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tammiforsiteby Tammi Sauer                                                             

For PiBoIdMo 2012, my blog post focused on a variety of ways a writer can structure a picture book.

This time around, I wanted to share a different approach to framing a story.

*drum roll, please*

THE HOW-TO… STRUCTURE

The How-To…Structure offers readers information on, you guessed it, how to do something.

Keep in mind, however, this structure isn’t just a list of bland, disjointed steps for accomplishing a task. Nope. Nope. Nope. These steps (along with the art) need to tell a real deal story. There should be a beginning, middle, and end. There should be characters, conflict, plot, setting…. There should be opportunities for your readers to feel something.

Some good examples of books that use the How-To… Structure are as follows:

Vampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

vampirina

So You Want to Be a Rock Star by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Kirstie Edmunds

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How to Babysit a Grandpa by Jean Reagan , illustrated by Lee Wildish

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How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth by Michelle Robinison, illustrated by Kate Hindley

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Your Challenge: Jot down a few possibilities for some How-To… books of your own. It might help to think in terms of a title. Even easier, just fill in the blanks to the prompts below and see where they take you.

How to__________

Guide to Being a ________

The __________ Handbook

This is what happened when I just filled in those blanks:

How to Catch a Dragon

Guide to Being a Big Brother

The Pirate’s Handbook

Extra Credit: Analyze the picture books I mentioned earlier in this post. How did those authors incorporate the How-To…Structure? Do you see some sort of story arc in these books? Did you notice any special word play? The rule of threes? What did you find particularly satisfying in those books?

Happy brainstorming, everybody!

guestbloggerbio2014

Tammi Sauer is the author of Nugget & Fang, Princess in Training, and many other picture books. She has another eleven under contract. Her latest manuscript sold at auction. It followed the How to…Structure. Ooh.

You can visit Tammi at tammisauer.com and at picturebookbuilders.com.

prizedetails2014

nuggetandfang

Tammi is giving away a signed copy of Nugget & Fang which won the 2014 Oklahoma Book Award, made the 2014 Texas 2X2 Reading List, and will be one of the featured books at the 2015 Scholastic Book Fair. Nugget & Fang was a PiBoIdMo 2009 Success Story.

Tammi will also give a picture book critique to another lucky duck winner.

These prizes will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

 

tammiforsiteby Tammi Sauer

For me, the absolute hardest part about the picture book creating process is coming up with a good idea. A wow idea. An irresistible-to-editors idea.

One approach that has worked for me is to brainstorm a list of potential titles before I even know a single word of a manuscript. I keep in mind that I don’t want a book of mine to have just any title. I always try to have a title that pops. Why? The title is a writer’s first chance to make a good impression and hook a possible agent/editor/reader.

Two of my books started with a title.

One day, while waiting for my daughter to find a book at the library, I sat down on a bench. Next to me was a book on etiquette. I flipped through the book and came across the words “princess in training.” My first thought? That would make a great idea for a picture book….and…

princessintraininghres

…In fall 2012, PRINCESS IN TRAINING, illustrated by Joe Berger, made its debut.

Another day, I was playing around with words that rhymed with names. As I brainstormed, the words “Quiet Wyatt” popped into my head. QUIET WYATT recently sold to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt BFYR.

My latest manuscript is the result of a title that grabbed hold and said, “You must drop everything and write this.” So I did. A good title can be very pushy. And intoxicating.

If you want to come up with a title as a starting point, consider using these strategies:

  • Showcase a Main Character

examples: Vampirina Ballerina; Fancy Nancy; Scaredy Squirrel

  • Focus on the Setting

examples: Cowboy Camp; In the Small, Small Pond; The Library

  • Create a Sense of Suspense

examples: The Monster at the End of This Book; Do Not Open This Book

  • Utilize Fun Language Play

examples: Chicks and Salsa; Hush, Little Dragon; Llama, Llama Misses Mama

Side Note: I happen to be wildly jealous of the upcoming books There Was an Old Dragon by Penny Klostermann and Tyrannosaurus Wrecks by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen simply because I am gah-gah over those titles. Why didn’t I think of those titles?! Why?? WHY????

Your Homework Should You Choose To Accept It: Brainstorm at least five titles. That’s it. No need to know the nitty-gritty of what is to follow. Just jot down those titles and maybe, just maybe, a story will sneak up on you.

Extra Credit (because I am a true blue nerd who loves extra credit opportunities): Go to the bookstore and jot down the titles of the books you see. Perhaps one of those titles will be the perfect trigger to help you come up with your next big idea.

guestbio

Tammi Sauer has sold 16 picture books to major publishing houses. Four of those books got their start through PiBoIdMo. In addition to winning awards, Tammi’s books have gone on to do great things. Cowboy Camp was developed into a musical in Katy, Texas. Mostly Monsterly was selected for the 2012 Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories program. And Chicken Dance was released in French which makes her feel extra fancy. There’s more fun stuff at TammiSauer.com.

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Sink your teeth into this prize pack that features Tammi’s latest release: one personalized copy of NUGGET & FANG, one super shiny poster with a teacher’s guide on the back, and two Nugget tattoos that look fabulous on any bicep (or fin).

nuggetandfangprizes

Nugget & Fang is a 2009 PiBoIdMo Success Story!

And…Tammi’s also offering a picture book critique to another lucky winner!

This prize pack and critique will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

nuggetandfangDudes, it’s new Tammi Sauer! YES!!!! *Jersey fist pump*

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.)

firstnuggetandfang

Michael Slack’s first sketch of the carnivorous chums.

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!

nuggetandfangprizes

by Tammi Sauer

When Tara asked me to contribute a post to PiBoIdMo 2009 I was honored. And, truth be told, scared. For me, getting a Really Good Idea is hard. Crazy hard. How could I possibly offer idea-getting strategies to others when I felt this was the toughest of all the writing challenges?

Well, that November I wrote the blog post. I also pushed myself to come up with 30 ideas. Whew. Wasn’t easy. It took me every bit of that entire month to get those 30 possibilities on paper. Most of those ideas were tiny snippits. A character. A title. A phrase.

One of those snippits, however, seemed as if it might have potential. Nugget and Fang. I thought the unlikely best friendship between a minnow and a shark might have the makings for a story. I brainstormed. I jotted down a first draft. And a second draft. And a third draft. With each draft the story got a little tighter, the word choice got a little better, and the humor got a little stronger. But I never really got that YES feeling from the manuscript. So…I put it away for a few months. Then I wrote a fourth draft. And a fifth draft. And I put it away for a year.

Then, in March 2011, my week to submit something to my critique group came around. I had recently finished my latest manuscript and I needed SOMETHING to send the oh-so-awesome PBJeebies. So I dug through my files. And found two old friends. Nugget and Fang. I read the most recent version. Then I revised. And revised. And revised some more. I started to get excited.

I sent the manuscript to the PBJeebies, and they pushed me to revise the manuscript a little more. That YES feeling came around. I shared the manuscript with my agent.

These are my favorite three sentences from her response:

“I absolutely love this manuscript! It’s hilarious, original, and wonderfully paced—with totally fun illustration possibilities. Yay!”

Oh, happiness! Oh, time-to-print-out-that-message-and-tape-it-to-my-computer!

The manuscript went Out There.

Months went by. Then I got the call. And I got ANOTHER call.

Two fabulous houses were interested.

After much careful consideration, I decided Nugget and Fang belonged at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Nugget and Fang is scheduled for a Summer 2013 release. I’m hoping it makes a really big splash.

Tammi Sauer, who owes an ocean-sized thanks to Tara Lazar.

Tara’s Note: Aww, shucks. I owe big thanks to you for being such a great role model!

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