Wednesday, October 31, 2012

No Trick or Treat for Jack

Susanna Leonard Hill is sponsoring the Halloweensie Contest!  To play you have to write a children's story less than 100 words long and including the words witchbat, and "trick-or-treat".  Here's my entry: 

No Trick or Treating for Jack O'Lantern

By Greg Jordan via

My costume is ignored,
Because I'm just a gourd.

Can't cackle like a witch,
My lips don't even twitch.

White ghosts can scare with boo-
An orange one wouldn't do.

No flapping like a bat,
You need two arms for that.

It's hard to trick or treat,
I don't have any feet.

Without my belly spark
I would hide in the dark.

What goblins do I see?
The treaters came to me!

It's only 72 words - Won't you please add another verse in the comments? 

Make sure you say Boo to your local Jack O'Lantern this year.  Oh and if I get into the final three, won't you please stop by and give Jack a vote?!  Happy Halloween everyone!  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tools for Writers and Vampire Slayers

By Emil Bacik via

Finding the right tool can be difficult, especially when you are a new writer.  Or a vampire slayer.

Dressed as a vampire slayer this weekend, I ran to the garage to grab a matching stake.  It was a kid party, so I picked a non-threatening dowel rod.  My husband shook his head no.  I came back with a broomstick.   He yelled, "Short, fat stakes kill vampires better!"  There was a silent "duh," which I found a bit condescending.   I was planning to slay zombie vampires, in which case you would obviously want to keep some space between you and the target.   Duh.

Having a killer stake in hand did not help me avoid the first 4-year-old who asked "What are you Miss Lauri?"  I realized quickly zombie, vampire, and slayer were difficult to explain and the term "blood-sucking" generally should be avoided with the young crowd.  So, I magically turned into a dragon trainer- complete with a perfect stick for playing dragon fetch.    A good stake can really be a multi-purpose tool.

I recently devoured Ann Whitford Paul's Writing Picture Books like a zombie vampire who just discovered the delicacy of brain.   It fed me picture book craft in delicious mouthfuls and offered action steps to strengthen my works in progress.  My favorite multi-use tool has been the sounds of letters.

I am now equipped with hard consonants (B, D, K, P, Q, T, hard C) to invoke action like a pitchfork breaking while attacking Frankenstein or to express the wickedness of a witch's cackle.  I can also express the sorrow of seeing my love moaning in the street with a long, sad sentence with soft vowel sounds (oo, ow, oi, ah, aw...) and a DUM da da dactyl rhythm.  All of my muscles roared wishing to help my sweet love as he slowly staggered on one foot lugging the other along.  

Lucky for him I brought the correct stake today.  J

Happy Halloween week everyone! 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Idea By Way of Dragon Dictation

Technology can be pretty cool and stuff.  My recent iPhone purchase is delivering new found connectivity and cheers from the children: "Mommy you didn't get lost today!"  But technology is not perfect, much like my sense of direction.

I use Dragon Dictation sometimes when my hands are full and I can't write my ideas down.  It's an app that types what you say.  More or less.

Here is a picture book idea I had the other day by way of Dragon Dictation:

Why you shouldn't let him go come Darlen with you because I don't like me your socks and let him know may e-mail me toothpaste and mess thanks
All sorts of other thingWhy no goats stay with you.

"Yeah, I got a big thing that's gonna
work out in 3 weeks tops..."
By Nick Holdstock via
Million dollar idea, right?  May have been, but I totally can't remember from this gibberish here.  I believe it was actually about why you shouldn't let a goat stay with you.

I can't remember why it was funny to me at the time, though logically vagrant goats will probably stay longer than they said they would and drink the rest of the milk but not buy a new one.

I don't think the idea had anything to do with the goat e-mailing.  Though that would be pretty crazy if the goat was updating my facebook status with things like, "sheep suck" or "hey sexy lady, we do it Goatherd style." 

Was he a hill goat who actually muttered the phrase "I don't like me your socks?"  Because I think I would find that pretty intimidating.  But then what happens?  Am I trying to turn him into an argyle lover?

Finally, "all sorts of other thing" is probably right.  That is a classic Lauri placeholder when my mind is razzed with the obviously crazy things which a goat roommate would do, but am unable to articulate any.

Oh, lost goat, I hope one day you make your way back into my mind.  But if you drink all the milk when you visit, won't you please buy a new one?

Have you lost an idea lately?  I wonder if they are hiding out together... 
Oh and give Dragon Dictation a try it can be a help as long as you check the accuracy before you forget your idea.

Monday, October 22, 2012

From the Mouths of Babes: Picture Book Ideas

I love when my 4-year-old says something random or annoying or demanding or crazy, and I say "that could be a picture book."  This happens pretty regularly, but every once in a while it really develops into something. 

I expand on the idea a couple sentences, "so the princess turns into a cat who barks. Then, what happens?"  1 out of 3 times my daughter comes up with something great.  The other two times the princess just eats a peanut butter-Nutellla sandwich or lets an echoing fart.  (What she would do in the situation.)

By Ramunas Geciauskas via Flickr
Then I scribble the idea in the medium of crayon on construction paper or marker on hand...whatever is handy.  A solid scrawl of an idea is about 250 words.   Usually it starts with "once upon a time" or something along those lines.  A thing happens.  The story ends.  The middle is a mushy stew of dot-dot-dots. 

The first draft is a story, not a picture book. 

Words are not carefully selected.  There may just be one event rather than the rule of threes (link).  The story is told; it doesn't unfold through action and dialogue.  There is no consideration for page turns and scenes.  It's just a wee little story.

A long journey awaits this idea, doubling in size and quadrupling in complexity, but it has taken an important first step just by getting written down.

I write down every idea and hoard them like a vagrant saving for a feast.  I can't wait for PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) to start next week so I can add to my collection.  This will be my first year, and I am an enthusiastic beginner.

Will you be PiBoIdMoing in November?  I'll see you there!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hold That Thought - Placeholders While You Write

I am notorious (well notorious only to myself) for putting placeholders in manuscripts when I can't think of the right words. 

Lauri Meyers Childrens Writer
Maybe I need to schedule a brain massage?
photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert via
I allow myself thirty seconds to come up with the perfect phrase. If I don't succeed I leave stage directions to follow later. 

Stopping for too long causes a break in my flow which leads to picking my nose, eating a few donuts, changing the laundry, and then remembering I was writing several hours later. 

My current selection of placeholders includes:

"in the hallway something frickin' hilarious ensues"

"name that is sweet and rascally"

"funny sound an orange would make"

"eats something grosser than a caterpillar, but not as gross as a tarantula."

"mom gives her incentive so she has to win"

"The octopus' arm falls off or some other very bad thing happens"

"XXX"  (I am trying not to use this anymore, because I kept inserting kissing scenes which was awkward in a picture book)

Smart writer type people say to write your best idea down in the moment, even if you know it needs to change.  There are times the best I can do is gobbley gook, so the placeholder has to do the job.  (Hey, would you read a story about gobbley gook that took over the world?  Hmm.  Where's the donuts?)

HELP NEEDED!   In the comments won't you please help me replace my placeholders with something better?  What sound would an orange make?  What is something bad which would happen to an octopus? 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Introducing Lauri's Stories!

Ahhh, isn't the new blog header better?  The old one was so...moody.  And I really am not moody, unless I drop my ice cream cone or something.  And even then, I am more mad than moody.   I'm more like a kid on a swing enjoying a lovely fall day.

A new name too!   Your Imagination is the Limit was too ethereal.  And I really am not ethereal, unless I haven't had coffee yet.  And even then, I am more incoherent than ethereal.  I'm more like a clumsy spider not realizing I'm flying on a kite.
The energy goes snap, crackle, pop when I open up my blog now!   Surrounding yourself with inspiring images is important.  

The life of the new writer can be overwhelming - blogging, building a platform, writing picture book manuscripts, being sucked into twitterverse, exploring genres, outlining the plot for a middle grade story, developing the craft, reading constantly.

Sanity requires knowing the action items to reach your goals.  You can't meet every goal tomorrow, but you can get one thing done today.  And something done tomorrow.   And before you know it you have accomplished more than you thought possible.  

This week I accomplished a new blog header!  Who knows what tomorrow will bring?  

P.S.  Thanks to Gail Kushner who suggested the name.  I tried to think of others, but "Lauri's Stories" was too stuck in my head.  I hope it gets stuck in your head too. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dirty Girls Across the Generations

I'm just a perfectly nice mom of two girls who have turned out very messy.  I have no idea how. 

Well, maybe I have a little idea how... 

Cutest mass murderer ever!
I always loved making magnificent mudpies.   They were chocolate, because mud is chocolate-flavored (obviously.)  I decorated my creations with seeds, berries, and flowers in intricate designs.   In today's terminology they were Artisanal Dirt Delights with whole grains and organic ingredients.

Another day three-year-old me noticed a stream of ants in the garage.  My parents let me stay out there swatting hundreds of them.   It was a fantastic day!  My mom taught me an important parenting lesson: "Peace and quiet is sometimes worth a lapse in hygiene."

My mom may claim dirtygirliness skipped her generation, but she was did teach me how **WARNING- graphic story follows** to pull the tails off lightning bugs and put them on my nails for a glowing manicure.   

