Welcome to FW! Sorry I haven't popped in earlier, but have been not feeling well. I am delighted to see that you joined the site. I like to write kids' books too and just released my first picture book last month. One of the many benefits of being a platinum member is you can add your ebook or link a print version in the site's shop. It costs a little over $10 a month, but as far as marketing expenses it's fairly cheap plus you get tons of other bonuses too!
I've been a member for 4 years and I can't tell you all the wonderful things that have happened to me because of this site.
I think the biggest blessing is the friends I've made. I didn't think it was possible to have such close friends from all over the world. I talk to many on a regular basis. Next is having my stories published or being ready to publish. Seven stories won an Editor's Choice in the challenge and my testimony will be in the soon to be released Triumph Over Trials anthology.
FW is an awesome site. It can be a tad overwhelming because it's so big, but here are some tips for you about the forums and some other favorite spots.
People here are of all ages and have experience ranging from virtually none to having published some books. I think it's amazing how the people with more experience are so willing to help those with less. I'll forever be grateful for all the things people here have taught me.
The biggest draw to FW would be the writing challenge. There are four quarters each year with ten topics in each one that are related. The new quarter started on last week. The topic this week is Endless. One thing the challenge does is encourage me to think outside of the box. One of the best advice I ever received was once you see the topic, jot down the first five things you think of, then throw them away because it's likely what everyone else is thinking of too. If you really feel drawn to that idea, try to tell it from a fresh POV (point of view)
The word count limit has helped me learn to tighten my writing up quite a bit. The deadline has also helped me on my procrastination. I still wait to the last minute, but am writing on a more regular basis. There is also some excellent reading material there. I try to read and comment on every piece, though lately I haven't been able to do that as often as I would like.
Another great perk for platinum members is the Critique Circle. It is a great place for paid members to receive a detailed critique on their work. Just recently, they have allowed members to pay so much a page for detailed feedback. This is for silver members or members who want a critique but don't have the time to critique someone else's work. That's how the circle works. Each time you leave feedback, you receive a credit to allow you to post a piece and to get a constructive critique. I've found that by leaving feedback for others, I also learn a great deal about what works or doesn't work in my own writing.
You also may want to check out the blogging contest. The word blog used to scare me, but now I've learned that it isn't that big of a deal. The prize is paid writing assignments plus having your article published on 100 blogs. Check it out: viewtopic.php?f=92&t=37542
FW is a great place to meet other Christians and writers. I also think it's awesome because there is people with all kinds of experience here from having published book to having never really written much at all. People here are great encouragers and willing to share their knowledge with others. The Open Forum
is a great place to ask questions about writing and publishing.
You also can find a wealth of info and a variety of people on the boards. It's also a great way to make friends. A great place for writing tips can be found at Jan's Writing Basics.
It might be a bit overwhelming to post at first, but I'd urge you to bite the bullet and jump in. Jan is wonderful at giving invaluable feedback to everyone who tries her thread and posts their "homework."
Also The Water Cooler
is a great place to meet people. They have topics that range from regional areas to just popping in to say hi. Another great place to go is Prayer Requests.
It's wonderful to be able to request prayer and to lift others up in need.
Fw is much like a family. There is something for everyone. The people encourage, support, and love each other. Welcome to the family!
I hope I gave you some places to start. The site is huge and there are so many wonderful things here. You may want to check out the FAQ
thread as that may answer many of your questions.
Have fun exploring, jump into conversations and don't be afraid to ask any questions.