Archive for the ‘children’s books’ Category

Publisher’s Weekly Article: The Children’s Industry

Friday, August 10th, 2012

If you weren’t able to make the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s Summer Conference, read this article to get some of the highlights:

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/53496-scbwi-summer-conference-a-gathering-of-kindred-spirits-.html?utm_source=Publishers+Weekly%27s+Children%27s+Bookshelf&utm_campaign=a27b52a677-UA-15906914-1&utm_medium=email

Write a Picture Book by Reading One

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

One of the best picture books of 2011 is Jon Katz’s Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm.  It surprised me to discover that the author writes adult memoirs, short stories and novels and this is his first work for children. 

Why should this surprise me? Just because someone writes for adults doesn’t mean writing for children will be a natural transition.  Contrary to what many assume, it’s not easier to write a picture book.

I’ve heard when a best-selling adult author suddenly writes a picture book and foists it off onto their publishers’ children’s group, the editors there roll their eyes and run scared.  Why? The prospect of a poorly written project they must face.  If the author well-known and rakes in money for their house, the editor may face a “hands off” policy on the project, allowing the book’s quality to suffer.  

No worries here, as Katz’s editor must have hugged and kissed him. Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm is a treasure from first to last page.

Since the author has a daughter, I think:

He’s read picture books out loud to her.  

Why is this important?  Reading picture books aloud helps you to feel the rhythm of the words.  Picture book writing is like poetry.  Read one thousand picture books out loud before you write one. 

What qualities make this book terrific?  

Here’s the first paragraph:

In the morning after mist has cleared from the path, four dogs go out together for their first walk of the day.  They circle and sniff the wet ground carefully, listening and seeing things that only dogs can sense. 

Katz sets the scene visually; the main characters are in action, showing the qualities that set them apart from their readers. There are NO wasted words

We discover who each of the four dogs are, what their jobs are on the farm, and find out their uniqueness.  The text blends together Katz’s amazing photographs which make the reader feel like reaching out and petting Rose, Izzy, Lenore and Frieda right on the page. 

I want to meet these animals. 

At the end of the book, I realize I have. 

I won’t give away the ending.  It’s simple but very satisfying.  Which makes the picture book just right.

Katz has the rhythm and pacing of his picture book down perfectly.   

Want to learn how to write a picture book?   Read Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm aloud to internalize the rhythm and truth.   

If you don’t want to learn how to write one, read it for enjoyment, or read it to a child.  You and the child will be glad you did.

Amazon Buys Marshall Cavendish: Children’s Publisher Morphs into Selling Industry

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Gulp.  I can’t (puff, puff) keep (puff, puff) up.  I’m running as fast as I can.  The changes in the publishing industry are zooming ahead of me.  I learn Amazon has just bought Marshall Cavendish, a children’s publisher. 

What does this mean for creativity?   In my last post I talked about balance of time.  This time we need to search for balance for creativity. 

Already, the big box stores and Amazon have been successful in making big money-making deals larger and the small independent projects smaller or non-existent. 

Now they’ve gulped a creative source. 

As a person who tries to see the positive in every move, yes, I know this means a new life for books as in e-books for children. 

But. 

Another big guy strikes against art. 

Follow the money.

What to Write? Suggestions from Children’s Librarians

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Do you enjoy writing nonfiction for kids?  Wonder what librarians need on their bookshelves?  Wonder no longer:

http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/slj/supplements/seriesmadesimple/892628-363/theres_always_room_for_more.html.csp

When Death Happens in Your Writing Group

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

 You’re never really prepared for death, are you?  But when it strikes someone who isn’t elderly or sick, it’s particularly difficult. 

Last week a friend and member of our writing group emailed us for suggestions on titles for her current book.  She needed them by the weekend for her agent.  Emails flew back and forth, so on Friday afternoon when I logged on, I wasn’t surprised to see another email from her. 

But this time it was from her husband stating she passed away that very day from a routine hospital procedure - an endoscopy.  He couldn’t find her phone numbers, and he was in a hurry . . .

You know those emails you get from what LOOKS like it’s your friend’s email telling you she’s in London and stranded and please send her money immediately? 

My first reaction is someone hacked their way into her account and this guy was pretending to be her husband.  Who had a vendetta against them?  This just could not be. 

I called David’s cell.

But it was all too true.  

Once people were called, we realized we needed to create a scrapbook of thoughts, pictures, illustrations and memories for her.  People sent me amazing poems, anecdotes, thoughts, feelings and art.  (Thank you all!) 

And then I realized after I put it together, it was as much for US as it was for her.  It expressed Marisa’s joy and love of life, words, books, animals and the color pink!  It showed her strength and her determination.  She never let the pain of her rheumatoid arthritis stop her.  If she couldn’t make it work one way, she figured out another. 

Born in Puerto Rico, Marisa Montes moved at the age of four to Missouri, and then to France when she was seven, because her father was in the army.  She had the thrill of living in Toul, France, which she loved, for a few years before moving to the Monterey Peninsula in California when she was in the sixth grade.  

 Diagnosed at age 16 with the painful RA, she didn’t let that stop her. She was a member of her high school’s drill team, a cheer leader, AND a competitive roller skater! 

She went on to become a family and immigration lawyer for a few years before turning to writing law materials. After ten years of writing for the legal world, she found her home in children’s books, where she published many award-winning books for children, including the wonderful picture book, Los Gatos Black on Halloween which won the Pura Belpre Award and the Tomas Rivera Award.   

Interviewed by Patricia Newman, Marisa said, “I was happier writing every day in pain than at all my other jobs.  Physically, I was in agony, but emotionally and mentally I was in Shangri-La!” 

Thank you, Marisa for showing the rest of us how determination, passion and creativity shined through you. 

May all of you feel the joy in writing that she did.  To learn more about Marisa, visit her website at www.MarisaMontes.com

Of Tom Hanks, Publishing, and Your Summer Must List

Monday, June 6th, 2011

In a recent issue of a Entertainment Weekly, celebrities were asked to name MY SUMMER MUST LIST.  Bravo for Tom, in listing BOOKS, BOOKs, BOOKS as one of his.

  Here’s what he wrote:  “I still carry a bag of books around all summer, as I am not enamored with the tactile experience of reading books on Kindles or iPads.  (Magazines, scripts, and newspapers, sure, but my policy on books is: Buy, Read, Keep.)  Waiting for a plane?  Book it.  Kids frolicking safely in the surf?  Check on them as you turn the page.  Fried clams taking forever to hit the table?  Finish a chapter.”

I have lovely memories of my son receiving gifts of books as a child.  What’s the first thing he’d do?  Crack it open, press his nose into the middle and inhale deeply.   The euphoria on his face said it all.

I love the smell of books too.  So does my dog.  At least the ones that come from used bookstores and the library, where many hands have touched them. 

Upon coming home, books in my arms, I’ll call to her. “Zoie!  I’ve got library books!”  She’ll zoom from her bed and bound over to the stack I’ve placed on the floor, like I’ve presented her a T-bone steak. 

Our favorite activity?  While I read these very books, after she thoroughly checks them out with her good sniffs, Zoie will curl up in my lap for a snooze.  

And what about the touch of the book itself?  The feel of the crisp paper, the joy of completion upon reading page after page.  The weight of the book in your hands; running your hands over the cover to feel its texture. Does it feel smooth?  Are the letters of the title raised? 

I will agree that for some huge weighty books, like the book recently released containing Mark Twain’s wonderful words and wit,  an electronic device would have been more convenient than setting it upon a pillow.  But then it would have deprived me of bragging rights.  Oh, poor me . . . (cue violin music) . . . holding up that huge book . . .

But I agree with Tom.  The actual book itself is an experience to be enjoyed.

My Summer Must List: 

1. Books: 

Besides reading a pile of books for research on a current project I’m writing, I’d love to take a break and read Betty White’s book, If You Ask Me:  (And of Course You Won’t) because I’ve always admired her work with animals and her work as a comedic actress.

Countdown, by Deborah Wiles, is about the 1960s Cold War era, and everything by this incredible author is terrific so I can’t wait to read this one.   This probably will be my first reward after I get some of my research done.

Modoc, The True Story of the Greatest Elephant that Ever Lived by Ralph Helfer.  A biography set at the turn of the century, I’ve heard wonderful things about this story and can’t wait to read it. 

2.  Movies

My goal is to see more old movies, because the scripts are delightful.  As I watch them, I pay attention to the story and character development just as I do when I read a book.

