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.