afghani girl

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Laura and I have been teaching people how to become successful children’s authors for close to 25 years. It’s a rich and wonderful way to spend one’s life, and we’re grateful for every moment.

 

But with the publishing industry in upheaval and new technologies arriving daily, I’ll admit to some troubled moments of late. Moments that find me asking the same questions many of you have surely posed:

 

 

What now? What’s next? What does all this change mean for children’s writers?

 

 

And then I saw her. And it all made sense.

 

 

afghangirl

 

courtesy One Laptop Per Child, one.laptop.org

 

 

I was bouncing along online, doing my usual rounds, when I came upon a photo of a girl, maybe 12 or 13. Her notebook barely conceals a wide smile, her eyes are filled with wonder and joy. In front of her, a new computer to call her own.

 

I read on, and learned about an effort to place computer and reading technology in the hands of children throughout the world. This young Afghani girl – who, not long ago, wouldn’t even have been allowed to enter a school – was a beneficiary.

 

Looking at the photo again, I realized I was looking at something much bigger than a girl getting a laptop. I was witnessing a life being transformed before my eyes.

 

What will the days and years ahead hold for this young woman now that the writers of the world can speak directly to her? Will being part of a worldwide community of young readers make her feel less alone? Will the books she reads inspire her to greatness?

 

Now multiply this child by 50 million. Or 100 million. Maybe more…

 

Soon, a sea of children in every part of the globe will be able to experience, with a tap of a finger, the magic of books. And their lives will never be the same.

 

And neither will yours.

 

 

That’s because, starting now, anything we dream up – the lessons we hope to teach, the comfort we want to give, the giggles we want to conjure – will, for the first time, be instantly available to children everywhere, at every moment.

 

And that’s when it struck me. That moment of revelation when it all finally made sense:

 

 

 

 

 

Writing isn’t about money. It isn’t about fame.

 

It’s about changing the lives of children through our work.

 

And now anyone can do it on a global scale.

 

Instantly.

 

 

 

 

Whoa.

 

A Kindle book, an app, a video – these powerful publishing mediums can reach that girl in Kabul, and a schoolboy in Russia and a farm girl in Iowa at the same time. And we can do it ourselves without a giant budget, without a publishing contract and without having to be a technical genius.

 

In fact, we can start doing it right this minute!

 

When I truly got my mind around this new reality, everything changed. My apprehension, my doubts, my feeling of “where do we go now?”… they all melted away.

 

Do you see? Learning how to create an app isn’t some chore that must be dealt with. It’s a fun adventure that will give you the tools to impact millions of children’s lives. Book marketing isn’t a scary process that will steal your soul. It becomes about building a roadmap to share your message with as many young minds as possible.

 

  girl2

 

 

And the craft of writing? It becomes truly paramount.

 

 

We now have the chance to connect directly with boys, girls and teens throughout the planet. They deserve the best from us, so let’s take hold of this precious opportunity and give them stories, plots, dialogue and characters that exude quality and care.

 

There’s no doubt – a lot of junk will get published now that the virtual printing press is open to all. But, with advertising becoming increasingly ineffective, the books that will reach large numbers of children are the ones that parents, teachers, librarians and other kids rave about. It’s all about word of mouth. And bad books don’t get good word of mouth – only good books do.

 

If you want to succeed in the new publishing world, the “secret” is quite simple: Write Great Books! 

 

boy

 

We’ve all dreamed about inspiring kids on a large scale, but there were some daunting hurdles to overcome… editors to convince, bookstores to be sold to, distribution limitations to be reckoned with. We dreamed of changing the world, but we knew that, ultimately, our dreams were in the hands of others.

 

That was then. Now, we’ve got the power. So let’s dream big.

 

 

 

Let’s dream really, really, really big.

 

 

 

Laura and I want to help you fulfill those dreams. And we’ve decided that, from now on, this will be the driving focus of Children’s Book Insider:

 

 

We are committed to building a community of authors using

 

21st Century tools to change the lives of children around the world.

 

 

Alongside our readers, we will move forward into the future with excitement, not apprehension or doubt. We will work to instill our passion for the possibilities of this brave new world with all our hearts. And we’ll celebrate each and every victory you achieve in reaching a child with your work.

 

 

 

road

 

 

So, here we are, you and I. Pioneers staring out over a giant landscape of possibility with no one to stop us from expressing ourselves and impacting those remarkable young minds that await us.

 

Is it a little scary? Maybe. But don’t all great adventures begin that way?

 

We know that many of you may still have reservations about the future. And we know that many of you may even have reservations about your own ability to make use of these incredible new tools.

 

But, in this moment, all we ask is that you remain positive, remain willing to learn and remain focused on the real reason we’re here. If you can do that, you will move forward, and you will start to impact the lives of children in a truly meaningful and fulfilling way.

 

And remember, we’ll be doing this together. One step at a time in way that puts it all within your grasp.

 

girl

 

 

This is going to be a blast. The readers we’ll create. The lives we’ll change. The world we’ll help shape.

 

 

Are you as excited about this as we are?

 

Isn’t this the real reason you decided to become a writer?

 

 

Are you ready to take your place as a 21st Century Author? Then join us on this journey.

 

The world is now ours.

 

laura

 

 

PS: In case you’re wondering – we aren’t for a minute abandoning traditional publishing. We’ll still be the absolute best source for market leads and tips for submitting to publishers. But now, it’s all part of a bigger picture that allows you to choose your path toward changing children’s lives with your work. How exciting is that?

 

 

PPS: There’s even more about our vision that we still have to tell you!  As a fundamental part of our new direction, we’ll be working with some wonderful nonprofit groups to spread literacy, build schools, provide access to literature (including your work!) and distribute reading technology to children around the world.  Stay tuned to find out how you will be personally involved in this important effort.

 

 

 


 

 

Now it’s your turn.   Please use the comments section to tell us how our new mission resonates with you.  Are you feeling a little more confident?  A little more excited?   Do you see how looking at the big picture makes the task of learning about new technologies less intimidating?

 

You are a big part of this exciting new journey, so please share whatever’s on your mind!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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    Comments

    1. Denis W. Shuker
      February 11th

      Jon and Laura —  this is sensational!  I fully agree to these principles.   You are breathing fresh air into the business of writing for Kids. I'm excited as you are about the possible new opportunities.  But i imagine it will take us all working together, to make it work … I look forward to hearing some more about your ideas.

      Go for it — Denis Shuker, New Zealand.

    2. Barbara McNally
      February 12th

      I have been a fightin bookworm for a few short months and have enjoyed the information which has been made available to me as such. I have started writing ebooks for kids and find I really enjoy it although it is a learning curve with regard to the formatting for kindle etc.  My books are poems written to be read to the very young, but easy enough to be read alone by students.  I am finding that now that I have an outlet, the ideas just won't stop and I am thoroughly enjoying the whole process.  But you are right that it's more than about making money, tho that is nice.  I would like to write some ebooks for wide distribution to kids the world over.  Count me in.

       

    3. Rebecca
      February 14th

      I am super excited. It always takes someone to start something like this, so Jon and Laura, thank you.

      I look forward to recieving more info on how I can be apart of this. I always knew that real money wasn't going to be made…well, maybe someday, but not now….and so my excitment goes out to this….money isn't always the answer to everything. The love of writing is the answer, especially when a heart is touched because of it. I love to write and will continue to do so even if I am never published again!  Good work! I am Inspired,

      fellow fightin' bookworm

    4. Hi, Jon and Laura,

      I've been a "Fightin' Bookworm" for many years now, and never have I been more excited about the future of children's writing. Thanks for spearheading this great venture and adventure. 🙂  I'm eager to do my part.

      Blessings,

      MaryAnn
       

       

       

       

    5. Avis
      February 14th

      Wow, I can "hear" your passion and enthusiasm!  How exciting to be able to help children learn to read around the world, those less fortunate than most of us here!

       

    6. Sher Swanby
      February 15th

      You have truly set the idea of helping children throughout the world enjoy the written or eword. Thanks for the invigorating and inspiring opening to a new adventure with you.

    7. Sharon
      February 18th

      Looking for an inspiring journey!

    8. Raven
      February 19th

              Great step forward guys.  I had the opportunity to work briefly with Laura ( she critiqued my manuscript) and found her extremely helpful however I decided to self publish soI percieved that was my last interaction with Childrens Book Insider.

      Perhaps our relationship has only started after all.  

      How refreshing.  I look forward to more.

       

    9. Carmen Early
      February 19th

      Dear Jon and Laura,

      I can not agree with your stand more. As my own children grow in this new age of technology, I have found that my writing has become even more important to me than ever. In an effort to stay close to my children and contiue to enrich them with all kinds of literature, I must say that finding opportunities such as this I've stubbled upon, makes me smile. When I recently spoke to another mom who was so exasperated with trying her best to get her children to develop a love of reading, I told her of my dreams to write for children. She instantly became not only intersted but inquired a question concerning my distributuion plans in the area and surrounding. She asked me whther or not I had any plans of making my books bilingual? When I told her yes, of course, she immediately offered up to help me translate anything I wrote for children into Spanish, since she and her husband were so fed up with not being able to readily find Spanish translated books for their children in our local libraries. What I also learn which was very appalling was what she said next. That even in the public schools, they were extremely limited. And that in Mexico, there are almost no bookstores there at all. So, needless to say, thank you again for bringing this opportunity to children book writers everywhere!

    10. Jane
      February 20th

      I love your enthusiasm and ideas and the way you kerep us informed.

      I know all that comes from your inner passion for writing well and encouraging writers.

      Thanks so much

    11. Ginger Lauridsen
      February 20th

      I feel so much less alone. Thank You, Thank You.

    12. P. Althaus
      February 20th

      The concept of helping shape the children in all far reaching corners of the world, with great writing, is nothing short of a miracle really. With big media replacing meaningful reality with empty promises, it is a prime time for caring writers to share heartfelt and humane literature with hungry young learners. I embrace this effort fully and eagerly await more news from you Jon and Laura. I commend your perspective change, it's contagious!

      Thank you**

    13. John F. Wilhite
      February 22nd

      Jon and Laura,

      Thank you for spear-heading this worthwhile effort that will benefit writers and young readers alike.  There is much to discuss and to do to nudge the project forward and I look forward to participating.  I'm particularly interested in ebook formats that are "stand alone" since not all school districts in the US not to mention schools abroad can afford ereader devices (Kindle, Nook, etc.).  Further, the format used by those devices, EPUB relying on HTML/CSS, is not appropriate for the "fixed format" required for picture books.  I've been following ebook writing software for fifteen years and of the various programs I've used none of them quite fits the bill.  I think a newer, better, more full-featured, and very easy ebook creator is needed because we are writers of the written word, not programmers of computerese jibber jabber.

    14. Natisha
      February 24th

      Wow, I am thrilled about this fantastic news, what a great idea. This is an inspiring gift you are giving to the world and  I would absolutely love to be a part of this project.  I am sure the road ahead for all of us is going to be exciting and fun.  As for the children, it will be a precious and important life changing experience that they can  positively absorb. Thanks again.

      • jonb
        February 24th

        Thanks, Natisha — it's wonderful to read feedback like that!  
         

    15. Barbara
      February 27th

      A wonderful philosophy we can all share. One more part of a great community–thank  you Jon and Laura for leading the way.

    16. I have lots of ideas to help the children in my writing. I’m looking forward to helping children.

    17. Ruth
      March 7th

      Exciting. Not quite as simple as you make it sound, though!
      I am presently working as a teacher-mentor in village schools in the back-blocks of Malaysia. These little kids are expected to learn to read, and learn English from the start of Primary school although they rarely meet someone who speaks English and there is not much material (or motivation) to read in English. And it is all so much more complicated than I could write here. But … yeah! great to be inspired.

    18. Sherif Sadek
      March 16th

      Great article and noble cause, no doubt!
      I will be happy to be part of this campaign. My fear stems from two things though. Can words be as effective as we please and hope for; can it really shape a world that is dominated by a giant power of greed? Can electronic publishing be enticing to kids and teenagers as paper books are?

    19. Jon Bard
      June 6th

      Welcome newcomers to CBI! We’d love to hear what you have to say about our mission. Please share….

    20. This will make me think twice about word press. I will be privileged to be a part of reaching children who long to hear the storytellers in print. Blessings on them as their lives unfold into worlds of imagination and living. God Bless us all, writers and readers.

    21. Pingback: How to Change the World as a Children's Book Writer  WriteForKids

    22. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 08-21-2014 | The Author Chronicles

    23. Karen
      November 7th

      I come to the publishing arena from the app world. We can do amazing things with apps and make our stories come alive in an interactive fashion that is just incredibly exciting. And I don’t mean Kindle popups. LOL That sort of thing doesn’t turn a book into an app. A Kindle book or an eReader book is not an app, it’s an electronic version of traditional material and requires nothing more than special formatting. While ose formatting rules are confusing and daunting, they are nothing when compared to preparing the story for the app world.

      Apps have objects that come to life, like butterflies really flying and flapping their wings in a meadow, having a fence grow to twice it’s size when the words on the screen say “it was a VERY big fence”. Other actions like highlighting words as they are spoken to help kids learn their own or a second language are easily possible. If you see your character doing something in your mind, you can make it happen in your app. set your story in a forest full of hovering fairies and slobbering trolls you can make them hover and slobber across the screen, or with a finger tap. In short, apps give every author the ability to turn their story into fully interactive production that comes to life in ways we never thought would be possible.

      As exciting as this wonderful world of apps can be, there are two problems inherent to most books that are turned into apps. One – just because we CAN animate or provide action for an object doesn’t always mean we should. If the interactivity doesn’t compliment the story, but instead takes over the story, the written word becomes secondary to the entertainment. In short, the story gets lost in the trappings.

      The second problem is the story itself. It still needs to be well written. All the flash and glitz of interactivity can’t cover up a weak voice or a poor plot line or sloppy writing. So the challenge is to tell a story that stands up equally well in print, eReaders and a true interactive app. What a challenge! And what a totally wonderful time to be writing for kids!

    24. Sarah MacKenzie
      January 23rd

      Thank you so much for re-sending this announcement. When I first read it, I thought it was a new posting, but after viewing the comments and their dates, it was obvious that the original posting was about a year ago. This idea is so exciting, even after a year! I’ll have to admit that the hassle of the publishing and marketing world of regular books has been a real hurdle for my getting started. And the instructions you are providing for getting started with ebook writing are going to be so helpful as well. I can even see this as a method of spreading the ideas and tenets of the freedoms that we in the West have developed in the past centuries. This alone makes it an extremely worthwhile endeavor. The spread of these ideals among the youth can have a far greater impact for world peace than all the military and diplomatic efforts combined. We will have to take care that we are not too overbearing or “preachy” in the way these ideas are presented, however, that they just flow naturally with the story. Thank you both so much and God bless you.

    25. Margaret Welwood
      September 16th

      Beautiful!

    26. Diane Jackson
      September 24th

      BRILLIANT !!!! Working with change and not against it. Looking for for new and exciting opportunities and making the most of them. Way to go !!! + + + + + + +
      Diane Jackson recently posted…Oddball the movieMy Profile

    27. Helen
      September 25th

      As an author and librarian specialising in children’s literature, I am very excited about this writing and literacy direction. You have just put everything I believe in and stand for in writing!
      Thank-you
      Helen V
      Helen recently posted…Book Update – I did have fun!My Profile

    28. LadyD
      September 25th

      Wonderful news! What a fantastic vision to reach, teach and involve authors to ignite a spark in the hearts of young people. This is exciting and contagious! It truly takes just one to make a difference. Thanks CBI!
      LadyD recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Quail QuandaryMy Profile

    29. Ellen W
      September 25th

      What a great idea! Books should be accessible in as many formats as possible so that they reach as many readers as they can.

    30. Christina Greer
      September 25th

      I am just beginning to navigate the world of children’s publishing. I am excited and curious about everything going on currently. Empowering!

    31. Peggy Sweeney
      September 25th

      I totally support this mission and I am anxious to hear the practical plans to make it happen.

    32. Regina
      September 25th

      I teach pre-service teachers the importance of reading to all children. For many this is the first time they have head this. We participate in world read aloud day and are astounded by the dismal statistics of reading material in the poorest part of the world and our country. How exciting to think that I could be one small part of the solution. What an awesome mission!!

    33. Peggy House
      September 25th

      I particularly like your choice of two words: “community” and “change.” Those two words speak volumes.

    34. Delaine
      September 25th

      Laura and Jon, you have highlighted the ideal behind the business with your words about our global community. This is beautiful. Thank you. Delaine

    35. Beverly
      September 25th

      I think your goals are wonderful. Technology is a challenge to me, but I’m learning. All the new avenues of publishing are exciting and seeing children all over the world in school and learning is the best..
      Beverly recently posted…STAR OF THE TEAMMy Profile

    36. Olga L Vélez
      September 26th

      I am from a third world country and I know first hand, how hard is for a child to have a book in his hands . I totally support this mission and I am eager to hear the plans you have to make it happen.

    37. Jan
      September 28th

      This absolutely resonates with me – as a writer and a librarian I want everyone to find a love a great stories that will last their whole life.
      Laura and Jon, you’re doing a great job!

    38. Joan Longstaff
      September 28th

      Really pleased to hear about this mission. Having fought the good fight in producing readable formats for children who cannot read standard print, such as braille, large print and audio, the advances in technology and development of ebooks has been a game changer. So anything that puts more of this stuff into the hands of such children gets a big thumbs up from me, as it begins to level the playing field!

    39. Peeter Muna
      September 28th

      Hi Jon and Laura – you have done so much to help us new and not so new writers. We are much in your debt and yet you keep bringing in more new things to help.The writers of tomorrow will have a lot to thank you for. thanks – Peeter Muna

    40. Lu Ross
      September 28th

      Yes, I agree. It is a very good mission. As a librarian, I am very concerned about the quality of what is being written and distributed through self publishing.

    41. Clarice Rutherford
      September 28th

      I love working with and writing for the middlegrade – age group.I have published a non fiction book and have almost finished a fiction book. My main interest is literacy and getting books into the hands of children every where. Your presentation is very exciting.

    42. Manola
      September 29th

      Thank you, I needed the inspiration and positive approach. I am in.

    43. Judy
      October 24th

      Thank you!… for sharing your goals, dreams , and expertise, but Mostly your enthusiasms! I have not been involved lately, but now feel rejuvenated and inspired. I would imagine that the boost you give so many hopeful writers will have a huge impact on what’s available for readers all over the world. Thanks so much for your efforts!

    44. Helena
      March 15th

      Your vision is so refreshing, and fully resonates with me. I want to learn to write age-appropriate books, use the www to engage young readers / learners, and all this wonderful stuff –I’m full of ideas of how to use tech, and I want to get more of them (ideas).

      Now, playing devil’s advocate, as usual: After harnessing the power of the ‘net, I only need to learn the Afghani or the Russian language (the latter is in my to-do list, actually) to reach those kids, right?

    45. Marrion Ellis
      March 25th

      Hi Jon and Laura, I want to thank you both for the good work you are doing. All the information you are sharing is simply the best. I am working on writing an e-book on kindle as a product for my website. I am getting very excited but just a little afraid. Thanks again.

    46. Pamela
      April 16th

      I subscribed to CBI back in the mid-nineties after I had a few books published in New Zealand. After 28 years of teaching (soon to retire), I have found the two of you once again- online, and I am so empowered! Using my expertise in educating young minds, my goal is to develop curriculum related books. I want to continue to make a contribution to the world. Your mission sounds wonderful. I am eager to hear more about your goals.

    47. With experience as both a children’s librarian and a professional storyteller, I can feel my skin tingle reading this. I have had the privilege of witnessing the impact of stories, whether read or told, on children’s lives (and adults, for that matter). What a privilege to be able to add some small portion to the great stone soup of stories. And what a bonus to find CBI and this community as I start my journey of writing and publishing stories for children.

    48. Lorna Hart
      July 27th

      I have A KINDLE and it is black and white. Aren’t kids books quite reliant on the illustrations so can e-books compete with traditional books?

      • Laura Backes
        July 27th

        The new Kindle Fire tablets are in color. If you create a picture ebook with color illustrations, they’ll show up in color on the Kindle Fire, and black and white on the older Kindles.

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