Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Interview with author, Carol Peterson and Writing for the Children's Educational Market
Today's interview is with Carol Peterson who has worn many business hats. She is a licensed real estate broker, has owned and operated her own small business, and is an actively trades in the stock, bond and futures markets. This background led her to write for children and teach them about handling their finances. So let's find out how that writing began.
How did you begin writing for children? Were you a teacher?
Actually, I was never a teacher. I was one of those ever-present moms in the classroom. I was the scout leader and the organizer at charity events. What I learned is that kids learn best when it’s fun and fun usually means “doing” something. My 4 teacher resource books are filled with activities that help kids understand the curriculum by making learning fun.
Your blog says you are a trader in the stock, bond and futures markets. It says that’s what inspired your to create FUN WITH FINANCE. Tell me how that all came about?
I’ve always been interested in financial stewardship. When I looked at my background—stock market, real estate, small business owner—it quickly became my focus to help raise up a generation of financial superheroes. I had a ton of fun writing Fun with Finance. It includes readers theater scripts, activities and board games for each of 12 areas of finance. I don’t have any other books for children in the works; but my mind keeps spinning…
You do “mini events” for students. Tell me about how that started? How do teachers need to plan for it?
Basically the “mini events” are selected activities taken straight from my books. Each of the 4 teacher resource books is filled with activities to make kids’ curriculum interesting by making it fun. Teacher need to do very little to plan. I arrange for supplies and lead the activities and discussions.
I see you’ve also done what looks like a curriculum called Jump Into Science. How did this evolve?
Jump Into Science is another curriculum-based teacher resource. It was a result of my experience in classrooms. I would watch a science fair consist of 7 experiments of begonias grown to music and 14 vinegar and baking soda explosions. I simply took grade-appropriate science experiments and grouped them by type of science, added an introduction to the basic scientific theory and included tips for creating science fair displays.
Now, a teacher can select the single area of science currently being taught (such as ecology or biology) and have a supply of experiments kids can perform and present. The publisher for all of my teacher resource books is Libraries Unlimited/Teacher Ideas Press.
How did you get involved with writing for the education market? How do you find your leads for writing for the education market?
When I began writing for kids, I really, really wanted to write picture books and humorous adventure novels for boys. Meanwhile, I kept reading the standard writing advice: write what you know. And all my experience with kids said I know how to make learning fun.
As for leads? My copy of CWIM (Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market) was well worn and dog-eared with red notes in the columns, yellow highlighted pages, and multi-colored post-it fringe. In other words, I did my research on publishers—which publishers were looking for what. That research is one of the hard, but necessary, parts of writing for publishing.
I see you are a member of SCBWI. How has that helped you? Have you attended any of their conferences?
One of the very first things I did when I decided to write for kids was to join SCBWI. SCBWI provides its members with wonderful resources and gets writers and illustrators together in a professional manner so we don’t feel like we’re doing this all alone.
I attend every regional conference I can. Fortunately we have quite a few of them in California. I have not yet attended either the summer LA or the winter NY conference. But it’s a goal.
I understand you are active with a critique group called the Inksters. How did you get involved with that group?
We Inksters have been together since early 2001. All of us write for children but many of us also write for adults. We all began writing picture books, but have expanded into non-fiction, middle grade and young adult novels. The 5 of us “meet” online, sharing information and providing critiques and feedback whenever it’s needed. We also try to get together for a writing weekend once a year. And believe it or not, we even get some work done!
For those who want to break into working in the educational book market, what advice would you give them?
Before attempting a book proposal, I’d pursue magazine articles. Start with articles for local papers and periodicals—both for teachers and parents. Don’t ignore the huge home schooling market. Work up to national magazines that have an educational bent, such as the Cobblestone group.
Then go through your state’s curriculum standards. See what is being taught at each grade level. Talk to teachers and librarians and learn what they could use. Then settle on a topic, give it your unique slant and create an awesome proposal. Research publishers and send the proposal off only to the appropriate ones. Don’t give up.
You seem to cover all the bases in writing. I see you also do reader’s theater. What tips do you have for those who would like to write scripts for children?
I consider readers theatre to be a form of learning activities, so naturally I include it in my books whenever I can! Around the World through Holidays and Fun with Finance both include readers theatre.
Tips for writing readers theatre? Read what’s out there. There are many examples online at teacher sites. Make sure you have written grade appropriate scripts. Make it fun.
What do you do to promote your book?
Not enough. I have a website and until recently was part of a joint marketing website with several other writers. I’m in the process of organizing a speaker’s group with other children’s writers with the goal of coordinating marketing our books from a school visit and conference speaker point of view.
What do you know now about getting published that you wished you had known earlier in your writing career?
One thing I’ve learned is specific to the educational market. It was hard to compare my books to those of my friends who published with traditional publishers. My numbers are nowhere close to theirs because the market is so different. Now I recognize that if I sell 1000 books to teachers and each teacher uses my book one time for a class of 30, I’ve reached 30,000 children. That’s what it’s all about.
That's all for today's interview. If you would like to know more about Carol's books and her writing go to her website at http://www.carolpetersonauthor.com/