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You’re in the giving mood and so am I!
If you are giving one of my books for the holidays, email me at tarakidlit at gmail dot com. I’ll send you an address to send me a SASE. I’ll send you back a personalized, signed bookplate (or two or three…however many you need).
Alternatively, you can call The Bookworm at 908-766-4599 to place an order and I’ll sign the books directly, wrap them and ship ’em off from the store.
Bonus–if you’re giving LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD, you get a bookplate signed by both illustrator Troy Cummings and me!
Also, if you’re an independent bookseller, I can send a buncha LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD bookplates for your books in stock. So send me an email!
But act fast! We’ve got 9 days until Christmas!
(Side note: when do we start the “12 Days of Christmas”? Is it the 12 days leading up to Christmas, the 12 days including and after, or what? I never fully understood this…)
by Tara Lazar
When I first began writing picture books, I’d get hit with an idea—BAM! KAPOW!—and then immediately sit down and start banging it out.
NO. Just NO.
I didn’t stop to think—is this a good idea? Will it make a worthwhile story? I thought the idea would be my only flash and I had to grab it while it was glowing.
Now, I write the idea down. And then I PAUSE.
I let the idea sit in my brain for a while. I might not be actively thinking about it, but I know it’s in there, jiggling around. Bouncing off brain cells, colliding with other unused ideas.
After the initial incubation period, the first thing I consciously imagine is what might go on the cover. Will that cover stand out in the book store? Will a child make a beeline to my book? I think about the OTHER covers that are also calling to that kid—with race cars and ballerinas and pandas and monsters. Is what I’ve chosen strong enough to compete? If the images that come to mind aren’t appealing enough, I let the idea jiggle ‘round some more. I know I need to add something else.
Eventually, something tells me it’s time to sit down to write. It may be a few days, weeks or even months after the initial strike of lightning. But there’s a gut instinct that kicks in—you can do it now. You’re ready.
I know I already have one piece of the ginormous puzzle that is a picture book.
And what I do is put that puzzle together. Where do I start? Not necessarily at the beginning.
When you’re putting a jigsaw puzzle together, you start where you recognize the image. You find a couple pieces that together make up the balloon in the puzzle. Or the elephant’s trunk. Or the birthday cake. You see something you know is SOMETHING and you work outwards from there.
I do this with my story idea. I begin writing where I recognize that I have SOMETHING SPECIAL.
I may begin jotting down a repetitive refrain that I want to be after certain page turns. I may go straight to the climactic scene. Sometimes, I even begin at the end. I don’t necessarily write chronologically, from opening line to “the end”.
For instance, with LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD, the primary puzzle piece was the title. The next piece? I wanted the story to include multiple fairy tales and nursery rhymes. I envisioned the mashiest of mash-ups.
Then a scene came to mind. I imagined RED uttering the wolf’s line from The Three Little Pigs: “Little pigs, little pigs, let me in!” Then I saw the wolf tapping her on the shoulder with, “Excuse me, I think that’s my line.” I thought that was hilarious.
So I worked from there.
I had to get RED to the pigs’ brick house. But how? And why? These were the puzzle pieces I had yet to find.
But as the few pieces I did have clicked together, the full vision of the story began taking shape.
This is just something that often works for me. My real advice is not everything you read above but rather this: find what works for you. You can only discover it by seeking out ideas, examining them and, finally, writing. It may take months and years to find what grooves for you. It’s not going to be what necessarily works for me or for anyone else. Your voice is uniquely you and so is the method you employ to get that voice out there.
So you’ve sought your ideas. Now it’s time to examine. And then, write. Like a bottle of shampoo, rinse and repeat (even though you don’t know anyone who washes their hair twice in one shower).
Hopefully the idea-generating will continue beyond this month to become a regular habit. You need the ideas to flow like a bottomless shampoo bottle in order to have something to write, in order to discover who you are as a writer.
Thank you for participating in PiBoIdMo 2015!
The PiBo-Pledge is now closed and next week I will begin picking winners. In the meantime, we’ll have a post from the participating agents and a writer’s holiday gift guide as well. Stay tuned!
Until then, if you enjoyed PiBoIdMo, would you please consider nominating this blog for WritetoDone.com’s annual list of the best blogs for writers? Please be aware that you must nominate an actual blog POST written this year for the nomination to count. Go to writetodone.com/top-10-blogs-for-writers-2016 for instructions on how to nominate. And THANK YOU!
LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD was an idea first brought to me by my friend and fellow author, Corey Rosen Schwartz.
“I’ve got a title and I can’t do a thing with it!” she exclaimed in my kitchen one day. “I should give it to you; it’s perfect for you!”
“What is it?” My eyes were wide with wonder.
“Little Red Gliding Hood.”
You might think it hyperbole, but my eyes got even wider. (I’m like Marty Feldman, I am.)
“I’ve got it!” And you know what, I really did.
Well, not at first. I started writing notes about the possible project and I couldn’t figure out what Red’s problem should be.
My initial idea was that Red was known as “Riding Hood” but she really wanted to be known as “Gliding Hood.” Umm, terrible.
As you can see by my notes, I had awful ideas, like the muffins for Grandma spilling all over the ice.
(Julie Falatko misread my notes and gave a thumbs up to “mulling spice all over the ice”. And I thought, Julie, that’s far better than what I had. Far. Perhaps I should go far, far away and not rewrite this fairytale!)
But I persisted. Remember that word, perseverance? Yes. THAT.
When my agent submitted the story to Heidi Kilgras at Random House, she was enamored with the idea but thought the manuscript needed more development.
So I revised. And my agent resubmitted.
And Heidi thought it was better, but it wasn’t ready for an offer.
So I revised. And my agent resubmitted.
By this time, Heidi went on maternity leave. And since that time, I have met her most adorable son. I mean, pinch-his-cheeks-forever kind of cute. But back then, I had to wait another six months to get an answer. Folks, that there was tough times.
But yes, an offer came. And after that? An editiorial letter.
So I revised. (Are you seeing a pattern here?)
Yep, you guessed it. Another letter, another revision.
And I still had Grandma’s final line to figure out. That took MONTHS. But thankfully, I finally got it right.
And so now, almost 4 years after I signed the contract, LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD is ready to meet the world. She is released into the enchanted forest today!
Many thanks to Troy Cummings for making her world come alive!
And to Heidi for making me work harder, knowing that I had it in me.
She is available where fine books are sold.
So skate on over to your local bookstore, fast!
Thank you for the support!
I’ve written a buncha fractured fairy tales and two are available this year: I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK and LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD. (That was totally unplanned! The picture book gods arranged it.)
In the video below, I offer my favorite tips for creating your own fractured fairy tales, whether you’re a kidlit writer, a teacher/educator or a 2nd grader. Below that is a PDF version with more tips and a link to a Pinterest board of more than 100 suggested fractured fairy tale picture books.
It’s a fractured fairy tale flurry of fabulousness! (Interestingly, none of my tips have to do with alliteration.)
Teachers, leave a comment about your favorite fractured fairy tale and I’ll randomly select FIVE commenters for a FREE CLASSROOM SKYPE VISIT! I’m in a land far, far away but you’ll remember our Skype visit happily ever after! (Bwaaa haaa haaa!)
Contest ends September 21st and visits will be scheduled for October.
Guess who’s gliding your way this October?
Illustrated by the amazing Troy Cummings (of NOTEBOOK OF DOOM fame), this story is a mish-mash of fairytales set in a winter wonderland. (No, not Boston.) It’s all quite fantastically fractured, without cumbersome crutches.
Troy’s got a groovy retro style that pops with personality. I asked him a few questions about bringing Red and her pals to life.
Troy, how were you introduced to LITTLE RED and why did you choose to work on it?
My editor at Random House said she had me in mind to illustrate a fractured fairytale called LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD. The title alone made me smile. Then I read the manuscript and I shouted “YES! SIGN ME UP!” after the first few page turns.
The story was super-funny, and clever, and full of action. Drawing fairytale characters would be fun, but coming up with ice-skating wintery versions of those guys in frozen-fairytale-land? COME ON!
I really couldn’t wait to start—I filled my sketchbook with character ideas on the bus ride home.
These are the first designs I cooked up. Red looks very similar to how she is in the book—although her eyes were much huger in the first draft…but she’s got her little pointy ears on her hood, and oversized head.
The Big Bad Wolf is probably “badder” in the book. Although it looks like I had already planned on giving him that big awesome puffy shirt that accentuates his chest hair.
And I was also playing with giving each of the three pigs their own skates to match their jobs—with blades that resembled a trowel, a saw, or a scythe. But I couldn’t get it to work, so now they just have plain old skates.
And here are all my thumbnails for my book cover ideas. I try to do a million of ’em to see what kind of ideas I can shake out. They actually picked my secret favorite one for the real cover, which was great.
How did you decide upon the overall look for the book?
Well, it’s a winter story that takes place mostly outside—which would lend itself to white/gray/off-brown/… but it’s also a kooky fairy tale, so I wanted to sneak in as much color as I could. So I got to play and make crazy purple and yellow trees, and give the characters colorful scarves and mittens, etc.
I also tried to differentiate Little Red and the Big Bad Wolf in their designs… she’s short and blocky, he’s tall and lanky. She’s neat, he’s shaggy. She’s got big eyes, he’s got “bad guy” eyes, she’s fully dressed, he’s uh, not…etc. etc.
And the other thing I tried to do was avoid warm colors, except for Little Red’s actual riding hood…in most scenes, it’s the only red thing we see—it should be brighter and bolder than anything else, hopefully drawing attention to her even when she’s a tiny skater on the horizon.
(With one exception—she takes a break at Grandma’s house in the middle of the book, so I flooded that page with warm/bold colors: the fireplace, the floorboards, and even the walls have lots of warmer colors. Then she’s back outside at the pinky-purple little piggy’s house, out in the snow…)
How does working on an author’s story differ from working on your own?
When I write my own stories, I always start by waaaaay overcooking things. My manuscripts are too long and my words are redundant with my pictures, big-time. The writer-half of me panics that the illustrator-half is going to leave something out, so my copy ends up sounding way too descriptive, like this:
The fuzzy blue frog put on her yellow striped size 3 pajamas before hopping on her new two-wheeled bicycle, which had been colored 30% MAGENTA in Adobe Photoshop CS5.
And then when it’s time to illustrate, I realize that I could have just written:
The frog rode away.
and let the illustration do the rest of the work. I feel like I’m slooowly getting better at this, but I still haven’t totally figured it out.
I also think that when I’m illustrating my own story, I finish by drawing a picture that more or less lines up with what I was thinking when I wrote the story. THE END.
When I illustrate someone else’s story, it becomes really fun to work with what they’ve written, and try to come up with images that “complete” the scenes/emotions/ideas they’re setting up. They author will have described characters, events, ideas and emotions, which I should support and illustrate. But the author will also _not_ describe certain events, actions, characters, etc. (on purpose!), letting me complete the scene.
For instance, here’s a line Tara Lazar (you!) had written for LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD:
She swizzled down the river and saw a flurry of friends gathering beneath a banner.
This is all the copy needs to say—the author hasn’t spelled out exactly who has gathered beneath the banner. I get to do that! Then it’s fun to try to come up with something neat/funny that supports the text, but also has little surprises if you spend some time on it. (Who’s hanging out under the banner? Maybe Miss Muffet, bored [setting us up for the spider on page x/] Or Humpty Dumpty, walking with confidence (or nervously holding the handrail?)… Or bo-peep, distracted by something while her sheep are eyeing the exit. (etc., etc.)
I get to play around in this world the author has created, and maybe set up a few characters/events that will payoff later in the story, and (ideally) throw in little details to surprise the reader on subsequent readings.
I also think there’s this really cool thing that happens when an author and illustrator work together:
- The author comes up with a story, characters, and a world that I couldn’t have come up with on my own. She puts images in my head.
- I, in turn, draw these images and interpret her world/characters/architecture/bowls of porridge/etc., which are likely to be entirely different than what she might have envisioned. (At least, the details might be different—I should be hitting all the right notes to support the voice/tone of her manuscript.)
- And then: MAGIC! The difference between what the author had in mind vs. my interpretation ends up being this thing that’s, ideally, better than what either of us could have cooked up on our own… (I say “magic”, but that’s also a result of smart editing/art direction.)
This project was super, sooooper fun. I’m really happy with how it turned out, and it makes me want to work on more kooky fairytales. (Or more Tara Lazar stories!)
Thanks so much, Troy! You’ve done an incredible job, far better than anything I could have ever imagined! I’m one ecstatic author.
And now, the giveaway…
LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD will be released on October 27 and you can pre-order now, but…you can get a full sneak peek by winning an F&G of the book (folded and gathered galley version)!
Just leave a comment below (one per person) and you will be entered into a random drawing. You have until Feb 28th to comment; I’ll pick a winner on March 1st!
And stay warm out there! Especially you Boston folk!