WHAT A SWEET TREAT! Many thanks to children’s book author, Lauri Fortino, @Lauri14o for posting; with thanks to author/poet Jill Esbaum for sharing the story of COTTON CANDY in a new picture book by Ann Ingalls, illustrated by Miggy Blanco.
A friend and author, Vivian Kirkfield viviankirkfield , creator of the “50 Precious Words” contest, inspired me to write a Haiku for children, age 12 and under. Finally, after three tries, I’ve composed an entry to my satisfaction. In the end, it was great fun, Vivian. Thank you. Many stories in 50 words will be posted today on Vivian’s blog.
WINTER RUNNING LATE
by Pamela Miller
Faces peering out
“Why is Jack Frost not about?”
Fog-free window panes
Smelled the weighted air
February never fair
New red sled hangs ‘round
Cloudy, down pouring
Loud, the old Grandpa snoring
Soft, hair white as snow
March teased with flurries
Then shouting, sledding, I burst
Now? It’s April first!
The winner of the GOOD NIGHT, BADDIES giveaway is: LILLIAN HECKINGER! Congratulations, Lillian. I will be emailing you shortly. Thanks for entering and I hope everyone will pick up a copy!
As part of Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas program, I am looking back before moving into the new year. Below is how this year went for me.
In retrospect, the year was more about listening, learning, and appreciating authors, agents, publishers, and writers who were recently published and writers still trying to put books in the hands of children and the adults who read to them. I am most grateful for those who have taught me and pushed me along my writing journey, especially to my writing critique group.
- Beginning Jan. 5, grandchildren visited. They are my exercise, both physical and mental, and often my inspiration for kid words, kid interactions, and a Picture Book manuscript.
- Similarly, Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Writing Challenge added many exciting and informative Webinars this year. I wrote notes, recommendations, and jotted down recent publishers to find online. As a GOLD member this year, I submitted three times to agents, and wrote query letters. Two agents returned rejections. One so nice that it could have read “Dearest Pamela.” Who knew agents could be so nice? The fear was gone.
- Something on my to-do list was finalized this year. The attorney did most of the writing, but the objectives were noted on my list that prepared a Will, a Living Will, Power of Attorney for property and health. It takes a bit of searching to find necessary records and research legal terms online. But sitting with your attorney and asking questions, immediately answered, will provide comfort and a legal document that no one can alter or question. It’s done. And one’s successors will not have to argue over the unknown but simply collect anything left to them.
- Writing makes one a clear communicator. If ever that will come in handy, it is during times of family stress. I certainly wanted to consider my feelings and those of my family when my sister died May 17, 2015, less than a month after I last sat with her and after flying to her home in Arizona. E-mails seemed to fly back and forth as her condition was updated. Her oldest daughter was most dedicated and responsible. I shared a poem with her that I wrote after my father died. For her mother’s service, she shared her poem with me. I wrote to thank her and posted to my sister’s obituary.
- Professor, Emma Walton Hamilton (I shamelessly name drop.) is the accomplished daughter of Julie Andrews, famous actress, singer of –duh –the world. Emma teaches “Just Write for Kids!” Her course was professional, college-level, and upgraded my writing. In completing the course, I learned to dissect a Picture Book. I used Emma’s choice of five classic titles: Whistle for Willie, Where the Wild Things Are, Olivia, Knuffle Bunny, and Owen.
- I continued through 2015 by mapping these Picture Books: One Big Pair of Underwear, Laura Gehl; Snowmen at Night, Carolyn Buehner; When a Dragon Moves In, Jodie Moore; Little Red Gliding Hood, Tara Lazar; and What If . . .? by Anthony Browne. I paid close attention to theme, plot, point of view, the story arc and the story question.
- And, of course, I mapped my own manuscripts to see if they were close to submission status.
- I wrote and updated a guest list for a 50th Wedding Anniversary dinner that our daughter planned for me and spouse, Jim, and a total of 51 people. I wrote thank you notes.
- I wrote and rewrote manuscripts. I now have 18 total (in various stages).
- I submitted one manuscript to a publisher. I won’t hear back for another two months.
- I completed PiBoIdMo a Winner in November. Two additional manuscript in the making and ideas circled on every page of my 30-day journal. I’m thankful that Tara Lazar has organized this challenge. It’s a needed shove into a new year at the very least, and so much more.
- I attended an SCBWI luncheon/workshop for Fraidy Cats. Signed up to Tweet, Link in, and created a Facebook author page with their guidance. Still working on the goals of fully understanding social media, but I’m connected. That was the promise. I became aware of the workshop because
- I printed and actually read the entire SCBWI Bulletin!
- Used my Pay Pal and Amazon Prime for business and to reward myself, on occasion, with another wonderful Picture Book to read to my children.
- Purchased an excellent reference/motivational book by author/entrepreneur, Katie Davis, HOW TO PROMOTE YOUR CHILDREN’S BOOK.
- I got up in the middle of the night to write. Driven by a solitary word that kids might need to learn, I wrote a page. Then I slept ‘til morning.
HAPPY NEW YEAR dear reader!
Shake it off. My motto today drives me to the keyboard. Or, maybe you need a prompt – a favorite writing exercise to provide something to write about.
Pick a color (favorite, hated, one from a hat). Then write about it in terms of the 5 senses. List HEAR, SEE, TASTE, TEXTURE, FEELING across the top of your page. Set your timer for 3-5 minutes. In each column, list as many words as you can about your color. Example: Red is a bell ringing, a crown, a rich bon bon, a velvet skirt, and haughty. Now keep going . . .
. . . AND if you are wonderfing how to format your Picture Book manuscript, click this link provided by Julie Hedlund and the 12 x 12 Writing Challenge, 2015.
It began with a program: Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge. There was a Bronze Level, Silver Level, and Golden Book Level. Not yet published as a children’s book author, and not yet written anything that was ready to publish, I chose the Silver Level, so I wouldn’t have the opportunity to submit to the programs featured agents. I had a lot to learn. That was my plan.
Then, I met writers like me, online. One illustrator was from my city. Some were authors already. It took a few weeks to get used to the forum technology, but I let folks read my first 250 words of a story and I read their words. I gave and received feedback. These were nice folks with a great attitude. They had written and/or published the best children’s books.
With new confidence, I had no problem volunteering to read my grandson’s favorite Rosemary Wells book as a guest of his kindergarten class. I’d like to make more visits.
I wanted to connect. I joined some of the writers in a private Facebook group. I met others in a Google launch and in Webinars. I joined Pinterest. I upgraded my Website and began to blog about my writing journey. (Thank you followers. Posting more often, a 2015 goal.)
I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) because it was recommended as a continuing resource. The 12 x 12 member from my city is also a member of my local SCBWI group.
I attended the SCBWI day-long conference in Chicago. DID I MENTION IT WAS ON A YACHT? The food was fabulous. The speakers were, too. And author Liz Garton Scanlon (wrote Caldecott award winner, ALL THE WORLD) presented a short workshop on revising a manuscript. I bought her books, one to serve as my example of a concept book. I learned how to edit my work for brevity and cut the “darlings” that did nothing to move my story forward.
AND, now I could give a critique that might be valuable to the writer. Three ladies in 12 x 12 and I formed a Critique Group. We live in different states and countries, but we’re on a schedule and submit work weekly. They don’t always tell me what I’d like to hear, but they tell me what I need to know. I learned to trust their expertise and trust myself, when I have reason. I learned to revise, revise, and revise again, until a manuscript shines.
Before I attended a summer SCBWI weekend conference, I made business cards. I worked hard to take in all the wisdom of an agent, an editor, and author who were speakers. I participated in another critique group for the weekend.
The next month, on a short family excursion, my brain produced a story faster than I could write. Another came out in rhyme in the car.
In 12 x 12, an author from Australia gave me a free critique – a prize bomb. That meant I could submit my entire manuscript to her. I couldn’t believe someone would take their valuable time to pour over my story and add her brilliant thoughts.
I also enrolled in other programs. Each program had an area in which I needed to improve, if an editor or agent were to take me seriously; such as, How to Make Money as a Writer and The Ultimate Guide to Picture Book Submissions.
Could I complete a November program, PiBoIdMo? It’s presented every year by Tara Lazar, picture book author. I DID IT! I got 30 ideas in 30 days! Two manuscripts are already written.
One amazing program that I desperately needed was Video Idiot Boot Camp, a Katie Davis product. It proved to be too much to finish just yet. However, I succeeded in updating my technology at home. I made a Welcome video and posted it on YouTube and on http://pammmiller.com . I can improve lots in this area, but I have made a place for an author’s work to be seen and grow. Most importantly, I have an account that is just for my business, because a writer is an entrepreneur.
While some of my journey was fun as well as pedagogical, I’ve developed a writing habit. I wrote 12 and one half manuscripts during 2014, posting 10 of them in 12 x 12. In 2015 I’ll return for another year of inspiration and support and try to give more than I have received.
Children’s books? At every opportunity, I’m looking at the latest, the funniest with telling illustration, the Best of 2014, the concepts and characters, because I am an entrepreneur and because I have young grandchildren who are learning to read. I’ve read over 100 picture books. My immediate goal, after posting this blog, is to update my list of 100. It will include my latest favorite, THE PICTURE BOOK WITH NO PICTURES by B.J. Novak. Although it seemed a gimmick, the author was brilliant because he simply wrote for kids to make them laugh and to want to read.
Please check out the video of B.J. Novak reading his book by searching for it on Amazon. It’s full of silly words that make children say, “Read it again.”
As a writer, I attended a Christmas party with my local group. Gosh, it was fun. Earlier, an agent had presented an amazing program for us. We were invited to submit a manuscript for critique. Mine has come back marked for revision. But we will talk again. And those professional comments make me very hopeful for my writing journey.
That’s my new plan: write, revise, talk with agents/editors. I’ve taken the first step.
Don’t forget to check out my Welcome Video and my 100 Best Children’s Picture Books List.
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.
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. 🙂