Throughout March, I am taking part in ReFoReMo or Read for Research Month. In this picture book writing challenge, you read a wide variety of books and then read blog posts by various authors on how to use the mentor texts to improve your work.
One of the books for last week was Jacob Grant’s Cat Knit. Personally, as a knitter, I was immediately hooked. That said, I do suspect that Grant has been the recipient of an unwanted sweater or three. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the book, it tells the story of Cat and his friendship with Girl. One day, Girl brings home a colorful new friend, Yarn. Cat quickly bonds with Yarn and their friendship grows. But then the unthinkable happens. Yarn becomes a snug, itchy sweater. Cat abandons his friend outside and only then notices just how awfully cold it is. Fortunately, Cat and Yarn are reunited although one suspects that there might be more knitting to come.
On the surface, it all looks pretty simple. You have a story about a cat, a girl and yarn. It is a book about knitting. And that’s true enough but if you go a bit deeper and you’ll find the theme.
Cat Knit is also a book about friendship and change. One friend changes and the other friend is initially resistant and just can’t deal with it. Fortunately, before it is too late, Cat realizes that “Warming up to something new takes time.”
Except for that last bit in parenthesis, Grant doesn’t say it. He implies it. He writes about it. He hides it in a story about a cat, a girl and yarn. Because he makes this part of the lesson covert, it is one of the themes of the book and teaches without preaching.
Don’t preach. We hear that bit of advice all the time. Fortunately we have Cat Knit and Jacob Grant to show us how to do it right.
As all of you know, I love a good writing challenge. Hint: NaNoWriMo? Not a good challenge. Storystorm? An excellent challenge.
What’s the difference between good and bad? Do-able while maintaining my sanity. Here are two challenges that I just discovered.
Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo).
This one is all about reading picture books as research for writing picture books. Having just looked at the reading list, I’m trying to decide just how do-able this is. The first four days list 10-11 books/day. Now, I have a library card and I can request titles. But I can only request 25 at a time. Yeah.
That said, I want to discover how other authors use mentor texts. I love the idea of mentor texts but I’ve never found it terribly successful. I think that 95% of the problem is that I want to follow the mentor text too closely as if it was a template. I’m hoping that this challenge, even if I can’t get every book ahead of time, will help me understand how other author’s use mentor texts and how they can be more helpful in my own writing.
This one starts Monday, February 27.
The Chapter Book Challenge (ChaBooCha).
This one is NaNoWriMo for children’s writers. In the month of March, you are challenged to write a complete draft of a YA or MG novel, chapter book or early reader. I’m signing up for this because I want to see what is what and how it differs from NaNoWriMo. I’m hoping it will be less insanity inducing than NaNoWriMo.
Intelligently enough, they encourage you to start with an outline. I’m going to work on Iron Mountain. Of course, I can also get an early reader roughed next month because those don’t take nearly as long as finishing my young adult. There are blog posts and a Facebook group and I’m looking forward to see what kind of information they put out there.
Hopefully one of these will interest some of you!