I LOVE Fall

If you’ve been reading my blog you can’t help but know that I love to bake and cook with pumpkin so, as you might imagine, I love fall. But it’s not just the pumpkin that shows up in things from coffee to ice cream that I love.

fallbannerFall commands the attention of all my senses. The crisp air that requires a jacket. The leaves in hues of orange, yellow and red capture both my eyes and my ears when the crunch underfoot. That crunching creates a leafy aroma like the grinding of spices. I hear the geese call good by as the cross the sky in perfect V formation. The Red-winged Blackbirds gather and put on a nightly show swooping as one for weeks before they too head south. As the sun moves south it sets earlier and earlier. Walking in the dusk of evening, house windows glow and I imagine the of families gathered inside. And when I return home the warmth of a fire greets me. It’s fall!

When you are writing it is important to think about your senses. What senses are awakened by  a place, season,  or activity? Including such details, not in a big paragraph as above, but slipped in here and there will enrich your story and help your reader feel like they are in the story with you!

A Recipe

Now, who wants some Pumpkin Cinnamon Pull-Apart Loaf?!

Print a copy from here & watch a video of constructing the loaf!

Story Boards, Book Dummies & Page Breaks

Last week we took a quick look at picture book construction. All editors and publishing houses have their own methods, but in my personal experience, the editors I worked with laid out the words using a book dummy. They also noted illustrations ideas on those pages to share with me and the illustrator. Laying the story out is important because page breaks are. We want the reader to keep turning the pages ! So authors should be thinking about page breaks and story layout as they revise their manuscript.

TO DO THIS authors and illustrators might make a STORY BOARDScreenshot 2021-08-16 095053

To make a story board take a long piece of paper and  fold it so you get 16 rectangles and you will divide each in two for your 32 pages (see above).   These are called thumbnails.  You can plan your illustrations by doing a sketch or writing what it would be.  You can write your text in, but if it’s a lot of words you could put first and last word.

OR a BOOK DUMMY0414181557_HDR  

A book dummy can be made a couple of ways.  You could take 8 sheets of paper, fold in the middle and you’ll have 32 pages.  Or you can make a smaller one by folding a large sheet of paper in half one way and then the other.  Then cut on those folds.  Fold in half and you have a 16 page signature.  How many do we need to make  the most common number of pages in a picture book? 

Some things to think about

So how will you decide where to break your story? These are some things to consider:

Suspense:  Think about books you’ve read-picture books or chapter books.  One of the things that makes us want to turn the page or read more is wondering what is going to happen on the next page.  So suspense is important in thinking about your page breaks.

Illustrations:  You want your illustrations to be different on each page, so as you look at your text you think about how you might illustrate those words or use pictures to add to the story.

White space: In most books you don’t want so many words on a page that there’s not enough room for pictures or that it looks overwhelming to read.

Question in the text: answer on next page

Stop a sentence in the middle:  SYLVIA WAS LATE FOR SCHOOL, SO SHE TOOK A SHORTCUT THROUGH THE BUSHES AND ALMOST TRIPPED OVER A….  (KITTEN) on the next page

Transition words: Then, When, But, And, Until and Ellipsis SYLVIA WAS LATE FOR SCHOOL.  SHE LEFT ON TIME, BUT…

Rhythm: of quick page breaks, build anticipation

When an editor works on your story your page breaks might change, but thinking about them has helped you submit a better story!

Picture Book Construction??

IF YOU take the time to write a picture book, the last thing you want is for the reader to put the book down before they’ve finished it.  You want them to keep turning the pages.  So it’s important what we decide to put on each page.

WE OFTEN call any book with illustrations a picture book, but there are really 2 types of illustrated books: 

  • Story books: Where the text tells the whole story and can be read without illustrations 
  • True picture books: where the pictures and words combine to tell the story.

So you need to know which type of illustrated book you’ve written as this will determine the book’s length and how the story is laid out on the pages.

Next we need to think about how picture books are constructed.

