One Writer’s Journey

August 17, 2012

Self-Censorship . . . Maybe You Should

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:32 am

Yesterday I wrote about when it might be wrong to self-censor your writing — to avoid writing something that might offend someone.  This is a huge obstacle for children’s writers especially when we are parents.  Sometimes we slip into parenting our characters.

But there are times when self-censorship is an excellent idea.

I write a great deal of nonfiction including essays and also posts for a prayer blog, PrayPower4Today.  Needless to say, many of my prayer posts and my essays are based on personal experience and that can be a great thing.  When we write based on our own lives, we bring passion to our writing.

Of course, we can also bring in a lot more than passion if an event is too fresh.  Sometimes I’ll try writing about something before I’ve had time to fully process it emotionally.  When this happens, I have to fight to get things down on paper.  The pieces are often long and rambling and more than a little ranty.  I sound like I’m preaching a street corner sermon.

Why?  Because I generally am.

That’s when I know that I need to put this piece away until I chill out.  How long?  It depends.  There is no magical amount of time. Sometimes it only take a few days.  Sometimes it takes a few months.  There are some things that I’ve tried to write about 5 or 6 times before I’ve been successful.

Don’t avoid tough topics.  Do give yourself the time and space that you need to write about them with the clarity time brings to many things.


August 16, 2012

Self-censorship . . . Maybe You Shouldn’t

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:14 am
Tags: ,

What would have happened if Rowling had held Harry Potter back?

How often do you self-censor a story?  Self-censorship is when you stop yourself from taking a story, or character, where it needs to go so that you don’t offend someone.

I’ve been guilty of doing this at least once.  Two of my characters needed to fight it out.  As in hand to hand, or actually sword to sword.  But my upbringing kept getting in the way.  It took me multiple tries to write this scene because they kept almost getting into a fight but then they would get interrupted or otherwise not do it.  But none of these scenes rang true.  It wasn’t until one of them took as serious poke at the other that the scene came together.

As children’s writers especially,  we sometimes hold our characters back.  We don’t let them say the things that a teenager would say — they are unnaturally civil even in the worst of circumstances.  Or we don’t let them do what a preschooler would naturally do because it is simply too naughty or perhaps it isn’t safe.

That’s the problem with my current WIP.  My character does something majorly irresponsible.  I know its irresponsible.  On a good day, my teen son would probably know that too.  But it is something a twelve year old boy would do.  Or at least would really want to do.

So, do I pull him back or do I let him be irresponsible?  My husband is pushing for irresponsible.  “Boys are like that and Harry Potter was completely irresponsible about 200 times per book.”

True.  But I’m not Rowling and my character isn’t Harry Potter.  Obviously, this is something I’m still noodling over.  Maybe I’ll have an answer next week…


PS.  As I finished writing this post, it hit me.  Why not reread the article I wrote, How to Avoid Parenting Your Characters?  Excellent question.  And another question — why did it take me so long to think of that!

August 15, 2012

Book covers

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:31 am
Tags: , , ,

Check out the awesome article, “Creating Book Covers that Sell,” that Deane Riddle did for WOW! Women on Writing’s DIY Self-Publishing issue.  I’ve always been fascinated by book covers.  I’ve even blogged about book cover design.  But what works and what doesn’t was still pretty much a mystery to me until I read Riddle’s article.

Now I wouldn’t say that I’m a genius where book covers are concerned, but I have some clue why I like what I like.  Take this cover as an example.

Title:  This one pretty much says it all.  A book about bullying called Cornered, but it goes beyond the strictly superficial.  The bullies are just as trapped as their victims with several stories told from the bully’s POV.  Also, the font is a little rough just like the topic.

Images:  A lot of people go for the boringly straight forward — they add nothing to the design because they are just so obvious.  But this cover doesn’t show a kid backed into a corner.  It shows something even more fragile, a butterfly, trapped in a jar and jars, strictly speaking, don’t even have corners.  Symbolic and ironic.  Awesome!

Promise:  Readers are going to have a good idea what to expect between the title and the design.  This is an edgy book that might take you some unexpected places.  Right on the mark.

This isn’t everything that Riddle covered in her article but give it a good read, especially if you are planning to design a cover of your own.  You will definitely come away from the article with a better understanding of what covers resound with you and why.



August 14, 2012

Show Me Reader Award and Mark Twain Award reading lists out

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:08 am

I’m not sure when they came out, but my library now has the bookmarks with the lists for both the 2012-2013 Show Me Readers Award and the Mark Twain Readers Award nominees.  How many of the books have you already read?

Show Me Readers Nominations:

  • This is one of my son’s all time favorites. Would you vote for it or another book on the list?

    Roseanne Thong and Eujin Kim Neilan (illustrator), Fly Free (Boyds Mills Press)

  • Tad Hills, How Rocket Learned to Read (Schwartz & Wade)
  • M.G. King and Stephen Gilpin (illustrator), Librarian on the Roof!: A True Story (Albert Whitman & Co.)
  • Becky Birtha and Nicole Tadgell (illustrator).  Lucky Beans (Albert Whitman & Co.)
  • Devin Scillian and Tim Bowers (illustrator).  Memoirs of a Goldfish (Sleeping Bear Press)
  • Jean Marzollo and Laura Regan (illustrator), Pierre the Penguin: A True Story (Sleeping Bear Press)
  • Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise  (illustrator), Stand Straight Ella Kate (Dial Books)
  • Ernst, Lisa Campbell, Sylvia Jean, Scout Supreme (Penguin Group)
  • Deborah Blumenthal and Adam Gustavson (illustrator).  The Blue House Dog (Peachtree)
  • Laura Williams and Craig Orback (illustrator), The Can Man (Lee & Low Books)


Mark Twain Readers Nominations:

  • Rob Buyea, Because of Mr. Terupt (Delacorte Press)
  • Stuart Gibbs, Belly Up (Simon and Scuster)
  • Mathew J. Kirby, The Clockwork Three (Scholastic Press)
  • Kathleen Van Cleve, Drizzle (Dial Books)
  • Adam Jay Epstein, The Familiars (Harper)
  • Peg Kehret, Ghost Dog Secrets (Dutton Children’s Books)
  • James Riley, Half Upon a Time (Aladdin)
  • Katy Grant, Hide and Seek (Peachtree)
  • Sharon Draper, Out of My Mind (Atheneum)
  • Sarah DeFord Williams, Palace Beautiful (Putnam Juvenile)
  • John Grisham, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer (Dutton)
  • Amy Gordon, Twenty Gold Falcons (Holiday House)



August 13, 2012

Common Core Standards

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:10 am

As we gear up for another school year, it seems like a good time to discuss the latest educational initiative, common core standards.

In 2008, the Council of Chief State School Officers and others decided to come up with uniform standards to get students ready for college and thus careers.  Specifically, what can we do to teach them what they need to know so that they can go to college and not have to take a slate of remedial courses.

Basically, those pushing this initiative (and remember that it isn’t a federal push) want students to think about what they’re reading, rather than just parroting the text back.  They want students to compare sources and use a larger variety and number of sources, vs opinion, in their writing.

By the 2014–2015 academic year, the initiative calls for 50% informational text in elementary school and 70% in high school—on average, across all curricula, excluding literature courses.

Developers have even come up with a listing of books to get teachers started — good news for those on the list.

What will this mean long term?  It could mean more sales for nonfiction authors, especially those whose books are on the list.  But remember, again, that this is not a federal initiative.  Administrators who only do what is forced on them will most likely resist.

To read more on this:

Common Core Standards State Standards Initiative

There’s a Sea Change Coming to Education

What Common Core Means for Publishers




August 10, 2012

Create Tension in Your Story

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:57 am
Tags: , ,

How to Bake a Plot:

Take one Character with a Goal.

Add a generous number of Obstacles and Stir.


It sounds pretty basic, but its a lesson that we, as writers, need to learn time and time again.

Sometimes the problem is that we like our characters too much.  We don’t want them to suffer.

Other times, the goal simply isn’t important enough.  If they fail, so what?

What types of obstacles do you put in your character’s path?  It could be one or more antagonists or a flaw within your character.  Sometimes nature or time itself becomes the obstacle.

To find out more about the importance of rising tension, check out my post on the Muffin.



August 9, 2012

How to get ready to attend the Missouri SCBWI Fall Conference

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:34 am
Tags: ,

I hope that those of you who are attending the Missouri SCBWI Fall Conference this November are doing your homework.  What homework?  Studying works by the keynote speakers.  This is especially essential for those of us who will be approaching an editor or agent but it is just as important if someone is critiquing your manuscript.  Just attending someone’s session?  Read their work as well.  It will help ground you before you get to work on November 3.

Here is a partial list to get you started.

Regina Brooks

Writing Great Book for Young Adults by Regina Brooks

Clients and Their Books:

Aline Alexander Newman’s Ape Escape

Ana Maria Rodriguez’s Natural Disasters — FiresGreat Disasters — FiresEdward Jenner: Conqueror of SmallpoxA Day in the Life of the Brain;  Secret of the Sleepless Whales . . . and More!; Secret of the Bloody Hippo . . . and More!Secret of the Puking Penguin . . . and More!; Secret of the Singing Mice . . . and More!

Sundee Frazier’s Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It

Lynda Durrant’s ImperfectionsMy Last Skirt: The Story of Jennie Hodgers, Union SoldierThe Sun, the Rain and the Appleseed:  A Novel of Johnny Appleseed’s Life.


Emmy Dryden:

Karma Wilson’s Bear Snores On series, A Frog in the BogLittle Pip series.

Suzanne Morgan Williams’ Bull Rider

Adrienne Maria Vrettos’ Skin and Sight

Shelia P. Moses’  The Legend of Buddy BushI, Dred ScottJoseph.

Karen Katz’s Counting KissesMommy Hugs; Stalling

Ellen Hopkins’ books



David Harrison (to keep this list manageable, I’ve arbitrarily decided to list only David’s books published since 2007):

bugs, poems about creeping things
Cave Detectives, Unraveling the Mysteries of an Ice Age Cave
Mammoth Bones and Broken Stones
A Monster is Coming
Partner Poems For Building Fluency
Piggy Wiglet
Vacation, We’re Going to the Ocean!

Ellen Hopkins:


Now — get reading!


August 8, 2012

Missouri SCBWI Fall Conference

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:15 am
Tags: , ,

I hope you have the first weekend in November open because Missouri SCBWI Regional Advisor Joyce Ragland has put together quite a line-up for the fall conference.

Date:  Saturday, November 3, 2012

Where:  Lindenwood University

Keynote Speakers:

Author Ellen Hopkins,  the award-winning author of eight NY Times bestselling young adult novels and a board member for SCBWI.  Her Facebook and MySpace pages get thousands of hits from teens who say she is the only one who understands them. 

Author David Harrison whose first book for children, The Boy With a Drum, was released in 1969 and sold over two million copies. He has written poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.  His most recent accomplishment?  Having a book on the Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best list for 2012.

Agent Regina Brooks, the founder and president of Serendipity Literary Agency.  Before becoming an agent, she held senior positions at major publishing houses including John Wiley & Sons Inc. and the McGraw-Hill Companies.

Editor Emma Dryden who now works as an editorial & publishing consultant after 25 years with major publishing houses.  She has edited over 500 books for children, from board books and picture books to poetry, novelties, non-fiction, MG, and YA fiction and fantasy.  She is also an SCBWI  board member.

Illustrator Will Terry, who is an illustrator, university art teacher, and ebook author.  With his name on 17 children’s’ books, he is currently working on four books for various publishers. 

Find out more about this information packed day on the Missouri SCBWI web site.  You can also register online.


August 7, 2012

Some of my activities

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:17 am

I just realized that it had been a while since I had posted links to any of my work online.  Here are two batches of activities published this spring and summer on  I’ve grouped them by type.


Shape Bingo
Fruit Loop Patterns
Color Scavenger Hunt



Make Your Own Passport
Five Stones
Counting Coins Game



Spin Drum
Door Harp
How to Make a Kazoo
Finger Cymbals



Tanka Poem
Found Poetry
Nonet Poem
Book Spine Poems
Epitaph Poems
False Apology Poems
Skeltonic Verse



Cave Creations
Geodes for Kids
Penny Launcher
Nature Rubbings



Fact vs Fiction
Tall Tales You Know
Write Your Own Tall Tale
Jumble Story
Fill in the Blank Story

And what have I learned doing all of these activities?  Crystals are really, really hard to photograph well.  It is really, really hard to write poetry on demand.  And, last but not least?  I do not like Fruit Loops.  If you are going to pitch an idea that involves a food product, try to choose one that you actually like.



August 6, 2012

What Fate the Writer magazine

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:45 am
Tags: , ,
Last Thursday I found out that after the October issue goes to print, The Writer is going on hiatus.  Sad, sad, sad.
The Writer was established in 1887 by William Hills and Robert Luce, “to help all literary workers.”  They published the magazine in Boston where it remained until it was by Kalmbach who has put the magazine up for sale — thus the hiatus.
Now, let’s just hope that it is purchased and not by just anyone.  But by someone who loves it as much as so many writers do and also has a wee tiny clue how to run a magazine today.  
Fingers crossed for us all!
« Previous PageNext Page »

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: