I am a self-professed, craft-book addict. I love reading about writing. Yes, it is probably a form of procrastination, but at least it is a productive form. For me, while many ideas are similar between books, hearing them explained in different ways is often the difference between reading a tip, and actually understanding how it works. Sometimes my brain needs to hear the same thing said, just with different words.
For this third installment in my series on children’s writing, I want to talk about Nancy Lamb’s The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children (Writer’s Digest Books 2001). Like Ann Whitford Paul’s Writing Picture Books (Writer’s Digest Books 2009) it’s more of a primer than an in-depth exploration of any one aspect of the craft of writing.
But unlike Paul’s book, it doesn’t limit its focus to just picture books. If you have designs on writing stories for older kids, this is probably a better choice even though the craft lessons in the books are very similar. The most useful difference being that Lamb’s book uses examples and exercises that include books for older readers.
Nancy Lamb’s Best Books for Children’s Writers
The book examples she refers to form what she calls her “Touchstone Books”—those books that exemplify good writing and that have withstood the test of time. Here’s her list:
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
- The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
- A Separate Peace by John Knowles
- The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
- The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
- Slugs by David Greenberg
- Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
She also provides a great list of craft books (I love when authors do this!). Here is Nancy Lamb’s reading list of craft books for children’s writers:
- Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
- The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
- The Art of Writing for Children by Connie C. Epstein
- Writing for Children and Teenagers by Lee Wundham
- How to Write and Sell Children’s Picture Books by Jean E. Karl
- You Can Write Children’s Books by Tracey E. Dils
- Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham
- How to Write a Damn Good Novel (I & II) by James N. Frey
- Building Better Plots by Robert Kernen
- Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress
- Creating Characters Kids Will Love by Elaine Marie Alphin
- Story Sparkers: A Creative Guide for Children’s Writers by Marcia Thornton Jones and Debbie Dadey
One of the reasons I love craft books is that while they all say similar things, they all say them in a different way. Sometimes it takes hearing the same idea a few times, but in different words, for it to really settle in. This difference is sometimes all I need to move from hearing an idea to understanding one.
Here are my questions for you this week: 1. Which book from the first list have you read that left an impression on you? Why? 2. Have you used any books from the second list? If so, how did they help you? Leave your answers in the comments, and I’ll do the same!