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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Story Element #10: Beginnings/Endings (Find a Cow NOW!)

Today is the LAST day of my Book Love event where I posted a new Story Element review every day for the last two weeks. One book each day from February 14 to February 28. Two weeks plus one day. Up for grabs is a Market Guide book. I'll give you until midnight March 2, Dr. Seuss's birthday, to leave a comment. The covers of the Market Guides can be seen below on the Feb. 26 post. Be sure to leave your e-mail address when you comment. 

Today's book is...
Find a Cow NOW!


Author: Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
Illustrator: Janet Stevens
Publisher: Holiday House
Year: 2012
Word Count: not sure, probably 1,000+
Focus: Beginnings/Endings AND Word Play

Summary: "Tired of hearing dog yipping at chairs and trying to round up rugs, Bird tells him to go to the country to find a cow, but this is one cattle dog who does not know a cow when he sees one."

Jacket Flap: "Dog needs to move. Yip! Yip! He needs to chase. Ruff! Ruff! he needs to round up. According to Bird, Dog needs to get to the country and find a cow, now! A city dog goes on an unforgettable adventure in this sweet and humorous picture book by an award-winning team."

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Story Element #1: Character (Woe is Moe)

Only two days left to enter the giveaway, today and tomorrow. See yesterday's post below...

Today's book...
Woe is Moe


Author: Diane Stanley
Illustrator: Elise Primavera
Publisher: G. P. Putnams's Sons
Year: 1995
Word Count: not sure, probably 1,000+
Focus: Character

Summary: "Moe's new job in advertising at the ice cream factory brings him money, travel, and prestige - so why is he lonely and miserable?"

Front Cover
(title page image)
Jacket Flap:
     "When Moe the Dog wins the advertising contest at Frozen Cow Ice Cream, it looks as if he's finally made it: big promotion, penthouse apartment, lots of great new stuff. His best friend, Arlene, is thrilled for him.
     But Moe soon discovers the downside of the fast lane: long hours trying to sell Frozen Cow in France, accidents caused by dark sunglasses, loneliness. He hardly ever sees Arlene anymore, and he misses their Friday nights at the Happy-All Chinese restaurant. Now those days seem so far away Moe thinks he'll never find his way back.
     Lucky for him, Arlene knows a way to bring Happy-All to Moe."

Another great character book. And when I went searching for the image to include, of course I found another book about Moe. How did I know? I don't know. Character books make series books, apparently. But I haven't read about Moe's tropical adventures yet.

The four main things about character is that they must be:
  • likable
  • believable
  • imperfect
  • solves own problems
  1. Moe is likable. He has a best friend, Arlene. They both hate their jobs at the ice cream factory. They both love to eat meals at their favorite Chinese restaurant. And always at the same table. They love to spend time with each other. Watching movies. Looking at the stars. Talking.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Story Element #4: Dialogue (Rocks in His Head)

Only three days left, including today, to be a part of the awesome GIVEAWAY. A quick reminder: answer the question and leave your e-mail in the comment section of any post from Feb. 14-28, for a chance to win one of two Market Guides. Comment on more than one post for multiple chances. Share the giveaway with others if you can. Totally NOT required, but it sure would be nice. 

Today, 10% of the county is without power. My house is one of them. Don't know how long it will last. Thankfully, I'm at work WITH POWER. And thankfully I took a shower (if we're out for days...I just won't run, do chores, sweat, move...) Anyway...!



Today's book is...
Rocks in His Head


Author: Carol Otis Hurst
Illustrator: James Stevenson
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Year: 2001
Word Count: 1318
Focus: Dialogue

Summary: "A young man [the author's father] has a lifelong love of rock collecting that eventually leads him to work at a science museum."

Jacket Flap:
Some people collect stamps. Other people collect coins. Carol Otis Hurst's father collected rocks. Nobody ever thought his obsession would amount to anything. They said, "You've got rocks in your head" and "There's no money in rocks." But year after year he kept on collecting, trading, displaying, and labeling his rocks. The Depression forced the family to sell their gas station and their house, but his interest in rocks never wavered. And in the end the science museum he had visited so often realized that a person with rocks in his head was just what was needed. 
Anyone who has ever felt a little out of step with the world will identify with this true story of a man who followed his heart and his passion.
I just love this little book, well actually it's considered kinda long at 1300+ words. I collected rocks and minerals when I was little. Now, my son does. We love rocks! But today's focus is dialogue. So let's get rockin'! The dialogue in this book is NOT chit chat. The quote from the jacket flap sums up the essence nicely.

Spread 1:
Dialogue without the quotes. People said he...
People said he had rocks in his pockets and rocks in his head. He didn't mind. It was usually true.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Story Element #7: Word Play (Welcome to the Ice House)

Happy news! My dad got a new job making cabinets. My sister is moving into her brand new home they had designed and built. She even has an art studio upstairs. And my mom is moving into her new place too! I'm so happy for all of them. And speaking of houses,


Today's book is...
Welcome to the ICE HOUSE

Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Laura Regan
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Year: 1998
Word Count: 299
Focus: Word Play (and a little rhyme)

Summary: "The coming of warm weather to the arctic brings an explosion of color from flowering plants and a thundering return of wildlife."

Jacket Flap:
     "Through the long white night of Arctic winter prowl all kinds of animals - the fox looking for lemmings, the howling wolf pack on the trail of snowshoe hare, the silent lynx, a ton of unpredictable moose, and a solitary polar bear. Beyond the ice, in a blue-black sea, swim seals, herds of walrus, and killer whales on the hunt.
     Then suddenly it is spring, and then summer. The land explodes with the color of poppies and lupines. Caribou thunder across the tundra and birds return to iceless lakes and snowless cliffs to nest until - just as suddenly - winter returns.
     In a rich poetic text and dazzling colorful pictures, the mysterious world of the Arctic comes excitingly to life. Welcome to the ice house and the long winter nights."

Spread 1:
Welcome to the ice house,
the snow and wintry blow house,
where shades of white
illuminate
the lengthy winter night.
Notice the repetition of 'house,' and the lovely near-rhyme of 'illuminate' with the white/night set.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Story Element #10: Beginnings/Endings (A Bird or Two)

I just bought a new book: Christlike Parenting by Dr. Glenn I. Latham. I am thoroughly enjoying it. My sister had it first and highly recommended it. A year later, now I have it too. Does anyone else have a favorite parenting book? You can share in the comments...

Today's book is...
A Bird Or Two, A Story about Henri Matisse


Author: Bijou Le Tord
Illustrator: Bijou Le Tord
Publisher: Eerdmans Books
Year: 1999
Word Count: 324

Summary: "Simple text and bright illustrations describe the work of the French painter, Henri Matisse, particularly his joyful use of color."

Jacket Flap:
     Greens greener than apples, yellows more yellow than lemons.
     In the brilliant sun of Nice (pronounced Neece), France, Henri Matisse painted the boldest, brightest colors he could imagine. Joyfully, he painted everywhere and everyone. Enchanged and with a light heart, he painted all the time. "Long live painting!" he wrote to a painter friend.
     In A Bird or Two Bijou Le Tord introduces young readers to the beloved painter Henri Matisse. Her delightful illustrations capture the spirit and style of Matisse's work, while her poetic words sing the music of his art.
I like including the jacket flap blurbs because we can learn so much from them. How to keep our stories concise and how to write a query. Of course today's book is 14 years old. Still a picture book biography in a mere 324 words. Amazing! I promise today's post is short.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Story Element #8: Patterns (My Big Dog)

The other day my daughter accidentally said a bad word. She had never heard it before. Didn't even know it was a bad word. In her 6 years of life, she probably made it up. We say 'smidgen' a lot, just like Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh. And we say 'pinch' and 'scrunch' too. She was getting a piece of gum and said, "Mama, do you want a little bitch of gum?" Well, we had a sweet little chat and now she's aware. So much for making up words. Oh, and remember to leave a comment to win a market guide! Giveaway ends Feb. 28th! And yes, you can go back to other posts between Feb. 14 and then to leave a comment and gain more entries.

Today's book is...
My Big Dog


Author: Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
Illustrator: Janet Stevens
Publisher: Golden Books Publishing
Year: 1999
Word Count: 724

Summary: This story is about a lovable golden retriever puppy who moves into Merl the Cat's peaceful home and upsets his daily routine.

This book is filled with patterns (and a bit of fun word play). I'll share both. Aren't I nice? Let's get started, shall we?

Spread 1:
Notice the repetition of MY.
Inside my house, my PUR-R-R-R-fect house, everything is MINE!
MY DISH, MY SOFA, MY CHAIR, MY MOUSE, MY BED
Spread 2:
Repetition of word play. Repetition is a way to implement patterns.
YAWN. Ah-h-h-h, so quiet, so nice, so peaceful, so PURR-R-R-R-fect.
CRASH. THUD. WOOF. YIP. YIP. YIP.
Spread 3:
Repetition of three's.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Story Element #6: Pacing (The Shelf Elf)

This library has a shelf elf, but I'd rather have a dish fairy and a laundry fairy. I can't stay caught up with chores for nothing! (Yes, I know that sentence has a double negative. Don't you know I live in the South?) Do other writers, parents, and teachers have this problem too? Or is it just me? Of keeping up with the chores, not speaking in double negatives.

Today's book is...
The Shelf Elf


Author: Jackie Mims Hopkins
Illustrator: Rebecca McKillip Thornburgh
Publisher: Upstart Books
Year: 2004
Word Count: 826

Summary: "Skoob, the Shelf Elf, just completed his work with the shoemaker and is ready to embark on a new career in the library."

Pacing is so very important in picture books. It's also important in novels. But with picture books it's more about page turns. Pacing gives your writing fluency through flow, balance, and rhythm. The book has a clever opening:
By the candlelight, the shoemaker and his wife watched the two little elves dance merrily out of sight. The End
Cue page turn:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Story Element #5: Theme (A Sick Day for Amos McGee)

Got my hair cut about a week ago. Still deciding if I really like it or not. Some days I do. Some days I don't. All my wonderful friends say it looks great. I'm so thankful for friends. I truly believe they're being honest with me too. I mean, I've had virtually the same haircut my whole life. Long and straight with bangs. Seventh grade: got it cut short and a perm (the only perm I ever had). Tenth grade: straight again, bangs grown out, chin length. Now? Well you can poke around on my Facebook page if you want to see the pics.

written by Philip C. Stead; Illustrated by Erin E. Stead A Sick Day for Amos McGeeToday's book is...
A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Author: Philip C. Stead
Illustrator: Erin E. Stead
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Year: 2010
Word Count: 441

Summary: Every day, Amos spends time with each of his friends at the zoo, running races with the tortoise, keeping the shy penguin company, and reading bedtime stories to the owl. But when Amos is too sick to make it to the zoo, his friends return the favor.

This book is so sweet. So sweet, or good, that it won an award! And a husband/wife team at that. I had heard so many wonderful things about this book. I was SO excited when I found it in my own library! When I read this book to my children, my 8-year-old son said, "Awww. That's such a nice story about friendship." Ding, ding, ding! He GOT it! The THEME is: friendship! So what can I share today to bring it to life for you so you can learn more about theme? Hmmm...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Story Element #3: Plot (Frida)

I have created a mock-up site for my web design company. It's coming along nicely. I'm so excited. Looking forward to sharing with the world and opening my doors for business. Can't wait to share - I'm driving myself crazy with anticipation! But first I need more practice - after I finish all my classes. Hopefully early next year I can unveil the long awaited venture. Later this year, I might share a sneak peek...

Today's book for my BOOK LOVE challenge (Feb. 14 - Feb. 28) is...
Frida

Author: Jonah Winter
Illustrator: Ana Juan
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Year: 2002
Word Count: 447

Summary: "This is the story of Mexican artist Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo, and how painting saved her life."

Jacket Flap: "Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo was born in Mexico in 1907. This is the story of how she learned to paint, how painting saved her life, and why her paintings are like no one else's. Like Frida's art, it is a work of the imagination, but it is also true."

Plot. Character. Conflict. It all works together. If you remember the first post on plot, we discussed the rising action, plot points, falling action, and the like. Today's book is very short. I'll try my best to map it out. Remember, the five main parts: exposition, rising action (and conflict), climax, falling action, and resolution. 

Exposition
Frida is born in Mexico. Her "father is an artist and a photographer." Her mother takes care of the children.

Rising Action
Somebody: Frida
Wanted: to not feel lonely (even though she had 5 sisters)
But: she didn't have any friends
So: she made up an imaginary friend, also named Frida
Then: she got sick and stayed sick for months

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Story Element #1: Character (A Penguin Pup for Pinkerton)

I just read 10 tips to losing weight successfully. And the main advice was to NOT try all 10 tips all at once. Yes, we'll be excited. Yes, we'll be gung-ho and want to get started right away. But the rule is: you can only do one at a time. Pick one. Whichever one you want. (Stay with me here - this relates to writing too.) Now you have to RATE each tip as to how you feel you could actually accomplish it. Exercise 30 minutes a day. Sleep 8 hours a night. Eat 3 cups of fruits/veggies a day. If you rate it a 9 or a 10 as to how confident you are to actually accomplishing it, then you can BEGIN. If you rate it a 6 or a 7, then you have to change the goal to make it easier. Maybe exercise 10 minutes a day. There. That's easy enough. I think that's totally a 9 or 10. Try making your writing goals smaller and easier too. And only work on one at a time until it becomes a habit. 

Today's book is...
A Penguin Pup For Pinkerton

Author: Steven Kellogg
Illustrator: Steven Kellogg
Publisher: Dial/Penguin
Year: 2001
Word Count: 547

Summary: "After dreaming that he is the father of a penguin egg, Pinkerton mistakes a football for a real egg, resulting in chaos all over town."

Every book begins with a character. And this book's main character is a DOG. He's cute. He's memorable. And he causes conflict for his owner girl. This is definitely a CHARACTER book. There are at least five other books about Pinkerton.

In this book, Emily comes home from school one day and shares everything she's learned at school about

Monday, February 18, 2013

Story Element #2: Conflict (Cook-A-Doodle-Doo!)

Favorite meal? Favorite thing to cook? SO not the same thing! I'm still enjoying my Valentine's chocolates. Hope you are too. I also hope you are having a stress-free, conflict-free, heart-healthy weekend. It IS national heart health month, you know. In the words of my children's P.E. teacher, "Get up. Get out. Get active." A.k.a. GUGOGA!

Cover Art
Cook-a-Doodle-Doo!
Today's book is...
Cook-a-Doodle-Doo!


Author: Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummell
Illustrator: Janet Stevens
Publisher: Harcourt Brace & Company
Year: 1999
Word Count: 1463

Summary: With the questionable help of his friends, Big Brown Rooster manages to bake a strawberry shortcake which would have pleased his great-grandmother, Little Red Hen.

You know, last night I dreamed about this dog that was chasing me. JUST KIDDING. That was my lame attempt at introducing conflict by NOT sharing what you were expecting. Anyway...


Remember the top three story elements: character, conflict, plot. When a character encounters conflict, the plot unfolds. Conflict creates plot by giving our story a purpose, a reason to be told. Conflict creates rising action, a very important part of plot. Conflict is the action the characters take, or sometimes the lack of action. The sequence of several conflicting events becomes the plot by way of the character choosing to take action. A good story seamlessly weaves all three together. Through conflict, our stories will also have action and suspense.

Action = happenings
Suspense = uncertainty

The easiest way to understand it is to study it. Learning craft isn't just about writing. It's important to see how it's successfully been done before in order to know how to incorporate it into our writing.

Big Brown Rooster is sick and tired of always eating chicken feed. He remembers "the story of his famous great-grandmother, the Little Red Hen." He finds a recipe he wants to cook.

Conflict 1: The others say he can't do because he's never cooked before. But that doesn't stop him. He's determined.

Conflict 2: He asks for help, and of course all the barnyard animals say, "Not I."

Conflict 3: After three unlikely volunteers (to read, get stuff, and taste) join Rooster as a team, he asks what the first ingredient is. Flour. But Iguana picks a petunia. Rooster says, "No, no, no. Not that kind of flower."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Story Element #7: Word Play (Gertrude is Gertrude...)

source
source

Well, today makes DAY 4 of my Book Love event. Still going strong and I'm AMAZED I'm still at it. More work than I thought it would be, but having a blast doing it. Remember, each comment from February 14 through February 28 is a contest entry to win a Market Guide Book (2011 and 2012). Be sure to leave your email @ address.com. (Spaces before and after the @ sign are okay! ...and recommended...) 

Today's book is...
Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude


Author: Jonah Winter
Illustrator: Calef Brown
Publisher: Atheneum
Year: 2009
Word Count: 914 (Not sure if it's accurate; I counted each word myself.)

Summary: Gertrude Stein, a famous American writer, meets famous people throughout her career and writes all hours of the night.

This book is a biography with the essence of Gertrude Stein's voice, as any good biography should try to emulate the voice of it's main character. Jonah Winter does a fabulous job bringing Gertrude to life. She played with words. He played with words. Today, we'll study that.

Spread 1: The title is also the book's opening line.
Spread 2: "And Alice is Alice. And Gertrude and Alice are Gertrude and Alice."
Spread 3:
Well it's like this. You walk up the stairs, and there they are. They are sitting in chairs and there they are, staring where they are staring. Not the chairs. Chairs never stare. Chairs are where you sit and stare.
Spread 4: fun silliness
Spread 5: people greet "Queen" Gertrude
Spread 6: people visit and talk and have tea
Spread 7: Picasso
Spread 8: Matisse
...Oh look. It's Henri Matisse with a beard beneath his teeth. His teeth do all the smiling but his beard does all the work. That's his painting with the bright bright very bright colors. But he's such a quiet man. He's such a bright quiet man, bright and quiet.
Spread 9: Basket the poodle, and Hemingway
Spread 10: party with Gertrude
Spread 11: "And while Alice sleeps, Gertrude is writing...."
Spread 12: taking a walk to the art museum
Spread 13: modern art
Spread 14: "a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose" and summertime parties
Spread 15: now leave. Gertrude is a genius. happy, happy, happy
Spread 16: (this is a longer PB than usual) cow in field, go on a picnic
Spread 17: "Thank you for driving....Thank you for laughing...."
Final 1/2 spread: (surprise ending text) ,also includes: "Who is who is who is who" (about Gertrude Stein).

Stein was a famous writer known for her playful, repetitive, and childlike writings. Her nonsensical words and sentences have since been imitated by many other writers, including Jonah Winter.

So you see, word play isn't just about onomatopoeia. It's repetition. It's being playful with words. It's being inventive with unique word combinations (check out spread 8 again). This book seems SO very silly on its first reading. But it gets more and more fun to read the more you read it.

TODAY'S LESSON: Take one of your characters. Get into their heads. Find their voice. PLAY with words - through them. Rewrite paragraphs from different stories. Add a rhyme here and there. ("It's Henri Matisse with a beard beneath his teeth.") Use repetition.

TODAY'S QUESTION: Can you guess what two animals are in the book? (Here's a clue. Do you know? Grrr...I dooooo!)

Keep on keepin' on...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Story Element #4: Dialogue (No More Cookies!)

My sister just said she would illustrate one of my books. The publisher I'd like to send the ms to is a regional publisher that requires two sample illustrations to be available with the submission. At face value, I know you're all thinking: cheesy! But, no, seriously, she's a PROFESSIONAL! Check her out! Probably submit late next year, I hope. She's in the middle of moving and preparing 25 5x5 canvases for a show.

Share a book in the comments that you'd like me to feature in future Story Elements and be entered into the amazing BOOK LOVE drawing to be held on Dr. Suess's birthday, March 2, a Saturday. Win a Market Guide - 2011 and 2012 both being given away! 

Today's book is... 
No More Cookies.


Author: Paeony Lewis
Illustrator: Brita Granstrom
Publisher: The Chicken House
Year: 2005
Word Count: 608

Summary: "Florence and her toy monkey, Arnold, try to persuade her mother to let them eat more cookies."

Jacket Flap: "It's crunch time for Florence and her favorite stuffed monkey, Arnold. They have reached the bottom of the cookie tin. So Florence and Arnold come up with a plan. Using a LOT of imagination and funny sketches, Florence invents some wacky ways to get more cookies. But Florence's mom has a plan of her own - one that gently teaches Florence that patience brings yummy (and healthy!) rewards."

For starters, this story was originally published with the British title, No More Biscuits! It was printed in the U.S. by Scholastic, Inc. with the "cookies" title.

This book is told in FIRST person, PRESENT tense. Most picture books tend to be told in third person, past tense.

First spread: "I'm Florence and this Arnold. He is helping me decide which is my favorite cookie."

Friday, February 15, 2013

Story Element #9: Rhyme (Ugly Pie)

Today's is my dad's birthday. He's 63, now! Happy Birthday, Dad!

Remember to leave a comment and share a book you think others could benefit from by my posting it as a Story Elements craft lesson. Two books being given away: 2011 and 2012 MARKET GUIDES. Yea, BOOK LOVE!

Ugly Pie by Lisa Wheeler (#9: Rhyme)
Today's craft is...RHYME! And the model? Ugly Pie by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Heather Solomon. And let me tell ya, it sure is fun to read! Might even smell and taste good, too!


Title: Ugly Pie
Author: Lisa Wheeler
Illustrator: Heather Solomon
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Year: 2010
Word Count: 683
Summary: After baking a scrumptious Ugly Pie, made from ingredients donated by his neighbors, Ol' Bear invites everyone over for a slice.

Now that you know the details and the premise, let's dig in and serve up a healthy heaping of RHYME! Remember, when I share books, I deal with spreads, not pages. It's easier that way. This book isn't one of your normal rhyming books. There's a rhyming refrain (what fun) and the dialogue is in rhyme. You could also study WORD PLAY or DIALOGUE or PACING with this book. Want a copy of my Template for Studying (and Writing) Picture Books? Just follow my blog and leave a comment below with your e-mail so I can send it to you.

Spread 1: no rhyming on this page
Spread 2: a bit of internal rhyme: "hitch of his britches" Rhyming refrain (Ol' Bear's song):
"Sweet molasses, my-oh-my.
I'm itchin' for some Ugly Pie!"
He goes to Grampa's house and says:
"My-oh-my-oh-my!
Do I smell Ugly Pie?"
And Grampa says:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Story Element #7: Word Play (Porcupining)

Today is Valentine's Day and I am so excited to bring you another book for the famous STORY ELEMENTS. If you hadn't noticed, I've been prepping for this for a while. There is a set of links to access each of the TEN elements located on the left side bar. 

I have issued myself a challenge to post a new book for the next two weeks. So I declare the next two weeks BOOK LOVE! And I'm going to have a giveaway to celebrate the fun, but you have to participate. It's simple. Just leave a comment sharing a book recommendation you'd like to see featured for that day's craft in Story Elements. What do you win? A MARKET GUIDE BOOK! I might even give away TWO (if there are lots of people commenting). 2011 and 2012. So, let's get started!

Second installment for WORD PLAY
Porcupining: A Prickly Love Story 
by Lisa Wheeler

It's such a fun and awesome book with tons of word play. I LOVE it!!! Unfortunately, it's out of print. That's a bummer for readers, but you could still try the library or Amazon. For writers, you could learn a thing or two from today's post.

Remember, word play is fun words used playfully to give extra meanings to the text. Lots of puns, onomatopoeia, and the like. Buckle up, it's gonna be a long, fun ride full of pricks, sticks, and pokes. Sorry, word play days don't go much into plot. You can infer, though.

