Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Get Your Writing Off Your Computer (Fun Writing Contests and More!)

The best way to improve your writing is to write...and write and write and write!  At some point, however, you need to practice submitting your writing.  Today, I'll share four fun places to do just that!  First, I have a little personal announcement:

I entered the MeeGenius Author Challenge and would love your votes!  The challenge is to write a picture book.  Finalists are chosen by votes and the MeeGenius team.  You can read my entry and vote here!

Now, four fun writing contests that are happening right now!!  And, none of them have an entry fee!  

1 - NaNoWriMo First Line Contest.  You finished your novel, right?  Well, you certainly finished one line!  This fun, not NaNoWriMo-affiliated contest ends December 4th.  All you need is the first line of your new novel.

2 - NaNoWriMo First Chapter Contest.  Yes, two NaNo-related contests...tis the season!  To enter, you need your first NaNo chapter--other projects don't count. Do it soon--the deadline is today!  Visit Scribophile for more details!

3 - Holiday Story Contest.  Hosted by the brilliant Susanna Leonard Hill, this holiday contest hits the blogosphere December 19-22.  Honestly, I'm most excited about this one!  Check out the details here (scroll down past the Thanksgiving Story finalists!).

4 - GE Appliance Giveaway.  Put your blogging skills to the test to win a $5000 appliance from GE!  Your entry is a submitted blog post on one of their five topics.  Visit GE for details before December 30th!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you have a wonderful week with your family and friends!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Define Crazy

Crazy is...

A.  A state of mind.

B.  A chemical imbalance.

C.  An imaginary place to go when reality is too difficult.

D.  Participating in some of these November writing-themed challenges.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thanksgiving Picture Books For Young Children

November is a fabulous time to get to know some picture books about Thanksgiving.  These seem particularly appropriate for younger children.  They are listed in no particular order.

1.  I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Pie by Allison Jackson and illustrated by Judy Schachner

2.  Ten Fat Turkeys by Tony Johnston

3.  The Pilgrim's First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern and illustrated by Elroy Freem

4.  Five Silly Turkeys by Salina Yoon

5.  The Pilgrims and Me by Judy Donnelly and illustrated by Maryann Cocca-Leffler

6.  Pilgrim Cat by Carol Antoinette Peacock and illustrated by Doris Ettlinger

7.  The Perfect Thanksgiving by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by JoAnn Adinolfi

8.  Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markus and illustrated by Doris Barrette

9.  Ankle Soup by Maureen Sullivan and Alison Josephs

What do you like to read in November?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fun for Children's Writers

This is a fun time of year for children's book writers!  There is so much going on that you might feel like some of these events are birds flocking past you before you before you get a really good look at them!  Here's a few things coming up:

1.  Picture Book Idea Month: November 2011.  PiBoIdMo: 30 picture book ideas in 30 days...sign up before November 3rd!

2.  National Novel Writing Month: November 2011.  NaNoWriMo: Write a novel in a month...get that first draft DONE!  Sign up now!

3.  Poetry or Verse Story Writing Contest for Children.  300 words or less.  Deadline: October 31st.

4.  MeeGenius Author's Challenge.  Deadline: November 1st.

5.  Halloweensie Contest hosted by children's author Susanna Leonard Hill on her blog on Halloween!  Check it out at 

What do you think?  Talk about a busy time of year!  I'm planning on all of these except NaNoWriMo...this year is simply not the time for me!  I hope you have time to check out at least one of them!  Have I missed anything else fun and exciting, especially for picture book writers? 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Different Goal Question

About a year ago, I ran across a question on Rachelle Gardner's blog.  I still find myself thinking about it, so I thought I'd throw it out here for some more perspectives!

The question is pretty simple.  Would you rather be (1) an author who publishes relatively frequently, receives mediocre reviews, and still makes a comfortable living writing or (2) an author who can only afford to write part-time but whose work receives fabulous reviews and awards?

I usually find myself leaning towards #2.  I want to produce the most amazing material that everybody loves, and if that means I can't make a living by writing...well, I'm okay with that.  But then there's this magical allure: the idea that I could possibly even make money doing something that I love.  It's hard to shake, and does it really matter whether or not everybody else loves me?

I'm trying to polish off a couple manuscripts right now, so this question keeps floating in front of my eyes while I try to focus on the computer screen.  What do you think--which would you prefer?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Picture Books, Postcards, and Pitches

I have enough to tell you that I'm beginning to feel like a volcano so full of fabulous things to share that I'll just have to let them fly out!

Picture Books
The best thing you can do if you want to write picture books is to read and study them!  Here are three excellent examples of very well-written picture books.  Children love them and adults (at least this one!) can enjoy reading them over...and over and over.  They all have a creative story line with an unexpected ending.

  1. Edwina The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct by Mo Willems
  2. Troll Teacher by Vivan Vande Velde
  3. There Was a Coyote Who Swallowed a Flea by Jennifer Ward and Illustrated by Steve Gray

I am organizing a Postcard Exchange for my preschooler and still have several openings.  If you would like to be involved, please email me!  It will involve sending at least six postcards throughout the United States and to a few other countries.  If you want more details, please visit my family blog here.

Susanna Hill, a children's book author, hosts a weekly Would You Read It? meme where she posts a pitch and her readers comment on whether or not they would be interested in the book.  Today, my unpublished story, Witches Don't Dance is the pitch for the week!  I'd love to read your comments on her blog about your reaction to my pitch!

How often do you post on your blogs?  I'm considering posting more than once a week.  How often do you like to see new posts on the blogs you visit?  I love to hear from you!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Imago For A Moment (Challenge 2 From Rach Harrie)

Rachael Harrie has issued her challenge and I decided to participate!  It was actually a lot of fun...I learned a few new words and wrote outside of my element!  The challenge instructions are:

Write a blog post in 200 words or less, excluding the title.  It can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc.  The blog post should include the word "imago" in the title and include the following four random words: miasma, lacuna, oscitate, synchronicity.  If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional and included in the word count), make reference to a mirror in your post.  For those who want an even greater challenge (optional), make your post 200 words EXACTLY!

I chose to write flash is inspired by a little man I know.  And, I decided to be crazy and take on all challenges--so yes, it is exactly 200 words with a mirror.  I'm posting pretty late in the challenge, but if you enjoyed it, I'd love a vote here...I'm #166!

Here we go...

Imago for a Moment

“Fire! Fire!” I donned the extra gear reserved for a call.  In perfect synchronicity, I raised the garage door, flipped on the siren, and adjusted the mirror.  We were off.    

We arrived at a horror scene.  People burnt.  Children crying.  A woman screaming about her dog, still inside the house.  This was my moment.  I was ready. 

I threw open the door and choked on the smoky miasma that tried to suffocate me.  I dropped to the floor and found a decent lacuna with air I could breathe.  I crawled.  I reached.  I hit the ground and clapped my hands.  Finally, I heard a puppy-like whimper. 

The dog was hiding under a couch.  I wiggled left.  I rolled right.  I dodged burning pieces of furniture as they fell towards me.  I resisted the urge to oscitate.  One yawn now could be disaster.

I finally had the dog.  “It’s a good thing you’re a little guy,” I whispered.  This time, I decided to fly out of the house.  It was much faster. 

I dropped the dog.  My hat came off by itself.  The scene changed to my bedroom.  “You can be a fireman again tomorrow.  Right now, it’s time for bed.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

5 Magazine Markets for Children's Writers

I've had a lot of fun writing occasional articles for magazines during the last few years.  It's a great way to practice writing, build a resume, and get professional feedback.  I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the magazines that have published my work.  The only draw-backs to writing for magazines include the long response time (it can take months to hear a reply) and the fact that you still have to deal with rejections (sigh).

You can submit work to many magazines for children, but here are five that accept (and some encourage!) online submissions.  These five also offer varying amounts of pay for accepted/published manuscripts.  Perhaps, if there is a lot of interest, I can do another post like this in the future.

Now, five magazine markets that will accept submissions of articles for children online (and pay you for accepted/published work!):

Listen Magazine.  This magazine shows teenagers a positive way of life without drug and substance abuse.  Queries are encouraged and email submissions are allowed.  A theme list and more information is available on their website.

Stories for Children Magazine.  This award-winning, online ezine publishes fiction and non-fiction for children three to twelve years old.  Email submissions are required.  Learn more about writing for them on their website.

Odyssey Magazine.  Part of the Cricket Publishing Group, this magazine focuses on science content for children between nine and fourteen years old.  Queries are required and may be submitted online.  For more information, visit their Submission Guidelines.

Friend Magazine.  Published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stories in this faith-oriented magazine are often based on real experiences and written for children three to twelve years old.  Past issues and content can be viewed online and manuscripts can be sent on speculation through email.  For more information, visit their website.

Yes Mag.  This science-oriented magazine for kids and teenagers prefers queries before manuscripts.  Emailed queries are accepted.  They prefer Canada-related material.  For more information, visit their website.  Note: They seem to only be accepting material from Canadian authors at the moment.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Editing Exercise and Blog Awards

Editing can be a beast, but this writing editing exercise can make it a bit more exciting.  I'm calling it, The Chopper!  Follow the steps and enjoy the freedom that comes from detaching yourself from your writing!

The Chopper:

1.  Start with your manuscript for a picture book, article, or one chapter from a longer work.  Write down the total words.

2.  Cut the total words in half.  Yes, you read it half!  This is your target word count.  Write it down!

3.  Start chopping!  You will need to chop because just plucking a word here or there won't do it.  You can always add things back in if you feel like you've changed too much, but wait a few days.  Do you really need that description, that conversation, or that detail?  Remember your goal is to show as much as possible with as few words as necessary.  It's  a lot of fun to see how different your work can be when it's forced down to half the original length.  It's also good practice to help train yourself to be able to say more with less!

Let me know how it goes!  I'd love to cheer for you!

In other news...

I want to shout out congratulations to Jo and Dawn for taking on the 50-Word Challenge last week!  I totally enjoyed their stories!  If anyone else wants to try it (just for fun!), feel free--I rarely close comments!

And now, for some awards!

Last week I received two blogging awards!  Stuff like this brings out all sorts of silly grins--it brightens my day and makes me want to learn how to turn cartwheels!  I am delighted to pass them on, too!

First, thank you Abby at Something To Write About for the 7 x 7 Award!  Her blog is full of wonderful posts related to writing and things that might interest writers. 

For this award, I choose a blog post for each of seven, here you go! 

MOST BEAUTIFUL:  Beating a Fear of Success 

MOST HELPFUL:  Writers, How Well Do You Know Your Audience?

MOST POPULAR:  eReaders For Kids

MOST CONTROVERSIAL:   Lessons/Morals in Picture Books


MOST UNDERRATED:  What Do Kids Read?


I would like to pass this award on to the following blogs: 
The Writing Nut
Wavy Lines
Kelly Polark

Next, thank you to Elizabeth at Elizabeth Anne Writes for the Versatile Blogger Award!  Elizabeth writes in many genres and has lots of information for writers on her blog! 

For this award I tell you seven things about myself!  So, here you go:

1.  I signed up to run a half-marathon in February on the beach!  Woo hoo! 

2.  I love to try new things...especially food!  This week, I've tried three new recipes and loved them all...Mmmm!

3.  I'm slightly germaphobic.  I used to be extremely germaphobic, but then I had a little boy who seems to desperately want to cure me. 

4.  I have a small in-home daycare.

5.  I'm a serious science nerd.  College only encouraged me. 

6.  My favorite places in China are probably gardens, Yellow Mountain, and the Great Wall area.  It's no coincidence that they're all outdoors.

7.  Laughing makes me happy.  Life is funny.  It feels good to laugh about it.

Well, there you have it!  I'm going to pass this award on to the following bloggers: 
 (note: Original Versatile Blogger Rules say to pass this on to 15 others...but, since I'm versatile, I'm passing it on to 5!)

Lauren Boyd
Imagine Today
The Restless Writer
Of Thoughts and Words
Children's Books Heal

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

50 Word Flash Fiction Contest

Yes, you read that right!  Last week this blog reached 100 followers.  To celebrate, I'm hosting a small Flash Fiction Contest!  It's easy, it's fun, and there are prizes!  Here's how it works: 

To Enter:

1.  Write a 50-word (or less) story inspired by this picture:

Photo Credit

2.  Leave a comment on this post with your entry.
3.  Entries must be "Family-Friendly" or, in other words, "G"-rated.
4.  Make sure I have a way to contact you!  If your email is on your blogger profile, great! 
5.  Entries will be accepted until Thursday, September 15th at 6:00 am CST!


1.  Winner will be highlighted in my October's First Friday Blogger post and receive a $5.00 Amazon gift card!
2.  Runner-ups will be highlighted in subsequent First Friday Blogger posts!

What is a First Friday Blogger post?  It's a new meme I'm beginning to share the blogging love and get to know my followers better!  On the first Friday of each month, I will highlight a blogger with interests in the world of children's literature. 


Judging is 100% completely subjective.  I will choose my favorite story.  I will also choose the runner-ups, based on which stories I like the best. 

A contest... First Friday Bloggers... I'm very excited!  I can't wait to read your stories!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Like a Bar-Headed Goose...and Other News

Today I have three bits of news for all my writer-friends!

#1: My New Favicon is a Soaring Bar-Headed Goose!! 

There's a good reason why, too.  I was tired of seeing Blogger's "B," and I wanted something that would be inspiring to me and anyone who happened to be visiting my blog.  Bar-headed Geese are probably the highest flying birds on the planet.  Every year they battle high winds, low oxygen, and other weather extremes to migrate over the Himalayas!  I want to be a high-flying, fear-stomping, stellar type of writer who doesn't mind tackling a few mountains on a regular basis!

Close-up of a Bar-headed Goose!

#2: Rachel Harrie's Writers' Platform-Building Campaign Has Started!! 

I have already met many other writers with interests similar to mine, and I am looking forward to getting to know them better.  If you're interested in learning more, visit her here.  Today is the last day to sign up to join the campaign, which runs through October.

#3: More Than 100 of You Are Following This Blog!! 

Thank you so much!  I can't tell you how happy it makes me to think that I'm not just talking to myself, that some of you might actually find the things I say useful, and that there are other people like me with similar hopes and dreams (and blogs!).  It makes me want to, next week I'll tell you how I plan to celebrate!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Creating Characters for Picture Books

Character-driven picture books are in demand, but how do you make the space to introduce a character, share his/her story, and create a decent plot in a couple hundred words? 

Every author will find a personal method, but here's a few tips I'm working with: 

* Know your babies!  You, the author, will know far more about your characters than your readers ever will.  You will know their passions, weaknesses, greatest fears, and proudest moments.  You don't have to put it all in your book (you can't!), but knowing them may just bring the story you're looking for onto the computer screen.

* Kids (and editors) like character-driven books because they relate to the main character.  Reading the book makes them feel something.  Emotions and feelings are powerful!

* Challenge your main character.  Tension is good.  Don't make the solution too easy.  Remember you're relating to young children.  Life can be downright hard sometimes.  Challenges do not always disappear in less than 32 pages, even for children living relatively comfortable lives. Today, for example, my four-year old said "Good-bye" to her grandma (who she won't see for at least 2 more months), had to leave some "beautiful, special flowers" outside where the "wind might blow them away," had to cope with her brother putting a scribble on her masterpiece, had to wait for a turn (several times!), had to share toys and games she didn't want to, had to play outside while it was hot, and lost her computer privileges when she didn't mind.  Remember the world from a child's point of view--what seems like a minor inconvenience to me can be a very stressful situation for preschoolers.  And they want to see that in their books.

* Learn from the best!  Fancy Nancy and Mr. Duck Means Business are two fun examples. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Free Writing Conference: WriteOnCon!!

WriteOnCon is currently in session!  I have been learning from industry experts and other writers all week...for free!  I'm heading over there now, but thought I'd give them a shout out just in case you haven't heard.  There's still live events until Thursday, but here's a few of the highlights so far for me:

* Live events with industry experts!
* Brilliant articles posted hourly on the blog!
* Forums for query critiques and critique partners!
* Everything is online!  (This is a huge plus for me and my crazy schedule.)  

In case you're too busy to join them live, they're saving all events and can catch up any time.  If you're able, they'll take donations.  Otherwise, they're offering everything free.  It's an amazing opportunity--I feel like I've learned so much already. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


As the summer is ending, I find our schedules changing...again.  It seems like our schedules change significantly every 3-4 months.  These are good times to consider priorities and goals.  I have two projects that I'm putting away for a while and two new projects that I'm beginning.  My fingers are crossed and my hopes are high for my new ideas!

I've been enjoying the Bird's song Turn! Turn! Turn! lately.  The world keeps turning and there will be a time for all the good things I want to do.  Here's the first verse:

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

Do your schedules change with the seasons?  the school year?  anything else?  Do you have any new projects or projects that need a rest? 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Scenes v. Summaries

I've been learning a lot from Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul lately.  I was lucky enough to win it during National Picture Book Writing Week and have thoroughly enjoyed working with it.  Today, I wanted to share one little tool that applies to picture books and (ahem) non-picture books.  It's about choosing when to write a scene or a summary. 

A scene is like a line by line from real life...the story you would expect to see in a movie or on a stage.  A summary skips the details and quickly tells you what happened. 

Ann explains that scenes do one of two things: move the plot forward or reveal something new about your characters.  If you're writing a scene that does neither of those things, cut the scene and summarize it.  If you're summarizing a move in the plot, slow down and take the time to write a good scene. 

I immediately began thinking of the scenes that I've enjoyed reading: Katniss shooting the apple at the game-makers feast, Mat Cauthon using a quarterstaff to beat a small army, Nancy tripping over her sparkly parfaits, and many others.  They are all full of action and either move the plot forward or teach us something about the characters. 

Writing a scene is a lot more work than writing a one or two line summary, but it is so much more fun to read.  Are you up for a challenge?  I'm so excited to try writing some scenes that I can't wait to finish posting this! 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Little Something For You

There are days and weeks (and sometimes even months) when the demands of life simply refuse to let me blog.  I know you've all seen them!  I will catch up with my normal blog-reading as soon as possible (I miss you all terribly already!), but in the meantime I thought I'd leave you with a few gems from Mother Teresa:

"Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired."

"It is impossible to walk rapidly and be unhappy."

Have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mama Says...

Writing prompts are a fun way to let your mind exercise and relax at the same time.  Today I'm joining Kelly at Write With Pictures for her Wednesday writing prompt.  Kelly posts a variety of regular writing prompts that are unique and engaging.  Today, for example she is using this picture as a prompt for a 10-word only writing exercise.  I absolutely love this picture!!   Below is my response.  What do you think she's saying?

photo from National Geographic

"Don't make me come out of this lake.  That's it."

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Characters You Love

I just returned from vacation (notice the post on Thursday this week instead of Wednesday).  While I was gone I had the chance to read a few YA and MG books.  One of those was The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

There's a lot that could be said about The Hunger Games.  I'm going to focus on characters.  Before I read the book I knew everything (okay, almost everything) that happened in the story.  I knew the characters, plot, and even the ending.  Still, I was glued to the book.  Why?  Two reasons: the characters and the pace.  This post is about characters. 

I absolutely fell in love with Katniss and Peeta.  Days after I read their story I have found myself thinking about them.  I've also thought about what made them memorable.  Here's a short list of the characteristics I think made them so addictive: 

* Believable.  Need I say more?
* Heroic.  Both Katniss and Peeta saved people in the story.  Each time, their heroism came with personal peril.
* Fallible.  They both made dumb choices.  As I read it I cringed and thought, "No, don't do/say that!"  But if they hadn't, their characters would have been less believable and the story less riveting. 
* Show Real Emotions.  If I were Katniss, I would feel a lot.  In fact, I'd be an emotional roller-coaster.  Collins did a great job showing those emotions and showing how Katniss tried to hide them.
* Timeless Interactions.  Friendship, love, hate, dependence, and those people that just make you want to hit them.  It doesn't matter if the story takes place centuries in the future or in a New York high school.  These interactions are relationships that everyone can relate to because everyone feels them.

What do you think makes characters so real you have to read their stories?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


File:Yesnaby01.jpgCliffhangers have been a part of the story-teller's toolbag long before the first bards wanted to keep their listeners hooked.  When I read a book, though, I don't like cliffhangers.

I don't like cliffhangers at the end of a book or movie series...especially if the book or movie series fails to wrap up the main story in the book or movie.

They're not so bad if the story ends, and the cliffhanger points to a new, related story.

I actually appreciate cliffhangers at the end of a chapter--even if the story is not neatly wrapped up.  I like being so drawn into a book that I have to read the next chapter.  That's fun.  I don't like reading a whole book and feeling like I didn't finish the story.

Can you tell I've encountered a few cliffhangers recently?   Do you like cliffhangers?  Do you have any favorites?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blogging Awards

Last week, Mgudlewski gave me two awards, and this week I am happy to pass them on!

Thank you so much!  I am truly flattered!  

In receiving the awards, you're asked to tell seven random things about yourself, then give the awards to five deserving bloggers and let them know.

Here are seven random things about me:

1.  I am far better at Ping Pong than Basketball, though I enjoy both.

2.  I have visited all the western states (United States), but none of the Eastern, unless you count Minnesota and Louisiana.  

3.  I like to get a necklace when I travel to a new country.  One of my favorites is an opal my husband bought me from Lightning Ridge in Australia.  We were just friends when we traveled there with a study abroad group from college, but he bought it with the intention of giving it to his future wife.  About two years later he gave it to me.  We're still best friends, and I think he is the most handsome, romantic, creative man on Earth!

4.  I absolutely love Butterscotch Cookies.  I have a fabulous recipe for Butterscotch Bars that uses wheat flour and butterscotch chips and brown sugar.  Mmmmm....I might need to go get one right now!

5.  I enjoy mowing our lawn.  I especially enjoy it if I have time to trim the edges.  

6.  I want to learn to play the guitar and speak Spanish.

7.  Today I climbed a mountain, did some dishes, played at a park, ate some oatmeal, and read most of The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.  The Lightning Thief came highly recommended by a 14-year old whose opinion I value.

Now I'll pass the awards on to some bloggers I like.  While I could easily share over a dozen, the rules say only five!  These five are wonderful ladies, and I truly enjoy reading their posts!  


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Define: Writer

Circle the best choice.

