How to Write Like a Professional

How to Write Like a Professional
6 Common Writing Mistakes That Make You Look Like an Amateur Author... and How to Avoid Them

Friday, October 29, 2010

Are You Grounded?

lightning_icon_benji_par_01Cold weather is quickly upon us and that's when being grounded is important. Every winter, millions of drivers get zapped with a tiny shock as they exit their vehicles. Here's a tip, before you even shift your butt in the seat, you should open the car door and touch the metal. THEN slide out and put your feet on the ground while continuing to touch the door frame. It's just how I ground myself in the winter to avoid that little (sometimes big) electric shock of lightning from my fingertips.

But what about writing? Apparently, I'm grounded there, too. Just got my FIRST REJECTION LETTER this week! I didn't sulk, pout, cry, or get angry. I was actually kind of excited (and a little disappointed). I just shrugged, "Oh, well. Time to send it out to the next publisher." I really did hope they would take me on though. But alas:
"Thank you for sending a sample of your manuscript....We are always pleased to see new ideas, and we have now completed our review of your material. It is obvious you have invested a considerable amount of time and energy into this project....we are forced to be extremely selective in our publishing decisions....we are not in a position to pursue this project with you. Unfortunately, the demands of our editorial workload prevent us from sending detailed comments about your work...."
Not sure if that's a form rejection letter or not, but I was happy to get my first. So I guess I can call myself a real writer now. Planning to get package prepared to send out (November 1) to next publisher on the list. I didn't even need to consult chocolate. It's just a way of life. Rejection, that is. I even smiled when I told my hubby. It's totally going to be their loss, right?

How do you stay grounded in the face of rejection?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hop on the Halloween Band Wagon

Jessica Stanford at Girl, Unpublished is hosting a blog hop for Halloween. You can win a $10 gift card, a Halloween picture book, and exposure to your blog. Could be lots of fun. Just hop on the blog wagon and linky yourself to the list. Have fun! Deadline is October 30 to join! Hurry, the more the merrier!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The First Four-leaf Clover Book Recommendation: Read for Luck!

Four leaf clover Image
I've posted book "reviews" and sparkle summaries. On Wednesdays, I've also posted articles about writing picture books. Since Wednesdays are dedicated to picture books, I've decided to streamline my entries by giving you a new-ish type feature. My four-leaf clover book recommendation is called READ FOR LUCK. These will be books that meet my "badge of approval." See this trinket? It says "Rub for Luck." My badge of approval is "Read for Luck." According to fourleafclover.com:
"In Irish tradition the Shamrock or 3-leaf Clover represents the Holy Trinity: one leaf for the Father, one for the Son and one for the Holy Spirit. When a Shamrock is found with the fourth leaf, it represents God's Grace."
Contemporary meanings of the four-leaf clover are:

  1. One leaf is for FAITH...     
  2. The second for HOPE...
  3. The third for LOVE...         
  4. And the fourth for LUCK!
READ FOR LUCK:
  1. Recommended for CHILDREN
  2. Recommended for PARENTS
  3. Recommended for TEACHERS
  4. Recommended for WRITERS
All great picture books fall under these categories, but it's more fun to split them up. So here goes. (The summaries are not in my own words, but the READ FOR LUCK is.)

1. CHILDREN:  
Click Here to Buy
If You Were a Parrot 
Written by Katherine Rawson
Illustrated by Sherry Rogers
Sylvan Dell Publishing, 2006

Summary: A whimsical book that has the child imagining what life would be like if he or she were a pet parrot. The parrot’s special feet allow it to climb curtains, bookshelves, and plants.  The hooked beak lets the parrot chew all kinds of great food: seeds, nuts, chair legs, popsicles – sticks and all, and even a telephone directory! Join the parrot as it goes through its daily routine of climbing, chewing, eating, bathing, and finally, snuggling down for the night after a long day of parrot fun. 

READ FOR LUCK: Kids will love squawking and climbing and chewing on pencils right along with the parrots in the book. Such fun illustrations that kids will be laughing out loud and dreaming up other animals for pretend play. There's also a beak craft in the back you can copy and make.

What other animals do your children love to pretend they are?

2. PARENTS:
The Boy Who Wouldn't Go to Bed
By Helen Cooper 
Dial Books for Young Readers, 1997

Summary: A boy who does not want to go to bed has a series of imaginary encounters with a tiger, soldiers, the moon, and others, all of whom convince him to change his mind.

READ FOR LUCK: The illustrations are larger than life. This is a great bedtime snuggle book for 2-5 year olds.

What is one of your favorite bedtime books?

3. TEACHERS:
Bridget's Beret 
by Tom Lichtenheld
Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Hold and Company, 2010

Summary: When Bridget loses the beret that provides her with artistic inspiration like other great artists, she thinks she will never be able to draw again.

READ FOR LUCK: Escpecially good for an art teacher or in an art class. Can also be used in a regular classroom in a unit on careers, dreams, determination, or before a lesson that will include a drawing assignment. Everyone can draw. Could even do a book comparison with Scribble by Deborah Freedman.

Any other ideas to use this book in the classroom?

4. WRITERS:
The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone
by Timothy Basil Ering
Candlewick Press, 2003

Summary: Set in a gray, endless place called Cementland, this is the story of a boy who finds strange, specklike treasures and the preternaturally wise creature he creates to watch over them while they grow. Taking its title from a little string of nonsense words Tim
Ering invented and its heart and inspiration from an urban community garden, The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone plays on a medley of themes ranging from magic to cooperation to patience, from the greening of cities to the blossoming of the human spirit.

READ FOR LUCK: Anytime a debut picture book author makes it to the land of the golden publication world, it is a time for us aspiring writing (and published to boot) to study their craft by studying the story. I especially love the use of the repeating rhythm and rhyming lines in: "Frog Belly Rat Bone, one, two, three... The specks in the earth are protected by me. You must be patient and then you will see..."

If you have read this, or get a chance to soon, what else can you take away from this book, as a writer?

So that was the first installment of my READ FOR LUCK Wednesdays. Hope you come back for more next week. And as always, thanks for visiting!

 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Book Giveaway!

Today, I am being interviewed over at Jest Kept Secret. Hope you'll go read the interview. It's only ten questions. But first, check out this great giveaway! 

Time Cat: The Remarkable Journeys of Jason and Gareth

Are you suspicious? Do you love cats? Is Halloween your favorite holiday? Do you love time travel books? If so, then this is the Book Giveaway for you! The 1963 classic Lloyd Alexander novel, Time Cat, is up for grabs! Want to win it? Here's how. Up to 5 entries per person.

TO BE ELIGIBLE TO ENTER:
  • You must follow my blog, OR follow me on twitter (or both).
TO ENTER:
  • Leave a comment (+1) telling me... A) the cat's name and B) the place and time in the book you would most like to visit, and why or with whom. You can view the book's table of contents at Amazon.
BONUS ENTRIES:



  • Tweet about the contest. (+1) Copy and paste: @christiewild Halloween-ish book contest! Win classic Time Cat by sharing your favorite era. http://tinyurl.com/23db8e6
  • Blog about the contest, and leave a link below so I can see it (or twitter me the link). (+3)
Open to US addresses only. So if you live overseas, but have a friend that will mail a book to you, then you can still enter if you give me a US address.

Deadline is midnight on Halloween, October 31! Hurry! Only 6 days to play!

Feel free to hop over to the other 87 blogs that are also participating in the Spooktacular giveaway.



Friday, October 22, 2010

Gum Stuck in Your Story?

You know how sometimes you're too close to your story and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere? It's kind of like getting gum stuck on your pants. My daughter put her gum on my back pocket. I didn't even know it. I sat in a chair and it smeared everywhere. Thankfully, it was a wooden chair and not cloth. But the pants are made out of cloth! So I put my pants in the freezer to help it come out. But since it was so smeared down into the fibers, I had to work at it a lot more. Every few days, I got the pants out and scraped the gum a bit with a butter knife. I think the pants stayed in the freezer for a month! I finally got frustrated about that not working and had to use another tactic. I used dish soap and a Tbsp. of salt and scrubbed them against each other. Threw them in the washer, and presto! Clean pants, again. They were new ones, too.

