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Celebrating Picture Book Month with Author, Jeanie Ransom!

Jeanie Ransom is one of many new friends that I made through SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) when we moved from Indiana to Missouri five years ago. I’m so pleased to interview her here on my blog during Picture Book Month!

Jeanie is the author of several picture books for children. She is a licensed professional counselor, and former elementary school counselor. She is also a former advertising copywriter and freelance magazine writer.

Earlier this year we celebrated the release of her newest picture book, There’s a Cat in Our Class. Her book celebrates the diversity of children, and the value of accepting and enjoying the differences of others around us. Read more about her book below.

Welcome to my blog, Jeanie!

When you have an idea for a book, how do you start? How do you structure it?

Before I ever start writing, I let the idea roll around in my head for a while. “A while” for me can mean days, months, even years. There are probably still some rolling around up there from when I started writing for kids more than fifteen years ago -- along with a few rocks, I’m sure! I know an idea is ready to take to the page when bits and pieces of the story -- a conversation, a situation, a turn of phrase – start coming to me, often in the middle of the night, or in the shower, or while walking the dogs. That’s when I grab a blank notebook and start playing with words. As more of the story bubbles up from whatever part of my brain it’s been simmering, I capture what I can in a blank notebook, then begin to turn bits and pieces into sentences and paragraphs. I like to write my first draft the “old school” way, in longhand, then move to the computer when the words really start to fly. I like to edit my manuscripts the “old school” way, too, printing out the pages and marking them up by hand. That’s what works for me, but everyone’s different. Find what works for you, then stick with it!

Is there anything that you feel helped you to go from unpublished to published author?

The three Ps: Patience, persistence, and perseverance.

I think we could all post those three P’s as a reminder in the place where we write! How does your experience as an elementary school counselor inform, inspire, and affect your writing, Jeanie?

Before I was a school counselor, I was an advertising copywriter and freelance magazine writer for 20+ years. My first career gave me a solid writing foundation, as well as the ability to pitch and promote a variety of products and services. My second career, as a school counselor, gave me first-hand experience working with kids as well as educators. Both careers prepared me in so many ways for my third career as a children’s author.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given about writing?

Write the book you want to write, not the book you think you should write.

Do you have any advice for beginning children’s writers?

Join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators)! SCBWI has a wealth of resources and opportunities for writers (and illustrators), including conferences, workshops, and retreats.
Attend a state, regional, or national SCBWI conference.
Find a critique group in your area – or online.
Read as many new books in your genre as you can.
Today’s picture books are vastly different from picture books published ten years ago. My first picture book came out in 2000, and the word count was 1,200. My 2016 and 2017 releases all have 750 words or less. The world of children’s publishing is extremely competitive. If you’re serious about getting published, you have to do your homework.

What books are you reading now?

I like to alternate between middle grade and adult fiction, though sometimes I’m reading both genres at the same time, or something totally different, like a memoir or a collection of essays. Right now, I’m reading Ann Patchett’s new novel, “Commonwealth,” which the author autographed when she came to Traverse City, Michigan, last month for the National Writers Series, as well as Peter Brown’s first middle-grade novel, “The Wild Robot.”

Congratulations on another new book that you have coming out soon! What can you tell us about that?

Cowboy Car comes out on April 11, 2017. The illustrator is Ovi Nedelcu, and the publisher is Two Lions. I just got the F&Gs, and I’m really excited to launch this book!

I’m happy to share that excitement with you. Thank you so much for being my guest here during Picture Book Month, Jeanie.

Picture Book Month is an international literacy initiative that celebrates the print picture book during the month of November each year. Jeanie is one of the 2016 Picture Book Champions featured on the Picture Book website. Check her post there (November 12th) to find out why picture books are important to her. Then check out other picture book champions featured there daily throughout the month.

You can find out more about Jeanie and her books on her author website at http://www.jeanieransom.com/.

There’s a Cat in Our Class—A Tale About Getting Along
Magination Press 2016
ISBN: 9 781433 822629
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Rhyming Picture Book Revolution!


Join the Rhyming Picture Book Revolution! If you’ve ever been told (or read) ‘Don’t write in rhyme,’ ‘Editors won’t look at rhyme,’ or ‘Rhyme doesn’t sell,’ read on!

My friend, Angie Karcher, started the rhyming picture book revolution in 2014 when she initiated RhyPiBoMo—Rhyming Picture Book Month in (of course!) April! RhyPiBoMo is a month long celebration of children’s poetry during poetry month with blog posts by well known children’s poets and others in the field of children’s poetry, poetry lessons and poetry-writing exercises.

This year is the debut of the Rhyming Picture Book Revolution conference, which will be held in New York City on December 4th through the 6th. On the evening of Friday, December 4th, the award for the Best Rhyming Picture Book of 2015 will be announced!

If you’re not able to attend the conference, you can opt to view a live recording of the conference, which includes the following sessions:

Session 1: Reject ~ What’s NOT working in RPB manuscripts.
Session 2: Revolt ~ The story and meter MUST be perfection!
Session 3: Rules ~ Poetic techniques and lyrical language
Session 4: Rewards ~ The heart of the story brings them back!

