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by Asia Citro, M. Ed, Publisher

Thank you so much, Tara, for the chance to introduce your blog readers to The Innovation Press!

We are a Seattle-area children’s publisher that’s a bit new on the scene. In fact, this year is our first “big” year; we’ve got ten children’s titles coming out in 2017.

As I’m sure you have all discovered, small presses tend to have a “type” when it comes to the sort of books they’re looking for and we are no exception. Right now we’re focused on the K-5 market, but anything goes as long as it fits in that range—picture books, chapter books, and middle grade submissions are all great. If you take a peek at our titles, you’ll start to get a sense for the sort of books we’re after. As a former classroom teacher, I have a particular affinity for books that teach in some way. We love titles that promote creativity, diversity, laughter, and learning. If you take a close look, you’ll find that almost all of our 2017 titles are hybrid texts (a mix between fiction and nonfiction).

Though we are newer, we have international distribution, so our books are in stores, shops, libraries, and schools all over the world. We also have foreign rights representation (seeing our books printed in foreign languages is the coolest!). Oh, and we’re a member of the Children’s Book Council as well as an SCBWI PAL Publisher. We also believe in making our books available to all children, so for every ten books we sell, we donate one to First Book (an amazing nonprofit that pairs educators and students in low-income districts with books).

We pay an advance as well as royalties to our authors. In addition, we offer a lot of publicity help and support and we involve authors as much as possible in the decision-making process for things related to their book (such as illustrator, title, etc).  If you have something you think might be a great fit, we’d love to see it! You can find our full submission guidelines here.

Thanks for getting in touch, Asia. While I have not worked with The Innovation Press personally, this new publisher looks like an excellent opportunity for aspiring kidlit authors.

If you have questions about The Innovation Press, please leave them in the comments and Asia will answer them.

Here it is, the moment you’ve been waiting for…

santaslamdunk

SANTA SLAM DUNK!

OK, maybe not what you were expecting. A little holiday humor. Let’s move on…

Those of you who participate in Picture Book Idea Month already know I moved the annual writing challenge to January instead of November. And you also know I changed the name. The new, much-easier-to-pronounce moniker is…

storystorm

Did that just blow your mind?

amypoehlerhead

I hope so!

The new logo was designed by talented illustrator S.britt (of NORMAL NORMAN fame).

Now, I hear you asking some questions.

WHY THE NAME CHANGE?

The original challenge—to create 30 picture book concepts in 30 days—was named “Picture Book Idea Month” or “PiBoIdMo” for short. Everyone pronounced the awkward acronym a different way. And if you managed to say it, it didn’t make sense to others.

“STORYSTORM” is a portmanteau of story and brainstorm that is more immediately understood.

The new name signals a broader scope—any type of writer interested in being inspired in January can now join the challenge. Novelists, short story writers, non-fiction authors and even teachers and their students are welcomed. Any writer, anyone who wants to brainstorm for a month. 

The goal is for STORYSTORM participants to jot down 30 story ideas in January. Then everyone will have thirty new shiny ideas to ponder, flesh out and write in 2017.

WHY THE MONTH CHANGE?

PiBoIdMo was originally held in November because it was modeled after NaNoWriMo, which runs at that time. But November is so busy with the start of the holiday season. Starting fresh in January—a new year, new goals—will hopefully prove to be both inspiring and motivating.

IS IT STILL FREE TO PARTICIPATE?

ABSOLUTELY.

WHEN CAN I REGISTER?

After the slam-dunking of presents down the chimney is over. In other words, Boxing Day. In other, other words, December 26th.

Registration will remain open for the entire first week of January. You do not have to register, but doing so makes you eligible to win prizes—agent consultations, books, critiques, and a whole lotta fabulous stuff that even Santa can’t make possible.

So THANK YOU for being patient while I pondered these changes. More announcements soon—like the guest-blogger line-up!