A writer is someone who:

A. loves to write.
B. writes stuff that other people love to read.
C. has work that has been purchased by a publisher.
D. is paid to write by an employer.
E. makes a living by writing.
F.  has written a book.
G. has had a book published.
H. has had more than three books published.
I.  other.  _____________________

During the last four years I have bounced around from one of the above definitions to another.  Why can't I settle on one idea?  Each definition carries enormous implications.  As soon as I begin to settle, I feel the need to change my mind.

What do you think?  I'm beginning to think there is no right answer.  If you want to be a writer, then be one.  If you feel you are a writer, you are.  So, say so!  

"I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world."  --Walt Whitman

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Writers, How Well Do You Know Your Audience?

I've been thinking a lot about audience lately, and I encourage you to try this little exercise.  It's fun!  It really helped me connect for a moment with my audience.

What is important to your audience?  Think of 20 things that matter to your audience.  You don't have to include the things on this list in your writing, but it's vital to be aware of such relevant issues.

I made a list of things that are important to young children.  Really, I could list over 100 things that are important to them!  However, in an effort to be kind to you (my intended audience for this blog!), I am only listing 20.

What is important to young children?
  • dinosaurs
  • playing in the dirt
  • having milk at lunch
  • reading books
  • Every. Step. Of. A. Bedtime. Routine.
  • chocolate
  • being a big kid
  • getting to decide
  • special baby dolls
  • dressing up
  • the right bowl at breakfast time and the right color of cup at lunch
  • right now (time)
  • getting to the bathroom on time
  • a predictable day
  • getting a turn
  • painting
  • splashing with water
  • hugs
  • digging
  • humor

It turns out I have a lot in common with young children.

What about you?  How often do you think about your audience?  How much do you know about your audience?  Would you fit in with your audience?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When Animals Tell Stories

Bottle-nosed Dolphin
Are humans the only species on Earth to tell stories?  I was at the zoo today and couldn't help wondering what animals "talk" about.  We know lots of animals communicate with each other.  Here are a few fun facts about that communication:

  •  Honey bees tell each other a story through dance when they find a new source of food.  The "waggle dance" is famous for letting one bee tell others where she found food, how much food is available, and how they can get some too.
  • Ants use pheromones to direct other ants to food sources.  When two ants greet each other, their antennae touch and they share loads of information, including where they've been, if food is available, and if they are hungry.  Sometimes one ant will even feed her "sister" after they touch antennae!
  • If a raven thinks another raven is watching him gather food, the first raven will actually try to hide the food from the second raven!
  • Dolphins have been taught to read hundreds of symbols and can tell a written question apart from a statement.  They know placing words in different orders changes the meaning of the sentence.  Scientists have taught dolphins to use an underwater keyboard to communicate about toys, and those dolphins have taught other dolphins the "game." 
  • Rhesus monkeys have vocal systems similar to humans and can imitate human facial expressions.
  • Wolves, lions, and even monkeys plan and coordinate hunts together.

So, animals definitely "speak" with each other, but do they tell stories?  What do you think?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Round of Rejection...yay!

Caspian Terns dive into water to fish, just like I'm diving into publishing.
I received the nicest rejection letter yesterday.  I actually re-read it because it made me happy.

It made me happy because the editor liked my story.  He kept it longer than normal but, in the end, he decided not to publish it.

But he still liked it.

He is actually the first book publisher who told me he liked my manuscript.  And that made me happy.

It also motivated me to polish up some more manuscripts and send them off.  Somewhere, there is an editor who will not only like one of my stories, but will think that it is in his best interest to offer me a contract.

In the meantime, I always appreciate stories like these:

**  Judy Blume said, "For two years I received nothing but rejections. One magazine, Highlights for Children, sent a form letter with a list of possible reasons for rejection. "Does not win in competition with others," was always checked off on mine. I still can't look at a copy of Highlights without wincing."  She's now written over two dozen books.

**  J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter book was rejected by twelve publishers.  Bloomsbury finally accepted it, but only because the CEO's eight-year old daughter wanted her daddy to publish it.

**  A San Francisco newspaper once told Rudyard Kipling, "I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you don't know how to use the English language." 

Why does hearing about successful author's rejections make me feel even better?  I keep hoping that one day my story will read like theirs: "Carla had many rejections before her first book sold.  She's since written dozens of award-winning books for children and adults.  She saw each rejection as a chance to improve her writing and hone her craft.  She encourages new writers to keep their spirits high and their pencils flying."  Yeah, I do actually think stuff like that.  Call me crazy!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Writing Advice: Quantity (and a game of tag)

During the last month and a half I joined other writers and bloggers in online challenges.  I learned lots of new things and wanted to share one with you.

The advice is simple: If you want to be a better writer, write lots more!  It's always wonderful to revise and edit a manuscript into perfection, but if you want to improve your basic writing skills and enjoy a higher volume of fabulous ideas, you simply need to write more.

NaPiBoWriWee (say that five times fast!) really helped me learn this.  I wrote seven picture book manuscripts in seven days.  I am really in love with three of them.  I am preparing three of them to submit to publishers.  If I had not been producing so much writing, I am sure I would not have created these three stories.  Yes, there are still four manuscripts that I am not in love with.  That's okay.  Sometimes you have to produce the less exciting material to find the gems you're hoping for.

I've changed some of my writing goals to include more new drafts in addition to revisions and submissions.

Enough advice.  Now for the game! 

Rachel Morgan "tagged" me and I'm excited to play along.  I will answer the following questions and "tag" three other bloggers I've recently met.  If you're reading, I'd love to hear the answers to any of the questions in the comments!

If you could go back in time and relive a moment, what would it be?
The moment I stood on the ground after being life-flighted off a cliff in the Rocky Mountains.  It would be such a fresh reminder of how beautiful life is.

If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?
I would have taken writing classes in college!  I LOVED my major (Biology and Teaching), but didn't indulge my inner author as much as I could have.

What movie/TV character do you most resemble in personality?
Don't laugh too much.  My cousin actually pointed this out and I think she was really right.  I am an awful lot like Rapunzel in Tangled. 

If you could push one person off a cliff and get away with it, who would it be?
This is a really hard one.  I kind of cringe if I joke about sending people to their deaths.  Maybe a cartoon character?  I was okay when Gaston knocked himself over a cliff. 

Name one habit that you want to change in yourself?
I'm seriously germaphobic.  My baby is working really hard at changing that one for me!

Describe yourself in one word.

Describe the person who named you in this meme in one word.

Why do you blog? Answer in one sentence.
I blog here to meet other people with similar writing interests, to explore the world of children's literature, and to discover discover my inner author and publication.  Writing is a journey, and I love sharing it!  (I know, I know...clearly the instructions on this need a little change...)

Name at least three people to send this meme to, and inform them.

I hope you enjoyed getting to know me a little better!  I would love to know your answers to any of the questions too--I always respond to comments!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Reflections: A-Z and NaPiBoWriWee

The A-Z Blogging Challenge was certainly a challenge for me, but it was one that I enjoyed.  I chose to write a post each day about a different picture book author.  I had a fabulous time learning about picture those authors and seeing the variety of books they produced.  I learned that many of my favorite authors write and illustrate their own books--I may have to write a post just about this in the future!  I loved reading advice and interviews from my authors and choosing little nuggets of wisdom to include in my posts.  And I learned that there are more than enough picture book authors for me to use this exact theme again next year!  Next year, I would also like to write more of the posts in advance so that I have more time to visit other blogs during April.

I especially enjoyed meeting so many other bloggers with interests in children's literature.  There are a lot of very talented and supportive writers in the "blogosphere!"  The organizers of the A-Z Challenge are truly amazing and each deserve a huge award.

After spending a month learning about writing picture books, it seemed appropriate to write some of my own.  So, this week I am joining Paula Yoo in the NaPiBoWriWee (National Picture Book Writing Week) project.  The goal is to write seven picture books in seven days (May 1-7).

Today is May 4th and I have actually created three and a half picture books, though I have only written down two of them.  I've spent a lot of time during the last few days snuggling a sick baby so he can sleep--what better to do while I'm awake holding a sleeping baby than invent children's stories?  He is sleeping by himself now, though, so I will end this "reflections" page with a quote and finish typing my stories.

 Agatha Christie: The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Jane Breskin Zalben

Born:  1950
Excellent BooksPearl's Passover and over 3 dozen others.  Many have won awards.

From Her Life:  Jane has a lop-eared rabbit named Zoe.  She loves to be involved in all the steps of creating a children's book, from writing to design!

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Use your experiences and be creative.  In an interview, Jane once said, "Children are little people and have a whole gamut of feelings. I'm able to mine those feelings, use those feelings for characters. But if I told them [my memories] exactly the way it happened, that's not as interesting a story. It would be boring. That's what makes a writer; that mixture of reality and imagination."


Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for Jane Yolen

Born:  February 11, 1939
Excellent BooksHow Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, over 100 other picture books and over 300 other books.  Many have won awards.

From Her Life:  Jane was captain of the girl's Basketball Team in high school and grew her hair down to her waist in college!

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Jane's website has a whole page of musings and advice on writing.  The following line makes me laugh and shudder at the same time.  And it seems appropriate for the second to last day of the A-Z Challenge.  She said, "Know this about being published: it is out of your hands."


Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for Mem Fox

Born:  March 1946
Excellent BooksPossum Magic, and over 30 others.  

From Her Life:  Mem Fox grew up in Africa and now lives in Australia.  Two of her passions in life are teaching and writing, and she has traveled the world sharing her knowledge with others.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Mem Fox has lots of advice for writers (and teachers and parents!) on her website.  I love this little gem:  "While you’re writing, your best friends will be the ‘cut’ and ‘delete’ keys on your computer. At any one time you can probably cut most of what you have written. The biggest fault of wannabe picture book writers is to write too much."


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for David Wiesner

Born:  February 5, 1956

Excellent BooksArt & Max, Tuesday, and several others.  David has won many awards for his books and illustrations, including three Caldecotts.
From His Life:  David has always loved to draw.  As a child, he also enjoyed reading comic books and watching old movies.  As an adult, he especially likes telling stories with images.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:    You know what matters.  In an interview with Philadelphia Stories, David said, "Do the work that is really personal, that interests you — not what you think others want, or what the market wants. The truly personal work is what will probably resonate most."


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Chris Van Dusen

Born:  March 17, 1960

Excellent BooksThe Circus Ship and several others.  Chris has won many awards for his books.
From His Life:  Chris used to draw as a young boy with his brothers.  Chris specialized in drawing robots, monsters, and aliens!  He has a yellow lab named Pearl and lives in Maine.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:    On his website, Chris advises that new writers do research and find out which publishing houses publish stories similar to yours.  He also comments on rejection: "Getting rejected by publishers is part of the game, but if you believe in your story, don’t give up."


Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for Deborah Underwood

Born:  May 3rd 
Excellent BooksThe Quiet Book and over a dozen others.  Many have won awards.

From Her Life:  When Deborah was young she had a teddy bear named Ursa Major.  She has been a street musician and worked for accountants.  She also once adopted a pig named Babe.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Get support!  In an interview with Our Hen House she said, "I advise everyone interested in writing for kids to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a great organization that provides lots of good resources."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Tomie dePaola

Born:  September 15, 1934

Excellent BooksStrega Nona and over 200 others.  Tomie has won many awards for his books.
From His Life:  Tomie's favorite color is white and his favorite holiday is Christmas.  He is 76 years old and still enjoys writing books for children!  When he was four, he loved to tell people that when he grew up he wanted to "write stories and draw pictures for books and to sing and tap dance on the stage."  He has done all those things!

Advice for Aspiring Writers:    Write about what you know.  Your own experiences are wonderful.  Tomie has written over three dozen books that are autobiographical or "loosely autobiographical."

Website   Tomie also has a blog:

S is for John Steptoe

Born:  September 14, 1950 - August 28, 1989

Excellent BooksMufaro's Beautiful Daughters and several others.  John won many awards for his books.
From His Life:  John knew that children's books were in his future at a young age.  He started working on his first book, Stevie, when he was only 16.  It was published when he was 18.  John studied art in college and with professionals. 

Advice for Aspiring Writers:    Children deal with universal themes.  Those who write for them should also deal with universal themes.  John wanted to write books for young African-American children.  He once said there was a "great and disastrous need for books that black children could honestly relate to."  The themes he chose, though, and the manner he presented them make his books important for children of all ethnicities. 


Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Peggy Rathmann

Born:  1953
Excellent BooksGood Night, Gorilla; Officer Buckle and Gloria, and several others.  Peggy has won many awards for her books.

From Her Life:  Peggy grew up in suburbs in Minnesota with four siblings.  They played in plastic swimming pools in the summers and in snow in the winters.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Revise!  Make that manuscript perfect!  Good Night, Gorilla, one of Peggy's picture books, went through ten different endings over the course of two years.  When it was finally perfect, it received an ALA Notable Children's Book Award (1994).


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

Born:  June 24, 1977
Excellent BooksChicks Run Wild, Quackenstein, and over a dozen others.  

From Her Life:  Sudipta enjoys swinging at the park, eating cake, and singing in the shower.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Sudipta has lots of advice for writers on her website.  I found this particularly interesting:  "I actually always say that [writers] should not send one thing to one editor until they have six publishable manuscripts in hand.  That way, if they get a good rejection, or a request to see more work, they are immediately ready to follow through on the lead."


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for Al Perkins

BornAl Perkins' birthday is not the only mystery in his life.

Excellent BooksHand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb; The Digging-est Dog, and several others--most from the 1960's and 1970's. 

From His Life:  Al Perkins wrote several amazing picture books.  Then the mystery begins!  Are any of you readers serious sleuths?  If so, read on!

Advice for Aspiring Writers:    Know your audience.  Al's books are fun, fast-paced, and a little crazy.  They have a strong rhythm.  Kids love them.

WebsiteNow for the mystery.  Random House's Author Page for Al Perkins gives you less information than this page.  Who is Al Perkins?  Why is he so impossible to find?  Is "Al Perkins" even his real name?  His books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies, yet he has no biography or website available.  In fact, I can't find anything about his life.  I'd love to know if anyone knows anything about him.  I'm already a huge fan of his books.

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Kevin O'Malley

Born: 1961

Excellent BooksAnimal Crackers Fly the Coup and over a dozen others.  Additionally, Kevin has illustrated several dozen more!

From His Life:  When Kevin was in elementary school he spent a lot of time in the library because he had misbehaved in class.  In the library he discovered way too many cute and sweet books.  He decided that when he grew up he wanted to illustrate books for kids like him.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:    Be brave.  On his website, Kevin tells new authors, "The biggest mistake people make is not sending their work. You can't get published if you don't send it."


Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for Laura Numeroff

Born:  1953
Excellent BooksIf You Give a Mouse a Cookie, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, and over two dozen others.  Many have won awards.

From Her Life:  As a young girl, Laura loved her microscope, box of crayons, visiting the library, and Girl Scout cookies! 

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Laura has a whole list of tips for aspiring authors on her fun website.  I especially love her last piece of advice: "WRITE BECAUSE YOU LOVE WRITING and not because you are looking to make money!"


Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for Maurice Sendak

Born: June 10, 1928

Excellent BooksWhere the Wild Things Are and over a dozen others.  Many have won awards.

From His Life:  When Maurice was about 20, he and his brother took a set of model toys to a toy store.  They wanted the toy store to commission a set.  Instead, the store offered Maurice a job arranging toy displays in the window.  He accepted the job.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Children need less protecting than we sometimes think.  Maurice once said, "...from their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions, that fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, that they continually cope with frustration as best as they can.  And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis.  It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things."   See Barnes & Noble for more great quotes.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Elaine Landau

Bornanother mysteriously difficult to find birthday
Excellent BooksOil Spill!, Big Cats (Hunters of the Night), and over 300 other non-fiction books for children.  Many have won awards.

From Her Life:  Elaine lives in Florida and loves to write under a palm tree.  She also loves traveling to research her books.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Don't be afraid of hard work.  Elaine wanted to be a writer as a young girl and even wrote a book when she was only nine years old!  Many adults told her not to pursue a writing career because it was so difficult to succeed.  Elaine worked hard, though, and now has an impressive list of titles and awards.  She also has an awesome website!


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Bornanother mysteriously difficult to find birthday
Excellent BooksDuck! Rabbit!, and at least a dozen others.

From Her Life:  Amy likes to make things, including books, salads, and wishes! 

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Don't rush things.  In a blog interview, Amy once said, "Little bits of facts...probably nestle their way into the crevices of your mind and  swirl around in the imagination for a while [before becoming books]." 


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Judith Viorst

Born:  February 2, 1931

Excellent BooksAlexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and many others. 

From Her Life:  Judith has backgrounds in psychology and journalism.  According to an interview with the Kennedy Center, Alexander was inspired by her youngest son who went through a series of bad days.  She wanted the book to let him, and everyone else, know that these days come and go...and that's okay. 

Advice for Aspiring Writers:  Don't write a book that focuses on an overt message or lesson.  In another interview, Judith said, "I did not preach in the books and would consider my books a failure if that is what they had been...There are things I care about...and want to express, but the creativity, the language, the story, the validity of the work as a work has to trump any message."


Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Rachel Isadora

Born: ? 1953

Excellent BooksSay Hello!, and over 20 others.  Many have won awards.

From Her Life: As a child Rachel wanted to be a dancer.  She worked hard and grew up to be a professional ballerina!  After an injury in the late 1970's, she began writing and illustrating books.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:  Love what you do!  On her website, Rachel says, "Work like this is a dancer's fantasy...Because ballet is so demanding, dancers' stage careers are short. They can only dream of going on and on forever. With art, I can go on and on, and for me it's the only work that compares in intensity and joy."


Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for James Howe

Born: 1946

Excellent BooksBrontorina and over 80 books for audiences from three years old to teenagers.  Many have won awards.

From His Life:  James enjoyed lots of pets when he was a young child and liked to imagine what they would say to each other.  Beginning with his first book, Bunnicula, you can see imaginative talking animals come to life.  He and his wife also enjoyed the many vampire movies that played on late night television in the late 1970's.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:  Write!  and Write a lot!  In an interview with Scholastic students, James said, "You'd be surprised how much you can write when you're writing every day."  He also said, "Write what matters to you, write what makes you laugh, write what makes you cry, write in order to get a reaction from the reader, write because you have to, and write because it is fun for you."


Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for Theodore Suess Geisel (aka Dr. Suess)

Lived: 1904-1991

Excellent BooksHop on Pop, The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and over 40 others.  Many of his books have won awards. 

From His Life:  Theodore's dad was Superintendent of City Parks, which included a zoo.  Theodore spent years at the zoo drawing animals and developing his personal artistic style.  He worked as a cartoonist before writing and illustrating books.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:  Dr. Suess is an excellent example of working through rejections and believing in yourself.  His first book, And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, was turned down by 29 publishers.  Dr. Suess had a wonderful sense of humor and attributed the final acceptance of his book to luck: he happened to be walking down the right side of the street when he bumped into a friend/editor who took Suess immediately to his office to sign a contract!  His most famous book, The Cat in the Hat, was published almost 20 years later.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

F is for Candace Flemming

Born: Candace's birth year is mysteriously difficult to find.

Excellent BooksClever Jack Takes the Cake, and over 20 others.  Many have won awards.

From Her Life: Candace has always considered herself a storyteller.  Her parents encouraged her to write down even her early stories, and she still has the notebooks with those stories in them.  As a mother she discovered the world of writing books for children, and has loved it ever since.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:  At a school visit Candace once said, "The best tools for writing are your eyes, ears and your imagination."  She could have listed many other tools, from a computer to a dictionary, but she chose tools that truly empower the writer.  (quote from a teacher's blog)


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for Eric Carle

Born: 1929

Excellent BooksThe Hungry Little Caterpillar and over 70 others, many of which have won awards.

From His Life:  As a child, Eric often went on walks through forests with his dad.  His dad would find small animals or wildlife and teach Eric about the natural world.  He was always careful to return any bugs or critters to their homes when they were done learning about them. 

Advice for Aspiring Writers:   Books should be a discovery experience.  Eric once appeared on an episode on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.  He said the following about Mr. Rogers: "I think he and I try to do the same thing, which is to take a subject we consider important and explore it with our audiences and readers.  We don't tell children, we let them discover for themselves." (quote from a newsletter by Eric Carle)


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for David Greenberg

Born: October 13, 1954

Excellent Books:  Enchanted Lions, Slugs, Bugs,The Great School Lunch Rebellion, Crocs!, and several others 

From His Life:  David learned to use his imagination as a child by making up games with his dog.  He has always loved to write poetry.  As a young adult he used some of his poems at local schools to help kids practice reading and writing.  The kids loved his poems and he began sending them to publishers.  Most of his picture books are rhyming poems. 

Advice for Aspiring Writers:  Read, read, read!  David wrote, "I loved to read as a kid.  And there's no question in my mind that my love of reading helped me a great deal to become a writer."


Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Donald Crews

Born: 1938

Excellent Books:   Freight Train, Truck, Big Mamas, Shortcut, and more.  Freight Train and Truck were both Caldecott winners.

From His Life:  As a child Donald lived in New Jersey and would often take a train trip during the summer with his siblings to visit his grandma in Florida.  These trips later inspired Big Mamas and Shortcut.  Donald is an artist who illustrates his own books and often draws himself in them.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:  I love Donald's attitude about starting a new project immediately after finishing another one.  He said, "It's more than a year before you're going to know whether or not you've got something that's generally popular on your hands. The book has to be printed, it has to be sold, it has to get into the stores. People have to review it. People have to look at it. So it's a good long time. You can't wait for all that to happen until you start doing the next project." (quote from article by George Bodmer)


Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Beatrix Potter

Lived: 28 July 1866 – 22 December 1943

Excellent BooksThe Tale of Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, and 20 others

From Her Life:  As a child Beatrix collected animals like snakes, mice, lizards, and birds with her brother Bertram.  These little critters inspired many of her stories.  Some of her first stories were actually written in letters that she illustrated.  She loved to paint and illustrated her own books.  She was also a great advocate for conservation.

Advice for Aspiring Writers:  Beatrix received so many rejections that she finally self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1901.  In 1902 it was published by Frederick Warne & Co.  It has been in print ever since!  The moral of the story is to believe in yourself and keep writing.  You may not be able to self-publish, but you can find a home for your work.