Your Voice

pond “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”–Oscar Wilde

Have you read something and wondered why the author was imitating Seuss or Tolkien?

Developing your own voice is tough enough without imitating other writers.  Sometimes we do this without meaning to, but it is also part of the reason that I will not read a chapter book when I am writing a chapter book or a fantasy novel while working on my fantasy.  I’m afraid that another writer’s voice will creep into my writing.

How then do you develop your own voice?

Perhaps you’ve heard this advice before — write like you talk.  Do you?  If not, give it a try.

I was really hesitant to do it.  In part, because I’m very self conscious about how I speak.  We won’t even get into what it is I’m self conscious about or why.   I’m sure that alone could be a dissertation for some kind of psych major.  But when I started writing essays last year, I made a serious effort to sound like myself.  I’ve also done it with a picture book manuscript and a chapter book too.  Yes, I made sure that sentence length and complexity were appropriate for the various types of writing, but I sounded like me.

And I think it worked.  I even had an editor tell me that I “nailed” the chapter book voice.  She may have meant that I sound just like an 8-year-old boy when I speak, but I’m going to take the plunge and assume it was a compliment.

Write like yourself and see how it works for you.  So far, I’m happy with the result on this end.


, especially something written by a new writer, and thought,

Research: World War I Posters

I love living in the digital age!

Through the Library of Congress, approximately 1,900 World War I era posters have been made available online.  The posters were largely printed in the US, but there are also German posters on Communism as well as posters from Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Canada and other countries as well.

You can search this collection here.

I did a search on “women,” hoping to turn up posters directed toward women.  Among the search results, I was also surprised to find a number about women directed toward men.  You know, fight to save the women folk.  Who knows what else I would have discovered if I had picked through all 215 of my finds?

Like horses?  Train to be a vet or join the cavalry.

Buy war bonds to support children and soldiers.

“Can vegetables, fruit and the kaiser too.”

What a window into another world and a way of thought!   Special thanks to the Library of Congress for making these resources available to us.


Research: Victorian Magazines and Books

victorianWhen editor Moira Allen lived in England, she made a habit of haunting a variety of used books stores, purchasing tattered copies of various magazines.  Because they were tattered, the magazines often suffered for being read.  How then could Allen enjoy them and share them with others?
Allen’s answer came down to using a scanner to copy various articles and organize them according to topic on a new web site — Mostly Victorian.  Take the time to look around and find out a bit about Victorian London, Fashion, Folklore and more.  You’ll be reading scans of actual articles published during the Victorian Era.
As a knitter who also does some embroidery, I have to admit that I spent some time picking through a column called “Workbasket.”  It even prompted me to find out what on earth an antimacassar is.  Not that I’m tempted to make them — I recognize an elaborate cat toy when I see one.  Cat toy or blanket for every stuffed animal in the house.
My thanks to Writing World for bringing a marvelous resource to my attention and to Allen for going through the trouble to share her finds with all of us.

Conference Etiquette and Why We Go

learnEvery now and again, I give in to the urge to blog about conference going.  Why?  Because every now and again I’m gob-smacked when someone rants about a bad conference experience.  Yes, there are poorly organized events but most often these rants are the direct result of unrealistic expectations.

What should you expect from a conference?   It all depends on who is organizing the event but I’m going to speak to SCBWI events because those are the ones that I organized for 10 years.  From an SCBWI conference you should expect:

  • To hear great speakers.
  • To learn about the writing craft.
  • To learn how to submit and market your work.
  • To network with your fellow writers and illustrators.
  • To be educated and inspired.

It goes to say that if there are realistic expectations, there are also unrealistic expectations.   What you should not expect:

  • To put your manuscript in the hands of an agent or editor.
  • To be told exactly where to send your manuscript — which publisher and editor is perfect for your work.

What does this mean in terms of conference etiquette?  If an editor or agent asks what you are working on, tell them.  Briefly.  Briefly — that means in 2 minutes or much less.

Resist the urge to ambush an editor or agent at the salad bar line or in the restroom.  Really.  You’ll make a much better impression if you go home, polish your work, and follow standard submission procedures.  That’s how most of us make our sales.



I feel like I did a bit better on my goals this past week.  They were:

  • Write the first interview based article.  I wrote and submitted this article.
  • Gather interviews for the second and do some of the other research.  The last interview should be done Monday.
  • Write the interview questions and start gathering interviews for the third.
  • Write the book review round up.  I’ll rewrite this and submit it Monday.
  • Make my next craft pitch.  Started but it grew on me (read below).
  • Work on one of my talks.  Outline done.
  • I also rewrote one of the picture books and got some helpful feedback on it.

I had some successes last week, one of which will impact my goals.  Gryphon House accepted 7 of my activities for one of their series.  The pieces will appear in three books that will come out next summer/fall.

I also got editorial feedback on the activity that I submitted about two weeks ago.  The editor asked me to submit a specific number of ideas for additional projects.  This job got much bigger.

My goals for this week are:

  • Come up with the list of activity ideas that the editor asked me to do.
  • Write the second interview based article.
  • Get the interviews going for the third.
  • Write my first talk.
  • Outline my second talk.

Maybe, just maybe, I can accomplish more than that but this is what I’m going to start with.  Fingers crossed!


Friday: Critique Groups

Since I mention my critique groups on a regular basis, I wanted to take this post to encourage each of you to find a group if you don’t already have one. A critique group is an invaluable asset to any writer.

  • They cheer you on when you’re in the dumps.
  • They help you improve individual pieces of writing.
  • They push you to try new things.
  • They can even help you find markets for your work . . .
  • . . . or let you know when an editor is looking for something in particular.

When you look for a critique group, don’t get discouraged if you can’t find one right away or if you can’t find one that is a good fit.  Here are some of the things that you might look at:

What people write. Picture book writing is very different from novel writing so if you are the only novelist you might not get the help you need.

Why people write. People who write to publish often have very different goals than people who write simply to put down their stories.

Publishing choices. If your focus is traditional publishing, a group focused on self-publishing may not meet your needs.

Keep your ears and eyes open and you’ll find the writers you need to help you grow.  Ask around at conferences.   Chat with people on-line.  Anywhere you meet your fellow writers, there are possibilities.  A good critique group is worth the wait and the effort.


Artist’s Date

pupLast Saturday I met with the Ladies of the Gordian Knot.  One of the many things we discussed was having an Artist’s Date.  Apparently, this concept comes to us from The Artist’s Way.

The idea is that each week you will give yourself an Artist’s Date to recharge your batteries.  It should last at least an hour and it is something you should do alone.  We discussed various things that we do to recharge including:

  • yoga
  • walking a labyrinth
  • hiking
  • singing in the choir
  • knitting
  • bowling
  • journaling
  • going to the botanical garden

I’m not sure that singing in the choir should really count because I don’t do it alone.  ::shrug::   What can I say?  It recharges me even if it doesn’t fit meet all the criteria.   But so does sitting in my garden at night.  Or knitting while listening to a book on tape.

What do you do for an Artist’s Date?


Wednesday: Stone Arch Call for Writers

I hope that at least some of you make a point of reading the blogs of various publishers and editors.   I know, I know.  You only have so much time in your work day and you are trying to make a living at this.  Which is precisely why you should give these blogs a look.
Just over a week ago, Stone Arch Books put out a call for writers for a new middle grade fiction project.   Stone Arch Books doesn’t generally purchase manuscripts from writers.  Instead, they ask for a resume and samples of your work and then fit writers into ongoing or new series based on the writer’s background and writing.
I found out that they were looking for people NOW because I read their blog.
Some of the other blogs by editors and publishers that I read are:
Brooklyn Arden by editor Cheryl Klein
Which ones do you read?

New book line

apisAs a nonfiction author, this caught my eye.  Capstone Press plans to launch a line of nonfiction graphic novels.  Graphic Expeditions will introduce readers to social studies, history and world cultures.

Read more about this and the publisher’s plans to add longer fiction graphic novels to their lists.

So far, my favorite graphic novel is Clan Apis by Jay Hosler.  I love the way the author uses dialog although the characters are all insects.   I know, I know.  Strictly speaking, bees do not speak in English dialog.  But it works.  Check this book out if you haven’t already read it.  You can read the review of it here on my other blog.

I’ve never tried to write a graphic novel but the thought of getting to write one that focuses on history and world cultures is mighty tempting.



fallGiven everything that’s going on (life abundant), I’m pretty impressed with what I managed to accomplish this week.
  • The Q&A is all but done.
  • I’ve gathered all of the interviews for one article.
  • Written the interview questions and started approaching people for the second.
  • Started the book review round up.
  • Written and submitted the craft project and started brainstorming my next set of pitches.
  • Done a rough rewrite on the picture book.
I also managed to work in something that wasn’t on my goal list.  I sent in an application to write for an educational publisher.  Hurrah for me!

For this week I want to:
  • Write the first interview based article.
  • Gather interviews for the second and do some of the other research.
  • Write the interview questions and start gathering interviews for the third.
  • Write the book review round up.
  • Make my next craft pitch.
  • Work on one of my talks.
No one has any days off this week and I only have one appointment during the week so I should get a good amount done.