Saturday 31 March 2012

Need Some Extra Days to Write for the Chapter Book Challenge?

Chapter Book Challenge
Technically, today is the last day of the Chapter Book Challenge. By midnight tonight, if you haven't finished your chapter book, you have not succeeded at the challenge. HOWEVER, I am never so strict as that and the whole point of this challenge is to inspire and give members the needed push to finish writing a chapter book. So, I am, for one time only, in honor of the fact that this is the first EVER Chapter Book Challenge, extending the time everyone has to finish their chapter book. I'm giving everyone one more week.

I will still be posting my progress tomorrow to let everyone know if I have finished my chapter book. (I have a lot of writing to do today!) and I will be announcing the winner of last week's prize too.

Within the four weeks of March, I managed to find us four published chapter book authors to guest post, one for every week. I have arranged for four prizes (one for every week) to be won and sent out, and even arranged a prize of a first chapter critique from one of the published authors which was won from week two.

The weekly prizes (and their shipping costs) came out of my own pocket, so I have learned that I need to plan ahead for next year's prizes. Next March, I will try and have some editors and publishers of chapter books guest posting as well. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions for the 2013 Chapter Book Challenge, I am happy to hear them. I want this challenge to grow and improve each year that we do it.

There is another prize still to be won (possibly two), but that one has a different criteria from the others so I will announce it tomorrow.

I hope everyone has been enjoying this challenge and has found it helpful in getting them to finish their chapter books, or at least to write more of their chapter books than they otherwise would have.

And one more thing, if you are officially signed up for this year's Chapter Book Challenge and you have a blog of your own, check the right sidebar of this blog and see if your blog is included in the "Chapter Book Challenge members' blogs." If not, then let me know the name and url of your blog in the comments below and I will add yours to the list.
Until tomorrow...

Friday 30 March 2012

Writing for Children in Today's Society & Keeping Them Hooked! - guest post by published chapter book author Martin King

There’s been a big hoo-hah in the press just recently over violent video games having a damaging effect on primary school children. It’s been claimed that many are staying up beyond midnight whilst playing games unsupervised by their parents.

Now while I’m not here to express my opinion on what is, or is not right for children of that age, one fact is clear, books are fast in danger of becoming a thing of the past. They simply cannot compete. Not only are games pushing the boundaries of adrenalin fuelled action, but everything else available to a child is raising the bar.
Mobile phones that have metamorphosis into smart phones (now known as mobile devices), use of internet, and handy tablets like iPad’s are just a few of those items. Then there’s 24 hour TV with 100’s of channels, catch up on demand and memory hard drives to store all your favourites on. Not to mention HDTV, 3D, Blu ray, bigger and more spectacular special effects in movies. Dare I go on...?
And what have publishers done with books in all of this time? Absolutely nothing!
But have no fear because schools are fighting back with reading schemes. Children are encouraged to take nominated books home, read them and write a review. But what happens if a child is given a book they don’t like? They still have to read it because it is part of their lesson. One forced book that a child does not want to read can destroy a life time of reading.
This post is not about the rights and wrongs of what should or should not be undertaken. It is merely pointing out the challenges facing young readers today. As an author, I felt it was my duty to do everything within my writing power to bring back the readability factor into a story, the fun into the novel, the excitement into the adventure.
So that is exactly what I set out to achieve. I asked myself as I put some of the finishing touches to the first Jack Hunter novel, if I was a child today, would I want to sacrifice many of the above time wasting activities for my book? As well as a child friendly story with villains and clues, twists and mystery, I wove a game into the pages. Not only that, but I made the book interactive with the internet. What I tried to do was give a young modern-day reader a fighting chance of living their adventure in the pages of a book just like I did when I was young.
Who should you write for?
When writing your book, try and look at life through the eyes when you were a child. Every word and sentence you craft should steal away a child’s imagination. When you walk along the pavement, you walk with a purpose, serious and determined – you have a deadline.
Now picture yourself walking that same journey as a child? You jump up and run along the wall, swing around the lamppost, skip up and down the kerb and weave in and out of passengers. You may even pluck leaves and flower heads off a shrub overhanging from a garden, or pick up a stick and rattle it along a fence. That is how you should write...
Why write?
Not to be rich...wrong answer, now go to the back of the class! For the audience, for the passion and for fun!
When to write?
Write every single day!

Martin King

Martin King is a UK-based author of Jack Hunter - Secret of the King and has a website for children.
Martin King's website
Martin King's blog

Martin King on Twitter

Martin King on Facebook

Thursday 22 March 2012

Fourth & Final Week of the Chapter Book Challenge Starts Now!

