April 14, 2013

To Rhyme or not to Rhyme

A good many children's stories are written in rhyme. I don't necessarily advocate that you try this. It's difficult to pull off and some publishers have a strict policy against rhyming stories. They simply won't publish them.

However, if you feel this is the best way to tell your story, then proceed with caution. Rhyme has to be perfect.  No cheating.  Liz Waniewski, editor of Dial Books for Young Readers once told me that rhyme has to be "spot on."   Song writers and poets can get away with it.  Children's writers must produce perfect rhyme.

Author Tara Lazar has four pointers:
1.  Rhyme scheme can dictate story, but shouldn't. Tales shouldn't be forced into the confines of the rhyme.

2.  Editors want to see rhyme that surprises them—not the overly simple, one-syllable rhyme schemes that readers can guess the word before they get there.

3.  Forced rhyme, words that don't exactly rhyme unless you mispronounce them, can ruin a story.

4.  The meter or beat must be perfect—not just matching the number of syllables in each line, but having the correct emphasis on those syllables.

According to author Laura Backes of Writing-world.com, "All picture books consist of characters and a plot.  The plot ideally starts at the moment where everyday life for the main character changes from ordinary to extraordinary. The story proceeds through the extraordinary events the character faces, and his or her efforts to return life back to normal. Once this happens, the story ends immediately.  The mistake many writers make is that they make the rhyme more important than the story."

Don't be intimidated to write in verse.  It's not easy, but not impossible.  But if you love playing with language and if rhyme is an integral part of the story than give it try.

Check out these books to see how rhyme is achieved:
Bubble Trouble by Margaret Mahy
Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess.

For the entire list of 25 great rhyming books, go to:  http://www.notimeforflashcards.com/2013/02/picture-books-that-rhyme.html

April 7, 2013

Writing Fiction

Recently, I received a fiction submission for the Kid’s Imagination Train.  The story was cute but needed some editing.  When the piece was first submitted, it read like an itinerary. The main character did this first, and then he did this next, and so on.  There was no conflict and there was no character change.
The story had potential.  After a few suggestions were made, the author handled the revision brilliantly.  
In the first line of the story, the main character cries as his mom and dad drops him off at his aunt’s home so they can have a date.  This is a good example of conflict.  Eventually, the little boy begins to have fun.  He plays with his aunt’s dog and throws its favorite play toy onto the couch, under the bed, and into the kitchen.  This is how you show, not tell.  
Then the author incorporated the senses into the story.  This helped to draw the readers in to experience what the main character was feeling.  We tasted his sweet snacks, we felt his warm outdoor clothing and the cold snowy playground, and we listened to music they danced to.

Lastly, the author wrapped up the story with a  character change—the little boy finally realized that he had a very good visit with his aunt.
I think writing fiction for children is difficult.  You have to tell an engaging story in just a few words.  And, there's a lot to remember as you write.  But if you show, not tell, throw in conflict, tap into the senses, and add character change, you will be off to a very good start.

March 31, 2013

The Kid's Imagination Train

By: Elke
The Kid’s Imagination Train is off and running. After four published issues, the word is getting out.

Each month, KIT offers fiction and nonfiction as well as book reviews by the talented Donna Smith.  Up and coming articles include: beach bronos, cat communication, singing mice, and a notorious highwayman.  

KIT is unique in that it helps children to read and to learn, engaging them by providing the opportunity to illustrate and have their favorite features published online.  In fact, as more young artists discover KIT, their work will be linked to an illustration gallery. 

Another great feature about KIT is we support authors and writers. For a very low price, you can advertise your services or books on KIT. Contact Editor Ms. Randi Lynn Mrvos: Randi.lynn.mrvos@insightbb.com  for more information.

KIT will be a paying market in the near future. So what you are waiting for?  Do you have a story you’d like to share?  Have you written an article that will help children to read and to learn?  Or do you know kids who are dying to draw pictures?  Then check out KIT at: www.thekidsimaginationtrain.blogspot.com.  

We welcome you aboard!   

