What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in
    from   

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Posts

(tagged with 'how to')

Recent Comments

JacketFlap Sponsors

Spread the word about books.
Put this Widget on your blog!
  • Powered by JacketFlap.com

Are you a book Publisher?
Learn about Widgets now!

Advertise on JacketFlap

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: how to, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 311
1. Ten Tips to Juice Up Your Protagonist

Most writers know every story needs a protagonist with a problem, but your MC also needs to be interesting, compelling, and sympathetic to keep the readers wanting more. We want our characters to jump off the page and grab our readers by the throat. Plus, we want our readers to remember and think about our characters and our story long after they close our book.

Here are ten ways to make your protagonist do just that: 

 

1.  MC has a problem that needs to be solved

Make sure your protagonist is the one with the problem and no one else can solve this problem (or solve it as well as he or she can. The MC has to be central to the entire issue.

2.  MC has the ability to act

Don’t let your protagonists go around just reacting to things when they happen. Your MC should make things happen and move the story along through his or her choices and actions. A protagonist who knows what she wants and makes the story happen is a far more compelling character than one who sits around and waits for the story to happen. Make sure your protagonist is more than just someone in the middle of a mess.

If this is not happening in your book, you need to adjust your story in order to get your protagonist in a position where they can affect the change.

3.  MC needs reasons to act

You can always give your MC something to do, but they need to have good reasons for their actions or your story will start to stretch credibility as to why they would get involved in something that clearly don’t care about. If you want to have your protagonist risk their life or happiness, make sure it’s for a reason readers will understand. NOTE: This is where a critique group comes in handy.

4.  MC needs a compelling quality

Like I said in the beginning, we want to make our MC interesting. Maybe they’re funny, smart or twisted. Maybe your MC has an unusual talent, skill, or quark. Whatever you choose, there needs to be a quality that makes a reader want to know more. Most times the thing that is compelling is also contradictory, making the reader want to know how these two things work together, thus hooking the reader.

5.  MC has something to lose

Just having a reason to act isn’t enough, so think about having your MC lose something that matters. This is a powerful motivating tool that will enable you to force your protagonist to do what he normally wouldn’t. You can have them take risks they would never take if there are consequences hanging over their head. This will make readers worry that your MC might suffer those consequences and lose what matters most to him.

6.  MC should have something to gain

An important aspect of the story’s stakes that’s sometimes forgotten or not thought through well enough is giving the MC something to gain. Readers want to see a protagonist rewarded for all their hard work and sacrifice, and a reason for your protagonist to keep going when everything says give up.

7.  Give Your MC the capacity to change

The sole of the story is character growth. It’s what turns it from a series of plot scenes to a tale worth writing. Giving your protagonist the ability to learn from his experiences and become a better (though not always) person will deepen your story. Your MC shouldn’t be the same person as they were when the story began.

8.  MC needs an interesting flaw

It is the flaws that make your MC interesting. Flaws let you show character growth and give your protagonist a way to improve themselves. Maybe your MC knows about this flaw and is actively trying to fix it, or perhaps he or she hasn’t a clue and change is being forced upon them. This flaw could be the very thing that allows your MC to survive and overcome the problems. Of course, it could also be the cause of the entire mess.

9.  MC has a secret

You don’t want your MC to be predictable – boring. A good way to keep your protagonist interesting is to have your MC hide something. Readers will wonder what that secret is and how it affects the story. Having your protagonist be a little cryptic, will keep your readers dying to find out.

10. MC needs someone or something interesting trying to stop him

Don’t forget that your protagonist needs an antagonist standing against him. The stronger the antagonist is that goes up against your MC, the more tension, suspense and victory you will provide for the reader. Give the reader a villain they will love to hate. The payoff will be keeping your readers turning the pages and reading into the wee hours of the morning.

Do you have another tips for juicing up your characters? We’d love to hear it.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, How to, list, Process, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: Juice Up Your Protagonist, Ten character Writing Tips, Writing compelling characters

0 Comments on Ten Tips to Juice Up Your Protagonist as of 9/2/2014 1:01:00 AM
Add a Comment
2. The Making of Storybooks – Studio B

HAPPY LABOR DAY! 

Since it is now September, I figured I would post this opportunity for those children’s writers and Illustrators who live within driving distance in Michigan, New Jersey , PA, and New York to met David Small and Holly McGhee.

The third poster down: Studio B in Maplewood, NJ is bringing together five children’s author/illustrators to discuss the process of writing a children’s book.