But in the meantime, join our STORYSTORM Facebook group which is active year-round for friendly support and discussion.

staytuned

 

 

 

holidaygifts-1

Once again it’s time for Santa to load up his sleigh—and good little writers everywhere will be hoping to discover inspiration in their stockings. These are the lovely trinkets, thingamabobs and tasty tidbits I’ve found that may tickle the fancy of that children’s writer you know (wink, wink, that’s you). I’ve also asked kidlit friends to suggest gifts. Plus, please feel free to leave a comment with your own holiday picks. Also remember there are many more selections on my Things Writers Like Pinterest board.

Of course, I wish publishing contracts for you all!

You get a book, YOU get a book, YOU ALL GET A BOOK!!!

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BUILD-ON-BRICK MUG
selected by Tara

brickmug

Available via ThinkGeek

Every writer needs a good cuppa while they’re compiling their next masterpiece. A morning chai allows me to think through what I want to accomplish for the day. Taking time to stop and ponder before committing pen to paper is always a good idea. I confess to playing a daily game or puzzle in the AM to get the gears moving. So I find this playful mug serves a dual purpose—delivering a dose of caffeine while also jump-starting the creative cogwheels.

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TYPEWRITER DESK ACCESSORIES
selected by Tara
typewritercoaster

Available via LTD Commodities

I admit it, I’m a sucker for anything TYPEWRITER. Not wanting to leave a mug ring on the pristine, polished surface of my new desk, or on a new manuscript, this coaster set seemed like a perfect solution.

typebookends
Available via Wild Orchid

I’ll take a pair of these bookends, too. Yes, I am running the risk of overdosing on Underwoods.

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S’WELL BOTTLE
VEGAN ENGLISH TOFFEE
PILOT METROPOLITAN FOUNTAIN PEN
selected by the indecisive Deborah Underwood, author

swell veganenglishtoffee

pilotfountainpen

Available via Teavana, Chocolate Inspirations, and Goulet Pens

Speaking of Underwoods, Deborah is one kidlit author you could never overdose on.

Deborah says, “I have many loves, so this was a tough decision. Should I recommend the beautiful S’well bottle that keeps my coffee hot? Or the vegan English toffee from Chocolate Inspirations (arguably the best candy in the world)? Heaven knows writers need both coffee and chocolate to fuel our work and drown our rejection sorrows.

But no—Tara said only one item. (Ha! See what I did there?) So, because writing comes first, my pick is the Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen, medium nib, in black. It’s reasonably priced, it has a pleasing weight in the hand, and it makes me feel like I’ve stepped back in time to a slower-paced, more civil world. Go forth and create, elegantly!”

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FATBOY BEANBAG PILLOW
selected by Tara

fatboy

Available via hayneedle

When you need some R&R–rest and reading–the Fatboy provides a comfortable respite. This is not Greg Brady’s beanbag chair. Made in a variety of sizes, colors and nearly indestructible, washable materials, the Fatboy will shape up to be your favorite reading nook.

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ECHO SMARTPEN
selected by Tara

echosmartpen

Available via livescribe

This blog began when I decided to post my NJ-SCBWI notes online. I still take copious notes at every conference and writing event, and the Echo Smartpen is on my please-please-oh-please list because it records what you hear…and what you write…in-sync. So that doodle doohickey you cannot recognize? You will hear WHEN you scribbled it and it will make sense again. You could also talk to yourself while writing, as if you needed another reason for people to think you’re odd.

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ICEY DESIGNS JOURNALS, PENCILS, PINS
selected by Marcie Colleen, author & educational consultant

iceyjournal

Available via Icey Designs 

Marcie says, “It never fails, as soon as I proclaim to the heavens, *I do not need another journal,* along comes an Etsy shop like Icey Designs and I am hornswaggled. This shop is chockfull of amazing writerly gifts, including inspirational pocket journals and notepads reminding those who need it “To Thine Own Self Be True” and “Breathe.” While you are there, you have to check out the craft-inspired pencils–my favorite is the “Let the Madness Flow” pencil. I know I can relate to that! There are also adorable enamel pins. What Harry Potter fan wouldn’t want to wear “Mischief Managed” on their lapel? Bottomline, I can’t pick just one item from this fabulous store from designer and author, Hafsah Faizal. You can bet that when the business of writing gets me down I’m heading to Icey Designs for a little retail therapy and a reminder to “Live Wondrously” as their motto says.”

bookshappy

Tara says, woozy with whimsy, “The enamel pins!!!”

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JANSJO USB LED LAMP
selected by Tara

jansjo
Available via IKEA

I know I am partial to kitsch, so here’s something for the more pragmatic writer—a (an???) USB LED lamp. With the darker afternoons of winter, I need the extra light, especially when I am Skyping with a classroom. They can now see me and my jammies du jour. This smart and inexpensive little lamp stays in position and lights up the keyboard as well as your own fingertips do.

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DREW THE PENCIL LAMP
selected by Tara

drewthepencil

Available via GadgetFlow

See, I’m right back to kitsch. I adore this adorable lamp. Even the cord is a design feature–wind it any which way for an extra curlicue of quirk.

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WRITING CRAFT BOOKS
selected by Erin Murphy, literary agent

magicwords theheroisyou
Available wherever fine books are sold

Erin says, “My gift suggestion is (huge surprise) books! Every writer needs more books, and a gift certificate to a local indie is even better, so the writer can choose the books him or herself. But if you really want something with some heft for them to unwrap, you can’t go wrong with inspiration in the form of two outstanding books about craft and the writing life from two of the best editors in the children’s book business: Cheryl Klein’s THE MAGIC WORDS: WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS and Kendra Levin’s THE HERO IS YOU: SHARPEN YOUR FOCUS, CONQUER YOUR DEMONS, AND BECOME THE WRITER YOU WERE MEANT TO BE.”

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ROCK PAPER JOURNAL
selected by Tara

rockpaper

Available via Heart Stone Paper

At this spring’s NE-SCBWI conference, keynote speaker and NY Times bestselling author Wendy Mass confessed she likes to write in the bath. Knowing that could prove disastrous (and soggy) for a normal notebook, she told us she uses water-resistant, tear-resistant paper made from ROCKS. And then she gave everyone in attendance a rock paper journal. I was especially pleased because armed with my new notebook, I can now play Rock-Paper-Scissors FTW!

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MINI LIBRARY SCENTED TEA LIGHTS
selected by Tara

tealights

Available via Uncommon Goods

If you’re an avid writer, chances are you are a voracious reader. Your nose is always in a good book. Continue to take care of that nose with this set of ten scented tea lights inspired by classic novels.

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SISTER FOX’S FIELD GUIDE TO THE WRITING LIFE
BOOK SCARF
BANANAGRAMS

selected by Heidi Stemple & Jane Yolen, authors

sisterfoxfieldguide alicescarf

beachbanana

Available via Heidi StempleStoriarts and Serious Puzzles

Heidi says, “SISTER FOX’S GUIDE TO THE WRITING LIFE by Jane Yolen is a collection of poems about writing. Some funny, some poignant, all a call to get your BIC (butt in chair) and get writing. It’s not easy to get (as it is published in the UK) but, I have a supply to sell from our office ($20 includes shipping and autograph—be sure to include a name; this offer is limited). Also, book scarves (or, honestly, anything by Storiarts) made with the text of some of your favorite books, are soft, well made, and wearable. But, more importantly, they are real conversation starters. I have 3 (plus the writing gloves). I am partial to, of course, Alice in Wonderland. Don’t just buy this scarf, though…search through their site. You will NOT be sorry.

Jane says, “When we’re both working, and one of us want a break, we’ll find the other and ask ‘Banangrams?’ We play almost every day.”

(Bonus: Tara found a jumbo outdoor edition of the popular game.)

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ANIMAL CARD HOLDER
selected by Tara

hedgehogcardholder

Available via Amazon

When I return home from an SCBWI conference, I love poring over the creative postcards and business cards of writers and illustrators. There are ones I want to keep in view because I love the artist’s style or I want to swap a manuscript with another author. This clever desk accessory is very practical…and comes in a variety of animal styles and colors. This one makes me want to write an albino hedgehog book.
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WHEN IN DOUBT TEE
selected by Tara

whenindoubt
Available via The Library Store

I always follow this advice. I bet you do, too.