  • Most picture books are 32 pages and there’s a reason why.
  • Picture books are made from SIGNATURES-not the kind where we write our name. In printing a signature is:  a group of pages that are printed on both sides of a sheet of paper. The paper is then folded, cut and trimmed down to the finished page size.  So pages are laid out and printed on large sheet which is cut in half (so you have 4 sides) then cut in half again (8 sides) and folded so you have 16 pages.  Most picture books have 2 of these.speechbubblebookpage

So you have 32 pages, but some of these may be used for a title page, dedication, copyright material.  So 28 pages for your story.signatures

With 28 pages it will be important to plan how the words will fit into those pages. Is there room in the story for rich illustrations that add to the experience and to the story? 

Next week let’s look at story boards and book dummies as a way to plan your story.

Labor Day Memories

It’s Labor Day! I hope you are relaxing from your labors. Growing up a LONG time ago and on the East Coast school began the day after Labor Day. While all the schools where I live now have already put in many days of school I still think of Labor Day as the official start. In my youth Labor Day would find us watching the Jerry Lewis telethon as we frantically finished sewing clothes for school. While my forays into sewing are few and far between these days I still get the itch to sew this time of year.

Screenshot 2021-08-16 103634I also get the itch to read new things, learn new things and cover some books with brown grocery bags🙂! I’ve never been a crossword puzzle person, but I recently tried the Washington Post’s Daily Mini (+weekly Meta) and I’m hooked. They are small and you can check each word as you do it. I know crossword fanatics would never do that, but that little bit of help has kept me playing and I find I am solving them more quickly. I’m also learning how crossword puzzle makers think!

I was thinking how picture books, while glorious in their own right, are also a mini step for readers into the world of reading and how story works; for that matter how life works. The pictures give clues to help with the words. The new reader builds confidence as they read book after book. Eventually the reader moves on to bigger things, hopefully returning on occasion to the rich worlds offered by picture books. I don’t know if I’ll ever “move on” to bigger crossword puzzles, but my daily mini is perking my interest and giving me confidence.

Now for some book reviews

If Kids Ran the World, Leo and Diane Dillon,  The Blue Sky Press 2014

Inviting, bright illustrations show the world as it should be where kindness reigns and food, shelter, medicine, education and love are there for everyone. This world exists if Kids ruled the world. Until the world shows them otherwise kids assume all things are possible. May this book inspire us to find the child inside, see the world as it should be and strive to improve it each in our own way. An afterward suggest ways to make the world a better place.

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And kids now that the most important thing in the world isn’t money, or being king or queen, or pushing other people around. It’s love: giving it, sharing it, showing it.”

A Perfectly Messed-up Story, Patrick McDonnell,  Little Brown and Company 2014

A quirky, humorous mixture of real images and drawings that break the 4th wall. Louie is a character in HIS story. He’s happily going along when he find that someone has dropped jelly on the page, thus ruining the story. He is talking to the reader about it when plop some peanut butter drops on him. Then Louie finds fingerprints and orange juice. He gives a lecture on the importance of books and begins again only to find someone  has colored in the book. He tries to start again but decides it’s just a messy old book no one will want and he gives up. The story starts without him and he finds out that everything is just fine. And Louie decides it is just fine, messes and all!

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“Everything is fine. I’m still here. You’re still reading. And it is a pretty good story. Messes and all.”

I am a Thief!, Abigail Rayner, Illus Molly Ruttan, NorthSouth Books, 2019

20210420_160813Eliza Jane Murphy, who sees herself as a model student, becomes a thief when she takes a sparkly stone from a display of green things in her classroom. But then her “heart stopped singing”, her letters “went wonky” and she was “too heavy to swing.” She begins to explore her feelings by asking the adults in her life if they’ve ever stolen something. It turns all of them, except her dad, admitted to some minor thievery in their lives. But that doesn’t make Eliza Jane feel any better. So she tells her parents and knows what to do. When she returns it and confesses her teacher said she was brave. She realizes that “nobody is just a thief. Everyone is a lot of things”. Just as she is about to close her investigation on the family thieves she discovers her dad stealing the last piece of cake! Nice lessons showing we are all more than our mistakes, that adults make mistakes too,  and that admitting to and learning from mistakes is what counts.

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