Confessions of a First-Time Children’s Book Writer

If you would have told me a year ago that I’d take on a freelance project to write a non-fiction children’s book, I would have laughed. I’ve never thought of myself as the children’s book writing type. I’ve spent most of my life writing poetry only a handful of people will read and a long list of articles for various news and university organizations. Not exactly the kind of material geared for a grade school crowd. However, after a very fruitless freelance job search, I was approached by a friend with this particular project and I decided to give it a go.

The task seemed simple enough. I was to write a 24 page non-fiction book for PowerKids Press. I was instructed to write content fit for third grade level readers that covered the specific adaptations of fur and fat in animals. Each spread only required 100 words, making the total word count about 1,000 words (I admit I went a little over my limit but that was allowed). I know this all sounds like a breeze, but, to be honest, I struggled here and there.

It’s easy to overlook how much our vocabulary and writing style changes (i.e. improves) as we get older. Trying to take my brain out of the scholarly and news writing styles I’ve become so accustom to and get back on a kid’s level threw me for a loop. I’m not sure if I hit the mark completely, you’d have to ask the copy editor, but it was a refreshing change of pace. We get so caught up in the nuances of adult life that we forget what it’s like to be a kid learning about the world.

My favorite stage of writing this book was the research. I welcome any excuse to read about animals and look a photos of them. It brings some peace to my soul, if you will. For this book I wrote about musk oxen, grizzly bears, sea otters, and snow foxes. Of course, the otters and foxes were my favorite. No offense to the other two, but you can’t really beat a swimming otter or pouncing fox.

All in all, I’m glad I took on this project. I learned a few things I didn’t know about animals and it reminded me to give my inner child some attention. If I have the chance to take on another freelance project like this soon, I’ll welcome it with open arms. I think, for any writer, it’s important look for projects outside of our comfort zones. There is always room for improvement and to expand our skills. Ignoring those opportunities means ignoring the chance to grow.

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