Thursday, November 30, 2017

Guest Blogger, Pamela Courtney and Her We Need Diverse Books Mentorship - introduced by Kathy Halsey

For me, one of the joys of being a children's writer is the great community and camaraderie that develops over time. Today my friend, writing partner, critique buddy, and fab educator, Pamela Courtney is on tap to share a post with us. 

Pam's  professional biography:
Pamela Courtney lives in Atlanta, GA, but the Red River of Louisiana permanently flows through her veins. She is a former Curriculum Consultant, but is now proud to claim herself "Teacher of some of the most intellectually stimulating Kindergarteners and 1st Graders." Pamela is a 2017 recipient of the We Need Diverse Books mentoring program; mentored by Carole Boston Weatherford.

Writing with Mentors: Musings, Mishaps, and Magic

Thank you Kathy. I am honored to have the opportunity to share my amazing journey in the We Need Diverse Books Mentorship program.

I’ve always dreamed of being mentored by an amazing children’s author. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the blessings coming my way.  Blessings that challenged my work ethic, that demanded diligent study of craft, and blessings that I would rely on, and cherish. Carole Boston Weatherford offered guidance in a way I had not expected.

I dreamed that my time with Carole would make the writing road smoother. I dreamed Carole would walk me through my own work step by step, line by line. I dreamed my mentor would correct every scene I wrote. It will be so easy. But, I had to leave that dream world, a daunting and necessary step for my growth.

In our Q & A time, Carole Boston Weatherford asked one question that stood out and has remained unanswered. “What do you hope to accomplish in our time together?”  [insert outrageous rambling here]. I thought I’d knock out several successful masterpieces (because yeah, I’m that good, and well, she’s CAROLE BOSTON WEATHERFORD). I reasoned that through magic that some sort of literary osmosis was definite. Carole was cool. “Well, let’s see. We’ll walk through this together.” No, no hand holding at all.
Carole Boston Weatherford Credit: Jeffery Weatherford

Was I ready to receive?

Incoming: “Your language is lovely. Powerful. You have a talent for visually creating a scene. That’s what drew me to your work. But … YOU  HAVE NO PLOT” Ahhh, there’s that “something.”  I straightened my back. I opened my arms. I sat waiting for her to tell me exactly what to do. Silence. This wasn’t easy.

Acquiring Experience: A consummate teacher, Carole maintained this consistent routine of guiding my writer’s eye. “Let’s discuss this scene. How powerful is it playing out? Think about how your students would receive this.” I kept waiting for her to, tell me what to do. This was guidance I hadn’t expected.

Nevertheless,  my work habits changed. Researching even the minutest of detail is part of my writing. Hmm … “sun beats down on backs already low to the ground.” Must research actual weather conditions during this period. Examining each line, determining its rightful place – Carol, showed me how to ask that specific question for each scene. Perhaps Carole’s question has been answered.  I realized that wanting to be a writer and positioning myself as a writer are dream worlds apart. Maintaining a posture of readiness is as crucial as developing work ethic muscles. I’m growing into a writer. Yes, I’ll say it, a good writer.

Here’s the magic. The education of crafting is ongoing. Seeing writing through Carole’s eyes broadened my vision of what writing, good writing for children should and can be. By the way, there was hand holding. Lots of hand holding. Step by step. Line by line. Thank you Carole Boston Weatherford. Thank you We Need Diverse Books. Thank you GROGers.

Monday, November 27, 2017

How to Feed and Care for a Book

by Sue Heavenrich 
Congratulations! You have a book! (If you are at the idea-germinating stage, then you need our guide on What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Book.) As joyous as this occasion is, books require a lot of love and guidance to reach maturity.

Whether this is your first book or your tenth, remember that each book has its own unique personality. Some books are easy-going, slapping words onto the page as fast as you can scribble. Others are shy. Rather than forcing them to come to the page, invite them out for pizza or ice cream. Ask how their day is going and practice your active listening skills. Perhaps they’re having a tough time with their narrative arc, or are stressed out by the amount of research they have to do. Your job, as a book parent, is to be a sounding board. Rather than offering solutions, spend time brainstorming with your book in a non-judgmental way. Perhaps your book will discover a new direction to explore.

Make sure your book gets lots of exercise, healthy meals, and plenty of sleep. Growing books need proper nutrition to support developing plot lines, and a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise to strengthen their fact-digging muscles. You can help by taking them with you when you head out for a walk or run. (A steady diet of coffee and m&m’s does not constitute a balanced diet.)

Include your book in family life and decisions. Working together on household chores, such as helping you cook dinner, fold laundry, or clean the litter box will give you and your book time to gossip about characters or debate issues. And when you discuss family vacations, make sure your book is involved. Other family members will need to know whether it will be going along or staying home alone. (note: books sometimes stow-away on flash drives.)

Submitting your book to agents and publishers is a lot like sending a kid to college. Make sure you check out potential agents and editors to see if they are a good fit for your book. Don’t pin your hopes on that “one editor”; submit applications queries to a few publishing houses/agents at a time. Once your book is accepted, make sure you read their financial package carefully so that both of you understand your obligations.

At this point it’s premature to worry about “empty nest syndrome”. Your book will come back to visit one or more times for what editors call “revision” and your book refers to as “self-loathing and adolescent angst”. Some books, particularly nonfiction, return home for more tutoring while others need to work on their language skills. Give your book a hug and remind it that you’re on its side. Be kind but firm when you tell it that it needs to undergo crucial changes to become the best it can be. Let your book know that it is not alone; all books go through the “edits”. Eventually it will metamorphose into its final stage, with a hard shell and words that sing.

A note on sibling rivalry: Do Not redecorate your book’s bedroom or give its favorite jeans to your shiny new Work-in-Progress until your book is well on its way to the printer.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving Break This Week - by Kathy Halsey

Good morning and Happy Thanksgiving week. The GROG is taking a breather in order to find our giblets, stretchy pants, and stuffing recipes. 

We are very thankful to you, our readers and followers, for supporting us by sharing posts and adding comments. Wishing you all a wonderful holiday.

Photography by Leslie Colin Tribble
When we return look forward to posts like these:

  • Guest blogger Pamela Courtney
  • An interview with Nancy Churnin
  • Guest post by Heather Preusser on beat sheets and how they can strengthen your manuscript

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Angie Karcher and the Rhyme Revolution

 By Janie Reinart
Pass the hot chocolate and celebrate the merry Angie Karcher. Her gifts to us keep on giving:
*Founder of Rhyme Revolution, formerly RhyPiBoMo (Rhyming Picture Book Month) in April
*The Best in Rhyme Award in February
*The RPB(Rhyming Picture Book) Revolution Conference in New Harmony, IN-October 12-14, 2018

Santa's checked and Angie is definitely on the nice list. Angie's goal is to guide those aspiring to write rhyming picture books through the process of learning the craft by offering resources, lessons, and writing prompts. She strives to improve the reputation and quality of rhyming picture books for children.

Archival photo of the Santa statue built for a Christmas bazaar in the 1970’s

Hang your stockings. There's going to be a giveaway as we find out about Angie's newest book, Santa's Gift. 

         Rafflecopter giveaway.

1. Who is your agent?

I‘m actually between agents right now. You know, author purgatory, where you seek an agent who is the perfect fit??? 

That’s where I am, although I am “dating” a few agents right now. I’m in no hurry to sign with someone, as I realize that this relationship is vital to my career and it’s SO important to find just the right person! Someone who gets me and my writing…That’s not easy to find. I think I have found this person but can’t share it yet.


2. How did you get the idea for your story?

I was traveling quite a bit in early 2016 and when I got home in June I heard that someone had found the Santa Claus statue! I knew immediately that this needed to be my next picture book. This statue was a huge part of my childhood and the story needed to be shared.

3. What is your favorite part of the story?

My favorite part was when the kids looked up at Santa and he was a giant! That’s how I remember him as a child and he is actually 35 feet tall so to a child…that’s ginourmous!

4. How long did it take to write? Get to a publisher?

I wrote the story in a few weeks after I faltered with a meter that resembled the song, OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS… 

After a few weeks, I threw away everything I’d written and started over and finally came up with this story that had the exact rhythm to…OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS.  What a crazy business this is! I can sing it to this song word for word…

Brains are a complex organ!!

My publisher was the original publisher of my two other historical non-fiction books, M.T. Publishing.

Mark Thompson, my publisher was ready to take this ride with me and he supported this manuscript. He’s my hero! Along the way, he received a new liver, so that makes him a hero and a miracle man!!

Angie's office.


5. What is your writing routine? 

I typically start at 8:00 PM and typically write until the sun comes up. I sleep until my youngest son gets home from school at 3:00 pm and then do it again the next day. 

Why does my brain work best at night? Part of it is because I had 4 children under the age of 6 and it was out of necessity. The rest is because I hate mornings! I only get up early for book talks, book signings and conferences!

6. What is your favorite writing craft book?   

How to Write Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul. This book is being updated and I can’t wait to get my copy of the new version!

7. What inspires you to write? 

The ideas are bouncing around in my head daily. The inspiration comes from the time spent as a Kindergarten teacher and a parent of four. The world needs more books that encourage positive thinking and living.

8. What are you working on now? 

I have two new rhyming picture books coming out next year with my illustrator Dana Karcher. One is about a world war two ship called the LST (Landing Ship Tank) which was built in Evansville, Indiana, the cornfield shipyard and credited for saving World War II. 

And the second picture book is about Bosse Field, the baseball field that was used in the filming of A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, about the women’s baseball league during WW two. We are thrilled to be sharing these historic stories. I also have three non-fiction books coming out as well.

9. Words of advice for writers. 

Don’t quit! I have been at this writing gig for over 23 years and I’m just now beginning to break through the ice. 

It’s a tough job but only those writers who have a passion for the career will make it. Build a thick skin and keep writing and submitting!! One day… it will happen for you too!

Order Santa's Gift here. Also available at and Amazon.

Angie is a children’s author with over 20 years of teaching and writing experience. She is a former kindergarten teacher, developmental therapist and blogger.

 Find Angie on Facebook.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Ten Tips for the Wanna-Be-Focused Writer by Tina Cho

One question I'm constantly asked is, "How do you it--writing and working full time with children?"
Me and my kids, 8 years ago!

I don't have a perfect formula, but I'll share my writing process and how I try to balance priorities with kids. This post has caused me to reflect back many years, as my kids are now in 10th and 7th grades. 

In no special order, here are 10 tips or behaviors that help me stay on top of my writing.

1. Deadlines & Support
When my kids were ages 6 and 3, I started writing. While my daughter was at school, I wrote when my son was occupied with his toys, nap time, etc...I started writing for the educational market as a freelance writer. This meant I had deadlines. And deadlines meant I needed to write. period. My husband helped out with the kids, taking them to the park or entertaining them so I could write peacefully without interruptions. And sometimes, I needed my kids to help me develop crafts for educational sites.

Paper & Pen All the Time
I kept a small notebook and pen in my purse. When I took the kids to the park, I carried a bag with a big notebook and pen. While they played, I wrote. And oftentimes, their play was my inspiration. I used every minute--waiting at a restaurant, riding in the car, riding on the subway. I thought and planned through stories. 

By solitude, I mean, being the ONLY one. As most of you know, I'm in another country, hardly speak the language, and so I don't go out as often as I would if I were home in the states. So that pretty much confines me to my office. I don't meet up with a lot of friends like I would if I were in the states. I think that has made a difference in the time I'm able to commit to writing. I'm not suggesting you need to move across the world to get writing time in, but limiting social outings does enable you to get more accomplished.

Order In or Go Out
One awesome thing about South Korea is that you can order anything, and it arrives via motorcycle--KFC, pizza, McDonalds, noodles, soup. So when I'm on a tight deadline, I don't cook. We either order out or go out. If I cook, the whole ordeal can take 1.5-2 hours because Korean cooking is a lot of chopping and marinating. I try to plan ahead sometimes and have meals prepared, but it doesn't always work for me. I'm not skilled in this area. And sometimes, my wonderful husband has supper ready when I come home :)
Lists, Baby!
I would be totally lost without my lists. I have notepads or Post Its that I list things that need to be written or accomplished for the day. Boy, does it feel good to cross something out. And for a writer who needs to be serious, it plans your day so you don't need to waste time thinking about what you're supposed to do. I know some writers have a writing calendar and schedule what needs to be done.

BIC & Stay on Task
You all probably know Jane Yolen's famous BIC, "butt in chair," wisdom. It's true. You don't get writing accomplished if you don't sit down. But taking it even further from a teacher aspect (I'm also a teacher), means you have to "stay on task." That's one behavior I have to grade my students on. How much do we writers stay on task without peeking at our email, notifications on Facebook or Twitter? So if I'm crunched for time, I let those things be my REWARDS for good behavior. Even today, I had horrendous revisions on my novel. I was BIC for 8 hours. (It's Saturday.) I critiqued a manuscript for a critique partner, then revised for the next hour and a half. Then I did a load of laundry and called family in Iowa. (You have to give your eyes rest periods. And that's how housework gets done!) After revising two chapters, I gave myself the reward of checking Facebook and email. Hubby took me to lunch--there's that no cooking thing. After that I wrote all afternoon with a 20 minute nap in the middle, more laundry, and more revising until my kids came home from a basketball tournament in Seoul at 6 pm.
I don't watch TV here. Frankly, I don't know what they're saying, and if there is a program in English, I'm not interested, nor do I have the time to watch it until school vacations. 

Keep Priorities Straight 
I've learned the hard way that it's important to keep priorities. For me, God must come first before I open my email. I spend quiet time reading the Bible and praying. I know others of you do similar things or meditate. Second, my family comes next. It's very easy for me to put work ahead of my family, and that's something I have to constantly work on. If my kids have a home volleyball or basketball game, I'm there. And if my husband planned something for us or with his dad, I'm there. I just have to be flexible and work around it. And since I also work full-time as many of you do, we have to use our time wisely, which is why I spent my entire Saturday revising my novel for my agent. It's impossible to do on weeknights when I'm groggy. Speaking of weeknights, I do write after supper. I have to. I have three educational clients. Thankfully, the work evens out so things aren't due at the same time.

Critique Groups
Being in three critique groups also keeps me on my toes. I'm critiquing throughout the week but even better, I have to work on my own WIP to send to them when it's my turn. This is excellent training for BIC.

Need I say more?  :)

Actually, I will. Eating chocolate means I need to exercise. While riding my exercise bike, I listen to writerly podcasts or catch up on blog posts about writing because I'm still learning. #killing2birdswith1stone

And at the end of the day, I still tuck my kiddos in bed and kiss them goodnight. I write in my thankful journal and go to bed. Yes, I do have pen and paper nearby.
Mother's Day 2017
I hope some of these tips might help you in your writing process! If you have other tips, please list them.

You can find me at, @TinaMCho