Can monkey's fly? How to keep a child's attention while teaching them a life lesson? Ask Me Anything!

Maggie van Galen
May 16, 2018

Award-winning children's author, Maggie van Galen, has read to over 4,000 kids and haven't lost one yet!

The best part about being a children's author, is that I get to share my story with kids!  I truly enjoy going into schools and reading The Adventures of Keeno & Ernest with the students of all ages!

Reading to and with children is so important, and I would love to share ideas about the best ways to keep kids engaged and interested!  Ask me anything!


instagram:  KeenoandErnest.books



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Is it more difficult to start writing a story compared to ending it?
May 18, 7:13PM EDT0
Who are Keeno and Ernest? Do they exist in real life?
May 18, 6:29PM EDT0
What age is considered late for a child to start having reading skills?
May 18, 4:50PM EDT0
What do your kids think about your children’s books?
May 18, 1:42PM EDT0
Do you believe parents should teach their child how to read even before they start schooling?
May 18, 8:17AM EDT1
Should children’s books be kept short to keep them interested without getting bored?
May 18, 6:23AM EDT1

I suppose it depends on the age range you are writing for, but I think shorter is probably better for the younger ones.  Having vibrant illustrations and offering children interactive experiences can also help keep a child's interest.

Thank you for asking!

May 18, 7:37AM EDT0
Who helps you out with the illustrations? Are the illustrations just as important as the words in children’s books?
May 18, 4:05AM EDT1

I truly believe that the illustrations, for my target age group, are equally important as the words because they make the story come to life.  Many children learn to read by telling the story they see in the picture.

Thankfully, I am fortunate enough to have found Joanna Lundeen Gallant as my illustrator.  She is truly an amazing artist and was able to capture my words and thoughts into glorious paintings!

Thanks for asking!

May 18, 7:46AM EDT0
Where can one purchase copies of your books?
May 18, 1:48AM EDT1

My books are available through Amazon, Pear Tree Publishing (my publisher) and my online store.

The Banana Tree and The Diamond Mine are available in softcover only for $12.95 and A New Friend is hardcover for $19.95.

Thank you for asking!

May 18, 7:52AM EDT0
How do you come up with interesting titles that would appeal to both parents and children?
May 18, 12:55AM EDT1

I always give my stories a working title while in the writing process.  This is usually the 'big picture' idea behind the story.  It often ends up being the title of the book, but I always wait until I'm finished and have a chance to my different critics (parents, children and my writers group) and editors.

In general, I think the title should give the main premise without giving too much away.

Thanks for asking!

May 18, 7:58AM EDT0
Have you written other books that are not children’s books?
May 17, 3:03PM EDT1

I have written a book of poetry called "An Inside Look..." a gazillion years ago.  It is no longer in publication.  Currently, I am working on a book that would be for teen and up, but that is a long way off!

Thank you for asking! 

May 18, 8:00AM EDT0
What are the most common misconceptions about the market for children’s books?
May 17, 8:51AM EDT1

Based on my own experiences, I would say:

1.  People think writing for children is easier than writing for older audiences.  Perhaps because children's books are generally shorter and more simply written, but I think this can often make it more difficult.  Add to the fact that a child's development is so formative at the younger ages, a writer should take great care in how they deliver their message/story.

2.  I often here people say they have told their own children stories which they loved, so others will like them too.  For me, that was my biggest fear and best thermometer when writing my books.  I originally published with the sole goal of leaving a hardcopy legacy for my boys.  I was hopeful that others would like them too, and to this day am overwhelmed with the response I've received!

I did a little research on this question and found a great resource titled "Top 10 Things You Don't Know About Writing Books for Children" by Readers Digest.  There are several other misconceptions listed here that I think are excellent points and helpful links.

Thanks for asking!

May 17, 11:23AM EDT0
If you were to write a book about yourself, how would you name it?
May 17, 4:09AM EDT0

That is a tough question!  The first thing that pops into my head is ... "Everything happens for a reason."  That sounds a little too cliche, but something encapsulating that sentiment!

Thanks for asking!

May 17, 11:11AM EDT0
When you write, do you try to do it without expressing your own opinions?
May 16, 10:08PM EDT0

When I write for the newspaper, yes, I leave my own opinions out as you should in journalism (unless an editorial of course).  In my children's books, the life lesson is based on my own kid's experiences and in talking/listening to other parents, so I guess it is my opinion, but I try to phrase it so that it will be appealing or recognizable to all.

Thank you for asking!

May 17, 11:10AM EDT0

I have written a children's book with my grandson, what is the best way, in your opinion to help a five  year old understand that the story needs to be short (he wants 30+

May 16, 10:16AM EDT1

First off, congrats on writing a book!  What if you suggested he draw the pictures and perhaps have 1 page of text and 1 page of illustrations?  I would also take him to the library and pick out some of his favorite it a research field trip...and along with reading the books, count how many pages are in each one, how big is the font size, how many words versus illustrations.   Also, in your grandson's defense, it's always easier to cut words down than to add them in!  Or, maybe you have multiple stories in those 30 pages!!

Keep writing and always follow your dreams!

Thank you for asking!

May 16, 12:33PM EDT0
What is the best advice that you have been given with regards to publishing?
May 16, 7:59AM EDT0

The best advice is to have your work professionally edited!  It's worth the money.  Once I have my final manuscript the way I want it, I give it to 3 or more professionals (in my case, a reading specialist at an elementary, a children's librarian, members of my writer's group and my kids).  Once I have all of their feedback incorporated, I hire an outside editor.  And then I give to my publisher, who puts the work through their own set of edits.  From start to finish, my manuscript probably goes through 10-15 revisions.

Thanks for asking!

May 16, 8:12AM EDT0
When you are working on a book, do you know already what the ending will be?
May 16, 7:22AM EDT0

With my children's books, the answer is yes!  There is a moral/life lesson to each of the stories, and I know that is what I want Keeno to learn.  Then I have to create an adventure that leads him there!

Thank you for asking!

May 16, 8:15AM EDT0
In your opinion, what does the market for children’s books look like today?
May 16, 6:50AM EDT0

Great question!  The market is full!  There are so many great children's stories and authors for this genre - Sandra Boynton, Chris van Dusen, Donna Marie Siem just to name a few.   There is also multiple age groups to classify a children's book from board books for babies to picture books for early readers to chapter books for teens, any many more in between. The market is still full of the classics like Swiss Family Robinson, Thomas the Tank Engine (yes, it started as a book!) and Babar as well as the new books.

Thankfully, my goal is not to compete, but to simply be enjoyed by all who read!

Thanks for asking!

May 16, 8:26AM EDT0
What are your tips to successfully handle frustration and stress?
May 16, 6:25AM EDT0

My best advice with regard to writing frustration/stress is to put it down and come back later.  That's the beauty of doesn't go anywhere unless you want it to.  If you are on a deadline, still put it down and then do something that makes you happy (go for a walk, do yoga, call a friend) and then go back to your piece.

Hope that helps!  Thanks for asking!

May 16, 8:28AM EDT0
What was the first book that made you cry?
May 16, 3:44AM EDT0

I must admit that I am a bit of sap!  Probably the first book that comes to mind is Trumpet of The Swan by E.B. White.  I remember my mom reading this to me on a cross-country car trip when I was about 8 years old.  Words can be so powerful!

Thank you for asking!

May 16, 8:33AM EDT0
What are your secret inspiration sources? How do you generate new ideas for books?
May 15, 3:04PM EDT0

The inspiration for my writing comes from all around me...everyday experiences and interactions can often spark an idea.  When I read in schools, children are often full of good ideas and I ask them to write them down and I keep them in my "idea file."  I also belong to a writer's group and every meeting we start with a 5 minute writing prompt where we are given an incomplete sentence and you just write for 5 minutes...timed!  It is amazing how many ideas have been generated from this process.  I have a whole new book in progress because of one of these!

Thank you for asking!

May 15, 11:13PM EDT0
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