave it in the drawer. You have to SUBMIT. Non stop. Obsessively. Submitting only once or twice a month is a drop in the bucket.

I hope you’ve found my tips helpful. Good luck!

Be sure to leave Mayra a comment and/or question for she will be checking in throughout the day.

Follow Mayra on her next stop when she visits with Suzanne Lieurance on Oct 10 at

Thank you for your time and interest.


  1. Very good advice, especially about the submissions... Carole.

  2. Hi Donna,

    Thanks for hosting Mayra. Wow! her tips are so incredible.


  3. Hi Mayra,

    I so appreciate you giving so many outstanding tips. I can tell you really know your craft well. I am so very happy to know you. I am going to order Picture Writing by Anastasia Suen. Thanks for the great tip.


  4. Dear Donna,
    Thanks for hosting me!
    Ladies, thanks so much for your nice comments! i'm so glad you found my tips helpful.

  5. Great post. Just want to add, never give up on your dream!

  6. Excellent tips, Mayra! I'm a believer in the value of membership in SCBWI. Their local and national conferences are wonderful.

    Free Resources for Writers

  7. Happy to see so many new faces and some familiar ones visiting with Mayra. Her advice is right on and worthy of printing out for future reference.

    Mayra, it's been delightful hosting you today.

    Best wishes,

  8. You're so right, Mayra. Picture books are the hardest books I've ever tried to write.

    Super tips too.

  9. Thanks for hosting me, Donna.
    The familier faces are from the Mom Bloggers Club at ning. I've been networking and it's starting to pay off.

  10. I'm trying to encourage my daughter to write more . Thanks for the tips.

  11. Thank you one and all for visiting with Mayra. Your interest and time are appreciated!


Thank for you taking the time out to visit with me and to learn about my historical fiction children's book, The Golden Pathway.

Please be sure to leave your blog address so I can reciprocate.

I look forward to visiting you too.