Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Children’s Books

YA & Children’s Books for Adults


I’ve known quite a few people in my time who’d be shamed if others saw them reading a book that wasn’t Age Appropriate… 

Just for a moment, imagine yourself sitting in a public place (with no children around you) reading a kid’s book—brightly-colored cover and all

There are many reasons adults have for not reading (all by themselves…) “non-adult” books.

However, “coloring-within-the-lines” can often keep you from extremely creative activities.

Think about this quote from the article, 10 Children’s Books You Should Read As An Adult, from The Autism Site:

“We’ve lost the appreciation for simple messages these days. Somewhere along the way, we started associating great ideas with complex narratives, plot twists, and best seller’s lists; but simple truths found in children’s books are amongst the most powerful ideas out there.”

I’ll list the first 5 books recommended but urge you to go to the article to see the rest and read what they say about the books

Where The Wild Things Are: Maurice Sendak

I’ll Love You Forever: Robert Munsch & Sheila McGraw

Goodnight Moon: Margaret Wise Brown & Clement Hurd

Where The Sidewalk Ends: Shel Silverstein

The Little Engine That Could: Platt & Munk

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Now, from The Guardian, the article, The Eight Best Young Adult Books – and Why Grownups Should Read Them, Too.

They say:

“Young adult writing today contains everything. The worst of it is as lim­ited as any bad writing, the best could thrill any readers willing to put them­selves in the hands of expert storytellers and great writers.”

Again, I’ll list half the recommendations and urge you to visit the article

Revolver: Marcus Sedgwick

The White Darkness: Geraldine McCaughrean

Kit’s Wilderness: David Almond

Henry Tumour: Anthony McGowan

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Finally, since Goodreads is a site that has a well-developed book recommendation system, I’ll leave you with one of the comments from a Forum Discussion about an Age Appropriate rating system:

“I don’t want this on Goodreads at all….who decides what is or is not appropriate….it is not up to Goodreads to make suggestions or comments about age appropriateness; we start with that and suddenly, some individuals might not want certain books featured on Goodreads at all, or they might become irate because a book has not been deemed or rated as ‘inappropriate’ and they feel it should. And what if I review a book and rate it as appropriate and another person reads it and does not agree? No, this is a bad and problematic suggestion, parents (no, any readers) must decide for themselves what is appropriate.”
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Did Maurice Sendak Call The Publishing World “Outrageously Stupid” ?


Blog posts are traditionally not long—the World is getting shorter and so must be brains.

Obtained from Wikipedia under Fair Use provisions

Still, I have kept most of the posts here short and actually enjoy working within the format.

But I found an online publication called Believer  that says about itself:

“The Believer is a monthly magazine where length is no object.
There are book reviews that are not necessarily timely,
and that are very often very long.
There are interviews that are also very long.
We will focus on writers and books we like.
We will give people and books the benefit of the doubt.”

And, in their November/December 2012 issue, I found an interview with Maurice Sendak, who passed away in May.

There is much in this interview of potential interest to Readers, Writers, and Publishers and I’ll give you a few excerpts of Sendak’s answers with my hope you’ll go over there and read the whole interview.

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“…publishing is such an outrageously stupid profession. Or has become so….nobody knows what they’re doing. I wonder if that’s always been true. I think being old is very fortunate right now. I want to get out of this as soon as possible. It’s terrible. And the great days in the 1950s and after the war, when publishing children’s books was youthful and fun… it really was. It’s not just looking back and pretending that it was good. It was good. And now it’s just stupid.”

[when asked what he thought about e-books]  “I hate them. It’s like making believe there’s another kind of sex. There isn’t another kind of sex. There isn’t another kind of book. A book is a book is a book.”

“I’m…reading books that I want to make sure I read before I die. And re-read. So far I’m still re-reading. I just re-read The Odyssey. I didn’t realize it was funny. Like the relationship between Odysseus and Calypso: hilarious. Hilarious. Penelope and her weaving and her doubt. It would make great television. A great movie, if someone had the talent and wit to do it. ”

“I was very happy to be an American. I loved being here. I loved not being dead when I was a kid. And whenever a kid died, when I was a kid, it was a very big thing; it reflected back on the fact that my being here was arbitrary. My father coming here was arbitrary. He didn’t have to come here. He came because he was chasing a girl who had committed herself to every living human male in the village.”

“We had a cousin. We were not supposed to like her, because she was a communist. She was very plain. I adored her, and me and my sister would steal off and go to her house. She sat and talked to me and told me that I knew how to draw and that I could be an artist, or anything, and I thought if she was in the world, then good was in the world.”

“I refuse to lie to children. I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence.”

“…a little girl wrote to me from Canada: ‘I like all of your books, why did you write this book, this is the first book I hate. I hate the babies in this book, why are they naked, I hope you die soon. Cordially…’ Her mother added a note: ‘I wondered if I should even mail this to you—I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.’ I was so elated. It was so natural and spontaneous….You can only be astonished. Most kids don’t dare tell the truth. Kids are the politest people in the world. A letter like that is wonderful. ‘I wish you would die.” I should have written back, ‘Honey, I will; just hold your horses.'”

[when asked about his artistic style] “It’s spontaneous combustion. I don’t know what’s going to work until I start to draw. It is so out of your hands it is amazing.”

[when asked about the success ofWhere the Wild Things Are”]  “It’s a nice book. It’s perfectly nice. I can’t complain about it. I remember Herman Melville said, “When I die no one is going to mention Moby-Dick. They’re all going to talk about my first book, about fucking maidens in Tahiti.” He was right. No mention of Moby-Dick then. Everyone wanted another Tahitian book, a beach book. But then he kept writing deeper and deeper and then came Moby-Dick and people hated it. The only ones who liked it were Mr. and Mrs. Nathaniel Hawthorne. Moby-Dick didn’t get famous until 1930.

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Have you ever read a Sendak book?
Have you ever had a Sendak book read to you? :-)
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Author Interview ~ Damaria Senne


Let’s begin with a brief Bio:

Damaria Senne is a writer and publisher based in South Africa. Her published works include How To Get Quoted In The Media, a guide to help small business owners and non-profit organisations get free media coverage; The Doll That Grew, a children’s book about a boy who takes revenge on his sister after she damaged his toy car for the second time; and, Waking Up Grandma,  the story of old Mrs McKay, who falls asleep anywhere, anytime. Her grandchildren take advantage of it and pull a lot of pranks on her while she’s asleep. But is Grandma having as much fun as they are?

Get more personal information about Damaria.

Now, on with the interview :-)

Damaria, why did you decide to self-publish some of your books?

For the past couple of years, I have been reading about the changes that are taking place in the publishing industry. I was especially interested in the notion that writers are increasingly taking control of their works through self-publishing, and that this is no longer looked on as a last-resort for losers who can’t land a traditional publishing contract, but rather a viable alternative which allows writers to make more money.

Also, some of my clients are traditional publishers for whom I work as a freelance publisher, overseeing the publishing of some of their books. I just finished a project where I oversaw the writing, editing and publishing of six books and am about to embark on another assignment publishing six books. So eventually it dawned on me that as a professional publisher, I understand the process of creating publishable material, so why don’t I use the same knowledge and skill on my own works?

This does not mean that I no longer wish to look for traditional publishing contracts though, or that I will not submit some of my books to other digital publishers. My plan is to have as wide a variety of publishers as possible, so I don’t keep my eggs in one basket.

Why did you choose to publish in ebook format and to use Amazon Kindle as your publishing platform?

As an avid reader, I meet a lot of readers online and what I found out is that many of them read ebooks.  Also, I don’t have the resources to make a splash publishing a decent print run of a book, and I have not set up a book distribution deal for my self-published works. So it made sense that I would choose to publish in the digital medium, as it allows me to reach a wide range of people worldwide without having to spend too much time or money on the project.

The first ebook, How To Get Quoted In The Media, was basically an experiment for me to test the self-publishing waters. The ebook was published in October 2011 as a PDF document available on sale on my blog. And while sales have not been fantastic, the ebook helped me land a client who offered me a retainer. The income from that client paid back my publishing costs (graphic design, typesetting, short print run for promotional copies and POD sales).

Meanwhile, I read about Amazon’s Kindle publishing platform and realised that it offered a more streamlined self-publishing process. Using it, I don’t have to worry about typesetting costs, because Kindle formats the book for me. And Amazon already attracts a big chunk of the reading public—all I’d have to do is make sure that those readers who like the kind of books I write can find my books.

Once I was feeling confident about using Amazon, I released a children’s book entitled The Doll That Grew  on that platform. The Amazon edition of The Doll That Grew is a second edition of the book. The first edition was published by Macmillan South Africa years ago. It’s now out of print and the rights have reverted to me.

Please, tell us about your experience of the self-publishing process.

I found that publishing through Amazon was easier than selling a PDF book through my web site. It certainly cost me less money.  Also, Amazon has credibility and people seem to take me more seriously when I say that my ebooks are available through Amazon than when I said that they were available through my blog.

That said, the self-publishing journey has not been easy, even though I did have experience as a publisher. First of all, I am by temperament more of a writing creative then a business professional, and I would rather spend all day creating characters and writing their stories, so focussing on the business aspects of the publishing process is not easy.

Secondly, I do need money to hire a professional editor and book cover designer for my book projects. So I’ve had to be very frugal with my earnings and designate as much money as I can on the self-publishing process. I also need money to place strategic advertisements on Google and Gumtree (a local online selling platform, much like Craigslist).

The hardest part of the process though, is the marketing and promotion of the book once it’s published.  This is a job that requires me to spend hours online, looking for free marketing and promotional opportunities. I have to admit that this is my least favourite job, as it takes a lot of time and does not yield immediate results (you have to be consistent and patient in your promotion efforts).

To try to ramp up this process, I hired a freelance social media consultant to help me with this task. She spends an hour every day promoting my books and while I don’t believe that is enough time allocated to the task, it’s a good start. At least I’m guaranteed that some marketing and promotion happens every day.

What are the lessons you’ve learned from the venture?

Marketing and promotion are crucial to the success of a self-publishing project.  If you don’t do it, and don’t do it consistently, people won’t know that you have a good book available and, therefore, they won’t buy it. And what’s the point of writing, editing and publishing a good book if no one knows about it except you and a couple of your friends?

I also learnt to appreciate the role of a good editor in developing a good book. To be honest, the ebooks that I ended up publishing were very different from the books I initially wrote and that was mostly due to the editors who re-read the manuscripts and made very important suggestions on how I could improve them.

Publishing a non-fiction book as an ebook makes sense. But why do you also publish children’s books as ebooks? I thought children preferred illustrated books that they can touch and feel?

There is no denying that hard copy books are ideal reading material for children. But I believe that ebooks also have a role in the reading life of children. Books can be very expensive and with ebooks, parents can more easily afford to create a collection of children’s books to read for their children at bedtime.

I also write my children’s stories with the storytelling aspect kept in mind: there is a lot of drama and sound effects in the stories, and I also expect that the parents can also take some leeway with my stories, adding their own brand of drama to make them interesting for their children.

You talk about a collection of children’s books for parents. Are you planning to publish more children’s books and if so, when and how frequently? Oh! Also tell us about your latest release!!

So far, I’m planning to publish at least one children’s book a month, though I would publish more if I could write and edit the stories fast enough. My latest children’s book, Waking Up Grandma, was released on the 26th of March. It will be followed by my retelling of the African folktale, Tselane And The Giant, in April. The next 3 children’s books are in various stages of preparedness.

I’m also planning to translate the children’s books to French, German, Chinese and several South African languages ( Afrikaans, Zulu, Setswana and Xhosa). The Afrikaans version of The Doll That Grew is already available on Amazon, and I have assigned translators to work on the other language versions of the book. These translated books will be published as and when the translations are completed.

Are these children’s books all that you’re planning to publish in 2012?

If I was smart, I would say no, because I definitely have a lot on my plate with my own books. But I would also like to publish other people’s books on Amazon and a friend of mine has written two romance novels that are undergoing the editorial process to get them ready for publication through my company. The release dates have not been set yet, but I hope that these romances will be the start of more good things to come. I would also like to publish more non-fiction ebooks. I’ve asked Christelle Du Toit, my co-author for How To Get Quoted In The Media to write a sequel. Hopefully, she will be able to finish it this year and, maybe, we can publish it later in the year.

Damaria, you are a busy and delightful person! I do hope you’ll come back to our blog for another interview about your writing process or advice about how to write children’s books or, well, whatever more you want to share :-)

Folks, do go over to Damaria’s blog, it’s delightful, too!!

And, feel free to ask Damaria a question in the Comments…
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