Thursday, September 25, 2014

Write a Better Children’s Book (and while we’re at it, an invitation)

They say 80 percent of those who read books also have at least one book they’d like to write. And I agree with David Henry Sterry, who wrote in a HuffPo blog post that “a staggering number” of those would-be authors want to write books for young readers.

Some aspiring children’s book authors are parents or grandparents or teachers whose reading of books with children has sparked ideas for their own creative work. Some are artists with books they want to illustrate. Some are writers who’ve never lost touch with their childhood love of stories and the fresh way you see the world when you’re young. Some are accomplished writers for adults who are brave enough to venture into new forms for young (and demanding!) readers.

With one of Alaska’s best-known authors, Seth Kantner, and his accomplished illustrator Beth Hill, I’m teaching a workshop for aspiring children’s authors. For three hours on Saturday, Oct. 4, we’re going to consider common misconceptions about children’s books along with what makes certain titles saleable and enduring. We’ll also discuss the project ideas and manuscript excerpts of workshop participant from an editorial and artistic perspective, with a focus on what the writers should do next as they pursue completion and publication.

To teach this workshop with Seth and Beth is a huge honor. Seth’s Ordinary Wolves has a forever place on my shelves—and that was before I discovered how engaging and insightful he is in person. (If you haven’t yet studied with him, I recommend you come up with a children’s book idea pronto, so you’ll have an excuse to talk shop with him for a few hours.) Beth’s illustrations for his new book, Pup and Pokey, are radiant, and I’m eager to find out more about how the two of them collaborated.

Our workshop is one of several events that bring the three of us together to celebrate Alaska Book Week and the launch of our new books: for Seth and Beth, their first title for children; for me, my first literary novel for grown-ups.

True story: Cold Spell is my fourteenth title in print, and this will be my first-ever book launch, including the workshop plus all this with Seth and Beth:

·         First Friday Official Launch: Blue Holloman Gallery, Anchorage, 6 – 8 pm, Oct. 3
·         Book signing: Fireside Books, Palmer, 3-5 pm
·         Dinner with Alaska Authors (Dave Cheezem’s outstanding idea), Turkey Red, Palmer, 6 – 8 pm. Food, fun, conversation; $20 ticketed event includes dinner.
·         Book signing: A literary event for the whole family at Barnes and Noble, Anchorage, 1 – 3 pm
·         Crosscurrents Onstage Discussion “Would the Real Alaska Please Stand Up?” Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Auditorium, 7 – 8 :30 pm, with Joan Kane and Peggy Shumaker

Good times, good friends. Come celebrate with us!

Co-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the independent authors cooperative Running Fox Books, Deb Vanasse has authored more than a dozen books. Her most recent is Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds,” according to Booklist. Deb lives and works on Hiland Mountain outside of Anchorage, Alaska, and at a cabin near the Matanuska Glacier. 

Would you like to write a guest post relevant to Alaska’s literary community? Email 49writers (at) or debvanasse (at)

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