Monthly Archives: April 2013

Young Readers

When I learned my 10-year-old neighbor was reading The Hunger Games, my jaw dropped.  Really?  Already?  The words aren’t hard. It’s the topic.  Children killing other children in a complex moral/ political tale that’s meant for teenagers. But now I realize I … Continue reading

Posted in Agents and publishing, Books for Kids | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

13 Responses to Young Readers

  1. Rachel says:

    I ran into this situation recently when my seven-year-old daughter found Diary of a Wimpy Kid at the library. It’s illustrated with cartoons and looks like an age-appropriate book except that the story is about a middle school boy who is beginning to be interested in girls, struggles with bullies, and has a troubling relationship with his father. These are ideas I don’t mind her being exposed to, when the time is right.

    I’ve always thought that I wouldn’t stop a reader from choosing her own books. Censorship isn’t something I believe in, while I do believe that prohibited items create their own attraction.

    So I let her read it. She was fortunately bored and we had to return it to the library before she finished…

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Glad she was “fortunately bored!” Strikes me there would be a huge market for comic-book style books like this for younger kids. Yes, younger kids are reading them, but the topics are very middle school.

  2. Alyxandria says:

    My Mom went by the method of “if you’re old enough to ask, you’re old enough to know”. I guess she applied the same logic to literature – if I’m old enough to be interested, I’m old enough. She gave me boxes upon boxes of books that she read in her younger years and didn’t give me any guidance. I remember reading lots of Judy Blume books when I was 9-11 years old (this was 1999-2001). One book I read, “Forever”, was very adult in it’s portrayal of sex in teenage years. While parts of it were funny, it also represented the realities of our first sexual encounters: confusion, how young love doesn’t last, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, seeing the gynocologist, etc. Reading this book didn’t make me sexually promiscuous or confuse me. What it did do was give me information to think about and turn over, and it ended with me and my Mom having a frank discussion about sex and birth control when I was 12. It was a perfectly organic discussion on something that many parents struggled with, and I really appreciate that my Mom never censored my reading so that we could continue having these conversations. Also, there were many books that didn’t appeal to me in any sense until I was older – I’d get like 2 or 3 chapters in and move on. So I think the situations will work itself out, but it’s important to read what your kids are reading (or have read it) and be prepared to discuss the book and answer questions. Communication is key.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Alyxandria, sounds as if you had an excellent experience “self-censoring.” If a book didn’t appeal, you stopped reading after a few chapters. I go by your mom’s adage “if you’re old enough to ask, you’re old enough to know” and so glad your mom gave you honest answers.

      If kids are really interested, they will ask, read and find out and get something out of it. But I fear many young kids are reading simply because of the peer pressure factor rather than true interest.

      Knowing what kids are reading and being ready for open communication – bravo! Thanks for sharing your comment.

  3. I’ve always been an avid reader and often read books ‘too old’ for me when I was young, mainly because I wanted to challenge my reading skills. But mostly I devoured whatever was popular with most of the kids I knew. I don’t think I read much that was ‘too young’ for me because I’m usually a read-it-once-and-done reader. What’s funny is that even at age 57, I feel some books are still “too old” for me because of the complexity of the topic or ideas of a certain writer. Books on economic theory or philosophy, for example.

    I agree with Rachel about not wanting to censor certain books from young children, but also understanding that there are many books no child should read, or be allowed to read, based on graphic sex or violence or other adult subject matter.

    Unfortunately, video games that are rated for adults or at least teens are routinely played by under-age-12 kids, so it’s not as if they risk getting their minds corrupted by an “adult” book since pictures and scenes of graphic violence are all too common in video games, movies, and even some TV shows. Their young minds have most likely “already been corrupted.” And I don’t intend that to sound like “the sky is falling,” just that children are exposed to adult life much sooner these days than they ever were in the past, and with social media and instantaneous communication from the entire world now commonplace, parents fight an uphill battle to protect their kids from whatever they perceive as harmful.

    A proactive parent is the best defense. Get in the habit of visiting the local library, guide the child to books the parent thinks are appropriate and will interest their child, and encourage them to read as of much the terrific age-appropirate literature they can. Maybe shrug off a request to read an “adult” book with a comment such as “Okay, but I think you’ll find _(book)_ kind of boring because all the characters are old people doing ‘old people stuff.’

    A tough question, Heather, thanks for bringing it up.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      You’re welcome! To every book its own season… I laughed that you still have books that are still “old” for you. Me too!

      Thanks for sharing all your insights – sometimes books seem more real than graphic videos because a book brings you inside the head and thoughts and feelings of characters.

  4. deidra says:

    Great question! My six year old loves the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Although, I don’t think he fully understands all the stories, I truly believe the cartoon style format helped him with his reading. I do the bulk of the reading and he likes reading the talk bubbles. I do grapple with this concept There are so many wonderful picture books and the window is truly quite short for them to enjoy these. I really let him choose what ever he wants, but I also try to pick out some other picture books of things I think he might like. Harry Potter can definitely wait. I know he would be bored with it and I am certain he would find it scary.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      You said it – the window is truly quite short – and there are so many excellent books for the early ages.

      I know many kids have been spurred to read by the Wimpy Kid books, though I do think they need to write a new series for younger kids with younger kid dilemmas. It’s the elementary kids who are reading them. Maybe that’s why I prefer kids reading Calvin and Hobbes. At least the protagonist is a 6-year-old!

      • deidra says:

        I tried Calvin and Hobbs and he was not that into it. I did find a great picture book author much more appropriate for a six year old. Chris Gall. Awesome Dawson is great! Comic book style picture book about a young boy who likes to upcycle anything and everything.

  5. ” The book is a fantastic read — FOR THE RIGHT AUDIENCE.”

    I’m still trying to pull my eyebrows down from my hairline after reading the age bracket who are reading this book!

  6. Nicole says:

    I’m one of those adults who won’t read The Hunger Games. I just don’t want that concept in my head.

    I’m leary of official censorship, though, so if a child is really interested in something, I’ll talk to them about it and work with them – but I do think it’s fine to suggest and surround your child with age-appropriate materials, and hope they find something they like in the mountain of stuff you approve of.

    Another suggestion I’ve always gone by is “non-fiction at their reading level, fiction at their emotional level.” – If kids need a challenge, help them find harder books on science, cars, animals, whatever real things they’re interested in, and point them to age-matched fiction for more relaxing reading. Not every book has to stretch their skills. It’s OK if the “just for fun” ones are easy.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Nicole – thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love your guiding idea “non-fiction at their reading level, fiction at their emotional level.” Fantastic!

      I see so many parents – and, yes, teachers – who are focused more technical reading level rather than the ideas inside. What do we read for after all, if not for ideas?

Indie Publishing Done Right

The number of books published each year is boggling. Last year 200,000 new books were released. And that’s only counting traditional publishers. 400,000 self-published books were launched, too. We talk about self-published and traditionally published, but I think there’s a … Continue reading

Posted in Agents and publishing, Starlighting Honor Roll | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

17 Responses to Indie Publishing Done Right

  1. Rachel says:

    Thanks for this candid and helpful list of tips. Good luck with book sales, Cari!

  2. Laurie says:

    Heather – This is a wonderful list that deserves a wide audience. I’m going to Tweet, Google+,!, Digg, and Reddit it!

    Bravo Cari – my hat is off to YOU!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Wonderful, Laurie. My publishing team VASTLY improved my book. I’ve been giving that a lot of thought since self-published authors need a team, too. Glad you liked the list!

  3. Cari Noga says:

    Thanks, Heather, Rachel and Laurie. Nice to have more allies in my corner. As far as other quality self-published books, right here in our community we have Chickadees at Night, an illustrated children’s book by Bill Smith and Charles Murphy. It has had incredible success – one local indie bookstore posted it has sold more than 1,100 copies in the year since it came out! It’s on my nightstand as inspiration.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Yes, quality, quality. No matter how we publish the focus has to be on quality.

  4. Great tips, and good luck to Cari! I strongly agree that editing and having a writing group is imperative. I’ve been looking into self-publishing a lot lately (so far I’ve been told by agents that my idea is great but need a bigger blog following and to contact them again in a year’s time = if I’m doing all the marketing anyway then why give the bulk of my profits away?!), so I joined a writer’s group, am looking for a cover designer, and am cultivating people to do test readings. I anticipate a long revision process, but I think it’ll be worth it.

    A book that I’ve actually found really helpful is APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, it’s really good for breaking down the process of self-pub’ing done right, as well as marketing your book, before and after it’s published.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Danielle, thanks for sharing that great book tip. I’m sure many people will find it helpful. I think you’ll find that whichever publishing route you go having a good blog following will be enormously helpful. Best of luck on your book endeavor!

  5. That’s a darn good checklist for self-pubbing, Heather. The only thing I’d add is for the author to look deep inside herself and ask: Is this book the absolute best I can make it? If the honest answer is yes, send it out to the world. If not, keep revising and editing.

    Most of us know the true answer to that question (the gut feeling we get when we’re alone with our thoughts), but some of us lie to ourselves because the dream of being “a published author” overwhelms our ability to objectively evaluate our book.

    Congratulations to Cari for doing it right and helping to legitimize self-publishing. I’ll pass this blog post along to my social media connections as well.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      I hear you. We often know the answer and need to listen to that voice. Sometimes all writers get stuck and can’t make it better on our own. That’s when it’s time to seek outside input. Outside critiquers, readers and experts can often inject a new level of excellence and then the revision soars.

  6. Cari Noga says:

    Danielle, I am adding Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur to my reading list. Chris, I agree that honest soul-searching is important, with one caveat: Don’t let your fear of the risk color your assessment. It’s scary to put your work out there, and even more so in the absence of a traditional publisher’s imprimatur. That fear, I think, can sometimes keep us stuck when we should be moving forward. With something as big as a novel — or a nonfiction book — striving to make it the “absolute best” is nearly impossible. Almost everything could be improved with more time spent. Revise, rework, listen to beta readers, (repeat) for sure. But don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good, or, as Heather puts it, the “done right.” Because ultimately, you aren’t the judge — the readers are.

  7. Kate says:

    Heather, I am currently reading your book and enjoying it thoroughly !!!

    I wish there was a way to connect with other like minded parents in my area (SE MI) so that I could afford my child the opportunities you describe in your book outside of a formal setting.

    I relish the idea of being considered a “renegade” parent !!

    Thanks so much for the great tips!!


    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thanks, Kate! So glad it resonates with you. Yes, rather fun to be a “renegade.”

      Not sure where you live in SE Michigan, but I am coming to Ann Arbor to speak in May. Send your friends and maybe we can meet. The event is Tuesday, May 21 at the Ann Arbor library, Pittsfield branch. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find like-minded parents there. They’re out there.

      Thanks for stopping by – and happy reading.

      • Kate says:

        I would enjoy hearing you speak, but unless it’s a child friendly event I have a very hard time finding sitters in my area 🙁

        • Heather Shumaker says:

          Kids have come to some of my talks before – you’re welcome to if you think it will work out with bedtimes and all. I have no problem with young folks in the audience!

  8. deidra says:

    The cover of the book is absolutely gorgeous. Great tips for folks who write!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Isn’t it great? Beautiful cover — and designed by a woman with autism, too – very fitting.

Where Ideas Come From

I still remember the salesman who came to my 10th grade class.  He was hawking magazines, I think, for a school fundraiser.  What I remember distinctly were his words.  He lifted a stack of magazines and proclaimed: “Information!  This is … Continue reading

Posted in Starlighting Tips, Agents and publishing, Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

16 Responses to Where Ideas Come From

  1. Emily Plank says:

    This just makes my heart feel peaceful to read. Thank you.

  2. deidra says:

    Once again spot on! here is what happened on our “unstructured” Saturday. As see-saws are a thing of the past. My son came up with the idea to put a really long thick stick through a low lying v-shaped tree trunk. VOLIA an instant see-saw. Later, on the same tree he found and L-shaped stick and hung it over another branch and made a stick swing. Finally (on the same tree) he found two long sticks, he leaned up against the tree. He laid shorter sticks across in an attempt to make a ladder.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Love your see-saw story! So glad your son’s getting plenty of time to invent and create. And, by the way, where did all the see-saws go? They have certainly disappeared from playgrounds.

  3. Julie says:

    Thank you for the reminder to not only create space in our own lives, but also the lives of our children…

  4. Zane says:

    Love this post, Heather. So, so true. I get my ideas on long walks too. To tell you the truth, that’s half the reason why I wanted a dog again—so I’d have to take long walks every single day!

  5. Thanks, Heather. A good reminder for me to unplug now and then. I do feel overwhelmed by too much input at times. But I’m going up to the BWCAW for a several day solo canoe trip, and will hopefully recharge the ol’ inspiration battery then. I also get some creative thinking done when listening to my favorite music .

  6. Laurie says:

    Heather — “…make space for our own thoughts, dreams and ideas. Some information is good, but too much can drown out our own voice. We need to leave room for IDEAS.”

    I resonate with your observation to my very core!

    You asked, “What prompts your best ideas and creativity?

    I pulled a sentence from a post I wrote in March 2010 that speaks to my thoughts on space: “…space for transformation to occur; space to find new direction.”

    As a minimalist, space is like a compass for me — it points me in the right (and WRITE) direction.

  7. So well said. With so much data to inflow, the creation of data is therapeutic. I’m happy for your kids.

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