Keeping in touch with kids is hard sometimes. I’ve been working on lists of picture book ideas for Friday Ideas and I find myself writing nonsense! No kid would be interested in some of the ideas I put down.

Then, my grand-daughter came to visit and I remembered what I must never forget: kids have a wide variety of interests. Still – there are some ideas better suited to preschoolers, some to school age, some for teens.

How do you keep up with kids? Here are some suggestions.

Volunteer with Kids. Volunteer in your local school, church, or community organization. Volunteer to read for a local story hour at a bookstore or library. Just an hour a week or every other week will keep you in touch with today’s slang, clothing, etc. And it will remind you of why you write for kids.

Re-read Your Favorite Children’s Books. Read for pure pleasure this time, not to analyze, but just to enjoy. Need a nudge to remember your favorite?

Read New Children’s Books. At least once a month, spend an hour or so at a local bookstore, studying the new picture books. This time, you do want to analyze. What publisher is doing what sorts of books? Any surprises? Get chatty with the children’s bookseller and ask what titles are selling well. Be a book market detective for a while. If you sit there long enough, you’ll see an elegantly dressed grandmotherly sort come in and ask for Fancy Nancy. You’ll see a mother dragging three kids with her come in and absolutely charm them by reading a story to them right there in the store. You’ll remember why you write for kids.

This works for any audience you write for: Do you write for quilters? Then attend a quilting class. Do you write for mystery lovers? Host a mystery dinner party. Do you write for fantasy lovers? Get thee a costume and attend a Con. Get in touch with your audience, and you’ll write stronger and better.

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