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My swimmer will see the world differently than your detective. But how?
Last fall, I attended a revision workshop led by The Muffin’s very own Darcy Pattison. One of the things that Darcy emphasized was that we not only include plenty of details in our writing, but that we include the right details in our writing.
As I picked through my manuscript, something hit me. Yes, I had enough detail for the reader to experience the setting, but I hadn’t chosen the details that my character would most likely notice. I’m a very visual person with an acute sense of smell and am easily distracted by sound, thus I had sight, smell and sound covered.
What was missing were the kinesthetic details, details that focus on movement and how things feel to the touch. My character is a swimmer who is always being told by his teachers to be still. Clearly, I needed to work motion details into my story, because these are the kinds of things that my character would notice.
As I started working attention to motion into my story, I realized that my character may not see the world in black and white, but he would definitely see it in terms of constricting stillness vs glorious motion. That’s just how he’s wired.
Another character that I’ve been working with is a flashy girl who lives in a circus. She does everything with a certain flash and pizzazz so that is how she divides things – allowed to use her pizzazz vs not allowed to use her pizzazz.
A character who can speak to wolves notices more to do with scent and sound than do her fellow humans.
The character who is an incarnation of Persephone is still giving me fits. Obviously, she’s going to be tuned into plants and the natural cycle, but I’m not sure how it will color her perceptions of those around her.
Do you know your characters well enough to know how they see the world? What details would they notice that you would overlook? What is their good vs their bad? Remember, you are answering this for your character. If her answers too closely resemble your own, you might have a bit more work to do.
Asking me about my favorite writing books is like asking me about my favorite movie. I mean really, how can one have a favorite movie? I probably see as many movies as Roger Ebert. I have to categorize my favs: war/adventure: The Great Escape; comedy: Annie Hall, Airplane, Blazing Saddles; musical: Cabaret, All That Jazz: too bloody to fit in a category: Godfathers I & II, Donnie Brasco, Good Fellas, Pulp Fiction. Also anything with Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep or Johnny Depp. (Yes, I paid money to see Joe and the Volcano in a theater.)
When it comes to my favorite writing books, I pare it down to three categories of one or two books. (Aren't you relieved?)
Inspirational books. Marcia Golub is a woman I would love to have as a next-door neighbor. Anyone who can write a book called I'd Rather Be Writing about how those of us without nannies, housekeepers and writing retreats in the Caribbean manage to write anyway, is someone who has my number. Lesson taken away from Marcia' book: if you have a family and a writing career, you're always going to feel conflicted. Get over it. Oh and don't bother also trying to live the Martha Stewart life (even Martha Stewart doesn't live the Martha life without a platoon of assistants.) Alas, Marcia's book is out of print. I'd loan you mine...but then I don't loan books. (I never get them back.)
If you have been following this blog for awhile, you probably know that my favorite book after Charlotte's Web is Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. I re-read Bird by Bird on a continual basis. (All right...I keep it in the bathroom for moment of "unavoidable delay.") Anne is funny and profane (for those of you who object to the occasional profanity in your how-to books, this might not be for you.) Anne taught me two important lessons: 1) first drafts are always crappy. That's why there are second, fourth and seventy-fourth drafts. You aren't going to get it right the first time. 2) You don't sit down to write with an entire story arc in place, any more than you would sit down to eat one of those 64-ounce-steak joints (finish it and it's free....and you have probably just had a coronary so the point is moot). The title Bird by Bird is Anne's shorthand for writing only what you see before you right this minute. Don't worry about that elusive center section, or that fuzzy ending. Write what you see clearly now. Craft books. Darcy Pattison's Paper Lightening: Pre-Writing Activities That Spark Creativity and Help Students Write Effectively was written with the middle school writer in mind. Therefore, it is perfect for me, when I find myself with big story problems I can't solve myself. There are exercises here for developing characters, settings, plots, dull language....you name it, Darcy and Paper Lightening can solve it. I have always wanted to teach a full-year class just to have the pleasure of sharing all of Darcy's common-sense suggestions and solutions. However, since I am currently relegated to teaching six session workshops, Paper Lightening is my atlas to writing sanity.
Craft books for kids: The classic book I hand a student who wants a book "that tells me how to write a book" is Marion Dane Bauer's What's Your Story: A Young Person's Guide to Writing Fiction.
Although this is geared to a slightly younger crowd than Paper Lightening, it was my fiction writing bible in the Vermont College MFA program (and not just because Marion Dane Bauer was one of my four mentors.) Unlike Paper Lightening, which is designed to be a textbook, Bauer's book can be read and understood without teacher assistance.
My six-session workshops can be problematic. It is not reasonable to expect any student, adult or child (and I teach both) to complete more than a rough draft in such a short time. I focus on writing exercises that are fun and have the possibility of "growing" into a larger work. Ralph Fletcher has written more books on writing with kids than I can count, but my favorite is the one he has written for teachers, Craft Lessons. Fletcher takes students Pre-K through middle school through the components of fiction writing. The exercises and lessons can be used as stand-alone lessons. Each exercise is tailored to the skills and understanding of that particular age. My kids' workshops are for grades 4-8, so this is perfect for me. And if you like this book, check out the rest of the Ralph Fletcher bookshelf; you won't be sorry.
Tune in Wednesday when I share my favorite writing exercise that I did not learn from any of my favorite writing books!
Award Winning Book about the Oldest Bird in the World
Last year, I wrote this book about the oldest bird in the world who was on Midway Atoll when the Japanese tsunami struck. It’s an amazing story of survival that just won’t stop. At the age of 62+, she is about to hatch another chick. Yes! A mother at 62+
SEABIRD ALERT: Name my new chick and make a difference too!
Thanks to a dedicated Facebook friend of mine, were are going to have a contest this year to name my soon to born chick!
** And this year, I am sincerely hoping that the USFWS_Pacific Region and The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument will work with me on this endeavor **
Here is how it will work:
- Once the winning name is selected, a $500 DONATION will be made on behalf of my newborn AND the name of the person who comes up with my newborn’s name — which me and my crazy beautiful partner will select. (Unless the person selected chooses not to have their included)
AND … wait for it …
- My dedicated Facebook friend will also make 2 additional donations directly to:
- the Kure Atoll Conservancy, AND
- an organization (yet to be named) which supports TERN ISLAND in French Frigate Shoals, Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge
Note: On DEC-16-2012, a freakish weather event (possibly a tornado) struck the camp at Tern Island, causing extensive damage to the facilities at this needed camp. Fortunately, the one intrepid employee and four tenacious volunteers were unharmed!
** the fun part is this: we won’t know the actual amount of these 2 additional donations until the name is selected!
Welcome to my latest children's book giveaway! To celebrate the release of my 2 latest books, "Desert Baths" and "The Tree That Bear Climbed", I am having a fun coloring contest. This time I am giving away 4 of my children's books, published by Sylvan Dell Publishing!
1. Choose ONE of the coloring pages in this post to download and color. You may color it or have a child color it. Crayons are fun, but you can also use glitter, paint, etc. Use your imagination!
2. POST your finished coloring page on your blog, Facebook, Flickr or Instagram, with a LINK back to my blog. Then leave me a comment here with the link to YOUR coloring page so we can all see your lovely masterpiece. (You must do this step in order to qualify.)
3. You have until midnight Central Time Zone on Friday, October 12th, 2012 to post your coloring page link as a comment.
4. The winner will be drawn RANDOMLY from all entrants, and their name will be posted on my blog on Monday, October 15th, 2012. (Please be sure I have a way to contact you via email.)
5. This contest is open to residents of the continental US only.
The idea isn't to read it in this state (which is single spaced and microscopic) but to get an overall sense of where the story stands. With the entire manuscript before you, you can determine what's working and what needs work.
There are a limitless number of ways a shrunken manuscript can be used. Grab a few markers, create a key, and use it to determine:
changes in voice for stories told in multiple points of view
instances of conflict
the story's movement through dialogue, thought, and action
Darcy's activity nicely paralleled the work I'd just completed before her retreat: the final drafting of May B. As I'd never written a verse novel before (and had only read two before trying!), the idea of a quilt unfolding square by square -- or poem by poem -- was largely what kept me moving forward. I trusted that certain themes and ideas would resurface as I wrote, just as certain patterns emerge as a quilt takes shape.
I've just finished drafting another historical verse novel and have kept this quilt concept in mind. On Wednesday I'll show you how I've used it in revision.
Confession: I know nothing about quilting. It's the metaphor that counts.
My most recent verse novel manuscript is told in two voices. Without giving too much away, I'll say it's a story of friendship forged in the midst of hostile circumstances. For most of the story the friends, Alis and Kimi, aren't together.
After finishing my initial draft, I "quilted" the division of voices within the story. You've probably noticed the same thing I have: Alis's voice dominated this draft.
With the second draft, I added more opportunities for Kimi to speak, but it's still pretty heavily dominated by Alis.
With the third draft, Alis is still the voice heard most often, but Kimi's poems have increased, and the blending is better. Notice in the first two drafts I ended with a dual voice poem. I figured as it's a story of friendship, things had to end that way. But now I'm not so sure. I start the manuscript with Alis making her way in the world and end in a similar place. I feel like this is the best way to tell her story and Kimi's, too.
Of course, this is all subject to change. I've taken the story as far as I'm able alone. As my critique partners respond to this draft, I'll be curious what they have to say about this aspect of the story. And I plan to quilt the story in terms of sub-plots before it goes to my agent next month.
Are there any visual techniques you use during revision?
National Veterans Awareness Week United States Senate Resolution 143 November 11 to November 17, 2012 The resolution calls for educational efforts directed at elementary and secondary school students concerning the contributions and sacrifices of veterans. Veterans Day “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to [...]
……………………… Kathleen Rietz Illustrator, Desert Baths with author Darcy Pattison ……………….. Please welcome to Kid Lit Reviews a prolific children’s book illustrator and fine artist Kathleen Rietz. She is here to chat with us about herself and her new book with Darcy Pattison titled Desert Baths. Hi, Kathleen, let’s start off with what first interested [...]
5 Stars Desert Baths Darcy Pattison Kathleen Rietz Syvan Dell Publishing 32 Pages Ages 4 to 8 ………………….. Inside Jacket: As the sun and the moon travel across the sky, learn how twelve different desert animals face the difficulty of stay clean in a dray and parched land. Explore the desert habitat through its animals [...]
Who can participate?
Anyone who wants to help a book get noticed by readers. We are focusing on helping a Friend’s book get noticed, but you can also choose to help your favorite book get noticed.
What do I do?
BLLuRT or Post. Or both.
BLLuRT (http://bit.ly/RAoP2011). The basic tasks for book marketing online remain the same, BLLuRT! Do one of these each day for your Friend’s book or for your favorite book.
B is for Blog. Blog about a book, the author or anything related.
L is for Link. (http://bit.ly/RAP-Link) Link to something about the book, the author’s page, the book selling page, anything.
L is for LIKE. (http://bit.ly/RAP-Like ) LIKE the book’s Facebook page, the author’s page. Or Add them to your Google+.
R is for Review. (http://bit.ly/RAP-R ) Review a book. Some experts suggest that books tend to break out when they get over 25 reviews on Amazon, GoodReads or other booksites.
T is for Tell or Talk. (http://bit.ly/RAP-T )Tell someone about a book. Your friend, a teacher, a librarian, anyone. Talk about the book—why did you like it? What excited you about this book? Why should I read it?
POST. It’s also a great week to post something about book marketing, perhaps a personal experience, a tutorial, a tips sheet or a case study of book marketing. Put the URL of your post in the Random Acts of Publicity Facebook page for others to read
What books should I talk about this week?
Your Friend’s book or your favorite book. We are focusing especially on new books or less well-known books. Focus on a great book that not many readers know about.
Can Publishers participate?
Yes, you can BLLuRT about books, too. We ask that you focus on mid-list or new authors, those who could benefit from a boost during Random Acts of Publicity week. We know it’s your job to BLLuRT about the front-list, that and much more; as an individual working in book publishing, though, we are asking that you champion a dark horse during Random Acts of Publicity Week.
Random Acts of Publicity Week was created by Darcy Pattison (www.darcypattison.com), writing teacher and author of Prairie Storms (www.facebook.com/PrairieStorms) , as a way to help create an atmosphere of fun and collaboration in marketing books. It occurs each September, the four days following Labor Day.
Happy Labor Day! I’ve no special post of my own but I know someone who has created the ultimate list of Labor Songs. That would be Professor Phil Nel and at this point I’ve only seen the first of three posts but it is truly fantastic. For one thing, he includes Moxy Früvous on his round-up, and they were a band I adored back in the days of my youth. I’d forgotten all about “I Love My Boss” until now. Go! Look! It’s worth your time.
Now I’ve been amiss in not mentioning the speaking engagement I have at the upcoming Kidlitosphere Conference. I won’t be there in person, but through the magic of technology I’ll be Skyping alongside the hugely talented Mary Ann Scheuer of Great Kid Books and the simply marvelous Paula Wiley of Pink Me. Our topic? Mary Ann came up with the notion of covering book app features. What we like, what we don’t, what to look for, etc. And if you cannot attend, we may be able to put something on our blogs afterwards. Stay tuned or read more about the talk here.
New Blog Alert: Speaking of apps, ever wonder why there isn’t a children’s literature blog dedicated to the digital realm? Turns out, there is and it’s called dot.Momming. Children’s author and founder of the Hyde Park/South Side Network for SCBWI-Illinois, Kate Hannigan, provides reviews as well as multiple interviews with folks working in the field. I’m a fan, and not least because an app I helped advise (Hildegard Sings) shows up as number one on her Top Picture Book Apps list.
I like to see good work rewarded. And Kate Messner’s efforts to bring attention to the libraries devastated after Hurricane Irene certainly qualifies as more than simply “good”. The fact that School Library Journal highlighted her work in the piece Author Kate Messner Helps to Rebuild Local NY Library Devastated By Hurricane Irene is just icing on the cake. And much to my astonishment it include a photograph of a Paddington book that I apparently read as a child but had entirely forgotten about until I saw it in the article. Wow! It’s been a long time since that happened.
Need a good website for writing exercises? Have you seen the delightful They Fight Crime? Try it. Then try again and again. My current favorite is, “He’s a globe-trotting drug-addicted hairdresser on the edge. She’s a tortured belly-dancing vampire operating on the wrong side of the law. They fight crime!” Hours of time wasting fun to be had there.
Where will you be on January 27, 2012?
I’ll be in New York City, hoping that the weather is warm!
MARKETING FOR PROFESSIONAL WRITERS INTENSIVE DEBUTS AT THE 2012 SCBWI WINTER CONFERENCE
Registration opens today for the 13th Annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators International Conference. SCBWI will hold its first Marketing for Professional Writers intensive on Friday, January 27, 2012 which, along with a Marketing for Illustrators intensive that day, kicks off a jam-packed conference weekend. The Marketing for Writers intensive brings today’s market leaders together to talk trends and marketing tactics in social media, websites, ebooks, mobile & games, apps, book trailers, publicity, working with publishers, Amazon, the education market and more.
The 13th Annual SCBWI International Winter Conference is held January 27-29 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City and brings together publishing professionals, including agents, editors, publishers, and other experts in the field to conduct workshops, panels and presentations for writers and illustrators. It’s a unique networking opportunity designed to help new and published writers and illustrators have their careers soar to the next level.
Registration opens at 10am Pacific Daylight time on October 17th .
Watch for conference announcements and updates at: http://www.scbwi.org and follow us on Twitter #NY12SCBWI and Facebook http://scbwiconference.blogspot.com/.
Book Trailers and Social Media Events
I’ll be speaking about book trailers and social media events.
Available August 15
As the author of the ebook, The Book Trailer Manual, I’ve studied what works and what doesn’t for book trailers. Drawing from a wide variety of research about video marketing, I’ll dispel some myths and make solid suggestions on the content of your book trailers.
Drawing on the experience of Random Acts of Publicity, especially the Random Acts of Publicity event on Facebook, we’ll discuss social media for special events. The Random Acts of Publicity saw about 500 people join us in promoting their friend’s books for a week.
Enjoy your FREE downloadable Groundhog's Day coloring page, featuring a scene from the book "Prairie Storms", written by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by me, and published by Sylvan Dell Publishing.
If you have not checked out my website in a while, click HERE. There, you can find more coloring pages and check out books I have illustrated, as well as new books coming out in 2012. You can also "like" the "Prairie Storms" fan page on Facebook.
In 1999, I started teaching the novel revision retreat, unknowingly kicking off a fad in writing retreats of addressing a whole novel, not just a chapter of a scene. I became known for the shrunken manuscript technique, which enables writers to “see” their entire novel at once. The success of the retreat was gratifying, with many writers seeing their debut novels come out and establish their careers.
Novel Revision Retreat in a Book: Uncommon Ways to Revise
There was always a workbook, but it was a work in progress for about eight years. Then, it was time to look for a publisher for it. But here’s the problem: most publishers go for the beginning writer market. It makes sense. For every 1000 writers who set out to write an entire novel, about 100 make it. Of those, perhaps 10 will realize the need for revision and perhaps one would actually buy a book about revision. The market was small and publishers like Writer’s Digest couldn’t successfully publish it.
But given my built in audience and the buzz surrounding the retreats, I thought I could publish it and make money doing it. I established Mims House, a niche publisher, named after the Historic Quapaw District house where I have my office. From the Blue House, I published, NOVEL METAMORPHOSIS: Uncommon Ways to Revise. As expected, it hasn’t sold thousands, but it has sold hundreds–over a thousand copies–and continues to sell at a steady pace, intermingled with spikes when I teach a retreat and participants go home and tell friends about the book. (Word of Mouth is still the best way to sell bo
11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph, written by Darcy Pattison.
Holidays mean family photos, right? This children’s book shows the extremes to which a kid can go to avoid those photos. The difference is that this girl has a good reason.
THE STORY: “11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph”
When her father goes soldiering for a year, a girl decides that without Dad at home, it’s not a family photo album. Though her beloved Nanny is in charge of the album that year, the girl makes sure that photographs of her never turn out well. It results in some awkward family photos! Photos are blurred, wind blows hair in her face. April rains bring umbrellas to hide behind. Halloween means a mask. This poignant, yet funny family story, expresses a child’s anger and grief for a Dad whose work takes him away for long periods of time. This story for kids is a tribute to the sacrifices made by military families and to those who care for children when a family needs support.
THIS STORY IS A WINNER!
In conjunction with “The Help” movie (www.thehelpmovie.com), TakePart.com (www.takepart.com/thehelp) recently sponsored three writing contests: a recipe contest, an inspirational story contest and a children’s story contest. TakePart is the digital division of Participant Media which aims to bolster a movie’s audience with a message of social change. THE HELP movie campaign emphasized the role of stories in people’s lives. After winning the contest, the story was made into a children’s book.
Notice: This site and the story are not endorsed by or affiliated with TakePart, LLC or the motion picture “The Help” and or its distributors.
Children’s Picture Book: Wisdom, the Midway Albatross
The oldest wild bird in the world, documented with banding, is Wisdom, the Midway Albatross. When the Japanese Tsunami hit on March 11, 2011, her nest was in the path of danger. This is her amazing story of survival of manmade and natural disasters for over 60 years.
She has survived manmade disasters: longline fishing, plastic pollution, water pollution, and lead poisoning.
She has survived natural disasters: predators, storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis, including the Japanese earthquake.
At 60+ years old, she’s still laying eggs and hatching chicks. Among the birds of the world, this albatross, its ecology and life are amazing. It’s a story of survival and hope amidst the difficulties of life.
Reviews of WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS
“Wisdom’s story makes my heart soar.”
Kirby Larson, author of Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship and Survival and Winner of the Newbery Honor for Hattie Big Sky.
“On December 10, 1956, early in my first visit to Midway, I banded 99 incubating Laysan Albatrosses in the ‘downtown’ area of Sand Island, Midway. Wisdom (band number 587-51945) is still alive, healthy, and incubating again in December 2011. While I have grown old and gray and get around only with the use of a cane, Wisdom still looks and acts just the same as on the day I banded her. . . remarkable true story. . . beautifully illustrated in color.”
Chandler S. Robbins, Sc.D, Senior Scientist (Retired), USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD.
“As both a seabird conservationist and a mom to young kids, I highly recommend Wisdom, the Midway Albatross. Wisdom’s true story of survival is exciting and artist Kitty Harvill brings her to life in illustrations that are beautiful and accurate. Having worked to protect these magnificent creatures, I find it wonderful to be able to share their story through this book!”
Jessica Hardesty Norris, Ph.D., Seabird Program Director, American Bird Conservancy
“It’s marvelous! I LOVE it! And I got a lump in my throat, tears! And I’m a biologist! Your book is beautiful, meaningful, simple, elegant………thank you for caring, thank you for sharing this story!”
Kim Rivera, National Seabird Coordinator, NOAA Fisheries, Deputy ARA, Protected Resources Division, Alaska Region
by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Kathleen Rietz
32 page picture book
hardcover ISBN: 978-1-60718-129-3
paperback ISBN: 978-1-60718-139-2
English eBook ISBN: 978-1-60718-149-1
Spanish eBook ISBN: 978-1-60718-159-0
Where the land is flat, the sky’s dome becomes a blank canvas for storms. In this lyrical book, experience a year of prairie storms from the point of view of native wild life who must shelter, hide, escape, disappear, endure and withstand those storms. Watch the sand hill cranes avoid the tornado, the red fox thrill to a soft evening shower, the earless lizard shimmy as it disappears beneath the burning sands of summer, the cougar dodge hail stones, the bald eagle shed sleet and the bison face into the teeth of a blizzard and stand defiant. Each month features a storm typical of that season and a prairie animal in its normal habitat. The prairie biome or ecosystem is explored through its weather, especially its storms. Told in lyrical prose, this story is a celebration of the grasslands that dominates the center of American lands.
Watch the vulture bask in the morning sun, the roadrunner kick up a cloud of dust, the javelina wallow, and the bobcat give her cub a licking with a rough tongue in Desert Baths. As the sun travels across the sky, learn how twelve different desert animals face the difficulties of staying clean in a dry and parched land. Explore the desert habitat through its animals and their habits of hygiene. Told in lyrical prose, this story is a celebration of the desert lands of the American Southwest. Read more about Desert Baths here.
If I had a better knowledge of my nonfiction children’s history then I might be able to tell you the exact moment that biographies of individual animals took off. Technically we’ve seen them for years, in books like the Newbery Honor winning Rascal (which is considered nonfiction in spite of some creative liberties) from 1963. The picture book animal biography feels comparatively new to me. I think they may have existed in spurts here and there but in the last ten years there’s been a veritable explosion of them on the scene. This is a very good thing. When done well a good animal bio can provide insight into an otherwise unapproachable species, foster concern beyond our own human lives, and give a glimpse into the wider natural world. True to life incredible journeys of wild animals are difficult to tell, though. If the animal is truly wild then how do you extrapolate its life without relying on fantasy and conjecture? Wisdom: The Midway Albatross offers at least one solution to that question. Add history to facts to the glorious innovation of banding wild animals and you have yourself a bird bio that’s easy to distinguish from the flock.
The life of your average everyday laysan albatross is not often a happy one. Particularly if you have had the monumentally bad luck to have been born around 1950. Having survived the trials of growing up, avoiding sharks, and even a 1952 tsunami, one little albatross lived and was banded by research scientists in the year 1956. After that time she had to survive tropical storms, delicious looking floating plastic and fishing lines until she was caught again (by the same scientist, no less) in 2002. Having survived all that, was she capable of living past the Japanese tsunami of 2011? Pattison follows the bird’s life closely, ending her book with facts about Wisdom (calling her “The Oldest Bird in the World”, which would have been my choice of title) as well as info on your average laysan albatross, and useful websites for further reading.
It’s more than just the story of one small bird and more than just some informational text about the life cycle of an albatross. Under Pattison’s hand Wisdom’s tale takes on an almost epic cycle. You start out thinking that this is just your average animal adventure and by the end you’re wondering how much we even understand about the natural world. If a lucky albatross, avoiding every seaborne calamity on record, can live at least to the age of sixty-one and continue to breed and brood, what other animals are blessed with such longevity? If there’s any problem at all it might be that Pattison repeats the refrain of “Somehow Gooney survived” almost too often. The temptation to do so is understandable but I worried that the momentous weight of that survival didn’t feel quite as powerful when heard so often.
While Pattison is known for her other books in the children’s literary sphere, artist Kitty Harvill’s work remains largely unknown. A wildlife artist and conservationist, Harvill’s watercolors in this book serve the words more than the other way around. They leave a good amount of space for the text, avoiding the pitfalls of some artists unfamiliar with the picture book world that slap white space and text on one page and an image on the other. One point that made me curious was how Harvill chose to deal with Pattison’s suppositions. We can extrapolate Wisdom’s life by knowing both our history of the region as well as the perils facing the bird’s kind. And while the author utilizes the word “somehow” very cleverly in the phrases that explain that she survived, Harvill accompanies these with images of pairs of birds. In many cases one albatross will fall prey to fishing lines or plastic treats while the other abstains. But since we are not specifically pointing to one of those birds and calling her “Wisdom”, the book gets away with it (and, I should note, never really shows any birds dying of sharks or storms, etc.).
It’s a book with a very small press, one going by the name of Mims House. When independent publishers create children’s literature the results are invariably mixed. In this particular case I was encouraged by the writing (and my familiarity with the author), the art to a certain extent, and the design. Though paperback, the paper quality is not bad. However I was a little disappointed in the font and layout. Though the text is expertly laid onto the images, weaving in and out of the pictures with ease, the font itself looks like something you might find in a child’s school report. I’m not entirely certain whether it’s the style or the size or a combination of the two, but whatever the case it’s a misleadingly poor element in what stands as a rather cool informational text.
I don’t usually go so far as to praise the blurbs of a book, but in this case. I’ll make an exception. Some clever soul not only thought to get the wise words of Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson (who penned her own nonfiction picture book Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina Friendship and Survival) but also retired Senior Scientist Chandler S. Robbins. Now it sometimes doesn’t take much to get a scientist to blurb a picture book and normally my eyes glaze over about the time we see a degree appear, but in this particular case Robbins is an exceptional get since he’s the very guy who banded the bird back in 1956 in the first place. His words have an almost philosophical ring to them as well. He says at one point, “While I have grown old and gray and get around with the use of a cane, Wisdom still looks and acts just the same as the day I banded her.” Truth. Stranger than fiction.
As I mentioned before, had I been in charge of this book I would have gone whole hog and named it “Wisdom: The Oldest Bird in the World” or something along those lines. As it stands, Pattison has uncovered one heckuva story. I can say with certainty that no child has ever walked up to my library’s children’s reference desk asking for nonfiction albatross books for pleasure reading, but for those kids assigned animal bios (it happens), easy nonfiction reads, or just books on birds in general, I now know exactly what it is I’m going to want to hand them. A keeper, you bet.
Coming on Thursday, September 6: WIN A MARKETING CONSULT FOR A FRIEND!
Susan Raab of Raab Associates (http://raabassociates.com/) has kindly offered 10 FREE marketing consults.
The catch? You can’t enter.
You can only enter your friend’s name. See the posting at 12:01 a.m. September 6 for full details–you’ll have 24 hours to enter.
Today’s Buzz is all about social media and how authors must use social media in order to market books. But the basics of book marketing is a simple thing, Word of Mouth (WOM). All social media can do it amplify or simplify it. You still need to Talk about a book. This week’s Random Acts of Publicity focuses on that very task. How do you Talk about a book? Let’s talk about it. And to do that, I’ll talk about two books.
It’s so easy–and sometimes, fun–to get sucked into learning a new social media platform. I particularly love learning the ins-and-outs of something like this, I want to be the expert, the one in the know. And I forget the reason to use social media.
No, it’s not to market books. That book-marketing-first attitude is exactly the wrong way to go. Instead, social media is a way to connect with people. I learned very early in my career that it was hard to find writing peers locally, that I had to find them online. Of course, while we are there–as small business people (the definition of every author)–we want to sell books, too. It is these competing goals that hold us all in tension. But there are ways to Talk about books in such a way as to encourage WOM.
In the modern book marketing campaign, we often “seed” the market with information about a book. Here are some ideas to think about.
Scatter seeds widely. Social media is perfect for this mandate, because we often have friends in far-flung places. Friends have moved, you’ve made friends with other professionals online, you keep track of people you only met when you traveled to a conference. The wider the seeding the better.
Strong seeds. The most fruitful harvest comes when you seed by putting a book in your friend’s hands. It’s why you should never discount the intensive mailings that your publisher does on your behalf. It’s why you should rejoice when your publisher hands out galleys at a conference.
Stories. As book writers, we should understand this, yet I fear we don’t: people respond strongly to stories! When your book comes out, you should sit down and write a dozen stories to tell about the book, about writing it, about various topics in the book, about your inspiration, about heartaches in getting it published, about joys in getting it published–and so on. Write them down. Seed the blogosphere with the stories in the guise of guest posts.
Talking points. Please don’t be boring when you talk about your book or someone else’s book. Instead, give surprising, different, interesting, outrageous, funny (especially funny!), or sad stories or pieces of information. Write out a list of the funniest scenes in the book, the saddest scenes, etc. How can you best tell someone about the book? What combinations of scenes would make it sound the most exciting? Or, create a list of 5 Talking Points: a tidbit about the author, the scene that made you laugh out loud, the place where you wanted to throw the book across the room, a memorable line, and a quote from someone about the topic of the book. In other words, be deliberate about Talking about the book.
Be ready to Talk and share. Carry the book around. Copy an image of the book onto your desktop (or make it your screensaver for a while). Then, when you have an unexpected chance to share, you’re ready. Maybe there’s a coloring page that you can share, or some other Bling. Look for it, gather it, be ready.
Think about who you are Talking to. Individualize the Talk you are planning for the audience. For my best friend, CM, I am aware that she doesn’t like profanity, so I’m careful to vet books I recommend for her. For teachers, you want to always think about what will help them in the classroom. There’s no reason not to make your Talk specific for your friend.
The biggest word of mouth comes in social situations. When you eat at a restaurant, you talk about the food, other places you’ve eaten and gather info for later Talk. Social media can act that way, too, if you don’t shove a book down someone’s throat. Authors, let your Friends do that talking for you. Friends and Fans, step up and Talk.
Question: What is the Random Acts of Publicity thing all about? Here’s a story to help explain it.
I am an author and more than anything, I want a blockbuster book. I work hard. I read books about writing better. I write every day, revising and revising and working to improve plot, characters, setting, and voice. I take risks in my writing and really, I know that some of it is really great stuff. I participate in critique groups and help others to get their books published and still, I am always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Or, wait, I do have a book coming out, but it’s with a small company and I don’t know if it will get noticed in “today’s crowded market”; or once, I signed a contract with a publisher who went bankrupt and it took me forever to get my rights back; and once, the publisher said they would send me a contract, but after six months of waiting, they backed out. I am a typical author, just trying to write a story that readers will love.
I want my books reviewed and praised well. Can you help me?
No, you can’t.
I can only help myself by changing my attitude.
I am looking at myself too long and too hard.
Let me lift up my eyes and look around. Look at someone else for a change.
Oh, there’s dozens of other writers who are working hard, just like me!
You just want your book reviewed and praised? You just want to connect with readers, too?
Well, sure, let me read your book.
Wow, this is a good read!
Let me tell someone about this book. I can’t wait to tell CM about this one!
That is what Random Acts of Publicity is all about. Lift up your eyes and look around. Read a great book. BLLuRT (Blog, LIKE, Link, Review, Talk about a great book.) Tell someone about that great read–and report what you’ve done on the Facebook page.
I promised I'd tell you some of what I've been reading. Just recently, I've been exploring Darcy Pattison's NOVEL METAMORPHOSIS, Uncommon Ways to Revise. I had the opportunity to attend a retreat last weekend presented by Darcy. It was a great jumpstart for my novel in progress. Darcy had tons of tips, insider info on the writing business, and lots of encouragement. Just what I needed! Darcy has an amazing website and blog. If you are children's author or want to know more about children's books, I'd advise you to stop by. She has a wealth of info there.
As for what children's literature have I been reading--well, I just finished James Treadwell's ADVENT. This is the first book in a trilogy of the Arthurian legend, and it is masterfully written. But it's a YA book for sure. Quite an interesting modern take on the ancient legend.
To help launch the August release of my new picture book "Prairie Storms", written by Darcy Pattison and published by Sylvan Dell Publishing, I will be making available FREE coloring pages drawn by me! Each coloring page features a month with a scene which coordinates with a scene from the book. Just click the image, then either download the coloring page, or drag and drop it to your desk top. Be sure to print the image in a "landscape" format on your printer. The image size is 8.5" X 11". I would love to see your child's finished, colored page when they have finished coloring it.
This week I am featuring the coloring page for the month of February: a prairie dog peeks out of his snow-capped burrow on a foggy morning. Will he see his shadow in the snow?
Here is a preview illustration from my latest book, Prairie Storms, set for release in just a couple of weeks. The book was written by Darcy Pattison, and published by Sylvan Dell. We have a follow-up book, called Desert Baths, which will be coming in 2012. It has been wonderful working with both Darcy and Sylvan Dell. In this illustration, an earless lizard shimmies to find shelter from a dry, crackling lightning storm in the middle of an August night. You can download a free coloring page version of this illustration here.
Watch this exciting book preview video of my new book, Prairie Storms, written by Darcy Pattison and illustrated by me. The book is just weeks away from its release date. I am so excited. Watch the video HERE! (Thanks to Darcy for putting together this video.)
The 3rd Annual Random Acts of Publicity, September 6-8, 2011 is a week to celebrate your Friend’s book, or your favorite book, by doing a Random Act of Publicity: Blog, link, Like, review, or talk about the book . (BLLuRT it Out!)
Daily posts here on Fiction Notes (www.darcypattison.com) will offer tips, wisdom and Prizes for your Friend!
Twitter: Use #RAP2011
September 6: Guest Susan Raab
“Brand Building Square One” by Susan Raab, President of Raab Associates, www.raabassociates.com.
One-day chance for you to enter your Friend to win one of 15 FREE Giveaways of a 15-minute book marketing consultation provided by Raab Associates.
September 7: Guests Barbara Fisch and Sarah Shealy
Many Hands Make Light Work – or How Two Heads are Better than One by Barbara Fisch and Sarah Shealy, Blue Slip Media, www.blueslipmedia.com
One-day chance for you to enter your Friend to win a 15-minute book marketing consultation provided by Blue Slip Media.
September 8: Guest Deborah Sloan
Create Buzz by Connecting with Readers by Deborah Sloan of Deborah Sloan & Company. www.deborahsloanandcompany.com
One-day chance for you to enter your Friend to win a one-hour book marketing consultation provided by Deborah Sloan & Company.
September 9: Guest Dana Lynn Smith
How to Get Your Book Reviewed by Dana Lynn Smith of The Savvy Book Marketer. www.thesavvybookmarketer.com
One-day chance for you to enter your Friend to win a FREE copy of How to Get Your Book Reviewed by Dana Lynn Smith
Post your Friend’s name/book title on the Facebook page for Random Acts of Publicity to be entered to win a FREE The Book Trailer Manual by Darcy Pattison. One ebook given away daily; must post Friend’s name that day to be eligible and you can post it each day if you like.
NOTE: You may not enter your own name in any of these prize giveaways. By posting a person’s name you acknowledge that you have asked their permission and the post is with their knowledge. Please note carefully WHERE to comment for each giveaway. They all require you to comment on the POST at Fiction Notes (www.darcypattison.com). The EXCEPTION is the ongoing drawing for The Book Trailer Manual; for this giveaway and this one only, please post on the Random Acts of Publicity Facebook page.
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions
Who can participate?
Anyone who wants to help a book get noticed by readers. We are focusing on helping a Friend’s book get noticed, but you can also choose to help your favorite book get noticed.
What do I do?
BLLuRT or Post. Or both.
BLLuRT (http://bit.ly/RAoP2011). The basic tasks for book marketing online remain the same, BLLuRT! Do one of these each day for your Friend’s book or for your favorite book.