Movies I need to re-watch . . . Born Yesterday, Bringing up Baby, It Happened One Night,  Strangers on a Train,  oh my gosh. I shouldn’t get started.

I suppose I should actually go OUT to see a movie too.  Locally, we have a marvelous old theater with a huge screen that we adore.  A couple of weekends ago we saw Midnight in Paris, a must for anyone who loves literature and/or art.  If you can get past Owen Wilson always acting like Owen Wilson, it’s a terrific lose-yourself-in-the-film time.  I especially enjoyed Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein.

3.  Spend time in nature.  In WARM nature. 

I love the warm weather, and I’m hoping our Northern California’s cold rainy May and early June will soon change.  But even if it doesn’t, long walks and communing with our natural parks and trails is on my must-do this summer. 

4.  Visit historical sites.  Local history in small towns is everywhere and it’s fascinating.    Talking with locals who have lived in one place forever are not only entertaining but the anecdotes and details may flavor one’s writing in the future.

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Check out this great blog about writing and publishing:

 The Passive Voice.  http://www.thepassivevoice.com/

Ice Cream For Breakfast! Harry Potter, Wacky Doodles and More!

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011
JULY 7   8:00am – 9:00am

Ice cream for breakfast!  

Treat yourself one morning this summer and start the day off with vanilla or chocolate! 

 

   
JULY 14   8:00pm

  

HARRY POTTER  

MOVIE NIGHT!

Come watch Harry Potter #7 part 1 before you go to a midnight screening of part 2!

Harry Potter trivia and prizes! Costumes optional. 

 

   
JULY 19   3:00pm – 4:00pm
Fancy Nancy Afternoon Tea
dress in your fanciest clothes and have fancy cookies, fancy tea, and learn the fanciest manners, dahling!

 

   
July 26   2:00pm – 3:00pm

Wacky Doodles!

Create all sorts of kooky characters in this super-fun doodle workshop!

*With artist Michael Slack!*

   
August 1   5:00pm – 6:00pm

Pet Parade!

Bring your pet and meet others–prizes for best dressed pet, largest pet, smallest pet, and many more categories!

 

   
August ??
SECRET FIRE ENGINE VISIT
CALL THE STORYTELLER BETWEEN JUL 29-AUG 5 TO FIND OUT WHEN THE FIRE ENGINE WILL ARRIVE! 

 

   
August 16   7:00pm – 8:00pm
Karaoke for Kids!
Come rock out with us.

 

   
August 25   4:00pm – 5:00pm
YOUNG ADULT
BOOK EXCHANGE
Bring a book you’d recommend (or two, or three…) and leave with something new (or two, or three…)! 

 

 
 
 
The Storyteller | 925 284 3480 | 30 Lafayette Circle | Lafayette | CA | 94549

 

Writing Prompts:

1.  You have a very funny pet.  What is it?  Create the most unique pet in the world.  Describe it.  What does it do, that no other pet in the world can do?  Take it to the Peculiar Pet Parade!  What other pets march and perform?   Be wacky and wild!

2.  Use the characters in Harry Potter to write a new chapter of your own.

3.  Create Wacky Doodle art!

4.  The fire alarm just rang.  Write a story from the 

a.  fire’s point of view  

b. the fire engine’s point of view   

c.  a person trapped in the fire  

d.  a rescuer going into the fire

Young Writers

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

On Saturday,  May 21, the California Writers Club, Mt. Diablo Branch held it’s annual Young Writers Contest Banquet at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant in Pleasant Hill.  The twenty-seven award-winning students along with their teachers, family and friends were invited to eat the delicious banquet Tony and his efficient staff prepared, receive their cash, and their lovely awards created by Joanne Brown.

Guest speaker editorial agent and former Tricycle editor Abigail Samoun spoke about actually being an editor.  To the threatening sounds of  the music known from JAWS, we saw on the screen before us an actual room filled with slush pile manuscripts. (Yes, we WERE frightened!  We could have gotten smothered by those stacks of large manilla envelopes!)  The young writers discovered that slush refers to  manuscripts sent to the publisher without an agent.    The audience learned how busy editors really are, and found out it can take years for a manuscript to turn into an actual book and appear on bookstore or library shelves.

Congratulations to all of the winners of this contest, and to everyone who took the big step and risk of putting pen to paper and writing.  Each time you bare your soul on paper, it is a risk.  You are brave!   Congratulations to everyone who entered the contest.  Each time you do something brave like this, you learn and grow.  We hope if you are a Contra Costa middle school student next fall, you will enter your short stories, poems, and personal narratives again.  It doesn’t cost anything but the postage.  And you can start writing this summer!  Hope to see you at our FREE July 27 writing workshop at the Clayton Public Library!

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On Tuesday, May 24, I visited Mrs. Laird’s fourth grade classroom and the students impressed me with their intelligent questions, comments and ease at writing.  The moment Mrs. Laird turned on classical music, the kids’ pens hit their paper and didn’t stop moving until the music came to an end. 

Wow!  Very cool!  Most classrooms I visit today don’t have time for writing, and when I ask them to pick up their pen to write, kids are plain stumped.  “How shall I begin?”  they may ask.  “What if I spell something wrong?”  They don’t realize that first drafts are the place to make spelling mistakes!  It’s okay!  It’s fine to be messy or to make a punctuation error.  In a first draft, you just want to WRITE! 

I was very proud of how well this class wrote, and how eager they were to share their writing.  It was wonderful how they included their personal thoughts and feelings in their words. 

At one point in my talk, I mention an author I interviewed for my book, The ABCs of Writing for ChildrenJane Yolen likes to say BIC is the most important rule for being a writer.  I agree!  What did the kids think BIC stood for?  They talked with partners and came up with some possibilities:

Brain in classroom

Butt in conversation         (Hmm.  This could be a funny story, but I’d hate to assign it . . .)

Butt idea chair

And finally, one group got the answer Jane came up with:  Butt in chair! 

How can you be a writer?  Sit down and write!  Turn off all of the distractions in your life and pay attention to the sounds in your head!  Write your thoughts, feelings, senses, and memories.  Create characters, stories, poems and combine them with art if you can.  Let your imagination run wild!  But you can’t do that if you don’t take time. Sit. Let you mind wander and pick up a pen.   

As one student told Mrs. Laird, “Now that Liz came to our school, I know what to write:  moments from our lives.” 

They don’t have to be big moments.  Some of the best writing can be a small detail that makes all the difference in your world.

Writing Prompts:

1.  Write about one small (or big) thing that happened today to make you smile.

2.  Take out the last story or piece that you wrote.  Now add a sensory description.  Is there a sight, sound, taste, touch, or smell you can add that will give your piece more depth and make the reader feel like he or she was really there?  Can you add more than one?

3.  Recently, I posted a photo of a gopher that my husband took onto an online sharing site. I thought a couple of people might think it was cute.  Twenty-five people began a discussion about it! Who knew so many people could talk so much about a little gopher?  Something so un-important became a heated discussion!  Write a conversation where you say one little thing and suddenly people react in ways you’d never imagine!

4.  Keep a diary/journal for one week.  You don’t have to write everything that happens to you.  Just choose one thing each day that you want to write about. What will you choose?  Whatever you choose, make the reader feel like he or she is right with you by writing your thoughts, feelings, and a sensory description.  You can even put in some dialogue!

5.  Write about an animal you have met or known.  Make that animal come alive!  Describe it.  Make it move.  How did it make you feel?

Wimpy Kid Contest, California Writers Club Young Writers Contest Banquet, and Pleasant Hill History Contest

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Enter the Wimpy Kid Contest!   $500 for you and $1000 for your library!

Deadline is June 10, 2011  For more information and guidelines, visit:

http://wimpykid.com/contest/

________________________________________________________________

Remember:    This Saturday, May 21, is the California Writers Club, Mt. Diablo Branch’s Young Writers Contest Banquet which will be held at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant in Pleasant Hill. 

    • As we’ll have many guests, REGISTRATION WILL OPEN AT 11:00 AM, a half hour earlier than our regular 11:30 schedule.
    • To acknowledge this special event, the cost per guest is reduced to $20 per person, the equivalent of our regular member rate.
      • Sign-in:  11:00 a.m. – noon; Buffet Lunch
      • Presentation follows
      • Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant, 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill, CA, 94523

      About Abigail Samoun

      Abi has worked in children’s publishing for over a decade. During that time she’s edited board books, picture books, middle-grade novels, and early young-adult novels for Tricycle Press, Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Little, Brown. Her books have received numerous honors including a CCBC Charlotte Zolotow award, an SCBWI Golden Kite, a Pura Belpre Honor, a Smithsonian Notable, and a New York Public Library Ezra Jack Keats award.

