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***UPDATE 3/28/14: “Fiction Magic” is now fully funded! Thanks to everyone who contributed. You still have 9 more days to get some fabulous pledge packages, too!***

Sometimes writers need a good kick in the pants.

Wouldn’t it be great to have your own personal writing coach by your side every day to get you moving? She could whip the sheets off you each morning, bugle reveille in your ear, even toast  you an Eggo while you shower.

Eh, who am I kidding? Writers don’t shower!

Anyway…

Author Deb Lund brought together her 20+ years of teaching experience in a magical way—with 54 surprising writing prompts, tips and tricks for you to apply to your work-in-progress whenever you’re feeling stuck. It’s like having that writing coach right there with you, only a lot less annoying. It’s “Fiction Magic”!

Fiction Magic Title screenshotMagicalDebLund

For years, Deb taught 4th- and 5th-grade students how to write, and she wanted to make it cool for them, so she developed these cards. Her real “aha” moment came when she realized that she could teach adults the same way she taught children, using the same FUN strategies. ABRACADABRA! These “magical” cards act as triggers to pull something out of your head that you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to coax out.

At the Oregon Silver Falls SCBWI Writing Retreat, star agent Jen Rofé of Andrea Brown Literary Agency attended Deb’s session and then exclaimed, “I want all my writers to have your cards!” Yep, she was that impressed. The only problem? Deb’s cards were a prototype that cost her $200 to produce. How could she make them for a dozen writers? A hundred? A THOUSAND?

Enter Kickstarter. Deb’s Fiction Magic campaign is on right now and it’s 94% funded already! But with just 10 days to go, she needs your help. And believe me, you want her help, too!

Let’s do a few tricks right now, shall we? Whip out your WIP and see if these magical remedies help!

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AGREE TO A BAD DEAL
Your characters must make some bad choices along the way. They may even have to negotiate for something they need or want with people they loathe. Characters may know they’re agreeing to bad deals but feel they have no choice. Or the deals appear good, but fall apart later. Or time factors make the deals even more ominous. Make the stakes of bad deals so high it’s difficult for your characters to back out of them.

When you feel stressed by all that’s on your plate, be gentle with yourself. Let your characters agree to bad deals, but the only agreement you need to make with yourself right now is to write, no matter how bad the writing may seem.

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REVEAL A SECRET
Secrets can be powerful tools or sources of trouble. Or both. What information could your characters unwittingly slip out to the wrong people? Characters could be in danger because of secrets. Other characters could reveal secrets that affect your lead characters, whether the secrets were theirs or not. In trying to cover up secrets or escaping from those trying to conceal secrets, what could go wrong? Who will be angry? Hurt? Feeling betrayed? Put in life or death situations?

Do you keep your dreams secret? Sometimes they need protection, but when you’re ready and the time is right, reveal them to others who believe in you.

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THROW IN AN OBSTACLE
If you’re lucky, you’ll pick this card over and over, because this is Key. Your characters are on quests. Delay them. Interrupt their journeys. Who or what could step in to make your characters stop in their tracks? The interruptions may be people, objects, circumstances, thoughts, feelings… Send your characters merrily down the road, and then run them into roadblocks. Keep tossing them unending hardship. Warm up your pitching arm and let it rip. Throw after throw after throw.

As a writer, you have plenty obstacles. For each one you throw at your character, remove one from your writing life! Where will you start?

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There are 51 more Fiction Magic tricks for you to try. But only if you help Deb reach her goal.

Check out her Kickstarter and create your own magic! (Even if that includes the bugle call. But that’s not for me. I am NOT a morning person!)

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When I was but a wee thing, our family would often drive past a restaurant sign in town: “Good Food and Grog”. So I pestered my parents, “What is GROG?” My father replied, “Grilled frog.”

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HORRIFYING! Cooked Kermit!? Envisioning swaths of crisped, green skin beside a sobbing Miss Piggy, I vowed never to eat there.

