Manuscript in the Making

Picture books are stories with an author’s succinct words; that is, verbs that show action, words that rhyme, and lyrical writing. But that’s half of the book. The wonderful illustrations tell the part of the story that the words don’t.

Before that happens, the story is a draft manuscript. (Maybe you have written one lately.) In the first revision, I’m looking for a great opening sentence – it’s usually about three paragraphs down.

Often, I begin with back story. That’s the information about the setting or the main character’s (MC) description and traits. That’s okay, because I need to know all of this to define the MC, but I don’t need to write it all on the first page. (This is a good way to ease into your writing.)

A picture book is short. While editors used to suggest 1000 words, many advise cutting to 500-600 words before submitting for publication. The reader, an adult reading to a child of 4-8, wants to keep the child’s attention, so a good opening sentence begins in the middle of the action. Then the page must be turned to find out what happens.

I’ve cut lots of words by beginning with the third paragraph. I’ll save that draft. I might need to review my thoughts later. For example, when the MC rushes in the back door and tosses his/her book bag on the kitchen floor, I’m setting the time of day—after school time. If the MC gulps down part of a soon to follow meal, that part of the story won’t be illustrated with orange juice and muffins.

More revisions follow and cut more words. Descriptive words are deleted. It’s the job of the illustrator to decide hair color, princess dress or jeans, and whether the MC is a girl, a bunny, or a dragon, unless the title indicates or a “purple plastic purse” is a character trait and crucial to the story. My verbs should not be passive. Instead of “he was running,” I write “he ran.” I also delete modifiers: quickly, very, sweetly.

If I’ve rambled a bit (much like my blog today), I may have created a funny or cute situation, described a darling little girl’s playhouse. But, if those “darlings” don’t advance my plot, don’t show the result and consequences of the MC’s first attempt (of three) to solve his/her problem, out they must go.

Why don’t I just write into a grid the first time? Would I still need to revise? Yes. Revising improves and polishes my manuscript. It puts things in an expected order and, hopefully, goes a step beyond.

Writing, of course, isn’t just an organization of words. The words that flow from my pen (and yours) create a unique voice. It’s from my heart into the character. It’s creative fiction, but the story rings true. It breathes, and the magic begins.

For fun and inspiration read to a child this week, or the child in yourself. I’m beginning a list of my favorite Picture Books. Watch for the tab, soon.

Eating Humble Pie

On Saturday, Aug. 23, I attended the Art Opening Reception, “Inspired Journeys,” at the Prairie Art Alliance to congratulate, especially, one of the exhibitors, E. Vern Taylor.

The work of juried member artists and three featured artists comprised this exhibit: Pam Allen (jewelry), James Johnston (paintings, prints, and photos), and E. Vern Taylor (paintings and pastels). And I had planned to see this exhibit more than six months ago, when Vern Taylor told me of his plan to create images in paint and poetic stories.

So, on Saturday evening, I drove to the reception, parked, and entered the Hoogland Center. Vern Taylor was monopolized in the lobby by friends, family, and/or fellow artists. I turned the opposite direction, first, and entered the gallery.

As a past juried member of the gallery, I was excited by the bustling room and the familiar faces, some whom I had only seen on Facebook this last year. When I turned my attention to the exhibit, I recognized the work of the long-term juried artists and noticed many new names. Ceramics, wood, and 3-D collage complimented the paintings and pastels hung on the walls.

I moved on around to the meet and greet area assigned to the featured artists. Vern would probably be there, I thought.

The printed program gave a brief bio of each of the three. Pam Allen told how she created many art forms before finding that jewelry was her passion. James Johnston cited his faith and appreciation of Native Americans as inspiration for his painting and photography. He had exhibited in Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

Music spilled over many conversations. I couldn’t see Vern yet. At the opposite end of the featured artists’ area, I joined some folks I knew who were also admiring Vern’s work.

Vern’s bio read, “Since seventh grade, I have loved the process of bringing a painting to fruition.” Vern created each piece in this exhibit as a remembrance of profound inspiration in his life. He added his poetry beside many framed paintings.

I was drawn to Vern’s mysterious painting of a midnight blue night. A golden moon outlined a large tree, and a shimmer of light from above highlighted a flower in the foreground. The grand and bold sea gull was pointed out by many. A large painting of Japanese maple leaf motifs refreshed like a breeze with reds, browns, and lavenders (on this hot and humid night). Vern’s poems I must read again to grasp all that he shares in rendering a beautiful, successful memoir.

No Vern in sight yet, so I talked a few more minutes – well, probably a half hour – and needed a cracker and cheese bite for my growling insides.

Now, alone, I felt my knee (not fully recovered) had tightened and swelled. I said good-by to another dear friend at the top of the stairs and felt the evening had ended.

In my car, after driving three blocks or so down the street, I wanted to know more about Vern’s . . . Yikes! I hadn’t talked to Vern. I hadn’t congratulated E. Vern Taylor or thanked him for all the months of work he put in to ready this exhibit.

So I now ask, publically, for forgiveness, E. Vern Taylor, and eat my humble pie.

If you see Vern, please pass this along: “You accomplished your goal. Yeah! Yours is a magnificent memoir, a truly “Inspired Journey.”


ABC’s of Writing

A thank you is due 12 x 12 Challenge participants and administrators who are always on my mind, because I weekly look to them for ways to improve my craft.

Boldly stretching my mind, my dollars, and my time to go where I’ve not yet been.

Can I craft six more manuscripts during the second half of 2014 working at this pace? Coffee, please.

Dialog on WordPress and Facebook, for me, is pushed by this jingle in the back of my mind: Do it; Do it right; Do it right now.

Effort? Come on, how much effort could it possible take to write a page a day? Exactly.

Frankly, my dear, you can clean the toilet today.

Great, I’m almost to the end of “one page.” ( hand written lines.) But the laundry is in, and I may have enough coffee to write to “Z.”

Hiya,” said Mighty Max.” (JuJu reminded me to add the magic.)

I will submit. The time is near.

Jane Yolen, of course, who has written over 300 books for children and who inspires me, because she advises, creates, pens, publishes, and believes we can. And, that humbles me today, forcing me to “keep butt in chair” (quote from Ms. Yolen). I pause to give thanks for this author who gives much back to the writing community.

Kaleidoscope we PB authors make, while bringing color and light to kids.

Love it when you understand my words.

Much to learn. Making progress.

NOW? If not NOW, when? I’m really bad at networking, but Katie Davis makes it look so easy. She knows everyone; can do anything technical. Her only competitor is that little kid, who is guru to two of my grandsons, when he previews candy and toys on his YouTube channel.

Open mind, open heart. Operative for writing. Books are a way to take a precious moment in time and make more of it. The camera might miss it, because it only sees in one direction. You might have missed it the first time, because you were multi-tasking. As a PB author, I can write the whole story with a good illustrator, of course. *BTW science of the brain tells us that the brain cannot multi-task. When we try, it seems to work, but a chart of your cerebral path would show that for a second (less than), your brain left one thing and worked on another.

Queen Julie Hedlund, administrator of 12 x 12 Challenge, online. I know she delegates, and rightly so, in a comprehensive program that makes clear my author’s path and makes me want to run that direction.

Repeated daily are: rest and exercise and writing.

Slow but steady won the race. Sometime we have a growth spurt, but logging into 12×12 Challenge gives me new thoughts and review, skill building, and it affirms with responses from others.

Time? Some days it manages me. One child gave me a refurbished lap top for Mother’s Day. Yeeha!

Use all your resources to enlarge your world.I’m one of those who can say, “I walked everywhere.” It worked, at the time, but my world was so small.  In 1966 I had one small TV, one car that I didn’t know how to drive, walked with child and stroller. I used pay phones and wrote letters. I talked to the lady at the Laundromat. Only my husband drove and worked 8-5 that year. It was a blessing when he lost his job, because we moved back to our families and friends. We got a telephone. I learned to drive. I got a job. Life began again.

Voice: I have one that in my writing speaks volumes. It didn’t always. My voice is not the voice of one Grandson, Max, who has a voice that is a little loud, at times, but always strong, confident, and enthusiastic right up until the moment he falls asleep. He is both a verbal and non-verbal communicator. At a garage sale, he will count his money and smile at the seller and return to me to ask why he got his item for FREE.

Work. Don’t worry about who does the most around the house. Housework/yard work is never ending. He might see that an electrical outlet needs moved. She might see that it’s time to defrost something for the evening meal. But here’s what I think: He who cleans the toilet dies last.

X” out some of the clutter. It renews the spirit.

YOU:Life isn’t about YOU. It’s about all of us. Listen to the stories of others. Listening is an affirming communication.

Zipping this blog up now with best wishes for your day. 🙂