8

I have spent months on this picture book.  I'm not writing here what it's about because I'm not completely comfortable with that... but I'm feeling really good about it.  I have many picture books in the works, actually.  But this is the one that has called out to me the most to complete. I think it's there...  I'm letting it rest awhile and I'll take a look again before actually pressing that "send" button for the query letter to go out.  But I think it's pretty close to being ready. But the query letter!!!  UGH!      

So much anxiety with it, you know?  When the letter is done, and I hit send... well, that's it. Either that editor it's going to is going to like it and request the manuscript or... well.... she will not like it, won't request it and won't ever see the manuscript to even give it a chance.  YIKES!

So the query has to be good.  REALLY good. And it's causing me more anxiety than all the writing and the revision of the actual manuscript did.

So I went to my friends at 12 x 12 and SCBWI..... still waiting for a response...  need some encouragement and guidance.  This is a big step. So in my 'spare time' this morning, I looked for all kinds of resources on writing query letters, especially for picture books.  I thought I would share some of those with you as I wait for a response from my friends at 12 x 12 and SCBWI:

Query Letters for Children's Book Fiction

Picture Book Query

Anatomy of a Query Letter

Children's Book Publishers - How to Wow Them With a Perfect Query Letter

Writing a Picture Book Query

There's many more sources, but these are what I ran across today.  Please share with me any other sources  you have found useful and I can add them to the list! As an end note, I found this handy bit of advice on Harold Underdown's site:

One Last Piece of Advice

Once posted, forget about it for at least three months. Begin writing something new. Stalking the postman will not make editors read any faster. Moreover, whatever it says on their websites about when you will receive their answer, plan to wait a minimum of six months. In some cases, it takes twice that long. A short note of enquiry, or a postcard after six months, is permissible. While you wait, take comfort in knowing that most writers feel a sense of inadequacy when it’s time to write a query letter. Join the club!

Okay... I guess I'm not the only one!  Well that helps! (a little)

7

I have a LOT of catching up to do....   here on the blog, in my own manuscript writing, critique groups, homeschool plans, catching up with friends, decluttering and organizing and oh so much more.  My "To Do" list keeps growing.   I write it out once a week or so and cross out things as I accomplish them but seem to always add more than I cross out.  I never get it all done.  I'm always rewriting the things I didn't get done from the old list to the top of the new list.

I have had some recent achievements though:

My little guy and I are halfway through Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons.   I'll try to get an update on that out soon.  He still enjoys the lessons.  Sometimes we skip a few days, sometimes we do two in a day because he brings the book to me and wants to do it.  He is starting to pick out a lot more words in the books I read to him.  🙂  It's exciting!

I am in Spring Cleaning Decluttering and Organize Mode..   I finally succeeded in cleaning out my closet!  It's a nice walk-in closet with lots of shelves...also, unfortunately, the place I was learning to put things if I didn't feel like dealing with it at the moment...and was no longer very 'walk-in-able'...  But NOW IT IS!  Woot!  I have it all done but one shelf...  lots of pictures and papers that need sorted and put into the right boxes.  But just this one MAJOR task accomplished and the $65 I made cleaning out the game closet (I sold some games and an old keyboard on a Facebook online garage sale) gives me HUGE motivation to continue.

I finally watched the Charlotte Mason video seminars that I bought LAST year at the CHAP (Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania) conference....with only 7 days to go before the next conference!  It was worth it.  It did convince me that I really need to make an effort to get to know more about the Charlotte Mason approach and stay on track with it.  I definitely feel it's the right approach for us for the little man...  if only I had researched it when the others were younger 🙁   Oh well....I did the best I could,

I completed the May Menu.  But I really need to get cracking on the grocery list for next week or I'll have a menu with no food!

I finally wrote the blog post I've been meaning to write for some time.  I posted it last Thursday and it got over  198 views thus far...making it my 3rd most viewed post.  Not a lot of comments were made, but it pleased me that that many people read it and am hopeful it gave   If you haven't and you want to read it, it's right here:  Why I Refuse To Support Homeschool Diploma Programs.

I made a LOT of revisions on my manuscript in the last month or so.  Unfortunately, the last time I sat down to work on it my goal had been to CUT word number...and ended up with 35 extra words....  LOL... but I think the revisions I made were important and beneficial.  I hope to cut some more on the word count today and maybe even write up a draft query letter!

Well, that's certainly not all I've been doing - but it's the highlights of quite a few.  And now, I need to get back to the manuscript!  Wish me luck!

