Transitioning between Worlds

lost1I’ve heard other writers talk about how much trouble they have coming back from the world of their story into the one with their husbands, wives, children and jobs.  Until this weekend, I didn’t get it.

One of my clients is writing his father’s biography.  He comes from Finland, near the border with the former Soviet Union.  The family considered themselves Finnish, but depending on the vagaries of politics, sometimes they were in Finland, sometimes the USSR.  Finally, they’d had enough and moved.*

I’m taking my client’s text and making it read more smoothly.  Part of this is putting things in, more or less, chronological order.  He worked on this in chunks and, thus, the time line is choppy.  I’m a historian but with specialties in Latin America and China.  Picking my way through this, looking for “time cues,” takes a great deal of concentration.

Then my husband popped into the office to tell me that he was sorry he’d been gone so long (wait, wasn’t it just five minutes?  Maybe 20?) because they said he needed a new belt. 

“You can’t tell when you need a new belt?” I asked.

“It was the serpentine belt.”

“Serpents?  In Finland?”  

He smiled.  “I’ll go make you a cup of coffee.”  

It took me about 15 minutes to come back to 2009 Missouri. 

Maybe I normally avoid this problem because I’m working in places I know.  I’m a setting junkie.  Even when it doesn’t make it into my draft, I know what the place looks like.   What is sounds like.  How it smells.  

Maybe I’m still struggling to locate myself in this particular place?  


 *I’ve changed the geographic location to disguise my client.  His project is a surprise for his family and I want to keep it that way.

Old Photos

My grandmother is on the right.
My grandmother is on the right.

I love old photos.  LOVE.  Adore.  Crave. 

And I’m always amazed at how few people use them when they do research.  Everyone trots out letters and diaries and the like, largely ignoring my faves — photos and maps.  You can get so much information from photographs. 

If you don’t know how to “read” a photograph, check out Photo Detective,  a blog sponsored by Family Tree magazine.  They post about once a week.

Soon you’ll be gazing into photographs too.


21st Century Family: What we still need

Ok, folks.  I didn’t get back to quite everyone tonight but I really need to go to bed.   I’m wiped out.  (Any editors reading this are now nodding their heads. “Of course, you are,” they say.)

But here is what I still need as of this moment:

  • A+ Parents
  • Crafty Kids
  • Kids Can
  • Kids Connect
  • Parents Plus
  • Safety First
  • SOS
  • Time to Eat
  • 1 2000 word feature
  • 4 1000 word features
  • 1 650 word feature

More tomorrow!



Tweenbots are adorable little robots built by Kacie Kinzer who then sends them out to make short trips.  The problem is that they move at a constant speed in a straight line and their destinations cannot be reached without a few turns. 
This means that people have to help.  But will they in the Post 9/11 World or will people assume that the unexpected is trouble? 
Check out the video here or at her site.
Does your writing reflect this sense of hope?  Or is your focus darker?   For me, it depends on my mood.   
But it is good to know that people want to hope.   To help. 

Read 50 Picture books

booksAs one of a group of writers who gets together and brainstorms picture book ideas, I’ve noticed lately that more and more of my ideas are suitable for chapter books and magazines.  Fewer and fewer for picture books.  

When I’m brainstorming, I don’t evaluate the ideas.  I just write them down.   But to write salable picture books, you need to come up with picture book ideas.   Maybe reading a few would help.

So I decided to follow the advice I gave all of your and read 50 picture books.  New picture books.   Here is my list so far . . .

  1. Ten in the Meadow by John Butler (Peachtree)
  2. This is the Day!  by Nancy White Carlstrom (ZonderKidz)
  3. Ivan the Terrier  by Peter Catalanotto (Richard Jackson/Atheneum)
  4. Ping Pong Pig by Caroline Jayne Church (Holiday House)
  5. The Uglified Duck by Willy Claflin (August House/Little Folk)
  6. Texas Zeke and the Longhorn by David Davis (Pelican)
  7. While You are Sleeping by Alexis Deacon (Farrar, Straus, Giroux)
  8. One Potato, Two Potato by Cynthia DeFelice (Farrar, Straus, Giroux)
  9. The Cajun Cornbread Boy by Dianne de las Casas (Pelican)
  10. Mabel O’Leary Put Peas in her Ear-y by Mary Delaney (Little Brown)
  11. Badger’s Fancy Meal by Keiko Kasza (G. P. Putnam’s Sons)
  12. The Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller (Henry Holt)
  13. One More Sheep by Mij Kelly and Russell Ayto (Peachtree)
  14. Library Mouse: A Friend’s Tale by Daniel Kirk (Abrams Books for Young Readers)
  15. Big Kicks by Bob Kolar (Candlewick)
  16. Wolf’s Coming by Joe Kulka (Carolrhoda)
  17. Oh No, Not Ghosts! by Richard Michelson, illustrated by Adam McCauley (Harcourt)
  18. Amelia Makes a Movie by David Milgrim (G. P. Putnam’s Sons)
  19. Dragon Pizzeria by Mary Morgan (Alfred A. Knopf)
  20. Ducks Don’t Wear Socks by John Nedwidek, illustrated by Lee White (Viking)
  21. Melvin Might? by Jon Scieszka (Simon and Schuster)
  22. Brewster the Rooster by Devin Scillian (Sleeping Bear Press)
  23. I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry (Dial)
  24. Dogfish by Gillian Shields (Atheneum)
  25. Mom and Dad Are Palindromes by Mark Shulman (Chronicle Books)
  26. Shoe Bop! by Marilyn Singer (Dutton)
  27. The Duck Who Played the Kazoo by Amy E. Sklansky (Clarion Books)
  28. Blue Goose by Nancy Tafuri (Simon and Schuster)
  29. Me Hungry by Jeremy Tankard (Candlewick)
  30. Gorilla!  Gorilla!   by Jeanne Willis (Atheneum)

Thirty down.  Twenty more to go.   How is your own reading going?


What Are You Reading?

What are you reading?reader

The reality is, if you are a writer, you should also be a reader.   And this means that you should be reading what is being published now.   Today.  Or in the last few years.

Its good to read the classics.  You’ll learn quite a bit by reading the books that have stood the test of time. How do the very best set up their plots?  Introduce us to their characters?   Use their settings to greatest advantage?

But you also need to read what’s being published now.   The advice that I’ve heard is that you should read at least 50 recent books of the type you want to publish.  50 picture books or, yes, 50 young adult novels.  Obviously, 50 novels will take a lot more effort.

If you do this, you will have a much better sense of what is out there and who publishes what kind of book.   When you finish your next manuscript, you’ll know where to submit it.   Whose books do you consistently love?   You’ll also spot trends in what is being published — whether books are getting even shorter or what has already been done.  A lot. 

Not to mention, you’ll get hours of reading pleasure, diving into another world and story.   And you can tell your spouse that you’re busy working. 


21st Century Family: Guidelines

I’ve been itching to share my big news with everyone but had to wait until we had a sample table of contents and guidelines ready to go.   It was like waiting for Christmas to get here, but like Christmas the big day has finally arrived. 

I am the managing editor of a new virtual magazine, 21st Century Family, focusing on parenting and family. We are pulling together our first issue — a test issue to run by potential advertisers.   Obvsiously, this means that we need writers, writers who get the kind of content we want (see below).   We (as in we had to pull together guidelines) are myself, Bob Mehsikomer and the guys at Digital Integration Services.  I’m responsible for gathering content.  They will make it all wondrous and digital just like they do with Simply Fishing

If you have questions, let me know!

21st Century Family

Check out what we still need for the next issue by clicking here.

Think of 21st Century Family as that friend you love to meet for coffee — uplifting, encouraging, and fun.  The friend who can laugh at your child’s sense of adventure.  We’re here to encourage our readers to enjoy their families.  

21st Century Family is 100% freelance written, and we welcome queries and submissions. Articles and columns must have a positive tone.  We encourage readers to act, not just to react.  Although articles may be written from the perspective of a particular religion, we are an international publication and thus readers practice a wide variety of faiths.  That said, for the time being our core audience is in the US and middle class. 

Do not submit press releases disguised as articles.  

At this time, we are putting together the “test issue” of 21st Century Family.  What’s a test issue?   Our plans are to launch a bi-monthly magazine that will go monthly in the not-too-distant future.  Before we can do that, we need to build an income stream and that means finding advertisers.  To find advertisers, we need a magazine for our sales staff to shop around.  That’s what the “test issue” will be, the carrot the sales department needs to show potential advertisers what we can do.  This issue will have the same basic table of contents, broken down between features and columns, as our regular issues. 


  • 2, 2000 word articles, $200.00 each
  • 4, 1000 word articles, $100.00 each
  • 3, 650 word articles, $75.00 each


  • “A, B, C and 1, 2, 3,” 650 word column, $75.00
    Topic: Education and learning.
  • “A+ Parents,” 650 word column $75.00
    Topic: Profiles of unique, positive parents.  Who do you want to be like before your kids grow up?
  • Crafty Kids,” 650 word column $75.00
    Topic: Something to do on a rainy day or for one-on-one time between a child and an adult.  Hands-on activities for busy minds.
  • “Family Places,” 650 word column $75.00
    Topic:  Family friendly destinations and locations worldwide.  Museums, parks, nature areas and more that have both adult and kid appeal.
  • “Family Spaces,” 650 word column $75.00
    Topic: Spaces in the home, from great kids rooms to living rooms and kitchens, that include kid friendly space but look good enough to have company over.  Can include ways to organize, declutter, and decorate.
  • “Frugal Families,” 650 word column $75.00
    Topic: Money saving tips for both necessities and the fun things in life.
  • “Kids Can,” 650 word column $75.00
    Topic: Profiles of amazing kids who get things done. 
  • “Kids Connect,” 650 word column $75.00
    Topic:  Sites and on-line communities for families and kids.
  • “LOL,” 650 word column $75.00
    Topic: Humorous essays to help keep the serious business that is parenting in perspective. 
  • “Parents Plus,” 650 word column $75.00
    Topic: Information on parental relationships and things just for you, the parent.
  • “Ready . . . Set . . . Go,” 650 word column $75.00
    Topic: The place for fun activities and games.   Things to help kids and parents get up and move.
  • “Safety First,” 650 word column $75.00
    Topic: Recalls and other safety issues.
  • “SOS,” 650 word column $75.00
    Topic: This column addresses issues in parenting.  “What do I do when my kid (fill in the blank)?”
  • “Time to Eat,” 650 word column $75.00
    Topic: Space for family friendly recipes including fun things kids can make themselves.  Also themed party menus, camp out meals, picnics and more.
  • “20 Minutes a Day,” 650 word column $75.00
    Topic: Literacy experts tell us that reading 20 minutes a day develops reading skills and lifelong reading habits.  This column reviews books for young readers and books on family and parenting issues.

Photographs: A good photograph can help sell your article.  We pay $10.00/photograph used. 

Rights:   One time rights.  When we have things up and running, each issue will be archived for 1 year on-line.  One month after publication, you may sell the piece elsewhere although we do ask that you credit 21st Century Family.

Payment: 21st Century Family pays upon publication.  For this test issue, payment will be processed in August, 2009.

By submitting your work to 21st Century Family, you are agreeing to these rights and terms. 
Submitting Your Work: All submission must come in the body of the e-mail.  We will open no attachments.  Just copy and paste your work into the e-mail.  This may mean that you lose some formatting but it helps us avoid viruses.  Begin your subject line with either “Query” or “Submission.”  No one wants to delete your message thinking it is spam.

Send your submissions to: Sue Bradford Edwards, 21st Century Family Managing Editor,


Establishing a Writing Routine

morningI am not  a morning person.  I can hear all the snickering out there from those of you who know me.  Really know me.

Because I’m not a morning person, I had been using my mornings to do e-mail, read blogs, etc.   Then I’d have lunch and get into my writing.  Maybe.  Unless someone called.  Or I got more e-mail.  Ahem.

But the last three weeks I’ve been doing my writing first.  I do check my e-mail but only to make sure there are no emergencies.  And I quickly check the job blogs to see if there is something that interests me.  Then I get to work for about 90 minutes before lunch.

First, I write a poem using one of Robert’s prompts or a cut a piece of kirigami.  Then I get to work on a review, a craft activity or an article.   There have been a few days where I had to make myself stop for lunch but then I rushed back to my writing.  

No pattern works forever.   Come summer when I’m no longer home alone, things will have to change.   But until then I’ve found a system that works for me.  Have you found one that works for you? 


It Isn’t Always About You . . . Or Me . . . Or Janet Reid

notyouI don’t know what it is.  Perhaps it is because we spend so much time in our own heads, working out story ideas, and so much time at the keyboard, working alone, wrapped up in our own worlds and words.

Maybe that’s the reason. 

Whatever the reason is, writers tend to take things very personally.  Whether you’re waiting for a  publisher to get back to you (why is he ignoring me? he must hate it!) or agonizing over a rejection (why don’t they want to work with me?), we tend to assume that we are the reasons behind other people’s actions.  It couldn’t be that they are busy.  Really busy.   Or have no spaces on left on their list.  We take things very, very personally. 

Agent Janet Reid blogged about this recently.  It seems that agents do this too  but with enlightening results.  

Apparently, it isn’t always all about Janet.  Or you. 

Or, me, for that matter.   Hmm.  That reality might take a little while to permeate my thick skull.