Saturday, November 7, 2015

Week One of PIBOIDMO 2015

So one week has passed in PiBoIdMo. I have seven shiny new picture book ideas, right?

No, actually. And that is weird for me. Most of the time I am an idea machine. Usually it is the sitting down with a hammer and smashing my idea to bits so that I can reconfigure it into a masterpiece that is the hard part.

I have three ideas so I'm not to far behind. That doesn't mean I'm not working.  Critiques are happening, both for me and by me, classes, and editing current works for picture books and my chapter book WIP.

So hang in there other PiBoIdMo writers. If the idea's aren't flowing today then write or edit something else. Maybe even try a different style. If you normally write on the computer try picking up a pencil and paper. Stay busy and just maybe an idea will .... holy crap I just had an idea while writing this.  OFF TO THE IDEA NOTEBOOK...

What? Were you expecting something fancy? Go get to writing! The notebook paper awaits.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Agent Search

So you've honed your craft. You've attended classes, webinars, SCBWI conferences, and you consider your critique group meeting the highlight of your month. Now you are on the search for a home for the stories you've poured over and written, and rewritten, and REWRITTEN AGAIN.

But how to sell your stories? Most people want and agent, right? It will be like having a Fairy Godmother who will make all your writerly dreams come true.

So the process begins. Query Tracker, spreadsheets, lists of every agent you've met at all those conferences and classes, checking #MSWL often. You polish you queries until you've realized you've spent nearly as much time on them as you did on writing the book. (Feels odd when your picture book is 300 words and you query is 250.)

Then it happens... No, not the automatic yes we all dream for.  The rejection. Big at first; No responses, form letters. Then you get a personal response. Oh, the joy you feel when someone not only writes your name but a specific factoid about your story. Personal rejections become a little more frequent and some agents ask for more work. You dance and spin because this could mean something. Or maybe not...

Sometimes those rejection feel like tripping at the finish line. So close but not close enough. Maybe you even want to...

Writers. Don't despair. If you are getting feedback, then you are on the write track. (yes, I did that on purpose.)

Maybe writers get caught up in the query and searching process. So caught up that we forget the most important thing.  We must keep writing. Always. We can't get better if we don't practice. Even if you are practicing, you may still be caught up in the whole MUST FIND AGENT thing.

So first and foremost, list what you want in an agent. You and your agent will be together for a long time.

Sticking to the Disney theme I think my dream agent is more Mushu than Fairy Godmother.
I believe you need to find an agent...

Who gets your creativity

Who will be honest with you about your writing.
Who will get your stories seen by the right people.

They lend a hand when needed.
Who supports you when you feel down.

But most importantly they push you so you can reach your goals.
So just for fun, who in the Disney world would you want as an agent? Think about it...



Sunday, September 6, 2015

It's Been A While

Wow, this summer flew by.  Like many writers I know, I have a day job and the summer is the busiest time of year. Also, sports. Seriously time consuming!

I had to prioritize and sadly RWRC was neglected. Now that schools back in session and the day job is marginally less crazy I've got about an ounce of extra time.  The one thing I never neglect: My Manuscript Writing Time!

This summer I've completed some new picture book rough drafts, shined up 2 of them until they sparkled and completed a 6k chapter book. I did little else. All of my free time went into writing, and critiquing, and rewriting, and research and then more writing. Holiday weekend? That means an extra day or writing!

Writing well also take research.  If you are new to children's literature look into the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators aka SCBWI. If you are starting the query process check out #MSWL (website and on twitter). But before hitting send maybe check out Query Shark. If you are writing picture books be sure you have three that are agent ready before you start to submit.

All newbies make mistakes and that okay. Google is your friend and will help you.

I hope to get back to posting writing prompts and I'll leave you with a photo prompt today.

What's going on here?

Friday, May 1, 2015

What Gardening is Teaching Me About Writing

I've only had a yard for a few years now.  This year I’ve successfully grown grass (it is much harder than you think) and some of my flowers survived the winter and bloomed in vibrant violets, pouty pinks, sunny yellows, and stripes.  Some plants, including my favorite, died, unable to handle the clay and slate soil and the bitter winter that lingered longer than usual.

                So what has this taught me about my writing?

