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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.




December 1, 2016

10 Tips for Writing Nonfiction for Kids

There's no way around it—writing nonfiction for children is a challenging task.  It’s difficult trying to compose a piece that’s factual and entertaining.  Facts can be dry and boring. So, writers must find creative ways to keep children engaged.  

Here are some tips to help you succeed at writing nonfiction for kids: 

*Choose a kid-friendly title.  Use a little alliteration.  This is your first chance to pique a kid's curiosity.

*Keep paragraphs focused on one fact only.  Too many unrelated facts in a single paragraph is distracting.  

*Keep the writing lively.  Imagine reading your article out loud to children.

*Keep the article positive.  Avoid using words like “don’t” and “this is not so.”

*Include questions a kid would want to know and then answer them.

*Use comparisons or similes when describing something unfamiliar to a kid. 

*Use vocabulary that kids understand.  

*Refer to the Flesch-Kincaid scale to check grade level. 

*Keep the word count to no more than 500 words.

*Tie the ending to the beginning of the piece.  This gives your readers a satisfactory conclusion.


Kids like to read and learn.  So, you job is to craft a piece that gets kids excited about reading nonfiction. Before you begin, read other articles to help you meet this challenge.  See how other authors succeeded in relaying information to kids. 


November 15, 2016

The Five Sense in New Orleans

Last week my husband and I vacationed in New Orleans.  Before dinner, there was some time to pen a few words.  Here are the five senses of NOLA before returning to the hotel to write.

I Hear: jazz music pouring out of bars, a guitar and violin duet on a street corner, brass bands blasting tunes, taxi drivers venting about politics, tour guides giving their spiels, a trumpeter playing outside Café du Monde

I Smell:  strong sewer odor and beer on Bourbon Street, chicken Creole, jambalaya, a fishy whiff of the Mississippi River

I See: musicians,artists, and fortune tellers in bustling Jackson Square, above-the-ground cemeteries (and Nicolas Cage's pyramidal tomb awaiting his demise), the crescent bend of the Mississippi River, old men playing chess on the sidewalk of Canal Street, tourists carrying drinks throughout the French Quarter, stately homes in the Garden District

I Taste:  rich tomato-based Creole, mouth-burning spicy etouffeé, warm sugar-dusted beignets, black coffee that needed no sugar, sweet brown sugar pralines, a Pat O’Brien virgin piña colada and a sip of a Hurricane

I Feel:  a vicioius bug bite while walking through the coarse grass of Chalmette Cemetery, the sun baking my bike helmet-covered head, chilly night time breeze during a carriage ride, uneven bricks on sidewalks, my husband’s hand in mine

November 1, 2016

Crafting a Cover Letter

When you query an editor, you must send a cover letter.  Some writers understand this important first step, and others…need a little help. 

Once I received a two-line cover letter.  The first sentence thanked me for considering the story.  The second sentence thanked me for being an inspiration to writers.  I'm not so sure about that, but this line came across as being insincere (and it did not belong in a cover letter).

A cover letter is usually one page and has about three to four paragraphs.  It should begin with a salutation to the editor.  Search the guidelines or contact page to find her name.  If you are unsuccessful, then use Dear Editor.  Addressing the salutation as:  Hello <insert magazine name> comes across as impersonal and I don't recommend it.

The first paragraph should start with the hook, an enticing one liner about the story or article. The following paragraph gives the title and word count and goes into a little more detail about the work. The final paragraph gives a short biography. Close by thanking the editor.

That’s all there is to it.  Your cover letter is critical.  It’s the first thing an editor reads.  Don’t ruin your chances of an acceptance by trying to be cute, clever, or insincere.  Make sure your cover letter is professional.  That way, an editor will be in the mood to consider your work.   

October 15, 2016

How to get published in KIT

If you are interested in submitting fiction to Kid's Imagination Train, you should ask yourself three questions. Is your story engaging?  Is it original?  Does it fit the feel of the magazine?  

