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Peggy's Pages Blog 

Onomatopoeia—Showing Sounds in Picture Books

Nature's Heart

When I walk, my favorite places to go are those where you are surrounded by nature—plants and flowers, lakes and ponds, and squirrels, deer and other creatures that live there.

I love the peaceful atmosphere, and the sounds of the things around us. Earlier in the spring at a near-by park, before they filled in the swampy area with wood chips, you could listen to the bullfrogs harmonize. This month the cicadas are in full chorus. And in any season, birds are always tweeting back and forth.

If I were to put these sounds into words, called onomatopoeia, I’d spend a lot of time thinking about it before I found the right words. For example, cicadas kind of buzz, but not like bees do. It’s more of a beeeeze-it, or something. And I’d want to think of a word more original and real than croak for the bullfrog sound.

Kids love to hear the sounds that things make in books. Not only animal sounds, but things like the sound of the wind (whoosh!), an old truck (rucka-rucka), or a flower pushing up through the ground (pffft!), too.

Here are some examples of sound words used in some of the books on my shelves.

Robert Munsch is great at using onomatopoeia to add humor to his books. MMM, COOKIES! is full of ‘sound’ words—“…sprinkled it with sugar—Chik, Chik, Chik, Chik, Chik.” He “…washed out his mouth. Burble Burble Splat Splicht Bwahhh.” Kids crack up when hearing those words.

In SITTING DUCK Jackie Urbanovic uses words like WHOOMP! and Boing, Boing! to bring sounds to life.

In THE PERFECT NEST by Catherine Friend you’ll find CRACK! and Crackety-Snap! and Crackety-Crackety Boom! to show baby animals coming out of their eggs.

In DRUMMER BOY by Loren Long you can hear the little drummer boy playing his drum with a Boom pump pum boom pum and Boom pat pat boom tat.

And in GRANDDAD’S FISHING BUDDY by Mary Quigley, the simple plop of the fishing line landing in the water places you in the scene.

I’ve discovered that there is help on the web for those of us who need it when it comes to finding words that imitate sounds! Here are a few websites that I came across.

At Written Sound How to Write the Sound of Things: onomatopoeia and words of imitative origin, you’ll find an explanation of the term, a list of topics to click on for different kinds of sounds, examples of children’s poetry using onomatopoeia, and more about words that are used to imitate sounds.

At Song Written, a website meant for song writers, the post Sounds Good: The Art of Describing Ambient Sounds in Lyrics can help you zero in on the sounds that you hear, which can be helpful to writers, as well.

On Word Object, you can find a list of the Six Families of Noises. Another post on the site lists Words Commonly Used to Describe Sounds.

Reading out loud is one of the things that make picture books so great! When you’re revising your manuscript, you might want to try using some onomatopoeia to help bring your story to life.  Read More 
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Author Interview: Kathryn Page Camp

Kathryn Page Camp is the author of Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal, a book for authors about anything and everything to do with legal issues for writers. Her first book, In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion, is also non-fiction for adults. Kathryn is a licensed attorney and lives in northwest Indiana with her husband.

Kathryn, I’m so happy to welcome you here! Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

Like many writers, I started young. My first attempts to get published came in high school. I had some (unpaid) success with poetry but none with the short stories I sent out. Then I put it aside while I pursued a legal career that, fortunately, involved a lot of writing. I started writing for publication again about ten years ago and have been doing it full-time since I retired from my salaried legal position at the end of 2009. When I’m not writing, I enjoy reading, photography, and sailing Lake Michigan with my husband of thirty-four years. We have two children and a son-in-law.

Writers in Wonderland is written in such a way that makes it easy for someone with no legal background to read and understand. What was the inspiration behind this book, and why did you feel a need to write it?

As a lawyer who is also a writer, I have long been interested in the legal issues that writers face. Through the years other writers have asked me legal questions that I was happy to answer or, in many cases, to research and then answer. Encouragement from my fellow writers became the primary motivation for writing the book.

What kind of research did you do to write your book?

I’m one of those geeks who enjoys research, and I believe in being thorough. That means I read a lot of court cases involving writers. I also read the federal laws on copyright and trademark.

I love the theme that runs through your book, which is based on Alice in Wonderland and other works by Lewis Carroll. How did you arrive at this title/theme for your book?

I’m not quite sure. I don’t remember why, but I used phrases from Alice in Wonderland for the chapter titles in one section. Someone from my writers’ critique group said they sounded out of place and I should either eliminate the references or expand them to the entire book. I had been looking for a way to make the book more interesting, so I chose the “expand” option. I’m glad I did, because finding passages that worked was half the fun of writing the book.

