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The next Children's Writer's World post will be on June 15th.

May 15, 2017

Getting to Know your Characters

When you create characters for your stories, what kinds of traits do they have? What do they look like physically?  What are their personalities like?  What are their relations to others?  



Some writers know everything about their protagonists before they begin writing a new story. It was the opposite for me.  In my upcoming book Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show and Tell, the story took off well before I knew what the protagonist Maggie looked like. I had some idea about her personality.  




It seems strange to me that I didn't picture Maggie before I first set out to tell her story. However, halfway into the plot that all changed. The moment Maggie faced a huge problem, her personality solidified and her appearance became apparent, red hair and all.

These are some words that describe Maggie:                                                   
a curly-haired redhead
a first-grader
a student in Ms. Madison's class
a classmate of Emma, Sara, Ally, and Freddie
a woe-is-me, Charlie Brown-like character 
a sister and daughter
a dreamer 
a dog owner
imaginative 
spunky
quirky
determined
loving and lovable
a kid with a big school problem

Every writer has a different approach to creating characters.  So, don't worry that you may not know what your main character looks like when you first start off to write your story.  Be patient.  By the time you have developed the conflict, you will begin to picture the physical traits of your protagonist, get to know her personality and understand her relationships with others.

For more on Maggie, check out:
www.themaggieproject.blogspot.com and www.randilynnmrvos.com








May 1, 2017

Guest Blog: Tips on Writing a Series

Children's Writer's World warmly welcomes author Rita Monette.

How is writing a series different than writing a stand alone book? 
If you don’t know ahead of time you are going to create a series, it can catch you off guard. You will find yourself researching your own books for information.

When I wrote The Legend of Ghost Dog Island, book one in the Nikki Landry Swamp Legend Series, I didn’t intend to write a series. I merely wanted to write a story about my childhood growing up in the Louisiana bayous. Then it became about a legend my father used to tell. When I got to the end, I began thinking about other legends I could have my characters involved in. But that’s a far as it got. That was until some of my readers began asking for more.


As I began book two in the series,The Curse at Pirate’s Cove, I realized that writing the second book wasn’t going to be easy, when I thought it would be a piece of cake. Little did I know how difficult it would be to keep track of all the characters and their physical traits, voice, and mannerisms a whole year after writing the first book.

It wasn’t until I started compiling book three of my series, The Secret in Mossy Swamp, that I decided to create a notebook with a page for each character mentioned in books one and two. Something as small as eye color, or as complicated as a secondary character’s parents’  occupation, can send you scurrying when it comes up again.

Another problem I’ve found with a series is that, if you don’t want to drag a character, or pet, through many books, and you can’t bear to kill them off, think twice about putting them in to begin with. So now I have to tell my hero NO when she asks for another pet.

Still, there is the issue of a reader reading your books out of sequence. I’ve stumbled upon the problem of revealing the mystery in book one, by bringing to life a character in book two that was suspected as dead in the beginning of book one. Thank goodness for second editions.

You can visit Rita's blog at: 
http://ritamonette.blogspot.com  



April 15, 2017

Guest Blog: Writing a Review

Children's Writer's World warmly welcomes book reviewer Elizabeth Tipping.

I’m delighted to be writing a guest post for Children’s Writer’s World! I regularly post book reviews on my blog, 2 Cooks Crafting Books:  https://2cookscraftingbooks.wordpress.com/author/2cookcraftingbooks/ 
I’d like to share my process for reviewing and the style of review you’ll find on my blog.

My first step is to identify the book I want to review. Since my goal is to share “great books,” I am picky about what I include on the blog. This means I do A LOT of reading! Fortunately, my kids would rather read with me than do almost anything else, so we do a fair amount of reading in my house. Plus, I love reading on my own.

If I’ve read a book with one (or both) of my kids, one of the things I look for in deciding whether it should be featured is how my child responded to it. My kids will sit through a technical manual if it is being read out loud, so I want to see something more than attention from them.

Last night, for example, my daughter and I read the fantastic BOB, NOT BOB! by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick. BOB, NOT BOB! is “To be read as though you have the worst cold ever” since that is the condition that poor Little Louie finds himself in. So, although we were at a restaurant, I read the appropriate passages as though I had “the worst cold ever.” Once my daughter got control of her laughter, she kept stopping me so that she could call across the table to her older brother to listen to the book. That’s a hit, for sure!

In my review, I provide a bit about the story—without ever giving away too much about what happens. In BOB, NOT BOB!, Little Louie’s cold is making him have a “weird, all-wrong, stuffed-up voice.” Every time he calls for his mom, it comes out “BOB!” Louie’s family also has a dog named Bob, who comes running when Louie calls.

When Bob (the dog) arrives, Louie shouts, in his stuffed-up voice: “NO! I wan by BOB, not BOB! BOB! BOB! BOB!” Although I can’t replicate it here, when Louie shouts BOB! and means his mom, the O has a heart in the middle. When it is BOB! the dog, it is a normal O. It’s a lovely way to help young readers figure out which BOB! Louie really means.

When I’m done describing the book (which may also include such things as character, point of view, or illustrations), I take some time to research the author. I always try to give a little information about the book’s author, and occasionally the illustrator. This section also includes the address for the author’s website or blog, and why someone might want to check out the author’s website (if there’s something extra offered, such as activities or teaching guides).

BOB, NOT BOB! has two authors: Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick. Ms. Scanlon’s website is www.lizgartonscanlon.com. There, she has teachers’ guides for all of her books (some of the guides have crosswords, games, and crafts included!). Ms Vernick’s website is www.audreyvernick.com and it includes a link to her blog.

Finally, I conclude every review by asking for recommendations of other great books to read. We are all enriched by sharing great books with one another!


April 1, 2017

School Career Day

Recently, I had been invited by an instructor at the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Lexington, Kentucky to participate in the school's career day program. It's exciting to think that a presentation just might give middle-graders some insight into becoming a writer.

Since I haven't any experience with this kind of event, I goggled how to give a career day presentation.  There are quite a few websites that offer excellent ideas and instruction. This one got me started:  https://www.mcwt.org/files/mcwt2012/1/file/foundation/MCWTF%20Parents%20and%20Teachers%20Docs/Career%20Day%20Speaker%20Tips_Oct2013.pdf  

Most speakers begin with a brief introduction, their job title and how they ended up choosing their career.  Next, presenters reveal what a typical day is like and then relate the skills they use each day to the school subjects students take.  A good chunk of the presentation centers on the positive aspects of a career and why the career matters, and closes with the career paths kids can follow.  

I’m thinking about the kinds of props that will be needed to make the presentation lively, attractive and intriguing to students. Bringing things from my desk might do the trick: colorful notebooks, my red laptop, post-it notes, writing technique books, and an artsy desk lamp.  

There’s still a lot to do in the next two weeks (memorizing and practicing) and I am hopeful everything will turn out fine.  In the meantime, if any of you have ever done a career day or if you have suggestions that would make an interesting presentation for middle graders, I would love to hear from you.  



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!