Engaging
You can make your story engaging by creating a main character that children will care about.  To do that, the main character must have a problem kids can relate to and she must be able to solve that problem herself.  Children want to get behind the main character and root for her as she handles conflict. In addition to having a main character children will care for, the language of the story must resonate with kids.  Therefore, age-appropriate words are necessary as well as rhythm and flow.  

Original
I love original stories, and so do kids!  Let’s take this example.  Say you want to write about an ant that wants to fly.  This ant tries several different ways to fly, but fails. Eventually, it finds some feathers, waves them in the air, and soars away.  Okay, not bad, but not great.  How about this example?  Again we have an ant that wants to fly.  But in this story, the ant builds a flying machine with twigs and feathers and calls it his Birdplane.  Now this story is fascinating and original.  To be original it takes thinking outside the box, dreaming, and wondering...what if?

Fit the Feel
Lastly, you should get a feel of the magazine by reading a few back issues.  That way, you are familiar with the kinds of stories KIT likes to publish.  That said, here are more clues to what we like:  KIT publishes pieces that are lively and entertaining and have illustration potential.  We love magical and whimsical stories.  Overall, the mood must be uplifting and positive, not negative or scary. 

Editors have different tastes and it can be challenging to figure out what they are looking for.  But now you know what Kid's Imagination Train likes for when it comes to fiction. So, it's up to you.  Can you develop an engaging, original story that would be a good fit for KIT?


October 1, 2016

Resources for Picture Book Writers

Today, I thought writers of picture books would like to take a look at some awesome resources.  This list is reproduced from:  http://www.kidlit411.com/2014/01/picture-books.html#more

SCBWI - the Society for Children's Book Writers & Ilustrators, an organization that every children's writer and illustrator must join

LINDA ASHMAN author of The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books

CHILDREN'S BOOK HUB - a paid subscription service with information about children's books, led by Emma Walton Hamilton  

CHILDREN'S BOOK INSIDER - a paid subscription monthly newsletter with tips about publishers and agents, writing courses, and more 


MEM FOX and her fabulous list of 20 DO'S AND DON'TS OF PICTURE BOOK WRITING.
Learn tips on how to read a story out loud: READ ALOUD LESSON 

DARCY PATTISON How to Write a Picture Book Resources

THE PURPLE CRAYON -  the website by Harold Underdown, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books.  His site has resources and information, including an introductory article on the BASICS OF CHILDREN'S PUBLISHING

SUSAN UHLIG's link is full of resources from books to blog posts 


September 15, 2016

Writing Character

I wasn’t looking to create a character to use in my writing, but he came into my life unexpectedly.

While I was at the grocery store standing in line to check out, I waited behind a woman with a full cart of soft drinks, Tidy Cat Litter, and cans of Fancy Feast.  Ahead of her was a woman paying for a bouquet of yellow-orange sunflowers.  It was going to be a while before it would be my turn.  I politely asked a grocery store employee if she could find someone to open another register.  In less than two minutes, she found someone to open the adjacent register. 

The man in line behind me rushed to the register.  You would have thought it was a race and he was going to win a prize.  Wow—how can anybody be that impatient and rude?  

As he began to unload his cart, I noticed that he was a bald, thirty-something kind of guy who wore a white-shirt, plaid shorts, flip flops and black glasses.  He never offered or insisted to go before him.  No, as I reached to place a separator behind his groceries he snapped at me.  “I have a large order.”  Translation:  I’m first therefore, you must wait until I empty my entire cart.  Translation:  You are impinging on my space on the conveyor belt.  Translation:  It's my conveyer belt.

Nervy.  

I ignored his comment and pushed his items forward (taking care not to roll his watermelon onto the loaf of bread) so I could unload my basket.  I did not make eye contact.  I did not tell him what I thought of him.  But oh, how I wanted to.   (Past experiences have taught me not to open my mouth).  The checker commented on his behavior, which made me feel better. 

So obviously, this guy ruffled my feathers.  But I decided to take this negative encounter and turn it into something positive, something good for my writing:

He showed me how to create a setting with conflict.
He showed me what a discourteous character might physically look like.  
He showed me how one acts and what one might say.  
He showed me exactly how to portray a totally inconsiderate dude. 

September 1, 2016

Enrich Your Stories

Do you ever have trouble coming up with new descriptions for your story?  Here's an idea.  The next time you attend any event like a ball game, an art fair, or a concert take note of your surroundings.  When you return home, make a list.  Keep it handy if you want to add a description to your story.  You can enrich your stories by using the five senses. 

I recently attended the Western Southern Tennis Open with my family.  It was a damp, overcast evening with several rain delays.  

Here are the five senses at the Open. 

See:  the sky streaked with dark-gray rain clouds, a rainbow piercing a cloud, a brightly lit tennis court and stadium, fans wearing ponchos, women in wedges and rain boots, a booth selling plastic cups of Moët & Chandon champagne, ponds of mud in the grass parking lot

I Feel:  raindrops sprinkling my face, damp metal bleacher seats puddled with water, beads of moisture on seat backs, damp tennis shoes

I Smell: the air scented with summer rain, fried food from food court, the grass parking lot reeking of barnyard odor

I Taste:  cold mint ice cream in a waffle cone, spicy Skyline chili topped with cheddar cheese, salty oyster crackers, warm bottled water

I Hear:  feet trudging through muddy muck, music blasting from a loud speaker, boisterous applause from audience, tennis balls whacked across the net, yawns as we pile into the car to head home late at night







August 15, 2016

A Writing Challenge

We are busy people.  Day in, day out—we've got so much to do.  At times, we can be self-absorbed.  We dwell on our own lives and problems.  And we forget about others. But I challenge you to put the things you need to do aside and do something nice for someone else.  Carve out a brief period of time for others and do what you do best: write.  
Compose a note to a friend, a neighbor, or a relative.  Email is okay, but stationary or a card is even better. Tell someone that you’ve been thinking about them. Send a thank you note to someone if they have sent you a gift or if they have done something nice for you. Wish someone good health if they’ve been ill.  Write as much as you like.  Even one line would suffice.  

Believe it or not, your words will have a huge impact.  It will brighten someone else’s day. And you won't have to sacrifice much time to write a note.  So, what do you think?  Are you up to the writing challenge? Are you up to spreading a little kindness?

August 1, 2016

Let's Talk about Dialogue

In a story, dialogue can be defined as a conversation of two or more people.  The words spoken aloud by characters are indicated by quotation marks.  Sometimes, a character is alone and talks to himself.  This can be expressed in italics.

When you create dialogue you get to climb inside characters’ heads and express what they are thinking.  In turn, your audience then gets to know the characters’ personalities.

But there are some writers who overdo dialogue. Too much dialogue robs stories of narrative—the descriptions, actions, and setting needed to create an intriguing atmosphere.  Though dialogue is an essential part of telling a fictional story for kids, non-stop conversation can be annoying.

Dialogue should be balanced with narrative.  A narrative is the story that you write with detail.  It can explain something, describe a place, or convey the way a person looks or behaves.  It can express an action significant to the story.  

So look at your story objectively.  Do you have too much dialogue?  If so, break it up with description and action.  Describe some details of the setting.  Explain what the characters are doing.  Your job as a writer is to find the right balance between dialogue and narrative.  There is no rule to the percentage of dialogue to narrative because every genre is different; however, a 50 -50 ratio of dialogue to narrative is something you can aim for.  

July 15, 2016

So You Think You Can Write

A lot of people think it’s easy to write for kids.  For example, a good friend of mine wrote a picture book, even though she has no experience in writing fiction.  A few weeks ago we spent an hour going over her manuscript line by line. 

These were my suggestions:      

Do not paginate. Instead, double-space the entire manuscript. 
Avoid fancy fonts. Use Times New Roman, twelve point font. 
Type the title in caps, not it large, bold font.
Use age-appropriate words, but do not dummy down the language.
Keep the verb tense consistent.
Create a goal or something that the main character wants.  
Create a conflict or dilemmas which will make the goal more difficult to attain.
Keep the word count well under 1000 words. 
Make the story unique so that it will stand out and not get lost in the slush pile.
Have a satisfying ending.  Add a twist if possible or a tie-in to the beginning.

