October 13, 2017

Please Write a Review

Did you know book reviews directly influence the sale of books?  That's why it's so important to get reviews.  However, as an author, getting reviews are easier said than done.

I've asked friends, family, work acquaintances, classmates, picture book bloggers, and the list goes on and on.  

Many have taken the time to read Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell and post an Amazon review.  And for that, I'm sincerely honored and grateful. 

So, dear followers.  Please leave a comment or email Rlmrvos@gmail.com and request a free copy of Maggie.  One or two sentences is all you'd need to write. 

Some people are not sure what to say and that holds them back.  Have no fears.  It's easy:  write if you liked (or disliked) the story, the themes, or the illustrations.  Write about  the discussion guide or Charlie's story which appears at the end of the book.  Write if you think kids will like the book. 

It can't be stressed enough the value of reviews, and for this reason, this blog post will be published on The Maggie Project Blog, too.  This message bears repeating.

I urge you to reach out not only to me, but to other authors.  Write a review.  The instructions are easy and can be found here:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201145120


Please know that your words are important.  Even a few words can make a huge difference.



October 1, 2017

Post-Publication Blues

When I gave birth to my daughter, I was lucky that I never got the postpartum blues.  But after the "birth" of my book, the post-publication book blues set in.

Everyone assumes that when you get a book published, life is grand. They think that now, for you, a publisher author, nothing will ever get you down again.

But that's not true.  After your book is published, a little depression may settle in.  For instance:

You may be wit's end trying to get reviews because reviews sell books. You might be trying to figure out new marketing schemes.  You may have to get out there in front of fans at book signings and on television even if you are an introvert (and most of us writers are introverts).

You may find that you can't give up wearing a thick skin (which you developed during those days of submitting and then getting rejections) when friends don't write you to congratulate you, when business managers won't return your phone calls and emails, when newspaper reporters fail to take interest.

You may be constantly thinking about sales, and if you're not, then someone will ask:  How many books have you sold?

So writers have a lot on their minds after the publication of a book and it's not always pretty. However, that's part of publication and we must learn to shrug off the blues because it can make us feel miserable when we should be rejoicing.

What can we do about these post-publication woes?  We can concentrate on the GOOD things that come with publication:

the positive reviews
the encouragement of a spouse
the throng of people coming to your book signing
a librarian who wants you to do a school visit
a child who wants your autograph
the conversations with friends who tell you your writing touched them in a profound way
flipping the pages of a book that was once merely a manuscript

We can't make the post-publication worries go away.  But we can choose to redirect our focus away from those worries.

When we can concentrate on the good things, we may find we have a lot to be thankful for.  And we may find that after publication...life can be grand.











September 20, 2017

Thinking Out of the Box for a Book Signing

What do I know about doing a book signing?  Not a whole lot.  So, I wanted to learn what makes a hugely successful author event.

I attended a handful of book signings to see how others actually went about it.  Quite simply, there was a table, the books, and a chair for the author. Maybe a poster of the book. Nothing more.

But I wanted more.

My book signing is scheduled for this coming Sunday.  I want it to attract people—not have them walk past table without picking up a book.  I've seen that happen to others, and it seemed painful.

So...I did some thinking out of the box.  What does that entail?

Pizzazz and puppies!  Since Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell is about a little girl and the rescue dog that changed her life, I've planned to have:

brightly-colored dog water bowls overflowing with bookmarks, magnets, and cookies
helium balloons with paw prints floating over the table
a doggy mug holding paw print pencils
a plush toy puppy that looks like Maggie's dog

For an extra cute-factor and special treat, Woodford Humane Society will be bringing puppies and kittens that are looking for forever homes.

And then, there's Charlie, my friend's rescue dog who will be making an appearance.  After all, he's the inspiration for the story!

This book signing has to be more than a table, a chair and some books.  It has to shout: Come on over and check out the book, the cool gifts, and the sweet animals.

As you've probably figured out, the planning has taken months.  But it's been a joyful process that required some thinking out of the box.  In a few days (Sept 24th to be exact!) we shall see.  I'm hoping pizzazz and puppies will make this book signing a huge success.

https://www.pinterest.com/kidsimagina0467/book-signing-ideas/



     

September 15, 2017

No One Ever Told Me

Dear Aspiring Writer,

No one ever told me that publishing a children's picture book would be hard work.  It took me completely by surprise.

Most writers know that everything about writing is challenging...

coming up with a story idea

the editing

crafting query letters

and submitting,

the jealousy that creeps in when you compare yourself to published writers,

the rejections.

