One Writer’s Journey

August 9, 2017

Picture Book Writing: How Many Picture Books Have You Read

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:15 am
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How many picture books have you read?   One piece of advice that I’ve heard time and time again is that if you are going to write picture books, you shouldn’t finalize even one manuscript until you have read 100 published picture books.  And these have to be recent picture books.  Recent?  That’s books that have been published in the last two years.

100?  Yes, 100.

That’s a lot, you say?  Yes, it is.  But it is essential.

Something that I’ve noticed is that a lot of would-be authors haven’t read anything since they were kids.  Or maybe since their own children were picture book aged.  They want to write because they remember how much their kids loved Sandra Boynton or Jan Brett.

And that’s great.  Really.  But you need to read recent books as well.  Reading 100 current picture books will be like a self-taught MA program.  Do this and you will learn:

How to keep it lean and mean. Picture books today are a lot shorter than the books that were published when my sister and I were kids.  I know this because we recently found a stack of our old favorites.  As I paged through them, I oohed and ahhed over illustrations that could still pull me into the story.  But I also noticed how long they all seemed.  And complicated.  Much more complicated than today’s picture books.  One main thread.  There are no tangents.  None.  I’d love to say that I always remember that.

How to tell a story in 500 words or less.  Telling a story in so few words is tricky.  And you need to read these kinds of stories to see how authors develop character, have their characters fail and try again, and do it all in so few words.

How page turns work.  No other book form is as reliant on the page turn as is the picture book.  Thing of that turn as the big reveal.  You can hide something behind it and completely change the direction of the story with the turn of a single page.  It is a built-in cliff hanger.

How to use picture book language. Picture books are meant to be read aloud.  Because of that there are language requirements that short stories and early readers may not have.  They have to sound playful and/or poetic when you read them out loud.  Practice this with your 100 books and you’ll learn how a picture book sounds.

Picture books are an art form.  Read and study 100 recent books to learn how this form functions and what is being done today.  And, if you really and truly love picture books, you’ll have a lot of fun doing it.

–SueBE

August 3, 2017

StoryWalks®

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:09 am
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Connect with young readers even outdoors.

Have any of you ever been fortunate enough to encounter a StoryWalk®?  I only learned that they existed earlier this week when someone asked about them on a community forum.

StoryWalk® is an innovative way for readers of all ages to enjoy reading in the outdoors. Laminated picture book pages are attached to wooden stakes positioned along a trail. As the reader strolls along, they can pause to read before moving on to the next page in the story.

StoryWalks® can be found in 50 states and 11 countries.  The original walk was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT. She put it together with help from Rachel Senechal, Kellogg-Hubbard Library.

The costs for each installation include 3 copies of the book (2 for laminating and one as ‘replacement parts) and lamination costs.  Stakes are a one time cost and can be reused for subsequent books.  Because the book is purchased and the owner of a book can do pretty much whatever with it, copyright problems do not come into play.

I have to admit that I wasn’t initially thrilled with the idea of cutting a book apart.  But pulling young readers into a story?  Making them want to read more?  Perhaps get their own copy of the book?  That is very attractive.

Does your community have a StoryWalk®?  Do you have an outdoor oriented picture book?  Or a picture book that has something to do with exercise or an outdoor activity?  This would be an excellent way to help young readers connect with your book.

Click here and here for more on StoryWalks®.  The second piece has some great tips and words of advice.  And here are a variety of Youtube videos on StoryWalks®.

–SueBE

 

 

July 20, 2017

What Are You Reading?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:07 am
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What books are you currently reading?  Do you have a stack of books on your bedside table?  Beside your favorite chair?  My dresser looks like a library dumping ground and this is the shelf of items currently checked out from the library. The two books on top of the Star Wars box are both adult fiction but all of the rest are children’s books.

The shelf has had a lot picture book on it lately.  Some of them are predictions for the Caldecott.  Some just caught my eye.  In truth, I’ve been focusing on reading picture books because I’ve been insanely busy and haven’t had time to read much else.

At the moment I’m reading three books.  Sioux Code Talkers by Andrea M. Page.  Ironically, since I just wrote about the DAPL, Page is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux, the reservation near which the pipeline crossed the Missouri River, putting their drinking water at risk.

I’m also reading The Photo Ark, a National Geographic book by photographer Joel Sartore.  Because of this one, I might move forward with a project I’ve been noodling over for something like 15 years.

Last but not least, I’m listening to the audio book of Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann.  That’s an adult nonfiction title about a series of murders of prominent Osage in the 1920s.  The subtitle of the book also indicates that it is about the formation of the FBI.  I don’t know yet if the case helped shape the FBI or if it was simply a matter of a case taking place at the same time as the shaping of the Bureau.

History and social science.  Animals.  Nonfiction.  Those things feature prominently in my reading pile.

So what are you reading?  It doesn’t have to be exactly what you are writing.  For example, I don’t read middle grade fantasy when I’m writing middle grade fantasy.  The voice is too often distracting.  But I can read picture books when I write picture books.

