Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Encore Presentation: WRITERLY WISDOM

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
***I have a number of writing deadlines coming up over the next couple of months so I have decided instead of stepping away from my blog completely to concentrate solely on my writing, I will bring back an encore performance of my WRITERLY WISDOM series from three years ago. WW is 52 glorious posts by authors, agents, and editors from around the country providing writerly wisdom in categories from why even become a writer all the way to how to publish and market your books.

There will be two posts loaded per week...Mondays & Wednesdays...so be sure to stop by and check out all the encouraging information given by my lovely writerly friends! I hope you enjoy the encore presentation of my WRITERLY WISDOM series and I will return with shiny, new posts in the fall!***
 


Prose vs. Rhyme
by Catherine Johnson


Lots of people love to rhyme, but how do you do it well?
Do you dream it in your sleep? Do you make a magic spell?
Well…Did you read a post by Amy Dixon to make some notes first she’d suggest?
That way your plot has no big holes and your story is the best.
Learn your meter, but don’t be a slave, make your words behave
but let their length misbehave.
And just as you see above, internal rhyme is fun.
When you start experimenting your sparkling lines will stun.

“Now it’s not so easy to bring dialogue into a rhyming story, not a big scale anyway.
Experiment with how much dialogue you want before you go rhyming it,” she said.
“What stories have you read that you cannot imagine being written in prose and vice versa? Can you imagine Green Eggs and Ham in prose? What about Where the Wild Things Are being in rhyme? Some stories sound okay both ways. It’s very hard to turn a rhyming story into prose. Has anyone done that?”
            
Some people find it easier to write a poem in rhyme and expand it and add picture book elements to turn it into a picture book. I’ve tried it recently after hearing that M.M.Socks writes his picture books that way. It really is great, especially if you prefer writing poems to picture books.

Reasons for writing in prose:

1 Soft, gentle story with cute characters are usually in prose.
2 If the plot is too long to sound good in rhyme, I.e. The Monstore by Tara Lazar.
3 If it is too complicated to write in rhyme or you would lose the essence of the story in rhyme.
4 A book with very little text plus a repetitive line on each page as in Because I’m Your Dad by Ahmet Zappa and Dan Santat would be very difficult to rhyme and a bit pointless. (Love this book btw!)

Reasons for writing in rhyme:

1 Key words in the story rhyme easily with other words relevant to the story.
2 The story is lively and would be fun in rhyme.
3 It started life as a poem.

So does this help any lol? I would be happy to help anyone with meter issues etc. Happy rhyming and prosing folks!









Catherine Johnson is a British Ex-Pat living in Canada with her unruly brood ;) She likes to take the dog for a walk, write poems at every opportunity and has just started learning to illustrate. There just might be a book of zoo poems coming out soon. You can find Catherine on her blog at: http://catherinemjohnson.wordpress.com
 
 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Encore Presentation: WRITERLY WISDOM

 
 
 
 
 
***I have a number of writing deadlines coming up over the next couple of months so I have decided instead of stepping away from my blog completely to concentrate solely on my writing, I will bring back an encore performance of my WRITERLY WISDOM series from three years ago. WW is 52 glorious posts by authors, agents, and editors from around the country providing writerly wisdom in categories from why even become a writer all the way to how to publish and market your books.

There will be two posts loaded per week...Mondays & Wednesdays...so be sure to stop by and check out all the encouraging information given by my lovely writerly friends! I hope you enjoy the encore presentation of my WRITERLY WISDOM series and I will return with shiny, new posts in the fall!***
 


Generating ideas: Thinking like a child
By Russ Cox

“If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree, I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up! Not me!” J.M. Barrie

When Donna contacted me about writing an article on thinking like a child, I was excited to tackle this subject matter. Having reached the mid-century mark, it has been a long time since I was an actual kid in the physical sense. But if you ask my wife she will tell you I never grew up. She reminds me of this almost every day.