As a perk, following the conference, you will be invited to submit your own manuscripts to Editor Justin Chanda, Editor Rebecca Davis, Agent Kendra Marcus and Agent Jodell Sadler. don't miss the RPB Revolution auction page with links to autographed books and items donated by authors, illustrators, agents and editors, including autographed books, a critique or a phone session with an agent!

Check out the KidLitTV website for a list of the top rhyming picture books of 2015. One of my new favorites, and just in time for Thanksgiving, is Sharing The Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Jill McElmurry (Schwartz & Wade/September 2015).

While you’re there look around a bit and click to find Kidlit Radio, book trailers and more.

Don’t miss the daily blogposts about Why Picture Books Are Important on the Picture Book Month blog.

And remember, good rhyme does sell! It takes a lot of hard work to get your rhyme there, but what a joy it will be to read when you’ve finally got it just right!  Read More 
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Think Poetry in Picture Books—Poetic Tools to Try


Think ‘Poetry’ and add that extra dimension to your picture book.
All picture books are poetic in some way. That doesn’t mean that they need to be written in rhyme. Think—
language
rhythm
emotion
detail

In my earlier blog I listed some tools that you can use to ‘show’ and not ‘tell’ when writing a picture book. These included—

Dialogue
“Wow!” said Mr. Slinger. (from Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, Kevin Henkes)

Action
"...he roared very loud. RAAAHHRRRR!" (from Library Lion, by Michelle Knudsen)

Body language
"Mr. McBee frowned as he walked away." (from Library Lion, by Michelle Knudsen)

Your 5 senses
"The wind it shrieks like bobcats do..." (from THAT BOOK WOMAN by Heather Henson)

Detail (language)
“If they see me, they’ll pluck out all my feathers, stuff me with bread crumbs, and cook me for Thanksgiving dinner.” (from Turkey Surprise, by Peggy Archer)

When you think about the poetic side of a picture book, you find even more tools that can help you ‘show’ instead of ‘tell’—

Onomatopoeia –Thump, thump! Squawk!

Hard and soft letter sounds
Soft sounding consonants are: R, J, M, N, S, V, W (C and G)
—use for a quiet or sentimental mood.
Hard sounding consonants are K, D, Q, T, B, P (C and G)
—use if you want a more active or upbeat mood.

Similes –"...as pleasing as ticks in a taco." (from Ginny Louise and the School Showdown, by Helen Lester)

Metaphors –It’s a piece of cake.

Alliteration and Repetition –"Click, Clack, Moo!" (from Click, Clack, Moo! by Doreen Cronin)

Short and long sentences (or words)
Using short words or sentences is more active, more tense; it speeds things up
Using longer words or sentences creates a pause; it slows things down

Look at the books listed above and others at your local library.

Thinking in terms of poetry when writing a picture book adds another dimension to your story. So think like a poet, and give your writing that extra oomph using some of the ‘poetic tools’ listed above! / Read More 
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Picture Book Idea Month—PiBoIdMo!


On her blog, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them), Tara Lazar has created another way for authors to celebrate Picture Book Month. She created PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) as a 30-day challenge for picture book writers.

PiBoIdMo is not a challenge to create 30 first drafts, or 30 completed manuscripts. Just 30 story ideas that might eventually be developed into a picture book. As Tara explains it, “The object is to heighten your picture-book-idea-generating senses.”

And to help you, during November there will be daily blog posts by picture book authors, illustrators, editors and other kidlit professionals will help inspire you. And prizes (did I say prizes!?). You have until November 5th, that’s Thursday of this week, to sign up! Just visit Tara’s blogsite to sign up!

While you’re there, check out today’s post by Joan Holub on fresh ways to get picture book ideas, and sign up to win a prize!

When you’re finished there, go to the Picture Book Month.com website to read today’s first post of the month by Trisha Speed Shaskan on Why Picture Books Are Important!

Then find links to author/illustrator blogs, picture book resources, literacy organizations and more ways to celebrate Picture Book Month there!
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Celebrating Picture Book Month!


The other day I asked my 4 year-old grandson what he wanted for Christmas. A lover of trains, he said, “Colored train tracks.”
“Oh,” I said. “I’ve never seen colored train tracks before. I didn’t know they made them in colors.”
“They don’t,” he answered, giving me a sideways look. “But Santa can.”

Oh, to have the mind of a child! Where anything can exist and anything can happen! It’s trusting, hopeful, and believing. And what better place is there to explore that concept than in a picture book!

Is there anyone who doesn’t have a favorite childhood book? Mine were “Nurse Nancy” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” I grew up and became a nurse, and although I don’t particularly have a fondness for talking with wolves, I do love nature and the outdoors.

November is International Picture Book Month. It was founded in November 2011 by author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas in response to a New York Times article in October of 2010 that declared “Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children.” Picture Book Month is a literacy initiative that celebrates the picture book in print. Click here to read more about the story behind Picture Book Month.

On each day of November on the Picture Book Month website you’ll find a commentary about the importance of picture books by a different author or illustrator. Click the link above and scroll down to read all of the posts by these picture book champions. One of my favorites is the post by Alexis O’Neill, award-winning children’s author, which was posted on November 15th.

More on Picture Book Month tomorrow. In the meantime here are some links to check out.

Librarian’s Quest website

Activities related to picture books

Picture Book Month page on facebook
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