A Busy Fall
Happy Halloween! My son decorated this candy corn cookie (even though there aren't candy corns in Korea), and my daughter made an origami jack-o-lantern.
October/November are busy times of the year for picture book writers! I've been reading one picture book each day this month of October for Kathy Ellen Davis's 31 picture books in 31 days challenge. I've also been revising picture book drafts.
But I'm about to begin my 3rd year in PiBoIdMo--Picture Book Idea Month, started by children's author Tara Lazar. This challenge begins November 1st - 30th in which you write down 1 picture book idea each day. That's it. Sign up is free, and you get wonderful blog posts each day encouraging you with tips on how to find great ideas. It's fun to be in the Facebook group, as well, to encourage each other. Plus, there are prizes! I really like it because I end up with a wonderful notebook of ideas to keep me busy for the next year. I hope you join me!
Another event taking place for the month of November is Picture Book Month, started by children's author Diane de Las Casas, in which picture books are celebrated. Each day a picture book author/illustrator will share about why picture books are special. You can see the line up here. If you want to register to receive these emails, click on the owl to see the web site. A writing friend wrote A Picture Book Month Teacher's Guide if you want to alert your teachers to picture book month as well!
So I hope this encourages you to be creative and write this month of November. You're sure to come up with some ideas among all these great blog posts and professional tips and advice!
Happy writing! By the way, these cute light bulbs for PiBoIdMo were designed by the famous picture book creator, Joyce Wan!
Writing an Endorsement
Have you ever written an endorsement for a book? I've written two now, and so I thought I'd share my experiences. I'm not talking about finding an endorsement for your own book. I haven't had that experience yet, but this is about being asked to write one for another author.
Some books have endorsements, more nonfiction, but I have two series here that are children's chapter books that use them. (Magic Tree House, Imagination Station) Do you read endorsements? I usually do. And it's great to have professionals and well-known celebrities to endorse lesser-known authors.
I'm definitely not well-known, but I feel comfortable endorsing topics or genres I'm familiar with. So my first endorsement I wrote was for an author friend who contacted me. She emailed me the manuscript. My son and I read the book since it was for his age group, and both of us wrote short blurbs similar to samples in the series. Plus, the publisher had a form to fill out which was helpful. Some publishers will tell you a word count; otherwise, just keep the endorsement to 1-3 sentences. My son is supposed to get a free copy of the book when it comes out :)
This second endorsement I wrote was for someone I didn't know at first. Through connections, I was told she needed someone to endorse her upcoming book. So I emailed her, and we hit it off! She emailed me samples from her forthcoming devotional book, and from that I wrote a small blurb of 55 words. Her publisher doesn't have a form, and so I checked other endorsements of similar books that I had on hand. Also, when I read her manuscript, I jotted down notes of what I liked and felt while reading her book.
So what did I learn?
1. Writing an endorsement is sort of like writing a pitch! You're trying to get people to read the book and praise it in the least amount of words as possible. Try it!
2. Be willing to write endorsements for others. You might have to find your own "endorsers" someday.
3. It helps you think like a marketing professional.
So check the next book you read for endorsements!
Author Blog Hop + a Winner
Thanks to everyone who's been reading my blog and entered the give-away for Linda Ashman's The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books! I'm excited to announce that our WINNER chosen by Rafflecopter is VIRGINIA RINKEL! Congratulations, Virginia! I know you'll really enjoy Linda's fabulous guide.
Last week I was tagged in the Author Blog Hop by my wonderful writing critique friend, Laura Sassi. Thanks, so much, Laura, for your friendship and writing advice. In this blog hop, I'll answer four questions and tag three other great writers. But first, let's hear it for LAURA SASSI! YAY! You'll enjoy her blog, Laura Sassi Tales.
Laura is a children's writer and former teacher. Her poems, stories, articles and crafts have appeared in many publications including Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider, Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr., FamilyFun, and Pack-O-Fun. She has a passion for playing with words and rhyming and is delighted to announce that her first picture book, GOODNIGHT, ARK, will be published by Zonderkidz, a HarperCollins Company and is scheduled to debut in August 2014. She is represented by Lara Perkins of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Laura writes from her century-old home in New Jersey where she lives with her awesome husband, two adorable kids, and a black cockapoo named Sophie. She can be found on the web at: www.laurasassitales.wordpress.com.
Here are my answers to the blog hop questions.
What are you working on right now?
This past summer and early fall I've been able to dedicate to picture book writing. I took two picture book classes + read Linda Ashman's e-book mentioned above and in the previous post.
How does it differ from other works in the genre?
The two picture book manuscripts I'm working on would be classified as multicultural, and to my knowledge, one hasn't been done before and the other I'm writing in a unique way. Living in another country gives me interesting ideas from time to time.
Why do you write what you do?
I fell in love with picture books many years ago when I taught kindergarten. I loved the Scholastic Book Orders because as a teacher I could get so many for free. But little did I know I'd actually write them. In 2008, I felt God's call to change careers. So now I use my educational background and write for the educational market as well as the children's market.
What is the hardest part about writing?
I think the hardest part is making sure that my stories don't have any holes, meaning---that the plot and characters work seamlessly together. I can't wait for the day when my critique buddies have nothing to change!
And now, I invite you to meet 3 wonderful authors from 3 different continents, their books, and blogs.
Renée M. LaTulippe (Italy)
Renée M. LaTulippe writes children's poetry and is co-author of LIZARD LOU: A COLLECTION OF RHYMES OLD AND NEW and seven early readers for All About Learning Press. Her children's poetry blog at No Water River features poetry videos, poet interviews, poetry activities, and other poetic goodies.
Emily Lim (Singapore)
Emily Lim is an award-winning author of several children’s picture books. She is the 1st outside North America to win 3 medals for children’s books at the IPPY Awards (the world’s largest book awards) and also the 1st in Southeast Asia to win the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award. Her books have been published in Singapore, Malaysia, Korea and China, and crossed platforms into animation, Apps, e-books, and adapted for children's theatre. She has also written seven illustrated books which are used for social studies across all schools in Singapore.
Emily’s personal memoir, Finding My Voice (a true story of setbacks, new beginnings and toy characters), is based on her personal journey of losing her voice and discovering a new voice in writing and publishing. For more about Emily, hop to her blog http://mummumstheword.wordpress.com/
Stacy McAnulty (U.S.)
STACY McANULTY: Stacy writes funny children’s books that usually star dinosaurs or dragons or dogs. DEAR SANTASAURUS, published by Boyds Mills Press 2013, is her debut picture book. She has two additional picture book deals in the works. When she’s not writing, she’s reading. And when she’s not reading, she’s tweeting, or playing around online. (She tells her family it’s “marketing.”) Stacy lives in a cluttered house in Kernersville, NC with her 3 kids, 2 dogs, and 1 husband. www.stacymcanulty.com
Have I got a treat for you! The wonderful picture book author, Linda Ashman, has written her own e-book about writing picture books called The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books and is giving away a free copy to one of my blog readers!
I met Linda online just a couple of weeks ago through my blog. (Of course, I had heard about her in the kid-lit world, and so it was very cool to meet her because of Google Alerts!) Linda is the award winning author of 29 picture books, has taught writing classes, and has degrees in economics and urban planning. She graciously let me read her e-book, and I’m posting a review and an interview.
Tina’s Thoughts on The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books
I’ve taken a few picture book classes and read some other picture book writing books. I’ve learned that a writer can never have too many. Each instructor is unique in voice, technic, and delivery of material. So even though you might’ve read about a concept one way, hearing it another might turn on the light bulb. At least, that’s how it is for me.
Linda’s writing is easy to follow and understand, detailed, and super creative! I love the creativity throughout the book because I’m a creative-oriented person. Linda takes you from the very beginning, talking about what makes a picture book and the types of picture books to selling your manuscript, dealing with contracts, and finding an agent. I don’t want to sound like the table of contents, and so I’m going to list things I thought made this book stand out.
This book has:
· 3 ways to make picture book dummies
· links to Linda's own manuscripts to show how to do art notes and different dummies she’s made
· CURRENT interviews with top editors, what they like and dislike
· Cute way to categorize and write 3 types of endings
· Great checklists and questions to apply to my manuscripts
· Fun writing exercises for yourself or critique group
· The Wizard of Oz Factors for plot—I love this!
· Everything you need to know about poetry and rhyming
· Poem/rhythm starters for those of us who have problems
· Good questions to ask an agent
· What happens when you sell a manuscript
· The Resources in the back of the book itself are worth buying. She lists up-to-date picture book titles categorized by voice, strong characters, twist endings, etc…
As you can see, I really enjoyed reading this e-book, and it only took me two days! I just had to know Linda’s secrets. I know I’ll reread it for my WIPs. By the way, while reading this, I wrote a brand new nonfiction multicultural picture book. I think Linda’s writing inspired me. Keep reading for Linda’s interview + your chance to win this e-book!
1. What led you to write your own picture book how-to book?
It was my husband's idea, actually. After seeing the amount of preparation I did for various classes and workshops I taught -- all the planning, the stacks of picture books I'd bring home, the handouts and/or slides I'd create -- Jack would encourage me to compile all that information in a book. And like many authors and illustrators, I'd frequently get questions about the publishing process from friends and strangers, so I'd developed a good list of resources over the years. I resisted Jack's suggestion at first -- as you know, my friend Ann Whitford Paul had already written an excellent guide (Writing Picture Books). But as I thought about it more, I realized that all writers approach their work differently. Just as there are many books about writing novels and screenplays, I figured there was room for another book about writing picture books.
2. How long did it take you to write this book? Why self-publish?
It took me a long time -- more than a year -- to write the guide, mostly because I started it right before my family moved from Colorado to North Carolina. Bad timing! For many months, all my energies were channeled into packing up on one side and settling in on the other. But eventually things calmed down enough that I was able to focus on the handbook again.
As for self-publishing, I initially envisioned the guide as a self-directed writing class rather than a traditional book, so I didn't think about submitting it to a publisher. I also knew I wanted to include hyperlinks to various resources -- helpful websites, blogs, and other sorts of things -- so it needed to be available in an electronic format for those links to be usable. Personally, I prefer reading from paper copies as opposed to an electronic screen, so offering it as a PDF seemed like the best of both worlds: the links work for screen-reading, but you can also print out parts or all of it and put it in a 3-ring binder if you choose.
3. You list superb editor/agent interviews. Have you worked with each of these people?
Yes! Jennifer Mattson from Andrea Brown Literary is my wonderful agent. Lara Starr is the smart and savvy publicist at Chronicle in charge of publicity for Peace, Baby! and many other books. The others -- Kate O'Sullivan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Nancy Paulsen (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin), Maria Modugno (Random House), Stephanie Lurie (Disney-Hyperion) and Meredith Mundy (Sterling) -- are all very talented editors I've been lucky enough to work with over the years.
4. What do you think is the #1 mistake pb writers make?
I think many people start writing picture books without understanding their basic structure, so their stories often wind up being too long, too rambling, and/or too descriptive. It's important to keep in mind that a typical picture book is 32 pages, and several of these pages will be used for the copyright, dedication, etc. That leaves just 27 or 28 pages -- and, typically, less than 800 words -- to tell the story. As picture book writers, we need to grab our readers from the first page, wrap things up nicely on the last one, and keep the story lively and engaging along the way. We also need to be concise, think visually, and leave room for the illustrator to tell much of the story.
5. What advice would you give to those looking for an agent?
Do your research! Read agency websites, blogs, and interviews with agents. If possible, go to conferences where agents will be speaking, and ask any authors or editors you know for recommendations. Keep a target list of possibilities based on what you find out and who appeals to you. And, before submitting, be sure your manuscript and cover letter are engaging and impeccably written (no typos!) and that you follow submission instructions for that particular agency. Finally, if you receive an offer of representation, don't be afraid to ask questions. If all goes well, this will be a long-term relationship, so you want to make sure you and the agent are compatible and that she's enthusiastic about you and your work.
6. Can I ask--what are you currently working on?
I just finished a picture book manuscript which is written in prose rather than rhyme -- rare for me -- and am revising a second one in verse. After that, I'll be thinking about what to start next while I'm hauling rocks and plants around the garden -- the next phase of our settling-in process here.
Thanks so much, Linda, for finding me, letting me read your book, and hosting this give-away! You can find Linda at her web page: lindaashman.com and find out more info about her book here and bio here.
Tina M. Cho, children's author
I'm a children's author and freelance writer for the educational market. Welcome!