 

5

I sent out a manuscript to my new critique group on March 3rd.  YIKES!   Learning to listen to others critique your work is a skill in and of itself, I think.  You have to press down your inner urges to scream, “No!  I can’t cut that part – that’s like – what got the whole story going!” or “What??  How can you not get that?”  and “But that changes the entire plot!??” and so many other thoughts that jumble around in your mind and the wrenching of your gut as you realize that the story is not the instant best seller you wanted it to be !  Haha….such is the life of a writer.

Finding a critique partner or group is an important aspect of the writing process in my opinion.  We writers get very attached to our characters and words we write on the paper and can not always look at our work with an unbiased opinion. We need that 2nd or 3rd opinion to point out things that we may never see for ourselves because we are just too emotionally attached.

But just as important is learning how to critique someone else’s manuscript.  I joined another critique group over a month ago and spent some time doing some major research into learning how to do just that…. And I’m not done yet.  There is so much to learn.  But I did find some major sources to help me learn the process and sources I will consistently refer to as I work on improving.

My favorite sources thus far have been the following:

The Critique:  An Important Tool (Paul Czajak)

The Critique:  An Important Tool Part Two (Paul Czajak)

Perfecting Your Critique (Alayne Kay Christian)

And, of course:  the forums at SCBWI and 12 x 12.  SCBWI doesn’t seem to post manuscripts anymore…at least, not from what I’ve been able to see so far.  I remember years ago that they did that and I learned a lot back then.  On 12 x 12 people can post the first 250 words.  It’s a learning experience just to sit and read the posts and the comments people make.  I can read and see what people make the most comments about – what are they complimenting? What things stick out as quality aspects of a manuscript?  What are the things people react against the most strongly?  Even if it’s not my own manuscript, one can learn a lot just by reading comments on other people’s work.

The biggest pointer I’ve learned is when you critique a manuscript, you should read it first, clear thru – out loud, and then just walk away and think it through before writing down anything or making any definitive comments.  And not just for five minutes.  Maybe a few hours – maybe a day.  Think about it.  Did you like the story?  Did you not like the story?  What is the biggest thing that sticks with you even hours later? Of course that’s not possible if you are in a sit-down group, face to face, but most critiquing seems to occur online these days and gives us ample opportunity to do that.

When you receive a critique, it’s important to do that same thing.  Read it…. Try not to let your feathers get ruffled…. Get up, walk away….  Come back to it later.  I’ve often taken something personal the first time I’ve read a manuscript critique of my work only to come back later and think, “Oh…. I see… yes, they are right about that.”  Take time to digest it instead of feeling those first moments of conflict within yourself because of that reluctance to change what you have spent hours creating.

I also, this month, have taken the opportunity to send a manuscript into this amazing blog site hosted by published children’s authors:  Rate Your Story.  It’s a little nerve-racking waiting to hear back…  I must keep in mind, whether the manuscript rates well or not, it’s a learning process.  It’s a process to make my writing stronger.

So what are your thoughts on the critique process?  Is there a source you like to use?  A service you like to use?  Please share with me and my readers!

 

 

7

Back in January I wrote about Chapter One of Writing Picture Books: A Hand's On Guide wpid-IMG_20140228_091607_740.jpgfrom Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul.  This month (besides dodging kidney stones, visiting my Mom, and doing the famous 'wearing too many hats and I'm going to topple right over dance' among other things)I've been working on chapter 2 of Ann's book.

In Chapter 2, Ann reminds us that a story must have depth that resonates with both the adult reader, who makes the purchase, and the child listener.  It is critical for each story to have a question - an absolute focus, if you will.  Not a question that is obviously written out in the story itself - mind you - but a question that you, as the writer, keeps in mind to keep your story tight and on track.  Read more about this in Ann's book!

This month's (chapter) assignment:  I must (and did) write the story question (and answer) for my manuscript.  Then I must (and did) see if someone agrees with me....good thing I belong to SCBWI and 12 x 12.... these two groups made finding someone with an unbiased opinion quite easy!  Both of the people who looked over my piece came up with very similar questions and answers to my own, so I feel I'm at least on target with that!

Even though I'm only starting the third chapter, I really feel this is a good book on writing and I feel I've already learned a great deal.

Do YOU know the "Question" for your current writing piece?  Is it hard for you to keep that question in mind while writing and revising or do you tend to meander away from it?  How do you keep yourself on track?

Shannon Abercrombie's Start The Year Off Write Challenge came to an 'end' last Saturday, January 25th. The challenge consisted of 21 prompts or writing exercises to kick-start the new year of writing for children's writers, though many of the prompts could be used by students and adults of other genres as well. Shannon is offering prizes to the participants but those have not been announced yet.