Though the manuscript had some problems, there were many good things about the story.  The descriptions were colorful and the main character could be relatable to young kids.  The story also had great illustration potential. 

I told my friend she was off to a good start.  She thanked me for helping her and asked if she could have my notes.  She knew she would have to spend more time editing her work, especially since she planned on submitting it for publication.  She realized that there is a lot to consider when writing for kids.  

July 1, 2016

Write

Two weeks ago, I lost my sister-in-law Barb to cancer.  She had been diagnosed in February, and then four months later she passed away.  This was crazy fast.

Her untimely death sent me reeling.  She was relatively young by today’s standards, only 60, much younger than me.  So…it’s made me think about life more, what I want to do and to achieve.  For me, I’ve always wanted to publish a picture book, and now, I am more determined. 

Writing is my passion and I hope it is yours, too.  So my advice to you is to write every day.  No excuses.  Just put a few words down daily even if you don’t feel like it (you can always edit later.)  Create new fiction.  Edit older projects.  Or, get started on a topic that you’ve always wanted to research and write about it. 

Submit your work continuously, non-stop.  If your dream is to get published in a children’s magazine, then study the markets, submit and submit and persevere until your work is accepted.  If you want to get a book published, polish it until it is perfect, have a second reader review it, edit it again, and then search the directories for agents.  Don't give up.

I urge you know to think about your writing dreams and pursue them.  We never know what the future will hold.  Life is short.  Live it.  Live it well.  And write. 


June 15, 2016

Cheating

Most people know that thorough research is needed when writing nonfiction for children.  That means writers must use a variety of primary sources, reliable websites, and trustworthy books because research requires diligent and careful study to investigate a subject and to establish facts.  Those who use one source violate the rules of research.  One source wouldn’t provide enough information needed to research a topic adequately.   

However, there are a few writers who think that one source should do the trick.  These writers are either unaware of what is required for research, or they are just plain lazy.  Either way, a nonfiction submission with one resource will usually end up being rejected.

When I encounter nonfiction submissions for Kid’s Imagination Train that have only used one source, I am not impressed.  These submissions tell me two things:  our guidelines have not been read and the authors don’t understand how to research a topic. But...these writers are given another chance to improve their work and to submit again.  They are asked to use more sources and develop the article by adding more interesting facts. 

Most of the time writers will comply and resubmit a well-researched piece.  But in some cases, writers merely just add a couple more books to the bibliography without incorporating any new information.  Shocking, yes?  It happens.  To be blunt, these kinds of writers are cheaters.  They are cheating themselves of learning some pretty cool stuff when researching.  They are also cheating themselves of the satisfaction and pride that comes from digging deep.  More, they are cheating children of rich details and interesting information they so wholeheartedly deserve.


June 1, 2016

Submitting to Agents

Are you submitting your work to agents?  Bravo!  Hopefully, you will hear good news. But what if an agent is not too eager to take on your project.  How would you be notified? Here are three scenarios:

1.  No reply.  Agents will only respond when they are interested.  No word = no thank you.  

2.  The standard rejection form.  It might read:  Thank you for submitting but unfortunately it doesn't meet our needs at this time.  

3.  The rejection letter with a little note.  These emails are personalized and give advice or a word of support. 

It is disappointing, but fairly common not to hear back from an agent.  So if you haven't gotten a response in about three months, consider it a pass.

A good number of agents will usually send a rejection letter.  Even though they've passed on your work, you will know that they received your submission and it had been considered.   

Occasionally, a rejection letter may arrive personally addressed to you along with a little note.  A note takes the sting out of the rejection.  It could read:  shape this piece, or this work has potential, or this project sounded interesting.  You may even get advice, and if you do, consider revising your manuscript. 

