One Writer’s Journey

May 27, 2016

How Long Will an Editor Wait for Your Manuscript?

Skeleton, Smiling, Sitting, Cartoon, Isolated, SpookyI have heard more than one agent or editor tell a group of writers to take their time writing or rewriting a manuscript.  Don’t rush it.  Instead, take the time to get it right.

Recently, I read an article about an author who took this to an extreme.  Scientific American had contacted Dr. Ian Shine and asked him to write an article on his work on the island of St. Helena.  Shine is an MD and worked up a medical and genetic study of this isolated community.  One of the things that he studied was heart health and cardiac symptoms.

How long did it take Shine to get his work to the ediors?  Here’s a hint.  His stint on the island ran from 1960 to 1962.  It took him 48 years to contact the magazine with the finished article.  Not surprisingly, the editor he had had a contract with was long gone.  But the current editor asked to see the article.

In the end, he decided not to publish it.  His decision was made not on the fact that it took to long to turn it in or even that some of the information might now be dated.  The problem was that Shine didn’t turn in an article so much as a “short book.”

The lesson?  Take your time, get it right, but turn in what the editor publishes.  Word counts do matter even after 48 years.

–SueBE

May 26, 2016

Writing Books that Break the Rules

Your child character must solve his own problem.

Write picture books or listen to talks on picture books and you’re going to hear this advice. And, why not?  It’s really good advice.  No one wants to follow an inactive child character through the pages of a picture book.

But I just read a book that breaks that rule.   PLOT SPOILER

Did you see that?  I’m going to spoil the plot so don’t read on if that’s a problem for you.  

Bill Cotter’s Beard in a Box breaks this rule.  The story problem is that the narrator wants to be cool like his Dad.  He decides that it is Dad’s beard that makes him so cool so he sets out to grow his own.  He makes several unsuccessful attempts (poor, half-naked kitty) and even buys a beard growing kit.  Just as he figures out the kit is a scam in walks Dad sans beard.  Dad comforts junior and explains that awesomeness doesn’t have anything to do with the beard.  It’s all about you as a person.

Yep.  Dad explains it all.

No big epiphany for junior.  No Aha! moment.

So how did this picture book sell when the child narrator doesn’t solve the problem?  I think there are four things that helped this manuscript sell.

The narrator knew the answer all along.  When he’s thinking about how awesome his Dad is, he isn’t thinking about Dad trimming his beard, combing his beard or anything else along those lines.  He’s thinking about Dad playing basketball, playing his guitar and going biking.  It’s all about what Dad does not Dad and facial hair.

This book is really funny.  The humor in this book is going to appeal to both the child reader and the adult reader.  How can it not?  He shaves the cat.  All of his attempts to create a beard are funny as are his imaginings of “life with beard.”  because, you know, the beard will definitely make you a pirate.

The ending is satisfying. This book might seem quiet in that the ending is sweet and touching and look at Dad and Jr. playing basketball, biking, making music and fishing.  Isn’t that sweet?  But is it also satisfying.  It isn’t a big slam-bang type of satisfying ending but it is a warm and heart-felt and that’s what makes the book…

Marketable.  Think Father’s Day Book.  This might not be the book that Dad would buy, it is definitely the type of book that Mom would buy for the kids to give Dad on Father’s Day.

The lesson?  The book you write can break the rules as long as it still works well and there is a market for sales.  And it doesn’t hurt if it is really fun too.

–SueBE

 

May 25, 2016

Boy Books vs Girl Books

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:45 am
Tags: , , , ,

Children, Retro, Reading, 1950S Style, Portrait, CuteTuesday morning I read a post on girl books saving the world.  The premise was that if boys would just read girl books they would be different (BETTER!) and the world would be saved.

For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that there are boy books and girl books.  I have a huge problem with this assumption based largely on what I do and do not read.  I do read fantasy, science fiction, mysteries, action and nonfiction (history, science, anthropology, nature).  I do not read romance or self help.  I’ll read the occassional graphic novel but I’ve given up picking them out myself.  My son picks them out for me.  He’s a boy and, simply put, I’m not.  But our reading overlaps.  So am I reading boy books?  Or is he reading girl books?

Or maybe, just maybe, we’re both reading . . . books.

As an author it is important to identify the audience for your book. It is the only way you will chose the right vocabulary and explain things in a way  that your audience will grasp.  And some of my books will definitely have more girl than boy readers.  With titles like Women in Sports and Women in Science, librarians and teachers are going to hand the books to girls.  And girls should read them, but so should boys.

Personally, I don’t think it is the attitude of the boys that we need to question.  What we should question is why we, the adults who put the books out there, are still setting up this boy vs girl dichotomy and then being shocked that it’s still there.

–SueBE

 

 

May 24, 2016

Writer vs World

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:16 am
Tags: ,

Eye, Blue Eyes, Eyelid, Iris, Eyebrows, Brows, Seeingoccasionally, my family feels the need to point out that I, as a writer, see the world differently than a “normal” person sees it.

Most recently, my son and his friend were working up a real-world zombie game, Darker Days.  The premise is that you are at your buddy’s house gaming when the Zombie Apocalypse occurs.  You have to survive with only what you have in your location and with the skills you currently possess.  As the nerd herd crowded into my kitchen for lunch, one of them poked my son in the side.  “Why’s your mom watching us all so closely?”  “She’s just figuring out whose going to be the first to go.”

Sigh.  I’d be annoyed except for the fact that he was right.  The reality is that you’re going to need a certain skill set to survive.  If you don’t have great survival skills, you better have rock solid charisma or something else that people want to keep around.

Butt heads with someone else and I may very well explain it to you in writing terms.  “I know he made you mad, but almost no one is a villain in his own head. Figure out the story where he’s the hero and you’ll be able to work this out.” When I don’t think someone is telling me the whole story, I look for subtext and back story.

And then there are all the times that I start scribbling notes because someone has said something inspirational.  My son?  He is a fountain of teen-talk.  My current favorite?  Voluntold.  “He was voluntold to help us out.”

Yes, writers have to be observant, taking in details that many people would simply walk right past.  But, in time, many of us come to see the world a bit differently than “normal” people.

–SueBE

 

May 23, 2016

Creating a Teacher’s Guide

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:55 am
Tags: , ,

School, Teaching, Balloon Knot, Ballons, KreativtätDoes your book have a teacher’s guide?  If the publisher hasn’t created one this is something that you can pay a publicist to do or, with the right skills, you can do it yourself.  Here are a few of the things that you might include:

First things first, consider which classes your book might supplement.  If your book includes similes or metaphors, it could be used to supplement a lesson on writing or language.  Do you have characters, a plot and setting?  Then your book could enhance a lesson on the parts of fiction.  Be creative!

Next, look at your book’s topic.  A book about animals might include information on each animal depicted — where it lives, what it eats, etc.  If you’ve written a poetry collection, describe the various types of poems that you’ve included.  Is it a haiku or a tanka?  A concrete poem or an ode?  Expand on the material in your book.

Did you have to do a lot of research for your book?  Compile a list of resources that young readers might want to read.

What could young readers inspired by your book create?  Encourage them with fun writing projects, crafts, experiments and games. Remember to focus on projects that can by completed in a group vs projects that will require a lot of focused adult attention.  Don’t expect teachers to write-up their own handouts or worksheets based on your book.  Have these kinds of materials ready to print or copy.

Describe what inspired your book and something about your writing process.  You could also include photos of your work area or where you went to research your book.

A classroom guide is another chance for you to be creative.  If you aren’t sure what to include, pick up some children’s magazines and look at the materials that your readers write or draw and send in on their own.  This will give you some idea what inspired and interests them.  Think of this as another chance to enhance their reading experience and encourage them to learn, grow and express themselves.

–SueBE

May 20, 2016

Here’s My Superpower — What’s Yours?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:26 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Batman, Superman, Lego, Superhero, Hero, Fast, StrongLucky for me that I read Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s Inkygirl.com. Her post alerted me to a book-based contest, “Draw the Line: What’s Your Superpower?

The contest is based on Laurent Linn’s novel, Draw The Line.  In the book, the main character creates a superhero version of himself, Graphite. Graphite uses art to fight brutality and Adrian comes to realize that that is also his superpower.  The contest encourages readers to consider their own abilities and to submit a drawing of themselves as a superhero.  Linn doesn’t want people to only think about what they wish they could do.  He wants them to think about what they already do ranging from school to sports and also being a good friend.  Click on the link above to Debbie’s post to find out more.  For whatever crazy reason (I so love it when computers refuse to help), the video refuses to link although I just watched it.  Twice.

Silly computer issues aside, what is your superpower?  As presented on her blog, Debbie’s is the ability to create food doodles.

I’ve been waffling about what mine might be.  In the “food doodle” school of thought, it is my ability to spot unappreciated ironies.  “Why does that strange guy keep staring at you?  I don’t know.  Maybe he’s wondering why that judgy looking women keeps staring at him?” This ability is never, ever appreciated.  Never.

But on a more serious note — I think my superpower is my ability to slip into the reality that I’m writing about even if it isn’t MY reality.  I see the sense.  I identify the logic.  It’s how I can write about social issues and present both sides of an argument. I suspect it has something to do with empathy.  If I didn’t have this ability, I wouldn’t have dared to take on Black Lives Matter.  

What about the rest of you?  What’s your superpower?

–SueBE

 

May 19, 2016

5 Things Productive Writers Do

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:11 am
Tags: , ,

Vintage, Typewriter, Write, New York, Letters“I’m so impressed by your energy!”  Irony, oh sweet irony.  On the day that I got this message from another writer, I was virtually draped across my desk.  Spring allergy abundance guaranteed blurry vision and a stopped up nose.  Yet here I was writing.  Sort of.  I was at my desk but I had no idea what she meant by energy.  I certainly didn’t feel energetic.  Then I read on – oh, she meant productive.

I’m always amazed when other writers comment on about how productive I am.  I don’t feel productive.  I feel like a working writer.  It’s how I keep the lights on. It’s my job and that’s probably why I am productive.  To be productive you have to . . .

Treat writing like your job. It can’t be something that you do only if you have free time.  You have to make time.  Hey!  Don’t give me sass.  I know there are only so many hours in the day, but if you want to be a writer you have to write. Some days you might write for only fifteen or twenty minutes.  Others you might have an hour or more.  The point is that you write . . .

Even when you don’t feel like it.  There are days that I’d rather sit on the sofa and watch Firefly and knit.  Or listen to an audio book and knit. My Muse hasn’t shown up for work and I don’t feel like it either.  But to be productive, I have face the fact that I don’t have a muse.  What I have is dedication although it helps to know . . .

When is the best time of day to write.  Ideally, I’m not a morning or an evening writer.  I am an afternoon writer.  That doesn’t mean that I won’t write in the morning or evening, but I try to write in the afternoon.  It’s when I’m my most prolific.  That’s really important when I’ve . . .

Said “yes” to a new challenge.  Productive writers take on new tasks.  Sometimes that means trying a new type of writing like the middle grade novel I’m drafting.  I don’t normally write fiction.  Or science fiction.  So far I’ve crafted 50 pages.  But to keep this pace up I have to . . .

Refuel.  For different writers this means different things.  My husband and I are putting in a new garden.  I’m also finishing up a knitting project for my cousin.  While I knit, I listen to audio books.  Twice a week, I go to yoga. All of these things help fuel my creativity.

It might seem impossible to be a working writer.  Sometimes it seems impossible even to those of us who do it.  But when that happens, we do what needs to be done.  Some days that means refueling.  Some days that means sucking it up, sitting down and writing.  Because, really, its the time spent writing that makes us writers.

–SueBE

May 18, 2016

SCBWI Summer Reading List

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:49 am
Tags: ,


On a wet rainy day is Missouri (I’m writing this on Tuesday), I am almost literally walking on sunshine.  Black Lives Matter by Sue Bradford Edwards and Duchess Harris is on page 48 of the SCBWI Summer Reading List.  Woo-hoo!

A resource for libraries, teachers and bookstores, this is a listing of books published by SCBWI authors.  “The Reading List Program includes books of all genres from our PAL authors and illustrators, both front list and backlist titles. This is an opportunity to find that book that a kid or teen will enjoy and can  engage with the fun and adventure of reading. Authors and illustrators from close to your hometown to those around the world are featured on the List. The Lists will be published bi-annually this year in the Summer and Winter.”

Interested parties can download the list by region (look below the yellow cover for the list) or in its entirity by clicking on the title, “Download the Summer Reading List.”

The lists are organized by region, Missouri is part of the Mid-South, and within that region by grade level.  Take a look and find some great books to read this summer.

–SueBE

 

May 17, 2016

Characterization: Verbal cues, facial cues and lying

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:49 am
Tags: , , , ,

Cyber Bullying, Bully, Rumor, Teasing, Lie, Mean, NoHow do your characters behave when they are lying?  In my reading I’ve come across characters who glance down or away, shift from foot to foot, can’t keep their hands still or have a nervous smile.  I’ve also come across a number of adult characters who are veritable lie detectors.  In my own work I’m going to make sure this isn’t the case because I just watched Kang Lee’s TED talk, “Can You Really Tell if a Kid is Lying?

Lee and his team of researchers told a group of children that they would receive a big prize if they did well enough completing a task.  Working with one child at a time, they left the child alone  with top secret material.  Cameras watched to see if the children would peak.  Then the researchers came back and asked if the child had peaked.

Lee showed the audience two recordings of children claiming that they didn’t peek.  In the first, a boy displays classic “liar” behavior, glancing down and away.  In the second, a girl shakes her head. Lee than asked the adults to vote on who was lying.  Let’s just say that their accuracy was horrible.  Panels of adults have been shown the videos and none of them scored significantly better than if they simply guessed.  The panels included teachers, social workers, judges, police officers and parents.  Lee’s conclusion?  Adults are awful lie detectors.

Lee has discovered that only one reliable physical indicator exists — a change in facial blood flow.  Simply, blood flow to the cheeks drops off and to the nose increases.  There are no visible indicators.

In spite of this, as a society we believe that lying makes a child bad (it is developmentally normal), children are bad liars and adults are good at telling when a child lies.  Lee has shown the lie in all of these assumptions.  A little something to keep in mind the next time your character tells a big fib.

–SueBE

May 16, 2016

Take Your Time: Working in an Electronic World

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:02 am

Superhero, Girl, Speed, Runner, Running, Lights, SpaceThe convenience of working electronically is that I can send things to my editor without having to go to the post office.  I can answer a message any time of the day or night.  I can send something off the moment I get the message.

But the true beauty of working electronically is that I don’t have to do everything at the speed of light.  I can take my time.

I don’t have to answer an e-mail within five minutes of receiving it.  I can ponder my response, weigh my options, write a draft and then look it over after dinner.  The next day.

When an editor puts out a call for a certain type of manuscript, I don’t have to have my piece flying to her in-box in the next 90 seconds.  I can Google her name, read some reviews and even get ahold of some of what she’s already published.  That’s right.  I can do my research.  And once I’m satisfied that she would be a good match, I can send in my work using the buzz words and phrases that will speak to her.  Incidentally, I found those buzz words while doing my research.

I don’t have to work at the speed of light.  And neither do my editors.  That means that when I send something in, I shouldn’t expect a response in the next hour.  It might happen, but that’s not the norm.  When I send an e-mail asking a question, I need to remember that she might be driving home, in a meeting, or (GASP) editing someone else’s work!

Something about working electronically and the speed at which we can communicate seems to make us think that is the speed at which we should communicate.  Sometimes it’s okay to get something back to get something back out that quickly.  “Hey, Sue.  You forgot to attach the manuscript.”  (Who?  Me?)  But other times it is better to take it slow especially when an editor has commented on my work.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go.  I’m making dinner.  From scratch.  Meals are another one of those things that can be improved when I take my time.

–SueBE

Next Page »

The Rubric Theme. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 72 other followers

%d bloggers like this: