Friday, September 27, 2013

Character development in stories

Here’s an excellent Cynsations blog interview with K.A. Barson, author of 45 Pounds (More or Less). Barson goes into detail about how she develops her main character. She asks questions of the character, what is it they want, how is she/he trying to get it, their reaction to certain situations, etc. My favorite line of that interview is: “Sometimes the only way to get to the heart of the story is to step out of it and spend time with the characters somewhere beyond the pages of the draft, using things like letters, interviews, journal entries, and scenes outside of this story.”
Here’s a question that author Nathan Bransford asks on his blog: “Do you re-read your books when you’re finished writing them?” Well, do you? Read his interesting answer to find out if he does or doesn’t. 
Here are three different links and the submission guidelines to Cricket magazine. For Cobblestone. For Odyssey. For Faces. Best of luck!

“Slant: The approach or style of a story or article that will appeal to readers of a specific magazine.” –Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner

Monday, September 23, 2013

Writing picture books

I’ve been getting excellent feedback on three picture book manuscripts that I’ve written. They have potential, I am told, but still need some work, especially bringing the word count down. So I’ve been busy editing and revising. Here's a good article on Harold Underdown's blog posted by Margot Finke on "Writing Picture Books: The Basics." 
At the SCBWI-LA conference, I learned that I need to Invite, Entice, and Encourage a reader with the first few lines of my book. Make the reader want to join you on the journey. Show through human action. Action verbs are very important. Make sure your words are moving the story forward. Some think writing picture books is easy. Let me tell you. It’s not. But it’s a lot of fun. Enjoy the journey.

Speaking of word count, the Children’s Writer is sponsoring a Seasonal Poetry Writing Contest. The word count limit for that is only 300 words. Yikes! The deadline is October 31, so if you like to write poetry, you’d better hurry. For more details, click here.

Halloween is right around the corner. Check out this blog post on BuzzFeed about Halloween costumes that use book characters. It’s really cool.

Pen Name: The use of a name other than your legal name on articles, stories, or books. Also called a pseudonym. – Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The story question

The Horn Book’s blog post just came out with their, “Book Review of the Week,” for the middle of September. On the review are picture books, middle-grade books, and young adult ones. Take a look.
I am rereading the book, Writing Picture Books, by Ann Whitford Paul. I met Ms. Paul at one of the SCBWI-LA conferences a while back. She was charming. Her book is full of sound advice for writers who write in this genre. She mentions the “story question,” that a writer must ask before starting the story. She writes: “…it behooves writers to think of a general question about the underlying issue they are trying to unravel in each new story.” In other words, what does your character want or what happens if? She continues, “…spend time carefully formulating your question and answer. If you do, the writing of your book will be infinitely easier.”
It's one of the many books I have on writing picture books.  I especially like this one because it is a "hands-on guide," with writing exercises at the end of each chapter.

“Each time a child opens a book, he pushes open the gate that separates him from Elsewhere. It gives him choices. It gives him freedom. These are magnificent, wonderfully unsafe things.” – Lois Lowry

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


I just finished editing one of my picture book manuscripts and I cut, cut, cut to bring the manuscript down to a decent word count. I workshopped it with my critique group last week. Their comments were right on target. After revisions, my story was tightened, the word count was down, and it still
Gumballs anyone?
made a lot of sense when I read it again. That’s what is great about being in a critique group. They point out what you might not notice because you’re so close to the story that you miss these things.

In the book, The Portable MFA in Creative Writing, revision is defined thus: "... good writing involves hard revision. means that each draft is a step toward the finished product."
Here’s a cool blog post by author Nathan Bransford titled, Bestselling Novels by Year. His list starts with 1900 and goes all the way to 2012. You’ve got to take a look at this. 

Trends: Never try to chase trends. Write what you love, and write the best book you can, and worry about publication later.—Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Cynthia's Blog for Writers

I highly recommend author Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog, Cynsations, to anyone interested in writing. Her blog is full of fabulous information, interviews with authors, giveaways, etc. In her own words, her blog is “ …a source for conversations, publishing information, writer resources &  inspiration, bookseller-librarian-teacher appreciation, children's-YA book news & author outreach." Click on the link above and see for yourself. You'll love it! 
Speaking of blogs – my two latest bilingual picture books coming out in November, Let’s Salsa and Lupita’s First Dance, are featured on La Bloga blog. Nice!
I bought quite a few books at the August SCBWI-LA conference and am trying to read as many as I can between a million other things I have to do. Just finished reading the historical fiction, Forge, by Laurie Halse Anderson, Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney, The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck, and the YA novel, I Will Save You by Matt de la Peña.  All were autographed by the authors. Neat, huh? Have a few more to go.
And if you’re interested in who’s moving where in the publishing business, visit Harold Underdown’s blog, Writing, Illustrating, and Publishing Children's Books: The Purple Crayon, and find out.

Genre: Refers either to a general classification of writing, such as the novel or the poem, or to the categories within those classifications, such as the romance novel or the sonnet. – Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Slice of life

Just returned from a two-week visit to California. The weather there was wonderful and everything is green, green, green. The flowers are blooming like crazy there. Took a side trip to Santa Cruz Beach, the boardwalk. Beautiful scenery. Also went to a place called the Mystery Stop located in the redwood forests just outside of Santa Cruz. It was crazy. A person stands up straight but is actually leaning backwards or sideways. Weird, I tell you. According to the literature in the pamphlet, “some unseen magnetism or phenomenon just upsets all former ideas of equilibrium.” I got dizzy watching all the visitors leaning backwards. Crazy!  
I also visited an Indie bookstore called the Village House of Books in Los Gatos, California. It was
small and really cute and cozy. I spoke to the owner and wished her success as they just recently opened. She expressed interest in carrying some of my books in her store. We exchanged emails. Which brings me to the topic of business cards. Do you have one? You should! You never know when they might come in handy. Always carry these cards with you. This post on the Publishers Weekly BookWorks blog,
Business Cards of Famous Literary Characters, is most interesting. Check it out.

Santa Cruz Beach

Flowers in Los Gatos
“Slice-of-life vignette: A short-fiction piece intended to realistically depict an interesting moment of everyday living.” – Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner