Saturday, June 25, 2011

"I Have the POWER!!!" (by He-Man)

"I have the POWER!!!" is so much fun to say. Especially when you say it like He-Man does. Today, I have the power to make someone's day. I am finally announcing the winners to my picture book contest for the combined months of March, April, and May.

"Classic" Category - First Class Knights by Dave Haynes

Rhyming Category - Winka the Witch by Jennifer Young

Congratulations!!! And there's still time to enter June's contest. You can expect your critiques next week.

And just remember, you have the power to write your stories and write them well. All you have to do is believe in yourself.

What gives YOU the power to write?

Keep on keepin' on...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Change of Scenery

smiley bandagedDon't you just hate it when you break a nail? That's exactly what happened to me at my son's 7th birthday party when I was trying to open a box for him. Rrrrrrrrrrrip! Right into the quick. I screamed, cried, and looked at the blood, but maybe not in that order. It had been a long, long time since I'd had a broken nail. A chip is really no big deal. A bummer, but painless. This was no simple chip; it was a bad break. It has taken about four weeks to heal. I tell you this because I found a way to relate it to life and to writing. The thing is, I had a very small crack at the edge of my nail for a long time. I kept thinking I needed to put some super glue on it to help protect it, but I never did, until it was too late.

Don't let a small crack go unnoticed in your manuscripts. Repair it before it causes a larger problem that takes even longer to fix. Find the problems that you know exist. Rework those scenes.

If you do, you can save yourself time and agony. Revising is a lot like a change of scenery, like getting a breath of fresh air after you've been in a stuffy room all day. In a picture book, even one word can make a difference between being polished and being almost there.

  • Listen to the parts that seem off.
  • Practice being sparse with your words.
  • Prepare ahead of time by writing a short plot line.
  • Look at weak verbs and replace with strong ones.
  • Reorganize paragraphs to give a better flow. 
  • Cut unnecessary sentences.
  • Don't be afraid to add new material when needed.
So, be proactive and use super glue. Maybe your story will be polished in less than four weeks.

What have you done lately to revise? I just sent my first book out to the second publisher on my list. Six months of waiting. I'm hoping for a great Christmas this year...

Keep on keepin' on...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Writing a Picture Book is Hard Work

Today I'd like to welcome Nancy Stewart, guest blogger, and author of One Pelican at a Time. She shares her insight with us on the act of writing picture books from beginning to end. Welcome!

How to Analyze a Picture Book with a Story Board


Yep, I’ll admit it.  Hard work.  That’s what it is.  You have to think as a child, put yourself in a child’s place and always be aware of the child within yourself.  That’s the tricky bit.

And then, of course, once you’ve decided on a wonderful, fun and thought provoking plot, one that thousands of kids will want to buy and keep forever, it’s time to put together that puzzle called a children’s book.  It needs to be fewer than one thousand words and less really with the new generation of books for the younger kid.  Keep it short, and keep it simple while making it a fine fully developed story from which children will learn and grow. 

Not only that.  Oh, no.  Words count and not just in numbers.  They must be lyrical, fluid, fun words for children to say.  They need to be words kids love to repeat over and over and over.  They need to be words children will want to remember, so they can be read to caregivers.  It makes no difference, of course, whether the children can really read or not.

That brings you to the revision process.  Oh, yes.  Just when you’re beginning to feel fine about the manuscript, you happily and hopefully flaunt it at your critique group.  “Picked apart” is the phrase that comes to mind.  “Just a tiny change here” and a “this might be better there.”  Who knew?

Next morning, armed with coffee, lots of it, you rip into the now imperfect manuscript.  You try to make sense of all the tough direct critiques and the gentle ones that apologetically murmur, “just a modest suggestion.”  Bit by bit, the story reshapes, funnily enough, stronger than before.  Huh.  Maybe they were right.  Always knew you liked that group.

And then, finally, you have a manuscript that can stand up to being called a book.  The time has come for it to fly on its own.  And it does, right to an agent or publisher. 

When you get the word that this agent or that publisher wants it, everything else but absolute joy is forgotten, at least until the next manuscript.  But you’re stronger this time.  This time you know what to expect, and you’re ready.  Yeah, piece of cake.

How to Analyze a Picture Book with a Story Board


One Pelican at a Time has been on Amazon Bestsellers for Children List for 13 weeks.
Forthcoming books:  Bella Saves the Beach, Sea Turtle Summer and Katrina and Winter: Partners in Courage

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sacrifices for Writing

This month's Pot-O-Gold Blogger Award goes out to the lovely Julie Hedlund at what used to be Write Up My Life. Now, her website and blog has grown by leaps and bounds. Writers, musicians, painters, actors, etc. (when just starting out) are often told "Don't quit your day job..." Well, that's just what Julie Hedlund DID do, quit her day job. The subtitle for her blog is "Reckless giver-upper of 'real' career to pursue dream of writing."

