Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Summer Hazards

Summer is winding down.

I'm okay to see it go.

It's very dangerous.

Though I managed to avoid serious summer dangers like sunburns and bee stings and flaming marshmallow attacks, I fell victim to some bad events.

As school let out on the last day, I got too confident on my toddler-sized skateboard and fell on my tush. Since we live across from the school, all the cool kids saw it. OMG. So embarrassing. I had to set a good example about failure for my kids, so I bravely attempted another ride, aching backside and all.
Ouchipotatoes! Note the big frowny
face and summer flyaway hair do...

A few days later I unwrapped the first popsicle of summer and raised it to my lips. I must have been out of training, because I got the popsicle stuck to one of lips. If I had been cool-headed (like if I had already had a popsicle,) I would've poured warm water on the popsicle. But it's hard to think rationally when in such grave peril, so I yanked it. One word: OUCH.   

Since I only get to go on spinny rides with my 5yo daddy's girl because Daddy is not a spinny guy, I jumped at the chance to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl with her. The thing about the Tilt-A-Whirl is that it tilts and whirls at unexpected times. The resulting case of Dizzydaloopsies lasted several hours (though the fun memory will last longer.)

I enjoy a good boogy boarding session at the shore, and I don't usually mind the occasional wipe out. But this past weekend I was so splendidly thrashed, saltwater and SAND flushed up my nose.  I don't think I've ever had the joy of spitting sand loogies before. One word: Gross.

Finally, I just recovered from a summer cold. Being sick in summer is just cruel and unusual punishment, right up there with pimples on first dates and eating baked beans before long car rides. When so much fun could be had outside, I was stuck sniffling. (insert sorrowful whining here)

Yes, it has been a perilous summer indeed. I'm ready for climbing apple trees, playing football and jumping in giant piles of leaves - nice, safe Fall activities.

Did you suffer any summer misfortunes?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

As Simple as ABC

An idea popped into my head during a lovely nap on Saturday (though of course once the idea arrived, the nap had to be cut short which was most unfortunate.)

This particular idea indicated it would like to be told as an alphabet book in rhyme. A very demanding idea indeed!

I have not attempted an alphabet book yet. I admit it seemed like a reasonably easy endeavor. One only needs to think of 26 appropriately named items. And weave them in a story arc.  And incorporate them in alphabetical order.  And find a way to tie it in with perfect rhyme.  Easy Peasy!
(by wbd via

As I sat at my desk (having abandoned the napping couch) trying to figure out the perfect word which started with "A," I realized I had been hoodwinked! The alphabet book is a challenging form full of rules. Though some rules can be broken, I fear starting an alphabet book with "A" is one you can't mess with. 

Luckily an "A" word finally appeared and helped to define the narrative even better.  Through the weekend I came up with words to fit 20 letters and a fun story!

But then...I arrived at the point ABC aficionados must have a name for - perhaps "The Dreaded UVWXYZ" or "The Point of Diminishing Options."  I had neglected to create a story involving ukuleles, xylophones, and zebras, causing quite a lot of trouble.

Finally, late last night I had an idea for "Z" which wasn't in the crossword solver list I had scanned repeatedly for days and in a fit of excitement I quite literally tossed my notebook in the air and yelled "that's it!" This is one of those many times the non-writer sleeping next to you gives you a very odd glance and grumbles. (This does happen to everyone, right?)

Now rhyming this story is no small task, and I know from experience it is unwise to invest in perfecting couplets if you may need to completely rewrite all of them. 'Tis a painful editing exercise indeed!  So I'm thinking about writing the story in prose first, offering it to the critique group, and then developing the rhyme. 

What say you rhyming writers out there about this approach?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Where Does a New Writer Start (part 3)

I'm continuing a series where I respond to a new writer who wanted advice on how to get started  writing picture books. Check out part 1 and part 2 also! 

"I’m not sure which category my voice fits in."
I struggle with this as well. My voice is probably a 12-year-old boy. Yet, I'm not focusing on a MG novel. Why not?  Because I made a choice to focus on picture books, though I play with MG stories on the side. I chose not to write Mom pieces for parenting magazines or nonfiction stories for nature magazines or steamy romance for paperback. I could write in these areas, but there is only so much time and focus is key.

So when you're starting out, write a boat load of different things. If your only idea is for a middle grade novel, then by all means start there.  Otherwise, dabble for a while with short stories aimed at different ages.  Maybe your voice will tell you which it likes best. Or maybe it won't.  Now pick a genre and focus for awhile.  Picture books are a different beast than middle grade short stories or YA trilogies. But, you will learn the craft of writing through any of these as long as you write a lot.
Finding where your voice fits and
your heart belongs can take
some time.
(image by leonardini via

Read a lot so you can learn what's happening in each genre today, not what you were exposed to as a child.  Consider writing what you love to read, because you'll know that market the best. If you don't have children at home or don't work at a school, know that writing picture books will require you to go the library and read a lot of picture books.  Does that interest you?
So that's my post 3 post response to "where do I start?"  
The question wasn't "how do I grow once I get started?" which involves a much longer answer... 

You'll notice I haven't mentioned taking picture book classes, attending conferences, or joining in all the fun of the writing community online (PiBoIdMo, NaPiBoWriWee, Write on Con, Rate Your Story...)

I haven't even suggested joining a critique group. *murmuring erupts across cyberspace*  Why? Because critique groups are a two way street. When you are first starting, you don't have much to contribute back.  Once you have a handful of manuscripts and say 6 months under your belt, look for a critique group. You'll need to have read a few books so you can critique with at least a basic knowledge of what makes a good picture book.

I also didn't say anything about your author platform.  I started blogging shortly after I started writing, though I can't remember how I fell into it. I have grown significantly through it, and it allowed me to connect with writers who have been incredibly supportive. I have enjoyed it, but it can be a distraction or even drudgery if you aren't ready for it. So same advice - just write for awhile, then if blogging appeals to you, go for it. 

So there you have it! The answers (as I see them) to the questions most newbie writers have as they are frantically treading water in sea of words.  

What advice do you have for our new writer?  Please share in the comments so we can all learn!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Where Does a New Writer Start? (part 2)

I'm continuing an earlier post where I respond to a new writer who wanted advice on how to get started  writing picture books. See the first part of the post here. 

"How do you stay organized?"
"What's that now?" I call from under a stack of papers while leaning on a pile of dirty laundry.  First, I'm quite anal-retentive, so I do love organizing. In fact I like it so, it is my first go to when I want to procrastinate.

I have a mirror system, I suppose. Electronically the folder "Writing" (creative, yes?) holds folders for PBs, MG, YA, Publishers, Agents, Craft, Critiquing, Blog.  Then I have a nerdy numbering system to organize stories within there, but we don't need to draw attention to my nerdiness.  I back this up to the cloud and on a little flash drive.

It is super helpful if you can type
this fast.
(image by Hisks via
I like to keep a paper copy too, just in case on e-goblins and so I can grab it to go to the coffee shop.  I use binders with those pocket tabs so I can slide the latest manuscript and it's lovely rejection letters in the pocket together and have room to stick post it notes about pros/cons and submission strategy on it.

"What's your schedule? How do you to keep track of goals & accomplishments?"

I write whenever the kids are out of the house, which is not nearly enough. I write a lot at night after they go to bed, but not every night because my husband likes to talk with me on occasion too. I use a lot of found time - 10 minutes at drop off, 5 minutes in the shower, 15 minutes hiding in the laundry room. 

I have developed ways to be effective with this time - printing a story I need to critique and sticking it in my purse.  Jotting down ideas in Evernote so I can expand them when I have the chance. Carrying printouts of a draft to edit.  With picture books and short stories, you can accomplish a lot with 10 minutes of focus.

Because of my background in finance, I have an extensive spreadsheet that holds all my goals, action plan, daily to dos, manuscript list, publisher information, magazine information, etc.  Must we keep focusing on how nerdy I am?  But a simple list with three goals and three actions under each goal hanging from a bulletin board is a great place to start, especially if you aren't naturally endowed with geekitude. 

Next week we'll look at where to start finding your voice and we'll answer the question that wasn't asked, because I was always trained to answer the question people don't even know they have. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Writers Tell All Blog Hop

The amazing PB writer Romelle Broas tagged me in the Writers Tell All Blog Hop, and though it sounds like Oprah should be hosting it, the camaraderie of a good hop is important for solitary writer types.  (Thank you, Romelle!)

Question 1: What are you working on?
·                     Wishing on stars and rubbing rabbit's feet following my 7 Submission in July Challenge.
·                     Polishing 1 PB manuscript which I know will be incredible if only I can fully excavate it.
·                     Revising a NaPiBoWriWee draft, drafting a PB from a PiBoIdMo idea, wondering how to incorporate a meditation chant in a picture book...
·                     Critiquing my fellow writers' manuscripts and marveling at the fun ideas they invent.
·                     Wishing for fall to have more writing time while holding on dearly to summer too.

Question 2: How does your writing process work?
My writing process looks like this:
1.                  Idea ... I jot down a feeling, a quote, an emotion to explore, humorous situations and try to pair them up.
2.                  First draft... claws its way out complete with beginning, middle and end on lucky days. More often, it starts as a disparate collection of sentences, question marks, and "something funny happens here" gaps.    
3.                  Second draft... is the one which actually has a fairly complete story, but for some reason I like to leave the funky partially skeletal draft named draft 1. 
4.                  Critique...draft 2 may go out for critique, if I like the bones but would like feedback on how to wrestle the story out. Or I may wait a few more drafts while I privately wrestle the story in a pool of Jello. It's very private.
5.                  Revise! Critique! Sweat! Revise! Critique! Jello! Revise!
6.                  Submit when I think I've achieved polish and hope I researched a publisher who will agree. (usually repeat steps 5 & 6)

It looks like a linear process, but it's actually blobby. I tend to work in surges where I've given myself a deadline (real or imagined) which causes a flurry of editing or writing or ideating. I rarely focus on one piece but rather keep many pieces wet with ink.

Question 3: Who are the authors you most admire?

Well, I'm embarrassed to admit this question required a trip to the library. I have a lot of favorite picture books, but this question asked about authors.   

I love This Moose Belongs to Me, and now that I have checked out the entire Oliver Jeffers collection from the library I can say he is an author I admire. His stories are simple and quirky and meaningful.

I adore reading Kitten's First Full Moon and Little White Rabbit to my youngest daughter.  I borrowed a bunch of Kevin Henkes, and I'll say I admire "modern Henkes." His last decade or so of books are simple and sweet and thoughtful.

I admire Ame Dyckman both for the simplicity of the unlikely friendship in Boy+Bot and also because she has unlocked the secret spell to create picture book magic with 3 (4 now?) more picture books on the way. One to watch!

Now it's my turn to tag 3 writers:  

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...