I'm not new to talking, sharing ideas, or stating my opinion, especially stating my opinion! After all, I taught elementary school for 30 years! However, my audience has typically been smaller,just family, the classroom, or just talking to myself!

My blog has two goals: be an outlet for sharing thoughts on writing children's books and the path to publication (got my fingers crossed that I'll get there) and a place to chronicle my journey of losing my sight. Sometimes I imagine these two paths will overlap .

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

                                  Chautauqua  part 4.

     Julie Agnone, VP for National Geographic Kids, shared with us the results of market research surveys and discussion with their kid "advisory board"; what interests today's kids.

Kids say the top four "Most Important" things are: 
  • Being a better person
  • Being smart
  • Good at making friends
  • Learning about the outside world
The same kids felt it was less important to be popular or cool, have money, be perceived as smart, or play sports. 
Now that's an interesting revelation!

        Today's kids are serious, studious, curious, caring, and techno-savvy.

When kids were asked what they liked to do, their favorites were:                                                                          

  • Reading books (#1 choice!)
  • Watching TV
  • Going online
  • Visiting libraries
  • Traveling
  • Visiting zoos and museums
The #1 thing kids want to learn about: animals and pets.

          Julie had some suggestions on how we, as writers, can reach kids.
  1. Talk to them!
  2. Listen to and observe their play and conversations (but don't be creepy or stalker-like!)
  3. Participate with them
  4. Follow trends
What trends??  Glad you asked! 
A lot of it has to do with travel.
  • Kids like to go on cruises. The latest Disney cruise has a water slide around the ship!
  • Entertainment-destination trips. The movie "Madagascar" led to interest in exploring that part of the world, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Orlando makes the books come to life.
  • Theme Parks. Wherever the newest, fastest, craziest rides are, kids want to be!
  • Unique hotel settings/experiences, like The Ice Hotel, a treehouse hotel, or hotels that allow and cater to pets.
  • Eco-tourism or earth-friendly places.
  • Road trips to unusual places or unusual sights.
  • Exploring local culture, like Day of the Dead celebration  or Chinese New Year.

        Okey-dokey. Now we know where to start with our writing topic choices. But we all know even with fabulous topics and excellent writing, a rejection is still a possibility for all of us.

         Eileen Spinelli, taught a great session on coping with rejection. She shared that her first time dealing with rejection was when she asked Jerry (Spinelli) to marry her after only a few months of dating. When he hesitated and mentioned their brief courtship, Eileen said: "So is that a no?"

        Eileen started with that example to show that everyone who writes gets rejections. She believes you need to be gentle with yourself after a rejection and don't "cocoon yourself" away. It's alright to feel badly (for a short time) but don't allow those feeling to attack your spirit. You must always keep your spirit strong.

         Eileen suggested to not get hung up on one piece of work; try working on several manuscripts. Also, send out several pieces at a time so you're not wasting time waiting for a response.

         Eileen emphasized thinking outside the box. Just because a publisher says they won't accept unsolicited manuscripts doesn't mean you can't send one! She mentioned going to conferences, workshops, lectures- anywhere that agents or publishers speak. Often a condition of their appearance is that they will accept unsolicited manuscripts for a period of time. But be sure to write the name of the workshop or conference and "solicited material" on the envelope.

         DON'T let editors or publishers crush you! Remember, they are just people who get busy. have families, forget things so send them a reminder. Be tactful, not pushy. 

        Two editors/publishers who were also in the session (as participants, not speakers) suggested if you haven't heard anything from an agent or editor after 6 months, send a note stating that they are welcome to continue considering the piece but you now plan to submit it elsewhere, and thank them for their time and consideration. Both of these editors/publishers said they get rid of the "no chance" manuscripts immediately but the ones they want to review and think about, frequently go in a pile on the desk. Sometimes (usually) they get covered with other manuscripts and other to-do items. They really appreciate getting that reminder note because it lets them find your manuscript in the pile, pull it out, and reread it. Bottom line: be brave and follow up. Disclaimer: be sure to check the online submission guidelines first. Some agencies and publishing houses state that if you haven't heard from them in 6 months, assume the answer is no thanks.

           Tomorrow one last look at Chautauqua and *drumroll* a book giveaway!!! Some are even autographed! Catch you tomorrow.


  1. What good advise for writers. Thanks for sharing. You are amazing Gayle. Wish I had met you many years ago. Did you say you're going to the Midsouth conference. Sheila, Jana and I are attending.

  2. Oh, no! One last look at Chautauqua. Say it isn't so!

  3. Eileen's session was a great way to end the week of classes. You did a super job summing up her advice! Yesterday in my suitcase I found the bouncy ball she gave us, to remind us to "bounce back" after rejection. --Deb Williams