Well, today I have put that childhood nightmare to bed. I have learned that GROG actually means GROUP BLOG. And, I’ve got a new kidlit grog to share with you.

Welcome author Todd Burleson, GROG spokesperson (who assures me he’s never roasted an amphibian over the coals).

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The term GROG evolved out of a desire to gather a group of writers and form a new blog about children’s literature. There are several phenomenal group blogs in the literature world. Many gave us inspiration, but none of them met the specific needs of our group. And, in the spirit of all things creative, we came together to form this GROG.

Our aim with this blog is to provide:

G: Guidance and support
R: Resources on the craft of writing
O: Opportunities to expand our skills
G: Great folks who support readers and writers of all ages!

Each weekday we will be focusing on a specific topic. Here are the daily foci:

Mondays: Mentor Texts
We will look at how mentor texts and other approaches can help teachers and writers of all ages to develop writing skills. We envision doing book reviews here too.

Tuesdays: Tools & Technology
We’ll look at tools, often technological, that can help us as writers.

Wednesdays: Craft
We’ll focus on the craft of writing. Sometimes it will be a writing lesson, other times it might be a review of a book on writing.

Thursdays: Submissions
On Thursday’s we’ll focus our thoughts on submissions, contests, query letters and more.

Fridays: Finds
These will be a smattering of awesome discoveries that we want to share with you.

Now why start a group blog instead of just an individual one?

  1. Being practical, we knew that sharing the load would help us remain faithful to posting while also maintaining our writing, teaching, family lives.
  2. We believe that the power of the group is to harness our connections.
  3. We know that each of us has a specific passion. By harnessing the power of the group, we get to share many more ideas and hopefully will reach and benefit many others.
  4. We enjoy being together. When we chat or meet via Google Hangouts, the ideas and passions flow.
  5. Finally, its a way to make the world ‘smaller.’ We have group members all over North American and even one in Seoul, South Korea. We may not be in the same time zone, but we all are dedicated to supporting one another as GROGgers and reaching a larger audience.

We have some phenomenal contributors at all stages of publication, but all eager to share. They are: Jan Godown Annino, Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Todd Burleson,
Tina Wheatcraft Cho, Kathy Halsey, Suzy Leopold, Christy Mihaly, Janie Reinart, Sherri Jones Rivers, Patricia Toht, Leslie Colin Tribble, Pam Vaughan and
Jackie Wellington.

Thanks, Todd! And good luck to you all!

So please go visit these fine folks at Groggorg.blogspot.com.

They will be giving away a boatload of prizes in the beginning of April, including a signed copy of THE MONSTORE by yours truly. You can also like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter.

Kermit will thank you.

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Today we’re lucky to have Peggy Robbins Janousky visiting to share highlights from SCBWI FL’s Picture Book Intensive. Take it away, Peggy!

peggyI have attended many picture book intensives over the years, but this one topped them all. Participants were treated to an all-star panel that included: agent Deborah Warren of East West Literary, editor Laura Whitaker of Bloomsbury, author and editor Andrea Davis Pinkney and author Toni Buzzeo.

The presentations were practical, but powerful:

  • Always bring your “A” game.
  • Rhyme is not taboo, but bad rhyme is.
  • Picture books are getting shorter and are being targeted for younger audiences.
  • Show, don’t tell.
  • Hook me and keep me hooked.
  • Be passionate about your book and be able to pitch in just a few sentences.

One of the best things that was presented was the HOT list. These are the topics that editors and Barnes and Noble want now:

  • Moments of the day
  • School stories
  • Learning concepts
  • Holidays (MLK, Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, St. Patrick’s Day)
  • Friends and family
  • Biographies
  • Character-driven stories
  • Original stories that every kid will love
  • Interactive picture books
  • Finding the new in the old

If you haven’t taken an intensive before, I strongly urge you to consider it. Intensives are exactly that, intense. They give you the opportunity to delve in deeper and they also give you the opportunity to get to know the presenters on a more intimate level. I came away from this intensive with a new sense of purpose and drive. I also came away with a few good friends. All in all, it was money worth spending.