Just days left to go until our chapter books are supposed to be finished. We should be almost ready to wrap up the writing on our first draft, so that we can turn to editing and cleaning our manuscripts up after this month ends.

How are you doing with the challenge? Have you, as I have, fallen behind? Are you planning to fit in a lot of writing time in this last week? Or are you almost finshed and planning to begin your editing in this last week? Wherever you are in the process, let us know in the comments.

There is now a selection of products with the challenges logo on them. I still need to go in and clean up some of the products by making sure that the logo fits correctly, and I will have it all looking good a few days from now, but the mugs and t-shirts should all be looking good already.

Melissa Gijsbers Khalinsky from the Chapter Book Challenge Facebook group mentioned her 10 year old son giggling as he read her manuscript, and it got me to thinking about my own manuscript. I don't know why I haven't had my 9 year old read it yet. I am working on three different stories and dividing my time between them because I can't decide which one I want to work on more. Melissa gave me the idea that I should have my daughter read them and tell me which one she enjoys the most of the three. Then I could focus on that one first.
The prize for this week is an official Chapter Book Challenge 2012 mug. All you need to do to be entered into the drawing to win this book is to be officially signed up to the Chapter Book Challenge and to comment on this post, letting me know how you are doing in the challenge so far. The winner will be chosen by a random drawing.

Chapter book Challenge 2012 mug

It's time to announce the winner of last week's prize, selected by random drawing. Last week's prize was the "The Everything Guide to Writing Children's Books: How to Write, Publish, and Promote Books for Children of All Ages!" by Peter Abrahams.

Chapter Book Challenge Prize 3

And the winner of last week's prize is: Rena J. Traxel! Rena e-mail me your mailing address so I can send this out to you.

Monday 19 March 2012

When is a Chapter Book Not a Chapter Book? - guest post by published chapter book author Jonathan Gould

Author Jonathan Gould

Published chapter book author Jonathan Gould has kindly offered a guest post her for us all on a topic many of us have questioned throughout the course of this challenge.

When is a chapter book not a chapter book?

First of all, I just wanted to say how pleased I was to be invited to participate in this fantastic event.
When I was first invited, I put a bit of thought into how I could best contribute. Over the years I’ve written a large number of what could be considered chapter books (or junior novels as I believe they’re often referred to here in Australia). With most of them, I was pretty certain that they would fall under this definition. After all, they’re quite short, they’re divided into self-contained chapters, they’re illustrated (at least the ones that have been published are) and they’re clearly aimed at younger readers.
But in addition to the ones described above, I have a number of other stories as well. In some ways, they could be thought of as chapter books, but in other ways, I’m not sure. While they’re definitely split into chapters, they’re possibly a bit longer than your average chapter book – closer to 20,000 words - which is probably at the upper end, although maybe not quite out of range. Also, they’re not illustrated, although again it’s possible that they could be – the reasons for the lack of illustrations were mostly financial.
But the main reason for my ambivalence is because I’m not quite sure what age group they’re primarily for. Unlike most of the chapter books (or prospective chapter books) I’ve written, with these stories I didn’t have a clear idea of the age of the readership in mind. I just wanted to write something I would enjoy reading. And as I’m a bit of a big kid at heart, they kind of came out looking a bit like kid’s books, but there’s a lot there that adults can (and do) appreciate as well.
Which I guess leads to the fundamental question behind this post. How easy is it to define exactly what a chapter book is? Does it have to be a certain length? Does it need pictures? Is it something that was written with a clearly defined age-range in mind or can it cover a broader range of stories that can have appeal to readers beyond a specific age group?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. Maybe if I provide some evidence, the jury out there can come to a decision.

King Richard by Jonathan Gould

Exhibit A: A Right Royal Day
Published by Macmillan Education in Australia as part of their Breakers Series. Distributed to schools only.
Length: ~2,200 words
Age range: 7.5-8.5 years
King Richard is a rather short king who has trouble getting the people in his palace to pay attention to him. His wife just talks on her mobile phone and his servants never follow his instructions. But when he goes outside to play, he meets a couple of lads. They play toss the crown, pretend to have sword fights, and use his gown as a swing. All in all, it is one right royal day.
My verdict: Almost certainly a chapter book

Madoop by Jonathan Gould

Exhibit B: Madoop and the Mountain Mower
Published by Macmillan Education in Australia as part of their Breakers Series. Distributed to schools only.
Length: ~4,600 words
Age range: 8.5-10.5 years
Madoop is a young boy living in the kingdom of Oopsalonia, famed for its majestic mountains. Unfortunately, King Oopsbert who is rather short (are you detecting a theme here?) is offended by the height of the mountains and wishes them to be cut down. He forces his royal inventor, McGroody, to invent a series of machines designed to cut down mountains. Poor Madoop, who loves the mountains, is forced to come up with a clever plan to save the day.
My verdict: Almost certainly a chapter book

Doodling by Jonathan Gould

Exhibit C: Doodling
Published on Amazon as an ebook
Length: ~17,000 words
Age range: 10-100
Neville Lansdowne has fallen off the world (because it’s moving too fast). He finds himself marooned in the middle of an asteroid field in outer space. He begins to explore the asteroid field, meeting some rather peculiar people and experiencing some most unexpected adventures.
My verdict: I’m really not sure.

Flidderbugs by Jonathan Gould

Exhibit D: Flidderbugs
Published on Amazon as an ebook
Length: ~17,000 words
Age range: 10-100
As Kriffle the Flidderbug investigates why his fellow 'bugs find it impossible to agree on the pressing issue of how many points there are on the leaves of the tree on which they live, he finds that the truth is more complicated, and ultimately more terrifying, than he ever could have imagined.
My verdict: I’m really not sure
That concludes my evidence. I’d be interested in what other readers, both young and old, think about the question. How clearly can we define exactly what a chapter book is? And when is a chapter book not a chapter book?
Three tips I would give for anyone wanting to write a chapter book (and get published):
1. Focus on the story idea - try to write something fresh and new and enthralling for readers of the age you're aiming at.

2. Structure is important - use the chapter structure to keep readers interested - end chapters with questions, mysteries and cliff-hangers.

3. Character makes story. Bring in strong characters and use them to drive the story forward, rather than having to plot out by guessing what might happen next.
Thanks for having me.
About Jonathan Gould
Jonathan Gould is a Melbourne-based writer and doodler.
He calls his stories "dag-lit" because they're the sort of stories that don't easily fit into the standard genres. Some might think of them as comic fantasies, or modern fairytales for the young and the young-at-heart.
Over the years, his writing has been compared to Douglas Adams, Monty Python, A.A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, the Goons, Dr Seuss and even Enid Blyton (in a good way).
You can be in touch with him via:
His blog
Twitter: @jonno_go




I know I don't even have to say this as you are all pretty good about letting the authors who guest post here know that you appreciate the time they have given to do so, but please leave a comment to let Jonathan know you appreciate his post.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Onwards to Week 3 of the Chapter Book Challenge!

We are about to begin week 3 of the Chapter Book Challenge. Hopefully, we have all achieved a lot in the first two weeks and are progressing at a good pace into our third week. I confess that I am a little bit behind where I thought I would be right now with my writing, but no so far behind that I can't catch up.

The prize for this week is "The Everything Guide to Writing Children's Books: How to Write, Publish, and Promote Books for Children of All Ages!" by Peter Abrahams. All you need to do to be entered into the drawing to win this book is to be officially signed up to the Chapter Book Challenge and to comment on this post, letting me know how you are doing in the challenge so far. The winner will be chosen by a random drawing.

Chapter Book Challenge Prize 3

And now for the fun part. I get to announce the winners of last week's challenge. The prize was a "Novel under Construction" journal.

Novel Under Construction journal

And the winner is Kelly McDonald! Contact me when you can with a mailing address for your journal.

I hope you all enjoyed the guest post by published chapter book author Adam Wallace. And here comes another fun part; I get to anounce the winner of his giveaway too! The winner of a brief first chapter critique of their chapter book by Adam Wallace is, again, Kelly McDonald! The drawings are done through the random number generator at, and Kelly commented on both posts. This appears to have been a very lucky day for Kelly!

Let me know how your progressing in the challenge. And as always, if you need any help, feel free to contact me.