Though it is a pass on your project, a personalized rejection is an awesome thing to receive.  An agent has made time to send you feedback.  A personal message will remind you that others think your work has potential.  It may offer hope and validation.  It will boost your faith as a writer.  And more, it will give you courage to keep on submitting.   










May 15, 2016

Should You Make Multiple Submissions?

You've written several stories, and you want to submit all of them to a children's magazine.  However, when you review the guidelines you find that the publication doesn't accept multiple submissions.  That means you can only send one submission at a time. But...you're tempted.  Wouldn't sending all of your stories increase your chance of an acceptance because there would be more to choose from?

The truth is, sending multiple submissions to a publication that doesn't accept them usually backfires (unless the editor is in a generous mood.)  Disregarding the guidelines is something I wouldn't recommend.  It's unprofessional, and it will most likely annoy an editor. 

You may ask what's the big deal?  Why don't some publications accept multiple submissions?  For Kid’s Imagination Train, the reason is straightforward.  We are a small publication with one editor and no assistant to help read the submissions.  So sending multiple submissions can be overwhelming.  Each submission takes time to be analyzed to see if it’s a good fit for KIT.  Most every submission needs thoughtful editing.  Those writers whose submissions need a revision are given detailed suggestions to help improve their work.  Then those revisions are read again for possible publication in KIT. 

So what can you do if you've written several stories and you want to submit to a publication doesn't accept multiple submissions?  It's easy.  Send your favorite piece. Be patience as you wait to hear back.  In some cases, an editor may reply that your work needs some editing.  Revise your manuscript and resubmit.  After the editor makes a final decision, then and only then, it will be safe to submit another story. 

May 1, 2016

Writing on the Left Side of Your Brain

Admit it.  Sometimes you don't feel like writing.  No worries.  We all feel this way from time to time. 

Perhaps you're distracted by something that is weighing on your mind.  Maybe you've had a nasty interaction with a relative, or a neighbor, or even a stranger.  Maybe there is an overwhelming problem at work or a social situation that you want no part of.  No matter the reason, being consumed with a negative circumstance drowns your creativity.  You may find it difficult to find focus.  You want to write, know you should write, but you are not interested in writing. You can’t engage the right side of your brain, the part of your brain responsible for being creative and artistic.  

Don’t despair.  You can get some writing in by using the left side of your brain.  The left side of the brain is used for analytical and logical tasks.  Here's some things that you can do:

Write query letters
Write in a journal
Compose a blog entry
Respond to emails
Edit some of your work
Make a list of your writing goals
Make a list of books you want to read
Study the writer's markets
Update your social media profile

After you’ve used the left side of your brain for a while, you may realize how productive you’ve been.  You haven’t had time to think about any negative situation.  In fact, your problems may have diminished (or you at least know how to tackle them.)  You may even discover you are less distracted.  Using the left side may renew your focus so that you are able to concentrate better.  You may feel more energized and quite possibly in the mood to create with the right side of your brain.    













April 15, 2016

Inspiration along the Writing Path

Writing is like riding a roller coaster.  As you know it’s a journey of highs (acceptances) and lows (rejections).   During the low times, it’s hard to stay on the writing path.  Dealing with rejection is incredibly difficult. We wonder if writing is worth all of this despair.  We often ask ourselves: should we give up? Keeping busy with other writing projects can help weather those low times.  But sometimes that’s not enough.  That’s when inspirational quotes may help.  

I hope the following sayings will help lift your spirits, inspire you, and keep you on the writing path.

Calvin Coolidge --“When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide’ll turn.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe--“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.”

Louis Pasteur--“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it."

Maya Angelou--“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”

Billie Jean King--“Through perseverance many people win success out of what seemed destined to be certain failure.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.--“Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody."

Orison Swett Marden--“Courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes it’s the quiet voice at the end of the day whispering ‘I will try again tomorrow.'”

Lou Holtz--“A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.”

Jim Watkins--“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop."

Confucius--“There are two ways of attaining an important end, force and perseverance; the silent power of the latter grows irresistible with time.”



A special thank you to Michael Pollock. More quotes can be found here: http://www.michaeldpollock.com/inspiring-quotes-persistence-perseverance/ 


Coming May 1st:  Writing on the Left Side of Your Brain



April 1, 2016

Tips for Fiction

Do you like to write for kids?  Would you like to see your stories published in a children's magazine?  Here are some tips to help you create great fiction. 

Introduce the main character in first paragraph.
Make the main character likable even though she may have faults.  
Establish the place or setting in the first or second paragraph.
Create conflict in the first third of the story.
Have the main character solve the dilemma without any help from others.
Use ‘said’ for dialogue tags.  Avoid using she frowned, he promised, she cried, etc.  
Try to incorporate the senses into the story.
Drive the story with action.  
Give the ending an unexpected twist.
Have main character grow or change by the end of the story.

After you have finished your story, put it on the back burner for a few days.  When you come back to it, read again to check for punctuation and spelling errors.  Trim words. Make sure the piece flows smoothly.  Then, give the story to a trusted reader for his opinions and suggestions. Edit again.  And again.  

Before you send out your story, read over the helpful tips.  Have you followed those suggestions?  Fantastic!   And congratulations!  You have created fiction that will be ready to submit to a children's magazine. 


March 15, 2016

To Be, or Not To Be Snappy

Many publishers and literary agents agree that queries should be professional.  That means the letter needs to be straightforward without any outward attention-grabbing devises. 

There are however, some writers who believe that a witty query will help them stand out from the slush pile. Some writers like to send a query written in the voice of the main character.  I wouldn't recommend this tactic.  It is usually frowned upon by agents.  

Other writers have met agents at conferences, and they feel confident enough to approach them with a snappy synopsis or bio.  Again, there is no guarantee that a writer will snag an agent this way.  

Literary agent Mary Kole says, “The point is, some agents will always prefer a straightforward, businesslike query.  Others will tolerate some cuteness or gimmick. You don't know who's who until you try it, though, even even then, most people won't tell you if that was part of the decision to pass."

I personally wouldn’t try a gimmicky query, but that’s just me talking.  I’d be afraid my clever query might backfire.  Even if my story is titled “The Bright and Brainy Pony ," I’d be scared to label myself as a bright and brainy writer in my bio.  Though it’s clever and plays on the title, it’s risky.  And…I’m not a risk-taker. 

So, how will you write your query?  Will it be snappy or strickly professional?  In the end it comes down to your gut feeling.  To paraphrase a quote from the movie Dirty Harry:  “You’ve gotta ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?  Well, do ya?”

March 1, 2016

The Five Senses on a February Day

I like to walk for about an hour around my neighborhood even when it's freezing.  Only snow and rain keep me inside. So bundled with layers of clothing, plus gloves, ear muffs and a scarf up to my chin, I brave the cold.  

Here are the five senses on a brisk February day before I sit down to write.

I Hear:  
blue jays screeching 
fire engine siren screaming 
train whistle wailing 
dogs barking, snarling, and growling 
wind chimes tinkling

I Smell:  
smoke from a fireplace
the flowery scent of laundry being dried
dry cold air
damp oak leaves 

I Feel: 
a breeze sailing through my hair
wind striking my face
cold cutting through my jeans
fur-lined gloves warming my hands

I See:  
10 American flags, 8 Christmas decorations, and 6 University of Kentucky Wildcat flags
the sun peeking through thick grey clouds
a discarded beige leather sofa by the street curb
wine-colored buds trying to push out on oak trees
a cluster of emerald-green hyacinth leaves waiting for spring 

I Taste
nothing yet until dinner (pan-fried pancetta tossed with brocolini served over pasta)

Coming March 15th:  To be or not to be snappy. How witty should a query letter be? 



February 15, 2016

Tips in Choosing Titles

How do you choose a title for your story or article?  Do you have one in mind before you write the piece?  How do you know if it's a good title?

