* This competition is now closed but you are still welcome to read through the published writing and blog posts. *
Wind in the Willows
, Where the Wild Things Are
, Winnie the Pooh
The stories of our childhood are magically imprinted on our mindscapes. Favorite books are so powerful, in fact, that sometimes it feels as if a scene or rhyme or character were not only written on the page, but existed as a living part of our memory. They can take hold of our imagination and never let go; they can even become a part of us—literally
so, in the case of this young reader, remembered fondly by Maurice Sendak, the author of Where the Wild Things Are
“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it… I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, ‘Dear Jim: I loved your card.’ Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, ‘Jim loved your card so much he ate it.’ That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received.”
This month, dear writers, write your own tale for children. In a book to be enjoyed by young readers under the age of ten, spin a tale through words (and optional illustrations) that will capture your audience for decades to come—for the best stories aren’t solely for a specific age group, but are loved by all.
READ OLD FAVORITES: It’s likely been a while since you’ve immersed yourself in children’s books. Venture back into those magical worlds! As you begin developing ideas for your story, revisit as many old favorites as you can, asking yourself what captured your attention, your imagination, your emotions… and why? What do you think appealed to you so powerfully back then, and how might you borrow some of that magic in your own tale?
AND DISCOVER NEW ONES! Visit your local library and ask the librarian for his or her recommendations for recently published wonders. The work of other writers can be a great inspiration, and give you ideas for how to move a story along, the relationship between text and images, characters that speak to the experiences of children, and much more.
MOMENTS IN YOUR OWN LIFE: Another source of inspiration might be right in front of you. Are there any experiences from your own childhood that could lend themselves to this genre?
THINKING SMALL TO THINK BIG: The most powerful experiences we have as children often happen in a very small world or as part of an everyday occurrence: a mistake, an encounter, a first… Things that might seem trivial to an adult can carry the weight of the world to a child. As you start drafting, try holding a magnifying glass up to a “small” incident or experience; it might be all the material you need for your own story to unfold.
YOUR AUDIENCE: “Anyone who writes down
to children is simply wasting his time,” wrote E.B. White. “You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth.” Although you are writing for a younger age group, don’t underestimate your audience! Children are still whole people with a whole range of feelings and ideas about the world. Honor that complexity.
WHAT COMES FIRST: Whether or not you’re including illustrations with your final submission, sketching out ideas is a great way to build your storyline, or even come up with a concept. When you’re stuck, confused about the sequence, or feel at loss for how to begin, experiment with drawing or mapping out your story.
ORGANIZING YOUR STORY: Before you begin the writing/illustrating process, you might have a fully-fledged concept in mind that helps you to organize your story: a particular theme, perhaps, or a message or meaning. On the other hand, you might start with an idea for a character, and the story builds from there. Whatever your approach, make sure to step back from time to time to consider the structure. Drawing or outlining a storyboard
might help you find your way from the first page to the last.
TELL US ABOUT THE PICTURES: Because much of what a picture book says is written in images rather than words, feel free to include parenthetical information on each page. For example, you could have the following text on page five: “She bravely tested the water”, with an image showing a little girl terrified of a river, closing her eyes and dipping just the very tip of one toe into the murky current. Without the description of this illustration, the meaning of the words are quite different…
TEST RUN YOUR IDEA: Try reading your story aloud to a younger sibling, or younger students at your school. See what captures their interest, and where their attention seems to drift.
INCLUDE ILLUSTRATIONS (OPTIONAL): You have the option to include a sample illustration or two, or you may want to illustrate the entire story. (And don’t worry if you’re not artistically inclined! Describing your images with text or providing a sketch or two is enough for us to see your vision.) To share your illustrations, you may use any photo/file sharing program, just be sure to copy and paste the link(s) at the beginning of your published story on WTW. (Set the “share permission” so that anyone with the link can view the file.) Please also email us a copy of your files at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Note that photo sharing programs are not affiliated with Write the World. As always, practice the usual internet/online safety precautions. Talk to a parent or teacher if you have questions, or email us at email@example.com
TIPS ON SHARING ILLUSTRATIONS
Who is Eligible?
- DropBox and GooglePhoto are free and easy to use.
- Using DropBox: Upload your illustration(s). If you have more than one illustration file, create a folder to hold your files. Hover your cursor over the illustration file you'd like to share and click share. Click create a link, and then click copy link and add the link to your story on Write the World. For detailed instructions on using Drop box to share your illustrations, go here.
- Using GooglePhoto: If you don't already use Gmail, sign up for a Google account. Click photos in your Google menu. To share individual illustration files, place your cursor over the file and click share. (You can also select other items or an album.) Click copy link and add the link to your story on Write the World.
- If you have a trouble adding your illustration files, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Finally, please email your illustrations to WTW! Title your file(s) with your WtW username, and email us at email@example.com. Maximum file size = 25 MB per email. If your files total more than 25 MB, you can send us multiple emails.
Young writers ages 13-18
1 to 1000 words. Remember that some of the best books for children have very few words—quality not quantity is what matters.
Minh Lê is the author of Let Me Finish!
, illustrated by Isabel Roxas and the upcoming Drawn Together
with Caldecott medalist Dan Santat (both published by Disney-Hyperion). He is a federal early childhood policy analyst by day and also reviews children's books for a number of national publications, including the New York Times
, the Horn Book,
and the Huffington Post
. He received his bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College and a master’s in education from Harvard University. Outside of spending time with his beautiful wife and sons, his favorite place to be is in the middle of a good book. Visit Minh online at minhlebooks.com
or on Twitter @bottomshelfbks.
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions?
Prizes: The winning entrant will receive $100, and the runner-up and best peer-reviewer will receive $50.
Professional Recognition: The winning entry, plus the runner-up and best peer review, will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our guest judge.
Expert Review: Submit your draft and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals.