Ann Whitford Paul is the author of numerous children’s books, and also writes poetry. Her latest book is Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication from Reader’s Digest Books.
In it, Ann covers researching the picture books market, creating characters, point of view, plotting, tips on writing rhyme, and more-all the lessons writers need to write great picture books that will appeal to both editors/agents and young readers/parents.
How to balance family time with a writing life
Ann is the mother of two girls and two boys. When asked about juggling family and writing, she says it’s not an easy task. To help, she gives writer mamas these seven suggestions on getting your writing work done:
1. Remind yourself that living is collecting material for writing. Consider this your gathering phase. Instead of working on longer projects, you might find it easier to write poems and journal entries, or collect a story file, to use later when you have more time.
2. Never do housework while the children are napping or in school. Reserve that as your writing time. Then when the kids are with you let them help dust or mix up the meat loaf for supper or play alongside you while vacuuming Children need to know what is required to keep a house going.
3. You don’t have to play with your children every minute of every day. Frankly it would have driven me crazy to build block towers and sip pretend tea day in and day out. Feel free to tell your kids that you did that when you were their age and now it’s their turn. The benefits won’t only be yours. Your kids will learn independence and how to create and play their own imaginative activities.
4. It’s way too easy to use the television as a babysitter while you write. Don’t! The immediate positive benefit will be replaced by a long lasting negative for when it’s turned off, your children will cling to you because they haven’t had practice in entertaining themselves.
5. Drop everything when your children ask you to read a book. Not only will you have a wonderful close experience, consider it an opportunity to improve your craft. Think about what made the book work and see if you can carry over any of those lessons to your own writing. (The picture above is of me reading to my two youngest children, Alan and Sarah.)
6. Make your two priorities your family and your writing. Remind yourself that being a parent will end, but your writing can be done forever. Be wary of too much volunteering. Planning homecoming events or school fairs may be a great way to get to know other parents, but it isn’t quality time with your kids. Practice saying no without feeling guilty.
7. Give yourself the gift of attending at least one writing conference a year. Having this to look forward to will make the demands of parenting less burdensome.