Thursday, June 28, 2012

“Pink! Pink! Pink!” Book Review of Pinkalicious

     Today you will be treated to a guest post by Kasie Whitener from Life on Clemson Road.  She is a writer, process improvement analyst, jack of many trades, and mom to a Pirate Princess named HB.  She is reviewing the book Pinkalicious, the original book which has turned into a 20+ book series and enterprise for author/illustrator Victoria Kann.  

     “I neeeeeeed mmmoooorrrre!” HB whines after I’ve given her two cookies.  I respond, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”  I wish I could thank my Momma or Nana for this clever piece of rhyming reason, but I stole it from somewhere else: Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann, authors of the Pinkalicious series.  The protagonist is an imaginative little girl whose favorite color is pink.

     In the series’ first installment, Pinkalicious, mommy and Pinkalicious are making cupcakes.  After waking up from her nap, Pinkalicious asks mommy for more cupcakes, and her mommy delivers the clever line.  It’s akin to “because I said so” and “because I’m the mommy.”

Kasie after too many
pink cupcakes
     Despite the one denial, the little girl manages to overdose on the cupcakes, and the pink coloring in them turns her pink. “My face was pink, my hands were pink and my belly was the color of a sunset.”  Far from frightening Pinkalicious, this predicament is perfect: “I cried because I was so beautiful. I even had pink tears.”

     Her mommy speed-dials the pediatrician who pronounces the girl is suffering from an acute case of Pinkititis.  The doctor prescribes a steady diet of green vegetables to reverse the effects. (The words in italics are the author's fantastic word choices.)

     But Pinkalicious sneaks another cupcake after everyone else goes to bed and turns herself red.  Red, which is not pink, will never do.  Pinkalicious acquiesces and eats the green vegetables to turn back to normal.  I like that Pinkalicious screams “Oh, no! Not RED!” but mostly I like that she does the right thing without telling us it’s the right thing.  Her green diet is self-rescue.  “I knew what I had to do,” she says with the kind of confidence I hope my kid has.

     Pinkalicious may have a subtle message (cupcakes = bad, vegetables = good), but it is not heavy with morality like so many children's books.  Pinkalicious’ mom delivers the clever “you get what you get” line, but she doesn’t coax Pinkalicious to eat her green vegetables.  She doesn't beg Pinkalicious to cure her pinkititis. We don’t see a mommy who is embarrassed of her daughter; in fact, she takes ‘Pinkarella’ to the park.

     It is Pinkalicious who decides to do what is right (after she turns red, of course).  “I ate pickles and spinach, olives and okra. I choked down artichokes, gagged on grapes, and burped up Brussels sprouts.” (We’ll save the wonderful sound of these lines when read aloud for another post on the musical quality of really good kid lit.)

     Her mommy doesn’t even have say “I told you so” at the end.  She just gets a hug when Pinkalicious delivers the great line “I was me, and I was beautiful.”

     In an era when cartoon characters and teeny bopper sitcoms show characters with smart aleck mouths and bad attitudes, it’s nice to see Pinkalicious just be a good (pink) kid. I think her mommy is probably raising her that way. 

-By Kasie Whitener

Thank you Kasie!  I love the 'attaboy for the mommies who give their kids a long enough leash to turn pink.  or dirt brown.  or jello-green.    Don't forget to visit Kasie on Life on Clemson Road.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Teenage Self Reminds Me to Keep Writing

While digging in the attic, I found a book full of sibling rivalry, teen angst, and romance.  It was my binder of writing from school.  I set aside the stories using the week's vocabulary words as I didn't have a dictionary handy, and I entered the magical world of my teenage self.

A few stories were typed on my Dad's old typewriter, each letter crisper than a printout can do today.  Some poems were amorphous scribbles crawling across the pages with circles and arrows connecting the rhymes.  Most stories were in soft lilting cursive in pencil.  Teachers must have been so patient to read assignments in cursive.

I loved to write poetry.  This feeling was briefly awakened when we lived in Detroit for a couple years, and I wrote rap on my way to work.  Luckily, it was a short commute, and I didn't force anyone to listen to it on lunch break.   Why don't I feel brave enough to try it now? 

