Tuesday, December 26, 2017

used with permission, Lorie Ransom  See more of her cartoons at The Daily Drawing.

Unfortunately the diagramming construction is incorrect – even scarier than a visit from grammar ghost. The last part of speech is a predicate adjective, so the line should point back to the “being” verb like this:
You (Mr. Scrooge) | have been \ bad
                                                       \ very

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Holiday Greetings from the GROG

The GROG will be taking a long winter's nap until the new year. Here are a few pictures and messageses from us to you to tide you over until 2018. We'll have a differs tweaky schedule and a new GROGger. Your support, shares, comments have kept us going in 2017. May your holidays be bright and your writing dreams come true.
Thank you,
The GROG staff

Patty Toht shares this wonderful quote: “Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall” 
― Larry Wilde 

Huzzah and Happy Holidays, GROG readers. Enjoy some seasonal books with your family. Kathy Halsey

Many blessings for a Happy and Healthy New Year. ❤️ Love Janie Reinart

Monday, December 18, 2017

Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Blog Post) by Heather Preusser

 I "met" Heather through a 12 X 12 fabulous webinar on using beats in your picture books. I tried it on a few of  my favorite books to see how it worked, and found it fascinating. I need to use it on my own manuscripts, but I have a fear that they will come up short. That being said, I know when I do apply it, I will see some holes that I need to fill in. Heather was gracious enough to write about how she uses the book. So, Heather, take it away!

Blake Snyder's Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting
You'll Ever Need

is a must read for all writers. Whenever I'm stuck on a manuscript, I turn to the official "Blake Snyder Beat Sheet" (a.k.a. the BS2). According to Snyder, this is the "measure-twice/cut-once calculation that will save you time" and build the foundation for your story.

Janice Hardy has a concise explanation of each beat as well as how they align to the three-act structure and the hero's journey.

To demonstrate, I put one of my favorite picture books, SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK) by Julie Falatko and Tim Miller (Viking, February, 2016), through the "BS2" test:

Opening image: One of my favorite parts of this book is the hidden opening image. When you take off the dust jacket, Snappsy is lying in bed in his pajamas with his bunny slippers nestled nearby. He's reading what William Shakespeare considers to be 
"[t]he best book ever"; this book, the one we're reading now. Stuffed animal versions of bunny, duck, and pig, animals that appear later in the story, enjoy the book as well. "Hey! Do you mind?" Snappsy says in a speech bubble, demonstrating his contempt for us not only interrupting his bedtime routine, but also for being featured in a book that he clearly does not want to be in.

Theme stated: On the flap inside the jacket, the narrator and Snappsy have a conversation, suggesting that one shouldn't judge a book--or, in this case, a humble alligator--by outward appearances. Then, again, the reader should judge this book by its cover, as it brilliantly established the story's tone, type, and style.

Set-up: In the first few pages, we've been introduced to Snappsy, a humble, minds-his-own-business character. He's the everyman character we can all relate to. We've also been introduced to the unreliable narrator who exaggerates the truth.

Catalyst: In a Stranger-than-Fiction moment, Snappsy finds he has been cast as the main character in a children's picture book.

Debate:  Will the annoying narrator go away if Snappsy breaks the fourth wall and addresses the narrator's rude behavior directly?

Break into Two: We only have to jump over the gutter to answer this question: no, that pesky narrator is not going away anytime soon. Because of this, Snappsy doesn't march deliberately into act two; instead he's unwillingly propelled. He is forced to leave the old world, the thesis statement, behind and enters the antithetical world, the one where he is no longer solitary and in control.

B Story: In the B story, we're introduced to new characters, such as the pig selling jungle scooters and innocent soft bunny slippers. Additional characters like the yellow rubber duck , duck, and mouse are introduced later.

Fun and Games:  After renting a jungle scooter and shimmying through the forest, Snappsy addresses the invisible narrator again, calling attention to the cardinal picture-book rule that the text shouldn't merely reiterate what's already in the illustrations. On the next page, he continues to search for food, first in a "forest" and then in a grocery store. As the fun and games continue, the discrepancy between the text and the illustrations creates tension and heightens the mood. Of all the books I analyzed, this one took the reader on the longest fun-and-games romp.

Midpoint: Fourteen pages in, Snappsy opens the door to his "surprisingly lopsided shack" and hangs a sign on the door handle that says "No Narrators Allowed." (Ironically, he hangs it over the welcome mat as the duck and mouse look on in the foreground) On the next page, he slams the door, sending the rubber duck in the wading pool flying. This is a false victory for our hero: He gets the peace and quite he's been so desperately seeking; however, he still has a ways to go before he learns the lessons he really needs. Things are worse off now than they were at the story's start because now not only do we have a ticked off protagonist, but we also have a boring story line, as demonstrated by the purposeful repetition at the bottom of the page: "He was still inside. Still inside." The rubber ducky lying upside down in a puddle next to the wading pool also symbolizes the current upside down situation.

Bad Guys Close In:  The "camera" zooms in closer; and we see a film-noir-esque silhoutte of Snappsy, emphasizing his sharp, menacing teeth, as he supposedly makes "craft plans" to "[roast] innocent forest creatures."

All Is Lost: After turning the page, we zoom in closer. Now we're inside Snappy's spacious and well-decorated home (he and Snoopy must have the same interior decorator), and it's clear that Snappsy's "crafty plans" involve eating a peanut butter sandwich and reading a book. That he refuses to subject himself to the story's narration represents another false victory for our protagonist.

Dark Night of the Soul: After giving in and trying to appease the narrator by throwing a party to make things interesting, Snappsy loses it on the next page, a spread that emphasizes his exasperation. He goes on a long rant, the longest in the book, about how he didn't ask to be in the book. Now, he simply wants the narrator to "buzz off"!

 This is a "whiff of death" moment that is also hinted at two page turns later when we spot the narrator through the window, imploringly looking inside at the festivities.

Break Into Three: Snappsy reaches way, deep down and pulls out that last, best idea that will save himself and everyone around him. He opens the door and welcomes the narrator inside! The word "Welcome" scrolled across the doormat in the foreground emphasizes that this is the world of synthesis. Even the critters we saw earlier--the bunny, duck, pig, and mouse--are all here for the party.

Finale:  The party guests enjoy pudding and dancing. Both Snappsy and the narrator have learned to accommodate each other--somewhat. They've learned how mutually beneficial their relationship can be. After all, a party is never complete without a celebratory Chicken Dance.

Final Image:  Under the dust jacket on the back cover, we see an image of the narrator hard at work. He sits at his desk, typing the story we've just finished. Motivational sayings like "Born to write" and "Note to self! Narrators rule!!" are pinned prominently on his wall as well as a fashionable portrait of him in a smoking jacket with a pipe, the ultimate status symbol. The number of crumbled pages in the nearby trash can all allude to the number of drafts the chicken had to write to get the story just right,while the empty pages on this desk hint that there's still more of Snappsy's story to come (the sequel, SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR AND HIS BEST FRIEND FOREVER(PROBABLY) was released October, 2017)

Heather Preusser earned a BA in English and art history from Williams College, an MA in education from the University of Colorado, and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine. In her debut picture book, A SYMPHONY OF COWBELLS, a Swiss dairy cow loses her bell and disrupts the harmony of the herd When not writing, Heather teaches high school English, bikes the European countryside, and attempts to learn ridiculously long German words. She and her husband reside in Colorado.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

What's New at the Library

By Leslie Colin Tribble

It's time for another installment of What's New at the Library. I ran over to our Children's Library and grabbed a few new books off the shelves. I hope you find some great reads here, and maybe even a Christmas present or two to a lucky little person. Enjoy!


Me and You and the Red Canoe - Jean E Pendziwol, illustrator Phil (no last name)
This is one of those quiet picture books that a wonderful editor took a chance on and brought to the world. Thank goodness! If you have someone in your family that loves fishing, this is a beautiful book. I love the pictures - they are detailed and realistic, but look old, thanks to the talents of Phil. The text is poetic and flowing. Here's the description of reeling in a trout:

                                            "Then silver leapt from
                                             water to sky,
                                             soared from sky to water . . . "

You only see the backs of the two who are fishing and there is no reference to gender. They look a bit like boys, an older and younger brother, but they could just as well be girls, making this book appropriate for anyone who loves to fish.

Pup and Bear - Kate Banks; illustrator Naoko Stoop
This book is about the circle of life and how we can be kind and caring to those who are not like us. Wolf pup gets separated from his pack and is found by a polar bear. Polar bears generally eat wolf pups, 'but not this one.' Bear tells the pup that he is not the pup's mother, but he can teach him to fish and keep him safe and warm. Pup eventually grows up and finds a wolf pack of his own, but then he comes across a lost polar bear cub. There are many lessons to be learned from this book with its simple, yet engaging illustrations. This sweet book is bound to be a favorite with children of all ages.

Shelter - Celine Claire; illustrator Qin Leng
Shelter is another book about kindness to strangers. The animals of the forest are preparing for a winter storm when two strangers arrive in the neighborhood seeking shelter and food. They knock at each forest family's door but are turned away, but little Fox provides them with a lantern. The strangers end up building their own warm shelter in a snow bank, but at the home of the Fox family disaster strikes. The Foxes are taken in by the strangers though, proving that generosity and kindness are better than fear. This would be a good book to spark a discussion about how our actions impact others and how even small acts of kindness are important.

Tea with Oliver - Mika Song
I really enjoyed this book, partly because I thought Oliver the cat was really cute but also because he just wants someone, anyone to have tea with him. For me, a tea party is the best kind of party, so I could really relate to Oliver. Although Oliver doesn't know it, there is someone who wants to have tea with him - it's Philbert the mouse who lives under the couch. Philbert, who is shy, tries several different ways to tell Oliver he'd love to have tea, but each attempt fails. Finally Philbert finds his voice and the two new friends enjoy a wonderful tea party, complete with cookies. I love how Philbert finds courage and strength to go after what he wants - a good lesson for each of us. Mika's illustrations are simple but with just enough detail to keep children entertained. Let's all go have a tea party!

Read the Book, Lemmings! - Ame Dyckman; illustrator Zachariah OHora
Foxy and Captain PB are aboard the S.S. Cliff when Foxy decides to finally read his book about lemmings. Reading aloud, Foxy is surprised to discover lemmings don't usually jump off cliffs, but the lemming crew misunderstand and off they go, overboard. The story goes on with the lemmings continually jumping overboard and having to be rescued by Foxy and Captain PB. this is all because the lemmings haven't read the book. This is a fun book by the same duo that brought us Wolfie, the Bunny. Kids will love this book - the lemmings are adorable and so full of life you just want to join them in their misadventures. Reading, it turns out, is really important, even to lemmings!

Monday, December 11, 2017

An Interview with Nancy Churnin

By Leslie Colin Tribble

Last year at the 2016 Week of Writing Conference in Georgia, I had the utmost good fortune to be roomies with Nancy Churnin. We didn't know each other, nor was her name even familiar to me, but our chance meeting has given me sort of a front row seat in watching a career develop and forge ahead full steam. Nancy's debut picture book biography, William Hoy, How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game was published in 2016 and she has a pipeline of other recently published books and ones still to come. I asked Nancy is she'd be willing to do an interview for the GROG, and with trademark grace and kindness she agreed. I hope you enjoy learning from Nancy - she has wonderful things to say to those of us still waiting our publishing debut.

1. What made you decide to foray into the field of children's literature?
A man named Steve Sandy, who is deaf and a friend of the William Hoy family, told me his dream for William Hoy, the deaf hero who introduced signals to baseball so he could play the game he loved, to be inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I promised I would write a children’s book so kids would know the story and that the kids who got to know William Hoy would help by writing letters to the Hall of Fame. Kids have written almost 1,000 letters! I fell so in love with writing children’s books about “hidden” heroes — inspiring people that kids didn’t know about yet — I just kept going. My new book, Manjhi Moves a Mountain, came out in September and I will have three more books out in 2018. 

2. Had you done any writing for children before or was participating in Julie Hedlund's 12x12 your first foray into the world of children's literature?
I had written stories on my own that I sent out on my own that never went beyond anyone’s slush pile. Making the promise to Steve Sandy took me to a new level of seriousness and purpose. When I finally realized that I was going to need to know a lot more about writing children’s books in order to keep my promise, I began signing up for online groups and classes. Finding 12X12 was transformative. All of a sudden I found myself surrounded by folks on different stages of their writing journey, all willing and eager to help each other, to critique manuscripts, to explain what an effective query letter was. That’s where I truly began to learn how much I needed to learn!

3. You found your agent as a participant of 12X12. Can you tell us about that?
One of the perks of the gold membership in 2013 was the opportunity to submit to one agent each month. During this time I knew that my story on William Hoy wasn’t ready, so I sent out different stories to the first six agents of January through June. They were all rejected. Then, in July I woke up at  4:00 am with a brainstorm about how to rewrite William Hoy based on what I had learned the previous six months. I sent it to Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary, the agent of that month, and she got back to me within the hour saying she wanted to send it out! Now I should tell you that that version of William Hoy also met with rejections, but nice, detailed ones. I studied what the editors were saying and then I got another brainstorm. Karen sent out my freshly revised version again in 2014 and voila! The lovely Wendy McClure of Albert Whitman accepted it right away. I am now working on my third book with Wendy and each journey is a joy. Karen sold my second book, Manjhi Moves a Mountain, to Marissa Moss at Creston Books and that has been an amazing experience as well. I am working on my third book with Marissa now, too. I feel so blessed to work with both of these editors.

4. How many books do you have out now (including ones yet to be published that you can talk about)?
I have two books out now and three more coming out in 2018. There’s one more that will come out in 2019 IF I can get it right. First up in 2018 is Charlie Takes His Shot, How Charlie Sifford Broke the Color Barrier in Golf in January. It’s the true story of Charlie Sifford who was inspired by what Jackie Robinson did for baseball to become the first African American golfer on the PGA Tour. Irving Berlin, the Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing comes out in June. It’s the story of a boy who came to America as a penniless refugee from Russia and went on to write one of America’s most patriotic songs, “God Bless America.” The Queen and the First Christmas Tree, coming in September, is the story of Queen Charlotte, a kind queen with a heart for children, who introduced the first Christmas tree to Windsor Castle in 1800.  

5. How do you choose your topics/individuals that you write about?
I am always looking for the untold stories of people who inspire me and who helped make the world a better place. There are many worthy subjects, but the stories I know I will tell best are the ones that tug at my heart and won’t let go. If I can’t stop thinking about them, I know I have to write about them.
6. How do you balance your regular career with your children's writing career?
I am very fortunate to have work that I enjoy as a theater critic with the Dallas Morning News. It gives me the opportunity to see and evaluate the creative work of other people, to interview people about their work and to spread word of good work with our readers. I try not to overthink how I do both because I’m afraid if I think about it too much I would be like one of those cartoon characters running off a cliff and continuing to run because she doesn’t realize there’s only air beneath her! I just shoehorn it in wherever I can. It probably helps that I have no hobbies and all I like to do is write and read and see shows!

7.  Tell us about your research and writing methods - how do you do your research, how long you take to research, how long it takes for you to write your first draft, etc.
The time it takes varies. I can write a first draft very quickly. But my first draft is never my last draft! I worked on William How for 10 YEARS. Manjhi, in contrast, took roughly five months. Charlie Takes His Shot took a couple of weeks. I’m working on one now that I don’t know how long it will take. As for how I research, the Internet and the library are my friends. When I was researching Manjhi, I found interviews with him on YouTube. I try to find out everything I can, then I put everything I learned aside and try to focus and feel the heart of the story. Who is this person? What was this person’s dream? What was his or her fear? What were the challenges in the journey? What was it about this person that led up to his or her success in achieving this dream and, for me, how did this make the world better? After I write that draft and revise it enough to be happy with it, I search out experts to fact check me. That’s where I learn how many things from secondary sources can be incorrect! The reading and notes from experts have been essential for me.
8. How many revisions do you go through before your manuscript is finalized?
I lost track of how many revisions I did for William Hoy. It took me 10 years, so I imagine hundreds. For Manjhi, maybe 30 or 40. I actually like to revise. I want the books to be as good as they can be for the kids. The better made they are the longer they will last.

9. What nuggets can you give to those of us who are still waiting for that first publishing contract?
Don’t give up. Remember why you’re doing this. You have a story you need to tell, that only you can tell in the way you do. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Find critique buddies and support groups you trust. Remember we are not always the best judge of what needs to happen when. Trust the universe. Yes, it took me 10 years to sell William Hoy and I shed my share of tears in those 10 years. But looking back, I shudder at the thought that one of those early versions of the story would have been printed rather than the book that I am so proud of today. I trust my agent and my editors and when they tell me a manuscript isn’t ready, I will work on it again and again until it is. That said, you also need to find the agent and editors that “get” you. Somehow you have to figure out the difference between a manuscript that isn’t ready yet, and one that simply hasn’t found the right editor and home. Don’t give up and you will get there. And don’t stop submitting. I submitted to every contest and took advantage of every submission opportunity. Remember, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. 

Nancy, thanks for the interview! I'm so glad we met at WOW 2016!

Nancy Churnin is the theater critic for The Dallas Morning News and author of THE WILLIAM HOY STORY, HOW A DEAF BASEBALL PLAYER CHANGED THE GAME (Albert Whitman), on the 2016 New York Public Library Best Books for Kids list, the 2017 Texas Library Association's 2X2 and Topaz lists, the 2018 Illinois School Library Media Association's Monarch Award Master List and Connecticut's 2018 Charter Oak Children's Book Awards list. MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN (Creston Books), a 2017 Junior Library Guild selection and Silver Eureka Award-winner from the California Reading Association, on the Mirrors & Windows long list from the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association and the Children's Book Council showcase. Coming out in 2018: CHARLIE MAKES HIS SHOT: HOW CHARLIE SIFFORD BROKE THE COLOR BARRIER IN GOLF (Albert Whitman in January); IRVING BERLIN, THE IMMIGRANT BOY WHO MADE AMERICA SING (Creston Books in June) and THE QUEEN AND THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE (Albert Whitman in September). A native New Yorker, she's a graduate of Harvard University, with a master's from Columbia University School of Journalism, who is happy to live in North Texas.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Channah's Star

Embed from Getty Images
By Janie Reinart

Lift a mug of hot chocolate for the merry, not naughty but nice, Susanna Leonard Hill.

It's time for the 7th Annual Holiday Contest.

1.Write a 250 word holiday story about A Holiday Surprise, appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under). The title is not included in the 250 words. You can go under, but not over the word count!

2. No illustration notes please! You may submit more than one entry. 

3.Your entry should be posted on your blog between 12:01 AM EST Thursday December 7 and Sunday December 10 at 11:59 PM EST, and your post-specific link should be added to the link list on the official holiday contest post which will go up on Susanna's blog on Thursday December 7 and remain up through Friday December 15, 2017.  

Thank you, Susanna for always inviting us to to be merry and for the gifts for the winners! Here is my 249 word story for the contest. Thank you for stopping by. Many blessings for a Happy Holiday.

 Channah's Star
By Janie Reinart 

I am Channah, the innkeeper’s daughter. Balancing a jar on my head, I hasten to bring water to our many guests.

My feet kick up puffs of dirt. I place clay lamps in every niche around the outer wall. Don’t tell. I’m afraid of the dark.

         Someone is knocking.

         My father says,"Shalom.”

         My eyes meet those of the lady on the donkey.

          My wife is about to give birth. Do you have room? ” 

         I whisper in father’s ear,  “What about out back?”

         He sighs, “We have a place with the animals.” 

         The lady smiles. The goodness in her eyes shines like a lantern. I gather fig cakes into a leather scrip.

         Father surprises me. “Channah will take you.“

My heart skips a beat. Eventide makes me shiver.

         Slinging the strap of the scrip over my shoulder, I grab a lamp.

         At the limestone cave, the animals snort. I place the food for the lady near the lamp.

         “I will bring water.”

         My knees shake. The night is as dark as a bottomless well. Wait... A light, luminous as the sun, brightens my way. A new star! Could this be the night foretold? Joy burns in me like embers in a fire. I’m not afraid.

         I return and hear the soft cries of the lady’s babe wrapped in swaddling.

         “Would you like to hold Him?”

         In the peacefulness of the starry night, I cradle the Child. My heart fills with wonder and I feel the nearness of God.


Naughty or NIce? Gifts for writers

Embed from Getty Images
By Janie Reinart

Have you been naughty or nice during your writing time this year? There's still time to get on the nice list! You might even receive a unique gift just for writers. 

Enjoy the catalogue of ideas I put together just for you.

Clothing gifts just right for a school visits or book chat.






Jewelry gifts for just the right amount of "wordy" bling.

Miscellaneous gifts for writerly fun.

For more ideas, check out this link. 

Let us know in the comments some of your favorite gifts for writers. 

One of my favorite gifts was a journal given to me by a critique partner.  The journal has quotes hand written through out the book.  As you turn a page, you never know when an inspirational quote will show up.

Many blessings to you and yours during this holiday season and a Happy New Year