Take a minute and let the rest of us know what you are reading.  Maybe you’ll help us all find a new literary treasure.

–SueBE

June 8, 2017

World Reading Habits

As of Wednesday afternoon, I was half way through my rewrite – 4 chapters done and 4 to go.  Woo-hoo!

I took some time off to read a few blogs and found this oh-so interesting info-graphic.  What did I find interesting?  That 40% of American readers read print only.  I have to admit that when it comes to relaxation, I read print and only print.  I work on a screen so I’m not really very interested reading on it.

Then there was the list of best-selling books world-wide.  How many of them have you read?  I’ve read 13 of the 21.  Not bad but there are definitely a few on that list that I should pick up.  Like Don Quixote.

I was also pleasantry surprised to see that books have a larger share of the US media market than games.  Not what I expected, but an oh so pleasant surprise.

Anything on here surprise you?

–SueBE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This infographic is courtesy of Brendan Brown of Global English Editing. Visit them online at geediting.com or on Twitter @geediting.

April 26, 2017

“What is your favorite book?”

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:38 am
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“What is your favorite book?”
 
I shouldn’t be surprised when young readers ask me that, because teachers and other adults ask them the same question. But that’s a tough one for me. I probably had 10 or 20 “favorite books.” I’m not very good about picking out a favorite food or favorite color either.
 
Here are several of my favorites.
 
Black Beauty. I was a horse crazy kid so this was a natural for me which means that I also loved …
 
Everything by Marguerite Henry. My favorite may have been Mustang Wild Spirit of the West or San Domingo Medicine Hat Stallion.
 
The Boxcar Children. The original. I focused so intently on this, the first book, that I was shocked to find out it was a series. Yep. Writers are nothing if not observant.
 
Jared’s Island. I bought a remaindered copy of this at a library sale. Anyone who knows me is going to pick up on the name Jared. Yep. That’s where I got it.
The original Tarzan series.  Yes, Edgar Rice Burroughs.  I loved these books and this time around I did figure out that it was a series and I still own every single one of them although some are a bit besmirched.  I bought the last of them from a co-worker who read on the job in a foundry.
Everything by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  These were such a huge hit growing up that my sister and I had matching prairie dresses.  I kid you not at all.
These were my books. My parents and grandparents also had books that I adored.  I spent hours paging through my father’s copy of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.  My mother’s family medical encyclopedia was a huge hit because of the human anatomy drawings — I spent hours studying muscles and nerves and organs until she realized there were nudie people and hid the book.  I used to read Gene Stratton Porter books out loud with my grandmother.
And these are just the books that read before I got married.  What is my favorite book?  Too many to name just one!  The key?  They all had adventures that pulled me in and I could imagine myself in their pages.  My friends and I spent countless hours acting out and improving on these books and many more.  A girl can’t be Tarzan?  Pfft.  We never would have believed it and, in all truth, we still don’t.
–SueBE

December 27, 2016

Naughty or Nice?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:27 am
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books-1605416_1920Well, which list were you on this year?  Santa’s Naughty List or Santa’s Nice List?  I must have done okay because I got an Amazon gift card.  Now I just have to decide how to spend it.

My husband and I are deep into the Harry Dresden books so that’s one option.

I’m also getting ready to reread Kathy Reich’s Temperence Brennan novels and I know I’m missing one or two of those.

I could go through my call slips from the library.  When I request books, if I like something a lot, I make a notation on the pull slip to remind myself to buy the book.  Of course, I also do this to remind myself to request the next book in a series or to rerequest a book I didn’t have time to read.  This means that I have a stack of pull slips but that doesn’t mean that any of them are the “go buy this” variety.

Honestly, spending a book store gift card is brutal business.  You’ll note, Amazon sells everything but I consider this what?  A book store gift card.  Spending a gift card is never an easy thing for me.  I come up with ideas and consider each one.  Getting one thing means not getting something else.  Then I have to think some more.  Finally I go a bit nuts and just make myself do it.

I’ve even perused the Amazon bestseller lists. This is seldom a smart choice for me.  Every now and again I find something that reminds me — hey, I wanted that book.  But I’m seldom a best seller kind of girl.

Suffice it to say that I have not made up my mind.  Suggestions?  Hints?  Gentle nudges?

–SueBE

August 24, 2016

Early Literacy: 1000 Books Before Kindergarten

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:50 am
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reading boyThe St. Louis County Library system has an exciting new program — 1000 Books Before Kindergarten.  Studies show that children who have been read to since birth have an edge when it comes time to learn to read.  Why?  Because they have stronger language skills and vocabularies than children who have missed out on this experience.  Children who participate get prizes at 500 books and the full 1000 books.

  • What does this have to do with writing?  Think about the many ways that this program could be to your advantage if you write picture books. Ask to host a story time at your local library.  Read your books.  Read the books of other authors.  Simply watching kids react to books is great research for a picture book writer.
  • Offer various book related material as prizes.  Perhaps you could offer copies of your books or posters of your book cover.  Maybe you could even make a coloring page based on your book cover.  All of this gets word out about your book.
  • Does your church offer a preschool?  Offer a post-school story time for the kids and offer to speak to the parents about the importance of reading aloud to literacy.

I hope that you see where I’m going with this.  Even if you don’t live in St. Louis county, many libraries and humanities councils have early literacy programs.  Look for ways to hook into these programs, educate parents and turn kids on to reading.

It’s a great opportunity to experience your audience first hand.

–SueBE

 

August 8, 2016

Book Buys: Boy Books vs Girl Books

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:43 am
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booksIn our household, we seem to go on buying splurges.  While we buy groceries every week as well as toiletries, other items including yarn, picture frames and books seem to be bought only every now and again but in bulk.  The photo here shows, not only my skirts and feet, but also our most recent book purchases.

Can you guess which ones are boy books (husband and son) vs the girl books (mine)?  It might not be as easy as you think.  To help you out, I’ll list them here:

  • Sue Bradford Edwards’ Black Lives Matter 
  • Four books in Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series.
  • A Christian Cathedrals stained glass coloring book.
  • A sugar skull coloring book.
  • Fiasco, a book for a role-playing game.
  • Two D&D modules, The Rise of Tiamat and Hoard of the Dragon Queen
  • Christ Beside Me, Christ Within Me, a book of Celtic prayer by Beth Richardson.

So which ones are mine?  Obviously, I wrote the one so that’s a no brainer.  And if you’ve ID’ed coloring as more of a girl thing than I boy thing – I’m not sure about that but that’s the way it is here.

Actually, they’re all mine except for the gaming books.  I used to play D&D and my son has all of my books but he’s expanding our library.

And the Harry Dresden books are mine too.  Yes, my husband is reading them and he’s even a book ahead of me in the series, but I discovered the series first.

A lot is written about what girls read vs what boys read and girl books vs boy books.  The point that I’m hoping that this post makes is that a single reader’s interests can be very broad.  Don’t try to define what books they will read or will want to read based on their gender.  Reader interests are a lot more complicated than that.

–SueBE

 

July 21, 2016

Slush Pile Reading

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:04 am
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Palm, Hand, Human, Raised, Right, Open, Body, PartLast weekend when I was at the All Write Now! Conference, I witnessed my first slush pile reading panel.  It’s a little different from a first pages panel and works like this.

Conference participants get to turn in the first three pages of their manuscript.  During the session, the reader pulls a manuscript and then reads.  The panel, in this case mostly editors and agents, listen and when someone would stop reading he or she raises their hand.  Three hands up and the reader stops.  All of the manuscripts made it through the first page.  Many made it through the first three.

It was interesting to listen to the various panelists react to the manuscript.  Some of them told why they quit reading.  This was especially interesting when one person quit before the others.

Here are some of the things I gleaned from this session:

Don’t start with pure action.  If you do, the reader doesn’t know who the character is.  If the story is first person, they may not know gender, let alone age or anything else.  The reader has to care about the character and know what is at risk before they can really care about what is happening in the story.

Just as you can be too general, you can be overly specific.  Every time you mention the character’s car, we don’t need the model and color.

Summaries are a way of telling vs showing.  So are flashbacks.  If you have a flashback in the middle of chapter 1, trying moving it to the beginning of the chapter.

One of the most important things that I saw here was how subjective it all is.  One person might quit reading long before the rest of the group. Even when three people raised their hands, they did so at different points, some reading much more than others.  The lesson? Prepare your best work but understand that you may need to send it to many, many agents to find a good match.

–SueBE

May 25, 2016

Boy Books vs Girl Books

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:45 am
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children-1384386_1920.jpgTuesday morning I read a post on girl books saving the world.  The premise was that if boys would just read girl books they would be different (BETTER!) and the world would be saved.

For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that there are boy books and girl books.  I have a huge problem with this assumption based largely on what I do and do not read.  I do read fantasy, science fiction, mysteries, action and nonfiction (history, science, anthropology, nature).  I do not read romance or self help.  I’ll read the occassional graphic novel but I’ve given up picking them out myself.  My son picks them out for me.  He’s a boy and, simply put, I’m not.  But our reading overlaps.  So am I reading boy books?  Or is he reading girl books?

Or maybe, just maybe, we’re both reading . . . books.

As an author it is important to identify the audience for your book. It is the only way you will chose the right vocabulary and explain things in a way  that your audience will grasp.  And some of my books will definitely have more girl than boy readers.  With titles like Women in Sports and Women in Science, librarians and teachers are going to hand the books to girls.  And girls should read them, but so should boys.

Personally, I don’t think it is the attitude of the boys that we need to question.  What we should question is why we, the adults who put the books out there, are still setting up this boy vs girl dichotomy and then being shocked that it’s still there.

–SueBE

 

 

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