I completed each of the 21 prompts. Some took more time than others. A few were definitely more difficult than others and some left me feeling much more satisfied and full

I wrote my prompt assignments out in here...along with a couple new 'ideas' for January....
I wrote my prompt assignments out in here...along with a couple new 'ideas' for January....

of ideas than others. But all were wonderful exercises for the writing mind!  If you haven't participated and want to see what all the fuss was about, Shannon has a list of the lovely talents involved along with links to their websites and prompts on her webpage!  Check them out here.

I loved that some of them gave me further ideas to develop the ideas I had during PiBoIdMo! I took one of them and developed it into a manuscript - albeit in VERY rough draft form! (I can actually thank Tara Lazar for that particular idea from prompt #8 ~ Title Talk~!)

So now what??

Well, now that the 21 day challenge is over I'll be spending more time with Ann Whitford Paul within the pages of her book on Writing Picture Books and on the forums over at 12 x 12! I am also hoping that a critique group that I signed up for might begin as I'm really itching for some feedback on a manuscript I'm working on about my patron saint.  I'm also looking forward to a little self-writer's- retreat that my husband is giving me -  a couple of days away so I can just totally catch up on some reading and writing without the daily interruptions of life - might try to catch up on some sleep too!  But I'm really looking forward to uninterrupted writing time 🙂

Tell me - what are my other writer friends up to these days?? How are you keeping going after the challenge?

3

piboidmo2013-participant-214x131

PiBoIdMo is over.     🙁

But I am soooo glad I discovered it at just the right time!!

It was an awesome month!

PiBoIdMo, as I stated at the beginning of November, is Picture Book Idea Month.  PiBoIdMo challanges the children's writer to come up with 30 picture book ideas.  I took on the challange and ran with it!

Not only did I have  38  ideas by November 30th but I was once again a member of SCBWI and I also had 2 complete manuscripts...still in rough draft form and I have no idea where to send them off to when I feel they are finished but, hey, that's a LOT more than I had over a month ago!!!   🙂

I'm also trying to find some critique partners.  I had three people take a look at one manuscript which was in a very rough form and it helped me refine the idea and get it headed in a better direction. My husband also bought me the 2014 Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators Guide so I can start getting a handle on what publishers are looking for in manuscripts these days.

I'm really excited to be writing again!  Can you tell?

Anyone else out there do PiBoIdMo?  How did you do?

"People often ask, 'How do you start a book?' Well, I've always started this way...Chapter 1."  ~ Paula Danziger

This made me laugh.  It's such a low-key thought approach.  It's like, well, duh, you start at the beginning.

Paula Danziger was an awesome author and wrote a lot of wonderful books. Unfortunately, Paula passed away after complications stemming from a  heart attack in 2004.  But she had already left a legacy to the world of children's literature before the age of 59 including the Amber Brown series, The Cat Ate My Jumpsuit, There's a Bat in Bunk Five, and Remember Me to Harold Square just to name a few.  The   I can still remember reading The Cat Ate My Jumpsuit back in middle school.  That book really sticks out strongly in my mind.  I'm sure it has a lot to do with how much I strongly despised gym class and wished I had a cat that WOULD eat my gymsuit...or something like that.  How I hated that gymsuit.

It is hard to start a new book...or sometimes really easy if an idea pops into your head that you just can't get rid of. But sometimes the idea is there, it won't let you sleep at night, but the story just won't form on the page.  And you are left there staring at the page with the little doodles  you made of your character being very thankful you won't have to be the illustrator if you can ever actually make this into an acceptable (or better yet, bestselling) manuscript!

Right now my ideas are flowing.... ideas, not necessarily a manuscript.  But I'm enjoying the process and playing around with the ideas.  It's Saturday, which is to be my day for writing but I am away from home.... or should I say I AM home?  I'm in my childhood home, right where I read The Cat Ate My Gymsuit.  Memories!  Those are good idea starters too!  Anyway, I'll just have time to write down ideas today, not much else, but that's okay.  I can always write "Chapter 1" as an idea 🙂

Random Thoughts For Saturday:

  • It's amazing that, when the toddler doesn't get the pirate ship he wants at the store, he comes home and builds one! It's okay not to buy your child everything he wants.
  • The brain of a three year old is a HUGE sponge!  WOW!
  • If making a list helps you keep track of what to do, that's great!  Make a list....but try to remember where the list is.
  • Why is it when you think of a really great thought to write down there is never any paper available?
  • Everyone should watch a child at play...... and remember the world of imagination.
  • When we assume something about another person's thoughts, that's unfair to the person and unnecessarily damaging to ourselves (I took that one from Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst)
  • Sometimes people just need someone to listen and not for judgement or advice.
  • Sometimes we assume something based on someone's reaction but don't take the time to consider other reasons for their reaction...which leads to what Lysa was saying above.

I hope you have a nice, relaxing Saturday.  Take a little time to read or watch the curious antics of a child.  Look around and find a sign of God in the world around you.  Enjoy.

2

I knew about Nano (National Novel Writing Month) which is held in November each year and challenges to write a novel in one month, or 50,000 words which, according to the website, is doable even for an active person.  Do they know what I do in a day??  (laughing incredulously).  Well, I tried Nano once.  I don't recall how many words I accomplished that year, but it certainly wasn't close to 50,ooo and I wasn't as busy then as I am now!Someday, maybe, I'll bring out that YA I started years ago, and attempt Nano with it again.  Or maybe just be content with adding a paragraph a week. That may be more like it.

But this year I am doing PiBoIdMo!  PiBoIdMo is Picture Book Idea Month. This is the fifth year for PiBoIdMo. That's obviously why I haven't heard of it before.  I haven't really written in over 4 years or more.  How I didn't know about it the first year, I'm not sure.  But I am glad to know it now.

Immediately, upon finding out about PiBoIdMo, I got very excited, registered, and pulled out my( still blank) Ideas and Images journal I obtained from a SCBWI conference many years ago. It was perfect for the newly inspired me!  And I wrote in the numbers 1-30 over two of its pages......  So the idea is that through the course of the month, which is November which has 30 days, the picture book writer comes up with at least 30 different ideas for a picture book (I already have 5 listed besides the one I've actually spent a little bit of time starting this past week).  In addition, Tara Lazar (founder of PiBoIdMo) will be putting up daily blog posts by picture book authors, illustrators, editors and other professionals from the kidlit world!  I am so inspired by this.  It was really perfect timing.

So I have opened the cupboard in my sitting room that has been closed since the cupboards were built.  Inside, I found very dusty folders and notebooks I've not looked at in quite sometime.  It was really sort of humorous (and maybe a little sad) as I glanced through folders with started manuscript titles not remembering half of them!  I mean, sure memories came back after reading through a few lines, but I honestly hadn't remembered starting half of them!  So it will be interesting, I'm sure, taking more time to sort through and read through them all again.  I'm sure, this many years later, I will have a totally different perspective on many of them if not all of them!

I also found my notes from SCBWI conferences and other related sources.  Right now, sitting at the top of the pile on my desk, a notebook lies open displaying the notes from the Katherine Patterson talk.  Here are some of the things I wrote that Katherine said:  "I can never be Jane Austin or Tolstoy, but neither can they be me." (So true!) "I am the only person that can tell my stories." (Yep!) "We must bring out what we fear and what we care mostly about." (I must remember this).  Katherine ended her talk that day by exclaiming, "Go Home and Dare!"

So I'm daring.  I'm not sure what will become of all this but I am grateful to you, my followers, for making me feel that maybe, by following me or reading this blog from time to time, that you must think I have something to say, something worth reading.  I appreciate that.  I don't give myself enough credit, or so I'm told.  You help me do that.  So thank you, dear reader, for giving me encouragement to go out and dare!  And now it's time to do a little more looking into those past manuscripts and notes... maybe a new idea for a picture book will emerge and I can add more to my list!  They come up in the most unusual places....like sitting and watching a little old man filling his car up with gas at Sam's Club 😉

I thought I'd write a bit today about writing.

I've always loved to write.  I can remember and writing being my first loves from as far back as... well, as far back as I can remember.  Reading was an escape for me and I suppose writing was and is as well.  But I know the 'dream' started in 5th grade.  Mrs. Allred, my ultimate favorite teacher of all time and I suppose this is one of the reasons why, read aloud my story that I had shared with her to the class.  It was a story that was highly influenced by my love of Little House on the Prarie and featured a young girl riding through the prarie to save her younger brother who was suffering from the same illness as her recently deceased mother.  I believe the name of the story was Mary, The Serious Child and may just be laying around here somewhere tucked away with a few other childhood memories as well as my 'humerous' rendition of the three little pigs.

Mrs. Allred praised my work and encouraged me to continue my interests in reading and writing...though she prefered me not to do so during Social Studies! What can I say?  Learning about Brigham Young and Salt Lake City did not do much for me.  I moved away from the praises of Mrs. Allred in Heber City, Utah halfway through my 5th grade year and kept my writing to myself for the most part for the remainder of my school days (though one English teacher did enjoy chuckling at the absurd stories I could make up with spelling words), only keeping the dream alive in the corners of my mind.

Only after early retirement from teaching Learning Support type classrooms in the public schools for ten years did I finally consider making the dream real.  I took two correspondance courses through the Institute of Children's Literature, read lots of books on the subject and joined SCBWI.

Over the course of several years, I completed two manuscripts for early chapter books and worked on several still incomplete picture book manuscripts.  I was just beginning to dive into really figuring out how to send those manuscripts off into publishing land and began a young adult manuscript that I had been pondering over for quite sometime when I found out God was blessing (HUGE surprise) us with our third child.  At that precise time I wasn't exactly thrilled nor sure it was a blessing and my writing got railroaded with nausea, fatigue, and then diapers and more fatigue and, well, life.

But,  now with my blessing of 3 1/2 years, I am grateful for God's amazing ways. He is, indeed, a blessing despite God deciding to do things His way instead of my way.  I'm so glad He does that!  However, I still long to write!!!  So here I am, trying again.  A bit with this blog and maybe one day soon, I'll dust off those manuscripts and do a bit (okay, a LOT) of revision and get busy on some new ones again.  I actually have one thought in mind... but I'm not sharing.  I only have a thought and barely four or five sentences written!

So wish me luck... I'm doing well with keeping up with the blog so far but it's not a habit yet and is just a beginning.  I'm hoping to join SCBWI again soon ( thanks to my darling dh who promised to make it a birthday present!  Maybe an early one?) and take a look at those books again...  maybe today, after mixing up a batch of candied pecans and playing with that little blessing I mentioned,  I'll check out a few blogs by children's authors! Do you know of any good ones out there?

8

When I said goodnight to the moon last night, I had 73 views of yesterday's post!  I was completely amazed and excited.  I guess it confirmed I should write more on that topic and I will!  I promise.  As I wrote before, there are many things I am passionate about and food and what we put into our bodies is definitely one of them.  I'm sure I'll touch on that subject quite often. But perhaps a lighter topic today...Books! After all, I blog here because I want to be a writer.  And what is a writer without books?!

Goodnight Moon is one of my youngest son's favorite books!  We started reading that book when he was about 9 months old.  I believe it was a Christmas present from his Grandpa!

We read that book nightly for a very long time - probably at least two years! We usually saved it for the last of 3-4 bedtime books so that he knew it was the last and a sign of it being time for prayers and sleep! He still loves the book and he is 3 1/2 now.  We play games with it.  I'll read one part "Goodnight comb, goodnight brush," and he completes the rhyme... (If you don't know it, you simply must read the book! ) Other times, when I'm not feeling to tired, I play around a bit and read the wrong line: Goodnight Hippo jumping over the moon.  Oh how he laughs!  And of course, after reading it however many times, quickly corrects me and tells me what it should be.  I think he had it memorized before I did! 🙂

Margaret Wise Brown has always been a favorite of mine. She was a talented author who knew the mind of a child.  I just read that she is best known for Goodnight Moon (no surprise there), Big Red Barn (have not even heard of that one...will need to check that out at the library next time!) and Runaway Bunny (again, no surprise but was never a favorite of mine). When I was little I loved Mister Dog; The Dog Who Belonged to Himself, The Golden Egg Book and Home For A Bunny.  I never even heard of Goodnight Moon until I had my second child!  But I know it quite well now!

Margaret Wise Brown died when she was only 42.  It's amazing how many great books she had written by that time.  And here I am , past that, and haven't one in print (yet?).  She had 4 other pen names.  That is new to me.  I will have to do some further research into that interesting tidbit.  I'm not sure if they were all children's books or if she actually wrote other genres as well.  I think it's fascinating when authors write under various pen names.

I have often wondered if I ever did publish, whether I would use my actual name or use a pen name.  I don't know if many authors use pen names these days.  I remember when I was young actually making up names to use!  April Snow was one I liked a lot. Something about the extreme opposites... although it did snow here once in April on my daughter's birthday!  She was not appreciative of that!

Well, if I am ever to make that decision, I will have to actually finish writing or revising a manuscript worthy of publication and get it out there!  So no time like the present to get working on that!  So Goodnight Moon, hello days of writing!

DID YOU KNOW??

Four year old children who were read one alphabet book per day significantly
improved in their awareness of phonemes - tiny letter sounds that make up words.  Read to your child today! 🙂