Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jerry Spinelli

Here is an inspiring story about Jerry Spinelli, author of numerous children’s books, including the 1998 Newbery Honor, Wringer, and the 1991 Newbery Medal, Maniac Magee. I originally heard his story at a writers’ conference in Chautauqua, New York. I felt honored to meet him and his lovely poet/writer wife, Eileen. They are both really down-to-earth people, friendly, and ready to share their writing experience with other aspiring writers. What a great, talented couple.

Jerry Spinelli, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Eileen Spinelli

And here’s another neat Writer's Digest blog titled “10 Ways to Stay Sane When Frustrated With Your Writing,” which by the way I was this morning. I did #9 and it worked. Didn’t even go far. Outside. Watered plants, pulled weeds. Viola! Came up with a scene. I think the fresh air did it.

"A child’s bedroom is as much a window to the universe as a scientist’s lab or a philosopher’s study." – Jerry Spinelli

Friday, March 25, 2011

Writing books for children

If you’ve just started writing books for children, have you been wondering what subject to write about? I know when I first started, I had so many ideas that it was hard to focus on one. However, you do need to stay focused and decide on a topic, what target audience you’re aiming your book for, what age group, etc. Here is a link to a video that addresses some of these issues. It might help you figure out where it is you want to start. The video, “What Should I Write About?” is narrated by Jon Bard of Children’s Book Insider or  So take a look and go for it.

Recently a writer friend of mine, Crystal Allen, got published by Harper Collins. Her middle-grade debut novel, How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy, is getting all kinds of great reviews. Crystal and I met at a writers’ workshop in Chautauqua, New York. I saw her again last summer at the SCBWI-LA conference. She also did an awesome interview on Cynsations blog. Her hard work paid off. I could not be happier for her. Congratulations, Crystal!

"The young child's mind is very much like a poet's mind." -- Charlotte Zolotow

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hook the reader!

We’re always being told to “hook” our reader at the beginning of the story. We’re constantly reminded at workshops to visualize a reading patron at a bookstore, browsing through books, reading the first page, and quickly deciding whether to buy your book OR NOT. That is absolutely true, for me, anyway. When I pick up a book, I read the first couple of paragraphs, and if they grab me, I buy the book.

Three MG and YA examples of some of my favorites: Trino’s Choice by Diane Gonzales Bertrand, fellow writer and critique partner. “Trino had to run or die. Hands clenched into fists, he ran through the hot dust that stuck to his tongue and made his eyes burn.” Becoming Naomi León by Pam Muñoz Ryan. “I always thought the biggest problem in my life was my name, Naomi Soledad León Outlaw, but little did I know that it was the least of my troubles, or that someday I would live up to it.” When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt. “Nothing ever happens in Antler, Texas. Nothing much at all. Until this afternoon, when an old blue Thunderbird pulls a trailer decorated with Christmas lights into the Dairy maid parking lot.”

I found a really good blog, The Writer Today, by writer/blogger Ana Martin that addresses ten ways you can begin your story with a great hook. The title of her article is “Beginning Hooks - Strategies to use to catch your reader's attention.” I found it truly helpful. So let's all find and work on those hooks and get started on our stories. Good luck!

“No matter how much education you’ve had, it’s best to read as many classics as possible and keep abreast of today’s popular reading, especially in the area to which you hope to contribute.”—Writing Tip: Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Point of View

What is point of view in writing? We all know POV can be in first person, second person, or third person. In, “Understanding Point of View in Literature” By Geraldine Woods, she writes the following: “Literature provides a lens through which readers look at the world. Point of view is the way the author allows you to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ what's going on.”

Sunset over Albuquerque

 Sometimes in the middle of writing, I find myself switching point of view, not really intending to. In my critique group, we often find these point-of-view changes when we’re reading each other’s manuscripts and find it somewhat alarming that we didn't see it ourselves before. It’s very easy to switch and be totally unaware when you’re in the middle of intense writing. As a reader, I find this switch of POV distracting and jolting. It interrupts the flow. That’s why it’s important to stick with your point of view unless, of course, you’re doing it on purpose. For an excellent article on the “Point of Point of View,” visit the blog Ingridnotes. 

"An author who is proactive in her book's marketing and promotion is much more desirable than one who waits for the publisher to make the first move." -- Writing Tip: Writer's Digest Weekly Planner

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Regional writer's conference

Last weekend I attended the Austin SCBWI regional conference. In attendance were editors, agents, illustrators, and authors.  It was a thrill seeing author Carolyn Coman (Newbery Honor for What Jamie Saw) again. She was one of the faculty at a writer’s workshop I attended a while back in  Pennsylvania. And she remembered me!! Another exciting moment for me came when I was in a small group at the conference and one of the editors speaking was Michelle Poploff of Delacorte. She is the editor for the 2010 Newbery Medal book, Moon over Manifest, written by Clare Vanderpool. I had just finished reading the book the day before, which by the way, I thoroughly enjoyed. I happen to love historical fiction. Another favorite author who writes in this genre is Donna Jo Napoli.

Writer’s conferences are part of the writing process so I try to attend whenever I can. It gives me a chance to get feedback from editors and agents and catch up with the latest in the publishing world. It’s always great to see old friends and make new ones. It’s a great way to get inspired, being among peers who have the same passion for writing. Have you made plans to attend one? What are you waiting for?

I got a pleasant surprise the other day. My book, Lupita's Papalote, was the February 2011 Children's Pick at the independent bookstore, Dulce Bread & Book Shop, in Dripping Springs, Texas.

Homemade kites!

“Workshops and conferences are a great source of information and inspiration, no matter your experience level.” – Writing Tip from Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner