Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Review of Writing Picture Books, by Ann Whitford Paul

Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication

By Ann Whitford Paul

Writer’s Digest Books

ISBN: 978-1-58297-556-6

Paperback, 248 pages, $16.99

Writing Reference

Author’s website: www.annwhitfordpaul.net

There are a large number of books out there on how to write children’s picture books. I’ve read most of them, and I have to admit this new book by Ann Whitford Paul is up there among the best.

Picture book writing requires a unique set of skills and it’s important for the writer to begin acquiring those skills even before creating that first manuscript. For this reason, the author stresses the importance of becoming a picture book scholar. Then, in an engaging, structured and straight-forward manner, she guides the reader from story conception to structuring to actual writing to what to do after the first draft is finished.

Hand by hand, she’ll walk you through specific techniques and exercises for picture book writers, covering areas such as keeping the story focused, making a dummy, creating memorable and consistent characters, plotting, and using rhyme, among others. In addition, she gives tips on researching the market and submitting to publishers. There are exercises at the end of each chapter to reinforce the ideas and help you identify problems and improve your manuscript. One of my favorite chapters is the one devoted to critique groups and critiquing. The author gives helpful guidelines to keep in mind before critiquing a story. This is a valuable book for both beginner and experienced writers. If you’re serious about learning the craft of picture book writing, you won’t regret adding this title to your reference shelf.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Interview with YA Author Alexandra Roman

My guest today is Puerto Rican writer Alexandra Roman, author of The Valley of Inspiration, a young adult fantasy/adventure novel set in Egypt. In this interview, Alexandra talks about her life, her novel, the importance of reading for young people, and her working habits, among other things. I hope you'll enjoy the interview!

Welcome to my blog, Alexandra! Why don’t you begin by telling my readers a little about yourself?

I am a mother, wife, friend and a writer. I think that sums it up! Even though my passion is for the sciences, in which I hold a Bachelors Degree from the University of Puerto Rico in Natural Sciences;, when I got pregnant I decided to raise my child and have a career change. That’s how writing went from a pastime to full time in my life, alongside motherhood. Since I loved fiction the most and it was the one I leaned towards in the books I read, it was natural that my writing focused on fiction.

I started writing poetry in high school, essays-which I love writing- in college and short stories after I graduated. Some of my work has appeared in the Australian webpage Soul Food Cafe, La Prensa (a newspaper in Chicago), and magazines like Better Homes and Gardens (yes, I also have a passion for gardening). My love for the written word has also got me into writing plays, two of them have been brought to the stage by local churches, “El guerrero del Señor” and “La dama de Israel: la historia de Judith”.
When I’m not with my family or writing, I work with a youth catholic group for which I have been part of for fifteen years. They are part of my inspiration and some of my fans.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

Yes, I was and still am! That’s how I fell in love with the written word, by devouring books. The books I enjoyed were mostly fiction, especially those with a damsel in distress and a handsome prince to save her. But it wasn’t until my mom presented me with a most peculiar gift, when I was in middle school, that I actually realized I was attracted to fiction. The book was title “Las mil y una noches” (One thousand and one nights) and this book was the seed that began my writing career.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

The story came to me in the form of a question, while I was caressing my huge pregnant belly. Where would I go to find my inspiration if I ever lose it? The answer came as the question did: a valley. From there I started my research and writing the first draft, putting together all my ideas and slowly giving it form and body.

THE VALLEY OF INSPIRATION is a fantasy-adventure novel for young adults. In it the reader explores the mythological Egyptian world through the eyes of Nailah, a young forger of words, who after the death of her father, a famous author and her inspiration, enters a depression that inhibits her writing. The recent discovery of a tomb in the Valley of the Queens, gives hope to Nailah, for the hieroglyphics narrates the journey of a young prince poet, who became one of the most acclaimed poets of his era.

Accompanied by her best friend and an Egyptologist, she travels to Egypt to find the Valley of Inspiration, but first she must find the followers of the ancient Egyptian religion who have lived in anonymity for centuries and are the only ones who may lead her to the valley. Armed with the sacred symbol of the Egyptian religion that will help her find the followers, Nailah undertakes the adventure of her life. Through The Valley of Inspiration-a magical journey to the land of Pharaohs and Egyptian gods’ world-this novel takes us to understand that sometimes we need to lose our sources of inspiration, to realize that we are able to achieve our goals if we believe in ourselves.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

Long and hard! This book took a lot of me, maybe because it is my first, but still it went to lots of changes in the course of six years. Just when I thought it completed, something came to me that forced me to go back and rewrite. I was very satisfied when I finished it, for I knew it didn’t need any more changes.
I usually don’t do or use outlines, I do sometimes. For “El Valle de la Inspiración”, I actually used outlines for the chapters to know where I was heading with it. What works for me is what you called a stream-of-consciousness. When an idea arrives I give it wings and go with the flow. Sometimes I even let it simmer for a while, so it can evolve into something more. That’s when you might find me daydreaming, lost in another world and not paying attention to other things. Well, that’s the life of a writer!

Did your book require a lot of research?

Oh, yes! Since it is based on Egypt and the Egyptian religion is, in some way, another character in this book, I had to do lots of research. I like doing research; it’s encoded in me as a biologist. I did a lot of research in college for most of my classes, so it comes naturally and the experience in college helped me with this book; made it easier. I found lots of interesting things while researching, which helped develop some of the characters and the scenery. This is very important for I tend to be very descriptive. I like my readers to feel part of the place the scene is taking place at that moment, so they can have better understanding of the characters.

Who is your target audience?

Young adult is my targeted audience. It’s a good audience that enjoys fiction in its own way. Nowadays teenagers are reading more and more fiction, which is really good. Campaigns towards reading are very strong these days, for myself I can say they are working. I see it with the teenagers I work with in the youth group at church. They love fiction and it is very attractive to them, they are becoming voracious readers and fiction is a reason for that and I want to be part of that. Reading should always be encouraged in our young society, for in it they learn to mature.

What will the reader learn after reading your book?

Trust in yourself. Sometimes we need to lose ourselves to find out who we really are, and what we are capable of achieving.

What type of writer are you—the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes?

A little bit of both. I experience and daydream and fantasize… I even dramatize what my characters will do to experience what they are feeling, so I could put it on paper knowing exactly what they are going through.

Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?

I have not eaten apples while in the bathtub, I don’t own one, but I have gotten my ideas while in the shower and like Spielberg while driving. Sometimes I take my baby boy putting him in the car and drive around town, an hour before my girl comes out of school, so I could explore better an idea or concept I’m working on. It works, really, for your mind is relaxed and that’s what you need to develop it. Looking at nature helps me too, I enjoy going on trips through the island to be relaxed; nature does that for me.

Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?

Yeah, we get along most of the time and when we are not I give her space. When my story is on a stop, that I’m not able to go forth with it, I just step away from my desk to let her relax. She needs her time and when she is ready she’ll let me know, and we gladly go back to writing. But I’m very careful with this, I don’t let her procrastinate too much for I keep in mind the story we were working on. Is a trick I have, we are relaxing doing our everyday duties, but we cannot forget why we are relaxing or doing our responsibilities.

How do you divide your time between taking care of a home and children, and writing? Do you plan your writing sessions in advance?

When ever I had the time, I took it for writing the story, especially when my daughter started school. That time was bliss, for I could develop a writing session and I was in peace. If an idea came on a weekend, when both my husband and daughter were home, I scurried away and started writing until they asked for my presence. It is hard to be a writer and take care of your family, but it's satisfying knowing you are doing the things you love and giving them the time and care they deserve.

Thanks, Alexandra!


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How to Coordinate Your Own Virtual Book Tour

Hi all,

I'm doing the happy dance.

My article, "How to Coordinate Your Own Virtual Book Tour," was accepted for publication by Bread 'n Molasses Magazine.

You may read it HERE.

I hope you'll find it informative.

Cheers! www.tips-fb.com

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Writing for Children – A Beginner's Workshop

Writing for Children – A Beginner's Workshop
A free one-day writers’ workshop on May 1st, 2010

Presenter: Karen Cioffi

Location: http://www.themuseonlinewritersconference.com


On May 1st, The Muse Online Writers’ Conference will be offering a FREE one-day workshop for beginning writers. It is geared toward children's writers, but much of the information is applicable for all writers. It offers the basics of writing such as: structure, formatting, grammar and punctuation, showing vs. telling, and writing resources and tools. It will also touch on marketing for writers. In addition, attendees will have the opportunity to get a critique of up to 250 words of their manuscript or article.

Register at: http://www.themuseonlinewritersconference.com
(just follow the directions)

Once registered, you can sign up by emailing Lea Schizas at: museitupeditor AT yahoo DOT ca.

Include: your name and email address within the body of the email. Please include Karen Cioffi in the subject heading.

Register today to be sure you have a spot reserved.

For complete details go to:

Learn more about Karen Cioffi at: http://karencioffi.com/media-page/

I hope to see you there,

Karen Cioffi
Author, writer-for hire, freelance writer, reviewer

http://nothingventurednothinggained.org www.tips-fb.com

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Music as Inspiration

If you're having trouble concentrating on your fiction writing, you may try listening to music that matches the tone and mood of your story.

One of the projects I'm working on at the moment is a YA paranormal novel set in a Catholic convent in the 1970's. As you can probably guess, I'm striving for dark and spooky.

Well, the other day I was having trouble focusing on the story, so I decided to get my earphones and write while listening to the score of The Village. I had listened to this CD a few years ago while writing another paranormal thriller. I had forgotten how effective listening to 'mood' music could be.

Immediately, I was right inside the story, talking with the characters, feeling their emotions, hiding from the nuns in the convent's dark corridors. Everything else around me disappeared.

Listen to this first piece. This is the one I start with, perfect for those scenes where the girls are talking in whispers, planning their next medium session in a desolated chamber of the convent...

I love this one for writing tense action scenes. Picture a nun in black robes running after a girl up a spiral staircase...

The complete CD is about an hour, perfect for completing my daily quota of 2-3 pages.

Next time you feel stuck or distracted, consider listening to music while you work.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what type of music do you listen to? www.tips-fb.com

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Featured author & illustrator: Sandra Lopez

Sandra C. López was born and raised in Hawaiian Gardens, California. She learned to read at the young age of two and strived to achieve the best grades in school. Her free time was spent reading, writing, and drawing. Sandra managed to be the first in her family to graduate from high school and enter college. Her first novel, "Esperanza: A Latina Story," was published in March 2008 while she was still in college. Now, this young writer is a full graduate of Cal State University Fullerton with a BFA in Animation and Illustration, and she is anticipating a promising career as a writer and an artist. "Beyond the Gardens" is the follow up sequel to "Esperanza."

Sandra's works...

Esperanza: A Latina Story

14 year old Esperanza Ignacio could only think of a few words to sum up her life: crap, crap, crap! She was born into a poor Latino family living in a small crummy apartment in the barrio side of town. Her father was a drunken, gambler, and wife-beater who, one cold night, got arrested after a violent intrusion. Her entire circle of relatives consisted of nothing but gangsters and drug-addicts. Yep, her life was nothing but a huge load of crap.

After surviving a scorching summer heat, Esperanza enters the unfamiliar world of high-school with a tight knot in her stomach. On the very first day, she is sucked into a blunder of catastrophic events beginning with accidentally running into the world’s BIGGEST bully. To make things even easier, her best friend, Carla, won’t stop trying to marry her off to her twin brother, Carlos. And she has these two puny siblings constantly vying for her attention. God, it’s a wonder she doesn’t strap herself in a straight jacket and pretend to be Elvis.

Nonetheless, Esperanza attempts to get through it all. She is a smart and ambitious young kid struggling to survive her life while fighting to make her mark on the world. Her story is filled with pain, strength, and too much loud bickering. It carries a voice enriched with barrio slang and sarcastic humor. Esperanza illustrates what a persistent Latino youth can achieve when they get back up after a fall and keep on walking straight into college.

Beyong the Gardens

At the age of 18, Esperanza Ignacio begins her college years at an upscale Los Angeles art school, where she studies to fulfill her long-term dream in Animation. But she soon learns the truth to the old folktale: “you can take the girl out of the barrio, but you can’t take the barrio out of the girl.” Even though she’s getting financial aid, Esperanza works a part-time job during her break from classes just to make ends meet. Her roommate, Anna, is what she calls a “chicana from Beverly Hills” because of the rich daddy and the new car she got for her quinceañera.

Things get a little confusing for Esperanza when an old friend comes looking for her, hoping to start a meaningful relationship. But is Carlos the right guy for her? She never even considered him to be anything more than a friend since high school. Then comes Jake, a gorgeous mechanic, who shares her passion for books and loves her for who she is. What’s a girl to do?

Strength and determination help pave the way for the future. And, as she approaches her graduation, she is faced with a difficult decision: should she leave Los Angeles and leave behind her family, her home, and everything she’s known? Ever since she was born in the California barrio of Hawaiian Gardens, she’s always had to look over the fence, wondering what she’s been missing. Now she’s taking a flying leap over to see what’s beyond the little barrio. What’s beyond her family, her friends, and her past? What’s beyond the little nothing town, where dreams don’t exist? What’s beyond The Gardens? Is it life, love, a future? The story of Esperanza is finally concluded in this wildly entertaining and heart-warming sequel.

