Whispering To Kids, Deborah Halverson shares her secrets

Mother of triplets, former kids books editor, and award-winning author Deborah Halverson knows how to write for kids. She kicks off her workshop with a very important and unique fact about kid lit: you are writing for two audiences. You knew that, right? You’ve got to entertain the kids and the adults who are reading to the kids. And, she points out, you have fewer words at your disposal to tell the same kind of story novelists tell.

So what secret weapons does Deborah suggest for the aspiring kid lit writer? First she shares the elements all stories employ:

  • point of view
  • sentence structure and paragraphing
  • balance of dialogue and narrative
  • tone

Then she expands that list to a few kid lit-specific tricks:

  • the page turn
  • juxtaposition of text and art
  • length limit
  • the read aloud factor

Wow! Kid lit writers really do have all the fun! The narrative voice for a picture book, Deborah says, should have big personality. Here are a few types of narrative voice styles to play with:

  • formal
  • playful
  • regional
  • colloquial
  • poetic
  • rhythmical

Bu speaking of rhythm and rhyme, Deborah has some strong opinions. “Rhyming is so hard to do right,” she warns. “New writers of picture books should avoid rhyme. Instead, create rhythm. Include alliteration and sounds of words that work together.” She emphasizes the importance of the sound of your words. “Never accept a word that does the job. Find the word that’s fun to say, that makes your face do funny things. You have very few words. Make each one count.”

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