Design a site like this with WordPress.com
Get started

A New Direction

If you look up the word AUTHOR you’ll find most definitions mention writing a book, essay, play, etc. A broader definition includes anyone who creates something, i.e. a business plan, software, film. I rather like the definition I found at The Cambridge Dictionary online:

A person who begins or creates something

As soon as a story begins to grow in a writer’s head they are an author. Putting that story on paper is the next step in the journey an author takes.

As a writer, I’ve begun stories that were never finished, stories that were rejected countless times by editors, stories that were critiqued and stories that weren’t, and stories that were successfully published.

One of the differences between the creations that were successful and those that were not was the critique and editorial process. The creations of ALL writers will benefit from a constructive critique as well as comprehensive editing.

As I’ve searched for my new career focus, I keep coming back to the fact that I love working with words! I was reminded of that recently while doing some critiques for friends. And so I decided one new focus is to throw my hat into the gig economy ring!

gigimageMy goal is to help authors on their journey as they create magic with words. I look forward to offering objective critiques as others have done for me. You can find my services at Fiverr.

I’ll let you know how it goes!snoopy-writer

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.

Authors Study Too

Depending on where you live school may have already begun or it will start soon. Some students love school, others dread it. For the most part I always liked school. I like learning. I had to work, but things were easier for me than for some. There was the pressure of good grades, the drama of friends and the dread of a “bad” teacher. But all in all, from Kindergarten through grad school, I had good experiences.

craftsWhen you’re a kid you think, when school is done I’m done studying, but in time you realize the most successful people are always learning. Want to be good at baking-read (now days watch) about it. In fact just about any skill can be improved from gardening to car maintenance. And most professions involve continued study.

0414181745_HDRIt’s no different for authors. Yes it’s a creative process that involves ideas in our brains, but we read books, attend conferences and workshops. Successful authors are always learning not just about writing but also about the publishing business.

So as students and teachers head back to school think of your favorite authors and know that they may be opening a book, completing a lesson or listening to a lecture too!

Illustration Notes-Yes or No?

An often-debated question among authors, is whether to put illustration notes in a manuscript or not. The most common advice is to use them sparingly and only when they are necessary for the editor/agent to understand the story.

You would not specify the color of a character’s clothing unless it matter to the story. For example, in a work-in-progress, Chicken Little’s Grade-A Idea, I included two illustration notes. The first (show billboards) indicates what Chicken Little is pointing to as he suggests something they could do to get people to drink more milk. The other was (Cows Lose Their Jobs), referring to what the headline of the newspaper Chicken Little reads should say.

Normally I add very few illustrator notes. First, I hope my words evoke the images and secondly, I trust an illustrator to bring the words to life by adding their vision. But there was one time I should have added a note.

When I submitted No More Noisy Nights to Shari Dash Greenspan at Flashlight Press, her initial decision to reject it was because she was picturing Jackson as an adult. As you see in this email excerpt.

sharinmnn1

I say I was picturing Jackson as an animal. This is a way children can explore adult behavior by using animals as main characters. But sure, I’ll rewrite.  So, I rewrite it with Jackson helping his grandma move.

But, she doesn’t like it.  And she begins seeing Jackson not as a person, but a mole and a matter of a few minutes the tide turns and Jackson is closer to finding a home at Flashlight Press!

 

 

So, lesson learned. If I’d specified that it was an animal, not a human, maybe a mole we might have saved time. EXCEPT, there was value in my rewrite as each thing we write improves our writing. It also gave Shari a chance to see my ability to take editorial comments and work with them.

snoopy-writer.

Will you be my pen pal?

As you may have gathered I love the Peanuts comic strip. I’ve been reading it since I was a child and was sad when it ended. Shulz had recurring storylines and one I’ve always enjoyed was Charlie Brown writing to his pen pal. Sometimes the humor was about  Charlie Brown’s use of pen vs pencil, but sometimes Shulz conveyed profound thoughts.

I think Charlie Brown was on to something. A back and forth of letters allows us to learn about each other, to share things we might not be comfortable saying out loud. And the more we know about someone the easier it is to understand them-to not hate them.

Charlie Brown’s pen pal was in another country, but pen pals in our own country might help us overcome our differences. I love the idea of students writing to other students. It works on writing skills, communication and social skills. It could be in the same district, town, state or different state or region of the country. Sometimes we forget how much we have in common.