There were also some dark turns in stories not submitted to school.  Had my parents found them they surely would have thought me suicidal.  But I wasn't.  I was just a teenager.  I remember the raw intensity of the emotions.  The opening to this story sums it up:
Lauri Meyers, Children's Book Writer
Camp Tak-a-Wak-a
                "You are 13.  Life is either heaven or hell." - Lauri Christopher 1989

Scraps of ideas for stories and poems on tiny pieces of old calendars and Hello Kitty paper were tucked in the binder pockets.  I also found 5 and 10 minute writing exercises.  I don't remember wanting to be a writer so much I was practicing.  But here was the proof.   

I remembered I actually am a published author.  My fifth grade story Camp Tak-a-Wak-a was published in the local paper over four weeks as part of a youth writing series.   I still have the yellowed pages.   ( I think there is a future post where I get to critique my work...)

I also found encouragement.  On the back of a book of my poems my teacher wrote "Beautifully done.  You have such potential as a writer; don't stop writing! A+."   Yes, ma'am.

Have you had a run in with your teenage self?  Tell me about it in the comments. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mommy Multiple Personality Disorder

It has been a rough week.  I was diagnosed with "Mommy Multiple Personality Disorder."  The psychiatrist found seven personalities.  Let me introduce them to you:

Lauri Meyers Children's Book Writer
"I want the cream cheese ON TOP
of the jelly.  DO IT AGAIN MOM!"
Best Mommy in the World - This mommy has a lollipop in her purse, plays tag at the park, and always says yes to playing Play-doh.  Best Mommy also gets the kids on their best behavior, because no child can resist a mom who is 100% engaged.

Giant Exploding Blueberry Monster - This mommy cannot. Listen. To. Whining. Anymore. If you ask for the cheese balls one more time, Mommy monster's face will turn blue, her muscles will bulge out of yoga pants, and her mouth will explode in a fit of indecipherable yelling.

Super Wife - Husband is greeted at the door by the aroma of lobster tail with risotto, a perfectly poured beverage, and a sweet peck on the lips.  The house is miraculously clean, so husband can relax and play with his well-behaved children. 

Stretched Thin as a Pin - During especially stressful weeks, this mommy is actually made of glass.  She appears to be super mommy until one wrong move causes the needle to scratch across the record (can I still use that metaphor?).  Did husband seriously just ask if he can run to the golf store the night before the birthday party while I am making 72 cupcakes?  Oh, no he didn't.  

Rapping Mary Poppins - This mommy just blasts through the day on a non-stop giggle train.  Every activity is set to a silly song and clean up is a dance party.  She even serves spoons full of sugar without any medicine.

The Lady Who Hired Mary Poppins - Would you two like to watch a show?  Mommy is just going to do one thing on the computer or perhaps write a novel.  In the other room.   By herself.  For as long as you two stay quiet.

Cuddle Wuddle Lovey Dovey Mommy Bear - Just loving on these girls.  They are so unbelievably adorable.  Mommy Bear wants to tickle every thigh and smooch every cheek.  She breathes in all their little baby smells and holds them tight so they don't slip away or grow up while she is not looking.

It is going to be tough to live with this new diagnosis.  I take comfort in having a name now for what I have been feeling.  Though there are no known cures, the doctor suggested I chill out a little, enjoy fresh-washed kid aromatherapy, and a daily dose of kisses.   I’m going to go get me some kisses right now. 

Does anyone else out there suffer from this disorder?  Perhaps we can start a support group in the comments. J 

Monday, June 18, 2012

How to Catch an Editor Fairy

The girls and I are planning to make a fairy house today.   My daughter is hoping to catch a fairy who paints butterflies.   I want an Editor Fairy.  

Here is my plan to catch an Editor Fairy:

Decorate a giant cheeseball container to create a lovely post modern design.   Stock the house with lots of tiny books and a mini Keurig with coffee and English teas.  Place the house in a shady reading spot under a tree.  Tweet "Rent-controlled fairy house on shady block.  Books included."

Writing will be so much easier with my Editor Fairy!   When I can't find the sweet spot between vivid language and leaving room for the illustrator, she will guide my hand.   When I think a manuscript is done, she will tell me to edit again and again and then one more time for good measure. 

Lauri Meyers Children's Book Writer, Editor Fairy
Post Modern Fairy House?
We will enjoy lovely picnics while I pitch all the crazy book ideas which pop into my head.  "Do Princesses Poop?"  She will let me know there are already 40 books about princess potty time.  "Alligators Don't Get Pinched on St Patrick's Day?"  Sometimes she will just sigh; but I will get the point.