So what is it to be an adult and still think like a child? I believe to work in the children's market, especially books, not only do you have to think like a child, but in many ways you need to act like one. No, not in the "I did not get my way so I would throw a tantrum or hold my breath until I pass out" way, although I have tried that with my wife and she will just step over me. To be child-like, one must still enjoy doing kid things.

Here are some things that I try to do to keep that inner kid active:

Don't be perfect or afraid to fail - A child does not worry about being perfect. Not every circle or square is exactly right. To exaggerate things is to see them in a new perspective. A different viewpoint can lead you down an undiscovered road, full of new ideas. Try to see things that are not there or do not make sense in the adult world. Look at drawings done by children.  They show an eclectic mix of characters and scenarios that would make even Freud scratch his head, in a good way. Where would Picasso be if he created his paintings in a more traditional style?

Pretend – The only time adults really let loose and pretend seems to be on Halloween or at a costume party. Why not dig out a mask or tennis racket and pretend you are a monster playing the guitar in a rock band. I would make a banjo reference but not many of us would imagine playing the banjo with a mask on. Reenact the “worm” scene from Animal House. The alcohol is optional.

Be silly, let loose - Okay with this one, it is confession time. I have different voices for our four cats. Yes, I have become that crazy cat person. My wife is as well by proxy. Doing silly voices for the cats has lead to story and illustration ideas. Just stepping outside of adulthood for a brief moment and letting loose, feels good and gives you a good belly laugh. My daughter and I came up with this silly dance that we do whenever we are in bad moods. You cannot help but laugh at us. It is pure silliness. I can show you sometime if we ever run into each other.

Try something new - I think as adults we get so stuck in our ways and routines it is hard to break out of that rut. Kids are always up to doing something they haven't done before. It is the freshness of a new discovery that keeps them exploring new adventures. So do something different. Go into a music store, pick up an instrument that you have no idea how to play, and attempt to play it. Strum, blow, bang, crash, etc.! Yes, you could clear the store and create a ruckus but you could be an undiscovered Mozart or Jimi Hendrix.

Play - As adults, especially creative ones, we must keep the want to "play" alive and healthy. We need to loose the self-control restraint that ones with age. I still enjoy going to toy stores and playing with the toys, watching cartoons, running amok at amusement parks and playgrounds, flying kites, and chasing my wife around with a water pistol. And yes, I do squirt her!

Practice – Practice? How does one practice being a kid? If you apply or try a few the ideas above, your inner kid will come flooding back. Maybe to the chagrin of your partner or family but the payoff in the end will be worth it.


As we become adults, we tend to loose that creative free spirit. With jobs, families, and various responsibilities, a seriousness enters our lives, pushing out the inner child. Keeping that child alive is the key to not only success, but to lots of laughs and a happy, creative life.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso







Russ Cox was raised by a pack of crazed hillbillies in the back woods of Tennessee. Without much in the way of modern conveniences, like a television set or running water, he spent his time drawing and whittling away the hours. After dismantling his grandfather's lawn mower engine, and without a clue on how to get it back together, he soon realized that he did not have an automotive bone in his body so he kept drawing. After graduating from art school, with a portfolio in his hand, he ventured into the world of design and illustration. He opened his own studio, Smiling Otis Studio, where he presently specializes in illustration for children. When not drawing, running amok in the snow, or training their four cats to sing Bohemian Rhapsody, Russ enjoys some quiet time, working on his picture book stories. He also enjoys playing the banjo but his wife would prefer him to play the triangle or build a sound proof room.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@smilingotis
 
 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Encore Presentation: WRITERLY WISDOM

 
 
 
 
***I have a number of writing deadlines coming up over the next couple of months so I have decided instead of stepping away from my blog completely to concentrate solely on my writing, I will bring back an encore performance of my WRITERLY WISDOM series from three years ago. WW is 52 glorious posts by authors, agents, and editors from around the country providing writerly wisdom in categories from why even become a writer all the way to how to publish and market your books.

There will be two posts loaded per week...Mondays & Wednesdays...so be sure to stop by and check out all the encouraging information given by my lovely writerly friends! I hope you enjoy the encore presentation of my WRITERLY WISDOM series and I will return with shiny, new posts in the fall!***
 
Picture Books: A Child’s POV
By Vivian Kirkfield

“Read me one more story, please?”

Just about every parent has heard this plaintive cry. Young children love to listen to picture book stories. They enjoy cuddling close to daddy on a comfy couch or leaning back on mommy’s lap as they help to turn the dog-eared pages of a beloved book.

Why should we read picture books to young children? 

·           We read with them for entertainment and enjoyment. Their messages can help young children deal with many of the challenges they encounter. Reading with young children engages them in the world between the pages. Children are able to relate the events in the book to their own experiences. Studies show that children who are read to at an early age are more successful in school.

      Which books should a parent read? A parent can:

·          Consult children’s librarians
·          Check out reviews on Amazon and other book review sites
·         Ask for recommendations from teachers and friends
·         Encourage the child to make some choices.

What makes great picture book? Whether it is a quiet bedtime book or a rollicking pirate adventure...a great picture book should have:

·          Captivating illustrations
·          Simple text
·          Story that a child can relate to
·          Emotional response

As picture book writers, we need to keep those four factors in mind. But picture books are not the only types of books for young kids. Here is a list of the different types of book formats and what you can expect to find in each.

·         Board books – for infants to toddlers, hard board pages usually plasticized for sturdiness, simple pictures, minimal text, these days many popular picture books have been redone as board books, but they used to be mostly concept books (numbers, colors, ABC’s).

·          Picture books – for preschoolers to 4th grade...although ages 3-5 is considered the ‘sweet spot’, designed to be read to/with the child, 32 pages, balance between text and pictures, but recently more pictures than text,1000 word max...but recently 500 words or less are preferred, art tells much of the story, child or child-like hero is at center of story, fiction or non-fiction or concept book, example: Where The Wild Things Are.

·          Easy-reader or level reader – 6-8 year old, illustrations on every page, usually broken into chapters, shorter sentences and repetition, 2-5 sentences per page, aim is for the child to read it himself, example: Amelia Bedelia

·          Early Chapter Books – 7-11 year old, 45-60 pages, broken into chapters, each chapter is broken into 3-4 pages, illustrations are small, usually black and white and only on every few pages, 2-4 sentences per paragraph, each chapter ends so they want to turn the page, example: Ramona.

·          Middle Grade Novels (MG) – 8-12 year old, 100-150 pages, minimal illustrations, invites the child to bring his own imagination to the story, example: series books such as Chronicles of Narnia.

·         Young Adult Novels (YA) – 12 years old and up, 100-400 pages, complex plots, themes relevant to problems of teenagers today, sophisticated topics, mature vocabulary, example: Twilight Series, Hunger Games.

As writers of children’s books, it will be helpful to remember these parameters.

I think that writing for children is the best job in the world! As Jorge Luis Borges said, “I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.” We hold in our hands the ability to create beautiful stories that will entertain, educate and elevate the young children of tomorrow.

Vivian Kirkfield is a mom, an educator and an author who lives in the Colorado Rockies but is soon relocating to New Hampshire. She's passionate about picture books, enjoys hiking and fly-fishing with her husband, loves reading, crafting and cooking with kids during school and library programs and shares tips and tactics for building self-esteem and literacy in her parenting workshops. Two years ago, she took a leap of faith and went skydiving...this spring, she took another leap of faith and spoke at the 2013AFCC/SCBWI conference in Singapore. To learn more about her mission to help every child become a reader and a lover of books, you can follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook, visit her blog at Picture Books Help Kids Soar or contact her by email

Monday, August 15, 2016

Encore Presentation: WRITERLY WISDOM

 
 
 
 
 
 
***I have a number of writing deadlines coming up over the next couple of months so I have decided instead of stepping away from my blog completely to concentrate solely on my writing, I will bring back an encore performance of my WRITERLY WISDOM series from three years ago. WW is 52 glorious posts by authors, agents, and editors from around the country providing writerly wisdom in categories from why even become a writer all the way to how to publish and market your books.