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ROALD DAHL POSTCARDS
selected by Tara
roalddahlpostcards
Available via The Literary Gift Company

What a wangdoodle of a good idea. I bet a writing friend would love to receive this entire box…or even one sincere missive via post. Texting is so last week. Dahl is FOREVER.

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WRITER AT WORK SIGN
selected by Tara
donotdisturb
Available via GraphicsMore

Ah, if only we could give our favorite writer the gift of time.

Until that time, let’s continue to give them space. (Otherwise known as “the space-time continuum”?)

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WRITER’S TEARS WHISKEY
selected by Tara

writerstearsmini

Available via Celtic Whiskey Shop

Alas, if your favorite writer received another rejection, missed that deadline, or went out of print, this would be the perfect gift. Just remember—drink responsibly, folks.

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thingswriterslike2015

Happy Holidays!

For more writerly nonsense and giftsense, check out my Things Writers Like Pinterest board!

nadiaby Karlin Gray

What do I know about writing nonfiction picture books?

After my book NADIA: THE GIRL WHO COULDN’T SIT STILL was published, someone said to me, “Great timing with the 40th Anniversary of the Perfect 10! How smart of you to write that book now!”

Um, no. Well, yes . . . but then no.

Four years ago, my writing instructor discussed nonfiction picture books in class. I couldn’t remember reading any when I was a kid so I thought back to my five-year-old self. Who or what fascinated me? If I could have read a picture book about any person or subject, what would it have been?

Well, in 1976, I was just a 5-year-old girl who loved gymnastics. (I mean, I was terrible at it but I LOVED it.) So, duh! Only one answer popped into my head—Nadia Comaneci.

That was smart—asking kid Karlin what she wanted to read. Someone else at my publisher was smart enough to look into the future and see the marketing stars align.

While working on my book, I didn’t pay attention to the dates of the next Olympics. I didn’t know that it would be the 40th Anniversary of Comaneci’s historic 10. (Math’s not really my thing.) I didn’t even know if my book would find a publisher! The only thing that I knew was that kid Karlin would have flipped for a picture book about Nadia Comaneci.

So, that’s the book I wrote for kid Karlin . . . and grown-up Karlin loved every minute of it!

nadiabeam

Here are some fellow writers sharing what they have learned about writing nonfiction picture books.

Audrey Vernick, author of THE KID FROM DIAMOND STREET:

thekidfromdiamondstreetI write both fiction and nonfiction. In the beginning, I thought the only place for voice was in fiction, and it’s probably where I feel more comfortable experimenting with it. But it’s totally worth the time to play around and explore unexpected possibilities because when a truly unique voice emerges, oh my! Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick wasn’t only beautifully illustrated by Sophie Blackall–what a story! Other examples that come to mind are Phil Bildner’s Marvelous Cornelius, illustrated by John Parra; Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad; and, because I can’t resist a baseball book, The You Never Heard of .. ? books written by Jonah Winter.

Susan Hood, author of ADA’S VIOLIN:

adasviolinDon’t be afraid to ask for help. In my experience, experts, scholars, curators, producers, reporters, and authors of adult books on your subject are more than happy to consult with you. Your passion is their passion! I offer them acknowledgement in the book, but make sure to ask permission to list their names and/or work. Kate Messner wrote an eye-opening blog about this: “Think Before You Thank.” I wouldn’t have dreamed that a public thank you might compromise someone professionally, but it might. So go ahead, ask for help, but ask for permission to use their names as well.

Maria Gianferrari, author of COYOTE MOON:

coyotemoonWhen you’re doing your research and note-taking, keep a list of “cool facts.” You might not have a place for them in your story, but they’ll be perfect for back matter! Think of a creative and engaging way to organize and present the material. For example, you might present the back matter in how-to form. I did this for one of my nonfiction books using How To Swallow A Pig: Step-by-Step Advice From the Animal Kingdom by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page as a mentor text. A cool fact could also be a hook for beginning your story.

Nancy Churnin, author of THE WILLIAM HOY STORY:

williamhoyEngage, learn from and share the journey with people who know and care deeply about your subject. I could not have written The William Hoy Story without the help of Steve Sandy, a Deaf man who is a friend of the Hoy family, and was able to answer questions about small details of William’s life while giving context about what it was like to grow up as a Deaf person in the late 19th century. Steve’s help continued after publication as he and his wife, Bonnie, have been amazing supporters of the book. I am also profoundly grateful to National Baseball Hall of Fame announcer Eric Nadel, a Hoy fan, who has written about him for adults. Eric advised me on baseball details, and has also been a fantastic supporter of the book.

Laban Hill, author of WHEN THE BEAT WAS BORN:

whenthebeatwasbornWhat I’ve learned from writing nonfiction picture books is that the stories are about people and their emotions first and the facts are secondary. That does not mean you can make up facts, but that the motivations and fears and aspirations of the people involved reveal how the facts fit in.

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karlingrayThanks for all the non-fiction tips, Karlin!

In honor of Nadia Comaneci’s 40th Anniversary of the Perfect 10 and the 2016 Rio Olympics, we are giving away a copy of THE GIRL WHO COULDN’T SIT STILL. Simple comment below to enter. One comment per person, US addresses only, please.

Karlin Gray is the author of NADIA: THE GIRL WHO COULDN’T SIT STILL and runs a weekly Q&A blog with writers about their first picture books. You can find her at karlingray.com@KarlinGray or on Facebook.

Enjoy watching the Olympics and check out the schedule on NBC.

MuggyMeter

The humidity whacks me in the face each time I step outside, so yeah, it’s August. Already.

Every summer I entertain grandiose plans to write outdoors while enjoying a picnic of luscious home-made ciabatta sandwiches and baked goods the likes of which would make The Barefoot Contessa swoon. I buy light, airy dresses, relish being barefoot in the cool grass and imagine the stack of manuscripts I will have completed, polished and prompting auction offers…

And then August smacks me upside the head. Already.

Nasty, vile August. Why do you curse me so?! You let my children out of camp teeming with bug bite scabs, force me to endure three-hour back-to-school lines at Staples, and leave my computer devoid of new manuscripts.

Well, at least someone is winning this month. Finally, a list of all the prize winners from recent giveaways!

A MORNING WITH GRANDPA WINNER:
JENNIFER PHILLIPS

PENNY & JELLY WINNERS:
CLAIRE BOBROW
POLLY RENNER
STELLA LOPEZ

THE STORY CIRCLE WINNER:
NADINE GAMBLE

DUMP TRUCK DUCK WINNER:
DEBRA SHUMAKER

Congratulations, everyone! I will be emailing you shortly.

Now, because I want everyone to be a winner in August, here are some excellent writing articles I’ve come across lately. All are worth a read!

howtobeabetterwriter

And finally, one of my favorite books OF ALL TIME, although I discovered it only a couple years ago, is MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND by Matthew Dicks. Matthew offers a fabulous newsletter jam-packed with writing and storytelling tips. You can even win a storytelling consult with him. He is a multiple winner of Moth’s Story Slam and GrandSlam competitions. He posted an engaging TEDx talk recently about how to hone your story radar and even improve your life in the process. I encourage you to watch:

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I hope this video makes your August better than mine!

I awoke this morning and thought, “What a fine day for a new blog post.” Of course, I also thought, “What a fine day to go swimming” and “What a fine day to finish reading that book.” Sensing that I have packed today’s schedule, I decided that said blog post would have to be ultra-short. (I would have said “uber” short, but that word has been bogarted by some taxi service.)

So here I have pieced together quick quotes and sage snippets from the SCBWI events I attended in the spring—New England SCBWI and New Jersey SCBWI.

I hope you enjoy while I do the backstroke with a soggy book.

tuesday

“A picture book is an amazing thing, a world unto itself. You can do anything in those 32 pages and that is the thing I love about it.” ~David Wiesner

“As I create, I am continually asking myself ‘why is this happening?’ You know you are desperate when you go to the ‘magic button’ solution.” ~David Wiesner

lunchlady

“Be nice. Be resilient. Set goals. Adapt & learn. Your biggest achievement is just around the corner.” ~Jarrett J. Krosoczka

“Don’t do a $50 job like a $50 job, you’ll get $50 jobs your whole life. Do it like a $500 job and you’ll start getting those.” ~Jarrett J. Krosoczka

mango

“It’s not necessarily ‘write what you know.’ Write what you want to know ABOUT. The passion for that subject will come through.” ~Wendy Mass

adabyronlovelace

“When it comes to the nitty gritty marketing of your book, always remember, something is better than nothing.” ~Laurie Wallmark

ellrayjakes

“A postcard is the best way to get our attention. I get 60 emails a day…it’s too much. I like the tactile nature of a postcard. I love feeling them and looking at them…if they hit anything in me, I keep them.” ~Laurie Brennan, Associate Art Director, Viking

hogprince

“Characters who make interesting mistakes are inherently interesting. The kind of mistakes your character makes defines her. How a character acts in the wake of a mistake should be unique and personal to her. Failure is fertilizer: a world of things can grow from the mistakes your character makes. Someone who is always right is BORING.” ~Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

theBFFsisters

“I wanted to write a book where my daughter could see herself—that’s me!” ~Suzy Ismail

“Writing from a multicultural perspective is no different than writing. All writing is about crossing boundaries.” ~Suzy Ismail quotes Debby Dahl Edwardson

donalynmiller

And, finally, my favorite quote…which is still making me think long and hard:

“How are you creating a literary world besides being a literary creator?” ~Donalyn Miller

 

Sylvia Liusylvialiu is co-founder of the comprehensive children’s literature resource Kidlit411 and a picture book author whose debut A MORNING WITH GRANDPA (illustrated by Christina Forshay) won Lee & Low’s prestigious New Voices Award. 

One of the most important and inspiring movements in kidlit today is diversity, so I’ve asked Sylvia to talk to us today about creating authentic stories with relatable, diverse characters. Get those pencils ready because you will want to write after you read this interview!

MorningWithGrandpa_cover

Sylvia, what does the movement “We Need Diverse Books” mean to you?

For me, We Need Diverse Books means that every child can easily find stories and books that are mirrors and windows. Mirrors that reflect their own stories and circumstances and windows that show other people’s stories. This means that previously underrepresented groups need to be better represented at every level of children’s books. On the supply side, we need more diverse creators and more diverse gatekeepers (agents, editors, booksellers, librarians, reviewers). On the demand side, we need a reading public that buys and demands more diverse books. To achieve these isn’t a matter of wishful thinking or good intentions, because the societal inequalities that created the lack of supply and demand ultimately need to be addressed. For example, publishing and the creative arts are professions that are still very much based in apprenticeships—i.e., you need to have enough money to take unpaid internships when you’re starting out, or to take creative risks.

What led to you entering Lee & Low’s “New Voices” contest?

I have known about the New Voices Award ever since it began in 2000 because I have been following Lee & Low for over twenty years (my college and law school friend is related to the company’s founder). Over the last five or six years that I’ve been writing picture books seriously, I have always had the award in the back of my mind. Most of my stories are not specifically geared towards multicultural or diverse topics, so I didn’t submit any until 2013, when I wrote A MORNING WITH GRANDPA. After I wrote it, I thought it would be a good fit because it told a universal story about a grandparent and grandchild’s fun and funny relationship but with specific cultural references.

taichi

“When writing a diverse story, you should not just insert a character of a certain ethnicity or race. It is about so much more.” Can you expand upon this concept?

You’re right. It’s about telling a story from deep within a point of view or culture that requires intimate knowledge or experience to that culture. It’s more than changing a name to Maria or Mei Mei. It’s inhabiting that character’s world and showing and sharing the details of that world that make it specific to the culture, ethnicity, or world view. I do believe authors are capable of writing from different perspectives and cultures other than their own, but if they do, they need to approach the story with respect and research.

whatistaichi

Going forward, what are your hopes for diversity in children’s publishing?

In the ideal world, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. We would have all different kinds of stories written by all different kinds of people, reflecting the multiplicity of experiences–social, cultural, racial, ethnic, economic, gender, ability, and more. But in the short term, as I mentioned before, I hope that gatekeepers (editors, agents, reviewers, book sellers, librarians, parents) take seriously the emerging commitment to diversity–promoting and giving voice to people of color, LGBTQ people, and other underrepresented people in the industry through hiring, contracts, reviews, and book sales.

taichiisnt

Sylvia, any final thoughts?

Remember that only you–a specific person on this planet with a particular worldview, background, culture, family, sense of humor, and self–can tell your stories. Don’t be afraid to share your stories with your truths and perspectives, and don’t deprive the world of them.

What an inspiring statement, Sylvia! I hope this sparks new ideas for our blog readers.

Thank you so much for sharing your “new voice” with us…and for having Lee & Low share your “New Voices” picture book!

One copy will be given away within the next two weeks. Just leave one comment below to enter. (US addresses only, please.)

Good luck!

Before I recap the SCBWI conferences I’ve attended the last two months, there’s a pressing topic that requires outing…a little quirk I have witnessed at every kidlit conference from the dawn of time (or, in my case, since 2008).

FOMO.

Maybe you don’t have a teen in your household and you’re shrugging right now. What the heck is FOMO?

Well, let’s describe the scene.

See the new-to-kidlit conference attendee, nervous yet determined, marching around the event carrying a stuffed animal based on their story’s character so people will inquire about it, talking to anyone who will listen to the pitch…which, unfortunately, the attendee hasn’t quite figured out yet.

Witness the cornering of an agent or editor in a hallway, a conference room, the buffet line, or heaven forbid, the restroom stall, being asked if they will read the manuscript, listen to the pitch or “peek” at other work.

See the attendee making conversation about the story and only the story, never asking anyone what they’re writing or even about their family, where they scored that awesome vintage dress, what they do for fun, where they’ve traveled, or anything unrelated to WORK.

You see, the new kidlit conference attendee is gripped by FOMO:

FEAR
OF
MISSING
OUT

whataboutme

FOMO makes us jumpy, anxious, pushy and, dare I say it, annoying. The person-with-the-manuscript thinks this conference is THE ONE CHANCE to break through, to get the manuscript not only read, but read and LOVED, contracts thrust forward with gusto. They envision a bidding war breaking out right at lunch table 10, pitting Viking against Sterling, swords thrust forward with gusto.

It’s an unflattering portrait I’ve painted, and I apologize. But you see, I too was afflicted by FOMO. I know it so well because I lived it. (I am the first person above with the stuffed animal, just so you know.)

It took me a couple years, and some serious coaching by professional authors, to calm down at conferences, to realize that the lunch table duel just DOES NOT HAPPEN. Yes, an agent or editor may fall in love with your project, but more frequently they fall in I-think-I-like, ask for revisions, and begin a relationship with you. The opportunities happen AFTER the conference.

And remember, relationships can start with something other than A MANUSCRIPT.

Editors and agents are real people, too. They are not these mystical beings who float away to enchanted realms after a conference ends. They are wives and husbands, fiancés, mothers and fathers, lacrosse coaches, knitters, ukelele players, cycling enthusiasts, City Harvest volunteers, Rick Springfield fans and even former accountants who love spreadsheets (these people mystify me). They are multi-faceted, shimmering personalities. They like to sip a glass of wine at cocktail hour and talk about anything other than the books sitting on their desks. Honestly, an editor will remember the person with whom they share a passion for the Amazon rainforest and try to forget the pleading, desperate person who repeatedly asked if they had five minutes to hear a pitch.

FOMO. It can ruin your judgment. It can make you forget how to forge friendships.

fomo

Do not fall victim to conference FOMO. Because if you are clamoring, praying, hoping for JUST ONE book deal, I have to warn you—this is not true! Because once that book deal happens, the satisfaction may indeed last a lifetime, but the longing for a NEW book deal circles back again and you think: JUST ONE MORE book deal. The ideas never end. The storytelling never ends. If you are a writer, a creative being, you are hopefully in this for life. Getting published does not change the mission—to pour your innermost being out on paper. Getting published does not fundamentally change your life (unless you get a 7-figure debut deal). Yes, you have accomplished something few people ever do, you worked hard for it, but you are still you. You will want to do it again. You will want to ride this crazy rollercoaster of rejection and self-doubt and discovery over and over.

So the FOMO you feel? It actually never goes away once you are published. The trick is to learn to control it.

chasingtail

Do not let that BAD FOMO MOJO zap you of your creative energy, your imagination, your unique perspective, your force to do good in the universe. Don’t let FOMO make you a BOZO.

haveigonemad

If you are new to kidlit conferences, RELAX. Listen. Learn. Just be you. Don’t fixate on selling the manuscript in your tote bag. Getting published takes years and it is not a race. It’s a marathon, an insanely strenuous yet joyous journey. Sit back and enjoy the run! You are not missing out on anything. You are in the thick of it.

For years I mistakenly thought that writing was just about words. About particularly poignant sentences. Flourishes of the language. Creating a passage so magnificent, it makes the reader stop and ponder the meaning of life.

kenreading

Of course, it isn’t just about words. It’s about all the words, together. It’s about the story.

So in pursuit of the best story this week, I had to kill darlings. We’ve all heard the phrase before, but what does it actually mean? What are we bludgeoning to death?

In short, “darlings” are pieces of writing that do not further your story. They are superfluous lines only there because you want to admire their shine and glow. Ooh, sparkly!

sparkler

The reader should not be jolted out of the story by the beauty of your words. The point is to draw the reader further in, not shove them out.

So what do these little darlings look like?

kristy

Sorry, not Kristy McNichol.

These darlings may drag a scene on too long. The point has already been made, but you stick it to the reader one last time in such a witty way. Sorry, kill it.

Sometimes we get so caught up in fun devices like alliteration, internal rhyme and onomatopoeia that we end up with gobbledygook rather than glory. Sorry, kill it.

On occasion, we write jokes that fall flat. Sure, we laugh hysterically but to everyone else they go SPLAT, right in the kisser. Sorry, kill it.

You know that character who magically appears, says one important thing and then leaves? Why? Where’d she go? Is she ever coming back? No? Well then, murder must be committed.

And if we’re writing a story based upon real events, we can feel inclined to include things that actually happened, even if they don’t necessarily add anything but word count. Kill, kill, kill.

Edgar Allan Poe’s “Single Effect” theory suggests that everything in a short story should contribute to an overall emotional theme. Everything you put into the story, he said, should be carefully selected to elicit the desired effect.

And since we’re writing what can be considered super-short stories, we need to be even more diligent about leading the reader down a specific path. Veering off means higher word count—which can kill the story’s publication potential. Sacrifice some darlings and save the whole village!

Super-short shorts.

Super-short shorts may have killed WHAM!

Finally, don’t be sad about killing your darlings. When you have to kill one or two, just refer to these gifs. They’ll make you feel better. (I know they helped me.)

catkid

balloonpop

blowcandle

 

I got zapped with the flu two weeks ago. Really walloped me, like being endlessly pummeled with pillows at a sleepover party. Just when I thought I was getting better—PHHHHHHUMPT! Down I went. Cold compresses, hot tea, lukewarm toast. Sleepless nights, endless days. What a funk!

Now I’m happy to be back in the land of the living. Did you know there’s a sun out there? And trees budding? Birds singing?

calvinflies

There’s also winners waiting to be announced!

clarksville

Natalie Lynn Tanner, c’mon down! You won a copy of Pat Zietlow Miller’s THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE!

logivss

Hey, Pat! PJHollow, that is! You won a Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard!

I'mNotHatchingjacket

And Rimna! PEEP & EGG is yours!

I will be emailing the winners shortly. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Didn’t win? Here’s another chance!

In celebration of being well again, and in celebration of my first-born’s 13th birthday TODAY (OMG, I’m the mother of a teenager!!!), and in celebration of my fourth book, NORMAL NORMAN, I’m giving away an extended classroom Skype session. I’ll teach a writing lesson that fits in with your current curriculum. Yes, a custom half-hour lesson just for your class or your child’s class…or your homeschool group. All you have to do is leave a comment below. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

And now I shall get back to writing. I took an extra-long break while I was sick, although I think I missed an opportunity to capture hilarity that only 103-degree-fever hallucinations can create!

As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Summer/Fall 2018

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