Sunday, June 17, 2018

Children's Nonfiction Picture Books. Notes from the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference with Author Sharlee Glann

I spent last week at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference (WIFYR 2018) where I participated in the picture book writing class taught by author Sharlee Glenn.

I met Sharlee many years ago when I was first starting out on this writing journey, and I was so excited for the chance to reconnect with her in a small, week-long class where I could benefit from and become inspired by her wisdom, insights and experiences. I was also able to attend other classes taught by other authors in the afternoons, and I will be sharing bits of what I learned from them in later posts. But today, I am going to focus on Sharlee.

Sharlee Glenn's books include Keeping Up With Roo, Just What Mama Needs, One in a Billion,  Library on Wheels, which is her latest, hot-off-the-press nonfiction picture book, and Beyond the Green, which is a middle-grade novel scheduled for publication this coming fall 2018.

I absolutely love Library on Wheels for several reasons. First, it is about the very first mobile library in America, which many readers would recognize as a bookmobile. Need I say more? How cool is that? Bookmobiles have been a huge part of little Cache Valley, Utah, where I've lived for more than 25 years.

Second, the first mobile library was developed by Mary Lemist Witcomb who hails from my home state, New Hampshire. I love New Hampshire, return to it every year for a visit, and loved seeing the historic photos of places I recognized.

Third, I love the story of Sharlee's personal connection to the mobile library. Having grown up in rural Utah, Sharlee says she would not be the writer she is today were it not for the books that the mobile library brought to her on a regular basis when she was a young girl. For me, the local library in our area also played a vital part of my childhood. We didn't use the bookmobile, but my mother would drive my brother and I to the Nashua library once a week and let us browse the books in the children's section. I remember that the books were kept in wood boxes that jigsawed around the room. I could reach down into the boxes and pull out books. It seems odd that a library would be set up this way, but that is what I remember.

My mother also brought us to different art classes at the library.  My most memorable one involved making a paper kite with a wood frame. My kite ended up being almost as large as me. It was huge, and purple and green, and hung in my bedroom for several years above my bed.

Fourth, I think most writers can attribute their writing careers to the experiences they found within libraries as children, and I believe most readers continue to hold a fondness and appreciation for libraries for similar reasons. Libraries connect us to our local communities and to the world at large through their books, their programs, and the various opportunities that librarians provide for patrons. Thus, Library on Wheels holds appeal to a wide audience--both readers and writers, and its clear, simple, and interesting text make the history of the bookmobile accessible to young readers.

As for the children's picture book market today, Sharlee shared that if you are trying to break into publishing, the nonfiction market is growing and the best opportunities may be found there. The reason for the burgeoning market is the increasing focus on teaching a quality education to all students through a common core that has been adopted in each state. As a science teacher, I can attest to the need for engaging and relevant books for the classroom.

Thus, for new and established writers that are writing for the children's book market, it may be time to tap into your own interests and see if what you are writing or what you may want to write can be connected to the nonfiction market.

If you would like to learn more about Sharlee Glenn and her work, visit her website.

If you have additional information about trends in the nonfiction market, share them in a comment below.

Happy writing!

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