Sunday, June 28, 2009

Writing for Kids

Years ago I wrote a series of children's stories. I wrote them for storytelling and reading together with children. By today's readability tests, on each paragraph, the story parts are for about the 5th grade. The narrator parts are about grade level 10-11. They include little sections to stimulate conversation and exploration of the happenings in the stories. At the time I was doing parties for a small school class of very bright kids, so I became for a while a scarecrow who couldn't scare crows. Instead “Friend Lee Scarecrow” became a “traveling teller of tales.” Hey, the kids liked it and the teachers liked it.

These are stories with morals and hopefully educational in other ways too. When I sent them, with illustrations, to a few publishers, I got a couple of handwritten rejection notices. I have since read that receiving a handwritten rejection was pretty good.

I was also told, remember this was years ago, that they were too moralistic.

So maybe the time has come to try again. How does one go about getting published these days? Now there are so many new ways. E-publishing, web-zines, self-publishing are a few of the new ways.

Since our society is not reading “Hard Copies” or real books, I am trying to educate myself about these newer ways.

Then I wonder why I still want to try it at all. I went back over the stories and they are pretty good but I don't think I can rely on myself for a fair critic. So I include here an introduction to the series: Seasonal Tales for Telling and Sharing and chapter one of Snow in Summer. Let me know what you think. I will take suggestions too on getting them published if you have any.


Hello everybody. My name is Friend Lee Scarecrow.

I am a teller of tales.

There are good reasons I choose to tell tales instead of silently standing in the garden all day. I tried to scare the crows away, I really did. I just wasn't any good at it. When a scarecrow is not good at scaring crows, there are more problems than just the loss of part of the garden. Can you think of some?

There is a good thing about not being a good scarecrow too. I get company stopping by.

The crows actually use me as a place to perch, which is how birds rest, while they look for the best corn or other seeds to snatch and enjoy. The first time the crows came they were cautious and for some time they were quiet. Then they started. The arguing and the yammering would make your head hurt. It did mine.

These crows argued over everything. They tormented each other over things like one being bigger than another. The quarrels might be about being too old, or about being too young. They might just be bored so they would start something. By now you get the picture, don't you?

After some thought, and trying to reason with my visitors, I found that telling them tales would settle them down and I enjoyed it too. So now when not required in the garden, I, Friend Lee Scarecrow, am a traveling teller of tales.

Glad to Meet You!

Excerpt from Snow in Summer

Imagination (pictures in your mind of what is not actually around you) is a very useful tool. I am not a hot weather person so I look out the window on a hot, bright, summer day and imagine winter. Maybe this is a strange way for a scarecrow to feel about the growing season but there it is.

Before I imagine winter everything is beautiful and green, but too hot for me. Don't you think it would be a great imagining to combine the seasons of summer and winter. Since I'm only picturing hearing, smelling, and touching in my mind; it won't upset the summer-lovers or nature.

What if (powerful words, "what if") someone imagined so hard that the two seasons actually did get together? Here is a tale about some things I thought might happen.

One hot July day Ricky sat looking out his window. The hayfield, even after the first cutting of a few weeks ago, was tall and green. The woods on the other side of the house were green. The trees there were mostly mixed deciduous and evergreen. Because of the mixture of trees and other summer plants, Ricky saw yellow-greens, blue greens and lots of in-between greens.

In the flower garden, Ricky could see yellows, oranges, and some whites. Even though the flowers were a welcome break from all the greens, they made him itchy and hot. (No, Ricky wasn't allergic.) He remembered the chiggers and the scratchy stems from the times he helped cut flowers for the table in the front hall. That was almost as itchy as pickin' green beans and corn. (His mom always let him help her "put-by", freeze and can, for winter.)

Ricky thought how strange his feelings were about the heat of the sun. In the winter, he loved the warmth of the sun as he used his sled on the snowy hillside. Yet in the summer, he wished for a little less warmth from that white-hot circle in the sky.

Ricky smiled and thought a lacy snow just on the cedar at the edge of the yard. The mother cardinal dropped her seed in mid-air and flew straight back to her nest. She tried to cover her too-large fledglings. All the while she was calling angrily. Ricky thought she looked pretty silly. Her babies were almost as big as she. Heads and beaks, feathers, legs and tails, stuck out from under her.

The boy now turned his attention to the hayfield. Suppose the itchy biting insects in the hayfield had to leave. He dropped a light blanket of snow over them. Ricky hadn't realized how many critters lived in that hayfield. The grasshoppers came hopping out. The caterpillars inched out. The beetles came flying out. There were young rabbits, mice, quail, and doves hopping, crawling,and flying out too. The large farm black snake slithered out, not paying a bit of attention to what would normally be his dinner.

When Ricky was called to dinner he lost his snowy pictures, but the next hot afternoon he made it snow in spots. Ricky had fun snowing small circles here and there. Ricky did not know it but a little bug was sitting in the corner of his room. The little bug watched with interest as Ricky made his snow spots. After a while Ricky got a little bored and went to find something else to do. As soon he turned from the window, the spots quickly melted. The little bug crawled out a small hole in the window screen.

(end of chapter one)


  1. Ha! “A scarecrow who couldn't scare crows so he became a “traveling teller of tales” I love that!!! You had me right out of the box. And, YES, handwritten rejections really are high praise. So we know your stories were well received by the editors. From what I have heard from some of my friends who write children's poems and stories, that market is one of the toughest to break into. I would guess that real books are still better for children than the internet options. I know my grandchildren all like books. That said, I don't have a clue where you could begin to find a publisher. The average book submission is usually rejected 5 to 10 times or more before someone accepts. You have great material here. Just keep submitting until you get a bite. After the first one is accepted, you should have it licked.

  2. Thanks Pat.
    I had considered a summer column in a local paper too.
    But someone I know, talked me out of it.
    I have been doing my own booklets right here at the computer.
    Hadn't tried selling yet but one did go for $10 at a charity auction.
    That is about right for cost.

  3. Not bad for a girl, but, as a Couch, you ought to be writing the sequel to "War and Peace". You might call it "The Bush Years". No peace. Only War.

  4. Now which anonymous male member of the great reading public could this be?
    thanks for commenting, Anonymous.