Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Write a story for a child this holiday season

A piece that I wrote has been published on, and is reprinted below. For Christmas this year I've written stories for both Alejandra and Samuel, but shhh! it is a secret. Once I can figure out the technology, I'll publish the story I wrote for Samuel as a free ebook and announce it on the site here.

[Update on December 14:
I've published the story on You can download a free ebook version here:

I can't imagine anyone other than me would want to buy a hardcover version of the book, but it is available here for $23.44

Publishing the book on was free, and they even gave me a credit to purchase one hardcover copy of the book for free - that is the one Samuel will get for Christmas. I'll be writing a post on how the process works and providing a link here within the next day.]

Is there a young child in your life? A son or daughter, niece or nephew, grandson or granddaughter? Consider writing that child a story this holiday season instead of buying a gift. The suggestion applies especially if you do not consider yourself a writer. First we’ll talk about why, then how to do it.

Why write a story?

The world is full of children’s books, why write another children’s story? Four reasons:

1) If you write the story, you can include the child in the story, along with the names of her friends or family members. You can set the story in a location the child is familiar with. It is a real thrill for a child to be read a story in which she is a main character.

2) You’ll serve as a fantastic role model, giving the child a message that anybody can write, and that it is fun to write. There is a good chance the child who receives your story will want to tell her own. If she doesn’t know how to write yet, you can take a video of her telling the story, or offer to transcribe it. Then ask her to draw some pictures to accompany the text. If the child is older and already knows how to read, watch out for her to go off and try her hand at writing her own story.

3) As you challenge your mind, it will do wonders for your own creativity. If you don’t think of yourself as a writer, particularly as a fiction writer, you may surprise yourself at what happens if you allow your imagination to roam across a page. You could very well get some creative juices flowing that get you picking up an old hobby you once enjoyed, or coming up with more creative ideas at work. When you get your creative engine working in one area, it doesn’t observe boundaries.

4) The child gets the message that the best way to show your love with a gift is not to buy another gadget in a store, but to make something.

How to write a story for a child

1) Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Try customizing a common story or fable. Think “Sophia and The Three Bears.” Or “Frog and Toad and Julia.” You’re not going to get prosecuted for non-commercial use of a story at home. So feel free to incorporate favorite characters from whatever source. Your daughter could join Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edmund on a trip back to Narnia. Or fly to Neverland with Peter Pan. Or head to Wonderland with Alice.

2) Younger children particularly seem to like stories with a refrain that gets repeated multiple times, because they can help recite the story. The Eric Carle books are a great example of how to challenge your mind.

3) For younger children, incorporate pictures. You don’t need to draw illustrations: you can use family photos, or perhaps postcards that you purchased on a trip.

4) As noted above, place the child in the story, along with her friends or brothers and sisters, or pets.

Once your creative engine has completed the plot line, added photos or artwork, and arranged the layout, here’s how to present the story.

The best way to show your love? Give the story to your children and read it together.
1) If you want to keep it simple, and you are including both text and pictures, you can just tape it up and put the pages in page protectors in a binder.

2) If you get more ambitious, you can create a book on Shutterfly, Blurb, or one of the numerous other print-on-demand services.

Don’t worry about creating a Newbury Medal-winning masterpiece. The fact that you wrote a story will mean a lot more to your child than the literary quality. They’re almost certain to treasure the gift for longer than anything you could buy on Amazon.

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