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Offered to you By Lea Schizas http://leaschizaseditor.com ©2008 This is offered to you FREE to help you in your writing career. All copyright belongs to the author of each post.
On March 31 until April 5th, The Writing Jungle blog hosted its first Writing For Children Blog Fest. Within this FREE ebook you will find just some of the amazing and helpful posts by the participating writers. To read all of the posts within that week, please hop on over to The Writing Jungle, and click the March and April archives. I’d like to thank each of my guests for a wonderful week and looking forward in the fall for another great blog fest once again.
Barbara Ehrentreu: ~Happy To Be Here Blogging at the Jungle Fest Beverly Stowe McClure: ~A Tip a Day ~Jade Wants to Say Something ~Action = Reaction Carol J. Amato: ~Sell Your Books to the School Market ~So What’s in a Teacher’s Guide, Anyway? ~How to Write to the State Educational Standards Chris Verstraete: ~Dogs, Miniatures, and Searching for a Starry Night, A Miniature Art ~Adding a Different Story Dimension- Add a Dog Cynthia Reeg: ~Kitty Capers ~Tips for Improving Your Writing ~Two Pieces of the Picture Book Puzzle ~Quick Tips for Query & Cover Letters Diana Symons: ~The Princess Has Arrived ~Princess Here Again Donna McDine: ~Swinging into The Writing Jungle ~Rejection Letters-What to make of them ~SCBWI NY Winter Conference – 2008 ~The Brick and Hopefully Crumbling Wall of Parenting and Writing Elysabeth Eldering: ~Where in the United States are the Junior Geography Detectives? ~Why a Geography Series? Holly Jahangiri: ~Things that Go Bump in the Night Jan Verhoeff: ~Pops VS Hubert-The Characters Unite ~Fundamental Design-Reality Based Fiction
Jennifer Gladen: ~Network Brule Jewel Sample: ~Over Coming Challenges in a Tight Niche Market ~Writing with Passion and Developing Your Voice and Brand Joyce Anthony: ~Do They Only Want Happy Endings? Joyce Moyer Hostetter: ~What’s That? ~A Beautiful Thing ~The Teacher Who Made Me a Writer Kevin Scott Collier: ~Big Words in Little Books Can Educate ~Writer or Artist: Which is More Revealing? ~Coauthors Cover Each Other ~Photoshop is an Illustrator’s Tool ~Remember- Kids Love Villains, Too ~Expand Out Beyond One Publisher Kim Baccellia: ~Five Musts on the Road to Publishing ~New trends in MG/YA ~My Five Favorite Sites ~YA books that address sensitive matter ~Epubishing 101 Kim Chatel: ~The Inspiration Behind “The Stone Beach” ~Markets for the Next Generation ~Write what you “Know” in Your Heart ~I’m Not An Illustrator, But I Am An Artist ~A Marketing Plan in Brief ~I Can Write a Picture Book Kim Sponaugle: Helping Authors Find Illustrators: Picture Kitchen Studio Lea Schizas: Hey! What’s Going On Around Here! Why I Write for Kids and Young Adult Bullying, Teasing, and Two Complete Opposites
Bring Our Children Into Our Writing World Writing for Children-Easy or Hard? Winding Down and Announcements I Am Who I Am- A Writer Lori Calabrese: Let the Blog Fest Begin A Cool Tool for Authors Websites Links On How to Write A Query Letter Writers Resources So You Think You’re Done? Revise, revise, revise A Writer’s Critique Margarette Burnette: Behind the Scenes – How My Children’s Book was Created Classroom Visits Margot Fine: Margot’s Back: More Serious Now, Mates Rattlesnake Jam – Requested Verses Swingin’ in the Jungle BlogFest Margot’s Simple Words and Rules To Write By Mayra Calvani: The Magic Violin On Writing Horror and Children’s Books My Young Daughter, the Author My Pen Name and I…Have Broke Up Stacy Dawn: Teensy Tiny Fun For Readers and Writers Author Illustrator Suzanne Lierrance: Three Simple Writing Mistake to Avoid Why Whining or Complaining May Actually be Good for your Writing Career Top Ten Mistakes Made by New Children Writers Show, Don’t Tell – What Does That Really Mean? Vivian Zabel: Hurries Into Blog and Stumbles Writing for Children and Teens Daddy-My Inspiration by Lea Schizas
Happy to Be Here Blogging at the Jungle Fest
Thanks to Lea I am here with all of you awesome people. I am a member of KidsMuse on the MuseItUp Club and thanks to Lea I have had some amazing changes in my writing and have met so many great writers in the past couple of years. I am a YA writer for the most part with one finished but unpublished novel and a second one halfway finished which I'm sharing with the KidsMuse group. I also have an MG children's story published on Story Station and I have also written a few adult flash stories. You can go read all about me on my website which is still under construction: ALL ABOUT BARBARA AND HER WRITING. My writing comes mostly from my own experiences and I use my family as fodder for my characters. I wrote an MG fantasy when I first started writing seriously and it was a story that I had first told to my little brother that was passed down to be told to my own children. But that one is pretty much in storage now gathering dust in the archives of my computer. Unlike some people my writing never seems to have any organization when I begin. The idea happens in my head and then flows through my fingers and when I see the first sentence it takes off with my fingers flying until I've come to the end. I've gotten so used to using the computer for writing that when I have to use a pen and paper I'm bogged down by the slowness of it all. And where is the Delete? But after awhile I'll step back and see if what I've written is a short story or the beginning of a novel. Then I'll take it out and show it to people to see if it makes sense to anyone else and whether or not they like the characters. That's where my critique group helps so much. But what really almost brings tears to my eyes is the reactions of the group when you've written something that works. It's like applause for an actor when the group appreciates your writing. I beam for a day and reread the comments when I'm down. It took me a long time to get to point 5, Kim so now I have to send out my first YA manuscript to a publisher. Would some here please give me a virtual kick to do that? Who else has work that they need to send out but they are procrastinating or have no time? (my problem!) Beth Fehlbaum, Author said... I know what you mean about writing from your brain straight out the tips of your fingers. I write the same way, then look back and see what all fell out on the page. Nice to meet you! Beth Fehlbaum, author Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse http://courageinpatience.blogspot.com
Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Barbara, I, too, allow my characters to take me wherever they want to go. I find this frees my creative side to write. I've tried using a chapter to chapter outline but what happened down the line is that I changed something along the way and then the whole outline had to go. So for me, and this doesn't work for everyone, I come up with an idea where I want the story to go, who my characters will be and what obstacles they will face, and then allow the story to flow where it wants to go. I never edit while writing but simply write until I reach THE END and then go back and rework it, adding the five senses to lenghten the story, and tightening my sentences. Donna McDine said... Barbara...wonderful post. I first write in long hand and just write without editing. I then type my first draft, printout and then give a first edit. Here's the kick in the seat of your pants that you need to send out your ms...if you don't send it you can't publish it. Looking forward to checking out your website. Kim Baccellia said... Wow, it is hard to know when it's time to send your story out. If you think you're story is ready, go for it! A good place to start is going to www.agentquery.com for names of agents who rep YA. Good luck! I also subscribe to Publishersmarket. This site keeps me up to date on what is selling and who's buying. On the whole writing process, I map out my story. I use a story paradigm, similar to ones used by Chris Voight in THE HEROES JOURNEY. I have a huge whiteboard in my writing room. For my latest story, I've tried to turn off my inner editor and just write. So far that's been working. Before I got stuck in going from scene to scene. But that took forever. Both my writing groups help too to make sure I'm not going off on a tangent or doing too many reps. I also have a YA writing mentor who helps with the end, after I've finished the first crappy draft. She's been great! Right now she's helping me tighten and strengthen my revision. I've found it helps to have that extra help.
Beverly Stowe McClure
"If anyone had told me I'd be a writer someday, I'd have thought they were crazy. When I was a child I hated to read. Even though my eighth grade teacher sent my poem "Stars" to a high school anthology and it was published, I hated to write. In spite of my rocky relationship with books, I attended college and graduated with--would you believe?--a teaching degree. For twenty-two years I read to my students, they read to me. I read to my three sons and discovered the world of Dr. Seuss, among others, and realized what I'd been missing. Now I read constantly. I also write. I'm a fourth-generation Texan, retired teacher, wife, mother, grandmother and greatgrandmother. To relax I play the piano, make scrapbooks, research my family history, and take pictures of clouds, birds, butterflies, and cats or anything else that catches my fancy. Oh, the grandkids are my favorite photo subjects. Link to my site: http://beverlystowemcclure.blogspot.com
A Tip a Day
I thought I'd post a tip a day. Some of them you may already know. You may agree or disagree, but they are my thoughts about writing. #1. Write about what interests you. Yes, we're told to write about what we know. Why? To me, part of the fun of writing a story--and I would stop writing if it wasn't fun--is going places I've never been. For example, I've never seen a ghost, but I wrote about one. She introduced herself to me, complete with her own personality and abilities that went way beyond what we usually think a ghost can do. I don't know if a drug like the one I wrote about in my YA mystery exists or ever will exist, but I invented one and made it an important element in the story. The illustrator of the cover was so convinced the flower that produced this miracle drug was real that he tried to find a picture of it, but was unable to, since the flower existed only in my mind. Together, we came up with an image of the flower for the book. The Civil War was before my time, but it is the setting of my YA historical novel. I think this is true of any historical work. We weren't there, but through research and perhaps visiting the sites in our stories, we are thrust into another world, one we don't "know" but can learn about and reveal to our readers. If I tried to skateboard, I'd end up in the hospital in traction, but the boys in my MG story skateboard. Again, I researched the sport and learned about "Ollies" and other terms that describe the sport, and my characters did the rest.
So write what you know, but also write about things that interest you. Climb mountains, scuba dive, visit with dragons, princesses, fairies, vampires, and werewolves. Your imagination is your only limit. Kim Chatel said... Beverly, when I first starting writing in High School my English teacher was very disappointed because I wrote a story about foxhunting, though I'd never actually done any hunting. I had diligently researched the subject in the library and was pretty proud of my story. His offhand rejection "write what you know" took the wind out of my sails. Luckily I bounced back and I now write fantasy and paranormal. I "know" my subjects in my heart and that's enough.
Jade Wants to Say Something
A ghost who doesn't want to be a ghost. A girl who wants to forget her ex-boyfriend and his lying lips. A one-hundred-year-old neighbor who talks in riddles. And a handsome sax player who changes everything. Hi All, My name's Jade Dalton. Beverly sent me over to tell you about my ghost. You see, my brother, David, my bff, Elaine, and I are housesitting our grandparents' home in Charleston, SC, this summer. I've spent every summer of my seventeen years in this house, but never knew it was haunted. Shh! Don't tell Phoebe (she's my ghost) I said she haunts. She's real touchy about being a ghost. Anyway, I don't ... didn't ... believe in ghosts. Just the idea of them defies logic. But how do you explain kamikazi hamburgers, missing jewelry, and a pink mist that turns into a girl, or more accurately, a ghost girl? A ghost who has problems. And wants me to solve them for her. I'll try, but it's gonna be tricky. Okay! Here comes Phoebe. I'm outta here. You can find out more about Phoebe at:
Twilight Times Books
Donna McDine said... Beverly...I enjoyed reading and writing a book review for "Listen to the Ghost" Everyone else...this is a great read! I love your character guest post...LOL :} Especially since your characters have stayed with me long after I finished reading your novel! Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Jade sounds like a tough cookie. I'm in the midst of reading your book and loving it so far.
Action = Reaction
Tip # 2. Your main character wants something or has a goal. Your main character takes certain actions to achieve her goal. But someone or something prevents her from getting what she wants. Each attempt she makes brings her closer to her goal, until she finally suceeds, or doesn't. Make it hard for her. Make her struggle. The outcome must be in doubt. Make the reader chew on her fingernails or bite her lip wondering if the character, who the reader should be rooting for, will win. This, of course, is the plot of your story. For example: Rebel wants her mother and father, who have separated, together again. So she takes action. First, she asks her father to go after her mother, to bring her home where she belongs. He refuses and tells Rebel the marriage is over. Reaction. That didn't work, so Rebel tries to convince her mom the new guy that she ran away with is a tattooed, long-haired druggie. Action. The guy proves otherwise, and Rebel finds herself even liking him, a little. Reaction. But she hasn't given up. She still wants her family the way it once was. So she keeps trying. And it goes on, each step Rebel takes bringing her closer to her goal. In a novel, you'll have subplots, as well, that cause minor problems for your main character or her friends. Sometimes the character does not get exactly what she wants, but, to me, a story must be true to life. Endings are not always fairy tale endings, with everyone living happily ever after. But endings should give hope for the future. The character grows from events that she experiences in the story. And the reader comes away satisfied, though the ending may not be what they had in mind.
Let me know your thoughts on this. Donna McDine said... Bev...great post. You summed this up for me perfectly...I'm making note of this. I agree with you 100%! Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Beverly, I don't think an ending has to be happily ever after if it's for the YA but a change of some sort needs to be there in the main character to show how they've grown as a person. I think the younger grades and target audience can also handle a not so happy ending, like a pet dying, a parent succumbing to an illness, since this is part of life and trying to teach children about the various emotional upsets they will face in life. But certain subjects may be taboo for the younger ones. I'm not sure so input from others would be great to read. LCalabrese said... I'm with you every step of the way. Endings are not always fairy tale endings, and these stories must be true to life. Real life IS drama and that's an important part of a good book. Great tips! http://beverlystowemcclure.blogspot.com/
Young Adult Contemporary, forthcoming 2008
Carol J. Amato
Carol J. Amato knew she wanted to be a writer when she was in the 4th grade. Her memorable books for young people include the acclaimed series Breakthroughs in Science (The Earth, Astronomy, The Human Body, and Inventions), 50 Nifty Science Fair Projects, Super Science Project Book, and 50 More Nifty Science Fair Projects. Firmly believing that kids’ fiction can be educational as well as entertaining, Ms. Amato has applied her M.A. in Anthropology to creating the exciting mystery series, The Phantom Hunters! ™. Each mystery takes readers to a different culture. Currently, she is finishing Book #2, The Secret of Blackhurst Manor, set in Lincolnshire, England, and due out in the Fall of 2008. She is a member of the Writers’ Club of Whittier, Inc., a professional writers’ work-shop, and a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who in the West, Who’s Who in Orange County, and the World Who’s Who of Women. She has taught at the junior high and high school levels and currently teaches writing part-time at the college level. She has served as a judge for the Orange County and California State Science Fairs. Ms. Amato lives in Southern California with her kids and her very big, very fluffy Norwegian Forest Cat, Two Socks.
Sell Your Books to the School Market When I was young, I was a big Nancy Drew fan. Hooked on that mystery series, I remember using a flashlight to read under the covers at night. I had been selling non-fiction for years when I decided that I wanted to follow my passion of writing fiction. I particularly had a middle-grade series in mind, The Phantom Hunters!, one in which the main character could see ghosts. The rights to a ghost story I had sold years before had been given back to me when the magazine folded. I thought it would make a perfect ending point for a plot in my mystery series.
Since I exhibit at trade shows to make contact with librarians and teachers for my other books, I took time to talk to the middle-grade teachers and librarians to see what kind of fiction kids at that age liked. They all said mysteries. I told them about my proposed series, and they seemed very excited. I set about reading every middle-grade novel with ghosts that I could lay my hands on. I wanted to see how they handled the ghosts. Were they real or fake? I found that the books had both. I wanted my ghosts to be real, so I was happy to see that some did deal with ghosts that weren't just the older brother dressed up in a sheet to scare the younger kids. I also found that a lot of the books on the market had very little redeeming or educational value. My mystery series would be different. I wanted something that kids could read and end up learning something as well as being entertained. I have a master's degree in cultural anthropology, so my plan was to set each book in a different culture. That doesn't mean necessarily leaving the United States, though. I've always been interested in the Navajos, since, despite all odds, they have managed to rebuild their tribe from 8,000 people at the beginning of the 20th century to nearly 300,000 today. They have hung onto their native beliefs despite the government's best attempts to wipe them out. I decided to set the first story on the Navajo Nation. My main characters travel there from California. The main characters are Annwyn (Anny) Bradford and her identical twin sister, Scout. Scout, whose real name is Rowan, is a dedicated Girl Scout who is popular and good at all things athletic. Anny, on the other hand, is introverted because she sees things that others don't, and she is constantly being made fun of. She tries to make up for it by being a good student, something Scout isn't. Anny also hates her name; she doesn't know why her grandfather insisted that she be called that. Setting the first novel, The Lost Treasure of the Golden Sun, on the Navajo Nation gave me the opportunity to showcase the Navajo culture at the same time. Tony Hillerman has done the same for adults with his mysteries, and I’m a big fan of his. That got me thinking about how to make my mystery series last, though. Most books are in the stores for only a few months, unless you're a big name author, which I hope to be someday soon but am not at the moment. I didn't want to be the victim of the remainder tables, so I decided to write a teacher's guide to accompany each novel in the series. Although I’m not a grade-school teacher, I have taught at the college level. I bought and looked at a lot of middle-grade materials at the teacher supply stores. Most of the teacher’s guides were 32 pages, so I made mine the same. I developed activities across the curriculum (math, science, reading comprehension, writing, history, geography, etc.). Then I had a 5th grade teacher review it. I discovered one mistake I had made. I should have reviewed the standards for the
different grades before I started writing. Luckily, the Southwest is studied at the 4th grade level in Arizona and at the 5th grade level in California, so I was still hitting the middlegrade kids, but I should have written activities that directly related to the standards themselves. The standards pretty much tell you exactly what the activity should be. I could have saved myself a lot of work. One suggestion the teacher made, however, was to put the standards on each page rather than on one page at the beginning or end of the book. This way, the teacher can tell at a glance which activity matches which standard and subject. She also suggested coding the activites for Resource (slow learners), GATE (gifted), and ELL (English-Language Learners) students. This meant I had to have activities that fit each of these levels. Her advice was invaluable. The result of having a teacher’s guide is that the teachers and school libraries gobbled up the entire first print run. Of the second print run, 360 books and 10 teachers’ guides went to one school, where I was privileged to make a school visit, for which I was very well paid. Take a look at your settings and plotlines. Do students study that locale at a particular grade level? You don’t have to have an exotic setting. If your story takes place in a particular state, remember that most kids study their states in 4th grade. You’ll have a built-in audience there, and you can write a teacher’s guide that correlates to the history, geography, landmarks, stories, etc., of that state. The second book in The Phantom Hunters series, The Secret of Blackhurst Manor, will be out this fall. Anny and Scout’s grandfather has died, and they discover he left Anny the manor house in England where he grew up. Since he had brothers and sisters, no one can figure out how Grandpa got ahold of the house by himself, and further, why he didn’t leave it to his four sons, or at the very least, to Scout and the twin’s younger brother, Jordan, too. The family decides to go to England to inform their relatives of the death and to investigate the house. The plot thickens, as they say, when they discover the house in ruins. Anny knows something is not right. The mysterious family that appears outside her room at the inn is only the beginning. The ending of this book was the plotline I had from the short story I had sold years ago. To make sure teachers would be interested, I looked at the standards. Kids study Ancient Rome in the 6th grade. My husband was from Lincoln, England, a town built by the Romans, so I decided to set the book there, since Roman ruins abound and the castle and cathedral are 1,000 years old. Of course, a few of the ghosts are Roman soldiers. I am currently finishing the teacher’s guide for this book. I have too much material, though, so I plan to put some of it on the publisher’s website as free downloads for teachers. I hope this inspires you to consider the educational market for your novels.
Kim Chatel said... You have given me a lot to think about, Carol. Thank you for this interesting article. elysabeth said... What I would like to know is how to contact Carol and what kind of research she did on writing the teacher's guides? My stories definitely need to be to this market - and I have the National Social Studies Standards already - so not sure who to incorporate them to be useable in schools. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Carol was one of the Muse Online Conference presenters and she will be gracing us once again this year. Kim Baccellia said... As a former elementary school teacher, I can vouch for the whole idea of putting standards down in a teachers guide. I know that California public schools use these and you can find them by looking up the info on districts websites. I always loved it when authors and publishers provided similar info with books. It made my job as a teacher so much easier. With my current project, I plan on putting together a teacher's guide on ancient Egypt which is part of the sixth grade curriculum. My younger sister is studying to be an Egyptologist and can help me with some ideas. Thanks for sharing this! You have some very interesting and helpful info!
So What's in a Teacher's Guide, Anyway?
by Carol J. Amato I’ve been asked to elaborate on how to create a teacher’s guide for one’s novel and how to develop the activities. Let me start by describing what I have in my teacher’s guide. I’ve divided it into three sections: activities about the story itself, activities about the Navajo Nation, and activities about Arizona. It’s important to go beyond the scope of your story to include the setting at large. Here is the detail of what is on each page of my teacher’s guide: Page 1 is the inside title page. Page 2 is the copyright page. Page 3 is the table of contents. Pages 4 and 5 (two-page spread) are the synopsis of the story for the teacher’s use. I’ve also included some photographs of places on the Navajo Nation that correspond to the
scenes in the story. Pages 6 and 7 (two-page spread) are a quiz called “Reading Between the Lines.” This tests the student’s comprehension of the story with such questions as “What is the lost treasure?” “What is Anny’s biggest fear with her sister, Scout?” “How does Eric know what the archaeologists said?” “Why does Mr. Roanhorse give Anny the gall medicine?” and ending with “What do Anny, Scout, Eric, Ben, and Jim learn by the end of the story?” The kids can’t answer these unless they’ve read the book. There’s also a multiple choice section called “Finding the Theme.” This pertains to the theme the author intended. Another question asks the kids whether or not there are any other themes, and if so, to write them on a sheet of paper. Pages 8 and 9 (two-page spread) are “Who Said That?” Lines of dialogue from each character are presented and the kids have to guess which character said that. For example, “I am mysterious, and I have guarded a secret for centuries.” Page 10 is a word search with words from the story. Page 11 is matching game. The kids have to match the phrase to the word with the correct meaning. Again, these are words from the story, but ones that are a little more complex. Pages 12 and 13 are a quiz, the first part of which is called “What Happened When?” The kids have to put the listed events in chronological order. The second part is “What Do You Think?” In this section, several statements about the story are listed. The kids have to write their own opinions on what they think about these statements. Again, the kids can’t complete this unless they’ve read the book. Page 14 is a recipe for Navajo fry bread. Page 15 is the American Sign Language alphabet and the numbers from 1-10. One of the characters in the story, Eric, is deaf, so this page allows the kids to learn a bit of sign. Page 16 is an information page on the Navajo Nation for the teacher’s use. Page 17 is a geography page with a U.S. map so kids can chart the route from their homes to the Navajo Nation. They have to use the Internet to find out how many miles they are from the reservation. There are several questions to answer. Pages 18 and 19 (two-page spread) is background information for the teacher about the Navajos and their history and crafts. Page 20 is an activity in which the kids have to plan to spend the day with one of the characters in the book, who will act as a tour guide. They choose three places to visit, then write a one-page description of each. They have to include their observations about what they saw. This means they need to do research on the Internet. There’s a newspaper
and a display board to create, websites to visit, an e-mail to write to a friend about the book, and an art project. Page 21 tells all about the Navajo Code Talkers. This is what I mean about going beyond your story. The Code Talkers were active in World War II. This serves to provide background for a research project on finding out the names of the original code talkers and writing about them. They also have to look up what words were used as the code alphabet. They write about that and the other Indian languages that were used as code (none of these languages was written at the time, so there was no way for anyone to decode them). Page 22 is all about Navajo Clan structure. It includes some writing activities about the clans and their history. The kids also create their own family tree, then give their relatives clan names based on physical characteristics, personality traits, or another criterion of their choice. Page 23 is another matching game, but this time with the Navajo words that were used in the book. Page 24 is an art project to create a sand painting. Page 25 is is another word search using more words from the book. Pages 26 and 27 are a backgrounder on Arizona. Included are a short history and information about the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, the mountain ranges, Tombstone, the Lowell Observatory, the Four Corners region, and the baseball teams that have spring training there. Page 28 is a facts page about Arizona as a state (nickname, motto, state flower, etc.). There is an art project to draw a map of the student’s own state and to find out the nickname, motto, state flower, etc., for that state. Page 29 is a list of several writing projects that deal with the other tribes that live in Arizona and the famous chiefs and places, such as Cochise, Geronimo, Oraibi, Chaco Canyon, etc. Page 30 is a list of several research projects that deal with the Navajo Tribal government, Tribal Police Force, Health Authority, Window Rock (the capital), other lost treasure myths, and other aspects of Arizona. Page 31 is another quiz, this time on Arizona. Page 32 is the Answer key for all quizzes, word searches, etc. For each activity, come up with snappy titles that fit the setting of your story. For example, for this Navajo Nation story, I’ve stuck to an Old Southwest type of theme. I
have called the page that deals with research projects “Research Roundup.” One of the word searches is “Tribes, Trails, and Treasure-Hunters.” The pages that the teacher can photocopy have the word “Reproducible” at the bottom. I hope this gives you a good idea on the kinds of activities you might create for your own teacher’s guide. If you are at all hesitant to create these items yourself, team up with a teacher from the grade level for which you are aiming and ask him or her for advice. elysabeth said... Thank you Carol. It almost sounds like some of the things I'm actually doing in my story are crossing over with what you are doing. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Carol, I can't thank you enough for this amazing information. Like Elysabeth, this has truly opened my eyes to possibilities for my upcoming children's books. Now, what is AR? Beverly Stowe McClure said... I believe AR is Accelerated Reader and students are given points for reading them, so they opt to read these books rather than those not on the AR list. Jewel Sample said... Awesome information Carol! I am so glad you posted because it tells me I am on the right track with my Flying Hugs and Kisses Activity Book (Lifevest Publishing Inc, 2007). The 66 page coloring and drawing activity book contains points beyond the story to help children further process questions about grief and loss through imaginative play and participating in the activities. For example, there is a maze, a story related word search, a game, and a puzzle to help pace the different intensity levels of the activities, as well as to give children a some respite from their situation. Again thank you so much! http://jewelsamples.blogspot.com Carol J. Amato said... The AR list is the Accelerated Reader program. It's run by Renaissance Learning. Schools subscribe to Accelerated Reader, then buy the books on the list. These books have quizzes already made up that are on the Renaissance Learning website. The kids read the books, then take the quizzes. These quizzes serve not only to save the teacher time in creating his/her own, but also prove that the students have read the books. How to Write to the State Educational Standards by Carol J. Amato Now that you’ve decided you want to write a teacher’s guide for your children’s novel
and you’ve seen what I included on each page of my 32-page guide, the next question to consider is writing to your state’s Department of Education standards. The first step is to go through the standards to see which ones apply to your book or which ones for which you can develop activities. The history, social science, and geography sections will give you the meat for your teacher’s guide. The next book of my mystery series, The Secret of Blackhurst Manor, takes place near and in Lincoln, England, a town built by the Romans in 48 AD. (It was originally called “Lindum Colonia” and later became “Lincoln.”) Lincoln has a castle and cathedral that are 1000 years old. (My husband came from this town, so I've spent a lot of time there.) Kids study Ancient Civilizations in the sixth grade, and one is Ancient Rome. Since the Romans were in Britain, my book had to have some ghosts who were Roman soldiers. Let’s see what the California standards have that would apply to my story. Here’s one from the Grade Six World History and Geography, Ancient Civilizations: 6.7 Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures during the development of Rome. 1. Identify the location and describe the rise of the Roman Republic, including the importance of such mythical and historical figures as Aeneas, Romulus and Remus, Cincinnatus, Julius Caesar, and Cicero. 2. Describe the government of the Roman Republic and its significance (e.g., written constitutuion and tripartite government, checks and balances, civic duty). 3. Identify the location of and the political and geographic reasons for the growth of Roman territories and expansion of the empire, including how the empire fostered economic growth through the use of currency and trade routes. 4. Discuss the influence of Julius Caesar and Augustus in Rome’s transition from republic to empire. 5. Trace the migration of Jews around the Mediterranean region and the effects of their conflict with the Romans. 6. Note the origins of Christianity in the Jewish Messianic prophecies, the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as described in the New Testament, and the contribution of St. Paul the Apostle to the definition and spread of Christian beliefs (e.g., belief in the Trinity, resurrection, salvation. 7. Describe the circumstances that led to the spread of Christianity in Europe and other Roman territories. 8. Discuss the legacies of Roman art and architecture, technology and science, literature,
language, and law. Which ones above fit my book? Nos. 3 and 8 look pretty good. I can create some activities based on how and why the Romans moved into Britain, what their trade routes were like there, the currency they used, their military forts (one of which was Lincoln. With number 8, I can create activites based on the Roman architecture in England and the words in English with Latin roots (I have one designed already listing words that are the same in English as they were in Latin, such as bonus, forum, gratis, major, minor, vigil, quorum, mural, etc. Part of the activity will be having the students look up more words and write a paper about them. I could also have a word search using a lot of these Latin words. I could create some research projects for the students to do based on some of the aspects of Roman history in Britain. For example, all the towns ending in “-chester” (such as Colchester, Chichester, Winchester) were originally Roman towns. I have to admit that considering these are public school standards, I am surprised that No. 6 is included. It seems like a violation of the separation of church and state, so I would advise staying away from that one unless your teacher’s guide is directed at church-run schools. You could always have those extra activities your website as free downloads for the teachers at those parochial schools. I hope this gives you an idea of how to create activities from the standards. As I mentioned before, if you feel you need more help, team up with a teacher from your local grade school who teaches the grade level toward which your book is aimed. Cynthia Reeg said... Carol, Thanks for all your tips on creating study guides and curriculum tie-ins for our stories. As a former school librarian, I know how important it is to support the teachers. And the teachers love it when they can find easy-to-use supplemental material to help make their lessons more enjoyable for the students. Great stuff! elysabeth said... Carol, Thank you so much for information on doing a teacher's guide to go with the stories. So I guess my next question would be this - instead of state standards, wouldn't it be better to use the National Standards so that you cover every state and your books could be in every school across the nation? With my state stories, I wouldn't want to target each specific state to that the state only because the kids are definitely learning different states in the schools. Most get their own state in 3rd grade I think but they also get to United States history so they are picking up more than just their own state.
I have the National Social Studies Standards, guess I need to find the National other standards to fit my state stories - again - many thanks for this - very helpful - E :) Carol J. Amato said... Thanks, Cynthia! You make a great point, Elysabeth. For your particular book, the national standards would probably be best. The state standards would apply to fiction books that take place in specific locales.
Carol J. Amato – Stargazer Publishing House –
Dogs, Miniatures and Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery
Hello, readers! I want to thank Lea for allowing me to pop in and participate although the party's already started! My name is Christine Verstraete and my book, SEARCHING FOR A STARRY NIGHT, A Miniature Art Mystery, will be published in May by Quake/Echelon Press. The "tweens" novel, for children, young adults and the young-at-heart, focuses on the search for a missing miniature replica of Van Gogh's painting, (The) Starry Night; hence the title. It features Samantha Carlton, better known as Sam, her mother, Grace, her bff, Lita, and a mischievous Dachshund named Petey. Like many mystery authors, I grew up on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. As I progressed in my own fiction writing, I found myself forming a "split" personality, channeling either Stephen King or Nancy Drew. So I tend to gravitate to both in my writing. My short story, "The Witch Tree," was inspired by the hundreds of blackbirds that flock in the trees outside each spring. In the award-winning ebook from Echelon Press, Jimmy Grayson thought he'd found utopia... until they came. He is faced with a growing evil and a fight for his very soul. It's a battle to the finish... will it be him, or them? My interest in horror and mystery, (SEARCHING FOR A STARRY NIGHT does have some slightly spooky elements), plus my longtime passion for collecting and making dollhouse miniatures, became the perfect elements for my mystery novel. Funny, as it seems to be a trend, with miniatures now making a splash in several new adult mysteries recently released by other authors, too. Details and chapter one (latest edits) of the book can be found at my website . You can see some of my miniatures there as well; click miniatures gallery.
The Incredible Shrinking Van Gogh!
Meet Vincent Van Gogh in miniature and see some other incredible miniatures at my blog, Candid Canine. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Chris, I have to say I love the cover. That little magnifying glass popped Sherlock Holmes in my head and without reading what your book was about I had a suspicion it would be a mystery. Very nice!
Adding a Different Story Dimension - Add a Dog
Writing SEARCHING FOR A STARRY NIGHT started out one way. Shorter.
Then a pesky, mischievous Dachshund named Petey poked his head into the plot. He stirred things up; he
grabbed things and took off. He became a friend, and sometimes foe, to my main character, Sam, and her best pal, Lita. The fun of adding dogs to stories and books is that they add a different dimension to the characters. Including a dog shows the character's humanity; it shows their love, or lack thereof. It adds a deeper element to their character. Adding a dog (okay, or cat, or other pet, too) into a story, allows the writer to move the plot forward through another character, albeit a silent one. But a dog can be just as expressive through his/her actions. Petey, my Dachshund in SEARCHING FOR A STARRY NIGHT, is definitely not a "wallflower" dog. He digs; he steals, but he's still a good dog, just with character. His actions also allowed me to add a small subplot that affected both Sam, and her best friend, Lita. Why add pets to your story or book? 1 You can show the kind of people your characters are by how they treat their pets. 2 It's fun. If you're a pet lover in real life, then why not let your characters enjoy that same camaraderie? 3 A character might be able to show their emotions better with a pet. Are they shy? Perhaps they feel more comfortable telling their secrets or sharing their fears to a dog or cat. 4 A pet gives you permission to do outrageous things. Your character may not be able to do or say certain things, or go certain places. Ah, but a dog may not have such restrictions! To other writers: does your book contain a pet? What is their role in the book? Why did you add him or her? elysabeth said... Hey Chris, My stories won't have pets because my characters are interacting with a game to guess which state is being described (or clues given about). I'm doing my character sketches on my blog (http://jgdsseries.blogspot.com ) and I'm definitely making them all different. I've got one more to do and not sure if any of them really have pets. If my characters do have a pet, it would probably be the brother/sister combo (now I have to go back and make sure I didn't sneak a pet in somewhere - lol) Interesting post though - I just recently read a series where the pets are actually the main characters and solve the mysteries - it's the Ivy League series (Ivy is the author's dog, and she is the main character and with the help of several other neighborhood dogs and a cat and a canary, they solve some fun kid-oriented mysteries). I know I shouldn't be promoting someone else's books here but she has a good series. The human characters are
vital to the stories but the animals get the fame and fortune - lol. Not sure any pets would benefit my stories really but I will have to think about it. - see you all in the postings Kim Baccellia said... I decided to have a cat in my latest WIP. The cat is there to keep an unwelcome guest, in this case an Egyptian goddess, in line. I've also used a dog in my more edgy YA. The dog gives the main character comfort during her trying times. Joyce Moyer Hostetter said... I like this post. Very helpful! My book BLUE is historical fiction based on a real 1944 polio epidemic and the emergency hospital my town put together. A dog showed up at the hospital and was quickly adopted by the staff there. I couldn't leave him out of the story. After the book came out I quickly discovered how popular "Polio Pete" was with my readers. I think there's a good possibility all my books for young people will contain animals from now on. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... In my YA fantasy adventure, The Rock of Realm, I originally had three characters as young teens but then decided their humor and bickering sounded snobby, rude so I switched them to: Butch, the 110lb German Shepherd and hero Pops, Butch's pet squirrel and Jinx, the six-legged hamster from Rock Kingdom who is like a thorn in Pops' butt because both are trying to be Butch's best friend. After reviews came in, everyone fell in love with these three and their antics and sarcasm so in the end I was glad I did the switch. I find children, even adults, can relate to pets. They are like a soothing pacifier...unless they are Damien's pets. :) Beverly Stowe McClure said... I like animals in stories, Chris. My YA mystery, Secrets I Have Kept, has a dog that causes trouble for the "bad guy." It also has horses. Rebel in Blue Jeans, my forthcoming YA, has dogs, a cat, and horses showing my MC personality. Another forthcoming MG story has a dog and a cat that add humor to the story. I think most young people enjoy reading about our four-legged friends. Kim Chatel said...
I think pets are overlooked not only in fiction but in film and TV. How many shows do you watch that have pets? I realize that the logistics of working with pets on screen is restrictive, but as writers we don't have that problem. I love the ideas you present in your post and I'm going to try to implement them in my writing. My first YA novella "The Stone Beach" has a cat, and he is central to the story, but that doesn't really count. There would be no story without him. I like your ideas about bringing animals into the periphery of the story to add interest. Charlie said... I too agree that animals are a uncanny addition to my characters. I don't know if I've written anything without at least one pet in it. Not just because I'm addicted to my pets, but I think that pets sometime help us keep the humanity within ourselves. I have a little dog that is a Therapy dog and it's such a joy to see the immediate changes in people when we meet them in nursing homes and hospitals. Talk about story ideas... ;)
Christine A. Verstraete
I am a Children’s Author (formerly a librarian and now I am also a volunteer reading tutor at a local elementary school.) I have been published in various magazines (FACES, My Friend, Clubhouse, Dragonfly Spirit) and have publications pending in Ladybug, Highlights, and Stories for Children. Plus, my middle grade story, “The Emily Explosion,” is coming soon from Blooming Tree Press in its anthology, THE GIRLS. I also have two PB’s published by a local St. Louis publisher (Guardian Angel Publishing, www.guardianangelpublishing.com) GIFTS FROM GOD—a colorful celebration of God in our lives, and KITTY KERPLUNKING: PREPOSITION FUN—a purrrfectly enjoyable introduction to prepositions. Born in Kansas, I’ve moved around the Midwest a fair amount and now live in the St. Louis area with my husband, 2 cats, and 1 puppy. Our two grown sons live nearby. I enjoy dancing, hiking, yoga and tennis.
Hi Lea! Thanks for inviting me to your Blog Fest. Today I’ve brought Preppy the kitty along from my picture book, KITTY KERPLUNKING: PREPOSITION FUN. Preppy says she is the purrrrfect character to introduce young readers to the wonders of prepositions. With a day full of kitty capers, Preppy highlights more than a dozen prepositions. Plus, she offers 6 pages of games and puzzles to help readers enjoy their newfound knowledge. Here’s what Tammi Rhomberg, a K-5 reading specialist in the Rockwood Missouri
School District said about KITTY KERPLUNKING: Preppy the kitty in KITTY KERPLUNKING: PREPOSITION FUN is a huge success with the OASIS tutors. They have loved reading your story to their students and engaging them in language play using prepositions. Each page provides a rich visual and literacy experience for the students in a fun and lighthearted manner. Thank you for providing the instructional materials at the back of the book. These extension activities help to solidify appropriate practice for using prepositions. The study guide helps tutors understand the proper use of prepositions and how to interject them into student writing. I believe that introducing grammar to children in an entertaining manner helps them master the language without any pressure. They’re learning and gaining confidence while reading an entertaining story. I know from my school presentations that the students love finding the prepositions in each sentence as we read the story. What a boost for their selfesteem books like KITTY KERPLUNKING can be. And so many of the children have a special kitty in their own lives. They can easily relate to her adventures in the book. I love opening up the world of language to children in this way. Who said grammar has to be dull! To find out more about KITTY KERPLUNKING, please visit my website: http://www.cynthiareeg.com/ or my publisher, Guardian Angel Publishing: http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com LORI: The best way for kids to learn is to make it fun! What a great idea! Congrats on the book! Lori Calabrese http://www.loricalabrese.blogspot.com PATRICIA: I love the concept of Kitty Kerplunking and agree about the early introduction to prepositions and the building up of self-esteem in the children. I didn't see a ready link to the book--and would suggest doing that. I was going to order it just by clicking on the book cover pix, but it only came up as an enlarged photo. Best to you, Pat Harrington--Mom and Creator to "Fat Cat and Gray Mouse," a dynamic sleuthing duo who show how age-old adversaries become good friend and "do good."
TIPS FOR IMPROVING YOUR WRITING
STEPPING STONES TO BETTER WRITING by Cynthia Reeg Below are a few tips for improving your fiction writing for children--although I'm sure the suggestions offered would apply to writing for adults as well. Begin with a great start. Grab the reader from the first sentence. You have an editor's attention for a matter of minutes (maybe) before she moves on to the next slush pile story. I've been told that you should start your story when "the cup is ready to fall off the shelf."
Start with gusto. Bam! Wham! Kapowy! Just like in the old Batman TV show make sure your audiences can feel, see, and hear the action. Start with a problem or intriguing dialogue. Read some of the opening lines or first pages of stories that you like or stories that have become children's classics or best sellers. Study and perfect the art of a good beginning. Let your characters do the talking. Provide them with realistic voices. Interesting voices. Voices that the reader wants to hear more of. Voices that move the story along. Voices that reveal the character. Don't dilly-dally around with small talk. That's for everyday stuff in the real world but not in fiction. Create drama with dialogue. Show the characters’ emotions and opinions. Mix the dialogue with action, creating rhythm in your story, and using body language to further reveal your character. People are more likely to form their opinions of someone from what they do rather than what they say. The same applies to your story characters. Visualize each scene as though the characters are performing on a stage before you. Simply take down notes as they move and speak. Watch closely for their facial expressions, shoulder shrugs, sighs, raised eyebrows, glares, tapping foot. Write these into your story to create an amazing mix of dialogue and action. Think of creating a symphony. You must orchestrate all the various mix of instruments. Revel in the tension. Don't rush through the really exciting parts of your story. And for the reverse, don't drag out less thrilling but substantial sections. Make them as tight and thoughtful as possible; then move on to the fun stuff. Slow down the important scenes. Pretend you've pushed the slow-motion button on your recorder. Study each action in great detail and write it down in clipped, fast-paced sentences. Power-packed with emotion. Strong verbs and nouns, few adjectives and adverbs. Make the scene even more suspenseful by compacting the time frame needed for the hero to accomplish the goal. Hear the clock ticking in your head. Feel the tension down into your fingers. Then let them type away. Write in a rush. Initially, while the idea is hot and the scene is flowing, write without looking back. Feel the need to rush on. To reach the finish line. Take deep breaths. Listen to some mind-enhancing alpha brainwave music like Mozart selections. Don't let your inner critic come out to play during this writing phase. I find it's helpful to let this story concoction rest for a while before coming back for serious editing. Depending on the length and complexity of the story, the down time may vary from a day or two to perhaps weeks or even longer. Edit with determination. Believe in the story that you've written. But believe that it can always be better. Read it out loud. Listen to the music of it. If you can't hear a beat, then you haven't written it in yet.
Look for the strong foundation of story elements: plot, setting, characters. Beef them up with subtle word shifts and tight editing. Paint colorful character strokes, especially with the main character and supporting characters. Expand your palette and your painting techniques for each new story. The reader should feel he knows enough about each character to like or dislike them. The characters should be real enough that the reader almost feels as though he is a part of the story, too. Then read your work like a copy editor. Line by line. Letter by letter. Correct the typos and punctuation errors. The more professional looking your story is the more believable it is for an editor. Read! Read! Read! Probably the most important thing you can do to improve your writing is to read. Read great stories like you want to write. Read some stories that aren't that good. Study the differences. Why did one work and not the other? Read a variety of works by a variety of authors. Expose yourself to different writing styles and genres. Reading poems is a great way for me to loosen my writing and help generate ideas. Reading nonfiction often leads to ideas for fiction stories as well. Read the newspaper and adult magazines for a wealth of ideas. Keep a record of what you read and who publishes it. This way you can refer back to your notes when trying to remember which publishing house likes romantic picture books or which one walks the line with edgy stories. Is there a pattern to what they like to print or what a particular editor likes to work on? Or which writer crosses the boundaries between picture books and young adult. How does she do it? Read. Study. Read. The only way to be a writer is to be a reader first. Marianne H. Nielsen said... It's always great to be reminded of the all those great points. Especially, the one about writing and not looking back, because that is so hard for me to do...but I will continue to give it a try. Thanks for sharing this info. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Marianne, I used to also go back and edit while I wrote and found it took me longer to write my stories. Now I just write, write, write, only read the last paragraph to refresh my memory where I left off and worry about editing once I've penned THE END. Kim Baccellia said... I also used to go back and edit each scene as I wrote. Problem was this took me forever to finish my stories. Now I just write, write, write. Then later, I go back to edit. Reading is a major part of writing. I read all the time.
TWO PIECES of the PICTURE BOOK PUZZLE
by Cynthia Reeg Today I’m bringing my children’s picture book, GIFTS FROM GOD, along to share. I want to use it as an example of two special aspects of picture books. Picture books are made possible by a winning combination of PICTURES and WORDS. Each part needs to stand strong yet blend together in perfect unison. In Gifts from God— which highlights children and nature, thus revealing some of God’s most precious gifts— I had the opportunity to explain my concept for this book with the illustrator, MarySue Roberts. This isn’t usually the norm, but I greatly appreciated that our publisher, Lynda Burch, arranged this meeting so we were sharing the same vision from the start in creating this book. And after that one meeting, MarySue took my concept and words and meshed them with her photoart to fashion a masterpiece. M. H. Furlong, a mother of two young sons (3 & 6) wrote this about the book, “It is very well done and every picture explodes with color and happiness. If only church were as fun for kids as this book is.” Picture books need to appeal to both CHILDREN and the ADULTS reading the books aloud. I took this aspect into account from my initial planning of Gifts from God. I wanted this spiritual book to be simple enough for beginning readers to understand on their level, yet insightful enough to inspire the adult readers on their own religious journeys. I did this by specifying that each double-page spread have an easy reader sentence on the right and a corresponding scripture quotation on the left, making this an enjoyable and uplifting book for both children and adults. Or as reviewer Mayra Calvani said, “…a lovely book for the entire family, one to be read not only at bedtime, but at any hour of the day.” http://mayrassecretbookcase.blogspot.com/2008/02/reviews-of-giftsfrm-god-and-kitty.html
Here’s an example in which you’ll be able to see how MarySue’s photoart makes it all
work. Visit my website (http://www.cynthiareeg.com/) or Guardian Angel Publishing (http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/) to learn more about GIFTS FROM GOD. At my website you can also find · a list of some of my favorite picture books (http://www.cynthiareeg.com/teachers/aloud.html) · helpful tips on reading aloud with children (http://www.cynthiareeg.com/teachers/aloud2.html) * a study guide I created for sharing Gifts from God with children of various ages (http://www.cynthiareeg.com/teachers/gifts_god_study.html) Beverly Stowe McClure said... What a wonderful idea to include scripture with the easy sentences, Cynthia. Such lucky little ones to get the chance to read your book. The pictures are lovely.
Quick Tips for QUERY & COVER LETTERS
by Cynthia Reeg Children’s Author http://www.cynthiareeg.com/ Writing query and cover letters can be made much easier if you break down the process into four steps. Remember the old adage: Divide and Conquer. You can use this technique to overcome your fear for writing letters to the editor. Learning to write better query and cover letters will encourage you to submit more often and thus earn more publishing credits. Rule 1: Make sure to grab your reader immediately. Start with a snappy opening line. Here's an example of my query letter to FACES magazine for a retold Australian legend that was accepted for their May 2005 issue titled "Australia Today."
What story do you get when you mix three Aborigine sisters, a devoted father with a magic wombat bone, and an evil monster named the Bunyip? The Australian legend of The Three Sisters. Rule 2:Provide a quick break down of the necessary facts: fiction or nonfiction; word count; intended audience; chapters and supplementary information; and a brief annotation. Here's an example of the cover letter for my story that appeared in the September 2005 issue of DRAGONFLY SPIRIT, an online children's magazine. In “The Dragon Artist’s Tale,” a 994-word fantasy story for middle grade readers, Rudy accepts an offer for extra help from ancient Professor Bumbles, his fumbling art teacher. Will this unlikely team solve Rudy’s problem or create an even bigger dilemma? Rule 3:Sum up your qualifications, experience, and inspiration for writing the particular work for which you are submitting or querying. Visiting Australia several years ago, I became intrigued with the Sisters’ story. I feel children also will enjoy this timeless tale rich in Aboriginal folklore. I am an SCBWI member and a member of the St. Louis Children’s Writer’s Circle. I have a Masters Degree in Library Science and have worked for many years as a children’s librarian. I’ve recently had an article accepted for publication in Ladybug magazine. (a sister Carus publication of FACES) Rule 4: Explain why you believe your writing is just what the editor is looking for. Show you've done your homework. I think this legend is a perfect fit for your May 2005 Issue: Australia Today. Or “The Dragon Artist’s Tale” seems created specifically for the winged premier issue of Dragonfly Spirit. Here’s an example of the email cover letter I used when submitting “BF’s & Butterflies” to online magazine STORIES FOR CHILDREN: December 17, 2007 Gayle Jacobson-Huset, Asst. Editor Stories For Children Dear Ms. Jacobson-Huset, Small town girl, Leya, wants to figure out a way to befriend Kari, the new girl, before Nasty Nona, self-crowned queen of fifth grade, claims her. Leya’s just lost her BF—Best Friend—Lucy, who’s moved all the way to Florida. Now as Leya struggles to find a new BF, as well as her place in her fifth grade class, she discovers that butterflies can lead to friendship. "BF’s & Butterflies" is an 923-word submission for Stories For Children’s February 2008. It is realistic fiction for 10-12-year-olds. This story highlights the anxieties faced by school children in making and losing new friends, as well as the individual rivalries within a class when individuals vie for another’s friendship. Jealously, popularity, and
competition sometimes outweigh the true motive behind gaining new friends. As Leya learns, love is the only way to earn a new BF. My children’s writings have appeared in FACES, Clubhouse, Dragonfly Spirit, My Friend and have been accepted for Ladybug and Highlights. I have two picture books, KITTY KERPLUNKING and GIFTS FROM GOD, published by Guardian Angel Publishing (http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/). Blooming Tree Press is publishing my short story, “The Emily Explosion,” in their upcoming anthology. I am a member of the SCBWI, the Missouri Writers’ Guild, the American Library Association, and the Catholic Library Association. Recent awards include the Missouri SCBWI 2006 Mentorship Award and honorable mention in the 2007 Springfield, Missouri Writers' Guild Contest for my short story, “Christmas Treasures.” Thank you for your consideration of this submission. I look forward to hearing from you. Remember to be professional—but don’t be afraid to show your style. Editors won’t be able to resist when you sell your story and yourself with a great cover or query letter. To read “BF’s & Butterflies,” visit STORIES FOR CHILDREN MAGAZINE’s April issue: http://storiesforchildren.tripod.com/id491.html. KEVIN SCOTT COLLIER HOMEPAGE said... Nice article... the art made me smile, too... I am the guy who illustrated Stanley Bookman, the Stories for Children Mag mascot! Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... I cyber met Kevin end of last year and have to admit that I had heard of him but never knew nor seen his illustrations. Ever since last year, all I come across are Kevin's amazing covers and he's like the new bought car...you know, when you buy a Toyoto/Acura/Honda, all of a sudden all you see are Toyotas/Acuras/Hondas. :) Carma said... Learning query letters is a work in progress with me. These tips are just what I need. Thanks http://carmaswindow.blogspot.com
Diana Symons writes for the young and the young at heart. Previously married with a son now in the Navy, she lives in Sunnyvale, CA and keeps busy with her small church, friends, and family. Tales From The Throne: Where The Jewels Are is her first book.
The Princess Has Arrived!
Hello everyone! It's so great to be here. For those of you who don't know me, I'm the Princess from the Land of Wonderful. You can read my story in Where The Jewels Are. I'm so excited to be part of a blog fest! Who ever heard of such a thing? Granted, we are a little behind the times in the Land of Wonderful. Can you believe that we just got DSL hooked up in the castle? I'm still waiting for wireless. The Royal Scribe, aka Diana Symons, has been very good about keeping us current on such things, but it's hard to keep her motivated. She's always in the throne room talking to my Father. Everyone loves my Father. He's very wise. Sometimes He makes me do things that I'm not happy with though, like taking the trip to find my jewel. Well, you can read about it. I'm here to talk about writing for children. Yes, I am the real writer of the book, and I have to say that the real trick to writing for children is keeping a childlike attitude. It seems to me that even adults have an "inner child". I do hate that phrase, but it says it so well. When you let that little one out to play, the most amazing stories can develop. Children have wonderful imaginations and keeping the ability to go back to that as an adult is a gift to be cultivated -
not that I'm that old! I'm just saying. And I have to say that working the Royal Scribe has been fun. She tends to be a little goofy at times, but I've been successful at keeping her directed to the work at hand. Do stop by the castle any time. We always have great pastries at teatime. Visit us at: www.dianasymons.com or my very own blog at: http://landofwonderful.blogspot.com. I'm looking forward to this week of blogging and festing! Donna McDine said... Diana...great statement: "When you let that little one out to play, the most amazing stories can develop." How true this is! I enjoyed the character portion of the blog post also! Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... POPS: Well helllooo Princess. Been to a castle myself but I can forego that horrible time, thank you very much. Hopefully, your land is much nicer than Rock Kingdom. So, do you love adorable squirrels? JINX: Um...what he means is if you like six-legged hamsters who DO live in a castle. POPS: Get lost, squirt. I was talking to the lady first.
Princess Here Again
Hello dwellers from another land. These posts about writing are so interesting, but I bet none of you have the issues that I have. For instance, I recently asked for some articles for the village paper, Parchment Press. What did I receive? Articles torn in half because a troll got grumpy at a river crossing. Another article singed by an uppity dragon because his cheese was late. Or an entire article spelled out in flower language that could only be read during a full moon! But the best ones are always the ones written by the children. I love to take paper and ink down to the village square and let the children write their own stories. The things they come up with! We have one very bright young man with the strangest imagination. He writes stories about huge machines that fly in the sky and carry people around the kingdom. It's just priceless. The best advice I have for well-intentioned writers is to get outside the castle walls and explore the world. You just never know what you'll run into. But stay way from the trolls because they really can be irritating. The Princess can be visited in Where The Jewels Are. www.dianasymons.com
Beverly Stowe McClure said... When I was teaching I loved to have the students write stories. We did a poetry book every year and some were placed in the library for everyone to read. They illustrated their books and had a great time. Diana Symons said... That's so great! I love it when kids get to show off their work. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... We used to have author's tea where parents were invited to our class and the children were the guest of honors. Their 'books' were autographed and read by the visiting parents and the senior grades served Ginger Ale instead of Champagne. Jan Verhoeff said... I love children authors. My son published his first book at 9 and has two more working on graphics. He's been spending the majority of his time recently writing a fantasy adventure about creatures of his own designs. There are dragons and humans and critters you can't imagine. I've been attempting to edit it for him... During break times, because he has to sit right beside me to edit, and gets very upset with me when I misspronounce one of his wildly spelled names. Children are the BEST! Cynthia Reeg said... Diana, I loved your last paragraph: The best advice I have for well-intentioned writers is to get outside the castle walls and explore the world. You just never know what you'll run into. But stay way from the trolls because they really can be irritating. I have a middle grade novel called MONSTER MISFITS. I'll have to bring some of those characters along here...one is a particularly irritating troll named Malcolm McNastee. :-) Diana Symons said... Ha, ha! Cindy, bring 'em on! It's funny, but I just started a new blog for my characters to talk for themselves: http://landofwonderful.blogspot.comand the first person to add a comment was a character from another book! Jan - that's so awesome about your son! So cute that you have to get the names right. I can just imagine : )
Swinging into The Writing Jungle
I'm delighted to be part of the Writing for Children Blog Fest ~ Lea...thank you! As always the wealth of information fellow writers share with one another is tremendously helpful as I learn to navigate my way to publication. While I do not have a published book, I'm enrolled in the Institute of Children's Literature Advanced Book course and I'm in the process of developing a middle grade historical fiction manuscript. However, I have had magazine publication success. My publishing credits include: Stories for Children Magazine, Kid Magazine Writers, Long Story Short, Institute of Children’s Literature Rx for Writers, SCBWI Metro NY Newsletter, and Once Upon A Time. With an acceptance to Boys’ Quest to be published in December 2012. I’m also a children’s book reviewer for Musing Our Children Group and the The National Writing for Children Center. I offer through my blog, Write What Inspires You! - (http://www.donnamcdine.blogspot.com) book reviews, guest author visits, and provide updates for SCBWI events, Musing Our Children and Muse It Up Club events, and The National Writing for Children Center events.
Rejection Letters - What to make of them
I had the opportunity to attend a SCBWI Metro NY Tuesday Professional Series on Finding New Talent: Middle-Grade and Young Adult Novels at Delcorte with presenter, Pamela Bobowicz, Editorial Assistant from Knopf Delacorte Dell. I'd like to share with you Bobowicz's take on rejection letters: 1. A form letter. This could possibly mean any one of the following reasons: can’t successfully publish, can’t take it on, doesn’t fit our needs, or a lot of work still needs to be done. This is an ideal time to review your manuscript, share it with your critique group for further suggestions, and research additional markets for submission. Don’t despair…this is part of the industry. 2. Rejection letter with notes. This type is semi-hopeful to the writer. You have been given the opportunity to review your manuscript with the editor’s questions and revise where needed. Resubmit to the editor who took the time out to make their questions and/or comments known.
3. Potential here, but not for me letter. Simply not right for this particular editor. As a writer you need to share your manuscript further with fellow writers for their constructive opinion. Take the time out to research a new agent and/or house and resubmit. 4. Potential here, let’s try a revision letter. An editor has shown your manuscript to his/her supervisor and has been given authorization to contact you. It is important what the writer makes of this letter and what the writer takes out of it. Don’t rush to respond back. Take the time to carefully go over all suggested changes and questions addressed before responding back. I was chosen to report on this event and it will be published in the SCBWI Metro NY Spring Newsletter. Kim Baccellia said... DonnaVery true. I've received all of the mentioned rejection letters. My favorite had to be the last. This one editor took the time to write me a detailed revision letter going over three different options on how to tighten and make my story more marketable. I was excited because I knew I could do this. Another important thing to do if you do receive a personal rejection is to send a thank you card. The above editor told me she was pleasantly surprised that I did this. I try to send out thank yous especially to agents and editors who took the time to go over requested partials and/or fulls and made comments. klchatel said... I'm one of those strange people who actually like rejection letters (of course, I like acceptances much more!). I think they are a real insight into the way a publisher works. For me a form letter is always a let down, because it gives me nothing to work with. I am always grateful when an editor takes the time to provide feedback. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... A form letter does nothing for a writer other than to tell them, "thanks, but no thanks." Mind you, publishing houses go through tons of manuscripts a week so it would be difficult to add comments for each. Having said that, any rejection letter that comes my way is perceived the same way...as a challenge for me to prove to them I can do it. If you stop and begin feeling maybe you're not cut out for this biz, well, don't. You won't be the first nor the last to get a rejection letter come your way so toughen up and get back into the game. Sub it elsewhere or if this same manuscript keeps getting rejections, then
either you're not targeting the right house for it or you need to go back in and look over your story objectively, and not like the protective mom.
SCBWI NY Winter Conference ~ 2008
Hello All ~ I originally posted this on my blog at: http-://www.donnamcdine.blogspot.com and wanted to share it with you all here. The SCBWI 9th Annual Winter Conference blew into NYC on a not too frigid day, which is great since February in NYC can be downright frosty. I had the distinct pleasure of attending the SCBWI Writers Intensive on Friday, February 8th.The day begin with the keynote speakers, Judy Enderle & Stephanie Gordon. It is no wonderful these two talented women work as a writing team. They compliment one another and fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Their presentation titled, "Begin Again!" was full of helpful tips that fit around the theme, "A Look at Beginnings that Won't Let an Editor say NO!" The morning continued with the first round of Moderated Critiques...for those who have not had the privilege and opportunity to participate in this unique session...you are placed at a round table with eight other writers and one agent or editor. Each person gets the opportunity to read their 500-word excerpt or synopsis. The agent or editor provides you with their professional critique and suggestions for your piece and then each of your peers provides you with their critique.I cannot say enough how wonderful a experience and opportunity this is for a writer. Networking is key and the lunch break serves to be the perfect time to head to lunch with several of your new writer friends. Getting to know one another over an informal lunch is the perfect time to exchange contact information and your personal experiences and suggestions in writing for children. The afternoon picked back up with the afternoon Moderated Critique session. And the day ended with yet another fabulous and informative lecture entitled, "Whew, I Can't Believe I Made It! I Need a Drink/Massage/New Keyboard...and Deeper Thoughts About Last Pages," from Jane Yolen was filled with fabulous insights and tips. Much like the day before, the ballroom at the Hilton was filled with energized writers on Saturday, February 9th and all were a buzz in anticipation of the days events. Many writers met friends from the SCBWI boards in person for the first time and were able to finally fit the typed words to the faces of so many.
The day began with the welcoming humor of Lin Oliver & Stephen Mooser as they introduced the day events and the morning keynote speaker, Nikki Grimes. Ms. Grimes presented an energizing and enlightening speech entitled, "The Power of Poetry," she has definitely converted one attendee to look at poetry in a different light. The morning speeches continued with a delightful and humorous presentation from David Wiesner entitled, "Storytelling Without Words." The illustrator talent of David Wiesner takes your breath away.We were all then treated to the Breakout Workshop Sessions, which each attendee had the opportunity to pre-register for two from a list of ten (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). Presenters included: Anamika Bhatnagar, Scholastic; Alessandra Balzer, Hyperion; Caitlyn M. Dlouhy, Atheneum; David Gale, Simon & Schuster; Jennifer Hunt, Little, Brown; Wendy Loggia, Delacorte; Mark McVeigh, Aladdin Paperbacks; Molly O'Neill, Harper Collins; Reka Simonsen, Henry Holt and Nancy Siscoe, Knopf & Crown. I attended the sessions with Molly O'Neill of Harper Collins and Reka Simonson of Henry Holt. Both were informative and I walked away with an immense amount of information to better help me understand the publishing industry. The Luncheon Keynote Address was made by Carolyn Mackler entitled, "Laughing, Crying & Being a Major Snoop: My Life as a Teen Novelist." Her presentation was both humorous and heart touching...she definitely pulled at your heartstrings. After the second round of the Breakout Workshop Sessions the day concluded with a presentation entitled, "Five Agents View the Marketplace." The panel consisted of: Tracey Adams, Adams Literary; Miriam Altshuler, Miriam Altshuler Literary; Barry Goldblatt, Barry Goldblatt Literary; Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown, Ltd; and Jodi Reamer, Writers House. This interactive panel after their initial presentation was the perfect way to conclude the day. I unfortunately, was unable to attend the Sunday session due to a family obligation. This being my second SCBWI Winter Conference I can honestly say I did not have a favorite session or event. Each moment was filled with the perfect opportunities to network. And the positive support and encouragement everyone provides makes me walk away feeling energized and encouraged to keep traveling down this path of writing for children.
The Brick and Hopefully Crumbling Wall of Parenting and Writing
Inspired to write the below from an email conversation that I had with Gayle JacobsonHuset, Assistant Editor - Stories for Children Magazine in the summer of 2007. I originally submitted this to a personal essay contest (did not win) but the Stories for Children Writers Newsletter accepted it for publication September 2007 - albeit at the time Gayle was not aware she was my inspiration. Here goes: You dream of the days of no commute to a 9-5 job and you finally give your writing
aspirations the chance that they deserve. You have stocked your office or any small writing space that you designate in your home with all the essentials; computer, paper, pens, pencils, books and research resources, etc. However, the responsibilities of mother seem to intrude every moment of the day. Now that you are home, everyone thinks that you are accessible all day long. The kids feel that since you are home that you aren’t “really working”. You’re not sure when it happened, but responsibilities that were normally delegated, somehow have become all your responsibility. A writer’s life can easily become frustrated when the creative juices are without fail interrupted by the most mundane questions or needs. You know how that goes. Cleaning the sticky keyboard. Mom where are my soccer cleats? What is there to eat? Can you put the movie in for me? The list is endless. When did my family become so helpless? We all love our families, but how does one carve out that special and much desired writing time without the feeling of neglect on the family? It is important to reset boundaries as quickly as they disappear. Let your family know that writing is indeed work, but also a passion that you want to achieve. Teach your children the importance of uninterrupted writing time and that they will get your undivided attention once your writing session is completed. Hopefully they will come to understand that what is important to you should be respected. Just as you respect what is important to them. Although there will be times and sometimes it will feel like many, where interruptions are a necessity. Such as, when the school nurse calls to say that you need to pick up your child that has a fever. Like any mother, we quickly grab our car keys and head to the school. If you attempt to balance your writing and the care of your sick little one it will tend to leave you both feeling frustrated and neglected. At this point, you are much better accepting the fact that your child needs you and that your writing can wait for another time. Even if that deadline is on the horizon, you will not do your best work, just leave it. Grab any time thrown your way, especially when the little ones are asleep. When the house and telephone are quiet it tends to be a great time for creativity. These little pockets of time may not feel like much, but the time over a week to a month will accumulate and you can get quite a bit accomplished. Keep a handy pocket notebook with you at all times, you never know when your next inspiration will come to mind. It could happen anywhere, such as that crowded doctors office you just brought your sick child to. Like anything in this life, this too shall pass, but we hope not too fast, since they do grow up quickly. Beverly Stowe McClure said... Great article, Donna. I don't have kids at home anymore, but other things try to rob me of my writing time. You have to find the time whenever you can. I have notebooks all over the house. Now if I could only remember why I wrote that particular line down. :)
Stacy Dawn said... Oh man! Can I relate LOL. My boys are still young and it is a challenge finding time to write/work around family. A mother's guilt always kicks in when you sneak a little time for yourself, even though you keep telling yourself it shouldn't LOL
Elysabeth Eldering, a 45-year-old mother of three, lives in a small town near Greenville, South Carolina, where she is an active member of Sisters in Crime and the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop. After writing her first story on a dare, Elysabeth hasn’t stopped since, with writing credits that include short stories "Train of Clues," "The Proposal," "The Tulip Kiss," "Butterfly Halves," and "Bride-and-Seek", as well as articles on editing and self publishing. Coming soon is the Junior Geography Detective Squad, the 50-states mystery series, where we follow four friends in their game-playing fun, trying to guess the states. Elysabeth also reviews books, edited a paranormal mystery storyline, and is currently participating as a judge for the Derringers Awards.
Where in the United States are the Junior Geography Detectives?
Hey everyone. JGDS (Junior Geography Detective Squad) here and we were just going to put our two cents worth in here. Seems lots of authors have come on board to get noticed but they have some good advice. Ms. Elysabeth thought it might be a good idea to give you all some geography lessons along the way and thus created our series. Now we aren't all smart and all-knowledgeable about geography but we are learning, some pretty fascinating things too. Somone told Ms. Elysabeth back when she was in school trying to figure out what she was going to do with her life that she should be a teacher. She loved working with kids and had a way of getting information across in a fun way. Ms. Elysabeth didn't want to be a teacher though. She always knew she wanted to go into the medical field but didn't want to be a nurse, didn't want to be a doctor and had thought possibly of becoming a physician's assistant (but we hear that they can do almost as much as a doctor anyway, so why not just go all the way and become a doctor) but she settled on being a medical transcriptionist. She loves research and loves typing and doing all that medical stuff but a few years ago decided to start writing. The first time she entered a contest, she won a shared second place for that particular contest and she loved it. The idea that it had been a children's mystery of sorts got her thinking about expanding the story out to make each state the mystery destination. Well, it took her a little over two years to really get the right format but she has finally hit upon it and we think it is so cool that she will be doing all 50 states. So where are we anyway? Well we are basically in Anytown, USA and that is wherever you want us to be when you start. Since we are playing a game and gaining insight and clues from the game, it doesn't matter where we start off. For the first state, we are in Matt's bedroom and it's just Matt and Guy at first and then
Mary Beth (Matt's sister) joins in. For character sketches on who is who, you'll have to check out the website - http://jgdsseries.blogspot.com. While there, why not think about signing up for Ms. Elysabeth's newsletter forum and get some fun and interesting facts about some of the states once a month in addition to some information about the stories. We are going to try to talk Ms. Elysabeth into posting something from the stories on the website too. So check back for updates all during the week, you never know what will pop up. Donna McDine said... Hi Elysabeth...thanks for the gifts for Hayley. Yes, she is enjoying them. She loves to play school and she is using the gifts as part of handouts when she is the teacher and her friends are the students. We are certainly in great company. Wonderfuly post, with great background info on you!
Why a geography series?
Since I won a shared second place with my first ever submitted story, the idea of doing a geography series of sorts has been niggling. I have tried it many different ways and started it just about a gazillion ways too. Every idea I tried I hit the proverbial wall - it wouldn't work this way because they would be tired of the story but a certain point; it wouldn't work that way because simple deductive reasoning would let the kids know which state was the correct state before they finished and it definitely wouldn't work thisthat way because it wasn't doable. You name it, I've hit the wall. I attended the SCWW writer's conference in Myrtle Beach last October as a volunteer (allowed me to have the benefits the same as the attendees who paid for the full package without the cost) and part of the package was submitting up to 30 pages for a full critique from an agent, editor or author. I submitted my YA fantasy that had been published but was no longer published at the time. I chose Andrea Brown as my critiquer because she is supposedly the "children's book agent". She has been doing this for over 20 years and should really know what would work and what wouldn't. When I met with her Sunday morning during my appointed time at the breakfast table (we had a weird thing happen that weekend at the hotel - every clock reset out of daylights savings time, so everyone was running late for first classes/workshops or critique meetings). So when I saw her at breakfast, I told her no rush since I was her first appointment and so she offered to do my critique at the table. After she pulled out my submitted story, I told her that really I wanted to pitch my other idea as opposed to get feedback on the story. She allowed me the opportunity to pitch my geography series. Point blank she told me conflicting things "It won't sell; it's been done before" and "You've got to think outside the box, but it won't sell." How outside the box could I get? I mean I was trying to find a way to write all 50 states as the mystery "destination" in a way that would be fun for kids to learn about the states without beating them over the head with the info. Well, I felt a little discouraged after talking with her but also encouraged by my friends and fellow authors. Upon returning from the conference, I was just going to put the story(ies) aside and let them happen when they would. About a month after the
conference, while surfing through the postings on the Short Mystery Fiction Society yahoo forum, I saw a posting that was a call for submission for 5-minute mysteries. They wanted stories that were at about a 6th grade level (about where I wanted to gear mine towards anyway), that could be used eventually in schools as educational tools and stories that were about 1500 words in length. Now 1500 words isn't very much but I thought, "You know, I could turn my state stories into really short mysteries and see if it works." I emailed the person who made the posting and asked if the stories had to be "murder mysteries" and ran my geography idea by him. He loved it and shared with his partner, who happens to work for an educational publisher and who just so happens to be in the social studies area (or that is his forte). We communicated back and forth and I did the first story, submitted it and then got told it wouldn't work (and it was too short for what I wanted to convey). Anyway, we went back and forth with the National Social Studies Standards and what they wanted and what I wanted and so I put it aside. In January, I was chatting with Aidana, the lady who designed my logo, and we were talking about my idea for the geography series. She had just started out as an agent, so I signed her up on a trial basis. Figured it would take some of the pressure off me when I had something to shop around. We talked about the series and I shared my different starts and ideas with her on where I was trying to take the series; she shared with Lacresha from Living Waters Publishing Company, and she loved the idea and signed me up. So in two days I had a contract with an agent (wasn't really sure I would continue with Aidana because it was a trial thing and I figured I wouldn't have anything to submit until after the trial was over) and a publisher for all 50 stories. Check out my blog posting on my blog about coming full circle with the series So long posting about how I came about to this point but the moral of this is - when you get a niggle of an idea, don't push it aside. Let the idea brew, steep, and come to full fruitition and guess what, you may just have the next best seller on the NYT's list. Beverly Stowe McClure said... Your geography series sounds great. I'd think schools would snap it up to add to their geography lessons. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Elysabeth, what I like about your upcoming series is that not only will it be educational but the children will have fun along the way solving a mystery. I find series that have a theme to attract them to is always a good bet but that theme needs to be something they will learn from and your geography series is spot on.
Things that Go Bump in the Night
by Holly Jahangiri I was tucking my son, William, into bed. "Mom, I can't sleep. There's a monster under my bed." "Really?" I said, tired and unimpressed. "What makes you think that?" I figured it was the product of an older sister's teasing, an overactive imagination, and too much Cartoon Network. "I can hear him. He tries to grab my feet when you turn out the light." Oddly, I remembered this monster from my own childhood. I remembered coats and chairs and blankets and books that took on different shapes in the dark - sinister, scary shapes. I remembered being terrified of what lay at the top of the stairs in my grandmother's house - absolutely nothing. It was 10:00 PM, and logic wasn't going to lead to sleep any time soon. I would have to bring out the big guns - the Monster Repellent. Now, this powerful stuff is known to most adults by a number of names: water, Febreeze, Lysol... but the truth is, it's all Monster Repellent. Works every time. Except this one. "He's still there. Will you leave the light on?" "Sure." Three tuck-ins later, I was pretty exhausted. I didn't know what to do. Then I remembered, it's all grist for the mill. I gave up fighting it. "Stay in bed - keep your feet under the covers. I'll be back in a few minutes. Yell loud if anything grabs you, and I'll come running, okay?" That night, Trockle was born. The monster under my son's bed wanted to be tucked in, too. And he had a story to tell - a story he wanted me to share with my son. Turns out, he was just as afraid of that great big boy who lived over the bed as the boy was of him! And William, who is now in Sixth Grade and finds the whole thing laughable (not to mention slightly embarrassing), was just learning to read. So, figuring that if he was going to lay awake with the light on, worrying about what lurked under his bed, he could at least be practicing his new skills.
The words flew from my fingers. I listened first to Trockle, then shared an affectionate chuckle with his mother. I quickly hit the Print key, and took the very first draft of the manuscript to my son. He was still wide awake, of course. "Here, read this." "What?" "It's about the monster who lives under your bed." "You wrote this?" "Yes. He told me all about himself. Now read. Let me know what you think." I half hoped it would put him to sleep, and half hoped he'd offer some useful suggestions. About fifteen minutes later, he climbed out of bed and came into my home office with edits--and a great big smile on his face. He was no longer afraid of Trockle, either. They had reached an understanding. I made the requested changes, printed off a fresh copy, and escorted William back to bed. "Will you read it to me?" "Why don't you read it to me, instead?" "Okay." And so he did. And late as it was, I promptly fell asleep to the sound of my son's voice, dreaming of a little orange monster--and his mother--living under the bed. *** I didn't really set out to write a children's book, but the minute I'd finished writing Trockle, I knew I had something special. I shared it with my friend and fellow writer, Vivian Zabel. "You have to get this published," she said. Little did either of us realize that several years would go by, during which I did lots of things - but not that. The manuscript sat on my son's bookshelf and in a file on my hard drive. Meanwhile, Vivian was establishing 4RV Publishing. One day, she asked me what had become of the story I wrote for my son, and did I still have it? Could she publish it? She found a wonderful artist, Jordan M. Vinyard, to illustrate it and bring the characters to life. Looking back, I think that it was just waiting there, for Viv, Jordan, and 4RV. I wouldn't be surprised if my little monster found his way under their beds and into their hearts, too. Kim Chatel said... I love the twist on this old tale. Your story reminds me of the time I found my daughter, then 4, all ready for bed--in my bed. She said that she was afraid of the monster under her bed. I asked her why she was so sure that there was no monster under my bed. She replied with her four-year-old wisdom, "Because, Mommy, this bed is filled with your love and it protects me." How could I argue with that? Vivian said...
Trockle is something special. I feel in love with the little monster (and with Stephen) the first time I read the story. As Jordan brought the story to life with her marvelous art work, I knew the world should fall in love with the story, the illustrations, and the characters, too. So far, they have. Everyone who works with the t-shirts with Trockle on the front, everyone (except a few oddities) who has seen the cover and/or some of the illustrations, think the cover, the illustrations, the story fresh. When I attended the SCBWI conference Saturday, I had a laminated copy of the cover in my padfolio, had forgotten it. When I opened my zipped folder, it fell out. People wanted to know what it was; was it published; where/how could they get a copy. A repeating comment included, "Ohhh, isn't that the cutest little monster. I just want to hug him." Anyone know where/how we can get stuffed toys made? I'd like to "hug" Trockle, too. Oh, and people can reserve their copies now on the www.4rvpublishingllc.com/store.html page. Vivian, proud publisher of Trockle. LCalabrese said... Looks like a wonderful story. Every parent and child will be able to relate to this one! Holly said... Thanks, LCalabrese. I think so - monsters under the bed seems to be a universal theme! (Kind of makes you wonder why, doesn't it?) Maybe, down there with the dust bunnies... Naaaah. You think?
Pops v. Hubert - The Characters Unite
Seriously, when the issue of children's books come up among writers there's a lot of talk about characters. But the reality is that characters tend to take over the book and writers are just there to check the spelling and grammar. Characters are something like children, you keep their noses wiped, their butts clean and their tummies full and they happily go about their business enjoying life, disrupting your days and nights. When I started writing, my goal was to write business articles, books, and informative content that would help people in some way... Then I realized I had to write about OOOsoh. OOOsoh was my shadow. When I was a small child, OOOsoh followed me everywhere I went. Sometimes, if the light was just right, he arrived first. I don't remember when I realized OOOsoh was a boy, but that was my first clue that something in this world wasn't quite right. I was, after all, a girl; still am. By the time I was a teenager OOOsoh had become not only a boy, but he was a raging bull stallion with a black star in his forehead and four stocking feet. OOOsoh, who began as a shadow, became my steed, carrying me into the future in a fury of dancing hooves and blowing maine. I was transformed into a princess on the back of OOOsoh. When my daughter came along, shortly after my twenty-fifth birthday, OOOsoh became a gray bear with a red sash ribbon around his neck. Then he became the center of bedtime stories. Since then OOOsoh has accomplished many feats, some so simple as keeping away the monster, then he was the monster, and just this last month I hear my daughter tell her baby girl to shush and go to sleep and she'd get to visit OOOsoh in slumberland. OOOsoh has become the dream keeper in the land where my grandbaby rests. The miracle is not so much in the transformation as it is in the fact that OOOsoh has managed to remain a part of our family's heritage over nearly half a century (please don't tell me I put that in print!) and continues to develop, just as other characters do: at his own pace, in his own time, and in his own world. Characters are a requirement in the vast world of writing for children and as authors, we can only hope to contain them long enough to visit between the pages of our books. Our biggest hope is for them to suck air and procreate into the minds of our readers and inspire vast future exploitations of inspiration. Bambi sent generations of children into the world to save Bambi's mama. Little Sleeping Beauties long for their prince to come riding up on a white stallion to save them from a world of doom. And every Cinderella dreams of losing her glass slipper at the ball.
Where will your characters be in thirty or forty years? Fifty? Jan Verhoeff writes a variety of genre and can be found at http://janverhoeff.com/ or visit her at the Coffee Clatter for a cup of Inspiration!
Fundamental Design - Reality Based Fiction
There's a required foundation of fundamental design for children's books. They must have unforgettable characters. Absolutely the most incredible story in the world has to be revealed in the time it takes to fall asleep after a hard day of play. No plot can reveal the secrets of real adulthood, lest you betray adults everywhere of their childish reality. Are you listening? "My gosh! I know I've read this story at least two million times in the past week, but aren't you sleeping yet? Isn't it time for another drink or a bathroom break? I'm sick of this book!" "Bedtime, night after night is a redundant do over of the night before and you're probably sick of reading the same stupid book. Don't children's writers have any imagination at all?" If you're a normal parent of the expected 2. 49 kids, you already know where I'm going with this. We writers need to put replay options in our books. Yes, you read that right. Mom and Dad have to read these books Forty-nine hundred and eleven times, every single night, and they really get tired of the same old endings, every single time they read the book. So change it! Cinderella doesn't always have to get Prince Charming. The wicked step-mother doesn't always have to eat the poison apple. And, beyond what you might think, the ending of your story can have some imagination. You might even really offer up a twist with three or four endings for your story on the last several pages. "For story ending #1 go to page 36, for story ending #3 go to page 38." In story ending #3, let Prince Charming get the ugly step-sister with big feet. She deserves a good man! This is revolting! Seriously, I've just spent the afternoon posting three different posts for The Writing Jungle and all three of them disappeared. So, I'm writing this one differently. I'm not about to share how it's written, I don't want anyone to sabotage it! My point is, predictable stories SUCK!
When you write a story for children, include some ingenuity and a bit of imagination and inspiration. Children want to read and hear different endings, just the same as adults do. Don't you prefer to read books where you don't know the ending by the second paragraph? Give children some plot variety. Don't always give the luscious prince to the decadent princess. Sometimes let the toad remain a toad and give the princess to little Johnny plain and boring, so children understand that you don't have to be beautiful, rich and smarter than a green horny toad to get the princess. Sometimes, the prince gets the old maid with a wart on her nose, and because he loves her, she's simply loved. Not necessarily beautiful, but loved. As much as children love fantasy, they live in reality with the rest of us, and they often have to face ugly truths about themselves. Wouldn't it be easier if every book they read didn't end up the same way with the good looking, charming couple of least resistence living happily ever after? Jan Verhoeff lives in a real world where not every child has their own bedroom, an IPod and an MP-3 player, or two parents. Some children are blessed with one parent who loves them, a room they must share with brothers and sisters, and cardboard box toys. She writes intriguing tales of adventure where life isn't always pretty, and people still turn out okay with ambition and drive to achieve their dreams. Kim Chatel said... I love this idea. As a teenager I was a big fan of those interactive novels where you decided what route the hero took. With ebooks and ezine hyperlink fiction has made a slow comeback. but I think the simple multiple choice books would still go over great with kids. In fact, I was thinking about this with one of my middle grade books. It's sort of an old fashioned narrative, and I love the tone, but I thought making it interactive would modernize it a bit. Thanks for a great prompt. Beverly Stowe McClure said... LOL. The idea of replay options is cool. I also like to see the underdog win the girl or the boy. Kim Baccellia said... I always hated the whole Cinderella story. I loved it when THE PAPERBAG PRINCESS came out and showed that the princess didn't need to have the prince to be someone. Great message for little girls!
Jennifer Gladen is a children's author. Her favorite is fiction, but writes everything from stories, articles, poems and picture books. She has had her articles and stories appear in Stories for Children Magazine, with future articles to appear in Once Upon a Time. She is thrilled with the news that her first e-picture book, A Star in the Night, will be published this summer by Guardian Angel Publishing.
Network Brule: A Recipe for a Fine Networking Experience You hear it all the time. Someone tells you that networking is as important to writing as the actual manuscript. You're told it is the key to publicity, which in turn is key to your sales. The message is always the same: "Get your name out there". Okay. That's great advice. "But how do I do it?" you might ask. Successful networking is like creating that perfect Crème Brule. With one look, it seems impossible to do. Have no fear. A recipe follows that is sure to get you started on your networking experiences. First, you need all the ingredients: websites, e-mail, blogs, social groups and professional organizations. Handle with care and attention. Then, follow these steps carefully: Step One: The Base Start a website and/or blog. Add a page about you, your works and your links. This will help you build a platform and make you more visible. When your book comes out, you've already started a reader base. It also makes it possible for future readers to learn about who you are. Step Two: The Seasoning Season with e-mail signatures. Carefully place your links in the bottom of your e-mails. Now, every time an e-mail goes out, so do your links. Many times when you least expect it, someone will see your link and visit your site. If they like it, they may even pass on the link to a friend. Step Three: The Flavor Visit other blogs and websites. This helps you get ideas to flavor your own sites. In addition, leave a comment. Often the blog owner will visit your link in return. There you go. One more person knows about you. They may even want to exchange links with you.
Step Four: The Sugar Sweeten your experience by joining online listservs such as Yahoo Groups or Google Groups. Choose groups with the same writing interests as you. You'll make many friends. Visit their sites. Ask if anyone's interested in a link exchange where you'll put their link on your site and vice versa. In fact, most of my contacts came from social groups. Step Five: An Added Touch Enhance the pot with professional writing organizations such as The Author's Guild or if you're a children's author the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. You can meet fellow authors or other important contacts through sites like these. Many organizations have writing conferences where you don't just learn about your craft, you're meeting other writers and editors. Mix everything together. Garnish by serving business cards, complete with your name and website, at conferences. Keep them handy when you go out. You never know who you may run into. Like creating that perfect Crème Brule, these steps might not seem like much by themselves. However, together you have a recipe for a fine networking experience. Jennifer's bio: Jennifer Gladen lives and writes for children in Philadelphia. Her short stories and articles have appeared in Stories for Children Magazine. Her future publications include three articles to appear in Once Upon a Time Magazine. In addition, her first children's book, A Star in the Night, will be released this summer. To learn more about Jennifer and her work, visit any of her links: www.jennifergladen.com http://jgladen.blogspot.com http://www.authorsden.com/jennifergladen http://jengladensmusingswordpress.com/
Over Coming Challenges in a Tight Niche Market
Hello Fellow Writers, A few weeks ago a discussion about the challenges of researching for publishers and submitting picture book manuscripts to the Christian children’s book market was presented. I thought it would be interesting to see what your thoughts or experiences are on the subject and all of us can learn together. Some writers have mentioned that it appears Christian picture books are not a hot product right now, so it is difficult to get publishers to take interest in new manuscripts. Why do you think this is happening? Do you see picture books at a disadvantage because libraries, booksellers, and reviewers are more interested in secular books than Christian books? From my personal experience I find that when I tell secular or Christian bookstores about my children’s grief recovery books they are happy to place the Flying Hugs and Kisses set on their shelf, but will only keep a few copies in their stores because of the small niche topic. Libraries have also placed my books on their shelves and there are plenty of Flying Hugs and Kisses book reviews out there. I have found it to be very challenging to do school visits because most schools tell me their school counselors handle grief and loss issues. There have been a few teachers who have read my book in their classroom as part of their science projects when they discuss the life cycle. So from my perspective I see my challenges being more to the sensitive topic of my book, not that it is a picture book. I have learned to compensate for the few books placed in the bookstores and low library interest by networking and promoting by word of mouth. Additionally, I have taken advantage of opportunities to guest blog, speaking at bereavement conferences and radio interviews to gain an interest in my book and push sales forward. How have you gotten your title noticed and over come challenges? Jewel Jewel Sample, Award-winning author of Flying Hugs and Kisses (2006), also translated:
Besos y abrazos al aire (2006, Spanish edition) and Flying Hugs and Kisses Activity Book (2007) Stacy Dawn said... You're efforts are truly admired...not just for getting your book to the public but for promoting a sensitive topic too. I think promoting in general is a whole new field that no one really tells you about until AFTER the contract is signed LOL. It is an eye opener but at the same time, the people you meet and lives you get to touch because of writing is huge! I'm still a big believer in word of mouth and, though it is a slow process, is still the best way. Networking, talking with other authors as well as readers really helps for inspirations, ideas, and new markets to access. Jewel Sample said... Thank you so much for your kind words Stacy. You have made an important point about no one really tells you about promotion until after your published. Touching another's life through our writing is like living your best life now!
Writing with Passion and Developing Your Voice and Brand
1. What is your writing passion? ** A writing passion is the enthusiastic creative drive that stirs from within oneself that is just itching to be shared with others using your inner voice words. ** My passion is finding ways to show children God's love for them in story form. 2. How do you develop your own voice and brand? ** A writing voice is the essence and quality of the narration regardless of whether it is told in the first or third person or whether it belongs to the narrator or the character. Our writing voice is influenced by tone, which sets the atmosphere of the story. ** To me my own voice is writing from where I am, not where I hope to be. I write stories best from the first person point of view. I discovered this during my childhood. It was easier for me to keep the attention of my childhood friends and siblings by speaking as if I was the main character. I continued this practice in telling stories to my children while they were growing up and now to my grandchildren. ** Branding or brand association is a method used to join together a product such as a
book or a social interest, or a genre with the writer that is easy to remember. It can come in various forms such as a trademark or a symbol. ** My brand is in the form of a puppy dog with a balloon tied to its tail to symbolize grief and loss and the genre of children's fiction. It was developed from the illustrator’s interpretation of my story, Flying Hugs and Kisses. 3. What phrase would you use to describe your brand? ** The phrase that stirs within me to describe my brand is "Planting seeds of encouraging words in the heart of a child." I have also used my book title, Flying Hugs and Kisses. What have you discovered about writing with passion and developing your voice and brand?
I'm so glad to see my pal Joyce Anthony joining The Writing for Children blog fest. This woman is a strong presence in the writing world and constantly filling the air with great advice to everyone within the writing groups we both are members of. Joyce Anthony shares her PA home with her teenaged son and mini-zoo. She has written numerous articles and has published one short story. She is one of the founders of WINGS, an advocacy group. When not writing, Joyce spends time homeschooling her son and working on her photography. She is currently working on her next book, Spirit of the Stallion. A portion of all royalties from this book will be donated to StopItNow. Storm- YA: What do a prostitute, an abused child, a disillusioned minister, a Vietnam Vet and a homosexual have in common? These and many others find their lives changed when they meet Storm and his companion, an amethyst-eyed dog named Maggie. As you follow Storm on his journey to discover his true identity, you will meet many of society’s forgotten people. You will laugh, cry and get angry—whatever the emotion, you will feel deeply. When Storm realizes who he is and why he is here, the world is completely changed and not one soul remains untouched. Upon closing the covers of this book, you will see the world around you in a far different light and find yourself wondering—is it really fiction?
Do They Only Want Happy Endings?
I am delighted to be part of this BlogFest :-) What a wonderful group of talented individuals I've seen so far. Today, I'd like to discuss the content of children's books, particularly for mid-grade and young adult readers. I have had the privilege over the years of interacting with many kids with special needs. What I have discovered is that many don't like to read because "they don't write books for kids like us". What exactly does this mean?
There is a growing community of children with emotional issues. The number of children, especially in cities, who are "crack babies" is high. There are children who come from homes where one or more parent is addicted to drugs or alcohol, or has a mental disorder. The majority of books available have characters who face challenges like being popular, winning the next soccer game, getting the cute boy to notice them. Any characters from "dysfunctional" homes are relegated to minor positions. There is a growing number of would-be readers out there who want to see main characters dealing with the same issues they live with daily. They want to see characters who have emotional disorders show them ways to overcome stigma and survive. These kids want to know how someone like them deals with a drug-addicted parent, being molested or having to function in a world that is so often too confusing. We need more strong characters these kids can relate to--characters these children can feel understand their issues and show them ways to overcome.Don't be afraid to include these characters in your stories. Mid-grade and Young Adult readers especially will welcome them. Joyce A. Anthony Author of Storm Vivian said... Random House for Young Readers and Harcourt both want middle-grade and YA dealing with the problems kids face. Anyway, that's what they said at the SCBWI conference Saturday. Marianne H. Nielsen said... Great article and I have a child with severe emotional issues, and so far I have chosen not to include such a character in any of my stories or books because I know he would feel betrayed if I exposed the degree of his issues. I know one day I will write a story but I'm waiting for the right time. Because you're right there does need to be more of such books. The seed has been planted and I'm sure it will grow now... Thank you. Kim Baccellia said... Some of the recent books I've reviewed paint very realistic pictures of today's problems. One author I love, Ellen Hopkins, has written books in free verse that deal with such subjects as addition to meth, mental illness, and abuse in a religious home. One of her books, BURNED, touched me so much--as I was very similar to the teen in the book-that I both emailed her and also told her agent Laura Rennert. One of my current projects--SHATTERED ILLUSIONS--deals with a very tough and edgy subject of abuse.
I wish more of these kinds of books were available when I was a teen. Then I would have known I wasn't alone. Yes, some people love 'happy ever afters'. But there's others who want to read about teens who go through hard situations and how they deal with them.
Joyce Moyer Hostetter
Joyce Moyer Hostetter is an educator who has worked with children in a variety of settings – public school, camp, church, and homeschool. Ultimately, however, she couldn’t resist the urge to write! Combining love of story with her fondness for young people, she now writes juvenile novels. BEST FRIENDS FOREVER is a story of friendship between a Ukrainian Orthodox girl and an American Mennonite. Hostetter’s multi-award winning novel, BLUE retells the story of North Carolina’s 1944 polio epidemic. Her latest, HEALING WATER, takes place in Hawaii’s leprosy settlement in 1869. Visit Joyce on the web at www.joycemoyerhostetter.com www.joycemoyerhostetter.blogspot.com http://moyer-girl.livejournal.com/
The most frequently asked question about the cover of my brand new book, HEALING WATER (April 1, 2008) is, "What’s that thing around his neck?" “That thing” is a lei. Nearly everyone is familiar with the Hawaiian lei made of flowers. But a lei can also be made of shells, seeds, leaves, and nuts. Of course you can also order a lei made of ones, tens, hundreds or five hundreds. (If you mortgage your home!) The lei on the cover of HEALING WATER is made of kukui nuts cut in half. National Geographic photographer, Richard A. Cooke III made it for his young friend and then took this photo. The photo was included in this multi media program about Hawaii's cultural traditions. Richard lives on the island of Moloka`i which is fitting, I think, since the story takes place in Molokai’s leprosy settlement. Also fitting is that the kukui bloom is Moloka`i’s official flower and Moloka`i's symbolic color is the silvery green of kukui leaf. Kukui nuts are filled with an oily kernel which Hawaiians traditionally used as fuel for torches and lamps. In addition to providing light, the kukui has many medicinal uses.
I'm honored to have such a perfect symbol included on the cover Healing Water.
A BEAUTIFUL THING
The Kalaupapa peninsula where Hawaii isolated her leprosy patients. In February 2002 I traveled with my daughter and a friend to Hawaii. On my first morning in Honolulu, I attended the Kawaiahao historic church. The windows were open. There were no screens and a balmy breeze carried the lovely floral smells indoors. Just outside the windows, parrots chattered and palm trees clattered. A choir began singing in the balcony. They sang in Hawaiian and it was so heavenly, I began to cry. The visiting pastor stood and this is what he said. It is a beautiful day and we have begun in a beautiful way. We are called to be here. We are called to do a beautiful thing. We are called to worship. I couldn’t stop crying. I had come to Hawaii to do research for Healing Water. And this is how my trip began. With this blessing. I felt like God was talking to me – telling me I was called to do a beautiful thing. And that He was promising beautiful things to grow out of this story. I did not know then that my book would be called Healing Water. This book has gone through numerous titles. The right one didn’t come until certain aspects of the story found their proper telling. Wai is the Hawaiian word for water. This church where I felt God’s blessing on my writing is called Ka Wai a Ha`o (The Water of Ha`o) because there was a fountain on this spot that was once mostly a dry dust bowl. Ha`o was a High Cheifess who came here often. Recently I found my notes from this day. And just below the pastor's remarks mentioned above, I also found these words. Be straight with God. Be right with your neighbor. Seek after truth.
I sought long and hard for the truth of the story found within Healing Water’s pages. It is about one boy’s struggle to be right with his neighbor. In many ways it is about Hawaii’s struggle to be right with its leprosy patients. And ultimately it is about each of us and our response to disease, injustice, and betrayal. We are called to do a beautiful thing. elysabeth said... What a wonderful inspiration - thank you for sharing this with us. It shows how research is so important to our stories and to follow our "niggles" and "calls". Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Oh Joyce, what an amazing and spine tingling post. Loved the picture. As Elysabeth wrote, the more research and in-depth analysis you do before you write the closer you bring your reader to your message.
THE TEACHER WHO MADE ME A WRITER
I suppose I would have discovered that I’m a writer without the help of my 7th and 8th grade language arts teacher. After all, by the time I was in second grade it was evident that I had no talent for numbers. And given how often I was reprimanded for talking, I obviously had a way with words! Surely I would’ve eventually figured out that these things meant something. Imagine my consternation, however, when in 7th grade I had a book report returned with the following message. "I hope you did not plagiarize (that is merely copy from the book). But if these are your words then you are a really good writer)." Of course I hadn’t copied from the book! So naturally I was insulted. At least for about ten seconds. Then it dawned on me. Mrs. Cunningham was telling me that I was good. As good as the author of the book I’d reviewed! I decided to take her words as a compliment. And you better believe that for the next two years I wrote my heart out for her. Then at my 8th grade graduation she announced to the audience that I would be a great writer someday.
Her blessing followed me into high school and then on to college. I did other things for awhile – taught school, married, and raised two children. Eventually though, I met up with a midlife crisis. A death in the family caused me to evaluate what I wanted to do with my time on earth. It was the perfect time for my teacher’s blessing to catch up to me. I decided I wanted to be a writer. A great one, even. It doesn’t happen overnight. I won’t bore you with stories of writer’s conferences and rejection slips. Trust me when I say I have a plethora of unpublished books and articles. But I also have several novels on bookshelves across the country. I happen to know they’re on Mrs. Cunningham’s shelves too. I’m honored that I'm able to share my books with her. But even if I couldn’t, I’d still be writing my heart out for the teacher who made me a writer.
Joyce Moyer Hostetter
Kevin Scott Collier
Big Words In Little Books Can Educate By Kevin Scott Collier Children's book author and illustrator Recall when you were a kid how on occasion you’d encounter a monster in a storybook? It jumped off the page and smacked you in the face. It was gruesome and intimidating but you faced it with courage. I’m not talking about the red-eyed purple people-eater, but a word. Are “big words” monsters to children? In the class I teach on children’s writing, this topic comes up when I discuss writing for juveniles or tweeners to students. There is a perception that “big words” are off limits when writing for children. I see nothing wrong with sprinkling in a few challenging words beyond the grade level of my targeted reader. This topic has become a debate among children’s writers, so I decided to ask some experts. Kids. Aside from teaching about writing, I appear at countless schools a year at author events, which puts me in direct contact with my target audience. I have asked children about the use of some “big words” in little stories and the results were encouraging. It may frustrate them a bit, but it presents a challenge to learn. One little girl explained that “it teaches me new words to use” which is not a determent. She went on to describe even if she didn’t know what the word meant, in a way she did, as the surrounding words in the sentence supported a definition. “You can sort of tell what it means.” Other students in the library agreed. “If I don’t know what it means, I look it up,” a boy chimed in. Another little girl said she learned the word “resilient” in a book, liked it, and uses it in her vocabulary. Very impressive! The one thing I have learned about children who read is they are a lot smarter than writers imagine. Kids will rise to the occasion of “big words” and eat them up. I don’t know how many 8 and 9-year-olds I have met that battled through the 870-page “Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix” or 12-year-olds who consumed “Eragon”, which was a challenge for me to read. In the classroom I teach I caution children’s writers not to use too many “big
words,” but smugly sprinkle a few around here and there. And, I do not mean “big” as in the amount of characters that make up the word; I mean a word that is likely not in their vocabulary. When you write a word for a children’s book that is grade levels ahead of the target audience, use it in a sentence that supports a definition. The blackbird scolded Esther, the painted turtle. Esther frowned and hissed with contempt. Kids should be familiar with the words scolded, frowned and hissed, but contempt may present a challenge. The word isn’t beyond comprehension when it is used as in the example above. A child will sense that the word means to dislike, angry, or mad in a personal way. You may have just introduced a young reader to a new word. Books for children are forum where stories unfold reinforcing values and navigate through lessons. Give your juvenile audience some credit; don’t make it a practice to “dumb down” all vocabulary. A residual benefit of using occasional “big words” in little stories is blessing a child with a new word he or she can treasure.
Kim Chatel said... I agree with you, Kevin. My daughter is 8 and she loves to find new words in books. I think parents worry that big words will discourage kids from reading. I think, as long as the book is engaging, the new words will not bother even a mediocre reader, and they will delight a curious child. I still get excited when I read a new word. It doesn't happen so often anymore, but it's always a kick. elysabeth said... Kevin, Great article here. My kids are all at different levels. My oldest, now 22, seemed to know the words regardless of who they were written for; he hardly asked for anything to be defined because as he told me one time in Wal-Mart after reading one of those huge signs hanging down from the ceiling and explaining it as best he could what he had just read, in his 3-year-old way, when asked how he knew what those words meant (I asked if his grandfather or uncle had bestowed the knowledge on him), his response to me was "My brain told me." No lie. He was so smart and advanced for his age it was scary. Donna McDine said...
Kevin...my 10 year old daughter also loves to find new words in the books she reads. She has said she loves the big words...it makes her think more about what she is reading. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... I 100% agree with you, Kevin. My 14 year old reads at least two books a week. I believe we have Chapters right in my own home. What I've found with her is that she'll readily read books that have these 'big words' sprinkled all over but will put down a book when it's riddled with them. So knowing when to place a word as you showed in your example is very important. She may be 14, not a reluctant reader but does have a slight learning disability which makes it at times a bit difficult for her. Jennifer Gladen said... Kevin, Great article. You're right. There's nothing wrong with putting an occasional big word in your work. As a teacher, I found your results heart warming. The children all at once have used context clues, dictionary skills and cognitive skills. What could be better?
Writer Or Artist: Which Is Most Revealing?
By Kevin Scott Collier Children's book author and illustrator I visit many schools throughout the year and some students are surprised that I am both a writer and illustrator. One young lady commented, “I didn’t think you could do both.” Apparently she imagined you were either one or the other, but never one in the same. One question I am asked often is, “Which do you like best, writing or drawing?” I think, in general, more people can write than draw. So, artists might seem to garner more attention. That makes being an artist more fun than being a writer, as I can create images beyond written words. If I asked any classroom I have visited, “Which would you like me to do for then next hour, read my stories or draw for you?” The response would be unanimous. Kids would want the artist, not the writer. When youths ask me what I “like best,” question should be “which do I prefer?” My answer this question is I prefer being the writer. “Drawing looks like it would be more fun,” one boy said. “It’s much cooler.” Both are fun, and can be cool. But an illustration doesn’t reveal anything about the person who created it.
Walk into any art gallery and examine the work of an unknown artist. Write down the artist’s name then what you have learned about the person through their works. It would be only a guess. Read several books written by an unknown author. Examine the works, tone and messages. Scribble out what you have learned about the person through their stories. It would still be a guess, but much better one. In fact, you might be right on the money. Writers reveal themselves; whether intended or not. Woven into their crafted words and creativity are images of themselves. How they feel… how they reason… a glimpse into their emotions. They write about what they have experienced and how they view circumstances. Writers rarely hide their faces, while artists are chameleons. I’m a writer and an artist. Both are fun, and rewarding. But only one reveals the person I am. Mayra Calvani said... Hmm... this is thought provoking. I always thought you could tell a bit about the artist from his paintings, since art can evoke many feelings. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong. Impressions are subjective and can be misleading, I guess. Mayra Calvani said... I thought more about this... I think paintings can reveal things about the artist as well-darkness, genius, desperation, serenity, joy--separately from the viewer's own feelings/interpretations. Holly said... I think artists reveal themselves to others who are visually inclined. All of us grow up speaking our native language and learning to read. Not everyone receives extensive training in art, so only those adept at the "language" of art are likely to become truly fluent in it. We can listen to a language that is not our own, and appreciate its intonations, its melodies (for that matter, the same can be said of music). Even if we can't understand it, as one who is fluent in it could, we can enjoy it. Writers are especially adept at picking up clues from the written word, and readers are nearly so. I have a coworker who has written several novels. I read a couple of them. One day, I ran into him in the hallway, and I said, "You chew your ice, don't you?" He looked surprised. His main character had a habit of chewing ice, and that one detail stood out to me as having been written from personal experience. I think it's often in the tiniest, most subtle details we weave into the story that we are
revealed, bit by bit. I suspect that the same is true of the artist, if only the observer understands the language of the art.
COAUTHORS COVER EACH OTHER
By Kevin Scott Collier Children's book author and illustrator In my many visits to area classrooms speaking on youth fiction writing, curiosity emerges concerning my writing partner. Most authors do not have one, but I do. She's my wife, Kristen. "What is it like writing with your wife? Do you ever get into arguments? Whose name goes first on the book? Which author gets paid more on a joint title?" Writing with my wife is fun. We do not get into arguments over material, but sometimes we have debated a story point. Ladies go first in author credit. While I have written many books as a solo act, interested in the manuscripts and books scheduled for print with my better half capture attention in the eyes and ears of kids. They want to know which one of us writes what, and who comes up with the most ideas. They even want to know who gets the most money. Kristen and I generally think up stories together. While my imagination runs wild, she has a way of building the visual props that sets a stage for a tale. Thought provoking dialog is my strength, while hers is description and detail of environment. So, a balance is created. My weakness is her strength, and her weakness is my strength. We cover each other. If you are an author seeking a coauthor, look for someone who can cover the areas you need to grow in. Two writers who write the same doesn't create growth. Also, a good coauthor is one you have a literary chemistry with. You understand how the other writes, and craft works that are complimentary, yet joined. A good work by coauthors doesn't read like it's written by two individuals, it reads like one. And, to answer to the question, "which author gets paid more on a joint title?" We have a
"joint" checking account, so it doesn't matter. Our books are a deposit into our son's future.
Pictured: Kristen and Kevin Collier with son Jarod.
Cynthia Reeg said... Kevin That's a great suggestion for teaming up with another writer. You can bounce ideas off of each other, and as you said, compliment each other's strengths and overcome each other's weaknesses. It certainly worked for Debbie Dadey & Marcia Thorton Jones who wrote the very successful Bailey School Kids series. Mayra Calvani said... Lovely post and family photo, Kevin! I just co-authored a book with Anne K. Edwards (not a children's book, but a nonfiction book about book reviewing). It was a very rewarding experience. We complemented each other perfectly well. The stuff I didn't think about, she did, and viceversa. Because of this, the finished result was much better than if I had written it alone. There was a lot of research as well, so splitting the tasks between us really helped speed things up. One thing which gave us a bit of trouble was our different writing styles. I like bullets; Anne likes long paragraphs. So we had to do some modifying during the editing stage. In the end, all worked really well.
PHOTOSHOP IS AN ILLUSTRATOR'S TOOL
By Kevin Scott Collier Children's book author and illustrator One thing all children's book artists should work for is to have Adobe Photoshop in their home computer. There is this perception, by some in the art world, that using a computer is a betrayal of the craft. Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth. Adobe Photoshop is a tool an artist uses, and, in the children's book illustration market, we are seeing more of it. Some in the trade scoff at the thought of it, but I guarantee you, those who do that simply don't understand it or know how it works. There is this other perception that when an illustrator uses their computer, or rather, Adobe Photoshop in their computer, that the finished art is "computer generated," as if the computer drew it, and the artist had nothing to do with the work. That is a myth. This perception can be compared to throwing paint at
a canvas with no creativity, craft or skill involved. With a scanner and Adobe Photoshop, you begin to expand what you do with children's book art, and understanding the program allows you to see in your mind what new appearances your art can assume. It has changed not only the speed of which I can illustrate a book, but the enhancements I can engage in the work. So, what I draw now is not exactly how it will end up. I have included a drawing of a boy to show as an example. The original drawing above, done with a flair pen on paper, took about 3 minutes. It was scanned into my computer, then colored using paint buckets. Add another 3 minutes for the coloring process.
The completed work appears on the right. I have done numerous things to the art to render a finished work. I have embossed it and created inner shadows. I have added lighting effects to the eyes. I have softened and blurred the black pen lines. Then, I added a graduated background shade. This process took 5-7 minutes, tops. While this is a simple example, it shows a vast difference. This shows what can be done in just about 15 minutes. Fine art still has a solid and fond place in children's books, those illustrations rendered with paint, colored pencils and pastels. It's not one technique over another, but this just shows where children's book art has been headed for some time. It's one those pieces of art where you wonder, "How was that created?" The answer is simple: by an artist using the latest tools. Kim Chatel said... Kevin, I think it's fascinating what illustrators can do with Photoshop. Have you ever considered selling your images on iStockphoto? I am a photographer for them. I don't
make a lot of money, because my photos are mostly nature and the best sellers are usually more commercial. But illustrators do really well, and you keep the copyright to all your work. I'm sure you could pop off a few dozen images in no time! The best sellers are often simple images, hearts, stars, backgrounds--things people can use on websites and in brochures. You should check it out istockphoto.com Cynthia Reeg said... Kevin, I enjoyed learning how you create your illustrations. An artist's tools can be most any medium he chooses. I don't see why he shouldn't make use of computer technology. Diana Symons said... Kevin, very interesting explanation. Once when I was taking a watercolor class, the teacher encouraged me to outline the face I wanted to paint on the wall with a picture viewer. I thought it was cheating, but apparently, it's just a tool too! Toyhabilitation said... EBSQArt dot com has a photoshop tutorial. If you are interested in learning how to use it, step by step, go to their web site and click on the "Learn" button, then scroll down the list of Live Studio entries to find it (they are in alphabetical order). Just an FYI! It is a fascinating process... Stacy Dawn said... Very interesting. I'm both writer and illustrator too...and each reveals a different part of me. Holly made a good point about her co-worker and the ice, second nature we put into our writing the details of life the way we observe it, live it, breath it, and I've always found it more interesting when a reader finds the small details in my work rather than the over all concept. LCalabrese said... Of course the children are going to think that illustrating is the coolest. When they think of writing, they're thinking of homework and who likes that? I agree with Mayra in that paintings can reveal things about the artist as well. Cartoon and animated pictures reveal different things than dark colors and real life paintings. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... I have to agree with my fellow artists that both areas would most likely depict some element of the artist, whether knowingly or subconsciously. Picture kitchen studio said... I think that the work an artist expresses is their unique impression of the world. I think my world view is revealed in the images I create and how I create them. Color, light and shadow and other design concepts all tell a story of how I see a story. As I have
grown a bit older, I see better (hopefully) and "seeing" is what artists do best. Great art, like great writing moves the heart and can stir the soul. Is this not a lens into the heart and mind of the artist? Kevin Scott Collier said.. In cases of fine art, like paintings, at times the type of person can be revealed through the subjects they paint. In commercial art, a good artist will use so many styles for different projects it's hard at times to even know the the same artist has done the work. I recall once seeing several paintings that an artist did and thinking this man had a gentle manner, only to discover he was in prison, convicted of murder. In my case, I don't think my art reveals much about me personally. Picture kitchen studio said... Kevin, Your work may not tell much about your personality, but it says much about how you look at life. Your artwork encourages the reader to laugh and be joyful, to see what is good in life and not excuse the wrong. Your consistent style says you are diligent to your craft and your clear concepts make you thoughtful! I would say your work says much about you! Holly said... Even a murderer could have a calm, peaceful side. Perhaps the art expressed a yearning... Calm, peaceful people can write murder mysteries with convincing characters, no?
REMEMBER: KIDS LOVE VILLAINS, TOO
Rufus Tweed, illustrated by Kevin Scott Collier
By Kevin Children's Book
Scott Author and
I have had over 70 books published in the past 3 years, most of them in the capacity of artist. The one thing I have not seen a lot of in the children's books I have illustrated is a good villain. Where have they gone?
Last year I jumped at the manuscript for "Rufus Tweed, the Father of Greed," by author James Tague. He was publishing through Xlibris, and the company recommended me. When I established contact with Tague, I knew this was the book I had been dreaming to draw. In the role of illustrator, I get to create the appearance of characters for the author. In the case of villain Rufus Tweed, notes only dictated that he wear a plaid coat, red and black tones in color. The rest of what he was to look like was up to me.
I created a little, balding man, with blue skin. I wanted him to look almost lifeless. A sprig of hair atop his head would resemble the claw or talons of a bird. Even his eye color would be unpleasant. After a few sketches, I sent the prototype image to Tague, who cheerfully approved. Rufus Tweed had now become real. Most children's books I illustrate have sweet themes and characters. I wonder if political correctness, or an overly cautious demeanor not to offend or frighten has diluted some children's book stories. Do even the villains have to look sweet? Isn't their nasty, yet whimsical appearance enough to put the stamp of fantasy on the work? Characters can look evil, if done right, and not frighten a child. It would be nice to see nasty looking villains reappear in children's books. I, for one, enjoyed them in books I read as a kid. It was always fun to see their evil ways become their undoing. Even villains have a place in the hearts of children, too.
Kim Chatel said... My villain ending up taking over my story. I realized he was more fun than the MC. Rather than dumb down the villain, I opted to spice up the MC, so that she could stand on her own against a formidable opponent. Kids really do love villains. Adults too. How many kids dress up as Darth Vader for Halloween? And was does everyone like Simon on American Idol? Villains act out so that we don't have too. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Kevin, I believe the right villain is a necesary part in any story to add to the full dimension of the hero/heroine and how they will change at the end. Beverly Stowe McClure said... Love your little bald man, Kevin. And my villians are what I need to work on. I have trouble making a character really bad.
Expand Out Beyond One Publisher
By Kevin Scott Collier Children's Book Author and Illustrator One of the first things I look for when I visit an author's website "Book Store" is to see how many publishers they have. When an author has a few books to their credit, and all are from the same small publishing house, it reveals something. While the company they work for may be good, the solitude of it shouts out that no one else, but that publisher, has contracted their work. Was your first book released three years ago or more? Has every book since, come from the same publisher? Are you stuck in a rut? Perhaps not, but are you expanding your opportunities? Think about it. Once you become published by a company, do not just settle in and polish your nails thinking you've made it. If you are as good as you imagine, shouldn't other publishers be receptive to your work, too? Many of us work for small publishing companies, so I am not talking about the writer who has a lucrative, multi-book deal from Random House. You have made it. But, if you are relatively new to the business, and have been stuck with one publisher for some time, think outside the box. Dare to expand. Many small publishers are niche companies. Some service only particular regions,
audiences or distribution venues. Some Canadian and Australian publishers can be restricted to operational service within their own borders. While the internet booksellers make the market global, different publishers have different reach on the ground. My advice is, once you have a publisher and see a couple titles of yours in print, start going after other publishers to contract your work. See if you can get your stories accepted beyond that one small publishing house. See if your work has commercial interest beyond that one company. I have spoken with many writers who excitedly recall getting their second, third and beyond publishers. It validated their work to a new level, where they had new reach and opportunities. I have even heard from authors who have had a string of books published by one company, and are unsettled. They have expressed concern whether their one publisher is the only one that will ever publish their stories. Perhaps they are, but you'll never know unless you go after other companies and submit your work to them for consideration. Most of us work for small publishers. Having one is great. But, having more than one is better. It reveals a fact that more than one company thinks your work is worth the investment. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Well, I think you know that I totally agree with you, Kevin. I never thought about the 'accepted by other publishers' thinking until I read your article but more that if I wasn't satisfied with one publisher down the line I didn't want to have all of my books stuck in their production line. I love the new and small to mid-sized publishers because many, not all, will do their darnest to get their authors noticed. This isn't to say writers shouldn't be promoting and marketing their books all the time, but it helps when some of this promo is an added bonus coming from your publisher. Kim Chatel said... This is important for all authors, whether they write adult or children's fiction. I have 3 publishers right now. They all do something different. And the diversity gives me a sense of pride and security. Many eggs, many baskets and all. Even for short stories, I try to target as many magazines as possible. Carma said... Kevin, you have answered a question I have asked myself many times. Why do so many authors have so many publishers? I don't have one yet but now I know not to be satisfied with only one.
Kevin Scott Collier
Five Musts on the Road to Publishing
One trend I've noticed in current YA books is having lists. So I thought why not share my own list of things I've found helped me on the road to publishing. Here we go! 1) Have a critique group. This is very important. Right now I have two on-line groups. It helps to have others look at your work. And by others I mean people would aren't just family members. 2) Have a place to write. It doesn't have to be much. I have my own writing office, complete with a huge whiteboard where I write out story paradigms. I also have a space where I post character's quirks and traits and a wall with my rejections and acceptance letters. But mostly my room has my computer, writing books, research books, and things to get me into the mood of my current story. Right now since I'm writing a tween fantasy/mystery that involves the goddess Hathor, my room has incense from ancient Egypt (thanks to my Egyptologist sis, Autumn) and I hope to add a copy of the bracelet in there too. 3) Be persistant. This is a biggie. Be prepared for rejections because they will come. One thing I learned as a Cybils-Children and YA bloggers literary awards-panelist is how subjective this business can be. Don't give up! Keep sending out your story. All it takes is that one 'yes'. 4) Belong to a professional group. I belong to SCBWI-Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators. I'm active in my regional area and attend schmoozes, Agent's Day, and Editor Day events. I'm hoping to attend the Saturday session of Nationals this August being held in LA. 5) Believe in yourself. Because if you don't, who else will! Does anyone have a list of things that have helped them on their own journey? Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Yes, yes, yes to believing in yourself. I always say when you're feeling down in the dumps to go back and reenact that emotional turbulence you once felt for writing. Think of the reasons why you began writing in the first place and that passion will reignite your writing juices. We're writers because we love what we do. Money would be great but if we play our cards right, that, eventually, will come with tons of determination and perseverance.
elysabeth said... Kim, I have to agree that this is a great posting. You have hit some terrific items to list here and it shows we are not alone - we all think low of ourselves at some point and it's hard to really believe in ourselves but when that one yes comes along, the whole world changes and you can say that you believe in yourself. lionmother said... Hi Kim, I agree with all 5 of your points, but I want to add a 6th one. 6) Don't think of your WIP as written in stone. Revise, revise, revise.
Speaking of revisions, here's the cover of the story I thought for sure would get picked up. After hearing positive feedback from a number of people, I disregarded the advice of others to wait to send it out. I mean, this story was a sure winner, right? Wrong. After numerous rejections, I decided to take some of the advice given. Now I feel my story is tighter and stronger. Stephanie and Dylan might step in during this week to talk about their 'changes'. Has this happened to anyone else? Please share! Keely said...
I revised my YA many times with the help of my critique group - The Inksters - I didn't try sending it out until I absolutely felt I'd done as much as I could do. But I knew if it got accepted it would need to be revised again. I managed to get an awesome agent who has suggested two major revisions which completely made sense, and one minor one. It is so much better now, sharper and clearer but still very much mine. I find writing the first draft is the really scary/exciting/flying/crashing part. Okay, I should say like being on a roller-coaster on a pitch black night! But revisions can be amazing. Like 'oh that's why that happened at the beginning!' Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Kim, I think many writers see the difference in their manuscripts once they redo because of rejections or critique feedback. That's why I find having more than one pair of eyes to check out your manuscript before it's subbed is crucial. Also, having the right person read and critique is also a big factor. Although writers have an in on the editing process of a manuscript, having a writer who writes in the genre of your book helps to pinpoint areas your book may be lacking since we know that certain genres have specific areas they should entail. Kim Baccellia said... Very true, Lea. My biggest mistake was staying with a group that didn't get 'YA.' It wasn't until I meet my current YA mentor, Joyce, that I realized how important it is to be in a group where others are writing YA/children stories. Wow, talk about the change! Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Kim, although many writers have an idea what needs to be in a certain genre because they are avid readers, many don't. So having a writer who writes romance looking over your children's picture book may help hone a few areas but it won't help if they have no idea the area where using the right word choice for a certain grade level will make a difference in the story and acceptance, or why the character appears to be in one spot and then turn the page over and they are somewhere else, or why...you get my drift. Writing a novel of 60,000 words and writing a children's pic book that might have 1000 words is a BIG difference. Beverly Stowe McClure said... I'm in my first critique group and their input on my work is invaluable. My wip is much improved because they pointed out inconsistencies and other problems I missed. Kim Chatel said... It's always so tempting to send out a manuscript as soon as you finish it. The excitement of its creation is still with you and it's easy to imagine that everyone will feel the same way. I've learned to put an ms away for a few days, weeks, months and then look at it with fresh eyes. And of course a crit group really helps.
Talking about critiquing out of genre, I had an interesting experience a while back with my MuseMints crit group. This is the best bunch of ladies I've ever had the pleasure to work with. I value their input like nobody since my mentor in college. However, I write dark fantasy and none of them have much experience with this genre. When I subbed a vampire story, this inexperience worked in my favor. As a writer of dark fantasy, its easy to forget that not everyone knows the history and lore of vampires.The MuseMints brought new light to my work, and they helped me make the story accessible to a wider audience. But then I should have expected nothing less from them. I am lucky to be part of this group.
New Trends in MG/YA
One of the fun things about being a reviewer is getting to read upcoming books. I was a panelist for the Cybil awards--Children and YA bloggers literary awards--for the past two years. Right now I'm a YA reviewer for Enchanting reviews. Here's some fun books I'd like to share: 1) PENGUINS OF DOOM. This is more of a hybrid type of book in which comic book like text is woven into the story. I loved the quirkiness of the story.
2) I admit, I'm a big BUFFY fan. I think it's brillant what Joss Whedon did with this. Do season eight in comic book format.
3) I loved this book! The main character, Addy, writes her journal in comic book format. The voice is fresh and exciting! I guess you can tell how much I'd love to write my own graphic novel. I know that SCBWI will be having another Graphic Novel Day coming up in November. I love new ideas! Has anyone else seen some newer trends in MG/YA? Please share! Kim Chatel said... I love Buffy too! It's the only TV show I actually miss. I've been eyeing this comic book. Thanks for the suggestions! As a reviewer, have you seen any books similar to Kate DiCamillo's Tale of Desperaux? I love this old fashioned narrative style, but I think editors shy away from it. I have WIP in this style that I'm hanging onto because I don't think it will go over well. What do you think? lionmother said... Greg is in my old critique group and I'm going to link him to this blog. I've read The Penguins of Doom and loved the characters and the zany situations.
My Five Favorite sites
There's so many different sites out there for writers. I've found some that I'd like to share. 1. The blue board. www.verlakay.com This is a great networking site for children and YA writers. There's even a nightly chat. But be careful, this is like addictive computer candy. I find I'm in the chatroom often. Other writers pop up and even an agent or two! 2. SCBWI This national board has up to date information on local and national conferences, workshops, and schmoozes. The first time membership is $75 but after that every year it's $60. The expense is well worth it. There's also a message board.
3. Bookswelove.net This site is great PR for both epublished and small presses. I've been a member for the past two years. There's seasonal contests. Plus, you get a site where guests can leave you messages. 4. MySpace. http://www.myspace.com/ixtumea I held off for the longest time on getting a MySpace site. But I found the trick is not to have a personal site but one for your book. This has been a great PR tool. Teens, other writers, and libraries have contacted me wanting to know more about my book. I highly recommend getting a MySpace for your book. 5. Publishers marketplace. For $20 a month you get your own site to advertise your projects to agents and publishers. Also you get a weekly email with recent sales. This alone is worth the cost. I was able to find out that the title for one of my projects was already used. Also I found out info on new agents and what publishers are looking for. Another site I enjoy is AuthorMBA, which has great info on how to market your book. About twice a year Louise Ahern offers the class, BOOTCAMP FOR WRITERS. I highly recommend taking this class. Louise is great with helping newly published authors get press kits and other material ready. Are there others that any of you enjoy? Marianne H. Nielsen said... Thanks for this, Kim. I especially like your advice on how to use My Space...so as soon as one of books hits the market, I'm going to give it a try. Paul West said... A couple of sites I like include Authors by Design and QueryTracker. Beverly Stowe McClure said... These are all good, Kim. I know about most of them, but you gave me an idea of how to do better on MySpace. I have a site there, but think I'll make a new one for my book(s). Kim Chatel said... I'm curious, Kim. Does this mean you would have a myspace page for each book? Kim Baccellia said... No, I'll just have it under my first book, then add others when they come.
YA books that address sensitive subject matter
Here's a post I did as a guest blogger at www.enchantingreviews.com last month. I thought I'd share it again. YA BOOKS THAT ADDRESS SENSITIVE MATTER
I've always loved books that weren't the typical happily-ever-after story. I hated the story Cinderella maybe because my own family life wasn't perfect. I mean, why would anyone wait around for Prince Charming, especially if he might turn out to be abusive or even worse? My first novel EARRINGS OF IXTUMEA deals with a fourteenyear-old Latina who's embarrassed of her own heritage but finds herself swept into a world similar to that of her Mexican ancestors. One scene in my book deals with a touchy subject that I couldn't take out of my storyline. One reader asked if something that terrible happened to me. Though I came from a family of nine children, let's just say my childhood wasn't something from The Brady Bunch. Maybe that's why books that deal with sensitive subject matter appeal to me. How I wish these books were around when I was a teen. It would have been nice to know that I wasn't alone. That I wasn't to blame. That just because my own abuser had been abused didn't mean he had to choose to do the same thing to me and others. Here's a list of some books that have touched me. Some of the subjects are tough but I strongly feel they need to be addressed.
BAD GIRLS CLUB by Judy Gregerson. This book addresses how children deal with a mental ill parent. Beautifully written, this book shows how Destiny tries to keep her family together though her mother comes apart. Growing up with a bipolar father in my own house meant confusion and secrets. I could relate with Destiny's struggle and pain.
I NEVER PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN by Joanne Greenberg This is one of the first YA books to have the courage to deal with mental illness. The story shows the world of a mentally ill sixteen-year-old and how she struggles to break free and come back to reality. A must read.
IMPULSE by Ellen Hopkins. This free verse tale follows three teens in a psychiatric hospital for those who attempt to commit suicide. I was especially interested in one character, Vanessa, who is bipolar and how she handles her illness. Hopkins doesn't sugar coat this story. I love how she shows each teen and how they are able to reach out to others while they struggle with their own pain.
4. THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher. What would you do if you received a collection of tapes from someone who'd just killed themself? And even worse, you find out that the tapes show how you affected that individual? Powerfully written, this story is sure to have you stop and let twice about how your comments and actions might affect another.
5. SUCH A PRETTY GIRL by Laura Wiess. This book hit close to home. Fifteen-year-old Meredith's world comes apart when she finds out that her father who sexually abused her is released early for good behavior. The portrayal of the mother in denial was realistic. How the teen deals with her father will stay with the reader. This story shows how a father can abuse power and trust. Very powerful story. Yes, this subject isn't pretty. But once again, I think of those girls who are being abused. These books help them know that they are not alone and that there is help available.
6. BURNED by Ellen Hopkins Filled with anger while watching her abusive father beat her mother, Pattyn starts to question her faith and her subservient role in her church. She's also confused as she longs for love and approval. It isn't until a questionable act that she's sent away to an aunt's home. But it's here where she finally finds the love and acceptance she's been looking for. At first I didn't want to read this book fearing the author would have an anti-religious message. Boy, was I wrong. This story touched me so much I emailed the author to thank her for sharing this. Hopkins paints a very realistic portrayal of a teen that experiences abuse in her own religious home.
7. BLOOD BROTHERS by S.A. Harazin Clay and Joey have been close since children. One day things change for the worse when finds his friend in their shack in an apparent drug overdose. Was it a girl? Was it drugs? This powerful story shows what happens after someone takes drugs. This isn't the usual best-friend-smokes-PCP-goes-into-coma tale. No, it's much more.
8. LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL by Jo Knowles Pretty Leah seems to have it all. Laine is excited when she asks her to be her forever friend. Leah asks Laine if they can play house inside a walk in closet. Laine feels uncomfortable with what goes on even when Leah tells her it's to practice for when they're older. Later Leah blackmails Laine and even tells her vicious comments that have
her question her own sexuality. This tale shows readers what happens when children abuse children. While Laine struggles with conflicting emotions, she finds out why Leah treated her the way she did. These are just a few books that deal with sensitive subject matters. What are some books that have affected you? Donna McDine said... Hi Kim...I recently read and completed a book review of "Lessons from a Dead Girl," for the National Writing for Children Center. Jo Knowles tackled this subject matter in a fantastic way. I'll be sure to check out the other books also. Cynthia Reeg said... Kim, I still remember how powerful I NEVER PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN was when I first read it many, many years ago. What an incredible book. A more recent one I've read was SPEAK by Lauri Anderson, dealing with a teen girl who has been raped. Very well written and very powerful. It was made into a movie as well. Mayra Calvani said... Hi there, Kim, These books look like awesome reads. I have to wonder, though, if adults, more than young adults, are the people purchasing this type of books. Maybe I'm wrong--feel free to cut in and correct me --but I always thought teenagers went for the Stephanie Meyer type of story, and not for books like these which are serious reading and, to be honest, quite depressing. From an adult's perspective, of course I see the value and importance of these books, but I have to wonder how many teenagers with money in their pockets and browsing in a bookstore will actually choose to read these titles. JudyG said... Mayra: I have received many emails from teens, librarians, and teachers about Bad Girls Club and no one has told me that it's quite depressing. Intense, compelling, sad, yes. Depressing, no. Kids do read these kinds of books. Some love this type and gobble them up. If it weren't so, Ellen Hopkins book wouldn't have hit the NY Times Bestseller list after being out for a while and finding its readers. Not every book is for every person. What you might consider depressing might be enlightening to someone else. Yes, teens read these books. If they didn't, Gail Giles, Nancy Werlin, Ellen Hopkins, and many others wouldn't be so popular. Kim Baccellia said...
MayraIt depends on the teen. I know one teen who loves these kinds of books while another one only likes the 'happy ever after' types of novels. I know that the author of BAD GIRLS CLUB, has had tons of positive feedback for her book. I for one loved her book and the character Destiny. Yes, some of these books can be hard to read but I can't help but think of the teens who are going through these kind of experiences and think they're alone. These help them see that they aren't. Ellen Hopkin's agent told me that Ellen wrote her book CRANK( Another great book about drug use) on her own daughter's struggle with meth. Maybe that's why her book and the sequel GLASS are so powerful. Kim Toyhabilitation said... I'd love to read Earrings of Ixtumea. I love Mexico, and I used to be a Spanish teacher, so it's a topic that strikes a chord with me. Many young adult girls love to read stories with "sad" endings or not conventional happy-endings. As a young girl, I was more into the fantasy and paranormal genre (such as it was in the late 70s/early 80s!). I recently rediscovered an author I loved, whose books are now out of print, Ruth M. Arthur (A Candle in Her Room; Portrait of Margarita; The Saracen Lamp; etc). Very suspenseful dramas, and Portrait of Margarita deals with the story of a young woman who has to deal with not only the loss of her parents, killed in an accident, but also has to confronts secrets of her new family and her own. Kim, where can we buy your book? Kim Baccellia said... You can buy EARRINGS OF IXTUMEA at Amazon and Virtual Tales.com The ebook is available at Fictionwise.
I always thought my first novel would go the traditional route--agent, editor, publisher, and then a book at my local Borders. But after a number of rejections and disappointments, I decided to think outside the box. Why not try another way of publishing? Thus the idea of epublishing came to me. There are a number of things I liked about epublishing. I liked the way you can download a number of books. I love the new Sony reader! But also, I love the idea of doing
something different and new. And what better way to do this then by having my book epublished. I ended up looking into an epublisher that does e-serials. Think Dickens meets the Internet. I thought this was a good idea, so I looked up their website. I ended up subscribing to two of their serials, and was impressed. So I queried them and later received a letter requesting the first four chapters. Then a month later, I received a request for my manuscript. After a couple of months, I received an acceptance letter. I decided this was a great opportunity to get my book out there and also to learn more about the publishing world. So I signed with them. Some suggestions if you decide to epublish: **Not all epublishers are created equal. Make sure to do your research. **One great site is Piers Anthony’s website. http://www.hipiers.com/publishing.html#V1 He lists some legit epublishers. ** Predators and Editors lists some epublishers that are legit and which ones to avoid. **Join EPIC. http://www.epicauthors.com/index.html This organization will help you with links to contests, reviewers, and other sites that support epublished work. ** Attend on-line conferences. A good one to attend is The Muse On-line conference in October. http://themuseonlinewritersconference.com/ **Have a website. **Don’t be afraid to get word out about your ebook. One good site is http://www.bookswelove.net/ This site holds annual contests for epublished writers. ** Have a blog. ** Check out the book PLUG YOUR BOOK! by Steven Weber. This book has some great tips on marketing your book. In conclusion, signing with an epublisher has opened doors for me that otherwise would have stayed close. Epublishing is the future. Who knows what the next few years will bring?
I've been going back and reading some of the posts of our upcoming Blog Fest Writers and have to say I am truly impressed. Meet Kim Chatel, another one of our Writing For Children contributing guest bloggers: Kim Chatel is a Canadian born novelist and picture book author. She now lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter and assortment of animals, which, until recently, included an alarmingly orange tabby cat named Casey. Website www.kimchatel.com. The Stone Beach, A Paranormal YA novella. Only $2.95 USD, from Eternal Press. www.eternalpress.com.au The Stone Beach by Kim Chatel Genre: YA paranormal Release Date: January 7th, 2008 Publisher: www.eternalpress.com.au When Caroline begins her last year of middle school, she barely recognizes her best friend. Brenda dresses differently. She blows off classes, homework and friends. But has Brenda really changed, or is Caroline just seeing her with new eyes? Caroline has worries that Brenda doesn’t even understand. Her fifteenyear-old cat, Casey, is sick and the vet has been hinting that it’s time to put him to sleep. How can Caroline lose her two best friends at once? In the next few months, Caroline learns that some friendships are not worth keeping, others are worth fighting for and still others will endure into the afterlife. Read more about Casey and Caroline at www.kimchatel.com. See a slide show of the real Casey at http://www.kimchatel.com/My_Albums/Pages/Casey.html Watch The Stone Beach Video Trailer at: http://www.kimchatel.com/Movie.html
The Inspiration Behind "The Stone Beach"
Readers always want to know where authors find their inspiration. Often there is no easy answer to that question. Ideas come from all around: family stories, life experience, news articles even jokes. Often a story comes from a combination of ideas. In the case of “The Stone Beach,” inspiration was a clear as a knock on my door. Our cat, Casey, an alarmingly orange, long-haired tabby, had been diagnosed with diabetes and hyper thyroid disease. He was fourteen years old, and as I watched him shrink from a robust 17 pounds down to 11 pounds (he shrunk to only 6 pounds in his final days), I knew that we didn’t have much time left with him. My daughter was only five-years-old at the time. One afternoon, after one of our many trips to the veterinarian, she asked, “What if Casey just doesn’t wake up one morning?” My heart broke to tell her that might happen. I thought back to other pets I had lost and realized how hard it was to speak of such things to a child. As a parent, I wanted to brush her worries aside, tell her everything would be all right. But how could I make such empty promises, when her heart was so full of love and worry? So I wrote "The Stone Beach." In the course of editing it, I’ve read this book dozens of times, and my eyes still prickle with tears in certain parts, but it brings me comfort. I hope my daughter and all the children who are hurting from the loss of beloved pets, will read it and find comfort too. I will post some excerpts from "The Stone Beach" later this week, but first, here's a little story about Casey, my muse. Casey (March 31st, 1992 - October 18th, 2007)
Casey started life as a runt. He was so tiny, I worried he wouldn’t live. He was also shockingly orange with wide, blue eyes. His brother, Moe, was identical, but black. I called them my Halloween cats. They came into my life in 1992. It seems like a lifetime ago now, and I guess it was—Casey’s lifetime. For the first few months, he hid from me constantly. He was so timid; I thought I’d never get a cuddle. By the end of his life, he was my constant companion. Many of my typos can be blamed on his big pink and orange paw stretching out to tap my keyboard. Casey and Moe were best friends. When a German Shepherd chased Moe up a tree, Casey came storming out of the bushes, puffed up like a big orange ball and swatted the dog across the nose. I could almost hear his ire. "Nobody chases my brother up a tree!" We lost Moe in 1995. Casey spent weeks sitting on our back deck, scanning the horizon looking for him. His first unusual illness hit him not long after Moe died. I often wondered if he wasn't just depressed. But Casey was a trooper. For the first two years, he came to work with me everyday. We moved ten times in sixteen years and adopted numerous kittens, puppies and other critters. Casey took it all in stride. He was the boss. As long as the other furry inhabitants of our house understood this, all was fine. Though he outgrew his runtiness (he was 17 pounds in him prime), his life was plagued with inexplicable illnesses, so I am thankful that I had sixteen fabulous years with him. You can read more about Casey and "The Stone Beach" at my website www.kimchatel.com Beverly Stowe McClure said... I'm glad you had those years with Casey, too, Kim. We have a cat that's twenty years old. She's still healthy, but gets around much slower than she used to. A little calico has adopted us now, and we've added her to the family. Mayra Calvani said...
Thanks for sharing this with us, Kim. The photos are adorable. I have a golden retriever and sometimes feel like crying, just thinking about that day in the future when he no longer will be in my life. What counts is that special time we get to share with our pets. We really should enjoy them and love them every step of the way. Chris V. said... Love that photo! It's so fun when we have them around and so sad when we lose them. They always fill a special place in our hearts though. It' s nice that as writers, our special pets can live on in other ways, too.
Markets for the Next Generation
This is my Market Watch column for Mike's Writing Newsletter. Mike Geffner has opened up this great newsletter as a free publication. It is full of tips and articles on writing. You can subscribe to the newsletter at Mike's Yahoo Group. Mike is also looking for advertisers. The rates are reasonable and the newsletter reaches a large audience. Contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org . Markets for the Next Generation By Kim McDougall When I was eight-years-old, I wrote my first book of poems. I proudly illustrated each verse and put them together in a binder. With pride and joy, I showed my collection to my mother. She dutifully praised me, and I put the book away. When I was a teen I started to write again, sporadically, but I didn’t commit to being an author until well into my twenties. A few years ago, I found that book of poems and wondered how my writing career would have differed if I had been encouraged at a young age. Not that I blame my mother or my teachers for this lapse in my education. At the time, there were few resources for young writers. Today, many authors mentor emerging writers through critique groups and chat forums, but what about our youngest generation of aspiring writers? Shouldn’t we make an effort to encourage them? Thankfully, several print and ezine markets have sprung up for just that purpose. Magic Dragon Magazine publishes stories and artwork for grade school children. Their mission statement says, “Our conviction is that encouraging children in the elementary grades to be unafraid to express their creative ideas will increase their chances of becoming adults unafraid to apply a creative approach to all aspects of their lives and work.” Many educators agree that reading and writing are the building blocks of a successful school career as well as the foundations needed to succeed in the multi-tasking world that lies ahead. Apart from the educational benefits, having a story or picture published can build selfconfidence. Can you remember the pride and excitement of your first publication? How much more exciting would that be for a child?
Apollo’s Lyre, a well-respected fiction magazine, has recently expanded to include Junior Muses. On this forum, kids can publish stories and get feedback from established writers. With school budgets being cut, arts programs are nearly a thing of the past. These forums are invaluable resources for kids who otherwise would have no outlet or feedback for their creativity. Not every kid is going to be an author, but writing fiction isn’t the only way to get kids motivated about literature. Musing Our Children is a site for kids to post reviews of their favorite books. With resources for parents and teachers, this forum offers a new way for adults to encourage and interact with children. My eight-year-old daughter recently wrote a review for Musing Our Children. Her excitement at seeing her words in print was infectious. She read her review at school and showed the website to all her friends. On her next report card, her teacher commented, “Genevieve continues to exhibit a positive attitude towards school. Towards the end of the marking period, she displayed great enthusiasm towards reading and writing. I think the on-line book review really sparked her motivation." Of course, kids aren’t going to find these sites by themselves. They need gentle nudges from parents and teachers. If you have a child in your life, consider introducing her to a world of creativity through the written word. When she sees her name in print, her eyes will come alive and you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are setting her on a path for success. Take a look at these sites by and for kids: Children’s Fiction: Magic Dragon publishes fiction and artwork for children in the elementary school grades. Stone Soup publishes stories, poems, reviews and art of children 8 to 13 years of age. Apollo’s Junior Muses publishes fiction from children up to 17 years of age. Provides a forum for feedback from readers and resources for teachers. Water Lilies Network publishes books written and edited by children. Stories for Children publishes fiction and artwork from children 17 years and younger. Book Reviews: Alex’s Spotlight Reviews. This teen hosts a podcast of book and movie reviews. Her site also includes a forum for other teens to discuss the reviews. Flamingnet Publishes reviews from student reviewers.
Musing our Children. Publishes reviews by children. Includes resources for parents and teachers. Other great sites for kids: Innovative Teen is a blog for aspiring teen writers. Jessica Kennedy’s website has a very useful little bug named Herb who has many links for kids. If you know of any other great sites for kids, leave a comment so that I can add them to my database. Mayra Calvani said... Great article, Kim. My daughter, now ten, wrote and illustrated a picture book when she was seven. The book, Angel in a Bubble, was published last year by Guardian Angel Publishing. It's done wonders for her self confidence! Kim Baccellia said... Other great sites for teens are: YAbooks Central. This site lets teens review books and has a great message board too. Teens Read Too. Another great site where teens are involved in reviewing books. There's also monthly contests to win new and upcoming books. Harper Collins First Look program. This site is great! Teens can sign up to win the chance to review upcoming books. There's also now a Children's site.
Write what you "know" in your heart
This is a short story that I wrote for my Between the Cracks Digest in February. I'm posting it here to second Beverly Stowe McClure's article about writing what interests you. When I first started writing, I heard the old mantra "Write what you know" so many times I almost began to believe it. Luckily I didn't. Mentor Okay, let’s call her Kate (secretly, my favorite name in high school). She’s fourteen years old, completely unaware of life barreling down on her. An idea comes into her head, (where does it come from and why? She’s too green to even question it) and she decides to write a story about fox hunting. She knows nothing about fox hunting, but her innocence leads her to the library. She researches, learns the jargon, the history, smells and sounds of the foxhunt. She writes a
brilliant story, fresh with sentiment and overflowing with relevant details. (Okay it’s a mediocre story, but it’s her first. Give her a break.) The story gets noticed by the powersthat-be: the editor of the school district’s student magazine, Fledglings. Kate thinks it must be a fabulous story to be published in such an august journal, but the truth is the editor didn’t have many stories to choose from. Her peers are too bleary-eyed with hormones to worry about arts or literature. Few of them even notice her startling debut, and those only wonder why she would bother. Kate does get her moment to shine when Mr. Walter Whitehead, English teacher, calls her into his office, something he had never done. He wears a purple silk shirt and his horn-rimmed glasses are attached to a long silver chain draped around his shoulders. (Geez, you can't make this stuff up.) Kate wonders why he wears the glasses, because he never looks through them; they perch on the end of his nose and he peers over the rims. His face is ruddy and flaky. He mouth is either an exaggerated grin or melodramatic frown. Never anything in between. Students say he has a beautiful young wife. Kate doubts it. He asks Kate in his Shakespearean voice (he is also the drama teacher) how she knows so much about fox hunting. Pride and fear tinting her voice, Kate tells him about the hours she spent researching the topic in the library. His smile plummets to a frown. "From now on, you should only write about what you know. That, my young friend, is what separates us from the apes,” says Walter. That is the end of Kate’s interview. All through math class and part of geography she ponders Walter Whitehead’s attempt at mentorship. She looks at her peers who sit with glassy eyes while the teacher drones on about plant-life in the Canadian tundra. Someone snores quietly. Others agonize over first love jitters and first heartbreak horrors (but with much less panache than Kate gives them credit for). Kate feels that now familiar urge to pick up a pen. She opens her notebook. The idea is coming…it’s almost here…yes…She writes. What do you do with a drunken sailor when she’s your mom? 2008 by Kim McDougall Karen said... It's a wonderful thing to be able to write from what's in our heart. I do that with my Picture Dees I do for children at karenskidskorner.blogspot.com Thanks for sharing. Charlie said... Great comments! I'm so glad to hear someone praise this type of writing. How can we grow as people, let alone writers, if we only write what we know! I love to write about things I don't know and learn all I can about them. Thanks!
Beverly Stowe McClure said... Yay for writing what's in your heart, Kim. We should never discourage young people or anyone from doing so. Holly said... I don't know...what DO you do with a drunken sailor when she's your mom? I've always told people it should be "Write FROM what you know." Meaning, maybe you've never experienced the death of a classmate, but you've experienced the death of someone you loved and you've had classmates move away. These are miles apart, but with enough empathy, we know that - and with enough imagination, we can write convincingly about situations we've never experienced first-hand.
I'm Not an Illustrator, but I am an Artist
Guest Blogger Kim Chatel, Author and Fiber Artist Crafts are a big deal in my house. My daughter and I make something new almost every week and I insist that she makes her presents for family at Christmas. I can’t draw or paint. I’m too impatient for knitting, sewing or other needlework, but I love to make things. I’ve dabbled in polymer clay, paper crafts, model painting, scrapbooking, and dozens of other mediums.
But the first time I picked up a felting needle and some wool roving I felt like I had come home. It was just right. Somehow, concepts that escaped me on paper— like distance perspectives and facial expressions—came naturally to me with wool. At first I made only small Christmas ornaments. Soon I moved into bigger projects like music boxes. Finally, I decided to transfer my vision onto a canvas and created felt “paintings”. At the same time, I had been writing “Rainbow Sheep,” a story I told my daughter every night to help her sleep. I decided to illustrate the story with my fiber art. It’s an unusual medium and I wasn’t sure how publishers would take it, but I was lucky enough to hook up with Lynda Burch from Guardian Angel. She saw the potential in my art and I signed a contract. I am delighted to say that “Rainbow Sheep” will be available in May. The
book includes added features: an article on needle-felting, and the instructions for two simple felting projects.
Having these bonus features opens up a whole new dimension of marketing possibilities. I will be targeting online craft stores and felt suppliers. There are several fiber festivals in my area for spinners, knitters and felters. I have already booked a table at several of these. I made nearly 50 little felt sheep to give away with the purchase of a book. They don’t cost me much, but my time to make. I have booked one school visit too, and I can’t wait to bring the original artwork for kids to see and handle. It’s very tactile and I know they will enjoy the experience. I’ve always admired picture books that were illustrated with unusual mediums. One of my favorites is “The New Baby Calf” by Edith Chase and illustrated by Barbara Reid with plasticine. This book inspired me to try my hand at felt “paintings.” I may not be an illustrator, but I am an artist. It took me a long time to be able to say that with confidence. Why not try your hand at illustrating with your favorite craft medium, whether it be needlepoint, polymer clay or mosaics? Kids love crafting and picture books are a great way to bring new types of art to little hands. Note: Needle felting is done with raw wool fleece (roving) and a special needle. The needle draws the wool fibers inward, where they tangle together and get compressed into a shape. There is no stitching or gluing involved in the process. Each of the panels shown here are 8x10 inches and take 5-8 hours to make. The last picture is part of my flock that I've made to give away. After 50 sheep, I can make one in about half an hour! For anyone interested in the process, you can check out my needle-felted polar bear on Crafbits. You can read more about "Rainbow Sheep" on my website at www.kimchatel.com Cynthia Reeg said... Kim, This is really fun stuff! I'm sure kids will enjoy reading the book as well as learning how to do the craft as well. A Marketing Plan in Brief
Kim Chatel Rainbow Sheep Marketing Plan For those of you who have been following this blogfest from the beginning, you will have seen mention of my new picture book "Rainbow Sheep" being released by Guardian Angel Publishing in May. You can scroll down the posts to see my book cover and additional images. To the left is one of my felt illustrations. I plan to bring the originals with me to signings and school visits. I think kids will get a kick out of its fuzzy texture. I illustrated this book with fiber art, or needle-felted images. The book includes instructions for two simple felting crafts--a needle-felted sheep and wet felted soap. The addition of this nonfiction appendix allows me to think out of the box for marketing. I believe that every picture book has some unique slant that can be exploited. Is your book about hamsters? Target pet stores. Does it have a spiritual message? Why not speak to a local pastor and have him mention it in his weekly sermon? In my case, I will be targeting fiber and craft stores. Along with traditional book signings, I have reserved space a local craft fairs and fiber festivals. So here is my marketing plan in brief. My real plan is much more fleshed out, with a timeline and addresses or links to the contacts. But since most of them are local, I didn't bother to include them here. If you would like more info about this marketing plan, feel free to leave a comment or email me at email@example.com Press Materials: Tip Sheet: Cues about what is interesting in this book. Background articles (for blogs): Research history of felt. Find other simple felt ideas for kids Press Release Sales Handles: Includes, blurb, hook and bio Pitch Letter: For demos/signings at stores Signings and Appearances: Local bookstores, libraries, elementary schools, craft fairs, fiber festivals, spinning stores (teach felting), conventions Internet Marketing: Group blogs Radio interviews Book reviews Author pages to update: Jacketflap, Shelfari, Author’s Den, Book awards (New Covey Book Cover award, Moonbeam award) Book trailer for YouTube and similar sites Kim Chatel Website Update:
Optimize search engine submission Contest: Free sheep music box drawing Create page where children can send in pictures of their felt sheep. Put up a “Contact Me” page for school/library readings. Add article on felting, Promo Materials Large copy of book cover (mounted on foamcore) “Signed by Author” stickers Postcards (with ordering info and book formats) List of felt suppliers Freebies to give-away at signings: felt sheep (with adoption certificates) & soaps, felting kits, bookmarks Framed original artwork. Send Press Release to: Local media (newspaper, radio), craft stores, art schools, local parenting magazine, PA arts council, local pediatricians & dentists (offer free book for waiting rooms) Miscellaneous: Create an email database for mailings: Use addresses from raffle of felt sheep music box How-to Video: Create a video about making a felt sheep. Have it burned to dvd and then make a YouTube video with music, book cover etc. Groups to join: Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (for local contacts) Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators EPIC Big Mouth List: celebrities who might be interested in the book So where did I distill all this info from? A couple of books, some newsletters and much internet research. Here are some of my sources: Books: Jump Start Your Book Sales, by Marilyn & Tom Ross and Publicize Your Book! By Jacqueline Deval. Newsletters: Working Writer's Coach Author Marketing Expert Read more about "Rainbow Sheep" at www.kimchatel.com
I Can Write a Picture Book
“I was thinking about writing a picture book,” said an acquaintance of mine, when I told her that I was an author. “I mean, I read so many of them to my kids, how hard could it be?” How many writers have heard this line and cringed? I would never pretend to know anything about truck driving or selling pork futures, why is it that people think they know about publishing? Because they don’t realize it’s a business. Many people view the writer as an artist, plugging away at an old typewriter with mounds of crushed up paper at his feet. Hollywood promotes this stereo-type too. What I tried to explain to this would-be author is the need to immerse oneself in the publishing world even before the creation of a book. Two years ago, I joined several writers’ groups. It was the best decision of my career. Not only do these groups provide valuable feedback on manuscripts, they are also networking opportunities. Contacts I made on Zoetrope led to my first stories appearing in an anthology with Double Dragon Publishing. Once I was a DDP author, I had an opportunity to present my adult fantasy novel, “Caul, Shroud and Veil” to the publisher even though they were closed to regular submissions. My novel will be released from DDP this fall. At the Muse Conference last fall, I participated in the chat with Guardian Angel Publisher, Lynda Burch. As a direct result of that chat, I signed a contract for my first picture book, “Rainbow Sheep.” None of these sales would have happened if I hadn’t put in the hours, making contacts, critiquing manuscripts for others, and researching opportunities. As any author knows, the business of publishing doesn’t end with a signed contract. I just spent a two weeks learning how to create a marketing plan for “Rainbow Sheep” and then another week actually writing the plan. For the next 6 months to a year I will be implementing that plan. I have researched markets, made give-aways such as flyers and bookmarks, blogged, booked interviews and signings, tooted my horn until I can toot no more. When I explained (kindly, I hope) this business of writing to my friend, her eyes glazed over and she quickly lost interest in the conversation. I’m afraid I might have frightened her away from ever writing a book, which was not my intent. I did offer to help her start this great journey of writing. I’m still waiting for her to take me up on the offer. Here are two great books on marketing for authors: Jump Start Your Book Sales, by Marilyn & Tom Ross and Publicize Your Book! By Jacqueline Deval. Both books were slanted more toward non-fiction, but they had excellent tips for children’s fiction. Visit me at my websites: www.kimchatel.com and www.kimmcdougall.com
Helping Authors Find Illustrators - Picture Kitchen Studio
Tips to help you find the right illustrator for your book! Let's say that you really don't know where to begin to find an artist to illustrate your childen's book. You have already decided that you are going to self publish, or have been encouraged by the publisher to hire an artist to illustrate your story. So you now need to have an idea of the style that would suit your book. Whether you hire an artist directly or the publisher provides one for you, it's good to have a solid idea of the "feel" or style you need for your book. You can find several websites such as http://www.picturebook.com/ or http://www.childrensillustrator.com/ that can be very helpful. You can brouse through pages of artists, viewing their illustrations and build a file of what you like. This file can give the artist a good idea of the style and feel you are looking for. You can email some artists directly for information regarding a quote. Here is a list of things to remember: 1. Have a budget idea for your project before you even ask for a quote. 2. Hire a professional or someone who has some experience in book illustration. - If you are new to book publishing, it's best to work with an experienced illustrator- ultimately, it can be less stressful and with the right match you will find it is worth every penny! 3. Ask for references. Feel free to Contact other authors the artist has worked with, if you can - this is a great way to see if it has been a good experience for them and will be for you and most reputable
illustrators have no problem offering references. 4. A contract is important. Always request a contract, it protects and clarifies both the author and artists obligations to the project. 5. Be flexible, willing to negotiate. Most artists are fair folks and are willing to work with you if the price is reasonable, if not there are many other fish in the sea! 6. Ask if the artist would be willing to sketch a main character. See if they are a match - many artists that are interested in your project will be willing to do this for you - for free. 7. Keep an open mind regarding creativity. The artist needs some "artistic" room to illuminate your words. Be patient, wonderful things can happen! 8. Share your ideas, but leave room for artistic license. There is a balance between words and images and you now need to leave your "baby" in the artists capable hands. 9. Try to avoid calling the artist "my illustrator." Remember the book's completion is a team effort and to make your book the best it can be - there needs to be mutal respect.:) 10. Take your time when searching. Do not let passion to see your book project completed cause you to make hasty and "costly" decisions. Enjoy watching it all come together!
Kim Sponaugle (Picture Kitchen Studio) has illustrated over a dozen children’s books and enjoys helping authors bring their stories to life.
Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Great tips and info, Kim. I think many beginning writers have no clue as to what the cost of an illustrator might be. Does it go per picture or by project or maybe both? KIM: Really, it can be totaled either way. I usually add up how many illustrations the author needs, cover, spots, etc. and give them a total price for the project. I also like to break the project into thirds for payment. This way it's not such a large chunk of a payment but in easier installments. I think new authors feel more comfortable with this too.
Hey! What's going on around here!
POPS: What's the party all about? Why wasn't I invited? Hey!!!! JINX: Oh, Lea didn't tell you? hehehehe I was invited. Have a personal...HEY! That hurts! POPS: Then stop yakking away. LEA: Boys, be polite. We have guests on my blog. POPS: Oh, sure, YOU'RE blog. Like without us characters...um...where would you be? LEA: Creating new ones? JINX: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA LEA: That means you, too, Jinx. The Rock of Realm Donna McDine said... Lea...I love the antics of your characaters. Keeps The Rock of Realm fresh in my mind. I can't wait for the sequel! Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Thanks, Donna, but these guys are going to be the death of me. They are always coming out when I don't expect them. People are beginning to think I'm nuts. POPS: Um, can I add to that? LEA: NO!!
Why I Write For Kids and Young Adult
No matter how many times I begin a novel or story geared for adults, my characters begin to turn into young adults. I couldn't figure it out for the longest time since my heart said I wanted to write for the adult market.
Once I sat down and had a talk with myself, away from the careful and watchful eyes from the men holding up a white jacket, I realized why I kept drifting to this age group. They are spontaneous, they are daredevils, they have emotional ups and downs, they speak 'cool', they dress different, they fall into dares easier than adults, and they know how to have fun. All of these attributes can be for adults, as well, but the young adult has a different 'energy level' I can use in my stories. For example, in my paranormal suspense thriller, Doorman's Creek, I have my 15 yearold teen, Kyle Anderson suddenly gifted with the ability to have visions of past murders through the eyes of the killer. I could have easily given this gift to an adult but it's the energy and sneakiness Kyle displays that makes it a different and more energetic read than if I had an adult as my main character. Although Kyle is terrified, this curiosity to find out more about the murders draws the attention of his two best friends and together they 'teen-like' jump into situations an adult would not have. That's the reason I love to write and use young adults/teens as my main characters. In some ways, they're helping me keep my youth- without getting me into trouble. :) Beverly Stowe McClure said... I agree, Lea. I think I write for middle graders and teens because my characters make me feel "young." Kim Chatel said... I never know who I'm writing for until the story begins. The Stone Beach started off as a picture book, but I realized soon that the dynamic of friendships in the story was better suited for YA. I love to write YA mostly because I love to read it. There is a freedom in YA. Anything can happen. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Kim, you mentioned something so important that many writers fear doing...changing their original ms intent to something totally different. You went with the intent of writing a picture book to a young adult, talk about a big difference. Writers need to put away that fear 'wait, that's not what I wanted' and try something else. If you don't try you'll never know. Worse case scenario, you go back to your original plan. I had finished one YA novel then went back and started to edit when I totally hated the first person account. The story is based on a brother and sister and I needed to have
alternate pov's from both of them but in third person POV. So off I went changing the whole manuscript. Still not finished but that's my procrastination. :) LCalabrese said... I love hearing why children's writers write for children, and not adults. "It keeps me young," and "it's fun" are the ones that you'll hear the most! I love writing picture books because I just can't get enough of the pre-school and up crowd- they always make me laugh, and I just hope to return the favor!
Bullying, Teasing and Two Complete Opposites
Many writers sit and sit and sit without a clue what to write about. I have to say this amazes me and perhaps I'm part of the small group of writers who never lacks for a story idea. If you look all around, study children, visit schools, talk with children, you will see the vast subject storylines you can write about. My newest middle grade chapter book, Bubba and Giganto, to be published by 4RV Publishing and still in its editing stage with the publisher deals with teasing, bullying, and bringing together two totally opposite boys who fast become best friends. Bubba, my first person point of view character, is your typical get in trouble teen who hates moving from school to school because of his dad's contract work. You may be wondering why I gave him the name "Bubba" and not Bobby or Butch or Billy. Simple: to show children that even tough guys need to have a handle on teasing. Bubba meets Giganto, whose real name is David but nicknamed Giganto by Bubba because of David's 300 pound weight. Totally opposites in characters, in size, in popularity, in almost everything but one areathey both love soccer. And in this sport is where I show my little readers how these two different boys come together and learn from one another. Bubba gives it his best shot to teach Giganto how to play soccer in order to make it on the team. However, one of them is holding back a secret that will put his life in jeopardy. The bullying comes in when a trio harass Giganto, make fun of him, and claim he doesn't have what it takes to make it on the team. Bubba makes a rash decision at one point and now will face the consequences for his action. Making a book interesting, bringing in things kids can relate to, obstacles and situations they possibly face each day at school and showing them without preaching to them on possible solutions is why I love to write for this age group. You never run out of ideas. All you have to do is keep your ears and eyes open and children will tell you what they want to read about. Jan Verhoeff said...
I think I grew up with Bubba, and Giganto was my neighbor. I always find it intriguing that life can hand over so many opportunities and we miss them, simply because we weren't looking! What do we do with all of our time? I can't imagine having writer's block. It's like being speechless. The only logical reason for being speechless is not having a voice and God gave me a computer! I can write if I can't talk. You'll find me at http://janverhoeff.com Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... You know, I don't think writer's block is as much on what to write about as much as it is on where to start a story. That's the area I find many writers have difficulty in. Kim Chatel said... Bullying is such an important topic now. There are posters about bullying all over my daughter's school. I truly believe that the new awareness is helping. As for writer's block...never worry about it. I have a file an inch thick of stories I want to write. It's time that I need. So many stories, so little time.
Bring Our Children Into Our Writing World
As a mother of five, I never hesitated to bring storytime into our family. I’m not sure how many families continue with this tradition but if it’s any indication to some I have bumped into around my neighborhood, then it’s slowly going away along with the dinosaurs. Some of the remarks I have had the displeasure of hearing are: “Why should I buy books since my child has the school library.” -I feel sorry for this child since it’s obvious the healthy growth of reading and writing is not encouraged in this household. “If teachers don’t encourage my child to read books then how can I?” -Easy, monkey see, monkey do. Allowing your child to see you read the TV Guide, the cookbook, the newspaper, and bringing them into these areas will help instill that reading has a purpose. What I used to do is I asked my child to pick a story to read to me, whether it was a comic book or a book I didn’t care. I would choose a book, as well, and we’d read one chapter to each other, stopping after our own chapters and discussing it. This allowed both of our imaginations to grow, to ponder what the next chapter or scene was going to be about. Granted, there are reluctant readers out there so the task to find what inspires them, what their likes are is another area a parent will have to persevere if they are adamant in helping their child develop a love for reading and eventually writing. For reluctant readers, maybe my method of sharing reading portions might be helpful.
“I’m not interested in my child reading about fictional characters or worlds.” – Oh, I couldn’t have heard a more out of place statement. I was stunned when this came out of one of my own friends. Reading about fictional characters helps a child relate to that character’s events and turbulence. It helps them build their vocabulary. It stimulates their thinking by allowing them to figure out what’s going to happen next. It helps them explore different situations, different worlds, different people. It’s not because I am a writer that I feel so strongly about encouraging children to read but as a person who believes our children need to understand the benefit of reading and writing go hand in hand. Musing Our Children has a section, Reviews by Kids for Kids, where we encourage children seventeen and under to send us a short review of any book or movie they’ve seen. One teacher wrote to us and stated how enthusiastic one of her students is now and reading like there’s no tomorrow to get her review in to us. Although the child might not understand at the moment, but this ‘enthusiasm’ has hopefully sparked a lifetime of reading and writing in her. And who’s to say she won’t be our future Nora Roberts, or J. K. Rowling. I invite all writers to extend their knowledge base and encourage as many children, parents and help our teachers demonstrate the benefits of reading and writing along with me. Beverly Stowe McClure said... Sigh. Some parents just don't get it. I don't recall ever being read to. I'm not saying that's the reason I hated to read. My parents were wonderful, but I doubt books were big in their families. My sister was an avid reader, so that's not a valid excuse for me. Anyhow, I read to my sons and am glad I did. Great article, Lea. Kim Baccellia said... Okay, here's my pet peeve. In California the schools use a system to have books labeled for children to read. It's called AR books and what happens is children end up not reading books they want in order to get more points for other books. More than one parent has complained to me how their child wanted to read a fantasy book but it wasn't one of the offered AR books for their child's grade level. I've always had books. As a child my mother shared with me her love of reading. As a teacher, I always ordered from Scholastic book orders and gave out books as rewards and as gifts. Since I worked in inner city schools, I made sure my students had books. max said...
Hi Lea, I grew up as a reluctant reader. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for boys 8 and up, that kids hate to put down. My web site is at http://www.maxbooks.9k.com and my Books for Boys blog is at http://booksandboys.blogspot.com Ranked by Accelerated Reader Thank you, Max Elliot Anderson Fantasythyme said... My mother worked as a middle school, and later high school, librarian. I grew up around books and loved to read every chance that I had. In high school english teachers would call me down for reading during their class. At the time reading a good fantasy or science fiction book was more interesting than learning how to diagram a sentence. The funny thing was the science fiction stories I read helped me college entrance exam scores more than sentence diagramming. Mayra Calvani said... Great article, Lea. I know some people like that ("What can a fantasy book give a kid? Fiction is a waste of time"). Cynthia Reeg said... Lea, I'm passionate also about helping kids love to read. I've recently posted two blogs on my website about this topice. Any interested can find the articles at http://www.cynthiareeg.com/blog/index.html under the titles: READING MAGIC and MORE READING MAGIC. Writing for Children- Easy or Hard? Writing for children is not as easy as you may think. Many writers believe writing for children is a cinch than writing for adults and will have no problem getting published. Wrong! Although children’s books are shorter than adult books, there are quite a few differences. The most important difference is that children are highly impressionable to what they read and you have a big influence with the words you pen to paper. Writing for children is not only a challenge but also a market that is highly congested with submissions to editors. You need a story that will bond with your reader by bringing your character(s) to life with a storyline that’s visually captivating. Let’s take a look at some of the differences found in children’s books compared to adult novels. -Children are easily bored. In adult novels, you have the convenience of building your plot, intriguing the reader to continue to find out what’s going to happen. It is the same
for children but the action needs to be constant lest you lose their attention. You don’t have the pleasure of making a child continue reading in the hopes the book will pick up further down the road or if you’ve stumped them and they don’t understand. I guarantee you they will put down the book and go on to something else. Another obvious difference between the children and adult books is that the children books are read to the younger ones by their parents, teachers, grandparents; therefore, the book needs to be interesting not only to the child but to the adult most likely to read this book a few hundred times to them. In most cases, it is the adult who purchases the book so their interest must be captured, as well. Here are some books I have purchased via school book fairs and have found them in the school library, as well: 1-“Junie B. Jones” series by Barbara Parks 2-Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst 3-Curious George by H.A. Rey 4-GoodNight Moon by Margaret W. Brown 5-If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura J. Numeroff 6-Madelaine by Ludwig Bemelmans 7-I Love You by Robert Munsch 8-The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsberg Going to your local bookstore and checking out some of the books above, you will see the different styles of each writer and the illustrations within each page to give you a sample of what publishers seek. While you’re at it, check out the different writing styles of these authors. How do they begin their books? What captured your interest in the characters? How did the story move forward and was the ending satisfying? Also compare the amount of dialogue from one book to the other. How did the author use dialogue to move the story forward? If you have any children’s books at home, then compare some of those books with the above questions to give you a better understanding how to write for this targeted audience. When writing for the adult audience, you are relating things adults may have experienced or have knowledge of. Children do not have this luxury. They are still experiencing life as they grow. Everything they may read is new to them. I already stated you must capture their attention right off the bat since they get bored very easily. One of the ways to do this is to make sure your story comes alive with descriptive images of your character and his/her surroundings. Allow the child to ‘see’ what you are writing about. And children love to read about other cultures and their way of life so this makes it even more important to give them the descriptive details of this new area to them, to visualize for themselves. But remember, keep these details precise, not long, or else you lose their attention. LCalabrese said...
You really do have to capture a child's attention right off the bat. They could be watching TV, playing with toys, playing outside, or playing video games instead. Many things for an author to compete with!
Winding Down and Announcements
I can't believe it's been a week all ready since the Writing for Children blog fest began. We've had an amazing amounts of posts, informative posts, humorous posts, helpful resources, a look behind the making of a book, and more and all because of the caring writers who joined me this week. To all I want to thank from the bottom of my heart for your insight to all the writers and readers joining us this week and reading. I am looking forward to everyone popping in whenever they want to post updates on your writing careers and your books as my permanent guest bloggers. To all the readers visiting us this week, thank you and keep coming back for more posts from everyone. Our random ebook doorprize winners will be announced on Sunday, April 6th, right here so tune in tomorrow and see if you are one of our lucky winners. Each month I offer a FREE Links ebook loaded with publication venues, agent listings, promo sites, and more. If you'd like to recieve my Free ebook then I suggest you join here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MonthlyEbookNewsletter/ Don't delay, however, because come FAll, this will be a ten dollar yearly subscription so join the group now before the subscription comes into play. Tell your writing pals to join. You won't regret it. The group is a newsletter only format-no email exchange. Lea Schizas
I Am Who I Am - A Writer
I Am Who I Am - A Writer Let’s begin with a simple question: Why do you write? Knowing the answer to this will help you fight the negative forces that are surely to come, such as: “Oh, you’re a writer? Like, are you famous? You get a lot of money for writing? Where can I buy your book? Oh, you’re self-published. POD? Is that like a book club or a big publishing
house? No? Oh, I get it. You’re trying to be a writer.” Sound familiar? If not, soon enough you will get one of these comments pop at you at any time so knowing why you write will ease your response…and your nerves. “I write because I love to write and would love to earn my living as a writer. I do not have high hopes of becoming the next Stephen King or Nora Roberts but the possibility of making it is there and I will try my hardest to achieve it.” This is the response I give. It tells the curious person in-between the lines that when I do make it I will remember your sarcasm and doubt in me and won’t answer the door when you ‘comeaknocking’ disguised as my best friend. Do you write thinking your first novel being penned right now will make you rich? Oh my! You do, don’t you! Look at me, well, pretend, now shake your head left and right when I ask this again: Do you write thinking your first novel penned right now will make you filthy rich? That’s what I thought. Having high expectations is grand, we all have them. These are called dreams and dreams are meant to be achieved with hard work. BUT, being realistic will help you detour the disappointments with each rejection letter coming in, with each critique suggesting more and more changes to your manuscript, with reviews going to the opposite side of ‘good’. Perhaps you just may be one of the lucky ones who will make it big with your first novel, and it’s happened to a few select writers. Some writers write for personal therapeutic reasons. They have no grandeur of being published. Are they considered writers? Some writers write for their immediate family, concocting chapbooks filled with recipes or poetry. Are they considered writers? What defines a writer? I am sure many of you have your own opinion but seeing how this is my post I will give you my opinion for you to agree or disagree with me. Either way, I welcome your input by leaving your comments. To me there are only two types of writers: The above I mentioned and the ones who seek publication along with the fame and wealth are ‘true writers’. (Note: wealth and fame are the toppings to the cake. They don’t always come but if you do your homework and promote and market yourself you will be surprised one day with a nice big fat royalty check.) The ones who write, shove their manuscript in their desk drawer, complain they are not cut out to be a writer, find every excuse in the book not to write, brag and brag yet never produce anything…these are ‘wannabe writers’. To be honest, perhaps they should be considered writers with the creative excuses they come up with.
Two simple classifications in my book. Getting published is not the only factor to brand you a ‘writer’. If you have the passion and the strive to get that manuscript finished and subbed to the hundreds and hundreds of publishing houses out there, then you are a writer and achieving publication is simply an added award to your name. Every writer MUST possess: DETERMINATION & PERSEVERANCE This was an excerpt from my FREE ebook, Assaulting a Writer’s Thinking. To request your copy, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the title of the ebook on the subject heading. Beverly Stowe McClure said... Yes, Lea, writers write because they can't not write, whether they make any money at it or not. We do need to set high expectations for ourselves. It's like teachers expect the best from each of their students. If we expect any less then we're doing the students a disservice. So writers expect to write the best we can. For each of us that means something different. If the money's there, super. But we keep on anyway. Donna McDine ~ Children's Author said... Lea...to echo Bev's comments and your post I find that if I don't write on any given day I tend to get a little cranky...at times real cranky. Even if I just get those precious 15 minutes its makes my outlook on the day and world much better. Everyone's outlooks are different but a combination of writing and publication for me is important at this point in my writing career whether it be paid or not. Warmly, Donna P.S. Love the monkey clipart! Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... You can't imagine the willpower(okay, maybe you guys can since you're writers) it takes when I wake up in the middle of the night NOT to turn on my laptop. The first thing I do in the morning is put on my glasses, get up, and gear up my laptop for another round of reading, writing, and editing. I love it. LCalabrese said... What a wonderful post. I definitely have to get the ebook now! I absolutely agree with you. It's those writers that persevere that will, hopefully, get published. As long as you're writing and sending out those manuscripts, you can consider yourself 'in the game.' I always try to stay positive when I get those rotten rejection letters. It's a point that not many others get to, and it's one step closer to getting my manuscript in the right hands.
Thanks for the insight! Lori http://www.loricalabrese.blogspot.com Kim Baccellia said... I totally agree. Perseverance is a big part of this whole writing thing. I can't get away from writing. As a teacher I taught writer's workshop and had my students make and publish their own books. I even had my husband make a computer program to show the children doing this. This was a big hit at Open House. I get up early to write too. There's been some mornings at 2 or 3 that I can't sleep and instead go up to my writing room, turn on my laptop and write. Mayra Calvani said... Wonderful post, Lea. I can relate so much with you. I write because if I didn't, I would go crazy--I don't know how I would live if I couln't write. Writers have to write, that's it. Whether we make money or not, or become known or not, we write because we HAVE to. So it's not really about the end result (though of course it's nice to be rewarded for our work!), but the process of writing itself.
http://leaschizaseditor.com http://editingservices.tripod.com/ http://leaschizaschildrensauthor.tripod.com/
Meet Lori Calabrese: "I'm a children's writer who writes picture books, short stories, articles, crafts and experiments for children. Be sure to read one of my nonfiction articles in the May 2008 issue of Stories for Children Magazine. I love kids and I love children's books. Before I began writing for children, I was the managing producer for a large television company where I wrote scripts for TV shows and DVDs for 10 years. With 2 boys at home, I'm fortunate enough to read LOTS of children's books. This is how I've discovered that I can't get enough of them. We make endless trips to the library and read stacks of books. The books that I've read to my children have inspired me to write my own. I've honed my writing skills at The Institute of Children's Literature and my goal is to write one of the best books that a kid can read. Reading new and classic stories has been inspiring, but I've also learned that writing is hard work. A good story is not an accident. Very few stories come out right the first time and require re-write after re-write. However, it's worth it! To quote Eve Bunting, "Think of Good Night Moon and how many children have gone to bed loved and tucked in safe for the night with that picture book. It is not War and Peace, but don’t tell me that it doesn’t have its place in the future, because it does."
Let The Blogfest Begin!
Welcome to Lea Schizas' Writing for Children Blogfest! My name is Lori Calabrese and I have to say I'm honored to be a part of Blogfest. Lea has gathered up a plethora of writing talent. I'm certain there will be many posts this week that will satisfy your need for all things related to writing for children. I love children's books and all that they have to offer. I'm not only a writer, but also a reader. I'm fortunate enough to have 2 boys at home, so all this talk about boys being reluctant readers has sent me on my mission of making sure that they grow up with the ability to enjoy a good book. Children's books start children on reading and we all know that reading is an increasingly important skill in society. It's important to lay the foundation for your children as early as possible. Those early years play such a key role in his or her future reading success and
you are your child's most important teacher. As a children's writer, I think the first question one has to ask is. . . who is the reader? Who am I writing for? Children's books are tricky. Most people will say that you're writing for children. Children should come first and foremost because after all, you're trying to start children on reading. Others will say that in addition to writing for children, you're also writing for the parents. It's the parents that have to buy the book in order for it to get to the child. Parents want stories that they can endure reading two or three times a night! I know that when I read to my kids, I want to be entertained, too. There's nothing wrong with that. Lastly, others will say that you're writing for an editor. An editor must like your book, so that it can get published, to get to the parents, to get to the children. Do you see this vicious cycle that a children's writer must endure? That's not mentioning the librarians, teachers, and educators out there that are also filters in getting books into children's hands. I think that when one writes for children, you can't think of a huge audience. Every child is different and has different interests. Your book might not appeal to everyone, but it will reach the hearts of many. Just think of the books that you read as an adult. You might not like Danielle Steele, but you're a big fan of John Grisham or Steven King. Children are no different. They have their likes and dislikes. If you're a children's writer, one of the biggest things you'll hear is, 'write what you know.' When you do this, you can write from the heart, and put everything into your story. Part of writing what you know is writing for yourself. If you're entertained, chances are, someone else will be, too! Isn't that what children's books are all about? Let's be entertained! Jump into the world of picture books at my blog. . . Lori Calabrese Writes I offer reading recommendations, author interviews, writing articles, writing resources, and information for those interested in children's books. LEA: Lori, what an amazing post. Full of insightful tips and help I am sure many will use. I believe picture books have to be the hardest books to write because a child not only has to focus on fun and entertaining words and pictures, but you need to gear it toward the parent as well. Am I mistaken in this? LORI: I absolutely agree with you and I think many others would, too! Picture books are very difficult to write. There are so many people that you have to please when writing a picture book, not to mention in so little words- usually 500 words or less! WOW! But, it's so much fun, so keep trying if this is something you really want to do.
A Cool Tool For Author Websites
There's so much helpful advice here in The Writing Jungle for writers. I wanted to add one thing on maintaining author websites and blogs. . . An author not only has to write these days, but they also have to concentrate on author visits, interviews, press releases, promotional materials, and all of the other business aspects of being a writer. Don't forget maintaining a presence on the world wide web. This can take up a lot of your time, but you spent all that time writing your book and getting it published, you want to get it into the hands of readers. If you own a website or blog, consider checking out Adaptive Blue. I discovered this site by using the Cybils' book widget and have since implemented it on my blog. What is it? It's a FREE add-on for Firefox. Just download it for free at their site. What does it offer? I love their SmartLinks. These are little blue squares that are inserted automatically when you link to books on your site. (it can also link to music, movies, and more) When a reader clicks on the SmartLink, this page comes up. . .
With SmartLinks, you instantly give your readers a way to learn more about your book. They can read about it on the site of their choice, find reviews, and buy it on their preferred online bookseller. Individuals can save your book to online book communities and social networks, helping further promote your books. Each book SmartLink has shortcuts to other books that you've written, as well as your bio on Wikipedia and additional links on Google. SmartLinks work in Blogger, TypePad, WordPress, and more. Or you can make your own custom widgets for your site! It's really easy to do, and the
site offers video tutorials (I posted one below) to help you out along the way. It really is as easy as bookmarking your favorite products. Once you create the SmartLink Widget and post it on your blog or profile page, it will update anytime a new item is added much like RSS feeds. Besides making the best information about the book available from your site, the widgets are also easily grabbed and shared by fans to display on their own site, helping to further market your books across the web. The widgets update automatically so when you release a new book everyone receives the update in their widget. I have no affiliation with Adaptive Blue whatsoever! I'm a children's writer who maintains a blog, found their product, and fell in love with it. I just wanted to share this information with others. You can check out SmartLinks in action at my blog, Lori Calabrese Writes I offer reading recommendations, author interviews, writer's articles and resources, and information regarding the world of children's publishing. Read an article about Adaptive Blue at Wired. testsmrtlnks said... Lori! Thanks for the wonderful write-up, we love having passionate people such as yourself use our products. A few follow-up notes: If you want to install SmartLinks, it's super simple, just visit http://www.adaptiveblue.com/install_smartlinks.html and follow the instructions If you don't want to build your own widget you can pick one from our widget gallery: adaptiveblue.com/widgets_auto.html You can connect a range of affiliate IDs to your SmartLinks/Widgets and start earning even more revenue from your site. Finally, if you have ANY questions please don't hesitate to drop us an email - we pride ourselves on wonderful service. Best, Fraser LCalabrese said... I'm glad I could share this tip! I wish more websites had SmartLinks. It's free and easy, so why not? As Fraser said, don't hesitate to drop them an e-mail because they'll get back to you quickly and help you with whatever you need to get these on your site.
Links on How To Write A Query Letter
By Lori Calabrese Children's Writer http://loricalabrese.blogspot.com Cynthia Reeg wrote a great post giving tips on query letters, so I thought I'd add this post from my blog that gives you links on how to write a query letter. A query letter is your introduction to a publisher. Learning HOW to write a killer query letter is going to help you sell your book. Query letters help publishers weed through the manuscripts that they would like to receive and it gives them an idea if your manuscript will fit in with their current line. A great query letter is also your way 'in' to a publisher that does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. Write a great query asking them if they'd be interested in seeing your book and they might just reply 'yes.' Many people have different ways of writing a query letter. Straight up and formal, or casual and relaxed are just a few. Study query letters by other writers and learn what worked for them. There are so many links to query letter information. Here are a few... Harold Underdown covers the topic of query letters and offers this article by Margot Finke. Margot Finke- go to writing chat for all seasons and find sample query letters and more links to query info. Author, Kim Norman, gives a sample of a winning query letter that got her published and offers some inside tips. Miss Snark throws out this idea when it comes to e-mail queries and that evil formatting problem we all face on the computer! Cynthea Liu tackles the anatomy of a children's book query letter. If you're interested in getting published, take Cynthea's crash course now! Of course, don't forget your handy dandy friend...Google! Enter 'Query Letters' and see what other gems you find!
By Lori Calabrese Children's Writer http://www.loricalabrese.blogspot.com This is the most visited page on my blog. I love links- Some may call me a linking machine! These are some of my favorite resources for children's writers. When I started writing for children, I scoured the internet for any information I could find and I found
tons! There are so many places to visit where you can learn A LOT about writing for children. I think it's important that writers have the resources available to find all the help they need, so check them out! GET ORGANIZED! Free Manuscript Tracking Software Yeah, you can create a word or excel document, but if you like gadgets, this will help you track your submissions and those rotten rejections. Query Tracker Find Literary Agents, track your submissions, and view stats on agents Easy Bib -Write nonfiction and need a bibliography? This makes it as easy as 1,2,3. GROUPS The Author's Guild This is a national organization open to published authors for adults and children. SCBWI As a member, you get access to their member's section that offers publishers lists, howtos, and many more. Sign up for their newsletter that offers great writing articles and find out about their conferences that are a great opportunity to network with other writers and editors. MARKET NEWS Anastasia Suen's blog Offers information on publishers, editors, agents, etc... Alice's CWIM Blog The editor of CWIM's blog. Offers information on publishers, editors, agents, etc... MEET OTHER CHILDREN'S WRITERS FaceBook Institute of Children's Literature Chat Room LiveJournal MySpace SCBWI Verla Kay's Blue Board Yahoo Groups Author's Den POETRY Rhyme Zone Offers free rhyming tools and thesaurus. Dori Chaconas Highly regarded children's author breaks down what you need to know about rhyme. RESEARCH AGENTS Agent Query
A large database of literary agents. CWIM- Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market The Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market is THE writer's tool. Find useful tips from many in the field and find listings for agents. Query Tracker Find literary agents, track queries, and view stats on literary agents. Preditors and Editors A guide to agents, publishers, and other services for writers. Before you sign on the dotted line, check this website for an agent or publsher's reputation. SCBWI Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators RESEARCH CHILDREN'S PUBLISHERS Amazon Amazon is a great tool to research children's publishers' catalogs, and scope out what's been published on your topic or idea. CBC The Children's Book Council is a trade association for children's publishers. You can get a list of their members. CWIM The Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market is THE writer's tool. Find useful tips from many in the field and find listings for book publishers and magazines. Jacketflap Offers information on the world of children's publishing from publishers listings, a database of children's books, author's blogs, etc... kidmagwriters.com Offers lists of magazines and links to their websites that contain submission guidelines. A useful resource for the children's magazine writer. Preditors & Editors A guide to agents, publishers, and other services for writers. Before you sign on the dotted line, check this website for an agent or publsher's reputation. Publisher's Weekly Market news and great information for writers. SCHOOLS/ ONLINE COURSES Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua Offers an annual workshop for writers. Check out the website too because there are so many interesting writing articles. Institute of Children's Literature A great online/ mail course where you work one-on-one with your own instructor. Get textbook material, write manuscripts, send them in to your instructor, and get individual critiques on how to improve your writing. Anastasia Suen's Online Workshops Anastasia is a children's author with over 100 books! Her online workshops are highly respected in the writer community. Laura Purdie Salas' Online Workshops
-Writing Kids' Nonfiction books for the Educational Market. Participate in a daily class (weekdays only) for four weeks and learn how to get assignments writing nonfiction books. SELF-PUBLISHERS AuthorHouse Booklocker BookSurge iUniverse iUniverse is now owned by Authorhouse Lulu Xlibris TRADE MAGAZINES/ NEWSLETTERS Booklist A great review magazine. Published monthly. Children's Book Insider (write4kids.com) A monthly magazine for writers that lists publishers and markets, and how-to articles. Subscribe to their free newsletter for updates in the world of children publishing. The Horn Book A great review magazine. Published bimonthly Publisher's Weekly A great review magazine. The semiannual children's book issues are a must! School Library Journal A great review magazine. Published monthly. WEBSITES WORTH VISITING The Purple Crayon -Children's book editor, Harold Underdown created this site to post articles and other materials about children's book publishing. Over the years, the site has grown and now includes articles contributed by other people, covering writing, illustrating, marketing, and editing. Cynthea Liu -Children's author, Cynthea Liu offers tips and recommendations for children's writers. If you haven't taken her crash course, it's a must! Cynthia Leitich Smith -Children's author, Cynthia Leitich Smith offers tips and recommendations for children's writers. Margot Finke -Children's author, Margot Finke offers tips and recommendations for children's writers. BOOKS ON WRITING SELF-EDITING
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King. Learn the techniques of professional editors. Write Tight: How to Keep Your Prose Sharp, Focused and Concise by William Brohaugh. Offers tips and suggestions on how to tighten your writing. WRITING MECHANICS AND THEORY: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. Read this to hear Lamott's take on a writer's life. The Chicago Manual of Style This manual will answer all of your questions regarding the mechanics of writing; punctuation, capitalization, comma placement, etc... -You can also find them online for quick reference here. The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition A must have for any writer that offers information on the mechanics of writing. On Writing An autobiography by Stephen King that offers many tips and theories on writing. Very useful for any writer. On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction (On Writing Well) William Zinsser wrote this as an informal guide to writing nonfiction but I think it applies to every writer. I got a lot out of reading this book. Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies by Sol Stein. Offers solutions to some common writing problems. HOW TO WRITE CHILDREN'S BOOKS: Childrens Writers Word Book (Children's Writer's Word Book)This book will give you an idea if you're using the right vocabulary for your selected age group. A very useful reference! The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books, 3rd Edition (Complete Idiot's Guide to) Harold Underdown crams everything about writing and illustrating children's books into this guide. Who doesn't love these guides, anyway? Offers inside tips and advice, sample proposals and queries, how to format a manuscript, and many other resources. Also, check out Harold Underdown's website- The Purple Crayon How to Write a Children's Book and Get It Published by Barbara Seuling. Respected children's writer Barbara Seuling gives you the essential steps to getting published in the competitive, exciting world of children's literature.
How to Write a Children's Picture Book: Learning from The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Corduroy, Where the Wild Things Are, The Carrot Seed, Good Night, Gorilla, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, and Other Favorite Stories by Eve Heidi Bine-Stock How to Write a Children's Picture Book Volume II: Word, Sentence, Scene, Story: Learning from Leo the Late Bloomer, Harry the Dirty Dog, Lilly's Purple ... Purple Crayon, and Other Favorite Stories by Eve Heidi Bine-Stock How to Write a Children's Picture Book Volume III: Figures of Speech: Learning from Fish is Fish, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, Owen, Caps for Sale, Where the Wild Things Are, and Other Favorite Stories By Eve Heidi Bine-Stock. All three volumes are a rich resource in the planning and revision of picture books. The deconstruction of picture books, and the detailed classification of crucial characteristics - using classic picture books to illustrate each detailed point - make these books invaluable. Picture Writing: A New Approach to Writing for Kids and Teens (Write for Kids Library) This guide has a lot of what Anastasia Suen teaches in her highly respected online course. Visit Anastasia online at her website and blog. Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children's Books Everyone will recommend this book to you if you're interested in writing picture books. It's a great book to learn how to prepare a dummy but even writers can find a lot on technique and style. It contains a lot of step-by-step detail. Uri Shulevitz has been writing and illustrating for children since the 1960s so he offers a lot of insight. The only negative that you'll hear about this book is that it hasn't been revised since 1985, so the focus is on black and white and preseparated color art (this has been replaced today by scanned color art). It is still highly recommended in the field for technique. Donna McDine said... WOW! Thanks for all this information...incredible...thanks for sharing!!! Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Lori, you're a link freak like me...and a share freak like me. I LOVE IT!!! For more links, I keep updating my MuseItUp Club LINKS webpage: http://museitupclub.tripod.com/ LCalabrese said... Cynthia. . .That's a great motto, and I think every writer should strive to be a better one! I know I do. If anyone finds other valuable links, please contact me via my blog, so I can update my list. I'll continue to update, too, so please stop by (and sign up for Lea's newsletter full of links, too! You can never have too many.) Lori
So You Think You're Done? Revise, Revise, Revise. . .
By Lori Calabrese Children's Writer http://www.loricalabrese.blogspot.com Thanks, Lea for hosting The Writing for Children Blog Fest. This has been a week full of exciting and interesting posts, and I'm grateful to have been a part of it alongside the plethora of talent that read and posted. I can't wait for the next one! The Writing for Children Blog Fest may be coming to an end, but be sure to check out all of the author's websites and blogs that contributed. The party never ends! Now, how about that manuscript? So you think you're done? Revise, Revise, Revise! Some writers thrive on it and others compare it to sticking a needle in their eye. I'm talking about the revision process. Writing IS revising. Revising IS writing. In a perfect world, a writer would just spill their thoughts onto paper or a computer and, magically, a story would appear. However, this is the real world and that only happens one in a million times. So you're saying there's a chance? Yes- a very slim one! A lot of us don't know how to improve our own work. We need to teach ourselves how to self-edit. This is where many how-to books come in handy and can teach you what to look for. Two books that I find extremely helpful with this are. . . Write Tight: How to Keep Your Prose Sharp, Focused and Concise by William Brohaugh. -An editor for Writer's Digest, he has written extensively about the craft. This self-help work aimed at the active writer contains 192 pages identifying and correcting the many errors made by those who write seriously. It assumes knowledge of grammar and instead emphasizes style. On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction (On Writing Well) by Dr. William Zinsser. -"On Writing Well belongs on any shelf of serious reference works for writers." - New York Times. Although it says it's a guide to writing nonfiction, the advice that Dr. Zinsser shares applies to all writing. In addition to how-to books, study other books and writing. However, after you've absorbed as much information on self-editing that you can, you actually have to execute it, and execute it correctly. Why do we need to do this? We're sending it to an editor. They'll edit it for us, right? Editors are busy folks. They'd rather see articles that don't need a lot of work. Since they receive piles of manuscripts daily, you need to polish it to
perfection. Check out the website of author, Mem Fox. She gives the story behind her book, 'Green Sheep.' It's a fascinating article as she tells us where she got her idea from, how many times she thought about ditching the project, and the painful process of revising. She compares an original draft of the book to what it eventually became. This is a very inspirational article for those who long to write picture books. She has many other articles that are worth reading, too! The bottom line is that it's impossible to write a perfect story the first time. It's hard to take all the elements that you've learned and apply them in your first draft. Take everyone's advice when they say, "Put your story away for a day or two. Maybe even longer. When you pull it out again, read it out loud and look at it with fresh eyes." You'll probably catch things that you know need fixing! Also, know that there isn't just one way to revise. Everyone has a different style, just as they do with their writing. Happy Revising!
A Writer's Critique
By Lori Calabrese Children's Writer http://www.loricalabrese.blogspot.com So you want to write? You'll hear it over and over again...Join a critique group. Every writer will tell you the importance of joining a critique group. When we receive critiques on our work, we're looking for suggestions to make our work better, so it will, inevitably, be published. There are many things that a fresh eye can see in your work that you can't. In order for us to receive critiques, it's important that we give critiques, right? Fair is fair and critiquing others' work will help your writing. It will teach you what to look for when self-editing your own work, and give you a sense of what you like and don't like to incorporate in your own writing. So you need to do a critique? Where do you start? First, know that we all are human beings and we have feelings. We're not critiquing the person, we're critiquing the work. It doesn't hurt to begin by pointing something out that you like about the manuscript. A little encouragement goes a long way! However, critiques need to be brutally honest. A writer would rather hear these notes from his/her critique group instead of an editor giving a flat out rejection with no reason why!
1. Did you like the story? Why or why not? Does it flow? How is the pacing (too fast, too slow, just right)? Is there a beginning, a middle, and an end and are they logical? 2. Does the beginning set up a problem or conflict? Did it catch your attention? Did you want to keep reading? 3. Are the characters' behavior consistent? Are the character's believable? Do the characters have good names? 4. Consider the audience- is it age appropriate? 5. Can you restate the story in a single sentence? 6. Does the author show instead of tell? 7. Technically, point out bad punctuation, incorrect grammar, misspelled words, formatting 8. Is the dialogue realistic? Does the dialogue help move the story along? Is there a perfect blend of dialogue with narration? 9. Is the title a good one? 10. Does the ending make sense and is it rewarding? Was the conflict or problem resolved? Does the main character undergo some sort of change? 11. Does the point of view work or would the story be better if it was told by another character? 12. Is there variation in sentence length? Too many short, too many long, or just right? 13. Excessive use of Passive voice? ex: Emily was running to the store is passive voice. Should be...Emily ran to the store. 14. Is the story original and creative? 15. Does the setting work? Do you get a sense of when and where you're supposed to be? 16. Did the writer make use of all the senses? Some examples of critique notes that you might give/ receive: -Paragraph or chapter needs tightening - give examples of where the writer can cut out necessary words and sentences. -Verbs are weak—verbs to watch out for are. . . is, as, was, were -Plot lacks focus—give a suggestion for the writer to consider. -Dialogue is not age appropriate—show an example that is right for the age.. -If the overall concept and writing is weak—suggest classes, how-to books, and online articles that can help. General Tips: -Tell the writer if the work is not your genre or favorite type of story -Don't be afraid to critique if it's not your favorite type of story. -Don't read other critiques of the work yet. Give your own critique, then read others. You don't want others to sway you! Everyone has an opinion, so give your own- don't steal! Everyone points out the advantages to a critique group, but not many address the disadvantages. When you have your work critiqued, your exposing your work to others. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world and there are dishonest people out there. When you put your work out there, yes- there is a chance that it can be ripped off- stolen!
Ugh- can you imagine all that work and somebody else reaps the benefits? It's just not right! There's no need to copyright your work because once it's written, it is copyrighted. However, you can't put a copyright on ideas and that person that just critiqued your work can go out and write another story with your idea! You need to weigh the advantages of a critique group with the disadvantages and you have to be selective with who you show your work to! Writers need to encourage each other and realize that writing is a craft. It takes a long time to master a craft and it doesn't just come to us. It takes work and revision after revision to get a good story! A good rule of thumb when it comes to critiquing is... Critique as you would want to be critiqued!
It all started when she wrote a story about camels that won her a prize in a local writing contest. An admirer suggested that Margarette Burnette should be a writer. But the timing wasn't right, as she was in the first grade and had other priorities. Fast forward a few years: she made it through school (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). She got married. She had kids. And she started writing. Margarette's work has appeared in Parenting, Pregnancy, and Essence magazines. Margarette enjoys visiting schools. Her presentations involve the themes of "counting to ten", "healthy food", and "gardening". If you'd like her to come to your school, please contact Lauren Bradford at JenPrint Publications. She lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband Chuckie and two boys, ages four and six.
Behind the Scenes - How My Children's Book Was Created
Guest Blog by Margarette Burnette Children's Book Author
I'm going to spend the first day discussing how I wrote Counting in the Crazy Garden. Later on in the week I'll also talk about how children have responded to the story, what a typical writing day is like for me, and my professional tips for aspiring children's writers. Counting in the Crazy Garden is the first book of the Chipper Kids™ series. The Chipper Kids are Arnold and Albert Chipper and their friend Maria--all three very cuddly teddy bears whose personalities remind me of my own sons and their friends. The book came about because I was looking for a way to get my kids to sample the veggies on their plates. Since I had a hard time convincing them that their meals were good, I created a story where the characters were given truly crazy ‘snacks’. By the time I got to the end of the tale, my kids had a new appreciation
for good food. At that point, I knew the story could be a book for other children to enjoy. Writing the book wasn't as simple as coming up with the concept, though. I'm used to writing magazine articles for parents, where I can include lots of information in several paragraphs. When writing for children, however, you use few words and every single one must count. The chosen words also have to allow the illustrator to draw great pictures. That's why I created the"jiggly wiggly wobbly worm cobbler" and "hairy, scary spider cookies". The next point I had to grasp--and this may seem obvious--is that I needed to actually have a plot in my story. Usually, the magazine pieces I write are how-to articles. They have a beginning, middle, and end, but they don't need to have fictional characters who display a wide range of emotions. In my first draft of Counting in the Crazy Garden, I used that same formula, and the result was a boring story. Fortunately, I had an excellent editor, Jen Weiss Handler, who steered me in the right direction. She told me she liked the counting concept and the crazy picture words, but there really wasn’t enough tension. I had Albert and Maria practically rolling around laughing at each creation Arnold made. By the end of the story, nothing happened. I needed a plot. What if Albert and Maria were actually annoyed with Arnold’s offerings? What if they were truly hungry, and they thought Arnold might really be trying to offer them something edible to eat? Introduce that into the manuscript, and "Aha"! Now we have a story. After that, it was easy to keep the plot moving along, and to also introduce gardens and vegetables at the end without being too preachy. The results so far are great. The kids I read to love the book! Tomorrow, I’ll talk about how kids respond at my classroom visits, and I'll also answer the questions they ask me about what it’s like to write for children. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... What interesting names for your snacks. I'm surprised your children weren't asking for them in particular. :) You are so right about the difficulty in writing picture books. Each word does count and you do need the tension to interest the little readers. Is your book available for purchase? Margarette Burnette said... Thank you! Yes, my book is available for purchase through traditional bookstores as well as the online retailers.
Guest Blog by Margarette Burnette Childrens Book Author In my last post, I talked about what it was like to write Counting in the Crazy Garden and how my editor helped me create a plot that would resonate with kids. Today, I'm going to talk about what happens when I make school visits. When I enter the media center or classroom, many of the students are already familiar with the story. They’re primed and eager to say “ewwww!” when I talk about Arnold giving his friends a “jiggly wiggly wobbly worm cobbler”. They love the funny word play. They also love to repeat the “no way” responses each time Arnold offers up one of his outrageous creations. Usually, the students are studying a related topic: healthy foods, growing a bean plant, or counting to ten. "Counting in the Crazy Garden" reinforces what they've already been learning. My book's target is a younger audience: preschoolers and young elementary children. Pre-K and Kindergarten classes get most involved with word play, but they still enjoy the colorful pictures. Older audiences appreciate the work, too, but I mostly talk to them about how a book is made. I discuss how it involves a team of people: the author, illustrator, editor, art director, and publisher. Then, I talk about how the publisher contacts different stores and schools to bring the book to them. For fifth and sixth graders, I supplement my pictures books with my magazine articles and talk with the students about how magazines are made. Both types of writing round out my freelance career. If you're interested in learning more about how I write for children, stay tuned. My next post will be my personal best tips for reaching young audiences. BTW, Chipper Kids: Counting in the Crazy Garden is available from both online and traditional bookstores. To find out more about what I'm doing, please visit my Chipper Kids blog. Thanks! Kim Chatel said... Thanks for the informative article, Margarette. I'm going to be doing school visits soon too, for my book "Rainbow Sheep," so I'm eating up any advice I can find. Beverly Stowe McClure said... Your school visits sound like a lot of fun, Margarette. I bet the kids look forward to seeing you and your books.
Margarette Burnette http://www.chipperkids.com/blog/
I am an Aussie who writes midgrade adventure fiction and rhyming picture books. For the past 25 years I have lived in Oregon with my husband and family. My 6 books series of rhyming picture books are fun and educational. They bring kids closer to many of the neat animals in the US and Australia. Excerpts and illustrations from these books can be viewed on my BOOKS page, along with instructions on how to BUY and great reviews. BOOKS: http://mysite.verizon.net/mfinke/Books.html#clues "Musings," my monthly column for children's writers, can be read in The Purple Crayon and the SCBWI NewsWorthy magazine. My Website offers help to upcoming writers, and my Critique Service can help you iron out plot and character problems. Nothing gives me a greater thrill than to find out an editor bought a book I helped polish. Gardening, travel, and my cats, fill in the cracks between writing. MUSINGS MY WEBSITE CRITIQUE SERVICE My husband, Alan, is very supportive, though not interested in children's books himself. Our three children are now grown and doing very well out on their own. I didn't begin serious writing until the day our youngest left for college. This late start drives my writing, and pushes me to work at it every day. I really envy those who began young, and managed to slip into writing mode between kid fights, diaper changes, household disasters, and outside jobs. You are my heroes! E-MAIL ME - We can chat about writing. email@example.com
POSTS BY MARGOT
My name is Margot Finke, and I am an Aussie who has lived in Oregon for many years. I have 2 x Blogs: #1 - http://margotfinke.blogspot.com/ #2 - http://rattlesnakejam-blogspotcom.blogspot.com/ + a Website, and I write rhyming picture books, and midgrade books. You said I could do what I like - WOW - this will be fun! So, I will jump right in and tell you about my new picture book "Rattlesnake Jam." Of course half the crazy fun comes from Kevin Scott Collier's illustrations. He captured Gran and Pa just right. See, Gran wants Pa to catch as many rattlers as he can, so she can make them into her "cure everything" concoction. Pa catches 'em all right, but yearns for a few made into fritters, or maybe into yummy rattlesnake pie, instead of jam. Has quite a ring to it - right? All this fun and craziness is told in rhyme!! Here are a couple of my favorite illustrations:
Pa dreaming of Rattlesnake Pie. . .
Gran selling her Rattlesnake Jam
Gran with her "Jam" Hopefully, Rattlesnake Jam (Guardian Angel Publishing) will be out in soft cover and on CD some time this spring Helen: It sounds like a very interesting story! Where did the story idea come from? (I am curious.) Margot: Helen, the idea for "Rattlesnake Jam" just came to me one day. I have a brain that naturally rhymes, and it is not hard for me to get into rhyming mode. I must confess it is one of my favorites.
Margot's Back - More Serious Now, Mates.
Dinner is over, dishes done, and my husband is safe watching TV. I promised serious talk, so here goes:
I don't think you can overrate the value of Networking. Men have done it since dirt was invented, and it paid off for them in CEO positions, and other high places of employment. Women in the workforce have finally woke up to networking, and now the glass ceiling is cracking for them as well. Writing is no longer a hobby for those who have a little spare time. Today, writing is a business you have to work at - ask the publishers. It sure is a business to them. And not only the writing part. These days we writers must know how to choose the right
publisher, write a Press Release, contact newspapers, radio and TV for interviews and print space, as well as entertain and inform children during paid school visits. All this in the name of promoting our books and making sales. Successful writers today have a full time CAREER! So, where should you network for best results: Writer's conferences are a good place to start. Mingling and making friends with fellow writers is a way to find good critique partners and discover trade secrets. SCBWI branches offer conferences in every state, as well as overseas. Editors and agents, that mostly unapproachable breed, can be safely stalked at a conference, with a good chance of getting permission to send your first three chapters, or complete PB, for them to read. With so many of the larger houses and their imprints closed to unpublished writers, only a writing conferences bestows this privilege. And you know, most editors, when viewed up close and personal, turn out to be quite human. They, too, are often at the mercy of those higher up the publication food chain. Gone are the days when if an editor loved your book, it was a shoe-in to be published. Another great place to network is online writing lists. For sheer volume of writing information, support and encouragement, they can't be beat. Writing lists like CW, CWToday and CW-BIZ + your state SCBWI list, are great places to find critique groups, ask writing, publishing, and agent questions, and suddenly feel you have found friends who actually "get" your passion for the written word. There are also many other great writing lists worth joining. Ask around. Get recommendations. Over time, you build lasting friendships, improve your writing, and the knowledge of what you need to do to add that final polish to your manuscript. The more writing contacts you make, and the more editors and agents you meet at conferences, the easier it becomes to network further afield. Every new contact you make is another rung on a ladder you have successfully climbed. Suddenly YOU are the one answering newcomers questions. YOU get asked to give a writing workshop at a conference. YOU receive an acceptance instead of another rejection. YEA!!You discover you have built up an impressive folder of publishers, agents, bookstores and school information you can use over-and-over, AND share with others. Like a snowball rolling downhill, your networking portfolio grows fat with accumulated knowledge. When this happens, you can enjoy the pleasure of sharing your knowledge with those who are just starting out in the business of writing for children. Happy Networking, Mates!
"RATTLESNAKE JAM" - Requested Verses.
For year-after-year, our crazy old Gran, Nagged Pa into filling her best cooking pan. Gran cooked up some doozeys, but her best of all scam, Was the bottling and selling of rattlesnake jam.
Pa hankered for rattler served hot on a plate. He surely deserved it, so why the long wait? But snake cooked for Pa was not in Gran's plan. She dreamed of them sweetened and made into jam. Pa and Gran battle it out until the end. . . "Musings" -- Website -- BLOG SUZANNE: Margot Finke is not only a wonderful children's writer, she's also a great teacher. Read her posts carefully. She knows what she's talking about when it comes to children's writing, that's for sure. Go, Margot! Suzanne Lieurance National Writing for Children Center http://www.writingforchildrencenter.com
Margot - SWINGIN' in the JUNGLE BLOGFEST!!
Thanks to Lea Schizas, I have this wonderful opportunity to Blog alongside other talented writers and illustrators, on Lea's Blog YEA!
TO BUSINESS: My big RANT these days is about children's books on CD and download, and why sales for them are not better. I think some of the problem lies in the fact that in the beginning, many of these books were just plain terrible - lack of good editing, and professional illustrations, made buyers feel ripped off. Strictly amateur stuff. Nowadays that is changing. Writers are researching, learning the publishing ropes, and realizing that every book needs to be well edited before publication - even e-books and books on CD. However, the stigma still hovers - like that faint whiff of fish or cabbage after last night's meal. All Publishing success is built on QUALITY - quality writing, quality illustrations, and quality layout and printing. You have to know what you are doing before you attempt to publish your own book. Thankfully, today there are great online writing lists that will point you in the right direction, answer questions, and offer support as you struggle to DO IT RIGHT! BUT BE FOREWARNED. It takes hard cash to have your book properly edited, layout done, and published with good paper and binding. All this gives you a book your can promote ( more time and money, mates) with pride. RANT OVER! <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><> On the lighter and more fun side of books on CD, I would like to share how I began writing my rhyming series of 6 PBs about animals from the US and Australia - publisher WritersExchange. Many years ago, when my American husband brought us from Australia to Oregon, our two youngest were still preschool. I didn't want them to forget their Aussie heritage, so I put up a map of Australia that had all their weird and wonderful animals on it. Every I night said, "Pick an animal, and I'll tell you a story about it." And I did - right off the top of my head. When they went to school I became a Teacher's Aid. I soon found myself telling the classes all about Down Under and it's critters. Off the cuff stories followed. One day a hand raised, and a small voice complained, " But you told it different last
time!" My teacher friend laughed. "For goodness sake write your stories down. Then you won't forget to tell them the same way." So I did. Of course I had always written, but I just never thought these snippets of animal fun were worth the effort. How wrong can a writer be? The saga of finding illustrators for these 6, fun, educational books, soon filled my every waking moment - and some dream time as well! I put out a call to the CW list, asking if any illustrator would like to give their career a boost by taking on one of my rhyming books. I received many replies: and I found two of them in a particularly amazing way. A Turkish friend on the CW list, who spoke and wrote very good English, asked if I would be interested in using two artist friends of hers. One of them illustrated her books, and was a well known portrait painter, with work in European galleries. The other was a well known illustrator and artist. I was thrilled with their samples, and said YES to both of them. Then the fun really began. See, one spoke no English and had no computer. The other spoke and wrote a little English, but did have a computer. So this wonderful CW friend donated her time as go-between, translating and running back and forth with messages and information about what I wanted, and what both illustrators thought worked best. WHEW! it was a marathon effort from both sides of the globe. Yet the finished illustrations from both of them were wonderful. They made my rhymes work like magic. Their art-work jumped off the pages. I am forever grateful to my CW friend unfortunately no longer a CW member, and two great Turkish artists who made "Kangaroo Clues" and "Never Say BOO to a Frilly" such standouts.
And the other illustrators who worked with me also did a terrific job. I was thrilled to bits with the illustrations for every book. So, if you want to see the series, look at cover art, read some sample verses, or BUY them, go to MY BOOKS page. GO HERE to read about the artists who illustrated my books. LEA: NOOO!!! I love rants. Don't stop. I totally agree with you about the sloppy editing and publishers who take whatever is handed over to them. I do believe this is one reason why bookstores have turned their back on many selfpublished authors and that's a shame because there are far too many out there with quality books. PARTICIA: I slipped over to your website and enjoyed it and also your blog! Your comments are right on. My beginning reader series, Fat Cat and Gray Mouse, was on CD. It did well, but then the publisher went out of business, sad to say. Best to you on your series and writing! Pat Harrington Mystery and Children's Author www.patriciaharrington.com
Margot's SIMPLE WORDS and RULES to WRITE by.
Presented Here is an Offering of Writing Wisdom I Have Collected Over the Years.
* Think of Your Chapters as Gardens to be Tended:
Weed out weak words and characters. Prune overlong sidetracks. Stake up those wobbly plots, and dig out sentences that don't move your story forward.
* A Few Pithy Sayings - If the "Pith" fits, scrap it!
*Don't waffle on. Waffles are for breakfast, not for writing! *Adverbs are like leaches - they stick to weak verbs. *Strong verbs in play keep rejections at bay. *Powerful verbs are a writer's best friend. *Make your writing as tight as your Aunt Fanny's new girdle. *A great book is like a house - it sits on a strong foundation. *Write it once, write it well, and then move on. *A watched mailbox never delivers a contract. *True happiness is a terrific 4 star book review.
*Writing Wisdom Worth Hoarding:
First, Understand Book Categories. Polish your basic writing skills.
*The 5 "C" Rules for Writing Compelling Fiction:
CHARACTERS: both you and the reader care about. COMPLICATIONS: something happens: crises, conflict. CHOICES: your character makes. CONFLUENCE: tie it all together at the end. CONCISE: make the writing tight.
(don't waffle on about things that don't move the plot forward) *SETTING, SETTING, SETTING - Expose your readers to new worlds. All readers (editors & agents included) love to learn as they read. Whenever possible, place your action in a setting that treats your readers to a locale about which they know very little. A dairy farm, a secret intelligence agency, a coalmine, even another time in history are all settings that have the potential to transport readers to new worlds. It's no secret that the success of medical and legal thrillers is due in large part to their "settings" (we all love to learn about the inner workings of hospitals and courtrooms.) Readers love to learn, so choose settings that teach. *IN AND OUT SCENE-BUILDING - Keep things moving Regardless of what type of manuscript you're writing, scenes that "drag" are the kiss of death. Often, dull scenes are the result of elaborate setups and wind-downs -- extra commentary before and after the critical event. You often hear successful authors and screenwriters quote the mantra, "In late, out early." This simply means that they open their scenes as late into the action as possible and close their scenes as early as possible
(often before the action has even concluded.) If you have a scene that seems to drag, try trimming from the beginning and the end rather than the middle. *A SOLE DRAMATIC QUESTION - Build your foundation with a SINGLE brick. The best manuscripts have a single dramatic question: Will Ahab catch the whale? Will the Jackal kill his target? Will the young lawyer escape the corrupt law firm that hired him? The twists and turns in your novel can (and should!) be intricate, but your foundation needs to have a sole, central conflict around which all the action revolves. A good way to test your manuscript is to synopsize your plot in a single sentence. Can you do it? *INFORMATION WEAVING - Doling out description in bite-sized chunks. Once you've researched the "specifics" of your novel, there is an overwhelming urge not to let any of it go to waste. Be careful. Long dry passages of description are a turnoff to readers and agents alike. Remember, we read novels to find out what happens to characters (if we want to read a five-page description of New Delhi, we buy a travel guide.) whenever possible, intersperse your factual description with action and dialog. Better yet, have your characters interacting with your description, that is, let your characters see, smell, and taste your specifics. *Creating Tesnion: The Three C's The Clock - The Crucible - The Contract. We've all heard of the four C's of diamond buying, but writing suspenseful fiction has some C's of its own. Here are three elements that your favorite authors invariably employ in their manuscripts to infuse their stories with extra pace and tension. *THE CLOCK: Placing your action in the shadow of a ticking clock. Nothing intensifies dramatic tension like time pressure.. a fixed window of opportunity after which all is lost. In some genres the time pressure literally can be a ticking bomb (a la James Bond), but more subtle ways exist to apply time pressure. Bridges of Madison County is a good example. In Bridges, the heroine must make a major life decision before her family returns from vacation in three days. (If she'd had the rest of her life to make the decision, the story would have been dull.) Time pressure forces your characters to take action. *THE CRUCIBLE: Constraining your characters as you apply the heat. A crucible is defined in Webster's as "an enclosed vessel used for melting materials at high temperatures." Whenever possible, place your characters in a crucible. Lock them in to that when you turn up the heat, they do not have the option of running away. In other words, tie our characters' hands and force them to become resourceful in finding a solution to whatever challenges you put before them. Peter Benchley created a brilliant crucible for his characters in the final scene of Jaws. He placed them on a sinking boat... with the radio blown out... miles from shore... the shark closing in. Even if his characters wanted to run, they could not. They were constrained. The ocean was their crucible. *THE CONTRACT: Making promises to your reader, and then keeping them. Good
writers create tension by filling the pages of their novels with "promises" to their readers. For example, if an author makes ominous mention of a loaded shotgun in the closet, the reader perceives this as a contract with the author: If I keep reading, that shotgun will be used. This promise serves as foreshadowing and creates tension. When will the gun be used? Against whom? Promises can work on more subtle levels too. By describing a gathering storm outside a character's window (and doing it in just the right way) you can promise your reader that tough times lay ahead for this poor soul. Again tension. Remember, though, once you make your reader a promise, you better deliver... *CHECKLIST FOR MIDGRADE & YA 1) SETTING: Does my setting reveal a "new world" to my readers? Does it have the potential to teach? 2) IN-AND-OUT SCENE BUILDING: Do my scenes start late and end early? Does my plot keep moving? Can I trim excess fat from lead-ins and wrap-ups? 3) DRAMATIC QUESTION: Is the fundamental question driving the action a simple one? Can my plot be summed up in a single sentence? 4) TENSION: Do I employ the three C's? Do my characters exist in the shadow of a ticking clock? Are they constrained by some sort of crucible? Do I make contracts with my reader... and then follow through? 5) RESEARCH: Do I know enough about my topic to write a manuscript filled with specifics? What (specifically) will my reader learn? 6) WEAVING INFORMATION: Is my background information "woven" into my story, or does it occur in long blocks of description? 7) REVISION: Have I reworked my manuscript many times? Have others read it and offered criticism? Have I tightened dull scenes? Have I seasoned the stew? Some of this information is mine, while other pieces of it were sent to me, or given to me over the years by other writers. Hold these writing words of wisdom close, and practice using them daily. If you do this, your manuscript stands a good chance of an acceptance. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Margot,there hasn't been one single post so far that I haven't enjoyed from you. Very informative, motivating, and inspiring. Thank you for an amazing week so far. Jewel Sample said...
HA! Love your pithy sayings. It feels good to laugh at painful truth as well as learn. I think the one about Aunt Fanny's new girdle is the one I will remember. My mother-inlaw's name is Fanny, so my imagination just had to go there.... Thanks so much, http://jewelsamples.blogspot.com
I had the privilege of reading and reviewing Mayra's picture book The Magic Violin. Multi-genre author and reviewer Mayra Calvani hails from San Juan, Puerto Rico. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, playing the violin, interviewing other authors for her blogs and newsletters, and watching too many reruns of Gilmore Girls. She's the author of The Magic Volin and CRASH! www.mayrassecretbookcase.com
THE MAGIC VIOLIN, by Mayra Calvani
The Magic Violin
A little girl learns the mysterious power of self esteem in this children’s story which combines violin music, magic, Christmas, and the charm of Europe. What reviewers are saying... “Filled with old world charm, children will find this book has a distinctive foreign flavor. Illustrations are reminiscent of earlier days and the story itself conveys an old-fashioned feeling. The magic of a European Christmas Eve comes to life through text and pictures in this gentle tale for music lovers. Young violinists may discover their own dose of selfconfidence in this unique picture book.” –Nancy K. Wallace, librarian and VOYA
reviewer "Mayra strings the reader with her simple yet precise words, and the illustrations bring the whole book to life. The Magic Violin is a tale of believing in yourself, a ‘feel good’ classical read."--Lea Schizas, Muse Book Reviews "The Magic Violin is a wonderful Christmas story..." --Midwest Book Review "... The Magic Violin is an inspiring and uplifting book about a young girl and her realization that believing in oneself can have a very magical outcome... Mayra’s book definitely has a strong message, one that is important and everlasting. For children and jaded adults alike, The Magic Violin will lift spirits and just may give you and your child the boost to believe in your power to reach your goals." --Mama Divas "I love children’s books that inspire. And The Magic Violin inspires and entertains. The story is set in Belgium (where the author lives) and is sweet, well-written and zero’s in on a huge problem with many children; self-esteem. The illustrations are all lovely but the cover captivates the reader’s attention. It is so beautiful it could be framed... "The Magic Violin" is a must read, must have for children. They’ll be inspired by the story and the illustrations will delight them."--Andrea Sisco, Armchair Interviews About the author: Multi-genre author and reviewer Mayra Calvani hails from San Juan, Puerto Rico. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, playing the violin, interviewing other authors for her blogs and newsletters, and watching too many reruns of Gilmore Girls. For her latest books, reviews, and interviews with other authors, visit her BLOG. Mayra's other links: Official Website (adult fiction) The Dark Phantom Review, reviews, interviews, short fiction The Fountain Pen, monthly newsletter Violin and Books, violin-related books/reviews and interviews Available from Amazon, B&N, and from your local bookstore. Donna McDine said... Mayra...I had the pleasure of purchasing your book for my daughter, Hayley for Christmas. She started with violin lessons this year and is loving it. She thoroughly enjoyed your book. Reads it all the time!
On Writing Horror AND Children's Books...
A lot of people ask me how I can write chilling horror and sweet children’s picture books at the same time. Somehow they cannot imagine a writer doing that, switching from two absolutely different modes and wandering in such dissimilar imaginary worlds at the touch of a mouse. That question flatters me to some extend, but it also makes me wonder… am I weird? Is there something wrong with me? Do I have split personalities? I hope not! Nah, I’m just a multi-genre, multi-faceted person who is inspired by many things and who feels the need to bring those ideas to life. I don’t think I could ever write in only one genre, as many authors are able to. For me, it would feel claustrophobic! I simply write what I love and I love paranormal, suspense, satire, mystery, modern fantasy, literary, romantic comedy, picture books, tween and young adult fiction, and even nonfiction. Each genre transports me into a marvelous, different dreamland where everything is possible and where I set the rules—except, of course, when my characters take over, as sometimes they seem to think they have control over me. I can write a scary story in the morning, have lunch, then work on a sweet picture book in the afternoon. It’s like switching modes and happens pretty much automatically, though my mood changes as well. Of course, although the actual writing process is the same for all fiction (after all, it doesn’t matter what you write, it all must contain a good plot and flow, compelling characters, sparkling dialogue, etc.), the actual ‘atmospheric’ aids I use for writing change. For instance, I like to listen to haunting, mysterious music when I write horror and paranormal suspense. During the writing of latest horror novel, Dark Lullaby, I spent months listening to the music score of the movie The Village. On occasions I even lit candelabra on my desk. It goes without saying that I would never do this while writing a picture book! During the writing and editing of The Doll Violinist and The Magic Violin, both children’s picture books, I selected soul-filling, sublime violin music. In the end, there is that absolute need to put those thoughts to paper, to convert those ideas to the ‘reality’ of my fictional world, yes, to bring those dreams to life until they become so real, I find myself thinking about the story and conversing with the characters day and night—no matter the genre. This is the way creativity works. Mayra Calvani is a multi-genre author and reviewer. For her horror and paranormal suspense novels, visit www.MayraCalvani.com. For her children’s books, visit www.MayrasSecretBookcase.com. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Oh Mayra, you're not alone. I write in so many genres as well: fantasy paranormal murder mysteries romance dark fiction
besides the children and young adult writing. I find this keeps my muse alive and active as I'm sure it does for you. Chris V. said... Mayra, I'm with you there. But even when I'm trying to write something else, somehow my mind seems to bring in that "horrific" twist. ha! Mayra Calvani said... That's weird--the same goes for me, Chris. There's always a little bit of 'darkness' in my juvenile fiction as well. Not so much for the picture books, but for the middle-grades and YAs for sure. Thanks for the comment, Lea! Yes, I was aware you also write in many genres. When I first started writing for kids I was going to take a pen name, but in the end I opted not to. For a while I was really torn, though, wondering what the best thing would be. Stacey Graham said... This is what I love about writing! I am able to give in to my short attention span and work in whatever genre fits my mood. Ghost stories by day for adults and picture books at night for my daughters. :) Kim Baccellia said... I also write in different genres: paranormal edgy contemporary YA tween mystery multicultural fantasy I've also written my memoir and numerous essays. I'd hate to be tied to just one 'genre'. Very boring. I write what comes to me. A rejection on one of my fulls lead to the premise of a different story. Vivian said... When I write children's, middle-grade, or YA books, I try to write for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, something that will appeal to them, hold their attention, and that they will "want" to read. So far, thankfully, I haven't been led to write horror. I would hate to scare myself. Kim Chatel said... Mayra, Your post is so familiar, I could have written it myself (except the part about the candelabra!). I write horror and dark fantasy for adults and cute, picture books plus YA.
Sometimes I even write literary fiction. Gasp! One advantage to writing across so many genres is the diverse people I meet. My website is dedicated to what I call "Between the Cracks Fiction." That's the kind of fiction that does away with genres. You can take a peek at www.kimmcdougall.com I did take a pen name for my children's fiction, (Kim Chatel) simply because some of my adult fiction is kind of racy (oh yeah, I write erotica too), and I didn't want some little kid's eyes popping out when he googles my name. But I don't make a big secret of my two identities. I'm not superman. The pen names can be a bit of a nuisance though. Some times I forget which hat I'm wearing. Charlie said... I'm so glad to see this story and the comments that go along with it. I too like to write a variety of different styles and the comments about the pen names are just what I needed to hear. Thanks!
My Young Daughter, The Author
Hi all, I wrote this article for OhMyNewsInternational last year. I thought it would be a good follow-up to Kim's post (some links may be outdated): That's right. Talk about living with the competition! Guardian Angel Publishing, a company specializing in children's picture e-books and paperbacks, has started an imprint of books written and illustrated by children under 12 years of age. These books will be given the same amount of attention as those written by their adult counterparts, distributed to schools and libraries by Follett Inc. (the largest distributor of children's e-books to schools and libraries) and sold through all the major online retailers as well as on order at any brick-and-mortar bookstore. The low expense of electronic and print-on-demand publishing has made this innovation possible. Of course my daughter is thrilled … how can she not be? Already all her classmates have asked for her autograph and her school librarian bought a copy of her book. There's no question a thing like this can do wonders for a child's confidence and self-esteem, not to mention the way it also encourages and nurtures a child's artistic talents. She's already planning a sequel and I can't blame her. Take a look at her book: Angel in a Bubble. How did I find out about this publisher? How did my daughter come to write and illustrate a book? Actually, I didn't even know there were publishers who were doing this. I stumbled upon this company while searching a publisher for myself. As to how did my daughter write and illustrate the book, it happened last summer … yes, on those long, hot and often boring summer days when you have nothing to do and wish school would start soon. We
turned the kitchen into an atelier -- papers, paints, brushes, pencils, crayons everywhere. I wanted to teach her the whole process of how a picture book is made. She worked and I supervised. Sometimes I helped, too. When she faltered, I kept encouraging her. After five days (we worked about three to four hours a day), we had what is called a dummy! When, a few months later, I stumbled upon Guardian Angel Publishing, I knew I had to give it a try. Lynda Burch, the publisher, answered the same day. She said she loved the book and would like to encourage my daughter's talent. The rest is history. My daughter is the first author under this imprint, "Angel to Angel," but there are books by other young authors in line as well. Is this to remain an oddity or will it become a trend? I have devoted and plan to still devote time promoting her book, but would a mom who is not an author know how to do this? What about book reviewing? So far I have not been too successful gathering reviews because most reviewers, while they congratulate my daughter on her achievement, aren't sure how to critique a child's work. As a reviewer, I fully understand, so I'm concentrating on gathering endorsements instead. Guardian Angel Publishing is offering contests sponsored in elementary schools and will select winners for publication. If your child has written and illustrated a book and you would be interested in seeing it published, you may find more information and submission guidelines on the publisher's Web site. This publisher does the layout and cover design and publishes the book in various electronic formats at its own expense. In this sense, it is a traditional electronic publisher in every sense of the word. For the paperback version, however, which is optional, there is a fee of $99 for the printer. A few other publishers and e-zines are venturing into this new type of publishing and offering young authors the opportunity to express their talents and see their work in print. Some of these publishers are Kids Love to Write Children's Publishing and Booklocker, though this last focuses on novellas/novels and doesn't do full-color picture books. There are fees involved so parents are advised to check the publishers' Web sites carefully. Another company that works with children is First Edition Originals. However, this company specializes in custom-made books and unlike the other companies mentioned, the books aren't put for sale or distributed but rather sold to the authors to be given to friends and family members. The books by First Edition Originals can be quite expensive but are beautifully made and bound, and can compete in quality with any hardcover book sold at major brick-and-mortar bookstores. I can attest to their quality and professionalism because my daughter has published two titles with them. The low cost of electronic publishing has also made it possible for magazines to publish young authors' works. Stories for Children, Launch Pad, Silly Books, Apollo's Junior Muses, Wee Ones Magazine and Kids Bookshelf are some of the e-zines/Web sites that consider poetry, short fiction and artwork by children. For those kids who love reading and would like to review books, there are review sites
specifically for young reviewers: Building Rainbows and Reader Views Kids. Kids Bookshelf (mentioned earlier) also publishes book reviews written by children.There's a book available to help children draw and write their own books. The title is Helping Kids Draw and Write Picture Books, written by Emily Hearn and Mark Thurman. There's even computer software that helps kids ages 8 and up write and publish their work. The program is called "Knowledge Adventure Books by You!" In the end, I think this is something schools should definitely get involved with in order to encourage students to read and write more. There must be thousands of talented little authors out there who aren't even aware of their talents and whose creativity needs unleashing and nurturing. Even if you don't submit to a publisher (though I have to tell you, there's nothing quite like holding your child's published book in your hands!) writing and illustrating a book is a fun and educational activity for your child during those long summer holidays. Kim Chatel said... Tell your daughter congrats on her success. You both must be so thrilled. I am also a GAP author (my picture book "Rainbow Sheep" will be out in May), so I know the quality of their publications. I hope my daughter will take advantage of the GAP program for kids one day. She is only 8 now, but she already likes to write poetry. elysabeth said... Mayra, Congrats to you and your daughter. I noticed you have different last names. Is that because you are writing under an alias? Now you could write under your own name and wing it off your daughter's success. Only kidding because what I saw in a previous post your "Magic Violin" book is well done and stands on its own. Good job. I have been trying to encurage my kids to do something over the long summer months but now it is too late; they are teenagers and have such large consuming activities that it isn't any wonder I hardly see them over the summer (thank goodness though because the more they are out and about, the more work I do get done). Beautiful book and I will have to see if I can order the ebook (although the printed version would be better for my nieces or my husband's granddaughters). Thank you for encouraging the young ones in our lives. See you all in the postings - E :) Beth Fehlbaum, Author said... I'm a teacher and I'd love to share this info with my fifth graders, who are all children of Mexican immigrants. What a cool way to empower kids. Thanks! Beth Fehlbaum, author
Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse http://courageinpatience.blogspot.com
My Pen Name and I... Have Broken Up
Hi all, I wrote this piece last year, when my first children's book came out and I felt really torn between having a pen name or not. Best, Mayra Since I have several children’s titles coming up later this year and the next, I thought it would be a good idea to get a pen name. For one thing, my children’s book publisher advised me to do this. I write horror fiction, and normally people don’t like associating a horror name with children’s books, which is a fair argument. The idea of acquiring a double persona was also appealing in a dark way, like having multiple personalities without being demented. Many authors use pen names for different reasons. Some authors wish to keep their real names private even though they only write in one genre. Others adopt pen names to ‘brand’ and distinguish their different works, as would be my case. Still others use pen names because they find their real names too common or boring, not ‘catching’ enough. Some authors use pen names simply because their publishers tell them to do so. There are many authors out there who write books in similar subgenres (romantic adventure/romantic suspense/paranormal romance, etc.) yet have multiple pen names for each category. It is often common for romance authors to adopt pen names that sound ‘romantic’ or somehow match the theme and tone of their books. Sometimes pen names are useful to avoid confusing readers. For example, an author who has written ten novels in only one specific genre (like crime fiction) would be advised to use a pen name if he/she suddenly writes a book in a completely different genre (historical romance) because fans of this author would already have fixed expectations. Since I write in so many genres—horror, dark paranormal, literary fantasy, satire, YA, children’s, and non-fiction—this rule doesn’t apply to me. If it did, I would have to get too many pen names. The reasons stated above could be viewed as advantages. However, there are disadvantages as well, the biggest one being promoting your new or various pen names. Let’s face it, with so many thousands of authors on the internet, it’s already an arduous task promoting only one name. Authors who use more than one pen name have to spend twice or triple the amount of time promoting all their names. Multiple pen names mean multiple websites, blogs, author pages and email accounts, not to mention promotional material like press kits, postcards, bookmarks—all these in the end amount to more money. Still, with so many authors using pen names it’s obvious people think it’s worth it.
But how do you decide if you need a pen name? Ask yourself the following questions: *Do you wish to keep your real name private? *Is your name too common, plain and ugly? (If you’ve always hated your name, this is your chance to have a new one!) *Have you always been attracted by the idea of having two or more personas? *Do you wish to separate your fiction from your nonfiction? *Do you wish to separate your different types of fiction from each other? (There are situations where this is almost an absolute necessity. For instance, you should have two different names if you write erotica and children’s books, for obvious reasons. The same goes for books which are overtly violent, as is the case with some types of horror and crime fiction.) *Are you already known as the author of many books in the same genre? *Do you loath or love book promotion? *Do you have the time and resources required to promote more than one author name? *Are you an author who also happens to be a self publisher? (If your name is Wilson Harris, and you plan on self publishing your book under this name, you sure wouldn’t want your small press to be named Wilson Harris Publications!) As I said, in my case I didn’t want my horror or dark paranormal fiction to have a negative influence over the parents who are going to buy my children’s books. I considered various pen names and finally opted for M.C. Garcia, which in fact could be considered as one of my real names—Mayra Calvani Garcia (this last one my mother’s last name). It was ‘close to home’ so it felt good. I knew I needed a separate website under this name, but I decided to wait and start a blog first to test the waters—boy, am I glad I did. Because, you see, I made a big mistake before choosing that pen name—I forgot to google it! I knew that Garcia was a pretty common name, but I never thought that M.C. Garcia was just as common. Not only did I now have a common pen name, but I also had to compete for search ranks among hundreds of thousands of others with this name. Even though I had signed with Technorati to send their powerful ‘spiders’ to detect my blog tags, my blog/pen name was sunk under all those others M.C. Garcias on the net. A lot of people told me that they liked my real name for children’s books as well, so in the end I told myself, Why not keep my name as it is? For one thing, it is a pretty unique, unusual name. It also has a nice ring to it. Yes, I write horror, but it’s not graphic or particularly offensive. And anyway, even if I use different names, it’s not as if people aren’t going to find out. After all, I would have to put a button on my children’s book website directing readers to my other website, and vice versa. While using a pen name for children’s books may not always be a necessity, having a separate website is a must, and there’s a good reason for it. In the US, children’s book authors cannot get their websites listed in many sites and rings and get free PR if their websites contain adult book information. Okay, so I was decided. I would keep my name but have a separate website under another domain name. This time, I wrote down several possibilities, then I went straight to Google!
Most of my choices were already taken (so much for my originality!). Then I realized my domain name would be unique if I added ‘Mayras’ at the beginning… thus http://www.mayrassecretbookcase.com/ was born. I deleted the M.C. Garcia blog and created this instead: http://www.mayrassecretbookcase.blogspot.com/. After a lot of mental struggle, I think I’m happy with my decision. Getting one or multiple pen names might work for you. Just make sure you get a few opinions from your publisher, fellow authors, and friends before you make a decision. Most importantly, be sure to google it too before going through the trouble and expense of starting a blog and setting up a website. Kim Chatel said... Mayra I commented on this in your other post about writing horror and children's fiction. I write both too, and sometimes a little mild erotica. My horror can be rather graphic, too. So I opted for a pen name. For me, the choice was easy. Kim McDougall is my maiden and legal name. I was married in Quebec where women don't take their husband's names anymore. So I use my husband's name Kim Chatel (which is a name I love. It's pronounced Sha-tel) for children's fiction. Luckily, both are unusual enough to google well. I also have two websites and yes, the promotion is double the cost. However, I'm not sure if it's double the work (except for the websites). I would promote my children's books and adult books anyway. We'll see. My picture book comes out soon and I am planning to do a lot of promos. Then my adult fantasy comes out later this summer. So I'm up for a busy, busy year. Thanks for posting this article. It's nice to read about someone in a similar situation as mine. Mayra Calvani said... I love your last name--Chatel. It has a Parisian flair! For me, it has worked well so far. Sometimes I regret not having a pen name, but sometimes I think, "It's not a big deal". I mean, it's not as if I'm well-known as a horror author. I don't know why it was such a tough choice for me, when I see many authors out there writing under many names (frankly, I don't know how they do it!) Kim Chatel said... Thanks Mayra. Chatel is a French name. I love the flair too. You can take a look at my websites www.kimchate.com Picture book coming soon. Stone Beach already out. At www.kimmcdougall.com I have my Between the Cracks Digest. The Feb issue is up now, but I'll be changing it in the next couple of days. As for horror titles, I have mostly short stories. My two fantasy novels will be out this year with Double Dragon.
I'll be spending some time on your site too. Sounds great. I forgot to mention, I actually have a third pen name! I had a romance novel published 10 years ago. I'm not sure why I used a pen name for that one, except that I don't usually write romance. Anyway, I'm glad I did, because the publisher butchered it. The editing was so poor, they actually made it worse, not better. I am thankful now that my real name isn't on it. I don't promote it at all. My contract with the publisher expires next year. I plan to rewrite it and publish it again under Kim McDougall. Kim Baccellia said... I use a pen name to protect the privacy of my adopted son. His social worker strongly suggested I use a pen name with my writing. Later on I might even use another one for my other writing, including my edgy YA.
"A mother of two young boys, I live and work in a small town in Southern Ontario, Canada. Married to my first love, the antics of my own crazy family herd (as shown by the picture) never cease to provide me with inspiration.
"There is nothing like a smile and the laughter of children to fill the heart. I sincerely hope Harriet brings a smile to children everywhere....and not just the young, for we are never too old to smile or too young to learn."
Teensy Tiny Fun
Stacy Dawn Good afternoon everyone! First let me thank Lea for hosting such a wonderful week for both authors and readers of Children's stories. For those who don't know me, I have a new children's ebook series out called, The Adventures of Harriet, the Half-pint Holstein from Firedrakes Weyr Publishing. The unique thing about Harriet is that she is a Very, very, very small cow. Her humorous escapades have her meeting all sorts of friends and finding adventures in big and little places. You may think an ebook series for children is also unique, but with the technology flowing within school these days, ebooks are becoming more and more popular (especially for the fact that they are much more easily stored on a computer than an overflowing bookshelf). Children love the technology of computers, and to enhance their love of reading along with this is a win-win benefit to kids, parents, and teachers. Let's see, a bit about myself for today's introduction? I live in Southern Ontario, Canada
with my husband and two sons ages 4 and 6. I started writing Harriet after my first son was born. I loved reading him stories and started making up some of my own. Considering there are cows flowing out of my kitchen and office in all sorts of shapes and sizes, it was a natural process to start writing about one. My goal has always been to make the stories entertaining but also to touch upon the trials that children have with being small in a big wide world. Harriet's adventures shows both the problems and the accomplishments that come from being different and I hope her enthusiasm for adventures captures the hearts of children of all ages. I also illustrate the covers for the series. With a background in photograpy and graphic arts, I was thrilled with the opportunity Firedrakes Weyr gave me to do my own illustrations. I actually have a picture of Harriet in my office that my oldest son drew when he was 3 years old--a purple, blobbing rendition that I love because even at a young age, he was showing his mom some love and support. I am so blessed to have the full support of my family behind my dreams. In connection with my stories, I've created a website for Harriet where you can find her stories as well as fun activities for the kids. So pop by http://www.harrietholstein.com/ for my books and some playtime fun! I was also on the blogtalk radio program, The Puddle People, talking about the series and reading excerpts from my stores. You can catch an archived copy here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/puddlepeople and scroll down to the interview with Stacy Dawn! As noted there on the side, I'll be giving away a Harriet Magnet and Bookmark as a doorprize....and tomorrow is the release date for my second book of the series, The Troll in the Chicken Coop! Mayra Calvani said... The cover is very cute! Must be a fun series to young kids! Children find cows realy cute. I know my daughter loves them. Stacy Dawn said... Yes, Mayra, they are a brand new e-publisher who opened their doors on January 31st. They are working hard to get their name out there and their authors as well. They do a variety of genres too and I was thrilled to discover an epublisher who also focuses on children, that in itself is rare. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Hello Stacy. Loved your post. I'm looking forward reading about your LIttle cow who gets into BIG and little things. :)
Also, thank you for introducing us to a new publisher. I have to say I was glad to read that more and more schools are open to children's ebooks because the opportunity to use a computer combined with reading educational books is very appealing.
For Readers and Writers
How do you choose what to write/read for children? Is it also something you enjoy or something you researched that you thought would be interesting for you/them? Like I said earlier in the week, I have a collection of cows and just something about their casual lifestyle strikes a peaceful cord with me. They are big and bulky and sometimes funny looking--they are, to me, simply a happy animal. That extension of my mind set lended to the eventual use of one as a heroine in my stories for young children. Do you tend to gravitate towards things that touch a cord with you personally, or that you hope will touch something within the child/youth you are writing for? And yes LOL, I realize a lot of these questions are sort of a combination of both, but I love hearing the process of other writers, what motivates them, inspires them, and keeps them doing what they love in a very hard career choice. And also what readers are looking for for their own children or as caregivers to others. Stacy Dawn
Carma said... I think gravitating toward familiar ideas and stories are natural. Just recently I found myself asking my grandkids for ideas since I see them everyday and they are a great resource. Jewel Sample said... I have definitely gravitated toward what tugs at the heart strings with my first children's book, Flying Hugs and Kisses. What motivates me to write is my fourteen grandchildren who beg me to tell them one
more story before their playdate ends. I love encouraging children to have courage and fun with made up stories about everyday events. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Stacy, I come up with a title believe it or not and then the story unfolds for me. I don't think of a concept. Maybe I'm just wierd but a title does it for me.
I've enjoyed reading about the various author/illustrators this week. I do both for my series as well, but this is the first time I've done painting for more than just a hobby. It was a little daunting to start with because, though writing throws me out into the spotlight, I'd never really shown anyone my artwork. Now, you would think that wouldn't make a difference but it was like submitting that first story--like sending your baby off on the school bus for the first time all alone out in the big wide world. I remember the first manuscript I ever submitted hoping for the best--that it would go straight to the top of the pile and be the best they ever read (yes, you can all snort, one thing submitting teaches you very quickly is humility LOL) but all the while nervous because I was revealing a large part of myself. Well, that one and many more didn't make the cut but each one was a learning process. You learn more from the rejections, trust me. You learn to research and study your craft, you learn to improve yourself, to practice and practice and write and write. The more you do, the better you become until eventually, someone sees that spark--that voice you've worked hard to project, and takes a chance on you. Publication is NOT an overnight success. For most writers it takes years and years of honing our skills, working, building, writing, editing, etc. And I'll be honest, even now with a number of both romances and children's stories published, the minute I put a new submission or piece of artwork in the mail or hit that SEND button, all the anxiety puddles around just like that first time. I may have more confidence in what I do now, but there is always that element of putting yourself out there for all the world to see and hoping someone believes in you as much as you try to believe in yourself. Writing, whether for children or adults, is a hard, solitary business. You are the only one who can get
that story written down. You are the only one who knows how it is supposed to turn out. You are the only one who can revise and revise and rewrite until it is ready for submission. You are the only one who can take your baby and put them out into the real world. And you are the only one who it REALLY matters to initially if it is accepted or rejected. That's why moments and weeks like these, when we can get out from behind the computer and talk to others about our work, about our dreams, and about what inspires us to write these stories for you...and for ourselves...mean a great deal to me. It gives me a chance to interact and have fun, to meet new people, readers/writers alike. To gain new inspiration and new insights into the career I've chosen. To show me that all the work I do alone has a vast amount of people waiting to share it when I'm done. Each story, each picture has a piece of me in there, in the words, the expressions, the colors, the expressions, the fun. I'm a pretty simple person, what you see is what you get. And I'm blessed to have a supportive network of family and friends around me to give me the encouragement to build my dreams and share them with you. Thank you all! Stacy Dawn www.stacydawn.com www.harrietholstein.com
Three Simple Writing Mistakes to Avoid
by Suzanne Lieurance A few simple writing mistakes can often make the difference between a very good manuscript and a not-so-good one that is rejected by publishers. Below are just three of the most common mistakes I see day after day as a writing instructor and writing coach: 1) Overuse of participle phrases to begin a sentence. A participle phrase usually begins with a word that ends in the letters "ing." There is nothing wrong with beginning a sentence with a participle phrase. But when you do it too often, it begins to draw attention to itself and distract the reader from the action of the story. Like this: Reaching behind her, Mary grabbed her backpack and ran straight for the woods. Pushing branches and tangled vines out of her way, she was able to find the foot path. But a snake was stretched out across it. Turning around quickly and searching for another way through the forest, she suddenly heard someone call out her name. Notice how clunky that sounds. When you finish writing a story, go back over it and circle all the sentences that begin with a participle phrase. If you have several of these phrases on each and every page, change most of them. Like this: Mary reached behind her and grabbed her backpack, then she ran straight for the woods. She pushed branches and tangled vines out of her way until she was able to find the foot path. But a snake was stretched out across it, so she turned quickly and searched for another way through the forest. Suddenly, she heard someone call out her name. 2) Dislocating or projecting body parts. Yes, many writers actually do this in their stories. The most common example of this is when characters' eyes leave their bodies.
Here’s what I mean: I was angry at my brother. I shot my eyes across the room at him and gave him a dirty look. Yikes! Was the poor brother left holding those eyeballs, or were they just stuck on the front of his shirt or something? 3) Dialogue that is punctuated incorrectly. The most common example is when characters laugh words. They simply can’t do this. Try it yourself. Can you laugh and speak at the same time? Not really. Yet, when you use a comma to separate the dialogue tag from the dialogue itself, you are indicating the words were laughed. Here’s an example: "I'd never try that in a million years," laughed Denise. To avoid this mistake, simply use a period after the dialogue, creating two separate sentences. Like this: "I'd never try that in a million years." Denise laughed. As you can see, these common mistakes are easy to correct, but now that you're aware of them, try to avoid making them in the first place and you'll be a much stronger writer immediately. For more writing tips visit http://www.workingwriterscoach.com and sign up to get Suzanne Lieurance's two free ebooks for writers. If you'd like to learn more about writing for children, visit the National Writing for Children Center at http://www.writingforchildrencenter.com and find out how to join the Children's Writers' Coaching Club. Donna McDine said... I can't say enough about Suzanne's advice. I taken this advice (from quite a few months ago) and actually have it tacked up at my computer for a good reminder when I edit. Thanks Suzanne!!
Mayra Calvani said...
Thanks. I totally agree with you. Yet I find these 'mistakes' often in books published by major presses... Holly said... I always liked things like "She shot daggers from her eyes." Wha--? Or "She narrowed her eyes at him." I think maybe cats can do that, but if I ever see a human do it, I'm going to RUN.
Why Whining or Complaining May Actually Be Good for Your Writing Career!
As a writing coach, I think I've heard every excuse in the world as to why some so-called writers just can’t create the freelance writing career of their dreams. I can usually tell right away if this whining or complaining is either a “good thing” or a “bad sign” as far as someone’s potential career goes. First of all, it’s a “bad sign” when writers say they want to write and publish a book, or they want to quit their regular job and make a living as a freelance writer, yet - when I talk to them - they give me every reason in the world for why they don’t possibly have time to write anything right now. They work full time. They have a very demanding family. They have to go to exercise class every night after work and then they’re too tired to write after that. You name it and they’ve given me that excuse as to why they don’t possibly have time to write anything. Hmmm…don’t they get it? Writers write. They don’t just TALK about writing. They don’t just WISH they had time to write.
They write. Okay, so how can complaining or whining ever be a “good thing” for writers? Well, when whining or complaining writers HAVE been writing on a regular basis, their whining or complaining probably means they’re ready to step out of their “comfort zone” and start querying more publishers, start pursuing more job leads, and generally, just start doing everything they can to move to the next step of their writing career. Since they’ve been writing on a regular basis, they aren’t about to give up writing - no matter how much they whine or complain and talk about quitting. I know that. So I just listen to them whine or complain. Then we get back on track, and they move out of their comfort zone and really start to take charge of their writing career. If you’ve been whining or complaining about your career, yet you haven’t been writing anything, what do you have to complain about? If you have been writing on a regular basis, and now you’re feeling discouraged because your career isn’t moving ahead as quickly as you’d like, realize that this feeling of discouragement just means you’re ready to take things to the next level. Complain or whine to your writing coach, or to your spouse, or to anyone who will listen to you. Then get back to your writing - only start taking a few more risks now. You’re ready. For other tips and information to help take your freelance writing career to the next level, visit The Working Writer's Coach at and sign up for The Morning Nudge. When you do, you'll also receive two free ebooks for Writers. Donna McDine said... Suzanne...I knew this was your post even before I got to the end. Everyone out there...if any thing subscribe to Suzanne's Morning Nudge she's better than any exercise coach on video that is constantly smiling at you while you try to do moves that really aren't humanly possible. But the Morning Nudge is definitely a great kick in the pants. I can't start my day without reading it first! Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said...
Suzanne, I've been known to kick a few writer butts in my career and you are right, allow them to whine and get over a hurdle. They are 'real' writers who will finish a project sooner or later. The 'wannabes' talk the talk but nothing ever comes out of their 'talk'. I have an enormous amount of patience and will guide many but when after a few hundred emails all I hear is 'but I can't do it' constantly, then I have to step back and give them some tough writer's love, such as, "Then quit", and leave it in their ballpark. I never do this unless, as I wrote, after about 50 or so emails from the same writer. I find usually the newbie writers are shy to hand in their manuscripts to me in fear I'll laugh at some of their typos or whatnots. Eventually, they see that writing is a craft based on improving your know-how and we all start at the beginning. Two in particular manuscripts I'm working on now with clients can't believe the improvement. However, all I did was point out and offer suggestions and I tell them they should pat themselves on the back because it was their determination to improve these scenes that made all the difference in the world. Guidance is all they seek and not judgement. So thank you for your post today. Absolutely loved to hear someone else 'whine' about the same thing. :)
Top Ten Mistakes Made by New Children's Writers
by Suzanne Lieurance Okay. So I’m not David Letterman. But I doubt if he’d know much about the top 10 mistakes made by new children’s writers anyway. I, on the other hand, read from 10 to 20 manuscripts for children every week (I'm not bragging - I’m just an instructor with the Institute of Children’s Literature). While many of the stories I read are destined for publication, I find that 10 common mistakes crop up again and again in the other manuscripts I edit each week. I’ll start with number 10 (just like Letterman) and work my way up to the number one writing mistake made by new children’s writers (and, just so you know - I’ve been guilty of making some of these mistakes myself, so don’t beat yourself up if you realize you’re guilty of some of these, too): 10) No Clear POV Character – Children tend to relate to the POV character in a story. This is the person they will root for. Make it clear right from the start whose story is being told. Even if you have two main characters (twins, for example), you need to pick just one of these kids to be your POV character. And, it should go without saying, when
writing for children, make sure your POV character IS a kid - even if Grandma has a big part in your story. 9) Multiple Points of View – Unlike stories for adults, stories for children are generally told from only one POV. It isn’t difficult to maintain a single point of view once you get the hang of it. Just remember - if you are “showing” everything from your main character’s point of view, then he or she has to be present for everything that happens. I see stories all the time where the POV character suddenly leaves the room. Yikes! If your POV character wasn’t there to see or hear what went on, then we can’t see or hear it either. 8) Telling instead of Showing – Read a good story and chances are there is a lot of action and dialogue (showing) with minimal stretches of straight narrative (telling). Too much narrative and the story sounds like a summary. Readers don’t want a summary. They want scenes with action and dialogue that make them feel they are actually experiencing what is going on. So “show” as much as possible of your story through action and dialogue. 7) Overuse of Adjectives, Adverbs, and Other Unnecessary Words – Do you really need to say someone “whispered quietly” Or “shouted loudly” Or, my favorite - she “nodded her head”? What else could she nod? Or, she “shrugged her shoulders” - she certainly wouldn’t shrug her foot! 6) Dialogue That is Not Punctuated Properly – Get a grammar book to learn how to punctuate dialogue properly. But, most importantly, remember to change paragraphs each time the speaker changes. I read manuscripts all the time where three or four characters are speaking, yet the paragraph never changes. Just imagine how confusing that is to the reader! 5) Long Timeframes – I know Harry Potter takes place over several years. But, the story also takes place through several books. Most children’s writers start out writing stories for children’s magazines or they want to write picture books for very young children. Either way, the timeframe in these stories should be rather short - a couple of hours or a day or two. If your story takes place over a couple of weeks or (gulp!) a couple of years, then you need to shorten the timeframe. 4) No Narrative “Hook” for the Reader – I know what you’re asking - “What is a narrative hook?” Well, that’s simple. It’s just an opening sentence or two that “hooks” the reader and makes him or her want to continue reading to find out what happens. 3) Dialogue That Doesn’t Sound Real – Listen to any child or teenager and you’ll find out that much of what kids and teens say (at least to each other) tends to sound like a series of grunts. So don’t have the child or teen in your story use words like “shall,” or never use contractions. If you do, the dialogue will sound too formal and your work will not have a child’s or teen’s voice.
2) Adults Who Step In to Save the Day for the Child – I know what you’re thinking. Parents and other well-meaning adults DO step in all the time to save the day for kids. So why can’t they do it in stories for children? The answer to that is - because children don’t want to read stories like that. Stories for children have strong children (or children who eventually become strong throughout the course of the story) as characters. This empowers the children who read these stories. They figure, if the POV character can solve his own problems then maybe they can too. Now. Drum roll here. The number one mistake new writers make in their stories for children is 1) No real conflict - There’s no story problem. Your POV character needs to face some big problem right at the start of the story. Then, he or she needs to struggle and struggle with this problem as he/she tries to solve it. That is, things need to keep getting worse and worse until finally the POV character is able to solve the problem (or at least resolve it) and change or grow somehow in the process. Without a story problem you have what editors like to call “an incident,” and editors don’t publish incidents. They publish stories. So that's my list of top 10 mistakes new children's writers make. Use this article as a checklist when you're writing for children. Avoid these mistakes and you’ll be well on your way to publication. See you in print! http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif ********************* Visit my author site at or the National Writing for Children Center at www.writingforchildrencenter.com for more tips and resources for children' writers and illustrators. Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said... Yes, yes, yes, and so precise and simplistic that you would think any writer who has done research on writing for children would know. But... Carma said... Suzanne you put it down in the KISS method. There is no reason not to do it.
Show, Don't Tell - What Does That Really Mean?
by Suzanne Lieurance
Do good writers tell stories? Well, not exactly. Good writers show stories. To show a story instead of just tell it, you should include details that make the reader feel he is experiencing the story right along with the characters, rather than just hearing about it. There are several ways to do this - through dialogue (you show the reader what the characters are saying to each other), through action (you show what the characters are doing), and through sensory details (you help the reader see, smell, taste, touch, and hear what is going on). This is telling: Mary was sad. It doesn’t show the reader much. It just tells him how Mary felt. But can the reader really envision what’s going on with Mary? Probably not. This is showing: Mary felt a sinking feeling in her stomach. Then her eyes watered and her bottom lip started to quiver before she burst into tears. This lets the reader see what’s happening to Mary, then he can figure out for himself that she must be sad. As a writer, you want to take the reader to the action in the story. Help him to feel as if he's experiencing it firsthand. For that, you need details. And the best ways to include details that show what’s going on are through action and dialogue. But you can also show a scene through sensory images - describing how a particular time and place smelled, how it sounded, what it felt like, tasted like, and looked like. Here are some examples of sentences that merely tell the reader something:
1. My room was a mess. 2. It was a beautiful day. 3. Mark had a terrible cold. Now, here are the same situations, only this time, the paragraphs show the reader what is going on in each situation: 1. Where was my homework? I looked under the pile of Legos behind my bedroom door. Nope. I pulled dirty clothes, shoes, a green sandwich, and a rubber ball from under my bed. Not there either. 2. Sun soaked into my dark hair and sweater. I leaned back and took a deep breath. The smell of saltwater taffy and the sea filled me, and the breeze tickled my cheeks. I listened to the children laugh and the seagulls argue. 3. "Achoo!" Mark sat up in bed. His head throbbed and his nose dripped like an ice cube in July. He shuffled to the mirror. "Achooo!" SPLAT! At least he couldn’t see his puffy face through the goo. Mark shuffled back to bed. Once you get the hang of showing instead of telling, you’ll never want to go back to simply telling a story again. A story that includes too much telling and very little showing tends to sound like a summary. But showing things in a story makes every scene come to life for the reader. And isn't that the kind of story you're really hoping to create? See you in print! http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif ****************** For more writing tips, visit the National Writing for Children Center and find out how to receive two free ebooks for writers and a free subscription to The Morning Nudge (a few words of inspiration and motivation to help you get a little writing done each day). Email Suzanne Lieurance to find out how to receive a FREE one month membership in the Children's Writer's Coaching Club.
Vivian Zabel writes for middle grade and young adult readers under the name V. Gilbert Zabel. As Granny Zabel (the name given her by her oldest granddaughter and used by all since) she writes children's books.
She has been around children and teenagers all her life: first as a child herself, then a mother, a teacher, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother. With a vivid imagination, travels across the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) and overseas to Guam and Morocco, and her life experiences, she weaves together tales of ducks and geese, boys and baseball, and cowboys and prairie dogs.
POSTS FROM VIVIAN:
*Hurries into Blog and Stumbles*
Ooops. Hi. I hurried in from a baseball game. Ryan is now a high school freshman, and he and Colby aren't on the same teams as all the base stealers club. The members, at least most of them, do see each other often, though. Did I hear you ask, "Base stealers club, what's that?" A small number of the Jonesville Chargers banded together to help solve mysteries, first in The Base Stealers Club and again in Case of the Missing Coach. Ish, what happened to the colors in the cover? Very odd. *shakes blog but colors still stay faded out* Now you want to know who I am? Really, you sound like Pops. I'm Vivian Zabel, or as the name I use for my young adult books V. Gilbert Zabel. I write children's books for people ages 3 to 16, and I publish them for the same ages by other authors through 4RV Publishing LLC. Now, back to Ryan and Colby, oh, yes, and Shane. They are playing baseball again, but maybe I can get one or more of them to visit this week. Ryan plays first base, catches,
and pitches. Colby plays third base and first. He pitches occasionally. Shane catches, plays in the field, and on first. I'll also invite some of the characters from the other 4RV books. Trockle is a cute little monster who likes to make friends, and Buddy is someone who wants to be a cowboy, who lived many years ago. We have a lion who lives in the living room, and a leopard who sleeps in an easy chair. Bubba and Giganto, two of Lea's people, are going to be in a book from 4RV, too. So I'll visit tomorrow and try to have someone with me. Right now everyone else is either playing ball, hiding under a bed or under the covers, roping and riding, or loafing in the living room. LEA: Why did you choose baseball as part of your storyline? VIVIAN: I choose baseball because I love the sport and played whenever I could growing up. Of course back then, girls couldn't play on any official teams, so I played unofficial games and played softball with the girls. Both my sons played baseball from the time they were very young until they graduated from high school. Then three of my grandsons play ball -- all kinds of ball. I also helped coach and took care of team books. I understand baseball probably better than any other sport. Besides, I wanted to write books that reluctant readers would find exciting.
Writing for children and teens
Hello, I'm back. I appreciate this opportunity, Lea. Saturday, I attended a SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators) writing conference. The presenters were editors from a few major publishing houses' children's divisions, and an agent who represents authors of children's and YA books. I enjoyed the conference except for one jarring note: Some publishing companies are promoting "weird" children's stories and illustrations. Shock rendered me speechless when a few of these books appeared on the power point presentations: Text nor illustrations made sense. I could hear, in my mind, my greatgrandson asking me, "What is that, Granny?" And I would have to answer, "I have absolutely no idea, looks like nightmares." However, thankfully, the majority of the publishing houses want well-written, greatlyillustrated books for picture books, and interesting appropriate books for chapter, middlegrade, and young adult books. In fact, one of the editors of a major house is interested in one of my books: Prairie Dog Cowboy. "Yes, she liked my story." Oh, hi, Buddy. Yes, she thought I wrote your story extremely well, but I have some revising to do. Revising! Yes, for the upteen-millionth time, I'll revise the first two chapters. Everything else she liked, Buddy, especially you. In fact, allow me to quote her, "This is excellent writing, and I really enjoyed reading it." I could write a short book to cover all that the publishing company reps said, most helpful and interesting. I'll try to slip in a few things over the next week. The main message, though, contained the following: Read, read read; write, write, write; network, network, network. Everyone emphasized the necessity of attending conferences. I heard that message all day long, and I agree completely. Another idea reiterated by everyone, is that writing for children is NOT easy, in fact, as I have said multiple times, writing for children is the most difficult and important writing around. Hmm ... maybe I rambled a bit, but I'll be back and try to be more organized. Vivian
V. Gilbert Zabel, author of The Base Stealers Club, Case of the Missing Coach, and soon Prairie Dog Cowboy. Kim Baccellia said... I'm curious what kind of illustrations they showed. At the last SCBWI Editor's Day I attended in October, TokyoPop was one of the presenters. I was really excited about their presentation. I love graphic novels! One of the last books I reviewed for Harper Collins wove in comic book sections with text. Very fun! I blogged about the book the other day at http://kbaccellia.livejournal.com Congrats, on the feedback on your own book! Vivian said... The text of the books that were "way out" were just words strung together, words that made no sense. The illustrations were ugly things that also made no sense. Graphic novels are one thing, but these were supposedly picture books for children. Notice, I am not giving any names of the items or people involved with the things I did not like. The Harcourt and Random House editors were marvelous, and they both gave great ideas. The sample books and illustrations definitely should have been published, and were. The agent and they agreed on everything. I could do business with any of those three. One picture book that was adorable was Little Blue Truck. *sigh* Wish I had written that. I will be sharing some the ideas they shared with us as this week progresses.
Daddy, My Inspiration By Lea Schizas
Writers each have someone in their lives who are their Muses, their writing motivators. For some it may be a favorite author. For me, it’s the man who displayed his own creative writing skills, who wrote with poetic flair, who had that savoir faire like Shakespeare…my dad. I remember going to weddings, even my own, where dad was always invited to be the first person to make a speech, even if he wasn’t a family member. Not only would he add humor to his speech and have everyone laughing and applauding, but he’d repeat it in all the languages he knew: Greek, English, French, German, and Italian. His Russian wasn’t the greatest, even though part of our ancestry is Russian from his grandfather’s side. As a little girl I knew right away that I wanted this same attention from guests, readers, family members…to read and write as prolific as my hero, Daddy. My father passed away one year ago on April 16, 2007 and he left this world the way he lived it- his way. He simply closed his eyes and entered the heavenly gates without a complain, without a flutter of a last breath. Just…slept. Before he left, however, he gave me the greatest gift a daughter could ever ask for. But before I get to that gift let me add that three months before he passed away I had a dream of 6:30. I didn’t know whether it meant June 30 or the time 6:30. Well, you guessed it: dad passed away to the minute at 6:30am. My last gift from dad? The man was riddled with brain cancer. Doctors told my sister (dad lived in Greece with my mom at the time) that this man should have died a long time ago, couldn’t figure out what kept him going, why he was so coherent, could walk, talk, joke whereas it showed his upper body from his chest to his head, contained more cancer cells than he’s ever seen before. My sister told him he was waiting to see his oldest daughter flying in from Montreal. I walked into his hospital room on April 16, 2007, he looked up at me, squeezed my hand
and asked me how my trip was. All I wanted to do was hug him, tell him I loved him. I did neither…I played the game dad and I always played- we ignored the obvious and tried to concentrate on other things. Two hours later, dad closed his eyes for the last time. My only regret was that I should have told him I loved him but as I bent forward four times kissing his still body and whispering in his ear, “I love you, daddy,” I am sure my message was delivered to him. If not, then here it is one more time, hoping a caring angel will deliver it to him: “I love you, daddy, with all my heart. S’agapo.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed our Writing For Children Blog Fest e-Book. Bookmark The Writing Jungle: http://thewritingjungle.blogspot.com And come back often since I’ve made all of my guests my lifetime honorary bloggers. They’ll be popping in when I’m not expecting them, scaring me with a quick “Hello there,” and posting updates on their books, their writing careers, and more helpful info for one and all. Until our next blog fest, keep writing, keep posting, but more than that…be well. Lea Schizas firstname.lastname@example.org http://leaschizaseditor.com/