Monday, March 14, 2011

What can children's authors learn from The Celebrity Apprentice?

Did you guys get a chance to watch The Celebrity Apprentice last night? If you write for children or know how difficult it is to write a children's book, I'm sure you were one of the viewers who got a kick out of watching the remaining 15 celebrities rack their brains and try their hand at penning a children's book for 4-5 year-olds. I know I did.

The celebs had to do it all--pre-think, build their story, get to know their main character (who needed to be based on one of the celebs on the team), make trouble for their main character and actually put their ideas into words. Then when it was all said and done, they needed to read and act their story out loud.

If you're a writer who has immersed herself in writing course after course, yes, I'm sure you cringed as the celebs committed many of the no-no's we hear in the industry. However, overall, I really enjoyed the show. If anything, hopefully it helped squash the misconception that writing a children's book is, dare I say it, easy! We saw how difficult it is to come up with an idea--especially one that hasn't been done a million times. Also, hearing all of the questions raised as to whether you should write in rhyme, what's age-appropriate, and what children find entertaining show all the thought and preparation that goes into writing a children's book.

In the end, Meatloaf's team went with the theme of anti-bullying. Lil' Jon, as the protagonist, stands up to school bullies and in the end, he puts on his gold chain, wipes away his tears and raps, “I know my ABCs and my 1-2-3s." I mean how great was it to watch Jose Canseco criticize John Rich's rhymes, arguing that the word “nobody” would send a bad message about teachers?

And the ladies went with the theme of just being yourself. The tale was about La Toya the lioness, who will not be able to roar until she accepts herself. Again how great was it to see the ladies argue over whether deafness should be incorporated into the narrative (that was dubbed a downer by the way) and Niki Taylor, much like Jose Canseco, voiced concerns that children wouldn't know what shy means?

My Brother CharlieThe judges were children’s book publisher Margery Cuyler [of Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books] and Holly Robinson Peete, former Celebrity Apprentice contestant and author of My Brother Charlie. It was agreed that the women used microscopic font in the book and the story’s theme was considered far too sophisticated. As a result, $20,000 went to Meat Loaf's charity, and “Not so Little, Jon" will be published!

So what can children's authors take away from the episode?

1. Children can handle and comprehend more than anamorphic animals!
2. Check to see that something actually happens in your story.
3. Have you included enough detail to bring your protagonist and other characters alive for a young reader?
4. Does the story proceed logically from beginning to middle to end?
5. Is there a problem or conflict in the story?
6. Does it read well out loud?
7. Reacquaint yourself with your own childhood.
8. Don't write in rhyme unless you really know how to do it.
9. Often a story's main weakness is the way in which the problem is resolved. Have you created enough obstacles?
10. Telling kids that your name is Meatloaf is a great ice-breaker!

1 comment:

  1. Watched the show this morning. I did love both books and thought they did a great job.