First of all, a book about a porcupine named Cushion looking for a mate. Hilarious, right? Cushion! The name is perfect. Here's more:

  • Cushion went poking around.
  • started poking fun at him
  • "You're a walking burr-ball!" they teased. "Go away, Pin-Cushion!"
  • Cushion got the point.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Submission Wait Time

How long does a writer have to wait before they hear back from an editor or agent? Well, it varies. Many publishers (and agents) will list the average wait time. Some say 2 months, others say 6. Some say 2-4 months. Others say 6-9. Some say 3 months if interested. When they give a range, I always go by the longest time.

Submission Wait Time || How long does a writer have to wait before they hear back from an editor or agent?

Over the last 23 submissions I've sent out, the guidelines said anywhere from no response to 9 months. Here's the breakdown of how many (and the %) for each:
  • (any number of months) IF INTERESTED (this usu. equates to a "no response"): 5 = 21.7%
  • 1 month: 1 = 4.3%
  • 2 months: 2 = 8.7%
  • 3 months: 3 = 13%
  • 4 months: 1 = 4.3%
  • 5 months: 2 = 8.7%
  • 6 months: 8 = 34.7%
  • 9 months: 1 = 4.3%
The most popular listed wait time is 6 months and "if interested." AND...the response times I actually received were:
  • within a week or less: 4 = 17%
  • 1 to 5 months: 6 = 26%
  • no response: 13 = 57%
SO...the most popular response is "no response". Sorry, that's just the way it is. Three of the four responses that I received in a week or less were e-mail submissions. The fourth one was an e-mail in response to a MAILED submission, AND it was THE OFFER!!! It makes all the "no response" responses well worth the wait!

So, if you have something out there, don't worry about it. Just WRITE THE NEXT BOOK and keep on submitting.

TODAY'S QUESTION: If you have (a) manuscript(s) out there, how many? And are you working on your next book? (I have 5 things on submission. Soon to be six again. And working on my next seven books (revising) as well as new drafts for the shiny 4+ ideas next up on the list.)

Keep on keepin' on...

Friday, February 8, 2013

HIGH FIVE #25: Interview with Rob Sanders - Cowboy Christmas


Today, I have with me picture book author, Rob Sanders. He wrote the fabulous Cowboy Christmas! Here’s a big HIGH FIVE congratulations to you! Yee-haw!

Title:  Cowboy Christmas
Author:  Rob Sanders
Illustrator:  John Manders
Publisher:  Golden Books
Release Date:  September 2012
Word count:  677

SummaryThree weathered cowboys—Dwight, Darryl, and Dub—are stuck out on the range at Christmastime, roping steers and wrestling longhorns. They sure are lonesome! But a wonderful surprise awaits them back at camp—and it's just what they need for a rip-roarin', merry-makin' cowboy Christmas.

And since I OWN this delightful tale, I can say that I do, indeed, truly adore it! (Not jest speculatin' mind ya.)


Question ONE: 
What are three of your favorite picture books? Just three mind you. Being a kindergarten teacher, I know this is going to be a tough one for you.

Hundreds of picture books are staring at me from the shelves in my office. Each is calling, “Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!” I’m going to make myself choose books in three categories: an oldie, one I love to read to kids when I’m teaching writing lessons, and an inventive one. I could list a hundred favorites and give a reason for each one, but I’ll go with these three for now.

  1. As far as an oldie-but-goodie I would choose Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas. The book was published in 1992—which is eons ago in picture book years. The story is sensitive, funny, quirky, and it causes me to celebrate the imagination of childhood and gives me hope. The book is a classic—well-written and beautiful illustrated. (This is how I want to write when I grow up!)
  2. One of my favorite picture books to read to kids and to use in writing lessons is The Perfect Nest by Catherine Friend, illustrated by John Manders (who also illustrated Cowboy Christmas). The text is clever and the illustrations are hilarious. Kids love it. The book is filled with writing craft, so I can teach lesson after lesson from it—plot, problem, conflict, rising action, a main character we love, purposeful repetition, the rule of three, vivid verbs, surprise ending, and more. (Of course, if I can teach lessons from it, I can also learn from it.)
  3. Press Here, written and illustrated by HervĂ© Tullet, is an ingenious book. On the one hand, you wonder Why didn’t I think of that? On the other hand, you know I could never have thought of that! Sparse text and colorful dots make up the book. But what seems like a simple book is actually an interactive experience for the reader. The book teaches concepts of direction, color, number, and more, while giving the reader a fun reading (dare I say playing) experience time and time again. (I’ll have whatever HervĂ© is drinking—no, make it a double!)

I'm definitely going to have to check out book #2. Sounds amazing.

Question TWO: 
Despite not having any children of your own, how do you feel that you were drawn to write for them?

A children’s author doesn’t have to have children any more than a “mail man” has to be a man. The fact is that I’ve spent my entire life with children. While still in high school I was teaching children in summer camps,

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Critique Winner

So I finally got around to counting up and tallying all the comments from everyone to enter the free critique giveaway that Deb Lund won from me last year and is so graciously donating back into the kidlit community. The announcement for the giveaway began January 23 and went through January 31. I had 20 people leave a comment, a couple left 2 or 3 comments. (Thank you!) The winner is...

Yvonne Mes!

Congratulations! (I'll e-mail you, too!) We'll do your critique via e-mail. Looking forward to reading your work.

Remember, if you'd still like to win a critique, the WINTER Lucky Clover Picture Book Contest is still taking "applications" through March 31. Hurry and e-mail those stories in before it's too late.

TODAY'S QUESTION: Do you feel lucky this year? (I DO!!!) If so, why? If not, why? Please share. A little luck goes a long way...

Keep on keepin' on...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Story Element #10: BEGINNINGS/ENDINGS

Story Element #10: BEGINNINGS/ENDINGS
Welcome to the official BEGINNINGS and ENDINGS PAGE for Story Elements. This is the end of the beginning. I'm telling ya, we're just getting started here. No matter what you write, or where you are in your craft, beginnings and endings can be tricky. Here are some great examples of picture books with awesome beginnings or endings or both.

Begin here (and do not ever end):
  1. I Love You the Purplest by Barbara M. Joosse
  2. A Bird of Two: A Story about Henri Matisse by Bijou Le Tord

Monday, February 4, 2013

Happy Birthday!

No, not me. Happy Birthday, Charles! Today, my husband turned 41. Shall I share 41 things about him? No, I shan't bore you with that (though he does not bore me at all). We've been married for 16 years. (May will 17).

If I could pick a picture book for my husband, it would have VW beetles in it, tools, a lawnmower, movie stars, TV, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, lasagna, spaghetti, salad, peanuts, licorice, ice cream, pie, a warm fire, a sunny summer day (but not a warm fire ON a sunny summer day), motorcycles, a fishing pole, and some running shoes.

Well, I couldn't find that book, and I didn't have time to write it, so this will have to do. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Story Element #9: RHYME

Story Element #9: RHYME
It's time, it's time to make a RHYME! Welcome to the RHYMING PAGE of Story Elements, where you can explore a plethora of rhyming picture books. Love to write in rhyme? Now is the time to settle in and get comfy, 'cause there's a lot of exploring to do! Boost your writing skills by learning the craft of rhyme. There's no better teacher than to learn from the masters.

Pick one, pick two. Here's a rhyming book for you:

  1. Because You Are My Baby by Sherry North 
  2. Ugly Pie by Lisa Wheeler

Friday, February 1, 2013

Story Element #8: PATTERNS

Story Element #8: PATTERNS
1, 2, 3, A, B, C, 1, 2, 3, A, B, C. Patterns, patterns, everywhere! Welcome to the PATTERNS PAGE of Story Elements, where you'll learn everything from rules of 3 and repetition to cycles and more. There are days of the week patterns, monthly patterns, daily patterns... Picture books with patterns are sure to be a crowd pleaser.

So pick a number and start a pattern. A, B, B, A, B, B...
  1. Big Chickens by Leslie Helakoski and Henry Cole
  2. My Big Dog by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
  3. The Monstore by Tara Lazar
  4. I Wanna New Room by Karen Kaufman Orloff
  5. The House That George Built by Suzanne Slade
Examples submitted from the PB 14:14 in 2014 participants: