Monday, June 10, 2013

Writing and Publishing Children's Stories: A Class for Adults

         I was expecting four adults to attend my class on Writing and Publishing Children’s Stories. When I arrived at the Curious Cup Bookstore, I found that thirteen people had signed up. Fortunately, I had enough handouts for that many participants. 
The class was to run only an hour. Those that came were in various stages of their creative journey. One woman had already self-published a book; while another woman came because writing stories for young children sounded like something she might like to do. Most of the participants had started a story or had an idea of the kind of book they wanted to write.
         We sat around a big table and introduced ourselves. I had asked them to say something about where they were in this process and what they wanted to learn from the class. That way, I could tell how to structure my presentation.
         I started the class with the definitions of children’s books, focusing on each genre and how they differed from one another. Then I moved to a more detailed discussion of picture books. This was the type of book the majority of those present wanted to write. Then, I turned to how to write a story and some considerations that must be taken into account, including types of illustrations and size of the book. The final part was reserved for publishing, both self-publishing options, as well was traditional publishing.
         In looking back, I learned valuable lessons about giving this class. Some of the things I did were effective. In other instances, I learned where I could make improvements in both my presentation and timing.
1.    Definitely have handouts that summarize the presentation and bring more copies than anticipated. I basically followed the information in these handouts in my presentation.
2.    Circulate an email signup list. I told them that this was in case I found something else on the internet that might be of interest. Next time, I’ll include a column where they can specify what information particularly interests them.
3.    Hand out business cards and brochures and encourage class members to contact me if they have further questions or need something clarified.
4.    Sit around a table, if possible. Participants feel more comfortable and can  
     interact with one another in a more relaxed atmosphere.  Thus the class 
becomes more of a discussion, than a lecture. I encouraged questions and participation.
5.    I started on time. Nobody wants to wait for those people who are late. After all, people value their time and so should I.
6.    Have samples and examples of what I would be discussing, preferably from my own books.
7.    I tried to pack in too much information. I should have allowed two hours rather than one. Although I stayed late until I had answered all their questions, some people had to leave, and I found I rushed through the last part of the presentation.
8.    Send out emails afterwards, asking for comments and suggestions.
9.    Thirteen people seemed to be enough given the size of the room. I would not have wanted more than 15 participants.
Maybe you have other suggestions that I should try next time. I could consider a power point presentation for a large audience. I’ve never done one, so I would need to learn how to set one up and practice.  However, I liked the informality of the class as I had structured it, and I think those who attended did too.

Beryl Reichenberg, Children's Book Author and Illustrator, has five books published by Oak Tree Press. Two new books, Butterfly Girls and When Caterpillar Dream, have just been published. She also has five Wildlife books available through Amazon.


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Sounds like a successful presentation. I always us hand-outs which I follow somewhat, but usually add things along the way.

Beryl Reichenberg said...

Thanks Marilyn, I found that the session turned into a discussion rather than a formal lecture, which worked out well. There were lots of good questions and everyone seemed to be engaged. Beryl

WS Gager said...

Great post Beryl on how to do a great presentation. A "structured fluidity" always worked best.

Beryl Reichenberg said...

I like that phase - "A structured fluidity" that's what a good presentation is all about. I also try to engage the audience as much as possible to keep them from zoning out. The presentation took me back to my teaching days many years ago.Beryl