Did you face any challenges when writing this book?

Finding the right Lewis Carroll quotes was challenging but also fun. The hardest task was choosing which cases to use. If I had tried to read everything, I would still be reading. So I narrowed it down to three categories: (1) Supreme Court cases that every writer should know about, (2) cases that tell interesting stories, and (3) cases about celebrities. Of course, I also picked cases that make an important legal point.

What encouragement has helped you along your way?

Good critique partners were my best encouragement. That means the Highland Writers’ Group and my online critique partner, Celeste Charlene. My husband was supportive, too.

You are a licensed attorney. How does that experience inform, inspire, and affect your writing?

It’s both a blessing and a curse. On the blessings side, my legal training and experience have taught me to love research and to do it well. It also gives me something to write about: both of my published books involve legal issues. On the curse side, I have spent years trying to learn how NOT to write like a lawyer. I hope that Writers in Wonderland proves I’ve been successful.

Your current book is NF for adults, but you also write for children. Can you tell us a little about your writing life? Do you prefer writing NF over Fiction?

I prefer writing fiction, but it’s a lot harder to do right. The same is true of children’s books. I wrote two early chapter books intended to begin a series, but a couple of very helpful rejection letters made me realize how hard it is to age children’s books correctly. The books were too advanced for the level I was aiming at but too short for the next level up. My adult fiction hasn’t found a publisher yet, either, but I keep trying.

What projects are you currently working on?

My current project is contemporary women’s fiction, but I am also researching ideas for a middle grade historical novel.

Where do you turn for instruction and inspiration?

I attend at least one major writers’ conference every year. I also attend events sponsored by the Indiana Writers’ Consortium, the Indiana Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Indiana Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

What books have most influenced your life? What are you reading now?

In 100,000 words or less? While it’s hard to narrow it down, the greatest influence probably came from those authors I read vociferously as a child and during my high school and college years. The childhood favorites include Lucy Maude Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Kate Douglas Wiggin, and Frances Hodgson Burnett. High school and college saw me reading Grace Livingston Hill, George Elliot, Charles Dickens, and William Shakesphere. I also read a lot of mysteries in high school, including those by Ellery Queeen and Rex Stout. I later discovered Agatha Christie, who is my favorite mystery author.

More recently, I have been enjoying middle grade and young adult fiction. I just finished Walk Me Home by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Other recent books are Below by Meg McKinlay and The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone. And I loved, loved, loved The Life of Pi.

Kathryn, you and I met through the Indiana Writers Consortium (IWC) several years ago. How have you been involved in this organization for Indiana writers?

I am currently Secretary, web master, and blog master. I was President the previous two years and Secretary/Treasurer before that.

Do you have any advice for new or aspiring writers?

Read, read, and read some more, especially in the genre you are trying to write. The other important piece of advice is to learn your craft. It’s amazing how many beginning writers think that good grammar is all it takes. They don’t realize that you have to write sentences and paragraphs and chapters and books that keep the reader interested, and that requires understanding the craft. Attend writers’ conferences. Read books about writing. Get input from a critique group that points out the weaknesses as well as the strengths.

Are you interested in speaking to groups? If so, how can interested parties contact you?

I enjoy speaking to groups. More information can be found on my website at www.kathrynpagecamp.com, or contact me at kcamp@kathrynpagecamp.com.

Kathryn, it was a pleasure to interview you on my blog! Thank you so much for sharing your insight and your books with readers here.

You can find more about Kathryn and her writing at her website, or visit her blog at http://kathrynpagecamp.blogspot.com.

Kathryn’s books are available at Amazon and other online retailers and can be ordered from your favorite brick and mortar bookstore.

Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal
KP/PK Publishing 2013, ISBN-10: 0989250415, ISBN-13: 978-0989250412

In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect organized Religion, Faithwalk Publishing 2006, ISBN-10: 1932902600, ISBN-13: 978-1932902600  Read More 
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Review, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal

As a children's author, I dread the side of writing that includes plodding through contracts and other legalities. So I was truly delighted to find that Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was such an easy read. It explains things that every writer should think about but doesn't want to, putting it into language that can actually be understood. Camp includes examples from interesting court cases to illustrate her points and help put things in perspective. As a reader, I enjoyed the chapter openings which referred to the works of Lewis Carroll. You'll also want to read the Appendices for resources, a glossary, and the complete text of the poems quoted in the book. Writers in Wonderland is well-written, informative, and a great read.  Read More 
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