Monday 12 March 2012

Humour is the Best - guest post by chapter book author Adam Wallace

Adam Wallace Chapter Book Author

Yep. Chuck out the rest. Humour rules. Humour is king. Humour rocks my world. Oh. Maybe I have said too much.
Anyway. Let’s move on.
Why is humour so important in books for children? What is it about humour that gets kids hooked, gets them reading and gets them excited about books?
The short answer is … who cares??? However it does it, it does it! And getting children excited about books and reading is just about the most important thing in the world (after world peace, eradicating poverty, etc etc of course).
The long answer is that humour makes books seem fun, especially for younger readers. Children are forced to read a lot of books at school that there is no way they would normally choose. There is probably no way we would normally force our kids to read them either. They have their place, these books, but they cater to “all children.” The problem is that “all children” don’t like reading the same thing, they don’t learn to read in the same manner, and they get bored to death reading about a worm in the garden, a worm on the flower, a worm blah blah blah.
Who wouldn’t go and play a computer game?
Books by authors such as Dr Seuss, Roald Dahl, Andy Griffiths, Jeff Kinney. These books are often frowned upon as being bad influences on our kids. By getting them reading? By having them sharing books and laughs instead of punches and cyber put downs? Ooooookay then.
The thing is that some of these books may be gross. Some of these books may be a little bit close to the edge. But they are starting a lifelong interest in reading, and before long the kids reading these books will want to look for other books to read. They will be asking who else writes good books. They may even want to, gasp, go to the library! They will branch out, and they will discover new and exciting styles of writing.
But humour is often the key to getting them in, even if the books have so much more to offer. The amazing Harry Potter books (some more that were thought inappropriate by many parents) have humour woven through their stories. But they also have courage and honour and loyalty and love and excitement and danger and good and evil and friendship. This is true of many stories. They may be bathed in humour, and they can be read at that level, but delve a little deeper, and you will often find there is a lot more to the stories than you may have first imagined.
Oh. And for authors, there is one more bonus to a book having humour.
They are so much fun to write!
Adam's top three tips for writing chapter books:
1: Write! As much as possible. And, as much as possible, write in the
style you enjoy. Don't be influenced by popular topics and styles if they
aren't your thing.

2: Ask questions of those who have made it. Email, write letters,
whatever. I have found authors to be an amazingly friendly and giving
group of people. Even those who have sold hundreds of thousands of books
have written back or even called with advice when I have contacted them.

3: Persist. Not just with sending out to publishers, but with your
writing. Not everything will fall into place straight away, but the more
you write, the more you find your voice, the easier it will become.
A qualified Engineer and Primary School Teacher, Adam Wallace settled on
writing books for children as his career of choice. With 20 published,
including Better Out Than In and the How to Draw series, Adam is fast
becoming a well-known name in the world of children’s books.

You can find Adam's books at Adam Wallace Books and his Facebook author page here.

Book by Adam WallaceBook 1 By Adam wallaceBook 2 by Adam Wallace

Adam Wallace's books:
Better Out Than In.
The Share-a-not
Mac O'Beasty
The Negatees
The Incredible Journey of Pete McGee
The Giant Book of Jokes Binder
Fun Ferret Classroom Chaos
Fun Ferret On the Loose
The How to Draw Series (12 books)
Coming in 2012 - Pete McGee and the Dawn of the Zombie Knights
Better Out Than In Number Twos

There is a very special give-away today.  Adam Wallace has offered to do a short and simple critique of one lucky Chapter Book Challenge member's FIRST CHAPTER! All you need to do to be entered is to be signed up officially to the challenge and comment on this post. The winner will be drawn through a random number generator.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Week Two of the Chapter Book Challenge Begins

Here we are, already in week two of the Chapter Book Challenge! How is everyone doing? I have written about 1,900 words which is nowhere near where I hoped to be with mine by now, but there is still hope, and there are three weeks left to catch up with my writing. I hope everyone else is fairing much better so far than I am.

I hope you all enjoyed the post from published chapter book author Karen Pokras Toz last Monday. If you missed her post, go have a look now and leave her a comment. Look out for another inspirational post by Australian chapter book author Adam Wallace this Monday.

And now, using a random number generator, I am announcing the winner of last week's prize.

writing for children and teens

The winner was chosen using the random number generator at The winner of "Writing for Children and Teens: A Crash Course (How to Write, Revise, and Publish a Kid's or Teen Book with Children's Book Publishers)" by Cynthea Liu is Cheryl Mansfield! I will be sending out an e-mail to Cheryl today.

There is a new prize up for grabs for the second week. This week's prize is a "Novel Under Construction" journal.

Novel under Constructionournal

All you have to do to be entered to win this one is to be officially signed up to the challenge and comment on this post. The winner will be drawn by a random number generator and announced during next week's post on the 15th.

So let's hear it. How is your chapter book writing coming along? How much have you written? Or are you still in the planning stages? Are you struggling or is your story calling to you and are the ideas just flowing non-stop?

If you have any questions or need help with anything, join in with the conversations in our Chapter Book Challenge Facebook group where we are all helping each other with advice and ideas. You can also e-mail me with any questions.

Monday 5 March 2012

On Writing: Imagination is a Wonderful Thing - guest post by chapter book author Karen Pokras Toz

(Guest post by chapter book author Karen Pokras Toz)

Karen Pokras Toz

So many people ask me where I came up with the idea for Nate Rocks the World, my middle grade novel about a 10 year old boy who draws cartoons that come to life in his head, starring himself as the hero. My answer is always the same – my three children of course. My oldest son is an artist, my daughter, when she was younger loved to make up stories with all her dolls and animals, and my youngest son loves to role-play.

But it’s not just my three children. The truth is, there is a lot of myself in Nate Rocks. I am a dreamer. I always have been, and I suspect I always will be. No - I didn’t dream of being an action hero or a cowboy as Nate does. My dreams usually involved singing and dancing on a stage (which looking back now is quite funny since I was the shyest little girl ever and really can’t dance or sing.) My favorite show was The Donny and Marie Show. For those who didn’t grow up in the 70s – this was what was called a “Variety Show.” There were a bunch of them on – Sonny & Cher, Captain & Tenille, & The Jackson 5 to name a few. But my favorite was Donny & Marie. They would come out on ice skates and sing, do some comedy sketches, and sing some more. My parents always let me stay up late on Friday nights to watch them.

I used to pretend I was Marie Osmond – I had the big hair and big teeth, so it was only natural. My parents had wood floors that I could pretend ice skate on with my socks. Then I would use what ever I could find to be my microphone. Marie was ‘a little bit country’, but I preferred to be rock n roll. My cat was my audience as I put on my show. Sometimes I would tape record it on our clunky old machine, never to be played for anyone’s ears but my own. It was fun being an international superstar in my own head.

Dream big and rock on!


It was lovely of Karen to be willing to share where she gets her inspiration from for her books. I also asked her to to share her top tips for those of us who are just starting out in the chapter book writing world and here is what she said:

1. Don't be afraid to listen to your characters. When I was writing Nate Rocks the World, I had a general idea of where I wanted the book to go. However, once I really got to know my characters, I changed direction completely. Now looking back, I can't imagine the book turning out any other way.

2. Include children in the proper age group to act as beta readers. In my case, I have a friend who is a 4th grade reading teacher. He had his class read the book and give me feedback before it was published.

3. Have your manuscript professionally edited by someone who understands a child's voice.

Nate Rocks the World by Karen Pokras Toz

About Nate Rocks the World:

Ten-year-old Nathan Rockledge cannot catch a break. After all, life as a fourth-grader can be hazardous what with science projects to deal with and recess football games to avoid. Everyone, including his best friend Tommy, seems to have bad luck when hanging around Nathan. Throw in an older sister who is a royal pain, a dad who is stuck in the past, and a mom who keeps trying to poison him with her awful cooking, and poor Nathan’s life as a fourth grader appears to be completely doomed.

Armed only with his sketchpad, his imagination, and his wits, Nathan Rockledge navigates the perils of the fourth grade in style, to emerge heroic, as Nate Rocks, proving that even a ten-year-old can accomplish great things.


Nate Rocks the Boat by Karen Pokras Toz

Karen Pokras Toz is a writer, wife and mom. Karen grew up in Orange, Connecticut and currently lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband and three children. In June 2011, Karen published her first middle grade children’s novel for 7-12 year olds called Nate Rocks the World. The second book in the Nate Rocks series, Nate Rocks the Boat, is to be published in the spring of 2012. Karen is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), Association of Independent Authors (AIA), and the Independent Author Network (IAN).

To Learn More About the Nate Rocks Series:

Karen's Website
Karen's Blog
Karen on Facebook
Karen on Twitter
Karen on Amazon
Karen on Barnes & Noble
Karen on Goodreads

Thursday 1 March 2012

Day One of the Chapter Book Challenge

Novel Under Construction

Today is the first day of the Chapter Book Challenge! Have you already plotted and outlined your story or are you just beginning and writing as it comes to you? Either way will suffice. Everyone has their own way of writing and we all have to do what works for us.

We don't have a huge group following this challenge, but that just means that you each have a better chance of winning one of the weekly prizes. This week's prize is "Writing for Children and Teens: A Crash Course (How to Write, Revise, and Publish a Kid's or Teen Book with Children's Book Publishers)" by Cynthea Liu.

writing for children and teens

All you need to do is be signed up officially for the Chapter Book Challenge, and comment on this post, and at the end of the week, one of you will be chosen through the random number generator to win the book. Leave a way for me to contact you within your comment so I can let you know if you have won.

I am one of those people who tends to procrastinate, which is why challenges like this are good for me. These challenges force me to sit down and write. I have to admit that I have not sat down and outlined my story yet. I have a vague idea of what my story will be about and where I want to go with it, but I am going to take these first few days fo the challenge to actually create an outline with my plot structure and some of my character development.

At the end of this week, I will post again with a shout-out to see how everyone is doing and how far along we've all come. If anyone is struggling, feel free to contact me through e-mail.

Good luck everyone!