Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Helps Prepare for PiBoIdMo

With all the Fall festivities and Trick-or-Treating galore, I find the scheduling of parties and events preparing me for the rigors of PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month). Not for the ability to receive creativity, but for the daily assignments of reading, writing, thinking, planning, and creating. Good thing PiBoIdMo is in November. See ya'll there!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dumpster Divers Are Environmentalists: Teach Your Kids How to Recycle by Reading

Remember to add to the skunk adventure story with Jared and his younger sister. They're trying to get to school. Jared has a big test. He's all pumped up from his coffee that sis says stinks like skunk. What happens next? It's all up to you!

This week's Read-4-Luck pick is (the feature that acts as a recommendation, review, teaching tip, and writing lessonis The Dumpster Diver by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by David Roberts.
Steve, the electrician, dons special gear, and with the help of youngsters who live in his building, dives into a dumpster seeking useful objects that they can transform into imaginative new ones.
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Year: 2007
Word Count: 559
Book Level: 3.9

 Roaches? You betcha! Kid-friendly creations? You betcha! The illustrations really bring this one alive!

 Roaches? No thank you. And who wants their child digging through the trash? No thank you. But, recycling? Yes, yes, YES!!!

 Could definitely use in a recycling unit or to introduce a unit on inventions. Character-building lessons included too!

 Just a fun read. Illustrations too fun. Great opening line: Anyone knows you can dive for treasure in the ocean, but our neighbor Steve the Electrician dives for buried treasure RIGHT SMACK HERE in our backstreet alley. Great verbs: slink, dive, splash, measured, drilled. Favorite page? The diving team. Funniest page? The rules page. Favorite invention? An old blender turned into a lava lamp. Best page to read with kids? The inventions pages. Favorite phrase? "Steve says, 'Junk is GOOD!'" The "So, ha!" page? It's in the illustration at the very end when the kids do something sweet.

YOUR TURN: Not that we can all run out and write a Steve story of our own, but perhaps you could sharpen your writing skills by writing a list of things you wished you'd invented, or things you could invent with the trash in your "dumpster" right now. Now choose one item from your list and put it in a story. Use lots of action words. It's okay if it's stupid, just write for fun and if you get a few great phrases, then you have succeeded in today's writing lesson!

Keep on keepin' on...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Where, oh, where has my little dog gone? (Talent vs. Skill)

Okay, so not really my little dog, but how about my motivation? I skipped TWO posts last week! What's wrong with me? Alas, today is the beginning of a fresh new week. I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes:
"Talent is way down on the list of things you need to write; it comes in a distant fourth, after motivation, discipline, and persistence. And the reason is that "talent" is as common as mud; what's rare is the motivation to sit down and actually do something with it, the discipline to do it regularly, and the persistence to stick with it until it's finished." ~ Patricia Wrede
And another motivational quote:

"Stories are the collective wisdom of everyone who has ever lived. Your job as a storyteller is not simply to entertain. Nor is it to be noticed for the way you turn a phrase. You have a very important job - one of the most important. Your job is to let people know that everyone shares their feelings - and that these feelings bind us. Your job is a healing art, and like all healers, you have a responsibility. Let people know they are not alone. You must make people understand that we are all the same.~ Brian McDonald, The Golden Theme: How to Make Your Writing Appeal to the Highest Common Denominator

The purpose of my blog is two-fold:

  1. To get me to write more, to study more picture books more often, and to have fun by connecting with readers.
  2. To educate, inform, and inspire my readers to learn, grow, and connect. 
One more quote:
Talent alone doesn't get you anywhere - you need hard work, perseverance and patience. Talent without the work is a missed opportunity. Wasted potential. But that's what talent is - potential. ~ Ava Jae
You can read more about that quote in the blog post titled Talent is Overrated at the blog Writeability.

So have a good day, a GREAT week, and fulfill your potential. Go write!

Keep on keepin' on... 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Winner's Circle Saturday: Summer 2011 Winner

JUNGLE ANIMALS Royalty Free Stock Vector Art Illustration
The Lucky Clover Picture Book Writing Contest is announcing its winner for the Summer 2011 contest. Thank you to everyone who entered. It was a tough decision and lots of fun. You can now enter the Fall 2011 contest (click above for details). The deadline is December 24, 2011.

Congratulations to...

Caterina Malerba!

Her book, Jungle Jam, is cute, funny, and clever. Jungle friends are trying to jam out to music in the jungle, but the conductor is unhappy with the results of each practice. When monkey interrupts with a startling discovery, the results aren't what you think.

Your critique should arrive in your e-mail within a couple of weeks.    

Hope to see more entries for the Fall 2011 contest throughout the coming weeks.

Keep on keepin' on...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pass the Paper #4: I Love the Smell of Skunk

Here's story #4 for our Pass the Paper the fun. Let's see how well we do during the coming month. The more the merrier!

"Mmm..." Jared plunked down at the breakfast table and inhaled his cup of morning java. "Nothing like a good cup o' Joe to start off a Friday full of tests."

Jared's little sister whined, "Why do you insist on stinking up the house with your cheap skunky coffee?"

"I love the smell of skunk! It reminds me of my coffee."

"Well, I don't. Do you think it will actually..."

Disclaimer: I don't drink coffee, but sometimes it DOES smell of skunk.

When you leave a comment, remember to subscribe by e-mail so you can keep up with the story and add to it again, if you like.

Skunk pet

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pot-O-Gold Blogger Award #11: Two Writing Teachers

Pixel Berry Pie Designs
It's the second Saturday of the month, and that means it's time to award another lucky blogger with the Pot-O-Gold Blogger Award! I created this award for excellent blogs based on interesting and helpful content AND visually appealing and easy-to-navigate design. It's an award that says, "Look at this awesome blog! There's a wealth of information here! If you visit once, you'll want to return again and again." In other words, it's like discovering a pot of gold.

This month's award goes out to Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers: Teaching Kids. Catching Minds. 565 Miles Apart. They have been blogging about the teaching of writing since 2007. Their blog has had nearly 1.5 million hits to date. Even if you're not a teacher, you'll love their site! Tons of writing lessons about the writing process and more. Very informational and inspirational. Love their quote page, and their Slice of Life Story Challenge. They also co-authored Day by Day, an excellent resource for writing workshops. Congratulations, Ruth and Stacey!

The "Rules:"

  1. Say thank you to the person who gave it to you.
  2. Write a short "thank-you" post (including image of award, link to the giver's blog, and a link to WRITE WILD).
  3. Award four bloggers this award and tell why each is a Pot-O-Gold!
  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.
P.S. You can copy and paste the rules in your post. If you receive this award more than once, you may award one blogger instead of four.

Keep on keepin' on...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pictures Only: Wordless Picture Books

This week's READ-4-LUCK pick (the feature that acts as a recommendation, review, teaching tip, and writing lessonis The Secret Box by Barbara Lehman. 
Times change. Cities may grow large. Summers may come and go. And people might grow old, but the one thing that always remains the same is the desire for adventure. You'll never know what you'll find when you look inside.
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Year: 2011
Word Count: 0
Book Level: 1.2 ?

 Can't read? No problem! Story-telling skills will be challenged and enhanced. Great pictures and lots of fun! 

 Absolutely delightful. Very fun to "read" WITH your children, for sure! You'll be turning the pages back and forth, over and over again. A great mystery to discover.

Teachers can use this to generate stories. Students will HAVE to tell it in their own words. Could even be used in conjunction with an art lesson, a history lesson, or to introduce the importance of memory.

 Sometimes it's fun to take a break from words. This is a fun visual delight!

YOUR TURN: Think of a time when you found something you treasured and write about it. Or write about the first time you visited the beach. Or write about a secret that you and a friend still share. Or go page by page and summarize each scene...with words. I bet the magic just fades away. Although when reading it with my children, I did tell them the story verbally with my own words to help them internalize the events taking place.

Monday, October 3, 2011

"Triangle Man..." and Career Writers

"Don't quit your day job," right? Just because we ARE writers doesn't mean we can quit our day jobs, at least not yet. If you want a CAREER as a writer, you have to stick with it for possibly a very long time.

This is a crazy little chart I made. It's the triangle path to three different careers: a special ed teacher, a picture book author, and a literary agent. These are real people. Well, the picture book author is me; I'm just waiting for the center to emerge in real life. Sometimes, the paths we take in life will lead us to other roads. It has me.

We can send our characters on these wild paths, too. So your character has to reach this point in which he understands how to solve his problem. Make him jump through hoop A first. Then make him learn a new language. Then he must face his fears in a new light. Then, finally, he solves his problem and becomes the strong character we want him to be.

What has your "Triangle Man" path to authorship looked like so far?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

HIGH FIVE #12: Linda Lodding and her Commentary on Too Much to Do

Here with us today is Linda Ravin Lodding, author of her debut book, The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister (details below). Welcome, Linda! And a big HIGH FIVE to you!

Author: Linda Ravin Lodding
Illustrator: Suzanne Beaky
Publisher: Flashlight Press
Month/year of release: October, 2011
Word count:  just the right number!
Short summary or blurb:
If you think you’re busy, just take a look at Ernestine’s week: tuba with Mr. Oompah, yodeling with Little Old Lady Hoo, yoga with Guru Prakesh Pretzel, and more. Her well-meaning, busy parents have packed Ernestine’s after-school hours. But Ernestine is about to opt out and do what no Buckmeister has done before: JUST PLAY.

Take a look at Ernestine's book trailer.

Question ONE: What is your bedtime routine like; how do books play a part in that? How often did you read to your children when they were younger; do you feel like you have a special bond with your children because of books?

When my daughter Maja was younger (she’s now 13) reading before bedtime was one of the best parts of the day! Since my husband is Swedish, and my daughter is being raised bilingually, my husband and I would alternate reading to her – one evening I would read English books aloud, the next night he read to her in Swedish.  This way she heard stories in both her languages and  became familiar with the stories of her two cultures.

We even kept up this reading routine for quite some time even after she learned to read to herself. One of the reasons I gravitated towards writing picture books is because it’s not only about reading a story, but about sharing time (and laughs) – together.

Well said, Linda!

Question TWO: What are five of your favorite picture books? Just five mind you…

Only five?! Okay, then. Today’s favorites five are:

1. Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty (2007)
2.The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord (1987)
3.Stellaluna by Janell Cannon (1993)
4.Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell  (2001)
5.This Plus That – Amy Krouse Rosenthal (2011)

I've read Stellaluna and heard of The Giant Jam Sandwich. I'll have to check out the others. 

Question THREE: (multi-part question for us "to-be-published" writers out there) 
A. How did you come up with the idea for your debut book?

Ashamedly, when my daughter was younger, I don’t think I was too wildly different from Ernestine’s mother, Mrs. Buckmeister. My daughter was way over-scheduled for her age and she ultimately  dropped out of her African drumming class at the age 4 because she was too exhausted. Fortunately for me, I found this trend of over-scheduling our kids to be quite funny and I channeled this theme into writing “The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister.” I added in a heaping teaspoon of wackiness, and the book was conceived. Of course it took another ten years for her to be born!

B. What was your road to publication like?

Like many authors, my road to publication was a long and winding one – at times the road offered glimpses of beautiful vistas, at other times I encountered fire-breathing dragons that made me want to run and cower in my writing cave. But I always found myself back on the road because I love to write more than I hate rejection letters.

My debut book, The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister, was one of the first picture books that I wrote and polished. I took that manuscript to an SCBWI conference in Winchester, UK and signed up for a manuscript critique. The editor who critiqued the book loved it. She wasn’t, however, in the position to acquire the book, but she gave me some wonderful editorial suggestions and, most importantly, gave me confidence that I was on the right track.  I then started to submit the book to large publishing houses and the manuscript bubbled out of the slush pile and into the acquisition meeting at two large publishing houses… only to be rejected. But I knew it was just a matter of finding the right publisher and, along the way, “Ernestine” was getting stronger and stronger.

From my publishing research, I had heard wonderful things about this boutique publishing house, Flashlight Press. The book made it’s way to the editor’s desk where it sat for over a year. Eventually, the editor contacted me about working on revisions, and over a year later, she sent me THE E-MAIL! The one that offered me a contract!  Since then, my amazing editor, Shari Dash Greenspan, and her partners at Flashlight Press have been my own dream team. They took my vision for the story and improved upon it in ways that I hadn’t imagined. And Suzanne Beaky, “Ernestine’s” illustrator, brought the story to life with such skill, warmth and whimsy (and the book was a tremendous challenge to illustrate!). I couldn’t have landed at a better publishing house.

While it took about 9-years to get a picture book contract, during those years I wrote fiction and non-fiction for children’s magazines and continued to write oodles of other picture books.   And I now have two more picture books coming out – “Hold That Thought, Milton!” and “Oskar’s Perfect Present” both with Gullane Children’s Books (London).

So we really can get discovered from the slushpile! It just might take two! 

C. How many revisions did your manuscript undergo, if you kept count?

I stopped counting at some point – ha ha!  But suffice it to say that it went through a lot! Each word of a picture book has to be perfect and it has to work perfectly with the illustration. It does take time to get the harmony just right.

D. How many publishers/agents did you submit to before getting an acceptance letter?

I have a spreadsheet somewhere on my computer which keeps track of all my submissions but off the top of my head I’m sure it was near the 15 mark. 

And 15 really isn't considered out of the norm, either. 

E. Did you have an agent?

And I didn’t have an agent – nor do I have an agent now. It’s difficult to get an agent for picture books without being published so I put my energies into writing and researching publishers and editors. Doing the leg-work myself, though, taught me a lot about the business. It’s a hard truth that writers need to also do more than just write, they also have to understand the business of publishing.

So true. Publishing is indeed a business. 

Question FOUR: How might teachers use your book in the classroom?

I’m just now concocting all the wonderful ways the book can be used in the classroom. Check back on the Flashlight Press website for more information.

The theme of  “The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister” is about the freedom and joy of play. The beauty of play is that it’s not only fun, but it also is educationally important – through play we learn to deal with life’s challenges and think more creatively.

Teachers can use the book in several ways. They can encourage imaginative play by, for example, having children build their own “pop-up playground” -- playgrounds which encourage spontaneous play by using materials found in and around the home such as boxes, plastic jugs, wrapping paper tubes, yarn, fabric, tape, sticks, leaves, tubing…you name it! While it may be difficult for adults to envision the play opportunities presented by, say, a wrapping paper tube, children will inevitably turn it into a magic wand, a space rocket or a Knight’s sword. 

Teachers can also use the book for a jumping off point to discuss problem-solving skills, emotions and the importance of imagination.

Or even to get children thinking about what they want to be when they grow up...

Question FIVE:
 What are some writing tips you can offer to writers seeking publication?

1.     Be persistent – It took me nearly 10 years to become an “overnight sensation”.  And it took JK Rowlings 17 years working on Harry Potter before she finished it. There will come days when you’re bored and frustrated and want to lie down on the floor and thrash your legs like a 2-year-old having a temper tantrum. But  hang in there because wonderful things can happen if you only stick it out.

2.     Understand story structure – whether it be a 32-page picture book or a dystopian YA series, study story structure.  Read (and dissect) the genre you are writing, take a writing course and/or read many of the excellent books out there on story structure.

3.      Type out favorite books -- As a sidebar to the tip above, if you write picture books, try typing out stories that appeal to you. This helps you to slow down long enough to study word choice, pacing and see how page turns and visuals are used to complement the text.

4.     Learn to take criticism -- and seek it out at every opportunity. Don’t get upset even if you think the criticism is harsh, don’t be offended even if you think it’s wrong, and always thank those who take the time to offer it.

5.     Follow the book biz – read trade journals such as  Children’s Bookshelf/Publisher’s Weekly (subscribe online), join SCBWI, read editor’s and writer’s blogs, connect with writers and editors on Twitter and Facebook (there’s a wealth of information being passed around through social media channels), attend conferences. And for those who prefer to stay in their jammies here a few online conference options:

  • November's PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) hosted by the amazing Tara Lazar - UPDATE: Now called StoryStorm and held in January; also not just for picture books.
  • WriteOnCon (every August)
  • The Muse Online Writer’s conference 

But, above all, try not to get so bogged down in the mechanics of writing that you lose sight of why you love to write. Write with passion and pleasure and the rest will follow.

Thanks, so much Linda for all your wisdom. Your journey was a delight to read. I hope to be joining you some day. Be sure and check out Linda's website

Keep on keepin' on...


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