I have to admit, I almost did not attend the Miami conference. I was having a pity party and I wasn’t really up for the company. I had broken my leg in three places. Needless to say, getting around was a wee bit difficult. I was ready to bail. I am glad I didn’t. The first page of my manuscript was read during “first page reads”. Much to my surprise, the panel loved it. One editor wanted to know who wrote it, an agent wanted to read more, and another editor wanted to acquire it. I have to admit, I was in shock. By the end of the weekend, thanks to the help of a good friend, I had signed with that agent. Just one month later… My bio and picture are up on the East West Literary website. The editor that I mentioned is considering three of my manuscripts. And I am still pinching myself.

I will tell you that this was not an overnight success. I have attended many conferences and taken copious notes. I have revised, cut, and revised some more. I have also had moments where I was so rejected that I thought I would never put myself through another critique again. So what’s the moral of the story? Never give up. Never let pity or self-doubt get the upper hand. Believe with all your heart that your day will come. Then get off your butt and get to that conference. Your happily ever after is waiting for you to show up!

Peggy Robbins Janousky uses her offbeat sense of humor to write offbeat picture books. When she is not writing, Peggy uses her time to rescue stray animals. Much to her family’s dismay, she keeps them all.

kristenfultonAnd thanks to Kristen Fulton for adding this summary of Andrea Pinkney’s workshop: The Write Stuff.

  • Writers write every day, whether it be a holiday or vacation.
  • Find your “twinkle”—what makes you sparkle around others?
  • Establish immediacy—using voice, characterization, mystery and drama.
  • Ask yourself, “Why does the reader want to come on this journey and what makes the reader stay on this journey?”
  • Writing is fun—and hard work.
  • Writing is re-writing at least 10 times.
  • Just get started and keep going.
  • Read every day, whether it be a holiday or vacation.

Kristen Fulton writes non-fiction picture books and is running an amazing non-fiction picture book retreat with loads of agents, editors, and authors on July 7-12. Check out her website for details!

Let’s welcome Mindy Alyse Weiss back…she’s got the scoop from the recent SCBWI FL Conference. And boy, what a scoop it is! It’s chocolate fudge with rainbow sprinkles!

Ever wonder about an editor’s wish list? Wonder no longer! In the Editor Panel, Stacy Abrams, Kat Brzozowski, Aubrey Poole, Laura Whitaker and Andrea Pinkney discussed what kind of projects they’re seeking—and not seeking. There seems to be a trend away from dystopian and paranormal novels in YA.

A Wonderful Editor Panel

Stacy Abrams, Executive Editorial Director of Bliss and Entangled Teen
Contemporary (no paranormal or dystopian). Can have an issue in it, but the book can’t be about the issue.

Kat Brzozowski, Associate Editor, Thomas Dunne Books, MacMillan
Dystopian is hard. Would love a good YA mystery. Comes across as loving dark but does love girl meets boy and they kiss, light romantic contemporary stuff for girls.
With social media, if you do one thing well but don’t like another, don’t force it.

Aubrey Poole, Associate Editor, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky and Fire
Loves sci fi, YA, not looking at genre really—it’s the stories that stand out within a genre. More experimenting with format. Read more about her wish list here.

Laura Whitaker, Associate Editor, Bloomsbury Children’s Books
She’s tired of dystopian and paranormal YA. She wants to be immersed in a story so much that she’s physically removed from her own issues. She wants to read about real people. Contemporary, original voice. With MG and YA, networking is important. Do a lot of digital marketing initiatives. You can get a huge impact from doing a blog tour. “Help me help you.”

Andrea Pinkney, Vice-President and Executive Editor, Scholastic
More diversity, African American boys, adventure, mystery, fun. Contemporary stories. *You need to normalize and not make it about the problem, even with something like bi-polar.” She’s interested in a novel with a character who has piercing or a lot of tattoos.

A Laura Whitaker

Laura Whitaker, Associate Editor, Bloomsbury

Besides writing a well-crafted story, how do you catch an editor’s attention? Laura Whitaker presented “Dating 101: What Makes YOU Desirable to an Editor”.

Tell her something interesting about your writing journey. What drew you to telling this story? Let her know any cool things you can share about yourself—show what makes you vibrant and unique.

Title—come up with something original that represents your work. If the title is the same when you’re published and there’s a story behind how you arrived at the title, marketing will want it later for a blog/Tumblr piece.

She’ll look at a query for 30 seconds to a minute. First thing should be the hook, then a two sentence synopsis (three if you have to), then info about yourself.

Your website is your calling card—especially for picture books.

Do you tweet out interesting, dynamic tweets? It’s the best way to build connections with other authors, agents, and editors. Twitter is more important for MG and YA.

Interact! Do you write about the process or what you’re working on? Marketing and publicity want to see your social media platform. The more social media, the better—but it is not a substitute for the craft.

Thanks again, Mindy!

Come back on Friday for the rest of the scoop from SCBWI FL. We’ll have vanilla and strawberry for those who don’t like chocolate. (Don’t like CHOCOLATE? Who are you people???)

breadsauceWanna know how I got published? The NJ chapter of SCBWI is to thank. I began attending their events years ago, soaking up all the craft knowledge and publishing tips I could like a piece of garlic bread hungrily sops up the last bits of gravy (yes, my Italian grandmother called it gravy, not sauce).

This year the conference will be held June 28 & 29 in Plainsboro, NJ at the Crowne Plaza/Holiday Inn Conference Center. (Hmm, I wonder if they’ll be serving pasta with gravy?)

More details to come, but for those of you who want to propose a workshop or presentation, submissions are now open!

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Hope to see you there!

ruleof3spbs

Allow me to be Andy Rooney for a moment.

Imagine me as a white-haired, bulbous, salty old man with a whiny accent.

AndyRooney

I know, it’s hard. But just IMAGINE. (By the way, isn’t “bulbous” a marvelous word? I think we, as writers, should seek its descriptive assistance more often. But sorry, I digress. Back to being Andy…)

“Ya ever wonder why so many children’s books feature THREES? Goldilocks and the THREE Bears? The THREE Little Pigs? Snow White and the SEVEN Dwarfs? No wait…I miscounted…I mean The THREE Billy Goat’s Gruff?”

Yes, there’s something downright appealing about the number THREE. (P.S., I’ve returned to being Tara. Thank goodness ’cause those eyebrows are itchy.)

It’s like two is too little. And four is too many. As Goldi would say, three is “just right”. Three is as satisfying as a warm, comfy little bed. (Until the three bears arrive home, that is.)

According to Wikipedia (yes, I’m quoting Wiki), “things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things. The reader or audience of this form of text is also more likely to consume information if it is written in groups of threes. From slogans (“Go, fight, win!”) to films, many things are structured in threes.”

The rule of threes is all around us. In photography, the “rule of thirds” dictates that the most visually striking elements of a photograph should align with the intersection of theoretical lines which break the image into thirds lengthwise and widthwise. (Geesh, what a clunker of a sentence.) Hence:

ruleofthirds

In interior decorating, objets d’art are often grouped in threes.

3vases

Architecture adheres to this rule as well. Three are more aesthetically pleasing than two or four. Threes help to balance the focal point in a room. Just ask Genevieve.

ruleof3livingroom

There’s the “three schema approach” in software engineering. But don’t ask me to explain. That’s the hubby’s forte.

Even religion espouses threes—the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

“Omne trium perfectum” is a Latin phrase which translates to “everything that comes in threes is perfect”. The world seems to think so. You’ll see the “rule of threes” demonstrated everywhere. Hey, I even sneeze three times in a row.

