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August 4, 2017

Crafting engaging books for kids

Lindsey Wenzel, a children’s book author and reading partner at Garden Place Elementary in Denver, CO, didn’t always write books for kids. She started out as a writer of fanfiction in her teenage years then became a crime novelist in her twenties. Eventually she asked herself, “Why am I doing this?,” and she came to realize that this genre was not her passion. “Writing crime novels just didn’t leave me feeling happy,” she said.

Later, when Lindsey re-read childhood stories such as Which Witch and the Famous Five series, she fell in love with reading again. She realized that she wanted to make the world a better place by writing children’s books. The series that she went on to write is called Children of the Wild Cats.

For Lindsey, exciting scenes, humor, and themes of friendship and adventure are all musts for writing books for kids. She believes they should be page-turners so that kids have a reason to read on. One of her goals as a children’s book writer is to encourage kids to look at the world in a slightly different way. She loves when parents and children read together, making them laugh just as much as the kids. When they close one of her books, Lindsey’s desire is for them all to leave with a happy feeling.

“I want kids to become addicted to reading and be inspired to read more!” Lindsey says with enthusiasm.

Age range is essential to consider when creating a story. She says that both length and industry make a huge difference in writing  a children’s book. According to The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market magazine, children’s pictures books are written for readers in preschool through eighth grade. Publishers’ breakdowns of length vary from 750 words to 300, but this gives writers a guideline. In order to engage the target audience, the character(s) should be around the same age. When figuring out her target audience, Lindsey reflects upon her own life, asking herself, “[At what age] do I have the strongest memories?” For her, the answer is around the age of eight.

When putting down her ideas for her next story, she thinks, “The majority of books are ok; I can do better!” This mindset encourages her to write from the heart.

Her  favorite part about writing in this genre  is coming up with the ideas and mood of her books, whether they are crazy, funny, silly, or all three. She gets some of her inspiration from her hobby of doing improv theater. When she finishes a story, she says, “It feels so good!” This is what she loves—seeing her books be “born into the world.”

Lindsey loved books as a child, which gave her a head start in school, helping her all the way through college.

The habit of reading for pleasure has expanded my mind, taught me empathy, stretched my imagination, and given me a rich inner world that I think has made me a better person.”

She feels that reading is great for learning, therapy, and relaxation, as well as entertainment. As a reading partner, she wants to share the love of reading and all the benefits that go with it.

Her advice to budding young creatives wanting to write a book is, “Finish it!” No matter where you are in the creation of the story, keep going! Most importantly, write from the heart and find the idea that grips your soul.

Americorps

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