Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bilingual Picture Book

What a thrill when you see your book becoming a reality. That’s what happened a few days ago. Via email, I received the charming final art for my forthcoming bilingual picture story book, Battle of the Snow Cones. It’s a fun and humorous book that I believe children will enjoy reading. 

The journey of a book from idea to final publication is a long road. It’s your baby, which you nurture along the way. But there are also many people behind the scenes who become your friends along the way as well — like the editor who accepted your manuscript, the artist commissioned to do the art, the marketing and publicity people, and on and on. Not to mention your critique writer friends who encouraged you when the story was just a seed percolating in your mind.

The book is not in its final form yet, but it's almost there. By fall, I should be holding the hard copy in my hands. I can hardly wait. The journey for this particular book will be complete. But not quite. Then the fun begins. That’s when the promotion for your book comes in. You, as an author, have to get heavily involved in this venture because the publisher can only do so much. Plan ahead and make it fun. 

“A good picture book begins with delight, ends with wisdom, humor, warmth, or love, and means more than it says.” – Barbara Williams

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Word Count

Having to cut 1,000 words from an essay I had written a while back proved to be a challenge for me. The guidelines for submission spelled it out: 500 words. What? Five-hundred measly words? Yikes! I was convinced I couldn’t pare my 1500 word essay down to 500 words without it losing something. How was I going to cut that many words and the essay still make sense? No way. But I was up to the challenge. Chop, chop, chop. Every time I cut, I reread the piece. What could I take out and still leave the integrity of the story intact? After many, many cuts, I glanced down at the toolbar on the bottom of my word document and saw the word count: 500. I felt like a champ! I read the entire 500-word essay and found that indeed it still did make sense. I submitted it and it was published in my local paper. (I previously mentioned this in an earlier blog). If you want to read it again, here's the link. Turned out to be a fun exercise for me.

Sometimes we need to bolster our creativity with other types of writing, i.e., essays, poetry, magazine articles, etc. And we need to learn to follow guidelines for submissions. Make every word count. No more, no less. Here’s a link to a brief article on Word Count.

“A writing group should share your goals—whether it’s getting published, getting critiqued, getting support, or getting out of the house…” Writing tip from Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner

Friday, January 22, 2010

New perspective

I was just editing some pages from a manuscript I filed away several months ago and found myself thoroughly enjoying it. Why? Because I believe in my story. My heart and soul are in it. I had not read this particular manuscript in ages. An editor that I contacted wants to see a couple of chapters so I brought it out, dusted it off, edited and revised a few sentences, and am going to send it out. I think sometimes getting away for a while from whatever it is you’re working on brings a new perspective and freshness when you view it again. Not that the premise isn’t there or anything like that. It’s just minor stuff that you see after not having seen it for a while. Minor stuff that will make it better. You somehow know it. So I shall be going to the post office in a few minutes to mail those few pages. It will be some time before I hear back. We all know that. Editors get hundreds of manuscripts every day. One thing writers have to learn is to be patient – big time. In the meantime, we continue to write, nourishing our souls along the way.

"Writing is a pleasure, and I feel that if I did not enjoy writing, no one would enjoy reading my books." -- Beverly Cleary

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

2010 Newbery Medal and Pura Belpre Award

The John Newbery Medal is a literary award given by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association (ALA). The award is given to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. The award has been given since 1922. It was the first children's literary award in the world. It is named for John Newbery, an 18th century English publisher of juvenile books. – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 2010 Newbery Awards list just came out. The Newbery Medal winner was When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Newbery Honor Books were: Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick.

The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking (REFORMA), an ALA affiliate.The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. As a children's librarian, storyteller, and author, she enriched the lives of Puerto Rican children in the U.S.A. through her pioneering work of preserving and disseminating Puerto Rican folklore.It has been given every other year since 1996. Beginning with the 2009 award, it will be given annually. -- From ALSC

Belpre (Author) Award went to Return to Sender by Julie Alvarez. Belpre (Author) Honor Books went to Diego: Bigger Than Life by Carmen T. Bernier, Federico García Lorca by Georgina Lázaro.

Caldecott Medal went to The Lion and the Mouse illustrated and written by Jerry Pinkney. Caldecott Honor Books went to All the World illustrated by Marla Frazee, written by Liz Garton Scanlon, Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Joyce Sidman.

To view the rest of the 2010 awards, go to ALA.

Happy reading for 2010!

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Sometimes it’s as simple as BIC (butt in chair). How many times have we heard that as writers? Just sit yourself in that chair and WRITE! It’s true. We can read all the books on writing, attend workshops, talk about what we intend to write, BUT if we don’t start doing it, we’ll never write that, which only we can write.

I just attended a librarian’s panel where they gave us excellent information on what types of books libraries look for. So many ideas. I kept nodding my head. Yes, yes. I should write something on that subject. But will I? Will I put away my notes as soon as I get home and not do anything about it? I hope not. Writers who get published are those who do their homework, who sit at their chairs in front of a PC, not waiting for inspiration but writing anything to fill up that screen. Writing prompts sometimes lead to bigger ideas.

I once attended a workshop where writers in the audience kept bringing up their ideas for stories, etc., etc. The speaker finally said, “Just get in that chair and write the damn book.”

Sound advice, right?

“A journal can be an invaluable tool for recording ideas, impressions, and anecdotes for future use. It can also help your career by instilling in you the habit of writing regularly.” – Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Critique Groups

With the start of the new year, my critique group is ready to meet again. Actually, I belong to two excellent groups. We’re committed to bringing something to critique each time we meet. That keeps us all motivated. We offer praise but also constructive criticism where it is needed. Through thick and thin, we’ve stuck together. We rejoice and celebrate when anyone in the group gets published and offer words of encouragement when one of us gets rejected. Ideas are bounced back and forth during our meetings.

I found a really good blog, Right-Writing, that offers tips on how to find and join a critique group. Written by editor/writer,Terry Whalin, it shows how to organize a critique meeting, how to critique one another’s work, whether fiction or nonfiction, and what are the advantages of joining such a group. I highly recommend being in a critique group. It will enhance your writing skills and make you lasting friendships.

"How can you sit down to write until you have stood up to live?" -- Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A few days ago, I got a phone call from one of my young relatives. Her voice bubbling over with excitement, she told me her good news. A short story she submitted to a publisher was accepted for publication in an anthology. This was a first for her. I was thrilled. She thanked me for encouraging her to submit her manuscript. It all happened a few months earlier when in an email, she asked if I would take a look at something she’d written. I could tell she was nervous but willing to take a chance on a critique. After reading her draft, I suggested a few minor changes and encouraged her to submit it. “It’s really good,” I said. “You should go ahead and submit it. You need to take a leap of faith.” And she did. If you ever have the honor of encouraging an aspiring writer, do it. It is as rewarding for you as it is for that writer. We all need each other’s support.

Wishing you a productive writing day.

“A relaxed mind is an open mind, and an open mind is prepared to accept new and creative ideas. Remind yourself to enjoy the craft.” – Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Writer's resolutions

Just got back from visiting family in New Mexico. Took lots of pictures. It snowed while I was there so I did get to see snow after all. Now it’s time to get back to work on my writing, which is very difficult if you’ve been gone for several days.

A writer friend just emailed me that one of her New Year’s resolutions is to not get on the Internet or check emails until late in the afternoon. She’s reserving the morning for writing only. That is discipline. And a very good idea. Carve out time for writing and stick to it. I read somewhere that if a writer writes one page per day, she/he will have written a novel by the end of the year. Some of us don’t have the time with our busy lives, but we can still devote at least 15-30 minutes a day to writing. A very good habit to form is to set up a schedule for the week and abide by it.

Did finish reading The Writer’s Book of Hope by Ralph Keyes between airport stops. I had highlighted some phrases the first time I read it. One excerpt: “ … some aspiring writers are looking for a key or some wisdom known only to insiders on how to write and get published. There is none. The only key is persistence and knowing what you’re about.”

I shall be persistent in my writing and never give up hope. That is one of my New Year's resolutions.

“I am still encouraged to go on. I wouldn’t know where else to go.” – E.B. White