Thursday, May 24, 2012

Picture Book or Magazine Story?

Not sure if your story is a picture book or a story for a magazine? Author Christine Kohler has an excellent article, "Is Your Story a Picture Book or Short Story for a 'Zine?," regarding this topic on the Institute of Children’s Literature newsletter. She touches on the number of pictures that should be “implied in the text” for a picture book. “Magazine articles require fewer illustrations,” she writes. 

In a picture book, she continues, "a story is … told as a sequence of illustrated scenes.” Short stories in magazines, “… do not depend upon the illustrations for clarification.” Read Kohler's entire article to figure out where your story fits. 

School Visit

Elizabeth Bluemle posted a great article, “Standout MG and YA Covers This Month,” plus pictures of book covers on the Publishers Weekly Shelftalker blog. Take a look.

"The longer you put off getting serious about writing, the longer you put off success. Procrastination is a writer's biggest enemy." -- Barbara Seuling

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Critique Groups

I want to talk about critique groups today. As I’ve mentioned before, I belong to two local critique groups whose feedback I greatly appreciate. My two groups are usually right on target when it comes to showing me what needs to be revised in my manuscripts. A few months ago, I was invited to join an online group. I hesitated at first. Online? Not see each other face to face? How would that work out? 


I had met a couple of the writers in that online group at writers’ conferences, but the rest I had never met. I accepted the invitation with some trepidation. But I had nothing to fear. Rules were set up by the person who initiated the whole thing. The rest of us tweaked a few things here and there. We were all finally in agreement about how this would work out. And it has! From Florida to Arizona to California and Texas, we have submitted our work, gotten it critiqued via email, and kept the schedule going. It’s been fun and every month I look forward to those emails with stories that have helped me progress in my own writing. 

San Jose Rose Garden
The Austin SCBWI has a brief description of what a critique group is. They mention the “sandwich” method, which I’m sure many of you have heard before. Critique etiquette and group parameters are also addressed. Join a writing group in your area and form a critique group. You’ll not only make lifelong friends, but you’ll get valuable feedback.  

“Does your story contain character conflict, change, and growth? If you are just relating a series of events that involve one or more characters, your story is likely underdeveloped.” – Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner

Friday, May 11, 2012

School Visit

I just got back from an inspiring school visit in San Benito, Texas. The energy and enthusiasm of the students never fails to rejuvenate me. I had a great time. I was amazed when during a tour of the school, I witnessed kindergarteners writing stories in their own little journals!

It was also great seeing the acres and acres of cotton, onions, tall stalks of corn, and even giant sunflowers growing in that part of the Rio Grande Valley. At one of the Mexican restaurants there, I had the most delicious aguas frescas cantaloupe drink. Reminded me of my book, Alicia’s Fruity Drinks/Las Aguas Frescas de Alicia, where my main character creates her own natural juice drinks and shares with her soccer teammates. I had tried the strawberry, watermelon, pineapple, and lemon aguas frescas before, but never cantaloupe. Really refreshing!
School Visit
Here’s an interesting blog, Literary Rambles, which spotlights children’s book authors, agents, and publishers. You can search for an agent by age category, i.e., picture books, middle grade, or young adult. Neat blog!

Junie B. Jones early chapter books have been around for 20 years and have sold in the millions. Read a feature article, Random House Celebrates Junie B. Jones’s 20th Anniversary, by Sally Lodge to learn how this series of books got started.   

“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, May 8, 2012

Querying your manuscript

Just returned from San Jose, California, where I visited their famous Rose Garden. As soon as I walked through the entrance, the fragrance from hundreds of roses was intoxicating. The weather was perfect for viewing the Rose Garden in all its glory. Very nice visit!

San Jose Rose Garden
Now let’s talk about queries. How much personal information should you include in your query? What is important and what isn’t? Mary Kole, associate agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, writes on her Kidlit blog, Biographical Information in a Query, that “there are two things you should focus on in your bio: professional writing credits and information relevant to the project at hand.”

But what if you don’t have any publishing credits? Kole writes: “If you haven’t published or won anything, don’t sweat it.” She then goes on to advise what to do. On this post, Kole also covers POV in Queries, Identifying Genre, and Query Formatting. If you’re ready to query your manuscript, it might be a good idea to read Kole’s post. 

Here’s an actual query letter that author Nathan Bransford, wrote to an agent (it worked) for his book, Jacob Wonderbar, which is due out this month. 

Best of luck with your query!

"This morning I took out a comma, and this afternoon I put it back again." -- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Flashback or Backstory?

Do you know the difference between flashback and backstory? Brian Klems, online editor blogger on the Writer’s Digest blog, offers an excellent, brief explanation of the difference in his article, “What is flashback in a story?” Klems writes: “Some folks confuse (flashback) with backstory, but the time constraints of a flashback don’t allow us to share too many details. They just allow us to reveal tidbits.” For more on this topic, visit his blog.

Santa Fe
But how do you decide which one to use and when? Is there a strategy or guidelines for this?  There’s a pretty good article on another blog, Be a Better Writer, with Pearl Luke, that gives examples of both.

“Each story has a time frame,” she writes. “…backstory must be shown, however, and not told.” She also warns, “Any time you interrupt the forward moving story, you risk losing reader interest, so dramatizing the interruption decreases that risk.” She offers examples, techniques, and basic guidelines on how to get around this. See for yourself.
"We don't write what we know. We write what we wonder about." --Richard Peck