So in picture books, where do we use this rule?

Descriptive groups of three.

3sinmonstore

“The Monstore” by Tara Lazar & James Burks

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Three images upon a page.

B+B PIC FOR TARA

“Boy + Bot” by Ame Dyckman & Dan Yaccarino

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Even three text boxes!

3schildrenmaketerriblepets

“Children Make Terrible Pets” by Peter Brown

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And the classic three characters.

threeninjapigs

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But the most important rule of threes in picture books is three attempts to solve a problem. (Prior to the fourth successful attempt.)

These three attempts invest the reader in your hero’s struggles. Solving the problem in one fell swoop? That doesn’t feel genuine, and the reader won’t care about their journey because it’s over before it’s even begun. There’s no time to empathize with your MC. And with two attempts, the main character has not yet collected enough information to help complete his task. But third time’s the charm! (See that?) It’s when he tries again, fails, hits his lowest point, but then realizes just what he needs to rise again. Three attempts build tension and encourage the reader to turn the page–eagerly! Oooh, what happens NEXT?

Crack open your favorite picture book and you’ll notice threes abound. What did you find?

But now, I’m going to tell you about some different numbers…

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THE MONSTORE author and PiBoIdMo creator Tara Lazar’s “7 ATE 9″, a pun-packed preschool noir mystery, starring a hard-boiled Private “I” and a mysteriously missing number, to Kevin Lewis at Disney-Hyperion, by Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary Agency (World).

Hip, hip, hooray!

(That’s three cheers!)

***Registration officially closed on November 7th. You can still join in the challenge by reading the daily posts and keeping track of your ideas, but you will not be eligible for prizes.***

Cue the fireworks! PiBoIdMo 2013 Registration is officially OPEN FOR BUSINESS!

fireworks

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But lemme whet your appetite first. Here is the schedule of 2013 guest bloggers!

piboidmocalendar2013

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Pretty stellar, right? These authors, illustrators and picture book professionals will provide daily doses of inspiration to help you along on your idea journey.

And don’t forget—there’s Pre-PiBo beginning tomorrow, to get you organized and ready. And then in early December, there’s Post-PiBo to help your organize and prioritize your ideas.

Participants who register for PiBoIdMo and complete the 30-idea challenge will be eligible for prizes, including signed picture books, original art, critiques and feedback from one of nine picture book agents. This year’s agents are:

Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
Tricia Lawrence, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
Marietta Zacker, Nancy Gallt Literary Agency
Danielle Smith, Foreword Literary
Mira Reisberg, Hummingbird Literary
Susan Hawk, The Bent Agency
Lori Kilkelly, Rodeen Literary Management
Sean McCarthy, McCarthy Literary
Jill Corcoran, Jill Corcoran Literary Agency

Need more info about PiBoIdMo before you register? Read this.

So are you ready to register?

You need to do THREE THINGS:

pibo1reg

This is so you don’t miss any of the daily PiBoIdMo posts.

If you already follow another way, via RSS or a blog reader, no need to do it again via email. And if you already follow via email, obviously skip this step.

pibo2reg

Please, leave ONE COMMENT ONLY on this post.

DO NOT REPLY to other comments.

DO NOT COMMENT AGAIN if you forget to leave your FULL NAME. (I will fix it and/or contact you.)

If your comment DOESN’T APPEAR IMMEDIATELY, it means I have to moderate it. Please be patient and check back in 24 hours to see if your comment appears. It probably will.

Be sure to comment with your FULL NAME in the text of the comment. This is how you will be identified for prizes.

pibo3reg

Here is the badge! Right click to save to your computer and then upload it anywhere you please.

piboidmo2013-participant-214x131

If you do not have a place to display the badge, you can skip this step.

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4. Purchase PiBoIdMo merchandise, like the official journal. All proceeds ($3 per item) benefit RIF, helping to put books into the hands of underprivileged children.

5. Add a Twibbon to your Twitter avatar and use the #PiBoIdMo hashtag when tweeting about the event….and follow @TaraLazar on Twitter.

6. Join the PiBoIdMo Facebook discussion group. This is a closed group meaning you must request to join and I will approve you. (Note: the name says “2011″ but it is the current group.)

7. Repeat after me:

I do solemnly swear
that I will faithfully execute
the PiBoIdMo 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge,
and will, to the best of my ability,
parlay my ideas into
picture book manuscripts
throughout the year.

 That’s it. You’re golden!

REGISTRATION REMAINS OPEN THROUGH NOVEMBER 7th. You can still follow along if you’re not registered, but remember, those who register and complete the challenge are eligible for PRIZES.

Visit this blog for daily inspiration from the guest bloggers, then keep a journal or computer file of your ideas. There’s no need to post your ideas online or send them to me. KEEP YOUR IDEAS TO YOURSELF! As Sheena Easton croons, they’re “for your eyes only.”

At the end of the month, I’ll ask you to sign the PiBo-Pledge confirming you did create 30 ideas. You’re on the honor system.

Thanks for joining! I hope you enjoy this year’s PiBoIdMo! As always, if you have any suggestions for this event, please contact me at tarawrites (at) yahoo (dot) com or post a question on the PiBoIdMo Facebook group.

I will leave you with a quote that serves as PiBoIdMo’s motto…from Roald Dahl’s THE MINPINS…

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*Photo credit Alessandro.

Hippity, hoppity…

hippityhop

Come meet some new kidlit authors with the Children’s Author Blog Hop!

I was invited to participate by Darlene Beck-Jacobson, an author I know from NJ-SCBWI whose historical middle grade novel WHEELS OF CHANGE releases next year. It’s set in 1909 Washington D.C. and follows a young girl who attempts to save the family carriage business during the proliferation of the automobile. (Really cool premise I cannot wait to read!)

To participate in this hop, you don a pair of your fluffiest Hello Kitty socks and…wait a minute! This isn’t the Children’s Author SOCK HOP? Oh darn. And I was itching to do the mashed potato, too.

Darlene and me at a NJ-SCBWI book signing

To participate in the BLOG hop, you answer four questions, then pass the torch onto three other authors. One of the great privileges of writing this blog is to promote other talented kidlit professionals. I’m so pleased to introduce you to PiBoIdMo participants and authors you may not know yet—Elaine, Angie & Jacque—but you will!

And now the four questions…

Why is this night different from all other nights?

Whoops. Sorry. That’s the first of the Passover four questions. Maybe my Jewish friends had a chuckle. The rest of you are going HUH?!

1. What are you currently working on?

As you may know, I host Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) every November. It’s the picture book writer’s alternative to NaNoWriMo. The challenge is to create one new picture book idea daily.

I caution PiBoIdMo participants NOT to post their ideas anywhere online. Concept is primarily what sells a picture book, and you don’t want someone to snatch your hook-y concept.

So I’m going to follow my own advice and be a little cryptic about what I’m working on. It’s a magical story about someone who’s not happy with magic.

My usual M.O. is to begin with a title, and that’s what I’m doing yet again. It’s got a snazzy, catchy title, something that will make people wanna snag it right off the shelf. The bad news is that I’ve already written this story once before—and revised it at least a dozen times. But it just didn’t work. In fact, I set aside this story for an entire year before I re-read my final draft again just last week.

WHOA! WHAT A STINK! WHAT DIED IN THERE?

In my zealous quest to perfect the manuscript, I darted further and further away from my original intentions. The story didn’t resemble anything I’d like to call my work. And so, it got filed in the circular file.

This week I began again with nothing but the title. I’ve got the opening down and I can already see it’s going far better than it did last year, but I’ve still got a long way to go.

I’m also putting final edits on LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD, a punny skating adventure coming from Penguin Random House Children’s in October 2015. All your favorite fairytale characters will be along for the glide—Humpty Dumpty, Old MacDonald, even Jack Sprat and his wife.

