Attendees at the Authors’ Salon last month, hosted by Hera Hub and moderated by Linda Scott — founder of eFrog Press — hung onto every word that Edith Hope Fine had to say about the world of writing books for children.
Fine, a retired elementary school teacher from the Encinitas Union School District, has written 18 books, mostly for children, but some for adult readers, too. Her most recent book is “Jump, Froggies! Writing Children’s Books” (eFrog Press, 2015), which offers 89-plus practical tips for aspiring authors of children’s books and is available in paperback and ebook form.
“She gave some very practical advice from her new book and her own publishing journey,” Scott said. “It was very inspirational.”
Fine inspires audiences of all ages at events at local libraries, during presentations for service organizations and in school visits, which have numbered over 200.
She often talks about the importance of books and reading in children’s lives and the writing process itself, she said.
Fine’s presentations at schools pull young readers in and give them a sense of the writing life and what it takes to succeed. They also become engaged in her presentations with interactive participation.
Students make butterflies with their hands for “Under the Lemon Moon” and learn about a phototropic plant experiment for “Water, Weed, and Wait,” two of Fine’s earlier illustrated children’s picture books.
They also learn some basic Greek and Latin roots in Fine’s grammar workbook for kids, “Greek and Latin for Cryptomaniacs!” a companion book to her previously published “Cryptomania!”
The newly released workbook is print-on-demand by Create Space, “so that teachers, homeschoolers, and families can explore 300 basic roots that help unlock big words and build vocabulary,” Fine said.
Through both books, children discover the wonder of big words. “Like the root for ‘astronaut’ is ‘star sailor,’ ‘helicopter’ is ‘spiral wing’ and ‘constellation’ is ‘stars together,’” said Fine. Readers have fun inventing their own Greek-based words for imaginary creatures. “For example a ‘megarhinosaur’ is a dinosaur with a big nose,” Fine explained.
At her grammar presentations in schools, students wear pretend Grammar Patrol hats and learn to correctly make statements like, “between you and me” (not ‘you and I’), “she and I like peaches” (not ‘her and I’), and “cake for Jack and me” (not ‘Jack and I’), said Fine.
With “Armando and the Blue Tarp School,” she makes the walls, floor, and ceiling disappear so students can imagine learning outdoors on a blue tarp spread on the ground, as the character in her book does.
Based on the true story of teacher David Lynch — who ran a makeshift school for children at the Tijuana dump — the book opens up the possibilities for things that children can do to make a difference in the world.
Fine’s latest picture book, “Sleepytime Me,” published by Random House last year, has young readers yawning and saying the chorus: “Yawn around, yawn around the sleepy time town.”
In her student presentations, Fine also talks about the artwork in her books, done by talented professionals using many different styles. “But my main focus is the message for kids to relish words, books, writing, and drawing,” she said.
After her talk at the Authors’ Salon event, Scott commented that Fine clearly affected those attending. “Edith generously and humorously shared what she has learned after writing 18 books,” she added.
For Fine, the keys to writing success are “curiosity, practice, and persistence,” she said. “And in the field of children’s writing, this translates to respecting and caring about your readers.”