March 22, 2013

How to Work with an Editor

I've worked with editors from numerous publications—the Christian Science Monitor, Mothering, and Highlights (to name a few).  Below are ten suggestions when working with a publisher. 

* Be polite.  Whether you are writing an email or talking on the phone, use Ms. or Mr. until told otherwise.

* Be respectful.  Refrain from phoning an editor unless she has invited a call. 

* Give an editor what she has requested.  If an editor wants a revision and has pointed out how to go about making changes, follow her instructions. 

* Send your manuscript on time.  Editors have strict deadlines.  Have your work ready to be submitted when it is expected.

* Develop a thick skin.  Editors have preferences and their opinions may be subjective.  If an editor rejects your work, it’s up to you to find another publisher.

* Be open to constructive criticism.  If an editor offers advice, listen well and learn.  Use her suggestions to improve as a writer.

* Be professional.  Never argue with an editor.  Ever. 

* Avoid being judgmental.  Never criticize an editor or point out her faults.  No one’s perfect.

* Be understanding.  If an editor has written an email that comes across as curtly, chances are she didn’t intend to offend.  Emails can be easily misinterpreted.  Write again and ask her courteously for clarification.

* Show appreciation.  Thank an editor for her time and help.  Tell her that you like the illustrations that accompany your work.  Thank her when you receive contributor copies.

Following these suggestions may strengthen your reputation.  It’s important to establish a good working relationship with those who will publish your work.

March 16, 2013

Book Review: Writing Fiction

Writing Fiction: a Guide to Narrative Craft is now in its eighth edition.  The book, written by Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French and Ned Stuckey-French and published by Longman (an imprint of Pearson) belongs on every writer's shelf.

From the first inspiration to the final draft, Writing Fiction is a great guide for the novice writer.  Written in a personal tone, the book covers the writing process, place and atmosphere, summary and scene, story structure, point of view, revision, and characterization.  More, each chapter offers writing exercises and presents short stories which serve as examples and stress the importance of reading.

In an Amazon.com review, the book is described by having "excellent criterion, emerging from the author's decades of writing and teaching experience. This edition, like the seventh and sixth, engages and isn't too prescriptive."

Writing Fiction can come in handy when writing MG or YA.  The book will help you in developing character, setting, scene, and theme.  In addition, you will learn about the factors that comprise the crisis moments in a novel.  Specifically, readers want to experience everything in these moments—they want to see it, hear it, and feel it.  The authors of Writing Fiction explain that this difficult to accomplish because it can be exhausting to collect all of that emotion in its full intensity.  Still, writers must fully imagine that scene, place themselves in it, and emotionally experience it.

The book is an expensive purchase.  It usually costs close to ninety dollars.  But shop around and you may find one less expensive.  I bought my copy for under seventy dollars.  While this is probably one of the most expensive books I've ever bought for writing, its lessons are priceless.  My writing has improved; my confidence has grown.  Think of the purchase as an investment toward your writing career.  Writing Fiction will make your writing stronger.

March 11, 2013

On Writing

Today, I'd like to share a wonderful inspirational piece by Anjali Amit, originally printed at:  readlearnwrite.com

A lady walked into a milliner’s shop. “I have this party to attend,” she said. “I’m looking for a hat like no other.”

The milliner picked up a roll of ribbon and wrapped it around her head, shaping and fitting as he went along.

“Ah! beautiful,” the lady sighed. “How much do I owe you?”

The milliner named a sum that had his customer gasping in disbelief. “But it is just a roll of ribbon,” she exclaimed. The milliner unwrapped the ribbon and gave it to her. “The ribbon, madam, is free,” he said with a bow.

Writing is like that. Letters of the alphabet. Just letters, mere pencil strokes on paper. The letters, dear readers, are free; the masterpieces they create are paid for in blood — long nights and sweaty days, the unending search for the informing thought that brings them value.

Do we, then, cut a vein and let it bleed drops of blood onto the paper, as Hemingway is reputed to have said? No. Writing is not the spilling out, but the going within. A good writer, like a great actor, loses himself in the characters he creates, and finds himself with every character, every sentence and word chosen.

To find herself a writer has to first lose herself. To put his ‘I’ before the reader a writer has to find the ‘you’. Writing is best described in paired opposites, in binary terms almost, with the caveat that the opposites are not mutually exclusive but contained in each other. “The longest journey is the journey inwards,” wrote Dag Hammarskjold in his book Markings. So short a distance, so long the journey, and we may never reach the end.

Write anyway. The truths you have within you are yours, and yours alone. Unstated, they are lost forever. The prince and the pauper look at a bird on a distant tree. “Target practice,” thinks the prince.

“Food,” hungers the pauper. The professor and the student see a thick notebook lying by the roadside.

“Oh, oh, looks like someone’s thesis,” says the professor. “Kindling,” thinks the poor student shivering in the cold. Both voices need to be heard.
Shakespeare, master dramatist, paired the hero/heroine with the Fool, and gave him lines that state truths often invisible to the other characters. King Lear called the Fool “my philosopher”. Feste, in Twelfth Night, points Olivia to her excessive mourning:

Feste: Good madonna, why mournest thou?
Olivia: Good fool, for my brother’s death.
Feste: I think his soul is in hell, madonna.
Olivia: I know his soul is in heaven, fool.
Feste: The more fool, madonna, to mourn for your brother’s soul being in heaven. Take away the fool, gentlemen.

Writing requires courage. Disguise your words as coming from a fool, if you so desire. Take a lesson from Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky:
Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Be brave. If you hold onto your truths you may be mocked and scorned. You may be disbelieved. That goes with the territory. Tell your truth anyway.
Anjali Amit does not subscribe to the ‘eat to live or live to eat’ debate. She reads to live. Occasionally she writes stories for children, and has been known to create a crossword or two.  Please visit Anjali's website: thefabletable.com.
Photo: courtesy of Clipart

March 4, 2013

All about Fairy May

Today, Jo Lindsdell shares the inspiration behind her book Fairy May:

I'm a mum to two wonderful little boys, a five-year old and an 18 month-old. This makes me a very lucky children's author as I have a constant font of inspiration for my books. Sometimes ideas come to me from playing with my kids or from watching them play with each other. I also get inspiration from watching cartoons and from reading books with them. All these things help me to connect with their way of thinking and brings me closer to seeing the world the way they do.

The idea for my latest book Fairy May came from a mixture of sources though. It all started when my three-year old niece asked me to write a book for her. She'd seen that my last book had been dedicated to my sons.  So, she wanted one dedicated to her. When I asked her what she'd like the book to be about she said that it had to have fairies in it. The inspiration for the tooth fairy theme came about due to my youngest going through the teething phase and my oldest noting that some of his friends from school had lost their first tooth. Teeth were a hot topic in our house. So it naturally became the theme for the book.

I wanted Fairy May to be more than just a typical tooth fairy story or just about encouraging good dental hygiene though. With this in mind, I started thinking about possible story lines. I've always believed that just because something is difficult doesn't mean it can't be done, and I felt that this strong message should be relayed to kids. Fairy May therefore, became about following your dreams and not giving up.

As you can see the inspiration for the book came in waves and from a variety of sources. It was then just a case of pulling all the elements together and creating rhyming text that could tell the story in a fun and captivating manner.

So far, Fairy May (which was officially released on 1st February 2013) has received some excellent feedback and multiple 5 star reviews. I think that one of the main reasons for its success is that most kids (and adults) can relate to Fairy May and have been through moments when realizing their dreams seems like the hardest thing to do. Fairy May is simple and yet carries a strong message for its readers.

Kids inspire my books and I hope that in return I can inspire them a little, too.
About Jo Linsdell:  Jo Linsdell  is an award winning blogger and freelance writer living in Rome , Italy . She is also the author of several books including the popular Italian for Tourists, A Guide to Weddings in Italy  and the best selling children's picture book Out and About at the Zoo. Her latest book Fairy May was released on 1st February 2013. You can find out more about her at www.JoLinsdell.com