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Advice From A Caterpillar: Issue 1205
by Peggy Tibbetts, Send your writing questions in!
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In this issue of Advice From a Caterpillar, Tibbetts answers these readers questions:

What Is Meant By The Term "Reluctant Readers"?

I am trying to find a publisher for my young adult novel. Several publishers say in their submission guidelines that they are looking for books for "reluctant readers". I've never heard of the term "reluctant readers" before. Can you define it for me?

According to the experts there are several different types of reluctant readers. They can be intelligent children or teens who are interested in reading, but lack good reading skills, such as speed and comprehension. Some children and teens simply have no interest in reading and are at risk of falling behind. Other children and teens have specific learning problems that impede their ability and desire to read. The most challenging child or teen is one with excellent skills but has no interest in books or reading. There are no vocabulary lists or restrictions when writing for reluctant readers.

Fiction books that are geared for reluctant readers are usually fast-paced, action driven, and about 220 pages or less. Reluctant readers are always attracted to adventure, fantasy, teen romance, and diaries and letters. Currently popular with teen reluctant readers are nonfiction books about celebrities, sports, or are reality-based, such as true stories of the weird or supernatural.

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), publishes an annual list of Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. According to YALSA, the Quick Picks committee "seeks books that teens, ages 12-18, will pick up on their own and read for pleasure. The list is geared to the teenager who, for whatever reason, does not like to read. Teen input is a vital aspect in the final decision of the committee. The visual appearance of a book and the standard considerations in the quality of content is equally important when selecting books for reluctant young readers. The list is not intended for teenagers with reading disabilities, though some of the selected titles may be appropriate for those teens." You can find the complete list of YALSA recommended books for reluctant readers at their web site.   [ Top of Page ]

Do You Have Any Tips For Dealing With Writer's Block?

I am in the process of writing a middle grade novel. I got about halfway through it while my kids were in school last year. But then I didn't have much time to work on it over the summer. I was hoping that I could finish it when they went back to school but I'm having trouble getting back into it. I'm afraid I have writer's block. Do you have any tips for dealing with this dilemma?

I have always felt that writers who are also moms have a particularly hard time staying focused. Mainly because I am a mom, a grand-mom, and a writer! Multi-tasking is a big part of our lives. Our work time is fragmented by the demands of changing schedules around us, and umpteen chores and errands. Writing fiction is challenging and difficult work, therefore it is easily pushed aside in the reality of our daily lives. There are many causes for writer's block. In your case I think you need to find a block of time that works best for you and your family, no matter the season, whether the kids are in school or not. "Take Control of Your Time!" by Kelle Campbell, is an excellent article for busy moms like you. She outlines effective steps you can take to better manage your time.

If you don't have an office space, create one for yourself. Don't work at the kitchen table. Go to your own space every day at the appointed time and work. If at first you have trouble working on the manuscript, take some time to re-read and edit what you have written so far. Perhaps that will inspire you to continue. Sometimes when a novel writer gets stuck in the middle of a manuscript it can mean she is headed in the wrong direction with one of the characters, or the story itself. Try some writing exercises that relate to your novel. Write an interview with your main character. Write a chapter-by-chapter synopsis to make sure the plot is going in the right direction. Family life, illness, or personal problems can take their toll on the writing process. Take stock of your life and health. Maybe there's a problem you're not dealing with. Or perhaps you just need a little exercise. A half-hour walk or bike ride can do wonders for breaking writer's block. If none of the above seems to help, take a class. Writing classes, acting classes, or art classes can all stimulate creativity. Self-hypnosis and meditation are also effective ways of dealing with writer's block. David Taylor's four-part series on "Fighting Writer's Block" deals with the causes and solutions to help you break your writer's block. In her article, "Writer's Block: Is It All In Your Head?", Leslie What analyzes the causes and treatments for writer's block, including good advice from fellow writers. [ Top of Page ]

How Do Authors Get Online Interviews?

I am a children's author and illustrator. My first book was published this year but I'm having a hard time finding book reviewers and author interviews. I have read dozens of interviews with children's authors online. I'm wondering how I can get interviewed. Do you have any suggestions?

I have compiled a list of more than twenty-five Children's Book Reviewers at Writing World. If you're a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), go to their web site and download the free "Guide to Children's Book Reviewers." The guide lists individuals and publications that review children's books, along with information on how and what to submit.

Author interviews are more difficult to obtain and will require some research on your part. You can start by doing a Google search for "children's author interviews". Look for web sites that publish interviews with children's authors and send an email requesting an interview. For example, Absolute Write and author Cynthia Leitich Smith have published several author interviews. Members of SCBWI have access to online discussion boards where they can post requests for interviews. [ Top of Page ]

Peggy Tibbetts is a writer, editor, and full member of SCBWIPeggy Tibbetts is the author of the children's novel The Road to Weird, as well as the adult novel Rumors of War. She was managing editor and columnist at She has also worked as an associate producer of educational videos for Upper Midwest Films, contributing editor for Children's Magic Window magazine, and Children's Writing Resource Editor at Contact Peggy at: peggyt"at"


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