Friday, February 21, 2014

PB 14:14 Day 8: Monster Authors Return for Part 2 and Prizes

Today is Day 8 and we've officially made it through Week 1 of Picture Books 14:14. Whew!!! We've been having a BLAST visiting each other's blogs during this COSMIC event.

Today is the day to announce the prize winners for Week 1. We had 11 participants including myself. That's pretty good for a first time event. All winners are chosen randomly. Remember, you must have blogged 5 out of 7 days for Week 1 to receive an entry for these 2 prizes. And if you blog 7 out of 7 days, you get 2 entries.

The first prize is a picture book of your very own, which you can study to your heart's content, written by either Deb Lund or Susanna Leonard Hill. And the winner is Kimberly Callard. Congratulations!!! (Week 2 prize winner will receive a book from the other author not chosen by Week 1's winner.)

And the winner for the second prize of Week 1, a critique of one of your own PB mss, by either Alayne Kay Christian, Kristy Dempsey, or Lori Degman, is Jackie Wellington. Congratulations!!! (Alayne will do a non-rhyming ms only.)

If the winners will contact me via e-mail and let me know your choices, I will arrange a way for you to receive your prize. Congratulations, again, and thanks for participating in the blog hop! Remember, there are still two prizes to award for week 2, as well as the Grand Prize, which either of you could still win.

So, our monster authors return for part two. Welcome back, Tara and Deb. Any more words of inspiration for us? Yes? Of course! Well, what are you waiting for? Continue the conversation, please!


DL: We’re back, Tara. I’m really liking this back and forth thing. Let’s see. Where were we? Oh, yeah. We left off last time talking about Learning from the Masters.

DL: Years ago, long before her wonderful book on picture books came out, Ann Whitford Paul taught me to write out the words of a picture book in order to see it in manuscript form. It’s so revealing to do that. You notice what’s not being said, how spare the language might be, the choices the author made. It’s another way to Learn from the Masters.

But let’s get back to that idea that picture books can be high-concept. I love that you said that, Tara! And I think I get what you mean now. There has to be something really unique about the story. A cool hook. Something really fun that feels totally original. Entertaining.

Hey, this is why we sign up for PiBoIdMo every year! So we can land on high-concept picture book ideas! The best ideas are not the first ones. You have to mine through 20 or 30 to get to the gems.

TL: I once read that for every 20 ideas you get one good idea, maybe even a great one. That’s why
you must make idea generation a habit. They also say it takes 30 days to form a habit, so hopefully those who participated in November’s Picture Book Idea Month kept going in December and January...and now February….

High-concept books are those that just “hit” you--the title alone can tell you what it’s all about, like Dragons Love Tacos. Or The Three Ninja Pigs. Or Shark vs. Train. Before you even read these books, you get a strong gut feeling about what’s inside. There’s an immediacy, a recognizable, fun element that pulls readers in. You want to read it. You HAVE to read it.

I’m always trying to think of high-concept hooks. It’s a tough market out there, and to sell a book, you must have a winning idea. Good writing is just not enough. This is the number one thing I tell new picture book writers: you must do more than write well. You must create formidable story concepts.

What are some of your favorite picture books, Deb?

DL: You mean besides our books, right?

As a part-time school librarian, I get to see lots of picture books. One of my relatively recent favorites is Creepy Carrots. I love the art, the humor, the crazy concept! It’s unique. Oh. This is what we’re talking about, isn’t it!

TL: Yes, sometimes a crazy concept is high-concept. A rabbit who’s being tormented by carrots? How clever!

I also love the cleverness of reversal stories--they’re often high concept. Both Guess What I Found in Dragon Wood and Children Make Terrible Pets take the common theme of boy-finding-pet and make it pet-finding-boy (who then becomes the pet). Even Boy + Bot plays on this idea--instead of stumbling upon a furry woodland creature, a boy discovers a robot while playing outside.

It looks like we’re both Peter Brown fans, Tara. Here’s a page from Children Make Terrible Pets:

TL: It’s great ideas that make great books. You could write the most lovely boy-finds-dog story and it will never find a publishing home because it’s been done so many times. It doesn’t stand out, there’s nothing unique about it. But turn that boy into a caveboy, and then you’ve got something. Tammi Sauer did it in Me Want Pet. The entire tale is told in primitive caveman language.

I know from reading thousands of picture books that the ones with big ideas are the ones that are the most memorable, that get the best reviews, win the most awards and sell the most copies. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Selling the books? No one wants to contract their manuscript to a publisher and then sell only 100 copies. No one wants a sad little forgotten book, getting dusty upon the shelf.

DL: And no one wants kids to miss out on reading books that will improve their love of reading and learning, help them bond with their family and friends, and teach them empathy. That’s the bottom line for me. It’s really about—this is going to sound gushy—love. Good times. Good books. Good lives for kids.

Tara, this was a blast. Somehow, talking through high-concept picture books with you was much more inspiring than writing the blog post all on my own. Can we do this again? Soon? Maybe our readers here will have suggestions for what we might chat about next time!

TL: It’s always fun chatting with you, Deb. Maybe next time we can do a video chat, like we did that day on Skype. We can show off all our piles of manuscripts and books in the corners of our work rooms and all the tea mugs full of writing fuel (and empty of writing fuel. I really hate climbing up and down my stairs to go put them in the sink).

DL: Only if we can do it in our jammies. I have my routine, you know.

TL: Me, too. Jammies all the way. And plenty of tea.

About Tara Lazar:
Street magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been. Instead, she writes quirky, humorous picture books featuring magical places that adults never find. Her debut picture book The Monstore released in June 2013. She has four more picture books under contract, including I Thought This Was a Bear Book which comes out this September. Tara is the founder of the annual online picture book challenge PiBoIdMo. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two daughters and 4,753 stuffed animals. Discover original stories, writing tips, book reviews and giveaways at
About Deb Lund:

Unlike Tara, Deb has called hogs and performed on a street (nothing magical or champion-like), but she’s known more for her best-selling rollicking, rhyming pictures books, Monsters on Machines, Dinosailors, All Aboard the Dinotrain, and Dinosoaring. Deb is a creativity coach, teacher, and frequent presenter at schools and conferences. Her master’s project 25 years ago was on teaching writing, and she’s taught writers of all ages ever since. Deb’s card deck and guidebook, Fiction Magic: Card Tricks & Tips for Writers, is waiting for you at She lives on an island in the northwest with her musical family, who trained her in the art of creating in the middle of chaos. Visit Deb at
Thanks SO much, ladies!!! You are BOTH way awesome. I'll need to add your books to my mega list of monster books. I guess kids just love monsters. 

And now for the featured book for today, Day 8. Links for Days 1-7 can be found at the bottom, above today's linky list. My book is another one for rhyme, and it's one of our very own, Deb Lund's All Aboard the Dino Train.
Title: All Aboard the Dino Train 
Author: Deb Lund 
Illustrator: Howard Fine 
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc. 
Year: 2006 
Words: about 350 (had to estimate)
Since there are only 14 stanzas in the whole book, I thought I'd feature two of them here for you to study the nuances of rhythm and meter, and of course RHYME.
But first, a quick mention that this book also has a good deal of word play. Each and every page includes the word dino as part of another word. Some are mid-line and some are at the end of a line. And some are nouns and some are verbs. Either way, they're always fun to say! But they're all made up. So here's that list:
  • dinotrain
  • dinoshouts
  • dinostoker
  • dinoboiler
  • dinofamilies
  • dinochugs
  • dinopush
  • dinosay
  • dinomight
  • dinosoot
  • dinohead
  • dinofreight
  • dinotime
  • dinotunnel
  • dinoride
  • dinoscream
  • dinoarms
  • dinobrakemen
  • dinofear
  • dinostop
  • dinoduck
  • dinorocket
  • dinoflying
  • dinogroan
  • dinoroam
  • dinoflair
  • dinopump
  • dinodreams
  • dinoplane
The opening stanza is perfectly perfect and sets the tone and meter for the rest of the book. AABB.
They're loading up the dinotrainWith coal and lumber, oil and grain.And high above the whistle's chord, Ring dinoshouts of "All Aboard!"
You have a list in there, and dialogue too. What fun!
Here's a couplet I absolutely love:
Without a load, they quickly climbAnd reach the peak in dinotime.
It's a play on the phrase "in no time." Love it! So clever! And the meter works perfectly.
The second stanza I'd like to share is:
They clamber up and cling on top,Unsure of how they'll dinostop.They dinoduck and hide their eyes,But then they get a big surprise.
I love how "clamber up" and "cling on top" use alliteration and consonance.
That's all I have for today, but I'll have some more on RHYME for the next two days. Any time we can read a stanza from a rhyming book, our subconscious minds pick up on all the nuances and make us that much stronger. 

If you've read Deb Lund's book (or even own it), which stanza is your favorite?
Remember to link your blog post to the linky list below. See you later! And here are the previous days if you missed any of them. Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7.


  1. Hey Christie, another great poat and I loved the interview. These ladies definitely have a lot to share about writing PBs. Also, yay! I won a book!

  2. I am soaking up the love and learning :) thank you ladies for a fabulous interview and plenty of terrific information for me to go away and think about - then act on.

  3. Great dialogue between these two great authors! Loved the insights on big ideas. Good review on rhyming elements Christie.

  4. Thanks, everyone, for your kind words. Yes, Deb and Tara are AWESOME!!! Let's keep at it for week 2 and more chances to win!

  5. This is great information. Thanks for posting. And thanks for the free crit. I need it. How do I contact you or them?

  6. Awesome conversation between Tara and Deb! And love, love, love, the mug shots!


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