So if you're stuck, let your story cool off. With your writing, give it a month-long freeze-fest and then pick it up with refreshed eyes and a cooler temper. I guarantee you'll be able to see something that doesn't belong and edit accordingly. It truly is amazing the things we notice in our writing after a month of not looking at it, especially after several re-writes. If that doesn't work, try a different tactic. Start fresh and RE-WRITE it again, differently. New character. New order of events. Change up the names. Change up the setting. SOMETHING! If we keep at it long enough, our stories will eventually come out clean. With a "fresh" voice, too!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

WINNER of 50 FOLLOWERS - "First 1500 Words Critique Contest"

Winner is Laura Pauling! Congratulations! Thanks to all who participated. I'm looking forward to reading your work, Laura.

New contest on Monday! Win a Halloween-ish book. It's a classic, but not scary AT ALL. Hope to see you there. Get ready to do some research...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book About Friendship and Acceptance

Bubba and Trixie
Bubba and Trixie by Lisa Campbell Ernst is a lovely story about a ladybug with a crimped wing who befriends a scared caterpillar. They become best buds, but then Bubba is worried that if he turns into a butterfly, he won't have Trixie as a friend anymore. Perfect for teaching CHARACTER. And friendship and acceptance. Could also talk about changes and how we are still the same person on the inside even when we change on the outside.

Published in 1997. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 1530 words, Level 3.5.

I've already read it to my children TWICE in one week!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

One Lovely Blog Award

It's high time I officially accept my award from Alison, Catherine, and Jessica S. Thank you! I am honored. And since today is "Picture Book" day, I chose to give this award to several picture book bloggers (the first twelve in the list below).

The rules say to pay it forward by turning around and awarding 15 blogs with the same award. I'm doing five bonus bloggers. However, if you've already received it once, I certainly don't expect you to turn around and award 15 MORE. No, just say thank you and take a bow.

  1. GREAT BLOG SLANT - My first award goes to Alison Stevens at Wistful Wanderings. She awarded me first. Her blog is dedicated to creativity. She writes creative nonfiction picture books.
  2. FELLOW PICTURE BOOK WRITER - Catherine Johnson at Kangaroobee's Blog.
  3. FELLOW PICTURE BOOK WRITER - Jessica M. Stanford at Girl, Unpublished.
  4. FELLOW PICTURE BOOK WRITER - Heather Kephart at Booksploration. Awesome integrated blog into an awesome website!
  5. FELLOW PICTURE BOOK WRITER - Angela Pena Dahle at A Pen In Neverland.
  6. FELLOW PICTURE BOOK WRITER - Heather Ayris at Frolicking Through Cyberspace.
  7. FELLOW PICTURE BOOK WRITER - Lynne Marie at My Word Playground.
  8. FELLOW PICTURE BOOK WRITER - Megan Bickel at The Write At Home Mom.
  9. FELLOW PICTURE BOOK WRITER - Corey Schwartz at Thing 1 and Thing 2.
  10. FELLOW PICTURE BOOK WRITER - Niki Schoenfeldt at THE FRACTURED KEYBOARD.
  11. FOUNDER OF PIBOIDMO - Tara Lazar at Writing for Kids (While Raising Them).
  12. GREAT VOICE - Critique member, Julie Hedlund, at Write Up My Life shares her fascinating journey. She has -gasp- QUIT her day job to pursue her dream of writing.
  13. HUMOROUS VOICE - Sarah Dooley at Dooley Noted. She has an awesome novel out, now. Also teaches.
  14. TEACHING SLANT - Teaching Authors, Six Children's Authors Who Also Teach Writing.
  15. TEACHING SLANT - Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers. Teaching Kids. Catching Minds. 565 Miles Apart.
  16. BEST WRITING INSPIRATIONAL BLOG EVER - Kristi Holl at Writer's First Aid. Her blog is also featured in the Institute of Children's Literature e-newsletter. Highly informative and helpful.
  17. FAVORITE WRITEONCON BLOGGER - Casey McCormick at Literary Rambles. Lots of helpful writing tips and agent information.
  18. BEAUTIFUL BLOG AND FELLOW LDS WRITER - Jessica Byam at Jest Kept Secret runs an awesome feature called BTWP (Before They Were Published).
  19. LDS MYSTERY AUTHOR - Josi S. Kilpack has 12 novels published and shares the writing life at What Is A Sundial in the Shade?
  20. MYSTERY WRITER AND DOCTOR - Lydia Kang gives advice and answers questions about medical instances you might want in your mystery novel over at her blog, The Word Is My Oyster.   

Monday, October 18, 2010

HOW TO BE AT THE TOP 5% OF THE SLUSH PILE

The top 5% isn't that steep of a goal to attain.

How to Be at the Top 5% of the Slush Pile | submissions | writing tips | author advice


When you think about the hundreds of thousands of writers that are out there submitting things to editors, you have to wonder if yours is good enough to beat the competition. Well, if you act like a professional, then yes, it probably is good enough to beat the competition. The question at that point becomes, "How do I act like a professional writer?"

When I attended The Children's Writers' Bootcamp with Laura Backes and Linda Arms White last April, they said that it's not that hard to be considered at the top 5%. The main reason is because the other 95% are typically amateurs. Here's how to stand out as a professional:
  1. Perfect your craft - do writing push-ups.
  2. Be a smart marketer - do your research.
  3. Use perfect grammar, punctuation, and follow guidelines - don't make common mistakes.
Now, each of these could very well become its own article, but for today, I'll expound only briefly on each.

Perfect Your Craft. There are lots of ways to become a better writer.
  • WRITE, WRITE, WRITE.
  • Read, read, read.
  • Study books you love to read.
  • Study books you wish you had written.
  • Study books you think are similar to yours, but not too similar (you don't want to accidentally "plagiarize").
  • Read and study books about writing, about character, about plot, about anything you need or want to learn about that is writing related.
Smart Marketing. If you have a rhyming picture book, make sure you do your research. Don't send it to an editor that abhors rhyming texts. If you have a middle grade novel, then don't send it to a publisher that specializes in acting and theater. If you have a YA novel, then don't send it to a publisher specializing in teacher education. Make sure the publishers you select actually FIT with what you have written.
  • Study the market.
  • Know the genres.
  • Know your genre.
  • Know what different publishers' tastes are.
  • Read and study a Book Market. Own one. My favorite is the Book Markets for Children's Writers by Writer's Institute Publications.
  • Keep a journal of all the books you read. Include publication date, and publisher.
Avoid Common Mistakes. 
  • Use proper grammar and perfect punctuation. Proofread.
  • Follow editors' guidelines.
  • Address to the correct person and spell names correctly.
  • Write high quality cover letters, query letters, and manuscripts.
If we do these three basic things, we'll already be a cut above the competition. At that point it becomes more a matter of timing, opinion, and business. But above all else, you have to tell a good story. At least 8% of the time. Just kidding. ALL the time!

Friday, October 15, 2010

50 Follower Giveaway!

Thanks, Dave, for being my 50th follower! After nearly 9 months of blogging, I've finally reached 50 followers. To celebrate our little blogging community (and for thinking I have something valuable to offer you each week), I am hosting a giveaway to show my appreciation for all of you!

Although I am a picture book freak, a teacher, and a mom, I was also a Creative Writing/ Literature Major in College. I took the novel writing class twice (you could take it twice and get credit for each), the poetry writing class twice, and the short story writing class twice. And also the play writing class. What can I say? I love to write! So, I have extensive experience in the critiquing department. Just ask my Story Swappers critique group members (although my critiques for October were skimpy for some reason): Julie Hedlund at Write Up My Life, Megan Bickel at The Write-At-Home-Mom, Valerie Larson-Howard at Holding Space, Alison Stevens at Wistful Wanderings, and Juliette Wilk at Life Balance Massage.

So, I am giving away a critique of ANY GENRE to one lucky winner, randomly of course. To enter my "First 1500 Words Critique Contest," you must follow my blog OR follow me on Twitter.

How to enter:
  • Leave a comment below to share your favorite genre (reading and/or writing). 
  • OR tweet about the contest, mention @ChristieWild. Here's the link you can copy and paste: http://tinyurl.com/39rrotz 
  • For a total of 5 entries, follow me in BOTH places AND do BOTH of the above (comment and tweet)!
Thanks for following me. I really enjoy talking and interacting with all of you, and getting to know you. Thanks, again. This contest will only run for 5 (and a half) days, so hurry and spread the word, and have fun! Contest ends Wednesday October 20 at 5:50 PM EDT. I will announce the winner here, and on twitter, on Thursday.

What Is RSS?

Ever since I discovered Google Reader and what an RSS is, I have subscribed to nearly 80 blogs, or their RSS feeds. You can also read about how to create more followers, which is slightly related.


WHAT IS RSS? So what exactly is RSS and why is it so important? RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (also known as Rich Site Summary). Basically, it's a way to organize, or syndicate, magazine articles (i.e. blog posts). At whatisrss.com, they say:
RSS (Rich Site Summary) is a format for delivering regularly changing web content. Many news-related sites, weblogs and other online publishers syndicate their content as an RSS Feed to whoever wants it.
WHY RSS? Four main reasons: get organized, stay informed, save time, keep your privacy.
  1. Get organized. Reading RSS feeds allows you to view all your favorite blog sites in one location. 
  2. Stay informed. Blog readers like to stay informed. It's a lot easier when you, as a reader, are organized.
  3. Save time. When you're organized and subscribe to RSS feeds, it saves you time from having to visit each blog individually. Of course, you can still visit the actual blog to leave a comment.
  4. Keep your privacy. Using RSS allows you to NOT have to join each site's e-mail newsletter. AND you'll have fewer e-mails to filter through, too!
HOW TO RSS? To read your RSS feeds, you will also have to have a Feed Reader. My favorite is Google Reader. Of course, I haven't tried any other ones. I'm sure they all have a few different features.
Well, have fun reading! Hope you subscribe to my blog's RSS feed!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Monsterly Books For October

With Halloween just around the corner, I thought I would gather a list of monster books for children to feature for today, October the 13th, especially since it seems like every time I turn around, I see a new monster book coming out soon. Hope you enjoy the list (23 titles).

FUTURE TITLES:
The Monstore by Tara Lazar (Aladdin/ Simon & Schuster, Summer 2013)
The Onster by Tiffany Strelitz Haber (Henry Holt/ Macmillan, Spring 2012)
Monster Speller by Robert Marsh (Stone Arch Books, 2011)

Even Monsters Need Haircuts
10 RECENT TITLES:
Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott

(Walker Books for Young Readers, July 2010)

Just before midnight, on the night of a full moon, a young barber stays out past his bedtime to go to work. Although his customers are mostly regulars, they are anything but normal - after all, even monsters need haircuts. Business is steady all night, and this barber is prepared for anything with his scissors, rotting tonic, horn polish, and stink wax. It's a tough job, but someone's got to help these creatures maintain their ghoulish good looks. This is a story about a boy who follows in his father's footsteps...in his own monstrously unique way.

Bedtime MonsterBedtime Monster by Heather Ayris Burnell

(Raven Tree Press, September 2010)

A little boy does not want to go to bed and throws a tantrum. He grows horns and a tail until his parents tame the little bedtime monster.












If You're A Monster And You Know It

by Rebecca Emberley
If You're A Monster And You Know It(Orchard Books, September 2010)
Children will stomp their paws, twitch their tails, snort and growl, and wiggle and wriggle along with this bright and bold picture book twist on "If You're Happy and You Know It." Rebecca Emberley has written a rollicking text, which she has illustrated in collaboration with her father, Caldecott Medalist Ed Emberley.




























Mostly Monsterly

by Tammi SauerScott Magoon (Illustrator)
(Paula Wiseman/ Simon & Schuster, August 2010)
Mostly MonsterlyBernadette might seem like an ordinary monster, but sometimes she likes to do some very unmonsterlike things, like pick flowers. And pet kittens. And bake.When the time comes for Bernadette to go to Monster Academy, she's just a teensy bit nervous. Her classmates just don't understand her. They'd rather uproot trees than sing friendship songs. And they prefer fried snail goo to Bernadette's homemade cupcakes with sprinkles. Can Bernadette find a way to make friends at school and still be herself?

More Monster Picture Books

OLDER TITLES: (10 MORE)
The Block Mess Monster
The Block Mess Monster by Betsy Howie and C.B. Decker (Henry Holt and Company, May 2008)

The Wildest Brother
The Wildest Brother by Cornelia Funke (2006)

Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems (2005)

My Monster Mama Loves Me So
My Monster Mama Loves Me So by Laura Leuck (HarperCollins, 1999)