If we are able to work through all of that and stay positive and determined, good things will happen. And before you know it, your book will get published and you'll be signing a contract. But when it happens...HOLD ON.  The roller coaster ride of even more hard work begins.

After signing with a publisher, you have to start thinking about how you are going to market your book.  If you publish with a mid-size publisher or a Big Five publisher, they will do a lot of the publicity for you.  Still, you'll need to market the book some.  And if you go with a small press like I have, you will have even more work to do because small presses don't have the resources to promote writers like the bigger publishing houses.

Sure, it seems glamorous to publish a book.  But there's a lot to be done after your book is released. That's why writers should think about marketing NOW, before you sign a contract. Begin to develop your platform.  Get on social media and join Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  Develop a website. You'll be glad you did because you will be getting your name out there and creating a fan base.

Trying to figure this whole marketing thing out is daunting, but if you can take care of some of the work ahead of time, you won't feel so frenzied.  That way, many months before your book is released, you can spend time organizing book signings, designing bookmarks, sending out email blast announcements and doing other creative things needed to spread the word.

Marketing is amazingly time-consuming.  The nice thing is, you can google and research marketing a children's book to find out how others went about it.  Start thinking about what you can do now, so you won't be taken by surprise when it comes time to promote your work.

Sincerely yours,
Randi Lynn









September 1, 2017

Animal Characters

Have you ever used animals as the main characters in your stories?  If not—why not? Children love stories about animals.

If you don't know where to start, do Google search for "fascinating animals,"  You may find creatures worthy of starring in your stories.  That's how I found Cholla.  Cholla was a horse that could hold a brush in his mouth and paint pictures.  In fact, his owner entered one of his paintings in an international art contest and it won a prize.  My story  Cholla, the True Story of an Artsy Horse is based on a real horse and a true event.

Besides searching for unique animals online, you may run across some interesting creatures while you're traveling or on vacation.  Keep your eyes open and you may come across an interesting animal to write about.  Once when my husband and I were in New Orleans, we saw a dog do funny tricks for bystanders in Jackson Square.

Sometimes pets in your own neighborhood may inspire you.  We have a neighbor that owns a potbelly pig as a pet.  Our next-door neighbors have three chickens, two dogs and a cat. Raccoons and opossums have visited our patio.  A red-tailed hawk sometimes perches on our deck.

Perhaps a friend or a relative has an adorable or an unusual pet that you could use as basis for a new character.  A good friend of my rescued a lovable dog named Charlie (his gorgeous picture is to the right), and he is the inspiration for Maggie's dog in my upcoming book Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell.

You don't have to look far to find an animal that can be used as a character in one of your stories. Search the Internet for interesting animals.  Take a look in your own neighborhood. Write about a pet. Children will love a story about an amazing animal character.


For more on Maggie, check out:







August 15, 2017

Wordy Picture Books

Have you written a picture book?  How long is it?  Does it run 700 to 1000 words?

The truth is, most publishers want books that are no longer than 500 - 600 words. There are exceptions to this rule and some publishers will accept longer work. Most however, are looking for shorter pieces.

Let's say you love your 900-word book.  Every last word.  But, if you want to get it published, you'll have to trim it down.  It sounds almost impossible, especially if you've got an intriguing beginning, a compelling middle, and a satisfying ending. Where would you even begin to cut? 


That's what I faced with my upcoming picture book Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell. Originally the story was 1000 words. After reading many kidlit blogs and working with an editorial consultant, I learned that a lengthy story might be hurting my publication chances.  So, 500 words had to go.  Yep, half of the story.  Yikes!

The hardest part was trying to figure out what was not essential to the story.  And the answer was:  a lot of scenes in the middle. These extra scenes were funny, but not they did not advance the plot. 

After choosing three scenes to delete, the piece actually felt lighter, no 500 words to bog down the story.  The pace was smoother, like a kid skipping along a sidewalk. I grew to love this shorter version even better than the original.

So where will you cut words?  Read your story out loud.  Then take a look at the middle of your story.  Do some scenes slow the pace?  Remove them and read the story again.  Does it flow faster and smoother?  If not, cut a few more places that seem to bog the piece down.  Read your story again.  Does it have page-turn ability? Excellent!  A 500-word manuscript could make all the difference in capturing the attention of a publisher.

August 1, 2017

Invaluable Advice

Children's Writer's World warmly welcomes a guest post by writer and blogger Jennifer Prevost.


I love it when my friends politely ask, “so how’s that whole writing thing going?” It means a lot that they check, even though I know they don’t ‘get it.’  They wouldn’t understand, but I think you will, even though I don’t have a whole lot to show for it... it’s going great! 

Let me start from the beginning.  One hot summer afternoon a story was born about a little boy named Nathan.  It was one of those moments of pure, energizing inspiration, and the official start to my kid lit journey.  

          For the first eight months, his story was written in rhyme.  In fact, all my early stories were.  Rhyme was the only option I gave myself.  My mantra was “I love rhyme; I can rhyme; I will rhyme,” despite all the signs pointing to the contrary and by signs, I mean, everything I read and two freelance editors advising against it. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a better than average rhymer, but I was in over my head and I didn’t even know it.  Those months are by no means a waste, because I learned a tremendous amount, but I was stubborn. Finally, on April 20, sometime after I was lucky enough to cross paths with Randi, I found the courage to ask for her input.  Guess what she said? Drop the rhyme.  The difference was, I heard it.  I consider that day to be a game changer for me.  I did it, I dropped the rhyme, and forced myself headfirst into my scariest writing adventure to date... writing in prose. 

Since then, my writing has improved dramatically and I’ll be forever grateful for the nudge in the right direction.  Here’s the kicker, the real lesson in it wasn’t that I needed to write in prose.  The real lesson was that I needed to get away from what felt safe and familiar.  I needed the leap of faith that came with making that decision.  I hadn’t ever written in prose, and I didn’t even know if I could.  It was uncomfortable, awkward and difficult. 

Between the versions in rhyme, and my many drafts in prose, I’ve made every text book mistake that novice writers make.  I’ve earned myself rejection letters and a fair amount of creative conflict.  The good news? I can speak the language now.  I have a critique group and critique partners who are quickly becoming dear friends.  I have a few manuscripts that are (nearly) submission-ready.  When I started out, I didn’t have any experience or knowledge on writing picture books.  I do now.  One of the favorite parts of my writing adventure: being a member of the book launch team for Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell.  It’s a wonderful thing, getting to return the favor and celebrate Randi’s success. 

The moral of my story: If you feel yourself stuck in a writing rut, or find yourself hearing advice that feels repetitive, do yourself a favor and try something different.  Take a written leap of faith! There’s a good chance that a different path will hold opportunities you couldn’t have imagined for yourself.  You deserve that chance, and your story does, too. 

Jennifer Prevost is a wife, mom and picture book author of the pre-published variety.  For her entire life, she dreamed of seeing her words in print.  Like so many others, picture books are where she first fell in love with the reading. These days she dreams of creating stories that will help children discover the magic that exists within the pages of a book. Her blog, Magnolias & Manuscripts https://magnoliasandmanuscripts.wordpress.com/  provides an outlet for the energy and anticipation that come with chasing a dream and chronicles her journey (hopefully) all the way to published. 






July 15, 2017

Submission Reminders

When you submit a story, a poem, or nonfiction to a magazine editor, you want to make a good impression.  How can you do that?

Here are a few tips.

1.  Follow the guidelines.
2.  Don't send more than one submission when multiple submissions are not       
     accepted.
3.  Refrain from re-sending a submission, even if you've found an error.        
     Chances are, it will not affect an editor's decision.
4.  Remember that poems must have rhythm and meter.
5.  Use a variety of reliable sources for articles, not just Internet sites. 
6.  Read back issues to get a feel for the kind of articles, poems, and stories that 
     are published.
7.  Choose a topic that is entertaining and interesting for kids.

I'm a very lucky editor because most of the time writers understand how to submit. But every once in a while, I'll get a submission that falls short because of one (or more) of the above.  And sadly, those submissions are rejected.  Don't make the same mistake. Keep these suggestions in mind if you want to impress an editor.   


July 1, 2017

Building a Fictional World


Children's Writer's World warmly welcomes a guest blog by Melody Delgado.

Creating a world for your novel can be based upon research, creative thinking, or both. Whether your novel is set in the past or the present day, while the setting doesn’t need to overshadow the basic story, it serves as the backdrop of the story and it needs to be realistic and believable.  

When writing historical fiction, in order to form a world that seems real, research is essential. For my recently released YA historical romance, ROYALLY ENTITLED, which takes place in the year 1630, I spent two months researching this time period and seeking clues as to what was happening in Europe at the time. Some of the books I poured over at the library were 700 pages long. These books included information about clothing of the Renaissance period, ordinary occupations, common food items, inventions of the time, and popular traditions.

One interesting point that I found was that the rifle, or caliver, was invented during this time period. It replaced the crossbow and was as popular then as having a smart phone is today. I tried to find a way to include this nugget of information, and the invention of the caliver ends up playing a pivotal role in the story.

A custom of the time that was interesting and surprising was that sometimes royals united themselves in marriage with other royals they’d never even met. A miniature portrait would be sent to a potential suitor and they would decide whether to meet or even wed the person based merely on this small portrait. This particular morsel was too good to pass up, so this tidbit is another key component of my story.

It took me ten months to write the initial skeleton of the story, for a total of one year from the germ of an idea to a completed draft. Once I finished the draft I realized that the story couldn’t possibly take place in an already existing country. I’d strayed away from too many details and true historical events. The solution was to invent my own country called the nation of Brevalia.

It was freeing to not have to hold to the physical description and landscape of a specific country, but to be able to come up with things from my own imagination and experience. Currently, I live in a locale with a river that takes up a large portion of the city and helps to define it. I’d lived in another city with the same river feature, so I knew I wanted to include a river in my story. But I may not have been able to do that if I’d had to stick to the description of a specific European location.

However, many writers choose to write about a part of history as it actually happened and may even include actual historical characters. This method couldn’t work for my story, but whichever road you choose for your historical novel, research is essential in creating a believable fictional world.

Even if you are writing in the present day, which will be the world for my upcoming middle grade novel, OOPS A DAISY, there still need to be specific enough details to ground the reader in the setting of the story. My story takes place in modern day Miami, so the cultural aspects needed to be represented, as well as the favorite pastimes of the people in the city and the actual locations and landmarks found in the area. On the other hand, I did fashion a fictional school for my story to take place in. But details are based on what I’ve observed in modern day magnet schools and ideas I came up with on my own.

I’ve published two picture books and even picture books take place in a ‘world.’ As an author, we can’t leave all this ‘world-creating’ to the illustrator. The setting and tone we want to achieve must be made clear through our characters’ words and actions.

Creating a believable fictional world may still require the writer to be rooted in reality, but there is also plenty of room for using one’s imagination. Let it run free, and see where it leads you.

BIO:
Melody Delgado has been a published writer since 2000.  Her short stories have appeared in national magazines such as AIM (America’s Intercultural Magazine), VISTA, and CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE LATINO SOUL.  She has published two picture books. TEN ROARING DINOSAURS was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and DO YOU KNOW HOW I GOT MY NAME? was recently published by Little Debbie/McKee Foods.

Her YA inspirational, historical romance, ROYALLY ENTITLED, was released digitally by Clean Reads in May, 2017. It is the first in a three-book series called The Brides of Brevalia. A humorous children’s novel, OOPS-A-DAISY, is coming to print on September 5 of this year and is also the first in a children’s series, The De La Cruz Diaries. It will also be published by Clean Reads.

A short trailer of ROYALLY ENTITLED may be seen here: https://youtu.be/sF3Vx_IJBpo
For more about Melody you may visit her website at: http://www.melodydelgado.com/ 



June 15, 2017

Three Reasons for a NF Rejection


You submit an article to a children’s magazine.  Several weeks later, you receive a form rejection. This news sucks.  It's not only depressing, it's vague.  The letter doesn’t explain why your work was rejected.  The chance to re-submit to this market is slim because you don’t know how to improve your article. 

Children's magazines reject articles for a variety of reasons.  Some editors will reject a piece if the research isn't sufficient.  Other editors may find the subject of a submission inappropriate for the age group.  

At Kid’s Imagination Train e-zine, we rarely hand out rejections but if we do, we give an explicit reason for the rejection.  When it comes to nonfiction, there are three top reasons for turning a piece down:  the word count is not within the expected range, an expert review is missing, or the vocabulary and grade level is too advanced. 

If the word count is over 500 words, the writer needs to tighten the piece.  This can be achieved by removing unnecessary words and irrelevant facts.  If the word count is too short, then the author will need to do a little more research and add pertinent and interesting information.

For KIT, all nonfiction requires an expert review.  Depending on the topic, a writer can find experts listed on a university website or a zoological website, or associated with a professional organization. Having an expert review gives the assurance that the research presented in the article is accurate.

Often times, KIT receives articles that are too advanced for our audience.  Our readers are kids ages five through twelve, but sometimes we get pieces that are more for high school students.  Writers can use the Flesh-Kincaid scoring tool (http://www.readabilityformulas.com/free-readability-formula-tests.php) to calculate the grade level.  If the score is too high, the author can lower the level by turning compound sentences into simple sentences and by using grade-appropriate vocabulary.

KIT doesn’t send out form rejections.  Our philosophy has always been to explain why a piece is not ready for publication.  We offer suggestions for improvement.  Writers who submit to KIT often get a second or even third chance to submit their work again—and this indeed is good news.


I'm excited that my debut picture book Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell will be released this summer.  For news and updates, check out:  www.themaggieproject.blogspot.com and www.randilynnmrvos.com





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!