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“How did you get your start writing?”
“Just like Roald Dahl.” (Yes, I take advantage of any opportunity to compare myself to my favorite writer.)
But, I’m not kidding. When I began this whole crazy ride, I did so by writing short stories for adults, just like Dahl. Except my stories weren’t short stories. They were short, short, extra short stories—flash fiction.
I had found an online magazine called “Six Sentences” that published one flash fiction piece per day. The name of the site said it all—every story was only six sentences long (or six sentences short, chortle chuckle).
To some writers, this presents an enormous challenge, to examine character and emotion and conflict between six periods. Sure, you could exploit the semi-colon and em-dash and maybe stretch it to resemble eight-and-a-half sentences, but still. That’s not much space.
The uber-short format, however, is like prose-poetry. And it’s most definitely like a picture book because some things must be left unsaid, yet the silence remains part of the story’s experience.
by Tara Lazar
Her daughter was achingly beautiful, a delicate loveliness like a paper lantern, illuminated from within. The girl’s long hair separated into fine ringlets, cascading like curled Christmas ribbon down her back. She was the kind of child who made strangers smile and take pause—the kind of child who made other mothers envious. The mother was not so much shunned as politely excluded; excuses were made, apologies provided, but invitations were never extended. She exaggerated her own ordinary features—forgoing makeup, leaving her hair unwashed for days, wearing mismatched clothing—but none of her efforts to elicit pity served to lessen the jealousy; her daughter’s radiance only shone brighter, her extraordinary hair the source of more disdain. The mother closed her eyes, grasped the scissors, and cut.
I’ve long held the belief that aspiring picture book writers would benefit from writing flash fiction, as it’s good writing practice in another format. No pictures are necessary, but a mind for visuals is. Can you imagine the scene above?
Writing these stories is fun as well as a challenge, so I was mighty intrigued when I saw Logitech announce their Very Short Story contest on Twitter.
So here’s your chance to strut your storytelling skills outside the usual medium. Logitech is giving away their new K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard and a Blurb giftcard for the best short story written in 8 tweets or less. Just use #LogiVSS to tell your tiny tale. Get all the details here—http://blog.logitech.com/2016/02/18/k380veryshortstorychallenge—but hurry! The contest ends at the close of this week.
And guess what? Logitech is also giving away one of their new keyboards to one of my blog readers! If you hate typing on a phone or tablet’s screen, worry no longer. This keyboard is happy to help you out.
Just leave a comment below about short story writing and you’re entered to win. One lucky commenter will be picked randomly in two weeks!
So go ahead and write on! (But don’t write on and on and on!)
Wow, I was blown away by the creativity of the kids who entered my Halloween Skype monster contest! I asked them to draw the monster they’d like to purchase at The Monstore, and they came through with some very useful companions, just right for doing tricky things around the house. In fact, I’d like to borrow all of them!
It was tough to pick just five finalists, as I received nearly 200 entries! But here they are, in no particular order.
Please leave a comment voting for your favorite entry #. The monster with the most votes will win a Skype classroom visit with me on Halloween!
REPRESENTING MS. ROSENBERG’S 2nd GRADE CLASS
MS. GO EYES by JULIA B.!
I like how Ms. Go Eyes can dance with Julia whenever she pleases, plus this monster can reach high to get the most coveted snacks in the cabinet. Of course, Ms. Go Eyes loves THE MONSTORE book, too! Congratulations, Julia!
REPRESENTING MS. MELLIN’S 2nd GRADE CLASS
TRASH MONSTER by SIERRA V.!
Well, Trash Monster can certainly find a welcomed place in my home. I like how neat and environmentally conscientious he is. And he’s so brightly colored, he’ll fit right in with my decor. Congratulations, Sierra!
REPRESENTING MS. MACCRI’S 2nd GRADE CLASS
BULLEYE by NATHAN H.!
Considering that October is National Bullying Prevention Month, I think everyone could use a friend like Bulleye right now. He’s so fierce-looking, he just has to stand there and bullies will steer clear. Congratulations, Nathan!
REPRESENTING MS. ABATE’S 1st GRADE CLASS
SPARKLES by KATIE F.!
As Sparkles is already aware, we could all use a little more sparkle in our lives. Everything she touches glitters and shines. What a happy-making monster! Congratulations, Katie!
REPRESENTING MS. BROWN’S 1st GRADE CLASS
DAGA BY DOANH!
Ms. Brown’s class got very creative and used shapes to create their monsters. They even counted up all the shapes. I’m impressed! This monster’s needed in my house because my daughter does not like to eat meat. It merely touches her tongue and she spits it out. What’s a mom to do? Maybe she will follow Daga’s example. Congratulations, Doanh! (And wow, what neat handwriting!)
Thank you to everyone who participated in the Skype monster contest. It was so difficult to choose the finalists because all the creations were terrific. I’m sincerely blown away by the creativity expressed in this exercise!
Kindly comment below with your # monster choice by SUNDAY, OCTOBER 27th and I will announce the winner on the 28th!
GOOD LUCK TO EVERYONE! I HOPE TO SEE YOU ON HALLOWEEN!
In THE MONSTORE, Zack just wants to buy a monster to spook his pesky little sister, Gracie. (As you may know, things don’t work to plan.)
But when I do school visits, I’ve found that kids have all kinds of things they’d like a monster to do for them.
- Shoot cupcakes from their feet.
- Hide under their bed and scare away OTHER monsters.
- Walk their pet pot-belly pig.
- Eat clouds so it stops raining.
- Reach the shelf where Mom keeps HER chocolate.
And even more outrageously clever tasks.
So here’s your child’s chance! What would THEIR monster do? What would it look like?
Print out this MONSTORE coloring page (courtesy of illustrator Wendy Martin) and then email me a pic of your child’s monsterly creation by October 17th. (My email button is in the top left column of this blog.)
I’ll pick 5 finalists and post them here, then you’ll have a week to vote for the winner.
(Click on the image for larger version, mouse over for a + magnifying glass, click, then you can then print 8 1/2 x 11. Or, click here for a PDF: Monstore Draw Your Own Monster.)
The winner will earn their class a signed book and a SKYPE VISIT from me on HALLOWEEN! (And if the child is homeschooled, I’ll Skype with them at home or anywhere they choose.)
The contest is open to kids through age 12. Whole classes can enter. If I had a lawyer, you might expect a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo to appear here. But I don’t. So there isn’t. (PHEW!)
Any questions? Ask away below.
Happy creating and I’ll hope to SEE YOU on HALLOWEEN!
Two years ago at NJ-SCBWI, someone mistook Tory Novikova for my daughter.
Eek! Am I that OLD? No, really, Tory is quite young, so let’s just say that if I were a teenage bride, it could be a possibility. I mean, look at those eyes and hair! Totally plausible.
While Tory’s definitely not my daughter, she does work with her mom, and that’s pretty cool.
Her mom played a heavy role in inspiring the styles for Tory’s own fashion company, Torynova Couture.
“The woman had me drawing as soon as possible, so kudos to that child-rearing dedication. She’s a fashion designer, graduated from Moscow’s Textile Institute and had worked for the top fashion houses there and also made costumes for theater and ballet. Even my great grandparents worked on costume and stage production for the Bolshoi Theater, so one could say appreciation for the classics runs through my blood.”
With Tory’s talent and drive—she also illustrates for video game, comic and apparel companies—I knew picture books couldn’t be far behind for this Pratt Institute 2010 BFA. Flash forward to NOW and her book TUKE THE SPECIALIST TURTLE is swimming your way!
Tory, how did you land the job illustrating TUKE?
I was approached really out of the blue (for me, anyway) by Jim Ritterhoff about illustrating this children’s book he had written and meant to publish through his company, Chowder Inc. Profits were to benefit CCMI, the Central Caribbean Marine Institute and the Central Reef Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to sustaining coral reefs in the Caribbean. He seemed really dedicated to the marine ecology of the reefs, being a diver himself. So I came on board and drew him Tuke.
Your illustrations for TUKE are so vibrant and fun. They really bring the ocean and Tuke’s personality to life. Could you give us a little background on your process for creating the art?
I think there is a natural juiciness to my color palette and aesthetic, no matter how far I try to run away from it. It must be a side effect from having my eyes stuck to the TV, growing up watching too many cartoons for it to be healthy. Thankfully, it came in very handy with Tuke because the story takes place in the Caribbean Reef. Though I’ve never seen it in person, I’ve researched enough about it to know that it’s riddled with colors beyond imagination. In fact, the very first spread I finished in full color was the entire reef, which comes in right after the introduction. The reaction I got from Jim, who is an avid diver and knows the reef so well, was pretty much like—YES! This totally works! So after that point, there were no doubts about color constraints. Though, I did get to play around with different depths of blues, which was lovely.
As far as my process goes. The entire book, 60+ pages, was laid out in clean pencil sketches like a storyboard. And for me, clean is a relative term…since my lines are pretty gestural and loose (I really dislike the look of pencil lines that have been traced over lovely loose sketches). Anyway! After each page or spread was drawn, I went over it with an ink brush, picking up and adding textures that I could snap up and use later for the finish. Eventually these were all scanned and saved for later. Then came the flat vector shapes. I really enjoy drawing freehand in Illustrator – is that strange? There is a satisfying gravity about a solid mass that contorts to form the daintiest of details. The expressions of the animals were probably my most favorite parts to draw!
And finally, the image is completed in Photoshop, all the bits are assembled, and the color is fully applied. It may be a little tedious of a process, but it lent itself a lot to the look of the book, and Tuke! And of course there were many moments of going back into inks, rescanning, and altering the finished pages by administering bits of texture for the final polish.
So, what’s next for you, Tory?
Hmmm…what IS next?!?! Well for starters, I’m about as knee-deep into education and new media as I’ll ever be. In fact, I’m currently involved in the creation of an entire educational game world revolving around children’s books and characters due for release in 2014. So I’m definitely still deep in pursuit of creating for kids—video games, books, products, cartoons—you name it! But it’s always been a dream to illustrate picture books. So I’m very much looking forward to the next opportunity that comes my way! 🙂 Any takers?!
Well, I’ll bet there will be plenty of takers for our special TUKE giveaway!
One lucky blog reader will win a custom sketch of Tuke made especially for them! You can even enter twice!
Comment or leave a question for Tory here on the blog for one entry, then Tweet or Instagram an image of the book with hashtag #TuketheSpecialistTurtle and tag @torynova for another entry. Contest ends September 21st and a winner will be announced shortly thereafter.
For more about Tory and her various projects, visit ToryNova.com.
It’s finally May—the flowers are pushing through the dirt, the sun is ablaze with warm promises…and, well, it’s time to take a break!
I thought I’d consult with someone who knows vacationing very well. No, not my Aunt Myrna, the Long Island travel agent queen. Salina Yoon’s Penguin!
He’s a cute, chubby fellow with an itch for adventure. Let’s scratch it, shall we?
Penguin, thanks so much for joining me today. Tell me, what’s been happening at home that you decided a vacation was in order?
Hi Ms. Tara! I was just bored of the snow and ice. I can only count to 99, and after I counted my 99th snowball, I didn’t know what else to do.
You could make 33 miniature snowmen, but ya know, I like the vacation idea better.
What did Grandpa say when you packed your bag?
33 miniature snowmen…I never thought of that!
Grandpa always says to me that I should go and explore the world—and I will come back a wiser penguin. I think he is right. Grandpa is very wise, and he has traveled very far. In fact, he has been to the beach once long ago. He gave me his old swim suit for my trip. It fit perfectly.
I hope you sent him a postcard. He probably missed you very much.
I did better than that, Ms. Tara! I met a lovely seagull on the beach, and she had a camera. It went, “click! click! click!” and pretty pictures came out of a box. She took some photos of me and Crab, and Seagull delivered the photos to Grandpa because she can fly! It was very nice of Seagull. It turns out that we are distant relatives!
Speaking of Crab, you did some fun things together. What other places did you two visit on your vacation?
Crab took me caving, snorkeling, and even cliff diving on the island! I am a very good swimmer, so it was very fun. But the caves were nothing like the ice caves back at home. It was fun to see and try new things.
What advice do you have for kids heading away on vacation to someplace new and different?
My advice is to make new friends on vacation, because they will know how to have fun there even if you don’t! Also, I would say to be open to trying new things because you can do what you always do and eat the foods you always eat when you get back home. And take sunscreen…if you are going someplace sunny!
Where would you like to vacation next?
I would love to visit the Grand Canyon one day, even though I would have to pack a lot of ice with me to stay comfortable. I would also like to visit Mount Everest and see the world from the highest point on Earth! And then of course, Disneyland!
That sounds perfect. I can hear the television announcer booming, “Penguin, you just had your book published, what are you going to do next?!”
Thanks for waddling by today, Penguin. And thanks for leaving behind your adorable book signed by Salina, plus a beach ball to boot! Or throw. Or float in the pool with. Whatever the winner prefers!
Thank you for inviting me to talk with you, Ms. Tara. And happy vacationing, friends!
Please leave a comment below telling Penguin about your favorite vacation spot.
A winner of the book and ball will be randomly selected in one week!
Ya know Tammi, right? She’s the most prolific picture book author this side of the Atlantic! (And that side, too.)
An annual contributor to Picture Book Idea Month, Tammi has dispensed invaluable picture book pointers about story structure, celebrating the weird stuff in life, and putting a twist on the familiar. She’s also a regular PiBoIdMo participant, and NUGGET AND FANG is her success story from the November 2009 event!
So the unlikely underwater duo are here today to chomp away! (Don’t worry, Tammi’s here, too. Fang didn’t gobble her up.)
Tammi, what about unlikely friendship stories makes them so fun to write?
If two characters are at odds in some big way, that immediately builds in tension and offers real deal conflict. This can provide great opportunities for humor, too. That’s fun stuff! Some unlikely friendships deal with issues such as neatness versus messiness or quiet versus loud. The quandary that my characters face is clear–sharks and minnows aren’t supposed to be friends because everybody knows sharks EAT minnows.
Sharks are popular characters these days! What makes FANG stand out in the world of storybook selachimorpha? (Yes, that is a real word. I looked it up. Honest.)
I love that I have a contender in storybook selachimorpha. It sounds super sophisticated. As for Fang, he stands out among regular sharks because he has a huge heart. Yes, he’s toothy, but, holy mackerel, my guy is irresistible. If I were a minnow, I’d be honored to be his friend.
What are some of your favorite unlikely friendship stories/books?
My Favorite Unlikely Friendship Story of 2012 was BOY + BOT by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. That book is brilliant in 2,465 different ways. Plus, Ame has blue hair. (Tara’s note: sometimes it’s pink or purple, or even rainbow leopard.)
A fun and endearing unlikely friendship story that just came out this past February is WOOBY AND PEEP written by my oh-so-fabulous critique partner Cynthea Liu, illustrated by Mary Peterson. (Hey, WOOBY AND PEEP are coming soon to a blog near you. Umm, this one.)
If NUGGET and FANG could endorse their book personally, what do you think they would say?
Nugget: Holy mackerel! Get your fins on this book. It’s FANG-tastic!
Fang: Sink your teeth into our book. It’s a total NUGGET of awesomeness!
Well, I’ve got a nugget of awesomeness for you, dear blog readers: a “NUGGET AND FAN” (not a typo–you’re a fan already, right?) prize pack, including a signed first edition, a teacher’s poster, and adorable tattoos you can slap on any fin (or bicep). Just leave a comment or question for Tammi to enter and a winner will be chomped up later this month! In the meantime, go visit these seaworthy sidekicks!
Geesh, you’d think I wouldn’t forget about my own book contest. But I plead summer brain. It’s all mushy with Slurpees and Sno-Cones. Maybe I should plead brainfreeze then, too!
So without further ado, the red guy on the front cover is named DUSTER!
While no one guessed the exact name, Wafa Musitief guessed DUSTERS, so she wins an original signed monster sketch by illustrator James Burks!
But wait! We added a second prize for a random winner. And that winner is Jarm Del Boccio!
Congratulations Wafa and Jarm! I’ll be emailing you shortly.
Once again, thanks for subscribing to my blog. Rest assured there will be a lot more prizes coming soon. You’re bound to win one eventually. And if you don’t, I’ll treat you to a Slurpee. Brainfreeze is an awesome way to float through summer.
Thanks to all the children who participated in Ammi-Joan Paquette’s THE TIPTOE GUIDE cover contest! We asked you to draw the cover of what you imagined could be the next book in the series, and we received some very creative entries. Since they were all so good, we randomly selected a winner. So…
Congratulations, Annika, age 9!
Annika wins a signed copy of THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING MERMAIDS! And who knows, maybe sometime soon we’ll see a TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING PEGASUSES! (PEGASI? PEGASU? Just what *is* the plural?!)
And here are the runners up…
Grace, age 9!
Katie, age 5! (With my personal favorite, MONSTERS!)
Lili, age 4! (Wow, nice lettering, Lili!)
And Molly, age 9, with a very colorful entry!
Thanks to all the kids who entered! It’s so much fun to see your creativity at work.
I promise to have more cover contests soon, including one for my upcoming book, THE MONSTORE!