Friday, July 31, 2015

Reading, Writing and ... Research?

Some tips to help you discover the hidden treasure of your next project.

by Leslie Colin Tribble

Have you ever had the most perfect idea for a nonfiction picture book hit you like a tsunami? The idea washes over you, engulfing you in its absolute brilliance and you rush to your computer, ready to type as fast as your thoughts are flying. 

But then you stop because you realize this will require research. You realize you have no idea where to begin, where to start. How will you find all the juicy information that will make your book different from the rest? How do you actually DO research for a picture book?

I asked several of the Groggers how they start sleuthing for information. Read on to learn about research techniques from this group as well as some pointers from the recent Week of Writing (WOW) retreat.

Look It Up at Your Local Library
Nearly all of the Groggers said their first step is visitng their local library. Start locally but search statewide to save some time. Utilize your library system's inter library loan to request materials. It's gnerally cheaper to pay the fee for an ILL than purchase all those books. It also helps you decide which books are the best resources and which ones you really won't need.

Delve into the digital goodness of This online card catalog resource "connects you to the collections and services of more than 10,000 libraries worldwide." WorldCat displays materials in libraries near you, including other states. This is a great way just to see what's already been written on a topic.

Browse the Bibliographies
After you've read all those books from the library, check out the bibliographies. There's a goldmine of resources hidden in those pages. Some bibliographic resources might be out of print or hiding in a locked case at a library you can't get to. Marcie Flinchum Atkins recommends checking for out of print or unusual books.

Another resource that can be helpful is the bibliography and links at the end of a Wikipedia article. But as Candace Fleming reminded the attendees of the WOW Retreat, Wikipedia is not a source. Use it as a first step if you need help getting started finding materials.

Identify the Experts
Often during your research you'll find a few names of experts which keep popping up. These are the folks you'll want to contact for an interview down the road. Experts are the final go to resource after you’ve done all your other research.

While you're in your discovery phase, you'll want to keep in mind the four paths of research which Candace Fleming talked to WOW participants about.
  • First are the primary sources. These are autobiographies, interviews, eyewitness accounts, journals or anything else that came directly from the subject of your research.
  • The second path are your secondary sources - newspaper and magazine articles, biographies and other books about your subject.
  • Third comes my personal favorite - travel. If you can get to a place that was intimately connected with your subject then you’ll have a deeper understanding of the person and what makes them special. However, travel can be expensive and time consuming. Sometimes we have to fore go this path of research. Sigh.
  • Finally, after you’ve done your homework, talk to the experts. Interviewing experts at the end of your work is a great way to fill in any gaps or unearth that nugget that will make your story glow.

Now you have a road map to start your research project. This discovery process can sometimes be as much fun as the actual writing, especially if you can add in some travel to your book work. Now get out there and get that research done!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

PLEASE USE THE D WORD ~ by: Jackie Wellington

Growing up I wasn’t allowed to use the D word. Not that one. The other one. Yes, dummy. It always had such a negative connotation. I can still hear Momma's words echoing in my ear. “You say that again and I’m going to wash your mouth out with soap.” Well, that was years ago.
Today, saying the D word is encouraged, especially if you’re a picture book writer. For instance, less than a month ago, I was at the WOW Retreat in Helen, Georgia. In our round table group session, one of the writers looked at me and said, “You can read rhyme, right?” I said yes and she handed me her picture book manuscript.
Normally, I would have time to read the manuscript, establish a rhythm in my head, and recite the story like I was a rapper at a freestyle battle. But that was not an option; no dropping the mic and walking off the stage. I was to read it aloud, in front of an agent and three other writers, right then and there. At that moment,  I took a deep breath and read, only fumbling a few times. I did my best. Honestly!
When it was time to discuss the manuscript, the agent who was facilitating the round table referenced a section and said, “I didn’t get it.” At that time, the writer went in her bag, pulled out a dummy, and handed it to the agent. The agent inspected the dummy, flipping through the pages. Then the agent looked at the author and said, “Aah. I didn’t get that when it was read.” It was that moment I realized the importance of a dummy. It helps others to visualize your words, your sentences, your story.
The standard picture book dummy have thirty two pages.  A few pages left for the publisher to do their housecleaning. Try making a dummy. Start your story on page four or five. Cut your manuscript up and fit it on the pages. It sounds easy, but trust me, it isn't.
I have heard about writers making dummies as they write. I have met some who swore to a dummy’s effectiveness. Me, I have never made a dummy, and there are reasons for that. One, I cannot draw. Two, I cannot draw. Three, I cannot draw. 
For me, I could not conceptualize any other way to make a dummy without drawing. So I never attempted to make one. But I am always learning from other writers. This writer taught me you do not have to be an artist to make a dummy. She uses clip art or cut pictures from books, magazines, and the computer. Now I am fascinated.
One of the sessions, the lovely Denise Fleming taught the attendees how to make a dummy. I was so ecstatic to do so. When I got home, I took a twelve hundred word historical fiction manuscript and created a dummy. This process allowed me to cut three hundred and thirteen words from that manuscript. I know right? Unbelievable. WOW...That was all I could say.
So thanks to all those writers who inspire and encourage me to make dummies. Thanks for helping me visualize my words, my sentences, my story. 
To all of you, I am grateful! I am honored to join a group of writers who believe in dummies. And I am happy to join a group of writers who knows it is okay to use the D word. 
If you would like to learn how to make a picture book dummy, check out Shawna J.C. Tenney below or click here.  Google images of picture book dummies. I do not have permission to share them here; but there are plenty on the internet for you to browse.

Shaskan, Stephen. "32 Page Picture Book Dummy Template." Stephen Shaskan. N.p., 15 Nov. 2013. Web. 28 July 2015.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Good Morning Sunshine by Kathy Halsey

Good morning Sunshine! Today we talk about my version of Morning Pages. I first heard this term about a year ago from writer friend, Pam Vaughan. Morning Pages is the brainchild of Julia Cameron from her seminal book THE ARTIST'S WAY. By ridding the mind of the mundane, the everyday practice on paper can help the writer stop thought loops from interfering with what is really important. Morning Pages (MP) can clear clutter from the mind and give us a fresh slate with which to begin our true work for the day.

Julia's advice is to write three longhand pages uncensored as a daily practice. It is a goal of mine that I dip in and out of  every few months. My discipline is not yet a habit, but for this go-round I am in a "pinky swear" with Pam to write MPs. We check in weekly and motivate each other.  No admonishments because writers are very good at piling on the blame.

My Version 
My version of MPs doesn't involve the first thing that pops into my head and the time suggestion has morphed from morning to afternoon on occasion, too. I do find a peace in my yellow legal pads waiting for me to start the day and the sound of a smooth pen gliding across the surface, a writer ice skating with words that flow. 

I don't just get out the mental detritus the has built up overnight, but, rather freely write on ideas that I've been massaging in my brain. I want to capture that first set of ideas and "can" the freshness of the moment I first write them down. I don't edit or revise, I just spill ink on a particular topic.Through writing I discover ideas and sometimes I like the shape they take and sometimes I don't. But, that's OK. Lately my ideas center around my parents and family times when I was young: listening to baseball games on a radio with my dad, a special weekend in Shaker Village with my mother, what the library felt like to me as child. I consider these "pre-writings" of stories that may bear fruit, but for that morning, it's enough to get them on paper. 

Candy's Crazy Pages
Candace Fleming (3rd from left) and several GROGers at WOW Retreat 2015
Candace Fleming's insightful morning session on the first day of Kristen Fulton's WOW Retreat 2015, gave my hybrid practice of MPs some validation. Candace bravely shared her "messy writing," her longhand pages on wide-lined paper and a Bic pen. This is her discovery process, random thoughts, her "crazy pages," as she calls them. In Candy's crazy pages, she 
writes about her story,  
writes around her story,
writes about not writing it.
She talks to herself on paper to discover the heart of the story.
This felt so organic and freeing for me, personally. I bet most, if not all, the conference attendees felt lighter and happier knowing that we were being given permission by Candace Fleming to mess around with our work. 

Other Ideas
Earlier this year, one of my favorite manuscript's defied me, and I couldn't begin it. I desperately wanted to write this picture book biography. Why was it being so stubborn? One critique partner suggested I write a letter to my main character. Another suggested I write diary entries in her first person voice. Finally, a critique partner suggested that I write about why I could not begin the story. 
I wrote six-some pages for two or three days. I purged the whys out of me in cathartic MPs sessions and found the heart of my story. I also found what drew me to my main character and how we were similar but different. Now, that manuscript is on submission because I overcame my writing block. 
I am a firm believer in creating your own version of Morning Pages, Crazy Pages, Afternoon Pages, whatever you choose to name the practice. Free yourself up, play, or purge on paper, so you can get to your true purpose and motivation. Good morning, sunshine, your words say "hello".


Friday, July 24, 2015

Why You Need to go to a Conference

By Leslie Colin Tribble

I'm the queen of cheap, the princess of penny pinchers, the tsarina of thrift. In other words, I don't spend money very often nor very readily. That's one of the reasons why going to a conference isn't easy for me. But I recently attend the WOW  (Week of Writing) Conference and I am SO GLAD I did.

Conferences are good for every writer and here are a few reasons why.

1. Networking
All those Facebook writing friends you have, actually become real flesh and blood folks when you attend a conference. Meeting the other GROGGERS at WOW was so much fun! Networking in person strengthens bonds and make you feel a part of something larger. Writers hole up in their offices, cars or coffee shops and can go days without really connecting with other writers. Conferences pave the way for finding like-minded individuals with whom you can connect once you get back home.

2. Learning
Conferences like regional SCBWI events or Highlights or any of the other myriad events you can attend go out of their way to secure top flight faculty. This is the best way to immerse yourself in the knowledge and experience of people who are successful at what you want to do. All of the teaching sessions at WOW were excellent, but getting to listen to Candace Fleming speak for 6 hours was alone worth the cost of the conference.

3. Finding Your Tribe
I had five days at WOW to talk to people I'd never met and discover they are just like me - not published and not agented. Ok! There's hope for everyone! Sometimes I did chat with someone who is agented and/or published and found out they're normal people as well. Just because you're on the next rung of the writing ladder doesn't mean you stop learning, stop connecting, or stop needing your tribe.

4. Getting Feedback
We had round table sessions at WOW where we read our manuscripts to a small group moderated by an agent, editor or published writer. Those sessions were invaluable for me. I got great, constructive, positive feedback which will help me grow in this profession. I had one agent tell me my story itself wasn't really working, but that I'm a good writer and would get it figured out. Having an agent say that I'm a good writer was again, worth the cost of the conference and then some. That kind of validation is such a soothing balm to a writer's fragile ego.

5. Fun
After the sessions are over, the round tables have finished and the individual critiques are done comes the fun. Sitting out under amazing starry skies and chatting with new friends over a glass of wine is where the true magic of a conference happens. Sharing life is really the best part of any event. That's real networking.

So which conference do you really want to attend? Figure out a way to make it happen. Start saving now. Find out if there are any scholarships or grants you can apply for. Do something extra to earn the money but GET THERE.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


     I "met" Nancy Day online after she posted a comment on my last blog post. She mentioned she would be happy to be interviewed, and when I found out she wrote nonfiction in rhyme--two of my favorites--I jumped on board. Let's get started.


Tell us a little bit about your writing journey and your background.


     From the age of 12, I knew I wanted to write books for children some day, but started by writing for adults. For years, I wrote nonfiction magazine articles, often as historical and health-related subjects. Once I had my own kids, I got back to my first love--picture books.
     My children's book, The Lion's Whiskers: An Ethiopian Folktale, was a New York Times notable book of 1995. All of my eight picture books since then, whether classified as fiction or nonfiction, have involved some research. But Way Down Below Deep (Pelican, 2014), a rhyming book about deep ocean creatures, demanded the most painstaking research.

How did you come up with your subject?


     I have always loved the ocean. I remember avidly watching Jacques Cousteau on TV as a child. I've always tried to live near an ocean and get on it or in it as much as possible!
     When my first editor encouraged me to write a book for a well-known science series and asked if I had a topic in mind, I suggested deep ocean exploration on the spot. It's like earth's final frontier, and now that cameras can go where humans cannot, we are learning about the alien-looking life there at a rapid pace.

How did you research that topic?

     I read several fascinating and beautiful books about deep ocean creatures, but much of my research was online on wonderful websites like Monterey Bay Aquarium's. New discoveries are being made all the time, so what we know about these creatures is constantly being changed and updated.

How did you decide which sea creatures to use? Did your choice at all depend on how you could find rhymes to fit?


     I tended to go for the ones that had the most unusual features (such as the world's largest eyes) or the most outstanding adaptations to deal with the dark, cold, extreme pressure, and lack of oxygen found in the deep. I tried to pick creatures that were different from one another as well. I stuck with the ones I chose and eventually found rhymes to fit.

Have you always written in rhyme, or did you decide to try it in your book?


     Once I had researched deep ocean creatures and chosen my cast of characters, I sat down to write. And it started coming to me in rhyme---not what I was supposed to do. But, it was more fun and challenging to me, and I thought it would be more fun--and memorable--for young readers as well. So I decided to see where it took me--and whether I could sell it to a different publisher.

     Of my nine published picture books, five are in rhyme, including the four most recent ones.

From start to finish, about how long did it take before publication? How did the process shape up?


     I started researching in 2009, so I guess five years. I finished writing it and started sending it to publishers in 2010. Once Pelican bought it in 2013, the process went quickly. David Sheldon did an amazing job on the illustrations--amazingly quickly. Even with all the picky research questions the Pelican editors asked David and me to make sure text and art were as factually accurate as possible, the book, Way Down Below Deep, was out by Fall of 2014.


How difficult was it to find rhymes for the subject matter?


     Some subjects were harder than others; explaining how tube worms make food by chemosynthesis instead of photosynthesis where there is no sunlight was probably hardest. Here's what I came up with:


     Even harder in spots was fitting some long creature names into the poetry's rhythm. That's why I couldn't fit the glowing sucker octopus's name into the verse itself; the journal note came in handy for that.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to also do nonfiction in rhyme?


     It's hard to fit the facts you want to get across in rhyme form. So first, I'd advise the writer to think hard about whether rhyme is the best way to go for the subject matter. If you're determined to write nonfiction in rhyme, decide what you want to get across up front. In the stanza of verse for each creature, I had to pick the most sensational and/or humorous aspect to feature.

     Then, look for ways to include additional information that doesn't fit into the rhyme scheme. I came up with the marine biologist's daughter's journal as a kid-friendly way to present additional facts. For interested (and probably older) readers, a page at the back provides more information on each creature.

Can you name some other books in rhyme that would be good to study?


     In nonfiction, Marianne Berkes' Over In The Ocean: In a Coral Reef comes to mind. Also, In The Trees, Honeybees! by Lori Mortensen. And anything by April Pulley Sayres. My favorite fiction poets are Mary Ann Hoberman, Julia Donaldson, and Linda Ashman--all worth studying. And I must add my own What In The World? Numbers in Nature, coming from Beach Lane Books September 1.


Thanks, Nancy. You've shown us it can be done, and done well.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Reflections From WOW

WOW participants and faculty, at the end of a full week
There's nothing like a writer's conference to get those creative juices flowing. Nine of the GROGger gang were lucky enough to participate in the WOW [Week of Writing] conference for children's writers last week in the Georgia mountains. 

Wow! Sessions on the craft of writing, markets, and critiques, individual manuscript critiques, round tables, arts and crafts, games, costumes, and meeting other kid lit peeps. Here are some of the tidbits we picked up.

Kristen and The GROGgers 
WOW 2015
From the Desk of Suzy Leopold:
Are You a Good Critiquer
Presentation by 

Kendra Marcus & Minju Chang 
of BookStop Literary.

Think about the following points and thoughts about 
critique groups . . . 
Spectacular view of the
Southern Appalachian Mountains
  • Are you good at giving AND receiving critiques? 
  • As a writer you are the consumer. 
  • Is your critique group a good match for you and your genre of writing? 
  • Is your critique group digging out and helping you solve your writing challenges? 
  • How often do you meet? 
  • Do you want critiquers to support your writing with a *feel good feeling* or do you want honest, direct critiques with fresh eyes? 
  • Does everyone in attendance receive an equal amount of time and attention for their manuscripts? 
  • Ground rules must be established. 
  • An agenda must be followed.
Denise Fleming
Candace Fleming

Dianna Huttts Aston

Christy Mihaly's Post-Wow Resolutions:
  • Read more! Read everything!
  • Write more poetry. Poetry, and playing with language, help you practice using language creatively. Use picturesque language.
  • Revise, revise, revise my manuscripts, with a focus on three things: developing my voice, making my characters compelling, and cutting words where the pictures can carry the tale.

Kathy Halsey's Revelations of WOW's awesomeness:
  • From Kendra Marcus, a quote that left me gobsmacked. "Our job is to stretch the ears of the audience." Kendra said this while speaking about word choice, but stretching children's minds and hearts is why we write. Thank you, Kendra!
  • From one of my critique partners, Kathleen Birmingham, "Your strength is your voice." True d'at. We all need to find it and own it.
  • Candy Fleming had the best kickoff EVER. Your story is scenes and summaries. Find them, mark them up. And, if you have a chance to see Denise, do it.
  • Denise Fleming: 
  • You have an artist within you. Find it. Create a spread with section of your text. Dummy it; create it w/tissue paper and glue. It is a guide to your true story.
  • Come to WOW. Kristen Fulton has created an awesome cadre of talented writers/agents/editors who support each other.   
Editor/Agent table during Trivia Night

Leslie Colin Tribble WOW Words of Wisdom:
  • Candace Fleming did the Monday intensive, which alone was worth the price of the conference. She talked a lot about scenes to move the story forward and finding your "vital idea" or heart of the story. 
  • Laura Whitaker, editor, told us, "The most important thing is to stay true to your vision, so speak up."
  • Jill Corcoran, agent, "Passion is people who change the world."
  • Editor Emily Feinberg reminded us that we're storytellers first and foremost.

From the desk of: Sherri Jones Rivers
  • Candace Fleming: used a baking analogy. "With fiction, you can bake a cake that's yummy and use any ingredient you want. With nonfiction, you have to bake with ingredients that are already at hand; you have to use what's there."
  • "There are three voices--the author's, the manuscript's, and the character's."
  • "Scenes are made up of 1. Specific time, 2. Specific place, and 3. One change."
  • "In every single paragraph, put one of the five senses; and you can mix them--'the lion roared yellow.'"
  • Ariel Richardson on novelty books - "Study what's out there. Ask yourself if it's possible to do it. Does it stand out?"
  • Denise Fleming - "Any activity that enlarges a book helps sell it."
  • Laura Whitaker:  I learned the term "breaking the fourth wall." That's when narrator speaks to reader.
From the desk (really, it's just a laptop in a lap) of Patricia Toht
Nuggets from the Fleming non-sisters: 
  • "Every book is a learning curve, a discovery process." (Candace) 
  • "Sometimes the material will tell you how to write the story." (Candace) 
  • "Really great picture books have a heart to the story, a vital idea." (Candace) 
  • "Let the illustrator illustrate the adjectives. As a writer, you should focus on the verbs, the emotional feel." 
  • (Denise) "If your PB isn't hopping by page 10 (of your manuscript layout dummy), you're blabbing too much." (Candace) 
  • "Let go of your ego. Your illustrator can think of things you've never thought of." (Denise)
Evening campfire at beautiful Unicoi Lodge

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Resources for Writers

by Leslie Colin Tribble

Resources like dictionaries and thesauri are as individual as the writers who own them. Some writers use multiple resources and can't even imagine starting to write without being surrounded by their nearest and dearest. Other writers only pick one up when they're looking for a specific word or are stuck on a particularly unrelenting language pothole.

I recently queried people from two Facebook groups and asked which resources they couldn't live without. Here are their responses with the most mentioned resources listed first. Maybe you'll find something on this list to help your writing journey. Let us know which resources are your personal favorites.

Flip Dictionary - this resource was mentioned several times and is a perennial favorite.

Online Dictionary and Thesaurus - there are several such as Merriam Webster and Find one you like and stick with it.

Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

World Cat - global network of library content - tool to answer kids' questions about anything or any online rhyming dictionary

SCBWI The Book: The Essential Guide to Publishing for Children

EasyBib - online bibliography maker

The Purdue Online Writing Lab (Owl) - Purdue offers over 200 free resources for writers

The Time Tables of History - an 'on this day in history' resource

Please comment below and help us add to this list.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Clip, Clip Here: Pruning Your Word Count by Kathy Halsey

[Disclaimer: All GROG posts this week come to you while many of us are at the WOW Retreat. Read with caution! LOL]
Hum along with me as I sing from the Wizard of Oz, "Clip, clip here, clip, clip there. We give the roughest claws that certain savoir faire in the merry old land of Oz." A makeover feels wonderful, doesn't it? Hair trimmed, nails clipped, manuscript tightened. Yes, even our work needs trimming, especially if we write picture books. Lately I've been called the queen of "slash and burn."I don't mind owning that title. Let me tell you my tricks of the trade.

Trade Secrets
  • Look for "orphans." Linda Sue Park shared this secret last year at the LA SCBWI annual conference. Skim your text for paragraphs that only have a few words hanging out alone on a line. Re-read that 'graph and cut it until there's a nice chunk of text w/no "hangers-on."
  • Think carefully about monikers. Main characters with middle names or titles can spell trouble for word count, and they are tiresome to read aloud, too. Here are a few examples from my work or other critique partners: Lil' Boogie, John Jr., Gracie Mae. If you must use a complicated name, use it once and then shorten it through the rest of the story.
  • Tag lines can be slashed in dialogue. Once a conversation ensues, you really may not need the "said Kate," or "exclaimed Evan." Trust your reader to know who your characters are by their distinctive voices. 
  • Scan and cut prepositional phrases. Instead of saying, "the mouth of the river," try "the river's mouth."
  • Modify the modifier. If you must use an adjective or adverb, just use one. 
  • Print your manuscript and peruse it for repeated phrases that add nothing. We all have those repeated lines that can be slashed. Usually these are transitional words such as "next," "now, "then." If there's a page turn, it serves as a physical reminder of time, so slash away.
  • Dummies! Not calling anybody out here, just know that I don't always create a picture book dummy, but when I do, I usually cut a ton of words.
  • Pare verbs. I'm prone to stringing verbs together in my first drafts. So I watch for constructions like "I went to see a movie," and whittle it to "I saw a movie." 
  • Chunks of text - How a draft looks on a page is important. I look for what I call "dense" paragraphs which are huge chunks of text. I reread these to see if I can thin them out. 
Ah, feel better? You look marvelous with that new trim and so does your lean, mean manuscript.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Part II Hearing Voices: 6 Steps I Used For Creating An Anthology

Dog tags by Lesley Blake
These love stories show the heartache and joy, the fear and pride of mothers awaiting the safe return of their soldiers. The beginning of the article (first three steps), Part I Hearing Voices: 6 Steps I Used For Creating An Anthology can be found here.

4. Search For A Publisher

My first query was sent to a large publishing house interested in war memoirs. My query was rejected. I sent a second query letter with three requested chapters and book outline to a regional press. I approached Gray & Company, Publishers,because they had published a book similar in format to what I envisioned for Love You More Than You Know. After two weeks, I received a call from the publisher. (I was shaking when I found out who it was on the phone.) He was interested, but wanted more stories than I currently had.

5. Call for Submissions

The initial collection included only a dozen stories. I needed to reach more contributors. I had tried word of mouth, personal contacts, referrals, speaking engagements, and articles in the local community newspaper.

Regina Brett

Looking for a larger network, I turned to Regina Brett, a columnist at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, to put out a call for submissions. She graciously featured the vision for our anthology in her column and on her radio show on WCPN FM, our local NPR affiliate. The response was overwhelming. Military moms from Ohio stepped forward and their writing would become the mouthpiece for the world community.

After I arrived home from downtown Cleveland from the radio show, my inbox was filled with inquiries about submissions for the anthology. To organize the flood of e-mails, I painstakingly added names to my computer address book. I placed each story into its own electronic folder and included pictures, and author biographies. The stage was set. I invited contributors to join a blog for encouragement and tips as the writing began. Within a few months of selecting, editing,(I cried through editing 70,000 words), and compiling a manuscript, there were more stories to send to the publisher.

6. Secure Release Forms

Release forms are legally required from authors, and photographers, for text and photos used in the anthology. Deployed soldiers also needed to grant us permission to use their letters, e-mails, and pictures included in their mother’s stories. Each family was sent release forms with a self-addressed stamped envelope to be returned to me. Depending on the situation, international phone calls, e-mails, and even PDF files containing signed release forms helped complete the process. All the release forms were sent to the publisher by registered mail.

The Power of Anthology

When the book was published (on May 1, 2009, my birthday) and we gathered for our book launch, contributors hugged their copies close and some shed tears. Although the mothers in the anthology did not receive monetary compensation, they wanted to be part of this powerful chorus of voices. They wanted to be heard “loud and clear.” One mother confided that to this day, she carries her story in her purse everywhere she goes so that it is always with her. Another mom told how she cried the whole time she was writing, but felt like she was starting to heal. These 45 powerful tales of love, faith, and courage, remind our readers that our children stand in front of our flag, risking their lives so that we can live ours.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

How to Think Like a Writer in Summer by Tina Cho

Hooray! It's summer. Even though you might be busy with vacations, family reunions, and kids at home, you can still think like a writer and fill your notebook with ideas for when you get some precious minutes to sit down and write. Here are some summery tips:

1. Reminisce with relatives.As you attend family reunions or travel to visit relatives, talk about childhood memories and look at old photo albums. Maybe something from your past can spark a story idea.

2. Fill your tablet/iPad with books. Maybe you're hitting the beach or traveling in the car, download some books to read for yourself and your kids. Summer is the perfect time to catch up on the latest books. 

3. Take note of new settings. While you're on vacation, write about your new setting using the five senses. Maybe this will be the backdrop for a new story. Take photos to accompany your notes so that you can remember clearly.

4. What to do with your kids? This is a tricky one depending on their ages.
  • Keep the kids reading. Enroll them in Scholastic's Summer Club for free. Each day they type in the number of minutes they read. They earn badges, I believe. Overall, their number of minutes is added into the total number of minutes by ALL children enrolled in the program. My son likes to see how his minutes increase the total. So while they read, YOU can have some time to write. Brilliant, huh! I've already started this.

  • If you have little kids, take them to your library's reading program. Usually they have a special summer program and events. This allows you to stay on top of the latest books, too. 
  • Hit museums and zoos. Something interesting might tickle your fancy and become the topic for your next book! Your kids won't know that you're really going to these places for yourself :) 

  • Attend play places. Plop yourself down with a notebook and observe children's play. Listen to their language, names, games, and notice their clothing. A child's name or cute statement might want to be in your next story.

  • Watch a children's movie.(Again, the kids and grand kids are just the excuse.) Watch the movie from the eyes of the writer. How would you write the beat sheet for this movie? (plot line) If you don't know what I'm referring to, you must check out Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Many picture book writers and novelists use the beat sheet to plot their stories.
5. Set a summer goal to write for something new. Try writing a story or article for your favorite children's or adult magazine. Check out 3-5 issues from your library. Study the style and submissions guidelines. Who doesn't want to make a little extra money?

6. Invent a summer recipe to make with your child/grand child. I've been inspired by my writer friend and critique buddy, Vivian Kirkfield, who published Show Me How! Build Your Child's Self-esteem through Reading, Crafting, and Cooking. She took picture books, developed crafts, and invented recipes to go along with the stories. Genius! Try it! Many children's and parent magazines would love to have your recipes!

I hope these tips give you some ideas as you engage in your summer activities. Happy Summer! ( and Happy Winter to our friends down under)