BWS 12.07.17 report: Five Things You Should Know Before You Do Anything About Your Children’s Book Idea, with S. Bear Bergman

S. Bear Bergman at the Brockton Writers Series 12.07.17

Award-winning writer, educator and storyteller S. Bear Bergman stopped by the Brockton Writers Series’ July event to share his experience as founder of Flamingo Rampant, a children’s press focused on feminist, LGBTQ-positive, racially-diverse children’s books, and to offer advice to those writers wishing to get into the children’s market and publish books for a diverse audience.

“Though the earning potential of the market has grown — many publishers are making their rent on children’s books — it’s still a very conservative industry,” he said. He quoted a University of Wisconsin survey that cited representation in U.S. children’s books as 93% white people; 72% boys and men; and 98% heterosexual two-parent families.

If you have a first draft or idea for a children’s book, Bergman offered this advice:

  1. Play test your book with kids. “They will tell you if they are bored with the story, and it’s better to know early in the processs than later.”
  2. Read your manuscript out loud to yourself. “Children like books that are lyrical, have interesting metres and rhymes, and that have interesting things happening in the language.”
  3. Have fun with language. Be playful.
  4. You don’t need to have the book illustrated before you submit it to a publisher or agent. Just send the text.
  5. When representing diversity in your story, be careful not to produce a “very special episode” book (i.e., Jimmy asks his parents why his friend Susie has two mothers, but no dad). Instead of making diversity the major plot line, make it present and normal in the characters and setting.

Bergman finished his talk by commenting on the feedback his publishing house Flamingo Rampant receives: “Lots of people thank us for our books and say it’s the first time they had seen people like themselves reflected in a children’s book.” Flamingo Rampant’s goal, Bergman said, “is to make books that love you back.” — Nancy Kay Clark

Check back in September for more tips from our next Brockton Writers Series guest speaker and until then, watch this space for features on all four writers appearing at our next event, which takes place September 13, 2017, 6:30pm, at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church St., Toronto!

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