One Writer’s Journey

April 19, 2019

Excellence in Graphic Literature Awards: Finalists Announced

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:16 am

Pop Culture Classroom just announced the finalists for the Excellence in Graphic Literature Awards.  Haven’t heard of this one before?  This is only the second year for the award. It was established to help the public become more aware of graphic literature as a legitimate form of literature as well as specific quality titles.

Finalists: Best in Children’s Graphic Literature


  • Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas (Dog Man #5) by Dav Pilkey (Graphix)
  • Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America by Jaime Hernandez (TOON Graphics)
  • Petals by Cris Peter & Gustavo Borges (KaBOOM!)
  • Small Things by Mel Tregonning (Pajama Press)
  • Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri (First Second)


  • Little Tails Under the Sea by Frédéric Brrémaud, Federico Bertolucci (Lion Forge)
  • Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel (Enfant)
  • Snails Are Just My Speed by Kevin McCloskey (TOON Books).  I really enjoyed this one because it broadened my idea of what a graphic novel is.
  • The Eye That Never Sleeps: How Detective Pinkerton Saved President Lincoln by Marissa Moss and Jeremy Holmes(Abrams)
  • We Are All Me: TOON Level 1 by Jordan Crane (TOON Books)

Finalists: Best in Middle-Grade Graphic Literature


  • Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol (First Second)
  • Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell (Knopf Books for Young Readers)
  • Crush by Svetlana Chmakova (Yen Press)
  • Hidden Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag (Graphix)
  • Sheets by Brenna Thummler (Lion Forge)


  • Action Presidents #1: George Washington! by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey (Harper Collins)
  • Lafayette! (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #8): A Revolutionary War Tale by Nathan Hale (Harry N. Abrams/Amulet)
  • Ocean Renegades! (Earth Before Us #2): Journey through the Paleozoic Era by Abby Howard (Harry N Abrams/Amulet)
  • Stinky Cecil in Mudslide Mayhem! by Paige Braddock (Andrews McMeel Publishing)
  • The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix (Harry N. Abrams/Amulet)

Finalists: Best in Young Adult Graphic Literature


  • Illegal by Eoin Colfer (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)
  • Manga Classics: Macbeth by Crystal S. Chan (UDON Entertainment)
  • Monstress, Volume 3 by Marjorie Liu (Image Comics)
  • On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden (First Second)
  • The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (First Second)


  • Anne Frank’s Diary by Ari Folman (Pantheon)
  • Grand Theft Horse by G. Neri (Lee and Low Books). Read this one just last week.  Need to read all of the nonfiction titles since I have an idea…
  • Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Graphix)
  • Strange Fruit, Volume II: More Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History by Joel Christian Gill (Fulcrum Publishing)
  • The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown (HMH Books for Young Readers)

Finalists: Best in Adult Graphic Literature


  • A Sea of Love by Wilfrid Lupano and Gregory Panaccione (Lion Forge)
  • Berlin by Jason Lutes (Drawn and Quarterly)
  • Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles by Mark Russell and Mike Feehan (DC Comics)
  • Infidel by Pornsak Pichetshote and Others (Image Comics).  Hmm. I’m 90% certain that this is on my “checked-out-from-the-library shelf.  I thought it was YA?  
  • Upgrade Soul by Ezra Claytan Daniels (Lion Forge)


  • Algeria is Beautiful Like America by Olivia Burton and Mahi Grand (Lion Forge)
  • All the Answers by Michael Kupperman (Gallery 13)
  • Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu (First Second)
  • Escaping Wars and Waves: Encounters with Syrian Refugees by Olivier Kugler (Penn State University Press)
  • Monk!: Thelonious, Pannonica, and the Friendship Behind a Musical Revolution by Youssef Daoudi (First Second)

Winners for books published in 2018 will be announced at the ceremony on June 1.  The finalists were not announced for several other categories but you can read the complete story here.

Don’t think of graphic novels as comic books – super hero, pulp fiction with weak characterization and no plot.  Heck, I’d challenge that assumption even for a super hero book. These are books with strong stories and characters that can help broaden the range of people who consider themselves readers.


April 18, 2019

Disappointment . . . When You Don’t Like A Breakaway Best Seller

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:15 am
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Last night, I finished a book that’s been getting all kinds of press.  And by all kinds I mean an awful lot of good press.  Praise and accolades and more. Not only are reviewers covering it but the publisher also believed in it enough to take out advertising.  I have no clue what advertising costs but the vast majority of books don’t get it.  Not a dime.

And all I could think was . . . meh.  That’s it.  One sad, deflated syllable.  Not even the three drawn out syllables of whatever. I didn’t hate it.  Hate is far too strong a feeling.  And I did laugh at some of the funny parts.  But overall I was deeply unimpressed.

So why then did I finish it?  For one thing, it wasn’t especially long so I knew it wouldn’t be a massive time commitment.  Yeah, I’m like that about my reading time.  The longer the book the better it has to be for me to keep going.

But the main reason that I finished it was because I want to know why it is popular. Long ago, a writing buddy picked up a review copy of an upcoming novel.  She hated it and didn’t hesitate to say so.  Finally I asked her, why do you think the publisher picked up this title?  They had to have a reason.

And I asked myself the same question.  What is it that so many people see in this book that I didn’t?  Why did an editor take it to an acquisitions meeting where enough people said “let’s do it” to actually get the book into people’s hands.

  1. It is unique.  This book offers a perspective on hauntings that I have never seen before.
  2. There is humor.  Editors frequently ask for humor especially humor folded into dark topics.  This book managed to do that.
  3. The ending.  And it did have an uplifting ending.  The main character overcame one of her primary problems and it tugged at the heart-strings.

I am also forced to admit that I may not be in the right place for this book.  Haven’t you experienced that before?  You try to get into a book or movie, even a book or movie that you know that you love, and if you are in the wrong mental place it just isn’t going to happen.  And that may have been the problem with this particular book. Maybe, someday, I’ll check it out again.

In the meantime, I’ll try to make sure that my own work is unique with a touch of humor and a compelling ending.


April 17, 2019

Super Heroes: Brainstorming Super Powers

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 4:07 am
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Last week, I saw a write-up for Quest to Be the Best, Volume 1 of the graphic novel series Quincredible by Rodney Barnes.  Quinton West only weighs 100 lbs so after he gets caught in a meteor shower it takes a bit to realize that his super power is invulnerability. After all, what 100 lb guy goes out of his way to be beaten?

This got me thinking about superheroes and their powers. What super powers would be almost useless or really hard to figure out for . . .

. . . a desert dweller?  How would she learn that she can breathe underwater?  Under what situation would this benefit her?

. . . a lumberjack?  How would he learn that by smelling a piece of wood, he knows what tree species of tree it came from and where it lives?  How would this be useful?

. . . someone who lives in the Arctic?  How would she learn she can absorb high amounts of energy without damage?

. . . a butcher?  He can hear the thoughts of animals but only prey animals?

I don’t think any of these work but I want them to be so absurd that they are funny. I’m not sure how many people remember the cartoon The Tick.  The Tick is an enormous, muscled, not particularly bright Super Hero.  At one point he ends up teaching Superhero Classes and his students have a bizarre array of nigh on useless abilities.  There’s Sarcastro who is sarcastic and dresses like Castro and Baby-Boomerangutang who wears an orang utan suit and throws baby dolls like boomerangs.

None of the ideas that I’ve brainstormed here are nearly that good.  But what if I took one of these as the beginning and just kept nudging here and there to make it more warped and funny?

I’d like to think I could make something as awesome as The Tick but it sure wouldn’t be easy.  Even the regular characters are awesome.  El Cid is a villain with the head of a sunflower who rules over the plant kingdom.  And one of The Tick’s fellow superheroes is Urchin who wears a prickly costume and lives in the sewers.

I’m not sure why, but a tag line for a character just popped into my head.  Now who on earth would go around saying that?  



April 16, 2019

Word Building and Setting Details

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:26 am
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It seems like I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts and articles on world building and setting.  Maybe it is just because, writing fiction, I am paying attention.  Which is possible.  It is definitely something that I am thinking about.

There are so many things that you need to consider just in regard to your character’s home.  Is it a free-standing structure or a connected dwelling like an apartment or a duplex?  How many rooms are there?  How large are they?  Are there windows? How many? How are they shaped?

You need to know these things to make your setting feel real.  It’s a lot of work.  And the temptation is to share all that you know with the reader.  But you can’t.  It would be overwhelming.  Besides, you are writing from the point of view of a particular character.  Done right, that will help limit you.

What I mean is this – you can only discuss the things that your point of view character would notice.  And you need to describe things in terms this character would use.  As an example, let’s say that my husband and I walk into the bedroom.

I’m going to notice the painting at the head of the bed.  It has been the same painting for 17 years now and I want to change it.  I will also notice the drapes that are too short for the sheers and that there is a small stack of mail in the sewing chair by one window.  I’m really happy to have a chair in that corner so I notice it often. Somewhere to sit and tie my shoes.  Yay!

My husband?  He’s looking for the jeans that he left hanging on the hook on the bathroom door.  Hmm. He’s pretty sure he left them there but they aren’t there now.  He’ll poke around on the dresser.  Nope, no bills to pay.  But there’s clean laundry on his side of the bed.  Sigh. Now he has to put it away.

Note – there is no notice of how high the ceilings are.  If you ask, my husband will be specific. I think they’re probably 10 feet.  Right?  Is that it?  Each character will notice slightly different things about a room. What they notice may depend on how their day has gone or what they need to get done.

You need to know it all so that you know what each will notice.  Your reader, on the other hand, will be just as glad if you keep some of it to yourself.


April 15, 2019

Read, Read, Read with Recommendations from Stephen King

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:36 am
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The stand

My favorite Stephen King novel.

If you are a writer, you need to be a reader.  Really, it is that simple. It is one of the best ways to learn how to write well.  You can study pacing, characterization, dialogue and more by reading.

By reading what you write, you know what is being published now.  You know what has been published.  And, again, you learn the techniques of your genre.

But you should also read things you don’t write.  Mysteries can teach you how to create suspicion surrounding a specific character.  Science fiction can help you learn how to incorporate science into your writing without your story becoming a physics lesson.  Fantasy is a lesson in world building.  Horror?  It is all about using suspense and setting the right tone.

Frankly, I’m always a little suspicious of writers who aren’t also readers. Or who read and then pan everyone else as if they write simply to show everyone else how it should be done.

When I find a recommended reading list from a top-notch author, I take notice.  So when I saw this post, “Stephen King Recommends,” on Off the Shelf, I clicked through and then started requesting books from the library.

I’m not big on gore but I love a book that can keep me on the edge of my seat.  Creepy, atmospheric horror makes me want to write fiction. And King is so enthusiastic about the books he recommends.  The best. A revelation. Brilliant.

Which books did I request?  Quiet Dell by Jane Anne Phillips. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. Darktown by Thomas Mullen. Y: The Last Man by Brian Vaughan.  I’ll be reading some of them in print and listening to some as audiobooks.  I’m hoping I didn’t pick anything super creepy as an audiobook. That was a big mistake with Odd Thomas especially since I was home alone and I’m a night owl.

If any of you have read any of these books, I’d be interested in your take on them.


April 12, 2019

Graphics: Sometimes They Work and Sometimes They Splat

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 5:00 am
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Today I have a book due with Redline.  Easy, peasy mac-n-cheesy?  Nope.  Not even close.

The problem is that I need to provide ideas for at least 2 graphics.  Yes, I pitched specific ideas in my outline.  But when I tried to find the details I needed to pull them together?  Old stats. Biased stats.  Stats that were simply no good.

If the problem was only one graphic, I would simply develop a new idea.  But neither one of my original ideas worked and I only had one new idea. I sent it to her and we worked it together until it worked.  then she sent me several new ideas for the second graphic. I tweaked one of those two develop another functional graphic.

What types of graphics can I include?  It really depends on the topic.

In one book, I had a lot of charts including pie graphs, bar graphs and even a flow chart.  I roughed out the flow chart in Illustrator.  My husband plugged data into Excel and used the program to generate the other charts.

I also have a soft spot for maps because I made maps in college. Yes, that was a thing.  I drew plan views and profiles from archaeological sites.  I would also duplicate existing maps to show where sites were in relation to roads, buildings, parks and more.  So I like to include maps whenever possible.  But this has led to the discovery that some graphics people find maps intimidating.  Sometimes I just provide a link and the publisher develops the map such as where the Dakota Access pipeline ran in relation to nearby cities or where various Mayan cities where in the Yucatan

But sometimes the only graphics I can find are too complicated.  When this happens, I get out a black Sharpie and ink up how to write out your numbers 0 to 20 in Mayan.  I actually like getting to ink things up.

Ah, well.  Back to work.  I’ve got four more chapters to copyedit.  Copyediting is much less fun than writing numbers in ancient Mayan.



April 11, 2019

Book Mobiles and National Library Week

Yesterday, April 10, was National Book Mobile Day.  I discovered the book mobile when I was a 5th grader at Frostfield in the Ferguson-Florissant School District. Several smaller districts had been folded into our district and students were bussed hither and yon.  Fifth and sixth graders went to Frostfield.  It felt like it was miles and miles from home.  It was just under three miles.

I don’t remember the actual vehicle.  I suspect it was one of the white trailers.  What I do remember is climbing steep, narrow steps and coming out into a room that was bookshelves from one end to the other.  I’m sure the librarian told us which section held the books for young readers and I headed straight for the yellow spines of the Nancy Drew books.

When I found out that I couldn’t get one without permission, they were too old for me, I immediately fetched my teacher.  I suspect that the librarian was used to young readers who found reading difficult, but my teacher assured her that she could let me have anything I wanted.  Anything.

I’m still an enthusiastic library patron and I still check things out from the St. Louis County Library.  In fact, I keep a shelf here in my office just to hold my library books.  On that shelf, at any given moment, are novels, picture books, graphic novels, nonfiction, print and audio.  I have to admit that I haven’t read any Nancy Drew in a very long time but I’m contemplating a story idea that will require a refresher.

Thank you to the many librarians who have helped me out in various school libraries and in the county library.  You fed the love for books that I hope to pass on to young readers through my own books.


April 10, 2019

Ideas: Where Do They Come From?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:18 am
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Recently I had a discussion with one of my students about prioritizing your writing ideas.  How is do you decide what to write now and what to put off until tomorrow? Or later.  Then someone else asked the question I dread . . . where do your ideas come from?

That’s a tough one for me because I get so many ideas.  In January, I take part in Story Storm.  It used to be called Picture Book Idea Month.  The point is to make an effort to record your story ideas for a month.  The goal is to have 30.  I always continue to do it after January.  At this point, I have 86 ideas on my list and another 5 to 10 lurking in my e-mail.  I e-mail notes to myself when I’m on the treadmill.

Why?  Because a lot of my ideas come from things I read.  I’ve got my blog feed divided up into categories.  Most of my “news” category is history, archaeology and science.  Then there’s my literature/library/archive feed.  A post about a historic manuscript or a museum collection is often good for a story.  So are recent scientific findings in astronomy, paleontology, ecology and more.

Then there are the books I read.  Currently, I’m reading Deborah Blum’s Ghost Hunters. I got a lot read during my one day of jury duty and came away with three new ideas.  Secondary characters, art movements, architectural styles and more can spark a story idea.

Museum exhibits, documentaries, and NPR all present me with ideas.  If this, what about that?  Could people way back then really have known about this?  What if (insert whatever here) had never been invented?  I’ve been known to message myself photos taken with my phone of historic markers.

Writing friends who don’t suffer from an abundance ideas give me a hard time.  This isn’t a curse. It’s a blessing.

In truth, I would never call it a curse but it can be annoying.  It isn’t easy to write with so much chatter as ideas clamor for attention.  That’s why I write them down so that I can get a spot of peace and quiet.


April 9, 2019

What Do Your Writing Rituals Looks Like?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:54 am
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My Rejection Jar

Some people have a number of tried and true writing rituals.  Some people have very few.  I have two.

One comes into play when I have a lot to do and I feel like I’m not making much progress.  I set a timer and write for 25 minutes.  Then I get up and either walk on the treadmill for 5 minutes or do some quick picking up in one room.  I might pick up the shoes in the entry way, hang up jackets that are piled on the coat rack or clean off the dining room table. The latter is especially helpful if I have to get writing done and get the house cleaned because people are coming over.

Write intensely.  Then do something else for 5 minutes.  Write intensely.  Then do something else for 5 minutes.  Then write again.  After that I take a break up to half an hour and then repeat the three cycles again.  I’m not sure why this works but my productivity always increases.

When I am working on a rewrite, I print off the manuscript and go sit in the dining room.  I have my cup of coffee and my licorice candle. Again, working in the dining rooms seems to send a signal to my brain.  I’m just happy it works!

I used to have a third ritual. Whenever I got a rejection, I would pull a slip out of the “rejection jar.”  Each slip listed a treat – listen to a book and knit, go to a movie, go buy the yarn for a new project.  This way I associated rejection with something good.  And in reality it is a good thing because you are getting your work out there.  I actually haven’t done this in quite a while but it was really helpful in the past.

What writing rituals do you have?


April 8, 2019

Time to Vote: Crystal Kite Awards

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:37 am
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If you are an SCBWI member, it is time to cast your vote in the Crystal Kite Awards.  For those of you who have not voted before, the Crystal Kites are voted on by your peers, fellow authors and illustrators.  There is an award for each of the SCBWI regional divisions worldwide.

This is Round 1 in the voting which will continue through April 14.  Cast your vote for one book.  The winners in this Round will become the finalists in the Second/Final round.

To vote, just follow these simple steps.

  1. Go to the SCBWI site and log in.  You have to be logged in so this step is important.
  2. Once you have logged in and reached your member profile page, scroll to the bottom of the left hand menu and click on “Vote in the Crystal Kite Awards.”
  3. This will automatically take you to the correct region, thankfully.  I’m in Kansas-Missouri which is part of the Mid-South.  You can scroll down the page and click on “More Info” to find out additional information on any given book.  You can sort the books by Title, Author Name, or Illustrator Name.
  4. Once you have decided which book you want to vote for, click on the “Vote For This Book” button for the book you have chosen.  You will be asked to confirm you vote and then you simply click “yes” or “no.”

That’s all there is to it.   Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go look over 41 different books and cast my vote.  It is so exciting to see so many books that I recognize.


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