Monday, February 18, 2013

Thinking Like a Writer, Part 1

Where do you get your ideas?
This is by far the most common question that authors get. Kids ask me this question at school visits. Adults ask this question when I visit book groups. Writers ask this question to other writers at conferences. While the universal answer is something along the lines of “ideas come from everywhere,” I believe there is a lot to learn from thinking about how ideas come to us and what we do with them when they show up. Here’s my first tip for thinking like a writer:
Writers observe.
Observing means paying attention to what is going on around you. Engage with the world. Notice new things. What can you see today that is unexpected? What breaks a stereotype? What is unexplained? What draws your interest and why? Question. Think. Muse.
Pay attention to random thoughts that your subconscious mind interjects into your awareness. Why did your brain make that connection at that moment?
Be a people watcher. Why do people do the things they do? What is body language conveying? What do actions during a tense moment reveal about a person’s character?
Become an ardent eavesdropper. Conversation is happening all around you. Listen. What does each person want from the conversation? What is the context? What is the subtext? Fill in the gaps with your imagination.

Ways to practice observing:
-          Challenge yourself to notice one new thing with each of your five senses in a 24-hour period.
-          Practice observing as you read. Try to notice an interesting turn of phrase, a fresh word choice, pleasing word flow or a catchy cadence. Aspiring fiction writers can take notice what the writer is doing with plot and characters. What is it about the writing that holds your interest? How did the writer do that?
-          Be aware of when you are feeling creative. Is there a certain time of day where your brain is open to creativity? In the shower? Just before you fall asleep? Taking a walk outside? As a writer, that is something you’ll want to know about yourself.

Visit Lana's website for Thinking Like a Writer, Part 2.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Business of Writing: Age Categories in Children's Literature

One of the tricky things about writing for children has to do with determining your audience. Who is your story for? The kind of book that will appeal to a seven year old is unlikely to appeal to a 15-year-old; that is, unless the protagonist has a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. 

To familiarize yourself with age categories in children's literature, spend some time in a bookstore with a good selection for children (read as: bbgb tales for kids). 

Here is a general idea of how books are marketed for children:
  • Board books are appropriate for infants and toddlers. They are short and simple and rely heavily on illustration.
  • Picture books are appropriate for pre-readers and readers of ages infant through nine. Nonfiction picture books may stretch that on the upper end. Picture books are meant to be read aloud to young children and include illustrations which tell the story along with the text.
  • Early readers are appropriate for children ages five through seven. These books are designed to help a child build his or her independent reading skills. For that reason, they usually have limited vocabulary.
  • Chapter books are appropriate for ages seven through nine. These books are similar to novels but have shorter chapters, less complexity, and few if any subplots. They often include several illustrations.
  • Middle-grade novels are appropriate for readers ages eight through twelve. They are longer and more complex than chapter books.
  • Young adult novels are appropriate for readers ages 13 through 18. The themes and language are more mature than those for the middle-grade audience. Characters and plot become more complex and the narrative voice reflects the adolescent experience.
Not all books fall neatly into these categories, but in general, a book seller has to know how to sell a book, which means that anything that is difficult to categorize could be difficult to sell. 

Having said all that, remember that you might not know who the story is for until after you write it. My writing process includes writing the first draft the way the story comes to me. After that, I take a good look at what I've got and try to figure out where it fits in the scheme of things. After you determine your audience, you can revise with your readers in mind and make any changes that will align the story with their reading ability and age-related sensibilities.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fall in Love

by Chris Sorensen

Maybe you live in a cave.  Maybe you have missed the endless barrage of marketing displays, television advertisements, and gentle hints from significant others that this week is a very special week because of a very special holiday. 

That’s right, Friday, February 15th is Singles Awareness Day.  For all those who did not get an edible chocolate card or a crème filled rose on Valentine’s Day, what better way to feel encouraged about life than to celebrate the fact again the very next day?!

Regardless of whether you are single and live in a cave, or happily attached to somebody and live in any number of possible man-made structures, you can celebrate life and love one of the best ways I know how (sans sweets), and that is by reading.

I personally take time this Valentine’s season to pause and share with the world my love of books.  I share my love for the written word and the great stories that are told that help inspire and educate, influence and seduce, and that help us understand what love, hate, joy, pain and life really are about.  Next to a faithful pet, books can be a person’s best friend.

So regardless of what you have planned this week – dinner with a loved one on Thursday or a revenge filled bonfire of former ex’s items on Friday - curl up with a good book and fall in love all over again!


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bravo to Lana and Brian

Congratulations to Lana Krumwiede! Her novel, FREAKLING, is a finalist for the 2012 Whitney Awards in the categories of "Best Middle Grade Novel," "Best Novel by a New Author," and "Best Novel in Youth Fiction."
For more information, go to:
Congratulations to Brian Rock whose picture book, "The Deductive Detective" is listed by the Children's Book Council as a "featured anticipated best seller"!
For more information, go to:
A round of applause to each!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Give "With All My Heart" on International Book Giving Day

I'm trying a new service called Rafflecopter to help me give away
a signed copy of my book, WITH ALL MY HEART for
international book giving day.
Check out the link below to enter for a chance to win!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Submitting Love Lines

by Deb Dudley
One of the biggest challenges for me as a writer is my desperate need for EVERYTHING I write to be special. Different. Mind-blowing. Sure, as writers we want our manuscripts to hit those buttons, but for me, I want every single little scrap of handwritten data or e-mail I produce to be gold-star material. Yes, I realize it’s compulsive. And no, most of the daily things I write are never gold-star-worthy. Sometimes, I have 2 or 3 revisions on a little note to my kid’s teacher. Instead of a simple line or two about my kid’s latest bout with the flu, I feel compelled to produce a full doctoral thesis on the impact the absence will play on my daughter’s ability to master the subject matter. In my infinite wisdom, I realize why I drive myself crazy with the words. I believe as a writer, people expect more from me. I expect more from me. So, to challenge my sanity, my oldest daughter has recently presented me with one of my toughest writing prompts ever. For her final year of elementary school, I will pay tribute to my daughter by purchasing Love-Lines in her yearbook. For a small fee, I will be allowed to submit a dedication of 25 words or less to my daughter. She will assume I spent a few minutes one afternoon jotting down some sweet sentimental thoughts. In reality, I will have logged hours worrying about the best way to compress all my love, hope and pride for her into one gentle heartwarming sentence. In the end, 25 words are not enough. But, 25,000 wouldn’t be either. My Love-Line submission to my daughter will read as follows: May you always be filled with as much joy as you bring to those around you. All Our Love, Mom & Dad

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Illustrator's Corner: Things I Love

Some of the things I love are drawing, painting, writing and teaching. This year I have the wonderful opportunity to bring together several of these passions. In January, the inaugural "Fundamentals of Drawing I" class in the revised Certificate in Botanical Illustration program at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens ( launched, taught by yours truly. What a delight! Anyone can learn to draw because, like learning to walk, drawing requires mastery of a sequence of steps, tackled one at a time. One beautifully drawn line can describe many qualities, for example, both a shape and it's implied movement. The classic HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON by Crockett Johnson is one example. Imaginative Harold describes a night time's worth of adventure with one expressive, continuous line. Mastery of a deceptively simple concept, the pencil line, is a first step in learning to draw well. With determination, practice and experimentation, the student can build the skills to draw the beauty of a single flower or create entire worlds from thin air. Just ask Harold.