      Abigail also edited the middle grade series Edgar & Ellen which has sold over a quarter of a million copies worldwide and inspired a cartoon series on Nickelodeon. She has just launched a brand-new children’s literary agency with agent extraordinaire Karen Grencik.

      For YOUR reservation, please send an e-mail to Joanne Brown.  jobrown5273@sbcglobal.net  by noon May 18.  Seating is limited. 

    • _____________________________________________________________
    • Pleasant Hill History Writing Contest
    • More information will be posted here this summer, but in honor of Pleasant Hill, California’s 50th anniversary as a city, there will be a middle school writing contest with $ awards $ for essays about living in Pleasant Hill.  Students may research and interview people to discover the rich history of Pleasant Hill. 

Writing Conference Quotes

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

I attended a writing conference this past weekend.  Here are some quotes, tips and techniques I feel anyone any age may appreciate:

Caldecott winner author-illustrator David Wiesner:  

 (quoting someone’s name I didn’t get – - sorry!)

“Inspiration is for amateurs.  The rest of us just show up and get to work . . . All of the best ideas come out of the process.  Something will occur to you, and then another thing will occur to you . . .”    

Agent Josh Adams made some distinctions between award winners and bestsellers.  (Some of them fall into the same categories.)

 Award Winning Books:  beautifully crafted, indelible voice, lingers in your memory, creates emotional connections, are life-changing 

The White Darkness, Bad News for Outlaws, and Rules are some titles that fit in this category.

 Best Selling Books:  high concept, thought-provoking, page-turning, suspenseful, a fun read         

Charlie Bone and the Red Knight, Sabotaged, and Kiss are high concept sellers.

 Author Alexandria LaFaye 

 If you have a better access to your subconscious, you are a better writer. 

(See!  Me here.  What do I keep telling you about dreams and using the moments as you wake from sleep?)

Triple D:  Every time you use a detail it needs to develop setting, character and plot.  

Center ourselves in the world our characters inhabit.  Our characters should have a distinctive world view.  It should sound if they are describing their world.   Not us describing it.  Figure out how to explain things from the view of the main character.  The character talks about it in relationship to what else is going on in his life. 

Characters can only draw figurative language from their own personal experience.

 How can you write more metaphors and figurative language in your writing?  Read poetry.  Good poets she suggested were Nancy Willard, Cynthia Rylant, Gary Soto, Pat Mora, Janet Wong.  Poets who write adult poetry:  Gary Snyder, Louise Glook, Emily Dickenson, Sylvia Plath. 

 Poetry is about what’s not on the page. 

 Cynthia Lord

 Newbery Honor Winner Cynthia Lord’s words were so powerful the audience gave her a standing ovation and many of us had tears in her eyes when she talked about the story behind the story of Rules.

 What happens when you write a book based on your life? 

What should you write about?

Write a book on challenging personal experiences.   She said that every message in the book, Rules,  is a message for her. 

What to consider as you write your book:

  1. What do I owe the other people whose lives are also tied up in this moment?  (Minimize the impact on their lives.)
  2. Am I willing to “go there” on schedule?  And for years?
  3. Am I ready to be honest? 
  4. Any important moment will have a contrasting emotion in it.
  5. Write what you know.  
  6. If you don’t know, ask yourself, when have I ever felt the same way as that character?
  7. Details don’t have to match, just the feelings.   To help herself remember, she surrounded herself with objects from that town and she saw her handwriting from that time.

Description:   Write what you know through settings and objects using your senses.  Set places where you can visit.  Go and see real things.  What does the air feel like? 

***What surprises you?  This question is gold in the description.

 She acted out a scene in rules where the main character pushes a boy in a wheelchair in a parking lot.  She pushed her suitcase in a parking lot.!   Lord realized there’d be pinecones, holes, cracks, etc and this made her write with more depth.

Find the one feeling of the story and everything revolves around this feeling.