I hope she can magically lick envelopes too, because we will be sending a lot of submissions once she arrives.   She will study each word on my queries.  She will change "I am unpublished and have no idea what I am doing but you seem like a super nice editor and I know we could be friends" to "Thank you."

She will say "just keep writing" when the rejection letters come.  And on rare days she will tell me I have written something simply magical.  I will feel like I'm flying and wonder if she dropped pixie dust on me.

Then one afternoon, the phone will ring.  A publisher will be sharing good news!  I will call for my Editor Fairy, but I won't be able to find her anywhere. 

Yes, I must catch an Editor Fairy. 

What else should I include in my Editor Fairy House?  Please share your ideas in the comments!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

How to Start Writing on a $10 Budget

You CAN start writing with just $10!  All you need to write is a paper and pencil.  You can get those free at a street carnival, as long as the Governor's campaign slogan doesn't disrupt your imagination.  Then, you will have $10 left for soda and snacks. Sweet.

Oh, you want to get published?  Well, this post isn't called Getting Published on a $10 Budget, though I did start my journey with a $10 budget.  I even looked straight into my husband's eyes and said, "I would like to write children's books.  I need $10 to get started."  Sure, I could have skimmed $10 off of a grocery trip, but creating a budget gave my venture a professional feel and a level of commitment.

I even had a spreadsheet:

Writing Budget, Lauri Meyers Children's Book Writer

I found a dime in the couch cushion and was good to go.
Where shall we start addressing my naiveté?  I suppose I will show you what I have spent five months later:

Three Submissions ($10) First off, I blew the original $10 in the first month on 32 poundpaper (probably too thick), 6x9" envelopes (probably unnecessary for short books), and $0.65 postage to cover the bigger envelopes and thicker paper.  In the future I will stick with a nice looking 20 pound paper, but keep the larger envelopes.   Your manuscript is your baby; it is physically painful to fold it multiple times and smush it into an envelope.  (I should be so considerate with my 2yo who looked like a sausage today when I forced her into an 18 month swimsuit.)

SCBWI Membership ($85 first year)  For children's books writers SCBWI is the premiere organization.  Membership includes a magazine subscription, writing resources, a forum, support, and conferences; plus it can open doors by demonstrating your commitment.  There are many writing organizations- keep it simple with one paid group and several free online groups.

Books on Writing ($30)  Initially, I was so overwhelmed with the amount of information on the internet, I didn't think I needed books.  A few edits in I realized I didn't have the tools I needed to learn the craft.  The library selection was lacking in this area, so I opted for 5 used books:

Business cards ($12).  Not having business cards was one of my excuses for not going to a conference.  For a little cash I eliminated the barrier.  I don't know what other doors these little cards may open, but my imagination is quite active.   So far my Dad has one.  

Here's the budget recap:
Budget          $10
Actuals        $137
Overspend   $127

I wouldn't be a good financial professional without saying I still have 6 months in the budget year to make up the gap with some income.   This may require creative accounting to recognize some income this year from my currently-unwritten-future-best-seller; but storytellers can do that.

I also have my sights set on spending more money this year- maybe a conference?  For me to put in the request for a few hundred bucks, I may have to demonstrate capability by selling a magazine article or getting a really nice, personalized rejection letter.   Hmm, better start skimming off the grocery budget...

Do you have a writing budget?  Please share your budget insights in the comments!

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Princess Book for REAL Girls

My 4 year old loves to read princess books.  Her current favorite goes something like "A Princess is smart...she reads lots of books.   A princess is kind...she cares for animals.   A princess is brave...she stands up to the evil queen."

My daughter says she is a princess, too.  She is brave and smart and kind...most of the time.  But she is also a Dirty Girl, so I wrote a more realistic book for her:    

A princess is smart...She can reach the cookies with a stool.
A princess is polite ... She says excuse me after farting at the table.
A princess is fair ... If she can't have the pink marker, no one can.
A princess is neat ...She eats her boogers after picking her nose.
A princess likes to dress up ...She wears her fanciest dress for digging up worms.
A princess is brave...She asks Daddy for Play Doh after Mommy has already said no. 
A princess says please...She screams PLEASE GIVE ME MORE CANDY NOW!
A princess shares...She gives her sister the lollipop she just dropped in the dirt.
And a princess always makes her Mommy laugh.

Lauri Meyers, Children's Writer
Sure, princess culture might have made pink and purple her favorite colors, but she is still her own girl.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.  (Except the booger eating; I need to work on that.)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

How Speed Dating Can Improve Your Blogging

Faster than a pitch on an elevator, you have about two minutes to pitch your blog.  At least that's the average visit on my blog.   My longest visit this week- 37 minutes- is really a pretty fulfilling relationship.  My husband probably doesn't get 37 minutes to spend just with me on most days. 

But the 2 minute people?  They laugh at a joke, they seem interested, I toss my hair...then they have to visit the restroom.  I don't even get digits. Blogging is like...speed dating.  

Could speed dating skills make for stronger blogging?   Luckily, I found speed dating tips from an Expert Pick Up Artist (I was unaware that was a valid job title).  Here's what his tips taught me about blogging. 

Spruce yourself up.
A great post title is like your bright smile.  Pictures are a must; throw in a video if you are sassy.  I personally like an uncluttered blog with one of those fabulous title banners (that I have yet to create.)

Relax and help the other person relax.
Help readers relax by delivering on the promise of the post title.  Keep blog posts to a reasonable length; I get anxiety if I realize I will need to scroll more than once.

Manage your body language.
Your writing voice is your body language - make people want to stay a little longer. Make the copy good.  Make it nice to read with short paragraphs and subheadings.   

Direct the conversation to the other person versus just talking about you.
Sure, a few readers may be mildly interested in the fact you are a Sagittarius.  But most are looking for information, an insight, or story that makes them reflect about themselves.  Even when you are writing about you, you aren't your audience.  Please leave room for the reader.     

Ask open ended questions to prolong the conversation.
End with a question and ask your readers to comment.  You want to get to know them better.  Stay a little longer, tell me more about yourself. 

Politely thank the person, but don't come on too strong
Have a link to other posts the reader may like.  Have a biography so readers can learn more about you.  You don't need to sell them your book or newsletter on the first date, now do you?  I'm not that kind of girl.

Have Fun.  Don't take it personally if it doesn't work out; just appreciate making a few friends.
Offer the opportunity to subscribe.  Hey if a reader doesn't subscribe, maybe he will at least connect on facebook or twitter.   Those friendships may turn into something greater in the future.

You can do this.  Now get out there and pick up some readers. 

Blogging Speed Dating
Oh and won't you please share your best tips for blogging or dating in the comments below?  I really would like to get to know you better. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

If I Wrote My To Do List at the End of the Day

If I wrote my To Do List at the end of the day, it would look something like this: 

Mommy's Monday To Do List:
1.       Spill sippy cup of milk while putting on lid.  Repeat.  Cry over spilt milk.
2.       Try to listen patiently while 4 year old provides multi-faceted rationale for why she should be allowed to eat marshmallows for breakfast.  Start saving for law school. 
3.       Fold 23 size 4T shirts even though I just did laundry two days ago.
dirtygirlswriting.blogspot.com4.       Bribe 2 year old with 10 donut holes to complete grocery trip.  Hope she dropped some along the way when discover container is empty.  
5.       Forget to audit backpack before Pre-K.   After school find handful of goldfish, 14 rocks, 3 chapsticks, and body spray. 
6.       Find the hiding spot of Friday's sippy cup of milk by smell alone. 
7.       Stare at disaster in kitchen before retreating to organize 2 year old's shirts by color.  High Priority.
8.       Get sucked down a Twitter hole for 20 minutes.  Complain later there is not enough time in the day to write a book.
9.       Serve husband "Polish Special" (a family recipe of beans and ground beef) after forgetting to plan dinner.  Remind him sharing heritage with children is important.
10.   Realize children's feet are filthy as they climb into bed.  Block out this information and give them a kiss good night. 

Yes, another successful day in the life of the Dirty Girls' Mom. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Enter the Book Giveaway by June 4!

The flying monkeys attacked this week! They made my air conditioner leak resulting in the purchase of a furnace & AC unit.  The worst part was probably missing my nap while spending the entire afternoon with the repairman (I needs my nap!).  Instead of getting staying upset I decided those monkeys gave me an "opportunity" to focus on selling a book!  So each time I suck up the still leaking water, I reward myself with 15 minutes of writing.   Ahh, the positive side of the energy map is a good place to be.

I did learn something from the Steven Vannoy interview!  If you haven't entered the book giveaway yet, pop over to this post and leave a comment by Monday morning.
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