September 6, 2011
Greetings from O’Fallon! It’s been a summer of emptying boxes, finding things and re-discovering other things, and everything else that it takes to move from one state to another. We’re finally settling in, and I’m beginning to make a few connections to the world of children’s books here in Missouri.
My first stop, shortly after moving in, was to the Middendorf-Kredell Library in O’Fallon, where I visited the children’s department and met the librarian and staff there. I’m lucky to be just ten minutes away from this beautiful new branch of the St. Charles Library District.
The O’Fallon children’s librarian gave me the name of the owner of Main Street Books, an independent bookstore in near-by St. Charles. I made a visit to Main Street Books a couple of weeks later, and met Vicki Erwin, bookstore owner and fellow SCBWI member. The warm, cozy atmosphere, like most independent bookstores, feels like family, and I have it on my list to return soon and browse through the stacks. (www.mainstreetbooks.net)
Wherever there’s an SCBWI member, there’s a smiling, friendly person ready to share children’s book-related information. Vicki gave me the link to the St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance. I was amazed at the number of independent bookstore in the St. Louis area. Checking their schedule of events, I found that several children‘s authors were on the books doing author appearances at various stores, including Jarrett Krosoczka (the LUNCH LADY graphic novel series), author/illustrator Peter Brown (CHILDREN MAKE TERRIBLE PETS and YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND!), and Jack Gantos (JOEY PIGZA and ROTTEN RALPH). My calendar is filling up quickly! (www.stlindiebook.com)
I enjoy doing author visits to schools and libraries, as well as visits to bookstores. I stopped at the Mid Rivers Barnes & Noble bookstore in St. Peters, where my son’s family lives, and met Shelly, who schedules the activities there. I just added an author story time and a book signing to my calendar during Educators Week on October 22nd. My daughter’s family recently moved from north of St. Louis to Fenton. I contacted the South Roxana Library where they visited before they moved, and offered to sign copies of my books. I'm looking forward to doing an author visit there sometime in the next several months.
Of course, the one place that I KNOW will connect me to other children’s writers no matter what state I’m in is SCBWI (http://www.scbwi.org ). I’ve registered for the Missouri SCBWI fall conference (http://moscbwi.org/Home_Page.html) on November 5th in St. Charles, which is just a hop over from O’Fallon. I’m looking forward to meeting an editor, an agent, and of course other children’s authors and illustrators.
I’m beginning to warm up to this new home state of Missouri. No pun intended (or maybe so), since except for the past few days, the temps have been in the 90’s and 100’s ever since we moved here!
May 19, 2011
1—Read children’s books
Read to find out what children are reading. Read to see what publishers are buying. Read to learn how to write. Read the type of books that you want to write, but read other genres, too. And don’t forget children’s magazines. Get to know your children’s librarian and the children’s book coordinator at your local bookstore. They can tell you what they like. They can tell you what kinds of books they want more of. And they’ll be rooting for you when you get your first book published!
2—Read about writing for children
There are books on craft, books on marketing, and books about the children’s publishing business. There are books about how to write for children, from picture books to YA and everything else in between. Gather tips from authors and editors by reading magazines and newsletters for children’s writers. The Children’s Writer and Children’s Book Insider, are excellent examples. Writers’ Digest magazine occasionally prints a special issue about writing for children, and Publishers’ Weekly has two issues per year about children’s books.
3—Check out websites for children’s writers
Many good websites offer articles about the children’s publishing business and writing for children, as well as current marketing news. Be sure to check when the site was last updated, and the credibility of the website’s author. Check out authors’ websites and blogs, and discussion boards for children’s writers.
4—Research the market
Read children’s books to see what’s being published. Check out the current Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market Book, which is updated every year. Keep up with the trends and markets by reading magazines and newsletters, specifically those for children’s writers.
5—Submit to magazines
A good way to feel instant gratification is to get something out in the mail. Stories, puzzles, or jokes for magazines are shorter, and take less time to write. Children’s magazines are usually quicker to respond. Rejections may pile up, but they also show that you’re writing. And acceptances help your writing credits, validate your writing, and boost your enthusiasm.
6—Join a critique group
Writing is a lonely profession. Critique groups keep you in touch with other children’s writers. In a critique group you can get feedback on your writing, get a push to get something finished, and share marketing news, writing experiences, and good news. If possible, join a group of children’s writers. The process of writing for children is different than writing for adults, and feedback from writers who write only for adults can sometimes be off the mark.
7—Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI)
SCBWI is the only international organization for children’s writers and illustrators. It opens up many excellent opportunities, such as grants, and conferences. SCBWI provides more information than you can get from any other source, and includes the bi-monthly SCBWI Bulletin, the yearly updated market survey, and many other publications. It offers opportunities to connect with children’s authors and editors from around the globe.