2. How does it differ from other works in the genre?

The magical story will feature an adult. In fact, it opens with an adult. I know this is typically a no-no, but the adult is not an ordinary grown-up. You’ll see. Know the rules, but know when to break them, too.

3. Why do you write what you do?

I have always had a love affair with the short story. I prefer the brilliance in their brevity. And with picture books, I adore the juxtaposition of words and images. It’s like playing for a living.

4. What is the hardest part about writing?

Not letting the words get away from you. Sometimes the words have a way of writing themselves, pulling you in a direction you didn’t want to go. You have to learn to tame your words, and that’s no easy feat.

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And now, ladies and gentleman and children of all ages, I’m pleased to present the three authors I’ve chosen to hop to: Elaine Kiely Kearns, Angie Karcher and Jacque Duffy!

E. Kiely Kearns is an elementary school teacher and a member of the SCBWI. She earned her Masters in Education from Fordham University. She dreams up wild and wonderful stories in New York State where she lives with her husband, two children, and menagerie of animals. She lives on coffee, chocolate and humor. Mostly humor. Get your “Book Smarts” fix at EKielyKearns.com.

Angie Karcher’s first book, WHERE THE RIVER GRINS: THE HISTORY OF EVANSVILLE, ILLINOIS came out in November 2012. It was part of the city’s Bicentennial celebration and is a resource book for local history in all third grade classrooms in Evansville. Her current project, THE LEGENDARY COWBOY JONES, about a 70-year-old jockey who’s still racing, comes out after the first of the year. She is a former Kindergarten teacher and professional storyteller. Read more of her story at AngieKarcher.wordpress.com.

Born in Brisbane, Australia, Jacque Duffy has always been creative and entrepreneurial. She has written, illustrated and self-published seven children’s books in a series. These books were sought and purchased by the Queensland State Government and placed into schools and libraries. In 2014 her first picture book THE BEAR SAID PLEASE will be released by Wombat books. Follow her down under at JacquesArtandBooks.com.

Happy hopping!

kristivaliantby Kristi Valiant

PENGUIN CHA-CHA is my first book as both author and illustrator, so my process was very different than when I’ve illustrated manuscripts written by other authors.

penguinchachaUsually I receive a manuscript from a publisher, I read it over—that first read tickles the first glimpses of images into my head—and then I decide if that manuscript is one that I want to spend months illustrating.

Illustrating stories by other authors gives me a chance to illustrate ideas that I wouldn’t have had otherwise and brings variety to my work.

For example, in THE GOODBYE CANCER GARDEN, the author Janna Matthies wrote about a family growing a healthy vegetable garden as Mom recovered from cancer. It’s a powerful story of healing. Since I’ve never gone through something like that, I wouldn’t have thought to write that story, but Janna experienced a very similar cancer battle in her own life before writing this hope-filled story. As soon as I read that manuscript, I knew it would be an important book for many families. It was an honor to be able to illustrate it.

goodbyecancergardencoracookspancit

Another part of illustrating someone else’s manuscript is to add my own voice to the book through the illustrations. I need to figure out what to add to the story they’re telling, and that may mean showing things in the illustrations that the author never thought of. (That’s why publishers like to keep the authors and illustrators away from each other.)

corasdogIn the picture book CORA COOKS PANCIT by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore, Cora feels ignored at first by her family. To echo her feelings, I drew a little dog that follows Cora around wanting to play, so he brings her more and more toys on each page. Cora ignores him.

Just as Cora gets her happy ending, the dog gets his own happy ending when Cora finally plays with him. The dog wasn’t part of the text by the author. The dog is my own contribution to rounding out the story with the illustrations. Since parents are usually busy reading the words, they may not even notice the dog, but be assured that the kids who are hearing the story and studying the illustrations definitely notice that dog! Kids are master picture readers, so that’s always something I think about as I decide how to draw my half of the story in books written by someone else.

My process for PENGUIN CHA-CHA was different from the start because the illustration came first instead of the manuscript. Way back in 2007, I drew an illustration of penguins dancing. I used to be in a swing and Latin dance group and I liked penguins, so I decided to combine two things I liked to create a fun portfolio piece.

penguinchachaint

Around the same time I had tried my hand at writing my first picture book manuscripts about other subjects. I had a meeting with an editor and showed her my picture book manuscripts and also my portfolio. She remarked about how much more my face lit up when we got to the dancing penguin illustration than when I talked about my manuscripts!

penguinsdancing

So I realized I really needed to write about the things that make my face light up. Makes sense, right? So I wrote story after story about dancing penguins. It was much harder to write a wonderfully marketable picture book than I thought it would be! What remained constant were the dancing penguins, but the plots of the stories were all over the place. Those penguins danced for years as I figured out my story. I even licensed them out as wrapping paper at some point. I finally sorted out my story as it played as images in my head. I only wrote down the words that I felt were necessary and not shown in the illustrations. In the end, my editor at Random House asked me to add in a bit more text. I may be the only picture book author that’s happened to—usually they want to cut words!

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Writing my own books allows me the freedom to draw my favorite subject matter and favorite kinds of characters and things that make my face light up like dancing penguins. And the story usually starts with an image for me. Illustrating someone else’s manuscript brings more variety to my work and new experiences. So I love both!

Speaking of new experiences, I’m currently illustrating a picture book written by Danielle Steel called PRETTY MINNIE IN PARIS. For research, I visited Paris—what a lovely city to experience! The story combines Paris, a fashion runway show, a long-haired teacup Chihuahua, and a stylish little girl. Oh la la! Watch for PRETTY MINNIE in the fall of 2014.

penguinchachaprizeThanks, Kristi, for giving us a glimpse into your process! 

PENGUIN CHA-CHA releases today!  Happy Book Birthday, Kristi!

And lucky readers, Kristi is giving away a PENGUIN CHA-CHA prize pack! You’ll receive a signed book, magnet, bookmark and sticker! Just leave a comment below by September 5th to enter, and if you’d like to ask Kristi a question, you can do so there, too.

You can learn more about the book at PenguinChaCha.com and download a Storytime Activities Kit.

Also follow Kristi’s blog at KristiValiant.blogspot.com.

 

I enjoy discovering new social media tools, and today I stumbled across Padlet!

Padlet gives you a wall. You can post anything you’d like, plus invite others to participate. “Simple yet powerful” is their motto. Dude. Right on.

Excited to try it out, I began a “Picture Book Writing” wall. Ask me any question about writing picture books. Plus, read other Q&A’s.

padletscreen

OK, it looks a little plain right now. Don’t worry, I’ll jazz it up soon like a tween girl’s locker, full of sparkly doo-dads, baby animal posters and I heart this, I heart that.

Join me there: http://padlet.com/wall/pbwriting.

I’ve set up this wall in “stream” format, meaning the most recent post will appear at the top. Padlet also offers “freeform” format so you can pin stuff all willy-nilly like you would on a real corkboard.

To post a question on this Padlet, click the green pencil icon on the lower left of the screen. Please be sure to include your name at the top of the text box (it will appear in red) before typing your question.

Padlet was previously named “Wallwisher” but that wasn’t catchy enough. If they’re riding on the coattails of the iPad, I won’t blame ‘em.

Enjoy, and let me know if you create your own Padlet!

The possibilities are endless! Classroom notices, brainstorming with friends, artwork in progress, travel itineraries, family menus, reunion planning…

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My Picture Books


Available now at:

Coming Soon:

I THOUGHT THIS
WAS A BEAR BOOK
illustrated by Benji Davies
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
August 2015

LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD
illustrator TBA
Random House
October 2015

7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY
illustrator TBA
Disney*Hyperion
2016

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