1.       You will screw up, and it’s okay.

Some plants need direct sunlight, some need stupid amounts of water, some need proper drainage. You will forget something and a plant may shrivel into crunchy, brown, unrecognizable crap.

You will learn from these screw ups. You wouldn’t have learned the lesson without trying

How to apply that to writing? WRITE!

It won’t always work out as you imagined and occasionally you end up with crap. But you’ve learned from it.

2.       Weeds are everywhere

No matter how many times I pluck dandelions from in between the tomatoes they keep showing up each week
How to apply this to writing? EDIT!

You will always have some errors or things that need to be tweaked or completely overhauled.  Sometimes a backhoe is the only answer… metaphorically of course.

3.       My yard will not win any awards, it will not show up in a magazine, things are not perfect, but I love it.  It is mine and I made it. There are birds and color and life. I’m proud of the work I’ve put in.

How to apply this to writing? WRITE WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY!

Don’t write for the current trends. If you love picture books and chapter books don’t try to write a romance thinking that is where the money is.  Write what you love and it will show in your product and you can be proud of it.

4.       My daughter has seen my work and decided to have a garden of her own on the side of the house. She has grapes and tomatoes and strawberries.  There is no fruit yet, but she is putting in the work.
How to apply this to your writing? INSPIRE OTHERS!

You want to inspire your readers and that’s great but you may not be published yet. You can still inspire others and be inspired in return. Join a critique group. Volunteer at your local library or school. Start a blog and push positivity out into the world.

So I’m still learning. I can’t even remember the names of all of the flowers I’ve bought. But I’ve researched what will work in my location, just like I research what works in the children’s market.  I talk to neighbors about their yards, just like I talk to other writers about the market. 

There is a cycle to the publishing industry just as there is a cycle to the seasons. Timing is very important to make things work.  Sometimes luck comes into play.  But keep at it.  There are very few instant fixes. Bad weather and bugs can frustrate you but if you keep at it your work will pay off. Whether the goal is a ripe tomato or a book on the shelf, you can see the fruits of your labors if you are willing to work and work for a long time without giving up.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

This is Not a Hobby

I am a writer.  Not someone who writes. Not someone who thinks of cute little stories. Not someone to be pat on the head and sent on my way while the grownups talk.

Yes, I have a ‘real’ job (meaning the one that keeps the lights on and food in the fridge) but so do many many other writers. Just because I am not JK Rowling does not mean I am not a writer.

If you write as a hobby, that is wonderful.  Journals and stories that stimulate your mind and give you a creative outlet are their own version of fun/therapy/yoga/awesomeness. I am not taking away anything from those who write solely for fun.

That is not me. I want to make this a career.  I want to travel to schools and libraries and see kid’s faces light up or make them squeal with laughter.  I want to be the reason they can’t stop talking for the rest of the day and maybe open their minds to more. Maybe it is science, maybe it is cupcakes, maybe the more is just that another book may be entertaining too.

I invest time.  Scheduled time. Equal to or greater than doctor appointments, the gym, and sometimes my child’s practices. (Thank God for a husband who will take over the taxi service to and from practice.)

I invest money. College classes on basic refresher courses and writing classes. SCBWI conferences and Critiques. Travel.

I invest in myself. I love writing, even when I hate it (you know what I mean evil plot bunnies). I want to write. I have to write. I love to write so it must be done.  I allow myself to skip the laundry today because I need to critique a friends work. I cut myself slack when I rewrite the same paragraph seven different ways and still can’t get it just right.  I surround myself with people who support my (maybe they don’t get my writing but they get me so they care).

If this is more than a hobby, don’t call it a hobby.  If you write picture books, don’t say they are just picture books. If you have a goal, go for it, work towards it Invest in yourself and be patient with yourself.

Write on my friends. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

 To all my Writing Friends I wish you

I love Valentines.  Not as a romantic holiday because, let's face it, I didn't marry a terribly romantic man (wonderful yes, romantic, uh no) and I can grab a romance novel any day of the week.  But Valentines means there will be chocolate readily available -- so what's not to love?

Plus, I dislike cut flowers.  I prefer flower's who won't die in a week and aren't crazy expensive.  Not knocking those who do, just my personal preference. But if my hubby would get me bouquet like this I'd be in heaven... oh wait.  He did get me books.  Good man!

For picture books on valentines one of my favorites is Snowy Valentine by David Petersen
This is a not-too-girly, not-too-pink valentine story about the thought of Valentine's.  Beautiful illustrations compliment the story to perfection.
Sometimes you love a character no matter what situation you put them in.  And I will always be a fan of Scooby and the Gang. So another fav is just because...
Don't judge. I loved Scooby Doo! WrestleMania too.  John Cena and Scooby.  Yes, please, and thank you.
I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weather you are being showered in flowers and chocolate or sharing a quiet day with your favorite book characters.  Valentine's isn't just about romance.  It is about love. A child loves their parents, a couple loves each other, a dog loves to see you come home, a reader loves their books. Books and chocolate....


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Author Interview with Carrie Charley Brown Founder of ReFoReMo

Today on Reading, Writing, and Reaching for Chocolate I'd like to welcome Carrie Charley Brown.
Carrie Charley Brown juggles ideas every day as a children’s writer, teacher, blogger, and mom.  She is the founder of the 2015 ReFoReMo Challenge, or Reading for Research Month. You can learn more about Carrie’s writing journey, her KidLit Services, ReFoReMo, and many other amazing authors and resources, at her blogsite Carrie On… Together!

 I’ve never heard of ReFoReMo. Is it new?

Thanks for asking, June.  You know how an idea starts small and bats at your brain for a while?  Then, finally when it reaches that a-ha moment, it comes out fast and furious?  That’s what happened with ReFoReMo!  The first annual event will take place this March.
Some of our best ideas flit around our brains for a while before they take off. So what is ReFoReMo?
The ReFoReMo Challenge, or Reading for Research Month Challenge, was founded to help picture book writers reform their writing by reading and researching mentor texts.  You just can’t be a good picture book writer if you don’t read other great picture books.  Well, I guess you could…but it would be extremely rare.

I agree, it would be like a cake decorator who's never eaten sugar. Hard to imagine. How did you come about creating it?

I constantly grow as a writer when I study stellar models.  At the same time, I am motivated by participating in writing challenges.  My first was PiBoIdMo, which led to the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge, NaPiBoWriWee, and ReviMo, among others. I’d been featuring the Carrie On…Book Clubs on my blog for two years, but had geared it mostly to children.  That’s when the gears started turning.  I wanted to offer some sort of reading challenge for writers.  This past fall, I served as a 2014 Fiction Picture Book panelist for the CYBILS awards.  In my dash to reserve all the nominated titles (more than 200) I flooded not only my library card, but my kids’ cards, too.  It was a challenge to read and research so many books in a one and a half month period!  I recognized how motivated I felt after reading a great model and how discouraged I felt after reading the not-so-greats. At its conclusion, I reflected on the event and realized I had found my challenge.

I participate in PiBoIdMo and 12x12 as well. The kidlit community is wonderful and supportive to our creative growth. Tell my why you feel reading and mentor texts are so important.

Books take us on adventures, even when we are studying them!  Mentor texts offer endless possibilities to explore.  If I want to amp up my humorous voice, I read tons of funny picture books.  I might break it down and analyze what made me laugh, how the humor was infused, how the illustration played a role, how kids would relate, etc.  But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg!  You could analyze plot, structure, dialogue, characters, point of view, the “It-Factor,” voice, hooks, and on and on and on.

Oh the "It-Factor" that thing we all know and recognize but can't describe. I'm curious, who are the authors that inspire you?

Do you understand how hard that question is?  J I am inspired by many, and all for different reasons.  Many of the authors that inspire me are prepublished.  They work super hard in the kidlit world and utilize tons of resources.  Their work is fabulous, just undiscovered by the right person.  They offer tons of support and inspiration to others. My writing partner, Kirsti Call, and my critique group inspire me.  Just look at their collection of books here!  

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk Coming Sept 2015  Seriously, my list is long, and many times it is one piece of an author’s work that inspires me most, rather than the entire body.  Imagine that, the mentor text itself inspires me most! Yes, it’s true, the author had to write it, but don’t forget:  there is an illustrator, too.  A picture book is a work of art all around.
I love the way Adam Rubin’s BIG BAD BUBBLE makes me laugh. 
I admire how Lois Brandt’s MADDI’S FRIDGE brought tears of joy to my eyes. Picture books make us feel things and it inspires me to know that kidlit authors have the ability to touch the lives of children.

There are so many wonderful writers, it's hard to choose just one! Is there anything else you think we should know about the event?

ReFoReMo is open to all picture book writers: newbies, prepublished, published.  A picture book writer’s learning never ends.  Those interested may sign up for updates now by  visiting the ReFoReMo blog here. 

Official registration is open from February 15-March 1, and allows the writer a chance to enter a private Facebook group and prize drawings at the conclusion of ReFoReMo.  While our ultimate goal is to read 105 books, the main effort is to read and research consistently.  A little every day will show you the way! I hope to share the experience with all of you.


Just for Fun a Fast Five Favorites

Favorite picture book when you were little?

Pickle Chiffon Pie by Jolly Roger Bradfield

Dogs or cats?

Neither.  While I like both, I have enough to manage with three kids. J  But, if we are talking books… then CATS- I love HERE COMES THE EASTER CAT by Deborah Underwood and BAD KITTY by Nick Bruel.

Coffee or Hot Chocolate?

Coffee!!  With flavored creamer.

Spicy or Sweet?

It all depends on my mood.  Today I’ll say sweet. Now if you had asked salty or sweet, I could say that I love a combo of the two. Like if I have scrambled eggs with cheese, then I also have to have the pancakes to balance it out.

Mmmm now I'm hungry. Favorite picture book now?

Impossible to pick just one!  I’m addicted to picture books, June! J  But since you are forcing me, I will say FOUND by Salina Yoon. It exhibits tons of clever, creative humor, a compassionate, thoughtful character, and a super sweet perfect story arc!

This was fun!  Thanks for inviting me, June!       
It was wonderful having you Carrie.  I hope all our readers will head on over to the  2015 ReFoReMo Challenge. I'm off to the Library to study some mentor texts. (Which sounds so much more professional than "I'm going to read until my eyes cross."




 http://www.kirsticall.comhttp://paulczajak.comhttp://carolordonekster.comhttp:www.benclanton.comhttp://www.loisbrandt.com http://www.benclanton.com

Thursday, January 8, 2015

New Year, New Opportunities, New Resolutions

So we are a week into 2015. Have you already snuck a donut even though you resolved to never ever ever eat another?

No problem. If you fall off the horse get back on tomorrow. For writers we dream big but I want everyone to remember to set goals that you have actual control over.

I'll finish my novel.
If you buckle down and make time and stay away from rabbit holes on the internet, you can finish that book you've always wanted to write.  Make time! Write on your lunch breaks, while you are waiting for the water to boil for dinner, while you are waiting to pick up the little ones from practice. You may need to wake up early, or turn off the tv at night, but it can be done.

 I'll get an agent.
You can research agents. You can polish your work until it is so shiny you can see your reflection. You can attend classes and conferences and truly hone your craft. But landing an agent isn't 100% in your hands. Agents are people with their own opinions, schedules, lives, clients, goals, grocery lists, bad hair days, etc. Not everyone will fall in love with your work and you shouldn't want just any agent.  Find the agent who would be best for your career.

I'll write 12 picture books in a year.
This is a great goal (You can get help by signing up for 12x12 and PiBoIdMo). Make a realistic goal and stick to it.

I'll write 12 novels in a year and publish them all.
Make a realistic goal... This is possible but would it be your best work? Would you have a life? Would you pull out all your hair and never see anyone but your pet rock? Writers are allowed to have lives...I'm pretty sure about that.

I'll go to a conference and then get an agent.
Go to a conference. Learn, laugh, read, make connections.  Remember that landing an agent isn't the finish line.  Selling a bagillion books to make readers happy should be the finish line.  An agent may not even be what you need.  Do research and see what will be best for your career.

Remember that no one is perfect. You will sneak a donut when you know you have to fit into that bridesmaid's dress next month. You'll fall asleep after picking up the kids from baseball when you meant to spend one hour writing. You'll write something you think is crap, then you'll love it, then you'll think it is crap again.  Don't beat yourself up.  Maybe things aren't happening right now but with hard work, research, and actual writing, it will happen. Maybe not even in the ways you originally planned. You may find you hate writing novels but love writing greeting cards. Who knows?