Clowning Around

Clowning Around

In Clowning Around, Charlie, a clownfish, enjoys doing tricks for the children who come to the aquarium. As he becomes more popular, the other fish in the tank become jealous. They devise a plan to keep Charlie from getting all the attention, but their plan backfires. This story is for children ages 3 to 8 and is about jealousy, sharing and working together.

What made you want to write for children?

I started writing children’s stories when I became a grandmother seven years ago. I remembered how my own grandfather told me stories when I was young sitting beside the fireplace in an old rocking chair. These memories encouraged me to write my own stories for my grandchildren.

You are self-published so how was this process for you?

I have both a traditional publisher for six of my stories and have self-published four others. Self-publishing is a different experience from working with a publisher. With both processes, I set up the text and illustrations as I want them printed and email them to the publisher. I find I have more latitude when I self-publish. Often I cannot tell how my illustrations will print with the files I send to Oak Tree Press.  With self-publishing I can have as many printed proof copies as I need to ensure quality printing. With the traditional publisher, I receive only emailed pdf files to review before publication. Even if I print the files on my printer, I am never completely sure how the illustrations will eventually turn out upon publication.

What advice would you have for someone wanting to embark on the self-publishing route?

Make sure you have a good editor. Finding mistakes in wording, spelling, punctuation, etc. is hard for an authors to do with their own writing. Nothing is worse than to find an error after your book is published. I work with an editor throughout my process. I’m sure he gets tired of reading the same story over and over, but he is extremely helpful.

Also, if you illustrate your stories yourself, learn as much about the printing process as you can and how to correctly set up your files so they print the way you want. Different printers use different paper which affects the saturation of the illustrations. If the illustrations are too saturated, the colours look muddy; if they are not saturated enough, they look muted and weak. Type size and font is extremely important. For children it is best to use fairly easy to read type faces and size. Fancy fonts may look great on a page, but the book needs to be readable both for the parent and child.

A bold, colourful cover is essential. You want your book to stand out among all the others on the shelf. The title should be easy to read, and the cover should reflect the story line.

How can adults enjoy reading your books to their children?

There is nothing more wonderful than parents taking the time to read to their children, especially at bedtime. This settles the child down, provides a bedtime ritual and gives them your undivided attention in a quiet and loving atmosphere. Talking about the stories that are read and using story time as a low key learning time is also important. My stories use animals and other creatures as surrogate children, providing lessons and information about relationships and the world around them. Asking the child a few questions about what has been read may give them an opportunity to open up about their own fears, experiences, etc. in a safe atmosphere. I find children are quite sophisticated and eager to learn about the world. Reading stories is a perfect way to encourage them to explore their world and emotions in a fun way. Plus it provides an important bonding time between child and parent.

At what point did you decide that your stories were ready for publication?

My stories go through a long revision process from the initial idea to the final story. After I write the first draft, I ask my editor for his input. He often has useful suggestions. As the process continues, I find the story takes on a life of its own, and I have learned to step out of the way and let this happen. The story can always be edited later. I am always mindful that children’s picture books are usually short, contain one or two main characters and one problem to be solved. I read them over and over again, often aloud to catch awkward phrases or words and to hone the story. Having input from critique groups, my editor and even my grandchildren helps. At some point, the story just sounds right.

When did your writing process begin?

Over the years, I’ve written political campaign literature, small short stories, technical comments but it wasn’t until I started writing children’s stories that I found my voice. Because I am an artist as well as a storyteller, I find the combination of illustrating and writing stories for kids particularly satisfying.

What were your favourite children's stories when you were little?

I liked Winnie the Pooh. I still have a book I owned when I was young.

What is next for you?

I have more stories roaming around in my head. I travel to foreign countries frequently and the more I travel, the more ideas appear.  Right now, I’m thinking about a story I heard when I visited Norway this past summer. But I am going to India soon, so who knows that I might find there for inspiration. I’m also working on a revision to one of my earlier stories about a blue dinosaur and am thinking of producing another book about how animals hide themselves in the wild similar to my book Camouflage. Given time, I’d also like to perfect my illustrations and maybe write a book for children a bit older for middle grade or chapter b

About Beryl:

I am an artist and storyteller, living on the Central California Coast in San Luis Obispo. In the past six years, I have been writing and illustrating children’s books.

Remembering when I was young and how my grandfather told me stories in an old, rocking chair sitting by the fireplace, I began writing stories for my own grandchildren. Soon, I started writing for a more general market.

My stories are Picture Books for young children, ages two through eight. I have produced over 30 titles.  Most are illustrated with my drawings and photographs. At times, other artists have illustrated my stories.  A traditional publisher, Oak Tree Press, has published six of my books. My other stories are published through and

Travelling extensively throughout the world including countries in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, South America and Asia, I have taken many photographs and use in my art work and books.  These travels have given me a broader understanding of the world and other cultures and have been an inspiration for many of my children’s stories.  Other story ideas come from my contact with children, who are a never ending source of delight.

I hold a Master’s Degree from UCLA and have taught school. In the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles. I am a member of SLO NightWriters, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the National Storytelling Network. I am on Facebook, Wordpress, Google Plus, Amazon Central Author’s page and Linkedin.  All my books are listed on or My Oak Tree Press books are also listed on "" and Ingram.


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