If this seems a little barbaric, it's important to note my mom had 9 siblings and a single mom.  They didn't have glowsticks.  So, turn down your nose and respect the fun kids have when there isn't a TV. 

Many wonderfully gross things happen when we are outside.  Today's joys included: running under a dripping gutter at the store over and over and over again, walking through a "rainbow" puddle (um, yeah, that's not naturally occurring), and making eachother smell stinkhorn mushrooms even though they are near-vomit-inducing.    (p.s. I didn't include a picture because these are a tad lot phallic, and I'm pretty sure your childish giggling would have been distracting.)

These dirty girls keep me busy but they also keep my full of inspiration! 

Were you a dirty kid?  Share those memories in the comments!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Book Doctor is "In" & a Little Liebster

The Book Doctor is "In."

Lauri Meyers Childrens WriterNo I'm not talking about fixing your writing, just fixing books.  Literally.  

The wounded had been waiting patiently with missing pages, absent flaps, non-working pulls, and decapitated heads.  It was time for my semi-annual book clinic. 

Tape, glue, and photo splits (those little 2 way sticky squares) were flying while the repairs took place.  The girls flipped through the books and yanked on the pulls, testing my work. 

Then they said, "Thank you for fixing our books!"  

Awesome!  It always feels great to be thanked, especially when it comes from the tiny tyrants who caused the casualties. 

I want to say "thank you" to two great bloggers Jenny Young and Ink in the Book who recently gave me a Liebster Award.  Which also means it is time to share about myself again.  Jenny Young asked some very specific questions, so here goes:

1) What state would you like to live in other than where you live now?  I have lived in 7 states and frankly I would really like to hang out here in New Jersey instead of any more moves for a while.

2) How many items do you carry in your purse or wallet? Are they all necessary?  I keep it slim and carry a small purse - wallet, phone, chapstick (I'm addicted), sunglasses, and writing tools: tiny notebook and tiny pen.  There is also usually a crumbled receipt and 5 or so lost goldfish swimming in there.

3) If you could retake or take any class back in high school or college what would it be?  I would like to retake my high school English class, because I could use a refresher course on writing. I would not retake my college literature class.  That professor wanted dark, moody, weirdness and I'm not in the mood for that.

4) Do you believe in Aliens?  Of course.  Silly question.  That's like "do you believe in gravity."  There may be fairies too, but I'm not positive.

5) What is your most favorite dessert?   My Mom's apple pie.

6) Coffee or tea?  Coffee always, diet soda often, and tea sometimes.

7) Fall or Spring? Tough one. I was always a spring girl, but I might be shifting to a fall gal.  The return of football season, apple pie, and a pair of comfy corduroys.

8) Do you remember your first date? Where did you go?  My first date with my hubby was to Friendly's where we split chicken fingers then went to our dorm's semi-formal dance with the best intentions to go "as friends."  To be fair, we are still friends...

9) If you could live in the past what year/decade/century would you pick?  Can I just rock out the 80's again?  I think I still have some neon pink fingerless gloves here somewhere... *digs in closet*

10) Favorite type of movie? I just love action-y sci-fi movies, even better if they are really bad. 

11) On Thanksgiving what do you put on your plate?  Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, roll, small token piece of canned cranberry and tiny portion of sweet potatoes if the person who made them is watching.  If I can, I slip right into a nap while still at the table.

I would like to nominate some of my wonderful critique partners for a Liebster award. 

Jennifer Dorr is on an amazing journey to explore a myth or folktale a week - Year of Living Mythically 

Tracy Bermeo writes for children and anyone with a belly because she has to throw in a lovely recipe every now and then at A2ZMommy.  (I totally acknowledge she already has a Liebster, but hey you never see actors turning away a second Oscar)

Brinda Banerjee taught me what Steampunk is (you don't want to know what I had imagined).  She posts her writing and other musings at The Modern Scheherzade.  

Leslie Zampetti is working on a middle grade fantasy and it is fun to watch her progress as she gets her Rear in Gear.
Go check out these great blogs!  

And I want to know what you put on your Thanksgiving plate too.  I can't be the only napping pig around here. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sarah Gives Thanks - An Interview with Mike Allegra

Mike Allegra
My friend Mike Allegra's first picture book Sarah Gives Thanks (Albert Whitman & Company; illustrated by David Gardner) was released September 1st.   Not only is it his first book, but it is really good.  Just read these reviews if you don't believe me: Kirkus and School Library Journal. I had the opportunity to interview Mike.

Lauri: You dedicated your first book to your wife, Ellen, who I know from your blog is disorganized, peppy, sociable, friendly, and a donkey whisperer. Plus, like I do with my husband, she plots your death when you pepper her with ideas late at night. Was the dedication a big decision?

Mike: It might be a big decision, but it wasn’t a difficult one. Dedicating the book to Ellen keeps her from smothering me with a pillow when I finally fall asleep.

Oh, and she is also my soulmate. So there’s that.

If a publisher trusts me enough to give me a second book contract, that book will be dedicated to my son. The third book will be dedicated to my parents. And the fourth book will be dedicated to the person who offers me the largest bribe.

Lauri:  *Hands Mike $5 bill* You have helped me gain perspective on rejection letters with your story of receiving over a hundred.  I aspire to eclipse your record.  What did you learn from rejection?

Mike: Well, good luck with that goal of yours. I have quite a head start on you and, even with a well-received book under my belt, I’m still getting kicked to the curb. It’s the price a person’s gotta pay for wanting to be a storyteller.

The key to handling rejection is to never take it personally – because it isn’t personal; the odds are simply against you. Everybody in the world thinks they can write a book and many of those people are bombarding publishing houses with their efforts. It’s getting harder and harder to get yourself noticed. All you can do is keep writing, keep getting better, and keep sending stuff out.  

used by permission from Mike Allegra
Illustrated by David Gardner
Lauri:  Someone else with perseverance, Sarah Hale,  is the heroine of your book Sarah Gives Thanks.  The book opens with straight up sorrow – the children's sadness, the mother's sadness yet need to be strong for her children, and her immediate concern of supporting her family.  It took me a few tries to get through the first spread, kind of like watching Finding Nemo.  How did you decide on the beginning of the book?

Mike: It felt natural to begin there. I just couldn’t help but imagine what that first Thanksgiving without David Hale – Sarah’s husband and the father to her five young children – must have felt like for that family. David died about six weeks before Thanksgiving, so the family didn’t have much time to grieve; their emotions were still raw. The holiday, a time that was supposed to be joyous, was filled with sorrow and fear about the future.

I also wanted to start there because that moment is when the story of a nationalized Thanksgiving really begins. It was the day Sarah got her life on track. Counting her blessings helped her to get through a very difficult time; Sarah knew that Thanksgiving could also help others in similar ways – and she spent the next 36 years spreading that message.

Lauri:  I understand that tragic first spread was inspired by Sarah's own semi-autobiographical story.  You also found magazines Sarah edited in the 1800s. During research how many times did you come across something where you shouted "Yes!" and everyone in the library turned to stare at you? 

Mike: Most of my “Yes!” moments were in a historical archive – or as I call it, a library on steroids. The people who work at places like that don’t stand for anything. I actually was on the receiving end of a very long, strong lecture because I was taking notes with a ballpoint pen. Only pencils are allowed in the archives, apparently. I had no plans to doodle on the historical documents, but I must’ve looked like the kind of person who might do such a thing, hence the lecture.

When you’re dealing with people that stern and officious, you do not shout “Yes!” under any circumstances.

Lauri:  I hate being places where I can't randomly yell things.  Like "I love Lincoln"- who is my frickin' favorite president.  (I used to smooch $5 bills, a habit that led to me becoming an accountant-type.)  Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in October 1863 in the midst of the civil war.  My calculator beep boop beep boop says Thanksgiving 2012 will the 150th national celebration. I think all those rejection letters, editor changes, and delays may have been karma. Could the timing be better?

What could I accomplish
with a beard like Lincoln's?
Mike: The timing is pretty perfect, isn’t it?

I, too, am a big, big Lincoln fan, by the way. He was our only great bearded president. We had other bearded presidents of course. Grant springs to mind, but once that guy left the battlefield for the White House he was pretty much useless.

Lincoln is all we have, beard-wise. If you want another great president with facial hair, you have no other place to turn but to Teddy Roosevelt – and he only had a ‘stache.

Lauri:  Thank you so much for sharing Sarah's story with me.  Even as a fully grown woman, the story gave me pause.  I'll quote one page: "A woman was expected to be a housewife and mother.  She didn't need a college education to do those things."  Though I had the privilege of attending college and working a fancy corporate job for a decade, I chose to stay home with my kids two years ago.  Some days I feel silly having the not-currently-in-use-degree. I suppose the beauty is I had the choice.

Mike: The wonderful thing about Sarah is how strong an advocate she was for women’s education. She didn’t care what a woman did with her education – in fact Sarah was very much a traditionalist when it came to a woman’s role in society – but, by God, she wanted every woman to have that education.

Sarah firmly believed that if one was not always learning, one was not really living. And, of course, she was absolutely right.

Lauri:  Yes, she was.  Good luck with the book! 

Stop by Mike's site heylookawriterfellow (btw he should have named it heylookawriterdude because I thought it was "heylookafellowwriter" for months.)  If you want to hear more about Mike's career, check out Susan Rocan's interview  or about how Mike came up with the idea for the book, read Roxie's interview.
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