The purpose of a title is to give a reader some idea about the content of a piece.  It is the first thing that I look at when reviewing a submission for Kid's Imagination Train.  But sometimes a title may fail to promise what it plans to deliver.  For instance, several months ago I received a nonfiction submission with a title that led me to believe that the piece would be about scientists helping people in unique ways.  Instead, the article centered on inventions. The title was misleading.

Titles can be straightforward and to the point, or they can be creative and lively.  Ideally, titles should pique a reader’s interest.  In a recent submission to KIT, I received a wonderful poem titled "What do Bears do in the Rain?" The title immediately captured my attention.  An article written by Erin K. Schonauer and Jamie C. Schonauer and published in Stories for Children Magazine was titled "The Cresent's Ghostly Guests".  Makes you curious, huh? 

Here are some tips in choosing titles:

Choose a title after you have written the article. 
Keep the title short.
Use playful titles and alliteration for a very young audience. 
Use snappy titles for older children.
Create intrigue.
Read your article again and see if the title is a good fit.

Whether it's fiction or nonfiction, a title must relate to the content of the piece.  In the bear poem, we learn exactly what bears do in a downpour.  And in the ghost article, we discover where haunts occur and and why.

A good title whets a reader's appetite.  It gets them in the mood to read your work. When you choose a title that relates to the essence of a story, article or poem, you won’t disappoint your audience.  You will deliver what you have promised.




February 1, 2016

The Power of No

How do we feel when we hear the word no?  When a publisher or an agent says no (as in a rejection), it stings us temporarily.  We move on and submit again because rejections are part of the writer's life.  But how do we feel when an acquaintance or a relative tell us no?  Often, we feel miserable for quite a long while.    

People use the word no to assert themselves or to feel superior.  As a result, this little word invalidates our remarks and leaves us speechless, powerless, and crushed.  This is a form of bullying—intimidating someone verbally, through e-mails, or with text-messaging.   

Most writers have experienced rejection from a publisher or agent, but this is not a form of bullying.  It is a method that is used to convey that a submission is not up to standards. However when we deliver the perfect manuscript, that rejection can turn into an acceptance. 

On the other hand, people who habitually say no have developed a trait that can rarely be changed.  Anything we utter (or e-mail or text) will and shall be met with nope.  So, to shield ourselves from being hurt, we can focus on what we can change.  We can steer clear of toxic people.  We can politely limit contact and conversation.  Then when we do so, we can surround ourselves with people who communicate with more respect.     

Coming Feb. 15:  A post on tips for choosing titles 

January 15, 2016

The KIT 2nd Annual Spring Contest

Last spring, Kid’s Imagination Train sponsored its first writing contest.  Because we had a nice response and received many creative submissions, we are offering another writing contest which is open to new and established writers.  

All you have to do is simply write a poem or a story about spring.  The deadline is March 15, 2016.  The prize is one hundred dollars.  You can find the contest guidelines on our homepage:   www.kidsimaginationtrain.com.   

Still deciding whether to enter?  As mentioned before on this blog, entering a contest gets your work in front of an editor.  It helps you meet deadlines.  It tests whether you can follow the writer's guidelines.  In addition, entering a contest gives you the opportunity to have your work published and then read by thousands of viewers.  

So…start thinking about those warm spring days.  See if it puts you in the mood to create a piece for the KIT Spring 2016 contest.

Coming Feb.1st: a post on "The Power of No."  

January 1, 2016

A New Year’s Wish

As you know, writing for children is not easy.  We freak out when nothing comes to mind when we want to begin a new story.  We lose faith when agents and publishers reject our work.  We get sensitive over a critique member's remarks, or feel exasperated when friends or family just don't get what it takes to write for kids.

Still, we strive to create just the right story that can be told with just the right words and with just the right number of words because we love to write for kids.  

We know it's not easy, but sometimes we need a little encouragement.  

So I remind you to never give up, to believe in YOU, to know that you will succeed.




To all of my faithful readers, I wish you many days filled with the joy of writing.