I’m thinking adults need pen pals too. After all children are more likely to do as we do! To that end I write a letter to my grandkids each week. At age 2 and 5 months they don’t write back yet, but I hope someday. I know we’ll learn a lot about each other that way.

Here’s a book showing the benefits of a school-to-school pen pal project.

Dear Dragon
By Josh Funk
Illustrated by Rodolfo Motalvo
2016 Viking

Two teachers announce, in their respective schools, a pen pal poetry project. Students write to each other all year . In June there will be a picnic where they will meet. George is a human and Blaise is a dragon, but they don’t know that. When each receives their letter they picture what is happening from their perspective. So when the dragon mentions skydiving the human pictures himself with a parachute. Before the picnic they decide to keep writing to each other. At first they are surprised they are different species, but then friends. That was the teachers plan all along!

If you start a pen pal project I’d love to hear about it-and you!

Every Word Counts

In all writing, but especially picture books, each word counts so you try to pick the best. Thanks you Vivian Kirkfield for presenting an opportunity for authors to hone their skills and write a story using 50 words. The #50PRECIOUSWORDS contest. Vivian know that every word counts as you can see if you read the wonderful picture books she’s written. Take a look at them here.

So without further ado, here are my 50 precious words!

The Rules and The What Ifs

Mom says-

No fish in the toilet.

  What if Fish wants to swim?

Make your bed.

What if Kitty is asleep?

Eat your vegetables.

What if Dog is hungry?  

Don’t wake Baby.

What if she wants a story?

Mom?

Don’t interrupt!

What if I want to say I love you?

Thanks for reading!

Long time no blog😕

I need to gather some words, mix them together, and hope people will want to read them.

It’s been brought to my attention that I haven’t written a blog post in a long time. Since the last post was June 4, 2019 that is an understatement. My first thought is to make excuses, I have lots of them, but that would be a waste of words. Instead, I need to begin again. I need to gather some words, mix them together, and hope people will want to read them. That is the twitter length version of what a writer does. A writer is always beginning again. Always hoping their words matter, that they connect with someone. Always saying to a reader, here is something I made for you. I hope you like it.

Food is another way to connect with people. I like to cook and bake. I like looking at recipes, gathering ingredients and creating something to share. I say, Here. I took the time to make this for you. You are important to me. I hope you like it.

Just like writing sometimes the food is good and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s appreciated and sometimes it’s not. In most things we only get better by doing. So the trick with writing and baking is to not get discouraged, to keep practicing. To keep beginning again!

So I’ll start again. Reaching out through this blog hoping to connect with parents, teachers, grandparents, and writers. Offering thoughts on writing, the power of words and the importance of reading.  There will be some shameless promotion of my books and reviews of other books. I’m sure Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang will pop up from time to time because I find his take on life insightful.

And occasionally, like today, a recipe in case you like to connect with people over food too!

It’s February, but I am one of those people who collects cans of pumpkin. I love to use it year-round. So it wasn’t odd for me to make The Best Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls You’ll Ever Eat from Ambitious Kitchen for my husband for Valentine’s Day this year. They were delicious!

Holly

Happy Thanksgiving

snoopyThis week will see many of us take to the road so we can spend time with those we love. my husband and I will be traveling to see our children and their spouses and give thanks for them and our first grandchild that is just weeks away from making an appearance.

This time of year I think of all the friends I’ve had in all the places I’ve lived and wish I could gather them in one place to thank them for touching my life in positive ways.

Since this blog is about writing I thought I’d give thanks for some writers I’ve had the good fortune to know.

First, though now disbanded, my critique group.  It was instrumental in helping me become a better writer.  Thank you Kristan Donk, Marcia Gabet, Carol Zook, Tony Stump, Natacha Sanz-Cabllero and Julie Stiegemeyer.

My Flashlight Press Family: Shari Dash Greenspan, Jodi Moore, Jason Lefebvre, Donna Earnardt, Lois Brandt and Richard MacFarland.

Authors I’ve met along the way: Kirby Larson, Cat Jordan, Shelley Kinder, Bryan Ballinger, Robin Newman, Aileen Stewart, Helen Frost, Claire Ewart, Mary Quiqley, Beth Behrendt , Jacob Devline

I’m sure I’m forgetting others-I’ll blame it on old age!

So on your travels bring a good book and give thanks for authors and illustrators and editors and publishers and bookstores and IDEAS because that’s where it all begins!

%d bloggers like this: