Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Staying AFLOAT with Picture Book Author Laura Sassi: 4 Writerly Things I Learned From Noah & his Ark (And a GIVEAWAY!)

I want to welcome one of my writing buddies, Laura Sassi, to the Grog blog.  I'm so proud of Laura, because she's on a blog tour for her debut picture book, Goodnight, Ark, published by Zonderkidz. I've had the opportunity to read it, and some special person will win a copy here. (U.S. residents only)

Take it away, Laura...

Thank you for hosting me on my first ever blog tour! I’m so excited that GOODNIGHT, ARK is finally afloat, but the journey to this point was not easy. I spent two years getting my story ready to float. Was all that time worth it? You bet. 

Now, in celebration of the release of GOODNIGHT, ARK, here are four things Noah and his ark have taught me about getting boats, er stories, to float. 

Don’t expect your boat to float overnight. When I first got the idea for GOODNIGHT, ARK my mind whirred with possibilities. Which animals would be scared of what?  How would they get to Noah’s bed? And how would Noah ever comfort them and return them to their bunks?  I knew early on that I wanted to write the story in rhyme but finding the perfect meter and line length did not come easily. So I played around with plot and form again, and again, and again. Each time I finished a draft, I’d put it away and work on other things for several weeks so I could see it with fresh eyes. I repeated this cycle for two years and each time the story improved so much that it ended up with two offers! That experience has taught me not to worry about how long a story is taking me to write. Instead, I relax and let creativity work at its own pace until my stories are buoyant and ready to set sail.

Every ARK needs an ARC. Even with all that revising, my agent thought the initial version of GOODNIGHT ARK I sent her was too quiet. In that early version, the storm escalated and animals kept piling in, but there was no sense of rising action or urgency in resolving the night-time pile up. Except for the fact that the animals changed, the scenes were essentially static. In other words what the ark needed was an arc! The story still needed to be soothing for littlest readers, so I knew any tension/ rising action I infused had to be playful and fun. It took many hours of writing and re-writing, but I hope readers will agree that the final version with its ark tipping, bed crashing buildup and stinky, yet ultimately soothing, resolution is anything but static. I now analyse all my stories for effective rising action, climax, and resolution early on in the writing process. One way I do this is by making a 32-page dummy. That way it’s easy to see if your scenes are static as they build across 14 - 15 spreads or if there’s a sense of rising action etc. Plus, it’s a lot of fun, especially if you have little ones at home who like illustrating your dummies!



Don’t overload the decks. Noah’s ark was sturdy and well-planned with three decks, but though Noah may have been tempted to bring aboard extra animals, thank goodness, he showed restraint and took only two of each. Overcrowding would have put a strain on provisions. Worse yet, the ark might have capsized! Likewise, as a writer, I’m sometimes tempted to overcrowd my story with cute phrases and details that only weigh down the plot. During early stages of a project, I don’t worry about overwriting. My goal at that point is simply to build my story. Before I let it out of the port, however, I make sure to streamline the plot so every word and event pushes the story forward.

Everything’s better with a buddy. Noah didn’t try to build the ark all alone. His family cheered him on and pitched in with the building, providing much needed moral support amid the taunts and jeers of the onlookers. Likewise, I’ve found that the long, hard journey to publication just wouldn’t be the same without a nice support system. For me this includes my family, my lovely agent, and the wonderful network of like-minded children’s writers I’ve connected with over the years, many of whom have become dear friends and trusted critique partners. So, my last bit of ark-themed advice for staying afloat and giving your stories a floating chance, is to find a writing buddy or two to join you on the journey!


BIO:Laura’s poems, stories, articles and crafts have appeared in many publications including Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider, Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr., FamilyFun, and Pack-O-Fun. GOODNIGHT, ARK, published by Zonderkidz, a HarperCollins Company, and illustrated by Jane Chapman is her first picture book. She is represented by Lara Perkins of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Laura writes from her century-old home in New Jersey where she lives with her awesome husband, two adorable kids, and a black cockapoo named Sophie. You can also find her on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter. 

Leave a comment for Laura here and sign on the Rafflecopter to be entered into a drawing to win her new picture book, Goodnight, Ark. To be eligible, you must be a U.S. resident and have a physical address, not a P.O. Box. Thanks! Drawing will be held Sunday 9/21 after 8 pm CST.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

36 comments:

  1. Appreciations, Laura. I enjoyed this article.

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  2. Great floatation devices for not sinking your manuscript, Laura!

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  3. Well said, Laura, and great advice!

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  4. I had read a review of Goodnight Ark, and already have it on my Amazon wish list, so I was excited to get an inside scoop on the development of a book that was already on my radar! Great advice! It was interesting to learn it wasn't all "smooth sailing" to get it to print! Lots of challenges that ultimately made for a better book! Thanks for the post!

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    1. Yes, all the challenges along the way, and the prompting by critique buddies and my agent to keep pushing it to the next level, definitely resulted in a stronger manuscript. Best of luck with your own sailing!

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  5. I especially enjoyed hearing how you activated your quiet story. That's often my dilemma. And having family illustrate your dummy--what a fun idea! Best wishes for much success!

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    1. We share a similar dilemma, then. And I have to say that activating the story line using a dummy really helped. Happy activating to you!

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  6. Thank you for the much-needed advice. The book sounds adorable!

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  7. So great to see fellow Jersey author here. Great advice Laura!

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  8. Thank you all for stopping by! Happy "floaty" writing, all!

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  9. It sounds like it was a real process to publish a book and a long road getting there.

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  10. Wow...you tagged me with the admonition to not 'worry about how long a story is taking me to write." I have so many in the dry dock, and when I walk up to my workS-in-progress I only tend to see workS-in-stagnancy. Thanks for the encouraging post! You book is on my wish-list!

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  11. Laura, I so enjoyed your Ark's journey . . . so helpful to all of us who are writing PBs. I look forward to reading it!

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  12. Every ARK needs an ARC- I'll take that! ;)

    Laura may be a debut, but she is a pro through and through, as the post shows.

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  13. Lara, what a fun way to 'build" your ark, er, I mean your post. The story sounds like such a fun book. I hope I win it. Great advice for us PB writers. I gotta do a dummy next of my ms.

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  14. Congrats Laura!

    "Every ARK needs an ARC- I'll take that! ;)" LOL

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  15. I just reserved it at the library and can't wait to read it. Congratulations!

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  16. This is a cute way to remind us of some basic stuff we ought to remember but have too much other stuff cluttering up our neural pathways... Great post! thanks for sharing your Ark journey.

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  17. I absolutely love this story. Thanks for sharing your insights into getting published too. :)

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  18. What a great idea for a picture book! and thanks for sharing your story.

    And I agree. Writing partners are great. I don't know what I'd do without mine.

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  19. This is so much fun! I love all the wordplay in your post! And such great advice. I think one of the hardest things I had to learn and have to keep practicing is "relax and let creativity work at its own pace".
    Wonderful post, Laura!

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  20. Wow! You all have made my day. It's been wonderful to stop by here at GROG throughout the day and see all the comments. One of the things I really love about the picture book writing community is how we cheer each other on and support each other with the writerly things we've learned along the way. May all your stories set sail!

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    1. Laura, you have put "wind beneath our wings."

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  21. Great advice ! The book looks wonderful Ms. Sassi! :)

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  22. A unique perspective to a biblical story, I can't wait to see your story arc in Goodnight Arc. congratulations!

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  23. Thanks for the great advice and congratulations on setting sail on your Ark!

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  24. I love the idea of the 32 page dummy! Once you can visualize the scenes and see them written down it really helps to know if all is working! Thanks for the great advice and Congrats and I wish you the very best with your writing ventures!

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  25. Great interview, Laura. Congrats on Goodnight Ark -- it's sure to make a splash! :-)

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  26. I heard about this title in advance & am so happy to see this interview here. Lotsa great sharing, thank you! Kudos to Laura!

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  27. Laura: Thank you for the four writerly tips and for sharing your journey on how you stayed afloat. I look forward to reading a copy of your book, Goodnight Ark. The illustrations by Jane Chapman are delightful. ~Suzy Leopold

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  28. Thank you all for your comments and thank you, GROG, for having me. It's fun to sail these writerly seas together and to grow and be encouraged as writers. Best to all, Laura

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  29. Excellent writerly tips, Laura! The first one really resonates with me. The creative process can't be rushed. :)

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    1. Yes, letting ideas flow on their own time is so important. You are so good at this. A wonderful strength.

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    2. Aw, thanks, Laura! That's so sweet of you to say. :)

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  30. I always love learning from successful authors. Thank you Tina for making this post happen!

    TB

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