March 15, 2017

Three Tips to Help Your Picture Book Come to Life

Illustrator Alison Lyne has amazing advice for picture book writers. 

Add in Action Words

One of the first things I look for, when I'm reading a PB manuscript is “action” words.  I look to see just what the main character is actually doing....even if I don't know what that character actually looks like...yet. Based on those action words, I begin to  sketch out  that character. This sheet is a sample of my process for Little Things Aren't Little When You're Little.


Leave a bit of Space in your PB Writing


One of the second things I look at in a manuscript is points in the story that I can add in my “take” on a story. In Petite Rouge, A Cajun Twist to an Old Tale, (a Little Red Riding Hood tale with a swamp instead of a woods and a gator instead of a wolf) I found a bit of “room” in story to inject my reasoning why a little girl wouldn't recognize that her grandma was a monster. My solution was the gator had bounced the near-sighted little girl's red glasses right off her nose. Petite Rouge just couldn't SEE the monster.


Check the Flow of your Story

Finally, I look at how the story flows. I do that with a book chart of the pages that are in a 32 page picture book. When you flip thru a picture book, you always have a two page spread open in front of you, at any given time. Those pages are shown linked together. Stagger your emphasis to encourage your reader to “turn that page”.

Try these three tips to help you visualize how your picture book story will come to life.



March 1, 2017

Dark Humor

When you write for children ages  3 - 6, the poem or story should entertain and delight. Fictional pieces should not frighten very young children, even if the piece is told in jest. Parents may appreciate the humor, but a child might get upset or be confused.

For instance, I received a story for Kid's Imagination Train about a young person who had invited a group of animals over for a play date.  This is a cute idea and the writer was off to a good start. The piece was lively and amusing.  But towards the end of the story, the mood got dark.  The more ferocious animals began to eye the other harmless animals. Do you see where this is going?  Yep, the vicious animals ate the defenseless animals—bones, fur, scales and wings and all. 

If handled delicately, dark humor may work for young kids.  However, this kind of humor is usually better suited for an older audience.  If you want to write a piece like this, you should find a publication whose audience ranges from 8 - 12 years old.  You can find out if an editor publishes this kind of humor by reading some back issues of the magazine. And, you can query the editor to find out if she would be interested in such a story before you submit it.  

Always remember your audience when you are writing for kids.  If you want to write for very young children, keep the writing lighthearted and playful. But if you want to create scary, then make sure these kinds of stories end up in the hands of older readers.


February 13, 2017

All about Nonnie and I

Guest post by Savannah Hendricks:

In 2005 I sat down to write a story, Nonnie and I.  It was originally titled Nia and I.  The name had to be changed to Nonnie because a publisher (not the one who ended up publishing it) showed interest, but already had a book with that name.

When I started the story I didn't have a path. I had zero conflict or problem, and no idea about the ending. But in a spiral notebook I wrote sentence after sentence as they came to me. I was intrigued seeing how animals interact with children and in turn how children react to animals. This is how Nonnie and I started. Additionally, I had seen a documentary on giraffe adoption in Africa and how people could get close to them much like one would a horse.

After a month of editing I sent Nonnie and I out to a big name publisher that at the time was still taking unsolicited manuscripts. Per rules I didn't include a SASE. About three months later a letter with the publisher’s logo arrived in my mailbox. The editor wrote that she loved the story, BUT not enough as she was unable to connect with "the voice." (Yes, I still have the signed letter).

I submitted again and again....and again. Only to receive several more personal letters from editors who loved it, BUT couldn't connect with "the voice."

I became a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and later I joined a critique group.  The story was edited and sent out again with changes discussed in the group. I couldn't change my voice—it was my way of writing after all.

Then during a clearance sale at Borders I was finally able to purchase Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul (2009) a book I had wanted for some time, but put it off because money was tight.

After a failed 44 submissions I spent a total of two months reading Writing Picture Books and editing Nonnie and I. Then….I submitted it one last time.

Two weeks later I got an email from Xist Publishing. They wanted to offer me a book contract! The date was August 2013, eight years after I sat down to write the first sentence of Nonnie and I.

Nonnie and I was published on October 15, 2014 by Xist Publishing. Illustrations by Lisa M. Griffin.






February 1, 2017

The Five Senses at the Tennis Club

f work out three times a week at the Lexington Tennis Club.  The gym is upstairs and looks down on rows of tennis courts, so while working out you can watch people play matches or take lessons.


Each one of my workouts begins with 30 minutes of aerobic exercise followed by weight-lifting machines and hand weights.  The best time to go is right before lunch when the gym is the least crowded and I don't have much food on my stomach. When I get back it is time for lunch and then on to writing.


Here are the five senses at the Lexington Tennis Club before I come home to write.