There will be two posts loaded per week...Mondays & Wednesdays...so be sure to stop by and check out all the encouraging information given by my lovely writerly friends! I hope you enjoy the encore presentation of my WRITERLY WISDOM series and I will return with shiny, new posts in the fall!***
 
 
Three Reasons To Join A Professional Writing Organization
By Donna L Martin



New writers have so much to figure out. Other wise authors have covered so many of those topics since  this series began in January of this year. Now it's time to consider joining a professional writer's group if you don't already belong to one. While writing can be a solitary endeavor, the writing life itself doesn't have to be.  Professional groups devoted to writing can certainly boost the confidence of a beginner writer while providing networking opportunities to the established one. Take your time when considering which professional writing organization to join and remember there are three good reasons to associate with a particular group...



CONNECTIONS


There is a comfortable feeling being part of a group where members understand how driven you are to write.  Chat rooms, critique groups, and question forums all give new writers a chance to dip a toe in the writing community and create new friendships which can last a lifetime.  Agents and publishers are also members of some of these same groups and what better way to get to know them than through an industry related organization? Those kind of connections are priceless and can sometimes lead to future successes.



KNOWLEDGE



A professional writing organization will usually have tons of articles available for it's members on many different topics. Everything from how to write character driven stories and developing proper tension to how to create a strong query letter will be waiting for the novice writer to discover. Conferences, workshops, and contests will be listed if available and sometimes there are even online book stores promoting member books. Professional writing organizations offer the foundation for any writer to continually improve their creative skills.



CLOUT



Everywhere you look there will be obstacles in your writing career. Competition to become a published author is fierce and a great support group will not only celebrate your successes, no matter how small, they will also be there to ease the sting of all the bumps and bruises you will collect along that path to publication.  But even more important than the fellowship, becoming a member of a writing organization adds clout to your query letter. Joining groups like the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators, Children's Book Insider Clubhouse, or other professional writing organizations show agents and publishers you are serious about your craft and your career.  If you invest in your own writing future then it's possible they will too.


As an added bonus, I have included 25 of the literally hundreds of possible writing groups where you can become a member. Look around, ask questions, find the one that is right for you, and join the fun!



PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS:


  1. Academy of American Poets (www.poets.org)
  2. American Independent Writers (www.americanindependantwriters.org)
  3. American Society of Journalists & Authors (www.asja.org)
  4. The Authors Guild, Inc (www.authorsguild.org)
  5. Canadian Authors Association (wwwcanauthors.org)
  6. Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators & Performers (www.canscaip.org)
  7. Children's Book Insider Clubhouse (www.cbiclubhouse.com)
  8. Education Writers Association (www.ewa.org)
  9. Fellowship of Australian Writers (writers.asn.au)
  10. The International Women's Writing Guild (www.iwwg.com)
  11. Kidlitosphere Central (www.kidlitosphere.org)
  12. National Association of Independent Writers & Editors (www.naiwe.com)
  13. National Association of Women Writers (www.naww.org)
  14. National League of American Pen Women (www.americanpenwomen.org)
  15. National Writers Association (www.nationalwriters.com)
  16. National Writers Union (www.nwu.org)
  17. Poetry Society of America (www.poetrysociety.org)
  18. Poets & Writers Inc (www.pw.org)
  19. Small Publishers, Artists & Writers Network (www.spawn.org)
  20. Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (www.scbwi.org)
  21. Teachers & Writers Collaborative (www.twc.org)
  22. Williamette Writers Group (www.willamettewriters.com)
  23. Writers Guild of America-East (www.wgaeast.org)
  24. Writers Guild of America-West (www.wga.org)
  25. Writers Union of Canada (www.writersunion.ca)
 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Encore Presentation: WRITERLY WISDOM

 
 
 
 
***I have a number of writing deadlines coming up over the next couple of months so I have decided instead of stepping away from my blog completely to concentrate solely on my writing, I will bring back an encore performance of my WRITERLY WISDOM series from three years ago. WW is 52 glorious posts by authors, agents, and editors from around the country providing writerly wisdom in categories from why even become a writer all the way to how to publish and market your books.

There will be two posts loaded per week...Mondays & Wednesdays...so be sure to stop by and check out all the encouraging information given by my lovely writerly friends! I hope you enjoy the encore presentation of my WRITERLY WISDOM series and I will return with shiny, new posts in the fall!***
 
 
Tailor-made Critique Groups
by Janee Trasler
 
Like Jim Averbeck, I count myself lucky to be a member of an excellent critique group. But don’t be fooled; it is by no means dumb luck. What I have is a tailor-made, suits-me-to-a-T critique group.
Unlike Jim, I was not lucky enough to find my perfect group on my first try. I had to shop around a bit before I knew exactly what I liked and needed in a critique group.
Once I had the answers, I just needed to ask the questions.
 
 
Who did I want in my group?
 
Some critique groups are made up of members who are at varying levels in their writing education and careers. This can work out really well. It gives the newer writers access to the more seasoned writers’ experience and gives the seasoned writers the chance to see how far they’ve come and to give a little back.
Other groups are made up of members who are all at a similar level, whether that be total newbie, almost published, or published. This type allows the members to grow together and offers an equal level of confidence across the board.
I knew I wanted a group of writers at a similar level, so I chose to ask people who were all represented by the same literary agency but by different agents. I figured this would keep it all in house and make the sharing of information easier. At the same time, we would avoid any hurt feelings if an agent spent more time with one writer than another.
 
What did I want my group to be about?
 
I’ve been in groups that have writers from board books to YA, and I’ve been in groups that stick to one genre. Both have merit and it is strictly a matter of personal taste.
I know I am not equipped to comment on novels (and you can only say, “Yup, I like it.” so often before your critique group also realizes how little you know about writing novels), so I opted to ask writers who write picture books/board books.

Where would we meet?
 
In-person groups allow for more socialization. You can bring along a book you’ve found, break bread, and just get to hang with other writers.
 
Online groups, which allow you to critique at your own convenience, give you the opportunity to really study a submission before you comment. They are easier to fit into a busy schedule and don’t require geographical closeness to the other members.
I’m an online type of gal. I like to read a manuscript several times before I comment, and I like to get feedback in writing. It makes revising much easier for me.

How big?
 
Just how many members should you invite? This is an important question because it dictates how much time you devote to critiques.
I prefer a smaller group, so I invited three other people.
Once all had been invited and inducted (Oh, you don’t even want to know about the initiation ritual we all had to go through. Let’s just same some of us look better in lampshades than others.), we still had a few logistical questions to answer:

When would we meet and submit work?
 
This is heavily influenced by whether you meet in-person or online.
I’ve been in critique groups where members just submitted whenever they had something, and I’ve been in groups run like a military boot camp. It’s up to you how often you meet or submit work, but I’ve found having a set schedule helps me get work done.
As a group, we chose to have a designated member submit work on the first four Tuesdays of each month. (I’m Third Tuesday Girl.) The other three members have until the following Tuesday to send comments.
Life gets in the way sometimes, and we’ve been known to swap a Tuesday here or there. We also try to remain flexible as to what you can submit. If we don’t have a complete draft ready, we can submit what we have and ask for brainstorming help. I’ve also been known to sneak in two board books instead of one picture book.

How would we submit and critique work?
 
This is one area where I feel online groups have the advantage over in-person. It’s so much easier to read and comment on manuscripts online.
We send our work in MS Word format in my group and use the comments feature to put our feedback right in the document.
After all these tough questions where answered, we found ourselves right back to “Who?”

Who are we?
 
We are:
Kim Norman (www.kimnormanbooks.com)
Tammi Sauer ( www.tammisauer.com)

Janee Trasler (www.trasler.com)

Jessica Young (www.jessicayoungbooks.wordpress.com).


We are the PBJeebies, and since we joined forces two and a half years ago, we have collectively sold 18 books.
 
My critique group suits me to a T. It ought to; it was tailor-made.
 

 
 
Janee Trasler is the author illustrator of eight books for kids, including the upcoming board book series for HarperCollins which kicks off in January, 2014 with BEDTIME FOR CHICKIES.
 
Website: www.trasler.com
Email: janee@trasler.com

Monday, August 8, 2016

Encore Presentation: WRITERLY WISDOM

 




***I have a number of writing deadlines coming up over the next couple of months so I have decided instead of stepping away from my blog completely to concentrate solely on my writing, I will bring back an encore performance of my WRITERLY WISDOM series from three years ago. WW is 52 glorious posts by authors, agents, and editors from around the country providing writerly wisdom in categories from why even become a writer all the way to how to publish and market your books.


There will be two posts loaded per week...Mondays & Wednesdays...so be sure to stop by and check out all the encouraging information given by my lovely writerly friends! I hope you enjoy the encore presentation of my WRITERLY WISDOM series and I will return with shiny, new posts in the fall!***


The 5 Cs of a Successful Critique Group

By Jim Averbeck



I am a very lucky writer. With some friends, I founded a critique group, the Revisionaries, in 1998 and that group is still going strong. When we started we were all unpublished and just learning the craft.  Now everyone in the group is multi published by prestigious houses. I’ve lost track of the awards, honors, stars and contracts we have under our collective belt.  And I marvel at the longevity of the group. So, how did we manage to stick around long enough to find success?  I give you the 5 Cs of an accomplished critique group.














Communicate:  One of the most important things my group did was to make it clear from the beginning that we had high expectations of anyone who joined. Members were expected to pursue their writing education by signing up for classes, attending conferences, and reading extensively, both craft books and current and classic bestsellers. We expected people to come to the meetings, whether they had work or not. We expected participation and cooperation as we all strove to find our voice and our place in the industry.














Commit:  Once we found people who met our expectations, we very explicitly made them commit to the hard work ahead of us. There were no formal rituals- no killing of chickens or drinking of blood – but we did have a very formal meeting where we outlined our goals, both those of the group and our individual goals. We made this a yearly custom. Each year around Christmas we set aside our stories and reimagine what we want to do with our work and our creative lives. We commit to following through (and talk about how we did the previous year.)  This might sound a bit grim, but we float our goals on a sea of wine and good food, so it’s really something to which we look forward.














Create: This is the fun part. The part all writers and illustrators live for: the spark of ideas, the bringing together of words and sentences (or lines and colors for our illustrators).  And, of course, the sharing of what we made.












Critique: This may sound like a no-brainer. Of course you critique in a critique group.  But I have been surprised to hear many stories of crit groups that become mutual admiration societies, or moan and groan sessions, or just fun parties. Sure it is important to support each other, and to listen to each other vent on issues in the industry. But ultimately you are there to help each other improve your work. It’s time to put on your big boy (or girl) pants, grow a thick skin, and listen to what people are telling you. You’ll find that each person has something at which they specialize. This one is great at finding just the right word. That one is superb at pinning down the emotional heart of your story. Another knows every punctuation rule in the book. Learn to listen. You needn’t take all the advice given, but you should consider it all.  














Celebrate: This is the other fun part. When someone sells a book, or wins an award, or gets a starred review, take the time to celebrate. Buy a cake. Do a dance. Have a party. And most importantly – pop open the champagne.



Because that is the sixth “C” of a successful critique group.



Champagne.



Cheers!















Jim Averbeck works, plays, and evades the law in the San Francisco Bay Area. Between dodging the falling bodies of vertiginous blondes, crouching to avoid killer birds, and taking quick and fearful showers behind a triple locked bathroom door, he writes and illustrates for children. His first book, In a Blue Room, was a Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book. His popular books, Except If and Oh No, Little Dragon! feature charming protagonists with long pointy teeth. His book The Market Bowl was a JLG Premiere Selection. A Hitch at the Fairmont, his first novel, will be released Summer 2014 from Simon and Schuster. Spy agencies can find Jim online at www.jimaverbeck.com.