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National Picture Book Idea Month

Welcome to National Novel Writing Month, and now, to National Picture Book Idea Month, as well!

I'm not a novel writer, so I've never taken an interest in National Novel Writing Month, which is November, but many children's novelists do. Novel writers know this as NaNoWriMo. The idea is to complete a novel in 30 days.

Sound unrealistic? In this contest the only thing that matters is output--quantity vs: quality, enthusiasm and perseverance over craft, permission to make mistakes and not be perfect. Thirty days and night of literary abandon! Who knows? You may end up with something good enough to revise. So if you are a novelist and would like more information about NaNoWriMo, go to http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/whatisnano.

Now for us picture book writers. Tara Lazar has created PiBoIdMo, a 30-day challenge for picture book writers!

From her website: "The concept is to create 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. You don’t have to write a manuscript. You don’t need potential best-seller ideas.

You might think of a clever title. Or a name for a character. Or just a silly thing like “purple polka-dot pony.” The object is to heighten your picture-book-idea-generating senses so by the end of the month, you’ll have a file of ideas to help inspire you throughout the year."

Writers who complete the 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge will be eligible for prizes.

The kick-off will be posted this Sunday, on Halloween. You’ll be asked to officially sign-up in early November. Visit every day during the month of November for a new post on inspiration and creativity from guest bloggers.

For a list of guest bloggers, and for more information, go to Tara's website at http://taralazar.wordpress.com/piboidmo2010/.

So, novelist or picture book writer, have fun being creative in November!  Read More 
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The Extra Perks of Attending a Writers conference

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.  Read More 
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Brief Words of Wisdom from Keynote Speakers in LA

The Keynote speakers at the SCBWI conference in LA offered lots of information and inspiration for both new and seasoned writers and illustrators for children. I'd like to share a a few words of wisdom that I took with me from their presentations.

Jon Sczieska—Read the best and the worst; learn technique and details; leave room for the illustrator; your mission: be a story-teller.

M.T. Anderson (Tobin Anderson)—“Books take us away from home so that we can see home.” Language is key.

Editor Panel—they read cover letters; they want to know about you along with your writing.

Loren Long, Illustrator—MOOD and EMOTION are key or central, in characters and scenes.

Gordon Korman—“When we are writing for kids we are writing for ourselves.” Get a sense of what a kid thinks is cool; we are kids ouselves, only a little older.

Agents Panel—YA (young adult) is hot, but MG (middle grade) is coming back, including series, and especially MG directed toward boys.

Marion Dane Bauer—we read and write to reach an emotional resolution; our story begins in our own hearts; it’s about struggle; it begins in our neurosis.

E.B. Lewis—“Simplicity makes a book look wonderful.” It’s hard work to make that happen; do your research.

Gail Carson Levine—regarding predictability: we want to enjoy again what we’ve read before; regarding using suspense builders: ‘worries’ are a good way to end a chapter.

Panel on Narrative Nonfiction—go first to primary sources, then check your facts with secondary sources; all NF needs layers, emotion.

Carolyn Mackler—put your characters into situations; there is always an ebb and a flow.

Gennifer Choldenko—use the whole spectrum of feelings; every character is distinct; every detail must work; find the emotional core, feel your way through a story; write for the kid who needs your book.

Rachel Vail—write stories with both humor and heart; have a strong voice; through the laughter we can touch someone; write with compassion.

Paul Fleischman—on organization: the more planning, the less re-write is needed; document your research; read straight through and highlight what you want to go back to; every word and scene should be there for a reason.

Panel of Publishers—Stretch as much as you can; create a good story with good content and good writing; write for what you think is cool and entertain yourself; “If everyone writes for trends, the vampires win”

Ashley Bryant—“Poetry needs performance; there are voices that rise and fall”; poetry has rhythm that will carry or swell; try to bring the words alive, creating music out of words.

There's nothing like being there in person. But I hope you take something away from this post that inspires you.  Read More 
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Writing--a Lonely Job?

Writing is a lonely job! Or is it? Maybe. If you have no kids. And no one knows that you write for children.

I started writing (to be published, that is) when my children were little. It's a bit uncanny how you can write surrounded by six small bodies in constant motion. But I did. In between the "I'm hungry" and "I hafta go potty" and "He/She took that away from me!" I'd sit and write (well, sometimes I would do laundry, or other things).

Occassionally I might hear something like this:
What are you doing, Mommy?
I'm writing a story.
Is it about a pig?
No. But it's about a farmer.
Does he have a pig?
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Wonderful Words

Aren't vacations wonderful?! My husband and I took a week off and went to the Smokey Mountains in TN. How beautiful, and vast.

Like writing for children...
So many ideas, so little time to put them into words.

But not just any words. The right words. Words that jump off the page, words that stretch the imagination, words that take you someplace you've never been before. They're simple, and lyrical and fun. They make you laugh or cry, but always, they make you feel. Together they tell a story, change characters, and can change the world one reader at a time.

The vacation is over, but  Read More 
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Ghostwriting and Revision

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 Read More 
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The Value of Music in Writing for Children

I write poetry and stories for children. I do not write music. Our son, Dan, and our daughter, Sarah, write and perform their own songs. Our son Kevin writes music. Maybe someday I'll give it a try. Of course it would be songs for children. My husband played drums and had a band in high school. All of our children play instruments, and some were in choir and musicals. I've learned how to line dance and to think rhythm.

There's a lot to be said for music if you write for young children. Rhythm, pacing, and a musical quality are important in picture books. . Read More 
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A visit to the Library

Last month I did a presentation at the Lake County Public Library for children and adults about writing books, and how an idea grows to become a picture book.  Read More 
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