8—Attend conferences and events related to writing for children
Choose your conferences carefully. Attend those that are specifically geared for children’s writers. Networking with other children’s writers, both published and to-be-published, meeting editors of children’s books and magazines, and opening up markets for your manuscript that are otherwise closed to submissions are benefits in addition to the information gained from speakers’ presentations and handouts.
9—Find opportunities to attend other local events related to children’s books and writing
In addition to conferences, find out when children’s authors will be speaking at libraries and schools in your area, and plan to attend. If you speak to a school librarian ahead of time and explain that you are a children’s writer, they are usually happy to let you sit in on an author’s presentation. If a national event such as Book Expo or an ALA event is planned in your area, don’t miss the opportunity to attend.
10—Enter contests and apply for grants
You won’t get published if you don’t submit, and you won’t win if you don’t try! Besides the possibility of winning a contest or being awarded a grant, there are some hidden benefits. Getting something completed within a deadline, gathering tips on what editors and judges are looking for and tips on ways to promote your work are obvious. But earning a letter of merit, or placing in a contest is something you can put in a cover letter. And you never know when one of the judges, perhaps an editor, might take an interest in your manuscript and ask for your submission!
11—Set realistic goals
Begin with a goal that you can accomplish. Once you’ve reached that goal, re-evaluate and set higher goals. Starting with small, attainable goals will give you a sense of accomplishment rather than a feeling of failure. Re-evaluating and setting higher goals along the way will give you a push to keep moving forward. When you reach a goal, reward yourself with a small treat—a piece of candy, an outing, time to yourself or with friends.
Check with your library, your child’s school, and in your community to find opportunities to help with events where you will be surrounded by children and children’s books. Go a step further and volunteer to help with events planned by your local SCBWI. Besides the good feeling you get from helping others, and the vast writing material you get from working with children, you never know who you might meet that will help you along the way in your career as a children’s author or illustrator.
The following puzzle describes all of us who write for children:
No matter what stage we’re at in our quest to be a part of the children’s book world, we are always a Work in Progress!
January 6, 2011
Is it 2011 already?! I'm still catching up with 2010!
It seems like my New Year's resolutions never change. At least not very much. I fall short of my goals. But each new year I start over. Some recurring resolutions include:
Read all of my newsletters as soon as I get them
Read more blogs, author sites, etc.
Update my wesite more often and more fully
But maybe I should look a little closer at what I DID accomplish last year. Some things were:
Read a few books.
Wrote a few first drafts and revisions.
Submitted and had a poem published in Humpty Dumpty magazine.
Eventually read all of my newsletters.
Kept up with my weekly blog, most of the year.
And things accomplished, not on my list of new year's resolutions:
Joined Verla Kay's message board
Signed up for google analytics
Joined the speakers directory on SCBWI
Made a speakers video for the SCBWI directory (still waiting for that to be added)
Joined twitter (I don't know if I'll ever post there, but I'm on!)
Had my first Book Launch Party!
Did numerous author visits since NAME THAT DOG! was released in April
Attended the National SCBWI conference in LA (WOW!)
Signed up on GoodReads and posted my first book reviews.
Had my first online author interview on Janet Fox's website (http://bit.ly/9h0zPI), and again on the IWC website (http://www.indianawritersconsortium.org/).
Changed email service (a big job)
Our 6th grandchild came along!
Our daughter's wedding!
Branson with my sister and her husband
Las Vegas for the first time
Looking back over all that I DID acomplish is inspiring! So look out 2011! I'll be seeing you there.
October 13, 2010
On Saturday Indiana SCBWI hosted Esther Hershenhorn, who talked to us about ‘Getting Your Stories (plural) Right.’ The Character was Esther herself, former Regional Advisor for Illinois SCBWI and current board member for SCBWI, award-winning author, speaker, and writing coach. The setting was the beautiful Benton House in Indianapolis, IN. The Plot…
Esther talked about the two stories you tell as an author: the story you have to tell your readers, and the story you’re living as a writer. These stories need to intersect meaningfully.
There are 3 elements of story: character, setting and plot. Of these, Character is everything!
Get to know your character. Ask yourself ‘What’s on his iPod?’
You need to know two things that about your characters (yourself and your story character): what your character wants (the physical plotline), and why he wants it (the emotional plotline).
Ask yourself: Why do you write for children? What do you want out of it?
II Setting—When and Where?
You live in the character’s book world, but you also need to stay current in the children’s publishing world. Learn from others, through libraries, book sellers, teachers, editors and others. Read children’s literature. Keep a reader’s journal. Write down the books you read.
Plot is characters in action, overcoming obstacles, by cunning and craft. Events are linked by causation. Things happen for a reason. Every scene, every character, etc., matters.
Esther’s description of plot, put simply, is:
Oh—Oh, my!—Oh, dear!—Oh, no!—Oh, yes!
In story, there must be action. The character must act against an obstacle. Then he re-acts with accompanying emotion. This is the emotional plot line.
Your plot as a writer asks three questions:
What do you want?
Why do you want it?
How do you get it?
In conclusion: Write from who you are. Write true to yourself.
Finally: Never throw out the beginning pages of your writing—it’s where the heart of your story is.
More on the ‘rest of the day’ later!
September 3, 2010
Attending a conference for children’s writers and illustrators has more perks than you might imagine. It’s about talking to people who you know and also to those you don’t know. Here are some of the extra perks that I got when I attended the SCBWI conference in LA that didn’t come from the conference itself.
--was able to put faces to names from the listservs I belong to for children's writers
--re-connected with old friends
--met new friends
--met new and re-connected with other SCBWI members from Indiana
--met the manager of the children’s department of the largest independent bookstore who knew my books without my showing them to her
--met some great people from Japan and Australia and other countries
--shared the flight out to LA with another author/conference attendee who I’d just met, and shared websites to look at and books to read, and made a new friend
--shared a room with two of the best roommates at the conference
--met lots of dog-loving, book-loving people
--met a librarian who also does reviews for SLJ
--met Verla Kay of the Verla Kay message board for children’s writers, and got an informal personal guide to working my way around the message board from her
--met Alice Pope of the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market book, and now the head of the SCBWI Team Blog
--sat next to an editor who gave me his card after looking at my picture book
--talked with Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser, founders of SCBWI
--got to tour the SCBWI offices
--shared some birthday cake for another author
--got tips on networking and school visits from other authors
--got to see the ocean, the beach, the big city buildings, and the mountains all in one view
--got a head shot, video shoot, and a website consultation
--got more websites to look at
--got tips on holding conferences and events
--got tips on promoting my book from other authors
--was able to purchase books personally autographed by the author or illustrator
--was able to sell and autograph my books along with other PAL published authors on Friday evening
--got a special gift for someone special
--sat in a whirlpool tub and talked about writing
--attended the Heart and Soul celebration with the best costumes ever
--shared illustrations for our books with another author at the airport
--had some great meals that I didn’t have to cook
--met a man from Hawaii at the airport whose wife is a teacher
--enjoyed meeting a woman from Texas and her granddaughter at the hotel when my flight was delayed another day, and shared e-mail information
--met a young lady who was traveling to Ireland on her birthday
--laughed a lot and had fun
--was totally inspired by everyone that I met and saw there
The next time you are trying to decide whether to attend a conference for children's authors and illustrators, keep in mind the perks that are waiting for you along with the information that you'll get from the conference itself.
August 13, 2010
I returned from the SCBWI National conference in LA last week and am beginning to get my mind back. What a conference! With over 1,100 attendees, it was a wonderful meeting of other children's writers, editors, booksellers, librarians and others in children's publishing. It was also an update on the business of children's books, inspirational, and as always, a place to learn and improve your craft. I especially enjoyed meeting new people, seeing old friends, and sharing ideas and friendship with other Regional Advisors and Assistant Regional Advisors.
Read on-going highlights posted during the conference on the SCBWI Team Blog, led by Alice Pope at: http://scbwiconference.blogspot.com/
One of the highlights of the week was attending the Golden Kite Awards Luncheon on Sunday. The acceptance speeches were humbling and inspiring.
It began with Paul Fleishman presenting the award for humor, named for his father, children's author Sid Fleishman, who passed away early this year. The recipient was Alan Zadoff for his book, "Food, Girls and Other Things I Can't Have." Qualities that merit the award besides humor are depth, substance, and heart.
If you ever have the opportunity to hear Ashley Bryan speak, you will never again read poetry the same way. He ended his acceptance of the award for non-fiction by reciting a poem by Eloise Greenfield.
Accepting the award for picture book text, Marion Dane Bauer talked about the poetic language of a picture book. After which John Parra spoke about the illustration half of the book when he received the award for picture book illustration.
Julia Durango, our neighbor from the wonderful SCBWI group in Illinois, received the award for fiction and gave a heart-warming speech during which she said that she puts secret messages to her sons into her books.
Although honor recipients were not presented at the conference, it's worth noting here that our own Indiana SCBWI author, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, received the Golden Kite Honor award for fiction for her wonderful picture book, Bella and Bean.
Christopher Cheng, from the Australia chapter of SCBWI, was named SCBWI Member of the Year, and it couldn't have gone to a more deserving person.
Golden Kite Recipients:
Fiction: Julia Durango for "Sea of the Dead," S&S
Non-Fiction: Ashley Bryan for "Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life's Song," Atheneum
Picture Book Text: Marion Dane Bauer for "The Longest Night," Holiday House
Picture Book Illustration: John Parra for "Gracias Thanks," Lee & Low Books
Link to award recipients: http://www.scbwi.org/Pages.aspx/Golden-Kite-Award-Recipients
Congratulations to all!
More conference notes to come!
July 27, 2010
It's been a hot summer here in northwest Indiana, but the weather was perfect for sitting outside under the shelter at the Indiana Writers' Consortium picnic two Saturdays ago.
There was a Children's Corner for the kids, with activities planned by Janine Harrison, Karen Kulinski, and myself, ending with a game of Find That Dog!
For the adults there were games of Literary Bingo, a scavenger hunt, and a white elephant auction. I was intrigued by the package with the clue "Poetry in Motion," and was the highest bidder, netting me a pedometer! Other packages revealed an autographed picture book, markers, pens, notepads, a jar of inspiration, more books, and other things writers appreciate.
It's always a great time when writers get together.
I'll be on my way to LA tomorrow morning to attend the national SCBWI conference for children's writers and illustrators. I can't wait! It will be my first time to LA as well as my first SCBWI conference in LA. I will report about it here next week!
My 'boot' is off and I'm walking with two feet again! I've been trying to balance getting things squared away here at home before I leave, and keeping up with blogs and writing. Hence the combined blog posts for this week and last. Next week's blog post will likely be at the end of the week.
Have a wonderful end of July, and I'll see you here in August!
July 8, 2010
It's hot. Everywhere! Is anyone getting anything done?!
The Fourth of July holiday made me think about the word 'United' as in 'United States' or 'United under God.' And as my mind trailed off, I thought of how children's writers and illustrators unite and connect with each other. What we have in common brings us together. Our love of good books. Our connectivity with children. One of the best places for children's writers or illustrators to be united is through SCBWI,the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. It's a place to find each other. That perfect critique group, the author who says just the right thing to motivate or send us in the right direction, or that editor who is looking for just the story we've written.
Children's writers are very generous people. They share information, marketing tips and updates, opportunities for children's writers. They want the rest of us to succeed, too!
Maybe on this holiday we might stop and think about what our own part is here. So in honor of Independence Day, let's each share one bit of helpful information with another children's writer or illustrator this week. It's sure to come back to us many times over.
May 21, 2010
Focus on the Novel, the Indiana SCBWI Spring Conference for children's writers, took place at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond this past Friday evening and Saturday. An inspiring week-end was spent with speakers Stephen Roxburg, founder and publisher of namelos, and Lisa Graff, middle grade author and former editor at FSG. (more…)
February 25, 2010
On my list of things to do is 'apply for the SCBWI Work-in-Progress grant.' Heaven knows that I have enough works-in-progress in my file cabinet! The manuscript that I've chosen to submit is something that I was working on before my life went crazy around the holidays. Now that I've pulled it out again, I'm pretty excited about it and about getting it finished.
That's one of the perks of entering contests and applying for grants. It gets you excited about (more…)
September 23, 2009
This past Saturday Indiana SCBWI hosted an event for children's writers on Ghostwriting with Sara Grant, Editor at Working Partners in London. Sara talked about their projects and gave tips on sending an application, but she also offered a wealth of knowledge on writing the novel and (more…)
September 16, 2009
Last week I had the opportunity to meet April Pulley Sayre when she gave a talk about writing and her picture books in South Bend. I love the simplicity of her picture books, and the way that she presents facts in such an interesting & fun way. She makes it seem so easy, but (more…)
September 2, 2009
For the past 17 years we been blessed with Esther Hershenhorn, Illinois SCBWI RA, whose catchy enthusiasm, positive thinking, and insight into the world of children's books has helped many children's writers and illustrators move forward. She encouraged us to tell our stories, pointed us in the right direction, and helped us to connect. Lucky me, that her generosity spilled over into Indiana. (more…)
July 28, 2009
The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) is an international organization, and the best organization, for anyone interested in writing or illustrating children's books. I am the Assistant Regional Advisor for the Indiana Chapter of SCBWI, and help plan and implement events in Indiana.
On Saturday, July 18th, Indiana SCBWI hosted our 1st Summer Schmooze at the Michigan City Public Library. Twenty-six children's writers & illustrators gathered together for an afternoon of schmoozing and snacks. (more…)