Visit Sandra's WEBSITE.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Learn to Write - 5 Tips to Writing Picture Books!" by Lisa Brunel

There is just something about a well-written picture book that draws in both adults and children. Just seeing your childhood favorite can invoke memories and emotions surrounding your positive experiences with that book. Because of the power that good picture books have, it can be hard to learn to write them effectively. Many an author makes the attempt and misses the mark, leading to rejection and disappointment. However, if you follow these handy tips, you can be more likely to learn to write appealing and publishable picture books.

Pay Attention to Structure

Just because a good deal of the impact of your book will be in the illustrations doesn't mean that you don't have to put forth solid writing for the text. In fact, the publisher will base their decisions almost entirely on the quality of your manuscript- most picture books are illustrated later by an in-house artist. You need a strong plot and fully developed characters. While you can leave out things such as character description and physical surroundings, as they will be illustrated, you still need a good story line, complete with conflict that is happily resolved. Remember that picture books are geared towards younger children that need clear resolution.

Length Makes a Difference

By their nature, picture books are meant to be read aloud. There is a certain format that should be used when you learn to write them, including the ideal number of pages. Many picture books are formatted to include about 28 pages of text, so keep that in mind. You should also shoot for around 1,000 words, making each word count. It's also important to pay close attention to the length of sentences and the way the story reads. Read it aloud as you compose, and have a friend read it for you as well. This will allow you to check yourself on not only length, but readability.

Create a Mood

When you learn to write, there are plenty of things to think about. Picture books seem ridiculously easy; however, they are actually one of the hardest genres to break into. What seems simple actually is filled with details and nuances that can be hard to fake. One of the small things that makes a big difference is the mood of your picture book. This is the feeling that is created as the reader browses through the text and pictures. As an author, you have to create enough of the mood, with words alone, that a publisher will take note. Remember, pictures are added after the fact. Decide if you want the book to have a tender or silly mood, and stay consistent.

What About Rhyme

There probably isn't an author that has ever lived that wasn't a huge fan of Dr. Seuss, the classic master of rhyme. One of the reasons that he was so successful was because he stood above the crowd. Rhyme can either work perfectly, or it is a huge mistake- there isn't a whole lot of middle ground. It is very difficult to add rhyme to a picture book and still be able to keep all the other essential balls in the air that create a solid story. When you learn to write, feel free to experiment with rhyme, but expect a steep learning curve. As a general rule, rhyme shouldn't feel forced or distract from the plot in any way.

Add Notes

Finally, as we've already discussed, you will probably only be submitting the manuscript for the children's book. Most publishers have their own artists on staff that illustrate their texts for them. If you feel that some things that you envision need explaining, it's perfectly appropriate to include notes about what is supposed to be happening in the story. The artist will still take some license, but as you learn to write, you should become more familiar with what details need to be clarified to make your picture book coalesce.

By Lisa Brunel

There is more to writing children's books than you may think. If you have passion and drive to give children well thought about and well developed stories, your on the right track! Learn to write a great children's book by sigining up to our free newsletter, visit http://www.learntowriteachildrensbook.com you will find the best resources available and recommenced sites to help you achieve success as a children's author!


Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Review of FLYING FINGERS - Writing Tips and Advice From a Child Writer

Review by Suzanne Lieurance

As a children's writing instructor myself, it's not every day that I get writing tips from an eight-year old, especially GOOD writing tips. But I just finished reading FLYING FINGERS: MASTER THE TOOLS OF LEARNING THROUGH THE JOY OF WRITING, which includes tips, stories, and writing activities from its author, Adora Svitak. Adora is an eight-year old girl from Redmond, Washington, who was just seven when she wrote Flying Fingers, which also includes commentary and coaching advice from her mother, Joyce Svitak.

After reading this book I realized that many of my adult writing students don't write as well as Adora. But then, most of these adults don't write as MUCH as Adora does. In FLYING FINGERS she explains that she wrote more than 250,000 words (over 300 stories, essays, and poems) in a single year and she continues to write thousands of words of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry every week. Plus, she reads all the time. By her own estimate she's already devoured more than 1600 books.

Typing is another skill that Adora mastered early. In fact, she started writing at age four, when her mother bought her a laptop and she used it to make up stories. Now she types about sixty words per minute.

With so many early accomplishments, it's no wonder Adora has been a guest on Good Morning America and Diane Sawyer calls her "a tiny literary giant." But although Adora's skills are truly amazing, she didn't write FLYING FINGERS to brag about herself. She wrote it because she is passionate about inspiring other children to become just as accomplished and excited about learning as she is. And her mother says,"With support, encouragement from parents and educators, and the proper use of technology, all children have the potential to excel and enjoy writing and learning as much as Adora does."

After reading FLYING FINGERS, I think she might be right about that - so I hope parents, educators, and children everywhere will get a copy of this book. Then just maybe we can find out.

Adora's book is available online at http://www.amazon.com and at bookstores across the country.

Author: Adora Svitak
Action Publishing (Glendale, CA )
October 1, 2005
ISBN: 1888045191

For more reviews of children's books and other articles, tips, and resources for children's writers, visit http://www.writingforchildrencenter.com and sign up for the mailing list. Visit http://www.workingwriterscoach.com for articles, resources, and programs for freelance writers.

Suzanne Lieurance is a fulltime freelance writer, children's author, writing coach, and the founder and director of The National Writing for Children Center.

Suzanne Lieurance - EzineArticles Expert Author

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Review of The Sister Exchange, by Kevin McNamee

Brianna has a big problem: her little sister Julianne won't stop bothering her. Ever since Julianne was born, that's all she's been doing--asking Brianna for this and that, following her, wanting to do whatever Brianna does.

Brianna decides to do something about it. She tells her mom she would like to get another sister. So her mom decides to call the Sister Exchange.

Will Brianna want to change her sister, after all?

This is a cute, delightful picture book about sibling rivalry. Little girls will love reading this humorous story--especially with their sisters! The colorful illustrations by Kit Grady add a splash of sunshine to the pages.

Find out more about this book HERE. www.tips-fb.com

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

New post on Pets & Their Authors

Hi all,

Read Amigo's interview with Friday, proud owner of Canadian author Lou Allin.


Don't be fooled by the sweet cute face! She's a tough cookie, this one.

Have fun reading it! www.tips-fb.com

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Reviews of If I Could Be Anything, by Kevin McNamee

"If I could be anything,
what would I be?
Could I be a blue whale
swimming under the sea?"

Thus begins this charming and serene picture book. In a lyrical, rhythmic way, the narrator takes us on a journey of imagination as he offers possibilities of what any child could become.

Kevin McNamee is also a poet and his skill with language comes through in this beautiful picture book that will charm and delight young minds. The artwork, done in soft pastel watercolors, also adds to the calming effect of the book and are a pleasure to look at. This will make a nice book to get those overly excited children to quiet down and go to bed.

Find out more about this title from the publisher. www.tips-fb.com

Friday, April 2, 2010

Review of River, by Skyla Dawn Cameron

River is a young adult werewolf novel with an interesting twist...

River used to be the alpha female of her pack, that is, until one night a human bit her and she was transformed into a werewolf. Unable to trace her back to any relative, the authorities named her 'River' and placed her with foster parents. Her foster parents aren't so bad, but it's very hard for River to fit in. She's forever moody and temperamental, dreaming day and night of the day when she'll be able to turn back into a wolf and be with her mate.

Then, when she's placed in high school, she meets Daryl. Daryl is not the typical teenager, to say the least, and he takes an unusual interest in River. But she resents his protection, sensing that there's something not quite right about him... Why is he so interested in River? What is he hiding?

On the other front is high school itself, where other students forever remind her of her uniqueness and her difference from 'normal' people. She must put up with cruel name-calling and abusive behavior. Fortunately, River is not the kind of girl to sit down and resign herself, thus causing her share of trouble at school.

Will River find a way to go back to her pack? Will she survive high school?

I enjoyed reading River. It was an interesting story. What I liked most about it is the way the author crafted the protagonist. I feel that River, while not altogether sympathetic, stays true to her character and feels realistic in the context of the story. Even though she's human, all the wilderness is inside of her, which is why she's so moody and temperamental all the time. I like the way the author didn't compromise the authenticity of the character to create a 'lovable' werewolf heroine. That's not to say that River is not likable at times--she is, but the reason lies in her genuinity. It was also refreshing to read a werewolf story were the wolf is bitten by a human, and not the other way around. River will be enjoyed by teen readers who love a good paranormal story. The high school angle will certainly be appreciated by this age group.

For purchase information, please visit Mundania Press.