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 Mo√ęt & 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.