I hear:  the whirl of a rowing machine
             the clunk of weights
             the squeaky wheels of an exercise bike
             boys grunting (I never hear this from the gals)
             music from my ipod
             the thud of an occasional tennis ball hitting the glass wall of the gym

I feel:    my tee shirt clinging to my back
             my hair damp against my neck
             my palms sweating on the handles of the bike
             the breeze of a ceiling fan cooling my skin
             my muscles tensing when I work out with weights
             a stiff white towel when I mop my face

I smell:  a strong Clorox-y clean gym towel
              a clean-smelling antiseptic spray used to wipe down machines
           
I taste:  an icy cool drink of water
             sweet peppermint gum

I see:   smiling friends that I know at the desk
            five brightly lit indoor tennis courts
            a young gal chatting on a cellphone while on a treadmill
            kids dressed in colorful tennis outfits horsing around and doing drills on a court
            a young guy with sock monkeys tattooed on both of his calves          
            rows of bikes, weight-lifting machines, hand weights, blue mats, a scale
            men and women playing some serious tennis matches
       

Remember you can read the latest news about Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show and Tell on the Maggie Project http://www.themaggieproject.blogspot.com 

January 15, 2017

Formatting a Bibliography

You've written an outstanding article and you're ready to submit it to a children's magazine. Have you included a bibliography?  You should.  A bibliography assures an editor that the information presented is reliable and accurate.  It lists all of the sources used to research the article.  A bibliography may contain as few as three sources or as many as twenty depending on the requirements of the publication. 

There are specific ways to format a bibliography.  Most magazine editors make their preferences known in the writer's guidelines.  Some editors prefer the Chicago Style.  The University of Chicago Press created the Chicago Manual of Style, which provides guidelines for citing sources as well as for formatting papers.  Other editors like the MLA Style (the Modern Language Association) which is used primarily for subjects related to the humanities and liberal arts, such as literature, mass communications, and media studies.

Regardless of which formatting style you use, the bibliography should be arranged in alphabetical order.  A compilation of book titles in random order (and I've seen this in submissions) is not acceptable. 

If you're not sure how to format a bibliography visit https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/06/  or http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html 

With a little practice, you will be able to master formatting all kinds of sources—books, newspaper articles, emails and more.  Refer to the links listed above whenever in doubt.
When you format your bibliography correctly, an editor will take note.     










January 1, 2017

Resources for PB Writers


Today, Children's Writer's World brings writers of picture books some more great resources.  This list is reproduced from http://www./kidlit411.com/2014/01/picture-books.html#more   

For those of you just beginning to write for children, check out these websites for tips on creating a picture book.  For writers who have already written manuscripts, take a look at the resources before you submit to agents and editors.  



THETEN COMMANDMENTS OF PICTURE BOOK WRITING 

HOW TO FORMAT YOUR PICTURE BOOK   


Children's Writer's World wishes you, your family, and friends a happy New Year!

December 15, 2016

The Story that You Love

Have you written a picture book story that you love?  Have you submitted it to agents, but it’s been rejected? I can’t begin to count all of the times that's happened to me.  And then...  

Over the summer I re-read a 1000-word picture book manuscript that I had written five years ago.  I loved this story, but it was rejected time after time.  I finally figured out that the piece was too long.  So 500 words were cut.  Afterward, the story was critiqued and revised and revised.  A compelling query letter was crafted and the much shorter story was submitted. About a month later a handful of agents rejected it, but a publisher sent me an exciting note.  She texted me that she liked the book!  I screamed and jumped up and down like a maniac.  She sent me a book contract, something I've been dreaming about and working toward for many, many years.

It's exciting to find someone who loves the book as much as I do.  So based on my experience, I'd like to offer picture book writers some tips to help you get your work published.  

1.  Put the manuscript that you love on hold for a couple of months.  In the meantime go online or to the library and read current picture books.  Find one that speaks to your heart.  Analyze it.  Is it the voice, the theme, or the character that draw you to the story  Use this book as inspiration or even as a model to guide you when it's time to revise your work.

2.  Return to the story that you've written (and love) and get ready to edit it.  Read your story out loud.  Do you stumble on some words?  Work on improving the flow.  Consider word choice.  Use a thesaurus to find words that are better fits.  

3.  Cut words.  Today, publishers want stories under 500 words.  You may feel that you will not be able to tell the whole story with fewer words, but lowering the word count will challenge you to tell a concise story. 

4.  Have a second reader have a look.  Consider the suggestions and revise.  Start writing the hook and the synopsis.  Believe me, this will help you find areas in your picture book that may need editing.    

How do you like the story now?  Even better, I’m sure.  Now re-write your query (no gimmicks, just a professional letter) and send it to agents especially open to picture books.  If you get emails from agents that say your story has potential or the project sounds interesting, you’re on the right track.  These positive comments are saying you’re getting closer to publication.  You’re getting closer to finding someone who will fall in love with your work.