Win an Amish Quilts Coloring Book

19 04 2016

Amish Quilts Coloring BOOK cover

One more week to enter the contest to win an adult coloring book. Details can be found at Rachel J. Good’s Facebook page.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Inspired by quilts seen in Amish country, many of the designs in this Amish Quilts Coloring Book are based on traditional patterns, but some have been reimagined or repeated multiple times to create more intricate designs to color. Each quilt is printed on only one side of the page; facing pages contain inspirational Amish proverbs. To make the quilts even more colorful and interesting, sketch fabric designs – plaids, checks, paisleys, flowers, or abstract shapes – into the larger quilt blocks, use pattern stamps, or even collage fabric scraps to the pages. And if the designs inspire you to make quilts of your own, the pages can be used as templates for quilt-making.

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR

Rachel J. Good is the author of the Sisters & Friends Amish novel series. Book 1, Change of Heart, debuts May 3. Find out more at www.racheljgood.com.





Coming out of Hibernation

18 03 2016

polar bear

What did you do on the long winter weekends? Besides hibernating to meet deadlines, I’ve also been spending time on writers’ retreats.

The first one occurred during the worst week of winter. I was anticipating a lovely warm cruise to Mexico when the car got stuck in the ice in the driveway, and airports all over the east coast shut down. I worried I might not make it to Florida before the cruise ship left. My own cancelled and delayed flights left me wondering if I’d make it. I arrived about six hours later than I’d planned, but in time to spend a night in a lovely FL hotel.

FL hotel

But delays weren’t the only thing I needed to worry about. Nothing like trying to board a ship with an expired passport. My new passport was safely locked up at home hundreds of miles away. After hours of frustration, we managed to get a copy of my birth certificate faxed a short while before the ship left port.
ship

So we were off to the Caymans and Cozumel with a group of authors, editors and agents aboard the Brilliance of the Seas. Some great pics of the fun and “work” we did can be found at the Seymour Agency website (scroll to bottom of page). Oh, wait, are most of those pictures of us eating? Believe me, we really did work, attend sessions, and pitch books. I returned with several editor requests for manuscripts and two more agents at the Seymour agency who will rep my work, so it was time well spent.

We did find time for fun and touring. I spent a day swimming with sea turtles and seeing babies to adults, touring small towns, and visiting Chichen Itza. My lovely editor gave me an additional week to finish my manuscript so I could enjoy the sightseeing and socializing.

IMG_1200

I returned home to warmer weather than when I left, but holed up in the house to finish that manuscript. Thanks to some wonderful critique partners, who edited while I wrote, I made the deadline.

After all that writing, I needed another break. So it was off to the North Carolina beach with a different group of authors. The weather was nice enough on Topsail Island for walks along the shore, picking up shells and sea glass, and sitting on my bedroom balcony to write and enjoy the view. Lots of craft sessions and fellowship filled the time between writing and meals. Hmm…are we eating again?

Topsail

The following weekend I headed to the lovely Mimslyn Inn in Luray, Virginia. Again, lots of great food and company, but time to work too. We created journals with pictures and notes about our book’s setting and details. As I researched, I stumbled across a valuable resource for my historical novel. I’m looking forward to delving into it further. I left the retreat refreshed and eager to get back to writing.
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I have some more hibernating to do before I attend one more retreat in April — this time an illustrators’ retreat. And then in May and June, I come out of my cave completely to attend a whirlwind of events for my book launch. So the next few weeks will be a mix of writing and planning.

As writers we often need to hibernate to get work done, but we should also plan to come out of our caves from time to time. And even if you’re not a writer, do you hunker down in winter and spend a lot time indoors? What do you do after an extended period of hibernation? Do you socialize or prefer quieter activities? And if you’re a writer, what are you favorite writers’ retreats?





How to Plot a Picture Book without Losing the Sparkle

20 09 2015

scbwi-celebrate-clareToday we have another wonderful picture book author who’s sharing her tips on plotting. I’m excited about Clare Helen Welsh’s release, Aerodynamics of Biscuits, and thrilled that she’s willing to share her expertise with us. Welcome, Clare!

How to Plot a Picture Book without Losing the Sparkle

by Clare Helen Welsh

Those of you who read my interview with Minty author, Christina Banach,  will know that plotting is not something I consider a strength of mine. I often start with a title, like to write spontaneously and would definitely describe myself as a ‘pantser’ as opposed to a ‘plotter;’ a writer who “flies by the seat of their pants,” meaning they don’t plan out anything, or plan very little (@Magic_Violinist, themagicviolinist.blogspot.com).

So who better to write about plotting than someone who doesn’t believe in it/ isn’t very good at it?

Thus, here I am! Taking a deep breath… and jumping head first into the mind field that is picture book plotting. This is by no means the only way to work but it’s served me well so far: How to plan the perfect picture book without losing the sparkle.

GpsTurn off the SAT NAV

There are lots of different plotting tools out there and the story arc seems to be as good as any, designed to streamline plot and ensure pace. But is planning every twist, turn and line before you start really necessary? Knowing your route inside and out is great on a long car journey but what about for a 32 page plot?

My theory is that planning your picture book in this detail before you start, will almost always result in a forgettable idea that’s been done many times before, since you are drawing on the inspiration from your outer most periphery of your brain. This is where the stereotypes and clichés lie. For example, a bear in a wood, a pig in mud. So where do the juicy, uncharted, award winning story ideas live?

To come up with something that has never been done before you need to bring together ideas that don’t normally go together, for example, a bear on the beach, a pig in an ice rink. Have you ever tried starting with just a premise? Ever picked up your pen and paper or word processing tool and begun your story without a map? You won’t know what’s going to happen from one to line to the next, but it will force you to think ‘outside the box’ and fingers crossed, you’ll come up with something original.
TigerPamela Butchart, author of Never Tickle a Tiger plans in this kind of way. She says she mostly knows where her story is going, but it allows for her characters to surprise her! However, it is important to keep the ending in mind. It might change as your story develops, but knowing your story outcome will help keep you and, your characters, on track.

penguinIt’s worth also mentioning that if you’re an author-illustrator like Helen Stephens, your story premise and ending might be visual. Helen’s inspirations come as one clear image.
plot hole

Plot Holes

Working in this way, you will inevitably come across some big, back all-encompassing plot holes, big enough to swallow your motivation in one fail swoop and stop you and your story in its tracks. Lucky you! For me, this is where the magic happens! Plot holes are an opportunity to break through the clichés and come up with a completely new idea like a bear in a train station (Michael Bond and Peggy Fortnum’s Paddington) or like a pig in a pond (Pig in a Pond by Martin Waddle and Jill Barton). If you listen to your characters, take risks and change route, even if it means rethinking your initial plan, your diverted story arc might well be more exciting, engaging and probably a lot more original, than your initial take on your theme.

Take the Scenic Emotional Route

And then comes the editing, which is essentially plotting in reverse. Whether you plot a lot, a little or not at all, your finished journey needs to leave the reader feeling fully satisfied. Now can be a good time to come back to your story arc. You’ve captured your original picture book sparkle, so now ensure the pace is such that we see trials, tribulations and disasters! Make us feel like there’s no way the main character is EVER going to reach their story goal; add in obstacles, heighten the tension, and then whip out your powerful, perfect resolution at the very last second, leaving us fully resolved and ‘wowed’ with the perfect pay off… so much so that we want to read it again.. and again, and again!

I wish you all a treacherous, eventful and holey writing journey to your perfect picture books! I’d love to hear more about how you plot your stories. Please feel free to share your experiences. Are you a plotter? Or a panster? Or perhaps a bit of both?!

Thank you, Laurie for the ‘plotting’ challenge and for the opportunity to blog as a guest on your site.

Thank you for being here, Clare, and for sharing such great information. Looking forward to your release on September 28!

biscuitsAbout Aerodynamics of Biscuits

Aerodynamics of Biscuits features Oliver, a five year old boy who sneaks downstairs in the middle of the night to find pirate mice stealing his biscuits! But Captain Sneaky McSqueaky and his crew are not eating Oliver’s biscuits… they’re making rockets! Aerodynamics biscuit rockets to fly to the moon to steal cheese! Ahhharrrr!

The book can be purchased in bookstores, through the publisher Maverick Books or on Amazon.COver

About Clare Helen Welsh

Clare lives in Devon with her husband and two children. She teaches in a primary school and has over ten years experience in Early Years and Key Stage One. In 2014 she became a Specialist leader of Education, supporting local schools to achieve high standards in phonics, primary languages and the Early Years Foundation Stage.

In 2013, Clare won The Margaret Carey Scholarship for Picture Book Writers and she received Silver Medal at The Greenhouse Funny Prize 2014 for her picture book, Aerodynamics of Biscuits, which is illustrated by Sophia Touliatou and due to be published by Maverick Books in September 2015.

Clare is represented by Alice Williams of David Higham Associates. Find out more about Clare on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

01-09-2015 20-33-02blurb





Aliens, Bears, and Tara Lazar, Oh, My!

31 08 2015

tarafall2011picrounded1I’m excited to have Tara Lazar with us today to celebrate one of her books that came out this month.

Welcome, Tara! So glad to have you here. First of all, congratulations on your latest release, I Thought This Was a Bear Book. I see you have other books coming out around the same time. We’d love to hear a bit about those other books too.

 

Thanks, Laurie! Up next is LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD, which is another fairytale mash-up. (I didn’t plan the releases that way, they just happened!)littleredglidinghood

I bring multiple fairytales and nursery rhymes into the fray. Everyone from The Three Blind Mice to Rapunzel makes a cameo. Illustrator Troy Cummings (NOTEBOOK OF DOOM series) created an icy-cool enchanted wonderland. Cleverly, LITTLE RED is the only red on each spread. (BTW, the book doesn’t rhyme. Just that sentence.)

After that, there’s NORMAL NORMAN in March and WAY PAST BEDTIME in the fall. 7 ATE 9 (based on the joke “Why was 6 afraid of 7?”) is slated for 2017.

How did you come up with the idea for the Bear book? And what revisions did it go through on its way to becoming published?

I Thought This was a Bear BookBEAR came about from wanting to insert a character where he didn’t belong. Prince Zilch and the gang went through at least a dozen revisions, including the resolution, which I changed AFTER Benji Davies had already made initial sketches. (Sorry, Benji!) I also changed the last line of the book in the final stages because I was never satisfied with it. Those who have the F&G will notice the difference!

As Rebecca Colby mentioned in her post, you do humor very well. What secrets can you share for writing “funny”?

Oh wow, what a question! I think humor is something innate and intangible. You know it when it’s funny, but it’s difficult to describe what makes you laugh.

Perhaps it’s a misunderstanding, an exaggeration, the unexpected and/or a clever association between two or more previously unrelated things.

But I don’t analyze my humor. It just spits itself out. Perhaps it has to do with my upbringing with my father, who coughed up brilliant one-line zingers. And my husband, he makes me laugh daily.

There’s a Seinfeld episode where Jerry’s father yells “My wallet’s gone!” at the doctor’s office—he’s certain the physician has stolen it. About 15 years ago, my husband and I were in a department store on a stormy summer day. Department stores in the mall don’t have windows. The power went out and it was pitch black. Within a few seconds my husband yelled, “My wallet’s gone!” I fell on the floor in a fit of laughter.

So I surround myself with humor, and thus, humor comes out naturally. (In other words, get yourself a funny spouse.)i-thought-this-was-a-bear-book-9781442463073.in02

Can you give us an idea of your writing process?

The only constant in my process is letting an idea “marinate”. When I first began writing, I’d get a flash of an idea and sit down immediately. I never paused to think, “Is this a good idea? Is this a great idea?”

Now I do. I think about it. And then I don’t think about it. My subconscious does some work. I tend to get a tingle when it’s ready to come out. Kind of like a sneeze.

Any tips for new writers?

That’s my tip, examine your ideas before writing them. For every 20 or so ideas, you’ll arrive upon one great one. The rest might be mediocre and not worth your time.

Any tips for more experienced writers?

Experienced writers don’t need my tips. Everyone’s process is different, and they’ve probably recognized what theirs is and how they work best. Just keep doing what you’re doing!

Have you ever had writers block? If so, what did you do to overcome it?

I go for a walk or take a bath. (This depends upon how clean or dirty I am.)

Then I start a new project. That’s exactly how I began BEAR BOOK. Another story wasn’t going so well; I had been slaving over it and not getting anywhere. I switched gears to something fresh and exciting.

What are you working on now?

Ahhhh! The 20th revision of a “longish” picture book (800 words) that I’ve always loved but have never gotten quite right. I let it sit for over a year and picked it up again specifically to present to one of my existing editors.

I’m really excited because this time, it’s working. The logic is logical. The tension is there. I removed unnecessary “schtick”. The premise is golden and evergreen—two colors you want. I am hopeful!

It would be great to get to know a bit more about you, so I hope you won’t mind answering some personal questions…

Where are you from and how has that and/or where you have lived/visited influenced your work?

I was born and raised in New Jersey. I never left the state. Some people think it’s the “armpit of America” but that just goes to show what they don’t know. It’s not all Tony Soprano and The Sitch. We’re an hour to NYC, an hour to the beach, an hour to the mountains. What more does one want?

I don’t think geography has influenced my work, aside from my close proximity to NYC and the NJ-SCBWI. I would not be here without the organization and their exceptional events.

tara3yearsoldAs a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

You’re lookin’ at it!

What super power do you wish you had?

To fly, of course! Although these days, I don’t wanna be up there with the drones.

In addition to your picture books, you’re known as the founder of PiBoIdMo. Can you tell us a bit about the group and how/why it started?

It began out of a desire to have an event specifically for PB writers. It has grown beyond my wildest imagination. The number of wonderful children’s books it has sparked is steadily growing and nothing makes me more proud. I love to share the success of PiBoIdMo participants.

Where can readers find out more about you?

One place, taralazar.com, has links to everything and everywhere you can find me.

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Tara. And I know everyone who hasn’t already snagged a copy of Bear will want to rush right out to get one. If you enjoy aliens, bears, fairytales, and metafiction, then this is the book for you.

i-thought-this-was-a-bear-book-9781442463073.in03About I Thought This Was a Bear Book (from Simon & Schuster website):

When an alien crashes into the story of “The Three Little Bears,” it’s a laugh-out-loud adventure and a classic storybook mash-up!

After an unfortunate bookcase collapse, Alien suddenly finds himself jolted out of his story and into a very strange world, complete with talking bears. Desperate to return to his book, Alien asks the Bear family for help so he can get back to his story and save his beloved Planet Zero from total destruction before it’s too late.

Mama Bear and Papa Bear try all kinds of zany contraptions (with some help from their nemesis, Goldilocks) without much luck. Baby Bear might have the perfect solution to get the Alien out of the woods and back to his planet…but will anyone listen to the littlest voice in the story?





Writing Humorous Picture Books

27 08 2015

Rebecca witch 1Today I have the great pleasure of hosting my friend Rebecca Colby, an awesome picture book writer, whose book, It’s Raining Bats & Frogs, released this month. She’s agreed to give share some secrets for writing funny picture books. And as a special bonus, if you read through the post, you’ll find a clue for her Scavenger Hunt. Be sure to collect all of the clues to be eligible for a prize.

And here’s Rebecca…

 

 

Show Them the Funny: Writing Humorous Picture Books

Everywhere I look on editor and agent submission wish lists these days, I read the following: WANTED: Funny, Quirky Picture Books. Why? Because everyone enjoys a laugh—kids and adults alike. Laughing makes people feel good, and as a result, funny sells.

But if you’re not the kind of person who automatically sees the funny side of life, you may find writing humorous picture books difficult. (And even if you do see the funny side of life, like me, you may still find it a struggle.) So here are some tips to showing editors and agents “the funny.” And if you’re playing my online scavenger hunt, here is one of the names you’re looking for: Sabrina.

 

JuxtapositionPirates Don't Change Diapers

Put two things together that don’t normally go together. This already sets the scene for a humorous story before you’ve even written a word. For example, Melinda Long puts ‘pirates’ and ‘a baby’ together in Pirates Don’t Change Diapers (illustrated by David Shannon). Who can resist laughing at babysitting pirates, especially when they think they’ve been given the task of sitting on babies.

 

Contradictions

Dear Mrs LaRueSome of the funniest books to read are those in which the illustrations contradict the text. Mark Teague does this so well in his book, Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School. In the book, Ike begs to be rescued from dog obedience school. He writes letters home to Mrs. LaRue, complaining about the school and painting a bleak picture of it, while the color illustrations tell a very different picture—that of a luxury, high-class school that is more akin to a spa retreat.

 

Potty HumorMorris the Mankiest Monster

Okay, so it doesn’t appeal to everyone, but most kids of average picture book age, love (and I do mean LOVE!) potty humor. And if you’re looking for an example of a book that is super-duper, hilariously disgusting then look no further than Morris, the Mankiest Monster by Giles Andreae and Sarah McIntyre. Morris lives in a house made of dung and eats green bogies. Need I say more?

 

The Web FilesWord play

Be it nonsense words, puns, tongue twisters, or other word play techniques, using fun language can add humor to a book. And the sillier sounding the language, the better. A picture book author that knows how to use word play to its best effect (and one to study) is Margie Palatini. With titles like Broom Mates, Moosetache, and Gone with the Wand, you already know she’s an author who likes to play with words. In her book, The Web Files (illustrated by Richard Egielski), someone has pilfered a peck of perfect purple almost-pickled peppers and Ducktective Web must investigate the fowl play. While it proves to be a hard case to quack, he eventually finds the dirty rat involved. Now how’s that for some fun word play?

 

Give it a twistI Thought This was a Bear Book

Another way to ensure your book is humorous is to add a twist. Your book should be anything but predictable, so surprise your audience. A recent book I’ve read that accomplishes this is I Thought This was a Bear Book by Tara Lazar and Benji Davies. The entire book is a twisted fairy tale with an alien accidentally falling into the pages of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. But while some of the elements in the book, like the appearance of Goldilocks, porridge, chairs, and beds are expected, these elements are mish-mashed with the story of the alien, making for a completely new and unpredictable book. And just when you think you’ve got the book sussed and the happy ending is looming, a further twist shows up on the last page. But to find out what it is, you’ll have to read the book!

 

Illustrations

Illustrations are another way to inject humor into your picture book. However, since this is a post about writing, rather than illustrating, I’m not going to say much here, except occasionally–and only VERY OCCASIONALLY–if you come up with a strong, visual image that would enhance the humor in your text, then you might want to consider inserting an illustration note in your manuscript.

Humor is subjective so employing these tricks is no guarantee that every editor or agent will find your book humorous, but you’re sure to tickle a few funny bones.

Thank you for hosting me today, Laurie! I’ve had a great time and I hope everyone will get writing and “show them the funny”!

Thank you for being here, Rebecca. Lots of great advice for those who want to write “funny.”Here’s more about It’s Raining Bats and Frogs! and about Rebecca. Be sure to use that Scavenger Hunt clue.

It’s Raining Bats and Frogs! Blurb

Delia has been looking forward all year to flying in the annual Halloween Parade. But parade day brings heavy rain. So, Delia takes action. Using her best magic, Delia changes the rain to cats and dogs. But that doesn’t work too well! Then hats and clogs. That doesn’t work, either! Each new type of rain brings a new set of problems. How can Delia save the day?

About Rebecca Colby

When not staring at blank pieces of paper, Rebecca can be found scribbling on napkins, walking into lampposts, and talking to herself. You can learn more about Rebecca and her strange habits at www.rebeccacolbybooks.com Alternatively, check out some of her one-sided conversations on Twitter at @amscribbler.

Rebecca is the author of It’s Raining Bats & Frogs (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, 2015) and There was a Wee Lassie who Swallowed a Midgie (Floris Picture Kelpies, 2014), and the forthcoming Motor Goose (F&F/Macmillan, 2017).

 





Inspiration and Genius…

30 03 2015

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eye off the goal.”  ~ Henry Ford

 





Need Some Inspiration?

20 03 2015

“Begin doing what you want now….We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand — and melting like a snowflake. Let us use it before it is too late.”
~Marie Beynon Ray