The Best Settings Possible

How much thought do you put into the settings for your stories?

Most of us spend some time with the description, doing our best to help our readers feel like they are in our stories.  We add visual details, reveal what they would smell and hear, and, if we’re doing a bang up job, manage to work in how something feels and maybe even how something tastes.

But if we want our settings to be all that they can be, we need to do more.

Carefully crafted, our settings tell us about our character.  This goes beyond how our character’s decorate their bedrooms to include where you would set a scene when your character is beyond laid back or super uptight.  What does the actual location have to say about your character?

Settings can also help set the mood for a story.  If we think of this at all, we probably take the easy way out.  Spooky mood?  Cemetery or haunted house.   Aggression?  Boxing match.  Foot ball field.

But what if you wanted the mood to by spooky and the setting was a baby shower?  Or happy and the scene takes place at a funeral home?

Check out my post on the Muffin to see how you can use setting specific details to enhance your scene’s mood.

–SueBE

Libraries of the rich and famous

As I’ve been cleaning up in my office and contemplating a new arrangement for the family room, a lot of thought has gone into books and how to shelve them.

No surprise then that “Libraries of the Rich and Famous” on Book Riot caught my eye.  My personal favorites?

  • I love the well-used disorder of Keith Richard’s library although I’d need a real couch.
  • William Randolph Hearst’s library totally intrigues me but what I really want is to test out the acoustics — not me personally but my friend Tracy.

The ones that are wall to wall books and nothing else just don’t draw me in.  Sure, I have enough books to do that on a smaller scale but they don’t look as restful as the other arrangements.  Not as conducive to creativity.

Here’s one that didn’t make it — Thomas Jefferson (see the video below).  Obviously, he hadn’t glassed the shelves in but I’m wondering if the shelves were truly open on both sides.

I’ll have to put some photos up when I get things cleaned out in here and we get the new set up done in the family room.  Unfortunately, we are still debating how to get sufficient seating, a bit of over flow seating (bench/coffee table), and whether or not to move in a shelf from another room or build a new shelf.  So many book related decisions!

–SueBE

 

New e-zine on writing for children’s magazines

For those of you who have been missing Jan Field’s KidMagWriters.com, be sure to check out Writing for Children’s Magazinesan ezine by Evelyn Christensen.

The first issue has recently gone live.  The publication will feature both articles and issue overviews of individual magazines.  The latter will be a great resource  in helping you chose possible markets when you have a piece seeking a home.

Hats off to Evelyn for take the time and energy to create this amazing resource! I know I’m looking forward to checking it on a regular basis.

–SueBE

 

Carla McClafferty and Top-Notch Nonfiction

How do you know your writing buddy has hit the big time?
It was pretty obvious for me when Carla McClafferty was invited to speak at a Comcast/C-span opening event in Little Rock.  Fortunately, for those of us who live in a world without satellite or even cable, there is Youtube!
Carla appeared on Book-TV.  She spoke about her use of primary materials to produce accurate and interesting nonfiction books.
In the course of her work in writing The Many Faces of George Washington, Carla debunks many of the Washington Myths.  What Washington myths?  Basically most of “facts” that you grew up knowing about Washington.
Her book follows the journey that the staff of Mt. Vernon took in creating  life models of George Washington as a young man, commander of American forces in the revolution, and as our nation’s first President.
Naturally, anyone who has watched a television show that touches on forensics will be thinking, “Look at his skull!”  No dice.  You can’t dig up a former President just to look at his noggin.  This meant having to take the long way.
Get a cup of coffee and take the time to watch this and you’ll have the basics on how to create a rock solid nonfiction book.  I’m not saying that it will be easy, but you’ll know what you need to do!
–SueBE

Notch Up Your Publicity

What can you do to take your publicity ideas one step beyond?

That’s the kind of thinking that got a band called Dry the River some serious attention.  Instead of simply creating posters, they pulled together 3-D horse posters.  It took approximately 35 hours to create each horse but the 3-D clearly grabbed the public’s attention.

Writers often think book signing or blog tour.  How could you notch it up?  What would work in terms of your book?

Think about it.  You’ve written a picture book about pirates.  Instead of a book signing, you could host a pirate party.  Craft eye patches and personalize bandanas for the children to take home.

You’ve got a YA with a fashionable character who makes many of her own accessories.  Maybe you could have an event at a local bead shop.

A character whose an animal lover might inspire a food drive for the local shelter.

One who paints might lead to an event at a hobby store.

Take a few minutes to watch the video and see if you aren’t inspired to try something just a little bit different, something to really capture peoples’ attention.  The possibilities are only as limited as your imagination.

–SueBE

Goals — April, Week 2

I didn’t manage to get quite as much written last week as I had hoped for two reasons.  I spent a lot of time soliciting and gathering interviews for one.  Second?  “What do you mean your off school Friday?”  Somehow, I missed the fact that they had Good Friday off.  Ah, well.  I’m getting really good at Conduit 2.

In spite of it all I managed to pull down 5427 words.  Not too shabby but I wish I had managed a bit more than that.

This week I’m going to be working on how-tos and I really want to see how far I can get on my middle grade rewrite.  I printed the manuscript out last Thursday.  Today I’ll give it a quick read and add notes and comments re: what to fix, add, change, etc.

Weekly Goals:

  • 5 posts for One Writer’s Journey.
  • 2 reviews on the Bookshelf.  Done.
  • 1 post for PrayPower.  Done.
  • Write my posts for the Church blog.  Done.

Goals with Deadlines (some are my deadlines, some are my editors’ deadlines):

  • Rewrite CW piece with some recommendations from my editor. Deadline:  4/13.  Done!
  • Keep track of  interviews for the next CW article in my rotation, write and submit article.  Deadline: 4/15.   In progress.
  • Solicit interview for the CW piece after that.  Deadline:  5/15.  In progress.
  • Blog post for the Muffin.  Deadline:  4/28.  (Publication date: 4/29)  Done.

Non-Deadline Goals:

  • Get a picture book back out.
  • Rewrite and submit a leveled reader.
  • Do some more research on my next nonfiction picture book.
  • Get an essay on writing back out.
  • Rewrite the picture book I had critiqued.
  • Do some more work on a PiBoIdMo idea.
  • Work on my agent research.
  • Rough submissions for Blue Mountain cards.
  • Keep working on my web site.
  • Work on the middle grade. Go over the Plot Whisperer notes that I originally made.  Also story board the manuscript.  In progress.

Draw a Bird Day — Book Publicity 301

For those of you whose colleges numbered courses differently, the 300s were the senior level courses.

What does someone do for freshman level book publicity?  Perhaps a signing and book marks.

Sophomore level?  Add a web page for the book.

Junior level?   School visits.

Senior level?  They go beyond the book itself as well as going beyond the “usual” things that author’s do for publicity.  Not that there s anything wrong with the usual things — they can work very well.  But when you go beyond them, you find even greater opportunities to connect with your readers.

One thing that readers like are freebies.  To publicize her book, Wisdom the Midway Albatross written by Darcy Pattison, illustrator Kitty Harvill created  albatross coloring pages.  She has made them available for free (download here) as part of Draw a Bird Day (4/8).

So think about your book.  Is there a holiday that you can connect with?  An awareness month?  An anniversary date?  If so, get creative and think of related freebies that would catch the eye of a potential book buyer.

You may be amazed by what follows.

–SueBE

 

Why We Do What We Do

All I have to say about this short is Wow.  This is exactly why, as writers, we do what we do.  Book mark this and pull it up when that rejection letter gets you down or you have serious writers block or just a case of the writing blues.  Yes, I know.  At 15 minutes, it isn’t really short, but it is totally wow.

As described on the IMDb:  Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story.

Special thanks to Hayden Thorn who brought this marvelous piece to my attention.  I hope he is as inspired by it as I was.

–SueBE

 

Reading — March

  1. Barr, Nevada. Track of the Cat
  2. Batson, Wayne Thomas.  The Door Within 
  3. Frost, Helen and Leonid Gore.  Monarch and Milkweed (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
  4. Henkes, Kevin.  Little White Rabbit (Greenwillow)
  5. Henkes, Kevin.  Penny and Her Song (Greenwillow)
  6. Henkes, Kevin.  A Weekend with Wendell (Greenwillow)
  7. Laroche, Giles.  If You Lived Here: Houses of the World (Houghton Mifflin)
  8. Meloy, Maile.  The Apothecary (G. P. Putnam’s)
  9. Messner, Kate.  Over and Under the Snow (Chronicle Books)
  10. Noyes, Deborah.  Red Butterfly: How a Princess Smuggled the Secret of Silk Out of China (Candlewick)
  11. Rendell, Ruth.  Tigerlily’s Orchids (Scribner)
  12. Rylant, Cynthia.  The Case of the Fidgety Fox.  
  13. Sidman, Joyce.  Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature (Houghton Mifflin)
  14. Sweet, Melissa.  Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade (Houghton Mifflin)
  15. Van Dusen, Chris.  King Hugo’s Huge Ego (Candlewick)
  16. Willems, Mo.  Happy Pig Day! (Hyperion)
  17. Willems, Mo.  Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed (Hyperion)
  18. Willems, Mo.  Should I Share My Icecream? (Hyperion)
  19. Wynne-Jones, Tim.  The Boat in the Tree  (Front Street) 

Not a shabby reading list for a single month.  Of course, you need to remember that picture books are quick reads, but I’m also doing a lot of online reading, magazines, articles and other things I don’t list.

What did I learn in all of my reading this month?  I’m always amazed by what trends rise to the surface.  Here they are in no particular order:

If you have twins in a story, do something surprising in this post-Potter era.  Let them both live to the end of the book!  I’m to the point that when I find out that there are secondary characters who are twins, I automatically start trying to figure out which one of them is going to get killed off.  Macabre habit?  So mess with me and let both your twins survive.

Characters need to be sympathetic.  Ironically, I’ve been going around with one of my editors about how to make a character sympathetic.  And I don’t mean “going around” as in disagreeing.  We’re just talking over this particular point a lot.  Its ironic because I’ve recently read several books with abrasive or otherwise unsympathetic main characters.  If I don’t come to identify with the character in someone or feel sorry for them, I have a tendency to flip to the end of the book.  How does it end?  Does that hook me?  If not, back in the library bag it goes.  Bad, bad, reading habit.

Often, I appreciate children’s books much more than adult books.  Why?  The writing is so much tighter.  Children’s writers, even most young adult novelists, don’t get to just wonder around exploring the scenery for pages and pages.  Given my attention span which is alarming brief once I decide I’m bored, tight, clear writing is a must.

That’s all for now, but then I do have an itch to go find a good book to read.

–SueBE

 

Goals as We Head into April

Goals are wonky things at the moment.  Lots of writing projects coming in, going out and some coming back for rewrites.  That means that the list, which serves as my reminder, changes throughout the week.

Lot’s of prewriting done on several different projects this past week but in spite of that I managed to pull down 6526 words.  Not too shabby but I wish I had managed a bit more than that.

Weekly Goals:

  • 5 posts for One Writer’s Journey.  In progress.
  • 2 reviews on the Bookshelf.  Done.
  • 1 post for PrayPower.  In progress.
  • Write my posts for the Church blog.  Done!

Goals with Deadlines (some are my deadlines, some are my editors’ deadlines):

  • Rewrite draft of reluctant reader.  Deadline (sort of mine):  4/6.  Done!
  • Collect interviews to rewrite CW piece with some recommendations from my editor. Deadline:  4/6.  Interviews solicited – just waiting.
  • Blog post for the Muffin.  Deadline:  4/13.  (Publication date: 4/14)  Done.
  • Solicit interviews for the next CW article in my rotation.   Deadline: 4/15. Interviews solicited – just waiting.
  • Solicit interview for the CW piece after that.  Deadline:  5/15.

Non-Deadline Goals:

  • Get a picture book back out.
  • Rewrite and submit a leveled reader.
  • Do some more research on my next nonfiction picture book.
  • Get an essay on writing back out.
  • Rewrite the picture book I had critiqued.
  • Do some more work on a PiBoIdMo idea.
  • Work on my agent research.
  • Rough submissions for Blue Mountain cards.
  • Keep working on my web site.
  • Work on the middle grade. Go over the Plot Whisperer notes that I originally made.  Also story board the manuscript.

–SueBE