Thursday, June 27, 2013

Great Advice For Writers

While reading my daily collection of emails, I came across a link to a website where one writer had interviewed another writer. Yvonne Mes interviewed Andrew King. Both are children's picture book writers, so the interview was slanted in that direction. 
Picture Andrew King is the author of a delightful-sounding children's picture book called Engibear's Dream. I use the term "delightful-sounding" because I haven't read the book, but it sounds delightful. King had some good advice for beginning picture book writers. He also had some advice for writers who have self-published their work, or are thinking about doing so, as he self-published his book. But, I think his advice can, and should, apply to ALL writers. He said writers should (I paraphrased his words a bit):

* read and write every day;
* look for inspiration everywhere and allow it to come from anywhere;
* become part of the writing community (which includes workshops, festivals, conferences, writing groups, reading groups);
* continually educate themselves to learn about structures and rules that apply to their craft; and 
* be themselves and tell their stories their way.

Like I said, I think that's great advice for ALL writers.

I enjoyed reading the whole interview. You can read the rest of it by clicking here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Rate Your Story

Remember my post about rhyming picture books? I said it was difficult to do rhyming verse and do it well. I also said I had written a picture book in rhyme that I thought was pretty good but I hadn't been able to find a publishing home for it.

Well, I don't have a publisher for it, but I did get some good news about it. I recently sent it to a website called Rate Your Story. They will rate a story you've written if you send it to them. They have published writers who volunteer to read your story and give it both a rating and a bit of feed-back. There is no charge for this service but there are some rules you must follow.

I sent my rhyming picture book to Rate Your Story on June 3rd and got my rating on June 17th. Now, bear in mind, it's a very short picture book, so that could be why the rating was received so quickly. I got a rating of 3 on my story! I'm very excited about that. I also got some positive feedback as well as some suggestions for revisions.According to their rating scale, it's a "Good story - Get a critique or two and polish before submitting." That's what I intend to do.

Because I got a 3 rating, I am allowed to post this badge on my website to tell the world about my accomplishment.

If you want to have your story rated, you can check out their complete guidelines on their website. The guidelines are simple, but you must adhere to them.

* They will rate only one story at at time. If they give it a rating you don't agree with, and offer suggestions for revisions, you may revise it and resend it, for a total of three ratings per story.
* They only accept submissions on the 1st through the 7th of any month. So, the next window of opportunity will be July 1 - July 7, 2013.
* It usually takes about 2 weeks to receive your rating.
* They rate stories on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the highest rating you can get.

Now that I've received a rating of 3 on my story, I'm going to see if I can get a couple of my writing friends to critique it to see what they think. Then, I'm going to try sending it out to see if I can finally find a good publishing home for it.

Wish me luck, and good luck with your writing, too!


Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Tribute to Dads

Since I wrote a short poem for moms to honor them on Mother's Day, I thought it fitting I should do something similar for dads.

Here goes:


Dads are special creatures who can:

* work like dogs;
* lead like bulls;
* play like puppies;
* cuddle like kittens; and still be
* gentle as lambs.

We love our dads.

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to all the dads out there!


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Writing Picture Book Text: Words of Wisdom from

If you think it's easy writing picture books, think again. Today's picture books have fewer words and more pictures than those published in days gone by. The majority of picture books published in today's market by large presses (not counting the books that authors self-publish) have 500 or fewer words in the entire text. Many have fewer than that. It's not unusual for a picture book to be less than 200, or even 100, words in length.

So, if you've you've never written a picture book, you probably think this would make them easier to write, it doesn't. Why? Because so much depends on each
word in the text. Here's a question, along with the answer, I found posted on ("where writers write to get it right"). The writer poses a legitimate question and the editor provides an excellent answer.

Dear Editor…
I was wondering if you would know why the word count for picture books is dwindling. Now I have heard it’s 500 words or less. Why the decrease in word count? Same number of pages. Is it to focus more on illustrations?

Dear Patti…
It’s a combination of market demand and product potential. Sales are strong for shorter, character-driven picture books, as opposed to stories with longer, more detailed narratives and plots. Concept always matters, but it’s the characters who drive this bus. Illustrations are key to their presentation. If the characters hit big, you’re looking at more books, even a franchise. Writers crafting this kind of text should strive for concise, rhythmic wording for a rich read-aloud quality. As for plot, think episodically, seeing the story in a series of scenes that use page turns and rhythmic breaks to transition from one moment to the next. That leaves room for the illustrator to swoop in with a strong visual storyline utilizing those same turns and breaks. Fewer words, but the same goal: a story that’s fun to read, delivers a great message, and offers characters with whom kids can connect.
Happy writing!
The Editor

And that, my friends, is why each word in the text is so important.

You can get more information about writing from the website as well as on their Facebook Page.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Rhyme Time

I have a picture book that is written in rhyme. It has not been published yet, but I'm not sure if that's because the rhyme is badly done (I don't think it is) or I just haven't had the good fortune to find the right publisher for it. In any case, I know it's been difficult to make the rhyme work. You may not believe this, but rhyming (and doing it well) isn't easy. 

But, I recently came across an amazing site for learning about, and working with, rhyme. Lots and lots of children's stories are written in verse. Many of them are done well; unfortunately, many are not. I've been learning about meter and rhyme and verse in an effort to improve my writing.

If you're interested in learning about it too, you should visit RHYME WEAVER. It is THE go-to site for all your questions about meter and rhyme. As defined on the site:

Meter is the arrangement of words, syllables, or sounds into a regular, recurring pattern. In poetry, it is the rhythmic pattern of STRESSED and UNstressed syllables that makes up verse.

Lane, the author of the website, says:

"Adding Rhyme to a poem or story can make it lively and clever, but you don’t have to rhyme to publish or be respected. Actually, it’s highly UNfashionable to rhyme.  Rhyming your poetry in grad school is the social equivalent of schizophrenia– you could talk to yourself in public and be cooler.  

The publishing industry is a little better, but there are many editors who won’t even look at rhyme because when it’s bad, it hurts to hear it.

So don’t torture people with bad rhyme, it’s rude.  Make sure that you are rhyming because you want to and because you’ve taken the time to learn to do it well."

So, come along with me and learn to write rhyme so the editors, publishers, and ultimately your readers will thank you.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Shannon Abercrombie's 100 Days of Summer - Writing Prompt Challenge

Shannon Abercrombie, a fellow writer issued a challenge to other writers to work on a series of given prompts for 100 days, one prompt per day. With each day's challenge, Shannon includes a tidbit of knowledge about some aspect of the writing process, i.e., time, setting, character development, etc.

I decided to sign up for the challenge. It sounded like fun. It sounded like a good thing. And it has been and it is.

A couple of days ago, she gave us a challenge just for fun. We were to write a sentence using a combinationof phrases from three different categories. We were supposed to choose the beginning of the sentence from Category 1, the middle from Category 2, and the end from Category 3. Here are the categories we had to choose from:

Category 1
On an ordinary day
On a dark and stormy night
One steamy afternoon in Grand Central Station
Category 2
two wild-eyed parakeets
a slimy slug and a caterpillar
curious twins
Category 3
jumped into a fireplace.
found a pickle jar of quarters.
uncovered a box of treasure. 

So, there are several different sentence possibilities. Here are 3 of them:
On an ordinary day (Category 1) two wild-eyed parakeets (Category 2) jumped into a fireplace (Category 3). OR On a dark and stormy night (Category 1) a slimy slug and a caterpillar (Category 2) found a pickle jar of quarters (Category 3). OR One steamy afternoon in Grand Central Station (Category 1) curious twins (Category 2) uncovered a box of treasure (Category 3).

My sentence was: On a dark and stormy night a slimy slug and a caterpillar uncovered a box of treasure.

The whole idea for the exercise was to use our imagination to make a sentence and then hopefully keep going with it and write a story. Well, I didn't write a story, but I did write a first paragraph. Here's what I came up with:

On a dark and stormy night, a slimy slug and a caterpillar uncovered a box of treasure. This might seem a bit unusual, but it was just another day, or in this case night, for this pair of unlikely bounty hunters. Sometimes they went in search of snails or spiders who had crossed the line and broken the law. They got paid by bringing back wanted critters dead or alive. It was impossible to predict where their next adventure would take them. This time, it took them to a deserted beach in the middle of a storm. They were actually searching for a crustacean by the name of “Slippery Sam” who had managed to avoid the law in his long string of marine crimes. They found traces of the bandit, but couldn’t quite catch up to him. Instead, they climbed right over the box of treasure before they realized what it was.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it?!?

Now, here's where you come in. Help me continue this story, or at least tweak the first paragraph.

* What would you add?
* What would you change?
* What should happen next?

I'm leaving it up to you. Please share you thoughts and ideas in the "Comments" section.


If you're interested in joining in the fun, you can sign up on Shannon's website: Shannon Abercrombie: Unlocking Imagination One Page At a Time.