Julie takes her readers on a nice ride. A ride that pauses at every stop along the way toward publication. She attends conferences and leaves notes. She shares insights about her writing journey and offers wisdom by pointing to where she has been, whether it be books she's read or articles online that teach about an aspect of the writing process. Her series, "How I Got My Agent," shares how picture book authors found an agent to represent their picture books. To date, she has interviewed three savvy authors and shared a plethora of knowledge. UPDATE: As of March 2014, there are 11 stories of how these authors got their agents.

If you haven't met Julie yet, go check out her blog. You're sure to spend several hours reading fun material and getting to know her. I, myself, feel doubly blessed that Julie happens to also be a member of my own personal critique group. I love following her story. To me, the most intriguing part is that she quit her day job, the ultimate sacrifice (in a way). Congratulations, Julie, on being June's recipient for the Pot-O-Gold Blogger Award!
  1. Say thank you to the person who gave it to you.
  2. Write a post and include the image of the award, a link to the person's blog who gave it to you, and a link to my blog, WRITE WILD. (Copy and paste the rules in your post.)
  3. Award four bloggers this award and tell why each is a Pot-O-Gold! (If you receive this award more than once, you only have to forward it the first time. Although you're certainly welcome to continue spreading the love.)
  4. Share four simple things about yourself: 1-a time you had to exercise FAITH, 2-something you HOPE for, 3-something (or someone) you LOVE, and 4-a time when you felt LUCK.
What kind of sacrifices have you or do you make for your writing?

Keep on keepin' on...

Monday, June 6, 2011

How Much Should We Revise?

I just read one of Dear Editor's questions. The response made me think. Especially about the word "significant." Basically, she says it's only okay to resubmit to an editor or agent if we have made significant changes to our manuscript. They wouldn't say no based on surface changes that might need to be done. Editors would probably be willing to work with a writer on that.

It got me to thinking about how critique groups work. Obviously 99% of what we writers write will not be publication-ready the first time we write it. Okay, maybe even 100%. But at what level should we revise something substantially? How do we know if the concept and/or writing only needs surface cleaning? As a critter in a critique group, should we act as an editor would? If it's a reject, we should suggest major revisions. If we want to publish it and we think it is THAT good, then perhaps we would only find surface cleaning types of revision comments to offer.

What do you guys think?

Keep on keepin' on...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

HIGH FIVE #8: Kathryn Apel Tells All About Her First Picture Book

Lothian Hachette, 2009
Welcome, Kathryn Apel! Thanks for being with us today. Kat has published two books, one chapter book and one picture book. This is the Mud! is her debut picture book.
When a cow gets stuck in the mud near a farm dam, chaos ensues. Rescuers come to help – but when they, too, get stuck, who will rescue them?
Question ONE: How has reading picture books to your children made you a better parent?
I think in reading with our children we are gifting them with quality time, cosy cuddles, rich discussion, imagination, creativity, and the keys to unlock a range of education and career paths as they grow and progress through life.  After all, reading gives children the keys to pursue their own research, follow written instructions and work independently. In reading to our children, we show them we value them – and we value reading/literacy. With the gift of reading, a child will never be bored. During our reading time, my boys’ choice of book gave me insights into their interests, and our incidental discussions obviously taught them more than I’d imagined. Both boys are excellent little critters of my own writing. They highlight plot weaknesses – and clearly articulate ways to fix them. And I know they’re good, because when I’ve ignored their advice, experienced editors have said exactly the same thing! (So now I listen. :P)

That's good advice. Always listen to your children.

Question TWO: What are three of your favorite picture books (because we all know you have way more than three)?
This is kinda easy for me  but only if I can answer in terms of ‘authors’ – not specific picture books.
  1. My absolute favourite PB author who continually inspires me, is Lynley Dodd. I love her playfulness, her rhythm and rhyme and her great gulping mouthfuls of words. If you haven’t read about the escapades of Hairy Maclary (and friends) you are missing out on a treat! Lynley Dodd is an absolute delight!
  2. Pamela  Allen is another prolific author who I have great respect for. Her PBs are widely varied, but a family favourite was Alexander’s Outing. But then there is also Belinda, Who Sank the Boat, and Clippity-Clop, to name a few.
  3. There will always be a sentimental attachment to ‘Duck in the Truck’ which inspired me to write my muddy PB, This is the Mud! Besides, we (boys & I) loved reading that book. Brimming with laughter and fun.

I'm with you, Kat. I'd have to choose three favorite authors, I think. It's tough to choose just three!

Question THREE: What was your road to publication like?
  • 2002:  Started writing for children.
  • September 2005:  Wrote This is the Mud! It was so simple to write that I was embarrassed to own it, and only shared it with my two boys and my hubby, before sheepishly sending it off to Penguin Books Australia.
  • September 2006 The inaugural CYA (Children’s and Young Adults) writing competition was held in Australia. I read all my MSes to my boys, and asked them to rank their top three. This is the Mud! was (adamantly) my youngest son’s favourite, and my eldest’s 2nd favourite. I entered This is the Mud! in the preschool category, and my eldest’s pick in the primary category. Both entries were written in rhyme. Both entries were short-listed, and sent to Helen Chamberlain (then the editor of Lothian Children’s Books) for final judging. I was thrilled when ‘This is the Mud!’ won, and my other MS came 2nd.
  • October 2006:  Formal subbed to the ‘new’ Lothian-Hachette, and heard immediately that they were interested in publishing This is the Mud! – but it had to go through a formal acquisitions process before official acceptance…
  • February 2007:  Penguin Australia emailed to apologise for the delay, and ask if the MS was still available. They commended it for great rhythm, a nice Australian touch and good humour. Squeee! Two publishers interested in my PB. Eeeeeek! Two publishers interested in my PB! A very stressful time, deciding what was best and ethical, with no formal offer from either publisher at that stage. I felt my loyalty was to Helen since she had given of her time in judging the competition, so I waited…
  • March 2007:  Yay and hurray. This is the Mud! was officially accepted for publication by Lothian Hachette, with an expected June 2008 release date. Crazy-but-true, my first chapter book was also accepted for publication that same month. After 7 years of writing for children… boom boom! :D
  • May 2007:  I acquired an agent, who was with me through the publication process, though we have since parted.
  • November 2007:  The contract arrived, and publication was delayed.
  • 2008:  Publication delayed until May 2009.
  • March 2009:  Advance copies of This is the Mud! arrived unexpectedly, which prompted havoc at our rural letterbox. My boys worried somebody would hear me and ring for help. Since we live several kilometres from anyone, that was highly unlikely – but ever-so-cute! (It is possible that passing motorists wondered what that loopy woman was doing, flashing muddy books and gesticulating wildly as they drove past our letterbox.)
  • May 2009: We launched This is the Mud! at Under 8's Day, with children from nearby schools and playgroups in attendance. There were hundreds of children and parents in attendance, with a whole range of muddy themed activities. My one regret was that I wasn't able to sell copies of the book at the launch because it was deemed a conflict of interest, since I also taught one-day-a-week (but not the launch day) at that school. SUCH a missed opportunity! But an awesome day none-the-less. You can read ALL about it!

High points for me. Not one word of my manuscript was changed during the editorial process, and I was involved throughout the whole process of publication – even down to font and layout on the page. Though the marketing department changed the title to Mud! less than a month before it went to print, I was able to share my reasoning with them, and the book reverted to This is the Mud! with days to spare, to the delight of many. Phew! In fact, everything I asked for was in the book, including a (gorgeous!) beefy cow (who is in fact modeled on my pet cow, Amber – though I was happy for it to be any beef cow) and a rural Australian setting. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Wow! What a great story. Two books accepted in the same month. And without an agent. Congratulations!!!

Question FOUR: How might teachers use your book in the classroom?
  • This is the Mud! fits into units about: farm, Australia, mud, weather, quest, rescue, working together… It is also a model for rhythm and rhyme within poetry units.
  • There are a number of activities drawn from the book on the Kids’ Stuff tab of my blog, with more planned.
  • Teachers and parents might also like to peruse the launch day post and be inspired for activities.

Inspiring activities, indeed! 

Question FIVE: What are some writing tips you can offer to writers seeking publication?
  • I heard a great quote at my first writing conference, and it’s been my mantra ever since. Writing is 5% inspiration, 5% creativity and 90% DETERMINATION.
  • Above all other things, you must be Determined. (And yes, that capital ‘D’ is intentional – such is the emphasis and importance.) I still must be Determined, as I push for publication on other books.
  • Pursue publication – with passion, professionalism and integrity. Determination!

Kat, thanks for joining me today. You certainly fit the bill for being one 'D'-termined lady! Congratulations, again. 

** Please note: Australian spelling has been used during this interview. **

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Short and Sweet

Quiet simple books still sell. This week's Read-4-Luck pick is the "surprise" book I chose to give away for the Summer Splash Blog Hop. It also comes just in time for Father's Day! TFalick is the winner. Congratulations! Just e-mail me your info so I can get it out to you.

This picture book for 2-5 year olds celebrates fatherhood everywhere. Whether you and your daddy go together like honey and bees, peanut butter and jelly, or rakes and leaves, the adoring illustrations will send the feel-good message of love lasting forever.

Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Year: 2005
Word Count: 87
Book Level: 1.2

CHILDREN:  Very short at 87 words. Could definitely become a first reader. It doesn't rhyme, which I like and the kids don't miss it. The gentle repetition is soothing and young children will soak it up after multiple readings.

PARENTS:  The pictures are wonderful. I like the combinations of things to which father-child are continuously compared. Especially enjoyable for the youngest children (ages 1-3).

TEACHERS:  Have your students think of something they really enjoy, love, or can't imagine living without. Have them think of pairs of things that "go together" but they can't copy any from the book. A simple writing exercise to get them actually writing! 1st - 3rd grade. Could introduce as poetry for 4th and 5th grades. Let children write their own poem comparing things.

WRITERS:  Doesn't really do much for me as a writer. My favorite phrase is the repeating phrase, "Whatever the weather, we go together." The book goes through the seasons and different things that fathers and children enjoy doing together throughout the year. Favorite picture is the pail and seaweed at the beach. Favorite image/memory is the stars.

What are some of the repeating phrases you have liked in picture books?

Keep on keepin' on...


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