By Yvonne Blackwood~

Let the writing begin! You have followed the previous three steps (parts 1, 2, & 3) I have laid out and now you are ready to put pen to paper, or better still, you are ready to let the keyboard sing! What else could you possible require?

Like any other trade, a writer needs the tools of the trade—a comfortable workspace to read and write; a computer of course; a thesaurus and a dictionary—okay, I know that you can easily access these documents on your computer, but having a paper copy is a good thing for a few reasons.

Quick access book

(a) Having these books at your fingertips provide easy access so that you do not have to boot up your computer to check a single word. (b) Microsoft does not know synonyms and will sometimes give you an incorrect spelling of a word, or indicate that your spelling is incorrect when it is not. (c)When you need to find the perfect word, sometimes the computer will not provide it. The other things you need are a printer and paper. Trust me, no one writes a perfect book in one sitting. You will be doing a lot of printing and checking, and rewriting. I suggest you write two manuscripts initially (more about this later).

The next move is to write a plot of your story. Remember that every good story has a beginning—the point where you introduce your main character and grab the reader’s interest—a middle—the place where conflicts builds up, and the end—where conflicts are resolved and you leave your reader wanting more. The plot does not have to be sophisticated; it is merely a guide to keep you on the straight-and-narrow! Since we do not usually think through everything logically, sometimes you have to change parts of the story so that it makes sense.

When I began to write Nosey Charlie Comes To Town, I already had half of the plot worked out based on my original idea. The story was going to be about a family of squirrels living in a park in a city, and it was going to revolve around the fall season because I saw the crab apple trees laden with fruits in the fall. So what? What would be the conflict? How would it be resolved? These details were unknown. This is where imagination took over and as the creative juices flowed, all kinds of ideas came to the fore and I was able to complete mt plot.

Nosey Charlie Goes To Court is now available at Amazon.com.


By Yvonne Blackwood

Now that you have a great idea for your children’s book—the tale of Johnnie Rabbit—and you have researched both the subject and the market, you are ready to write.

Johnnie Rabbit

Wait! Not so fast. Assuming that this writing event is not just a one-time exercise, you need to prepare a bit more.

 Buy, Borrow, but do not steal!

It is imperative that you join the public library or renew your membership if it has lapsed. Why? Because you need to buy some children’s books, but to avoid spending a fortune you should borrow some also. When I was preparing to write Nosey Charlie Comes to Town, I would borrow seven or eight books at a time, read them, return them, and borrow another set until I was fully versed it how they are written. Reviewing children’s books on the internet serves a purpose by giving you a cursory view of the books, however, if you are serious about writing in this genre you must familiarize yourself with several aspects of the books that the internet cannot provide realistically.

Sizes and Page Count

Children’s books come in several sizes, from small 5 X 5 to over 11 inches. They also have various page count. It was only while doing my research that I learned that children’s books for ages 3-8 usually have 24, 32, or 48 pages. Knowing the number of pages your book will contain is important because it will dictate the number of words you can write and the number of illustrations the book can have.

Page Lay-out

All children’s picture books are not created equally. You should be aware that each has a different lay-out. Some books have text and illustrations on alternate pages, others have illustrations on every page with text above, below, or to the side of the illustrations, and some even have text written in the illustrations.

 Pricing is important

By examining books bought or borrowed you will observe that prices vary, that hard cover books tend to be more expensive, and that soft cover books fall within similar ranges. The last thing any author wants to do is to overprice her/his book because of lack of knowledge.

 Age Range

Your inspection of the children’s book section of the library will make it clear very quickly that the children’s picture book is a wide category, and that it is broken down further into ages 1-3 and 3-8. The first group can only handle board books. These have thick pages made from cardboard or chipboard, have brightly coloured pictures and little text with about a dozen pages. Since you have a tale to tell in your Johnnie Rabbit story, the age group you will serve is ages 3-8, and the word count should be maximum 1500. These matters you can only learn by physically examining books.

Next article: Writing is a lonely vocation: Join a writers group

Coming very soon, my second book in the Nosey Charlie series Nosey Charlie Goes To Court! 

Nosey Charlie Goes To Court








Nosey Charlie Comes To Town







I have a great idea!


You have decided on a fabulous idea. You are going to write a children’s story about Johnnie Rabbit, and he is going to be anthropomorphic. Although you have seen rabbits in the backyard and at the petting zoo, you really do not know much about them, except that the meat is eaten because you have seen it at the supermarket. How are you going to write a convincing story about a rabbit and not seem stupid? You must research, and do it diligently.



Research is a major part of writing for children. You must research your subject and the market place. First, the subject. What are rabbits? What do they eat? Are they herbivores or carnivores? Where do they live? (You don’t want write in your story that Johnnie Rabbit lives in a sty!) How large do they become? What are their habits? Gathering this important information not only provides meat for your story, it gives it authenticity and makes your character real even if Johnnie Rabbit is fictional.

When I decided to write my children’s story, Nosey Charlie Comes To Town, the only thing I knew about squirrels is that they are always hiding nuts. I had no idea what they ate—it could not be just nuts! —although I have observed a determined little squirrel who regularly visits my backyard and tries every trick in the book, including lying vertically against the fence, in order to eat the seeds in the bird feeder. My research taught me that their diet consists of nuts, fruits, and seeds. This information was handily incorporated into the story and will certainly be used again and again in other episodes of The Nosey Charlie Adventures.

Second, you must research the children’s book market. Are there books about rabbits and similar animals? How many are there? Tapping into Amazon.com and Google will give you a good idea. You should also check how recent the last book on the subject was published. Are rabbits a popular subject in the children’s book genre? Read pop culture magazines and watch recent cartoons to get a sense of trends and speech patterns. Once you are satisfied with the answers to these questions, and it appears that there is a market for your rabbit story, get set to take step # 3.

Next article: Buy, Borrow, but  don’t steal!


Nosey Charlie Comes To Town



A whole lot of reading going on


So you have a brilliant idea: “I must write a children’s book. The kids will love it!” Or maybe you do not have any ideas yet, but you have always wanted to be a children’s book author and you feel strongly that the time has come. What do you do? Every journey begins with a first step, and every story begins with an idea.

Ideas can come to you from out of the blue. This happened to me and I incorporated the idea into writing Nosey Charlie Comes To Town. But magical ideas don’t always appear this way. If you want to write your first children’s book and no ideas are percolating in your head, you need help. The writing industry employs all kinds of methods to generate ideas, but first you must decide if your story will be non-fiction or fiction. If you plan to write non-fiction, your story will be based on things or people in real life, therefore, it will be a matter of researching the subject, using your own knowledge, and determining the angle you wish to focus on.

In this article and subsequent ones, my focus will be on fiction stories in which you use your wild imagination to concoct the narrative.


 You have been around for a while; you have lived a full live. You have many experiences. You could use some of these experiences, or tap into your more recent exciting forays, or delve into your childhood days for story ideas. You are sure to find past experiences or events that you can shape into a new children’s story. Remember when you first attended kindergarten and you held onto your mother and wouldn’t let go? You can build upon such an idea.

Another way to generate ideas is to make old stories new. In other words, come up with a new way of looking at an old story. Angela Carter is excellent at doing this, however, her stories are for adults. Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. You may be able to write a story like Goldilocks, but instead of three bears, it’s about three raccoons and they are brothers—not Mama and Papa, and baby, and it was not a pretty golden-haired girl who came upon their home in the woods, but a mischievous boy.

Or, how about an intriguing story in the news recently? You could mould it into a tale of pure joy by changing the characters, adding dialogue, and adding character idiosyncrasies—the potential is limitless. If these ideas do not work, you can resort to some proven methods such as brainstorming, mind mapping, visual prompts—photographs, and even musical prompts.

Next article: “You don’t know everything. Research, research.”


The final in a series of blogs on the theme of architecture and religious structures (see Parts 1, Part 2 & Part 3) this week we will spotlight an extraordinary structure in Cappadocia, Turkey. Located in central Turkey, Cappadocia was once known as Hatti, the homeland of the Hittites.

Of all the countries I have visited, I believe that Turkey has one of the most diverse and amazing landscapes. On one particular tour of Turkey, our itinerary included a visit to Göreme. Our group was excited to see this place, now designated a World Heritage site.

One Sunday morning as the bus pulled out from our hotel, our group leader announced that he had a surprise for us. The surprise was a secret; therefore, he gave us no details. Travelling off the beaten track, away from Göreme, the bus climbed the steep rocky mountains of Cappadocia and we eventually arrived at an amazing structure. A Turk, who was privy to the secret, opened an iron gate and led us into a tiny church hewn out of solid rock. It was hundreds of years old and not a part of the usual tourist itinerary.

Church hewn out of volcanic rocks, Cappadocia

Our leader, an Anglican minister, conducted a brief service and served communion inside the quaint little church. Afterward I sat on one of the low narrow benches and gazed at the structure, wondering if it was real! I will always cherish the memory.

We then travelled to Göreme. It is here that the landscape seems surreal. Centuries ago, three volcanoes—Erciyes, Hasan, and Melendiz Dağları—erupted, spewing ash and mud which solidified into a soft rock called tuff, and covered the former plateaus. Realizing that the rock was pliable, the people began carving chambers, tunnel, places of worship, storehouses and dwellings into it.

During the early days of Christianity, the area became a religious refuge. Christians fleeing persecution by the Romans, arrived here in numbers and built monastic communities. The monks excavated dwellings and monasteries and created frescoes on the cave chapel walls as far back as the seventh century. We were able to feast our eyes on some of these fabulous paintings.

Communion inside the stone church, Cappadocia, Turkey

But Mother Nature is more dramatic than humans, and over time, erosion has shaped the incredible landscape of the Göreme valley. Cappadocia is covered with rock formations created by wind and water that has left behind a fairy tale landscape of pillars, cones, mushrooms, and chimneys (the fairy chimneys) which are as tall as 130 feet (40 metres).


Check out my new children’s book- Nosey Charlie Comes To Town and new web site: www.yvonneblackwood.com



By Yvonne Blackwood ~

Third in a series of blogs on the theme of architecture and religious structures (see Parts 1, & 2) this week we will feature an intriguing structure in Bethlehem. The Holy Land is chock-full of grand religious buildings, but it is the quaint and unusual structures that impress me the most. Shepherd’s Field Chapel is one of these.

Antonio Barluzzi, an Italian architect and a Franciscan monk to boot, built the Shepherd’s Field Chapel in 1954. He built several other religious buildings in the Holy Land including the Mount Beatitudes church, and earned the nickname the “Architect of the Holy Land.” The chapel is built to resemble a shepherd’s tent, and is attached to the remains of a 4th-century church.

Church, Shepherd
Shepherd’s Field Chapel, Bethlehem


According to the biblical text an angel came upon shepherds tending their flock in the field and told them, “. . .You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a mange” (Luke 2-12). The Shepherd’s Field Chapel is located about 2 kilometres east of Bethlehem in the village of Beit Sahour, Palestine, and is said to be on the spot where the angel appeared to the shepherds.

Besides the impressive structure from the outside, the ceiling and the walls are covered with striking frescos as good as those seen in the Sistine Chapel, and include scenes depicting the angel’s announcement to the shepherds, the shepherds worshiping Jesus, and the shepherds celebrating the birth of the Messiah.

Baby, Jesus, shepherds
Shepherds worshiping the babe







My new children’s picture book, Nosey Charlie Comes To Town, available in Kindle at:







By Yvonne Blackwood ~

In keeping with the previous blog theme of architecture and religious sites, this week we will spotlight an amazing structure in Capernaum. On a recent tour of the Holy Land, I spent some time in Capernaum. It was a fishing village established during the ruling dynasty of Judea—between c. 140 and c. 116 BCE. Located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, the town officials are by no means subtle in ensuring that you know the significance of the place—as you enter two conspicuous signs state, “Capharnaum The Town of Jesus.”


Holy land, St. Peter
The sign as you enter Capernaum

According to the biblical text Jesus left Nazareth and moved to Capernaum which became the centre of his activities in Galilee. He taught in the synagogue there. The ruins of the ancient Great Synagogue, said to be built in 4th century over two previous synagogues (one of these Jesus taught in) are still there today.

Capernaum was also the home of some of the apostles—namely—Peter, James, John and Matthew. The intriguing story of Jesus healing the man with palsy who was lowered through the roof (Mark 2 & Luke 5) took place in Capernaum.

The most interesting architecture that I saw in Capernaum is the Church of St. Peter. An octagonal building constructed in 1990, the project took into consideration the need to protect the holiness of the location and to preserve the memory of the Peter’s home and the places where Jesus preached. The structure is built right over the ruins of Peter’s house and a 5th century church. Pilgrims are able to observe the archaeological ruins of Peter’s house and the successive constructions, from a street-level path that passes beneath the structure. The upper level has a quadrangular oculus through which the site can be viewed from above.

Peter, church, Holy Land
St. Peter’s Church, Capernaum

Check out my new children’s book at  Amazon.com

Nosey Charlie Comes to Town


By Yvonne Blackwood ~

With Easter only a few weeks away, it is a good time to write about some religious things I have come across during my globetrotting.

Turkey has been an amazing country to explore not only because of its incredible landscape and its fabulous culture, but also because several places mentioned in the New Testament are located there, including the seven churches (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Laodikeia, etc). In addition, there are a multiplicity of artifacts and archeological sites to see.

Twice while touring Turkey, I have had the pleasure of visiting a most unusual structure with a fascinating history. It is believed to be the house where Mary, the mother of Jesus, spent her last days on earth. Tucked away on Mt. Koressos or “Mount Nightingale”, 4.3 miles from Selcuk in Turkey, the little stone house has attracted millions of pilgrims and visitors.

Virgin Mary, Shrine
The Virgin Mary’s House, restored, Turkey

If you are familiar with the Bible, you may recall that on the day of his crucifixion, Jesus said to John, “Behold your mother.” This was apparently a secret mission given to John to take care of Mary until she died. History shows that John took Mary to Ephesus, however, at the time it was dangerous for Christians, therefore it was necessary to lay low. The little house was built in the hills for her.

Olive trees, Turkey
Making our way to the Virgin Mary’s House

No one knew about the house for centuries, then it was discovered in a most peculiar way. A paralysed German nun named Anne Catherine Emmerich, who had never been to Ephesus, gave a detailed description and direction from reported visions she had on how to find the house. These instructions were followed by Abbé Julien Gouyet of France in 1881, and by two Lazarist missionaries from Izmir in that same year. The two search parties ended at the same spot, and the foundation of the house was rediscovered.

Today, the house called The Virgin Mary Shrine is venerated by both Christians and Muslims. It  was not authenticated until after Pope Paul VI visited it in 1967. Since then both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have visited the site.

Children's book, squirrels
My new children’s book at Amazon.com



By Yvonne Blackwood ~

“Perseverance is a great element of success. It you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.” These words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is the creed that I have lived by all of my adult life.

So why am I sharing this with you today? I recently achieved a milestone, one I embarked upon twelve years ago. Yes, twelve years ago I was determined and excited to publish a children’s book. You are probably saying, “What took you so long?”

The story, in a nutshell, goes like this:

I worked as a career banker all my working life in Canada. In 2005 I was promoted to Commercial Credit Advisor at my bank and informed that my new office would be downtown. I had been fortunate up to that time to work in the suburbs where I drove leisurely to and from work everyday. Now I would have to take the sardine-packed subway during the rush hours. But what was there to complain about? I had gotten a promotion; it was all good.

One crisp autumn morning after exiting the train, I walked briskly up University Avenue to my office. I noticed there was a tiny park next door to a large courthouse, and a gang of squirrels were frolicking and having a good time there. The crab apple trees in the park had lost all their leaves. It was a beauty to see the slender branches covered with thousands of little ripe crab apples. Some were strewn on the ground and the squirrels were feasting on them.

Suddenly, an idea came to me; write a children’s book about squirrels living in a city. At that time, I had already published one adult book and had been working on a second, but I knew nothing about writing children’s books.

The next day I took my camera with me and stopped at the iron fence which separated the park from the sidewalk. I took pictures of the crab apple trees and the squirrels—they were still there feasting! The pictures were supposed to give me inspiration to concoct some delightful squirrel stories.

In life, I like to do everything properly, therefore research was required. I joined a children’s authors group, I bought some children’s books, and I borrowed both children’s books and books about writing for children from the library. Once satisfied that I could manage the task, I completed manuscripts for two children’s picture books and sent out several query letters. Although the editor from a major publishing house in New York wrote to say she loved the stories, the firm was unable to offer me a contract and so it was with all the other publishers I queried. Eventually, I put the manuscripts aside and focused on my adult book.

Perseverance kicked in when a few months ago I retrieved the children’s manuscripts, dusted them off, polished them up and hired an editor—to make sure they were error-free, then contacted Amazon.

My first children’s picture book, NOSEY CHARLIE COMES TO TOWN, is now published, and I am as proud as a peacock to announce its arrival. While there are no guarantees of success with sales, the fact that I pursued an idea and that it gave me so much pleasure during the ride is more than enough satisfaction. Great sales will be an added bonus.

Children's book, squirrels
Nosey Charlie & Cousin Pete

So do purchase paperback copies for your small children (ages 3-8) all your nieces and nephews, and all the grandchildren at:

Amazon.com : http://tinyurl.com/z83785u

Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/j842wpl

Amazon.ca Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/z3td925

You can also download a free Kindle version for a limited time period.


By Yvonne Blackwood ~

The adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words” rings true today as it did when it was popularized in the early 1900s. Travelling across the globe I have come across various locations that I regard as stunning. These spots may not necessarily be as appealing to others as they are to me, but that is why we are individuals.

On a tour of New Zealand a few years ago, we toured both the North and South Islands. As we travelled over hill and dale, through verdant countryside, I was impressed with the country’s beauty, so picturesque in some areas, it seemed like the canvas of an artist.

New Zealand

A piper pipes us in to Larnach Castle,  Dunedin

In Dunedin, the second-largest city of the South Island, we toured the charming Larnach Castle (I will cover this later in a series on castles). The castle stands on a hill—as most castles tend to do—and overlooks Otago Harbour. The harbour is a natural one and includes a long indented stretch of navigable water which separates the Otago Peninsula from the mainland.


Otago, New Zealand
Otago Harbour—picturesque view from Larnach Castle

While I found the castle, and the story behind it interesting, and the gardens fabulous, it was the view beyond the grounds that took my breath away. I had to take a second and third look. Was it real? Was it a canvas? After convincing myself that the view was real, I realized that William Larnach who built the castle must have reacted similarly, hence this chosen spot for his home. I thought, “Imagine waking up to this view every morning.”



My new children’s picture book will be published early spring; be on the watch!