Monday, January 3, 2011

writing for children - a new writer shares her lessons

pdo!nk is a brand new publishing company with a mission to invent great stories that inspire learning and enjoyment for positive change and self-development. They strive to be optimistic, playful, original, and to create timeless stories for families.

Jessica Lowe has been hired as pdo!nk's writer-in-residence and has been working on their first series called 'Yogurt the Ogre'. I caught up with Jessica to find out more about her new full-time writing life after working in film and television.

Can you describe your first project with them?

My first project with pdo!nk was interesting because I was finishing a contract on a TV pilot while trying to help out with the writing of our first Yogurt the Ogre story. During this period I was providing editorial notes and brainstorming with my bosses about how we wanted the look and feel of this series to be. It took several drafts and some market testing before we felt the series was where we wanted it to be.

Have you ever written for children before?

During university I had done some children's theatre where I wrote plays for children and then also performed in them for elementary schools. But most of my life I have written material more geared towards adults.

What was your experience like writing the first story? Did you imagine it would be this way writing for children?

I was definitely nervous writing my first story. Nervous because this was the first time that someone was actually paying me for my creativity, and I was convinced they weren't going to like what I came up with. But after I sent my first draft and got lots of positive reinforcement from my bosses I learned to trust myself more and to worry less. I learned that the writing process can be a lot of fun. Unlike adult content, you can get really silly and creative writing for children. Usually the sillier the mood I get in, the better the story in the end!

What is a typical writing day like for you?

Every day varies. Some days I am able to write almost an entire first draft (approximately 1400 words) in just a few hours. Other days I might only get out a couple solid paragraphs. It all depends on the day. I find that I don't write as well in the morning, so generally I try to go to the gym in the morning. That gives me something to wake up for early and to get my energy. I work from home, so it can be really easy to get distracted. So it's important to treat my job as a 9 to 5 as much as possible.

What have you learned? What advice do you have for aspiring children’s authors?

I've definitely learned to write until you hit writer's block (which you will inevitably face) and then to walk away. Sitting and getting angry at your computer screen or notepad won't help. Walking away, getting a tea, going for a jog, etc. and then returning will help clear your head and give you a fresh outlook. Sometimes if I am writing a poem, however, (for our 8pm stories) I will get stuck on a stanza where the rhyming scheme just will not work. I often put something in (even if it sounds terrible) and I am able to continue with the rest of the poem easily. Then later I can go back and fix that one problem area. That helps me keep my momentum instead of just fixating on the one part.

I think it's important for every writer to find a system that works best for him/herself. I like to write on my couch, legs out, with my computer resting on my lap. Others may prefer a desk. I would suggest playing around with different places and different times of day to find what works best for you.

And my last piece of advice for aspiring children's authors is to WRITE! It sounds silly, but for me getting this job I had to show a sample of various things I had written to my bosses. None of it was children's stories. But with a screenplay, a sketch comedy, a spec script for TV, and a few other things, I was able to prove to them that I was a writer and I was ready to write!

What’s next for pdo!nk?

pdo!nk has just printed our first story and we are selling it on Amazon before it hits the shelves of bookstores next year. I am touching up the next two stories for Yogurt the Ogre so they can all be launched this year. We have another children's series that we will begin to develop throughout the year as well as an adult series. It is only the beginning, so it is a world of opportunities!