You can see all the details in the posters below:

Bookbug-CATCH-THAT-COOKIE-PROMO1

Catch-That-Cookie-Maplewood-Library-smaller

scratches-scribblesPoster-082214

A COMPLETE LIST OF APPEARENCES:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014, 6 P.M., Kalamazoo Public Library

A Conversation with David Small & Hallie Durand

315 South Rose Street , Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Here’s the link.

Thursday, September 11, 2014, 5:00 P.M., Bookbug, Kalamazoo

Cookie hunt & Book signing

3019 Oakland Dr, Kalamazoo, MI 49008

And here’s the link for that one.

Saturday, September 13 2014, 3:00 P.M., Maplewood Library

Scavenger hunt & Cookie decorating, with a live rogue cookie!

51 Baker Street, Maplewood, NJ 07040

http://www.maplewoodlibrary.org/kids-events/

Sunday, September 14, 2014, 12:00 P.M., Paramus Public Library

Scavenger hunt & Reading, with a live rogue cookie!

E116 Century Road, Paramus, NJ 07652

RSVP 201-599-1309

Sunday, September 14, 2014, Studio B Honcho

Scratches & Scribbles Event for aspiring or already arrived Writers & Artists

60 Woodland Road, Maplewood, NJ 07040

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/830322

Monday, September 15, 4:00 P.M., WordsMaplewood Bookstore

Hallie Durand & David Small

Quick Drawing Lesson, Shapes & Contours, & Book Signing

179 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood, NJ 07040

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, children writing, How to, inspiration, opportunity Tagged: David Small, Hallie Durand, Mark Your Calendars, Studio B, The Making of Storybooks

3 Comments on The Making of Storybooks – Studio B, last added: 9/1/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
3. Ask an Editor: Hooking the Reader Early

In this series, Tu Books Publisher Stacy Whitman shares advice for aspiring authors, especially those considering submitting to our New Visions Award

Last week on the blog, I talked about the importance of following submission guidelines and basic manuscript format. This week, I wanted to go into more detail about why a reader might stop reading if they’re not hooked right away. Here are some comments I’ve heard our readers make about manuscripts that didn’t hook them:

  • Story does not captivate in first few chapters
  • Boring
  • Writing not strong, or not strong enough to hold a young reader’s (or teen’s) interest
  • Parts of the writing are very strange (not in a good way)
  • Sounded too artificial
  • Reminds me too much of something that’s really popular
  • Too Tolkienesque or reliant upon Western European fantasy tropes
  • Concept cliche

How do you get your writing to have that “zing” that captivates from the very beginning? This is a little tougher than just following the directions—this is much more personal to each reader and each writer.

Is your writing boring readers?

There are a couple different issues in the list above. Some readers lost interest simply because they were bored. If you find yourself telling readers of your book, “Don’t worry! It gets really good in chapter five!” consider whether you’re starting your book at the right moment in time. The phrase “late in, early out” is one to remember—perhaps you don’t need all the information that leads to the “really good” part. Or perhaps you need to revise to make that information more interesting and faster paced.

I don’t recommend simply dumping this information into a prologue. Many young readers skip prologues entirely, and many more readers will lose interest if your prologue is long and boring—it’s the same principle as saying “just wait till chapter five!”

If the information in your first few chapters are crucial, yet readers are getting bored by it, consider spooling that information out little by little over the course of the book. You need to find the balance between giving enough information for the reader to be intrigued and wanting to know more, without overburdening the reader with so much information that they become overwhelmed or bored.

been there done thatFor example, take the first few pages of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. On page 1, Taylor sets up the scene: it’s an ordinary day in Prague (interesting point number one: how many books are set in Prague?) and Karou is walking down the street toward school, minding her own business. It’s an active scene—something is happening—but it’s more about Karou’s internal mundane thoughts. However, it doesn’t stay mundane for long. By page 2, she’s been attacked.

But it’s not your average “you have to have an action scene in the first scene!” attack. The author plays with expectations, intriguing the reader and making you want to know what happens next. We get some ex-boyfriend banter (also against expectations) and the promise of interesting, embarrassing things to come by the end of the chapter.

It helps that the book is well written. But it’s more than good prose that hooks the reader here—she spools out just enough to let you know that this is a unique book, and that you want to know more. The next two chapters do the same thing, and bit by bit, the reader comes to know Karou’s intriguing magical background.

What she doesn’t do is infodump in a prologue or the first few chapters about Karou’s history, the history of the world, and the history of the strange beings who raised her. Save those details for when they matter.

Look at your favorite books and read like a writer. For hooking a reader, look in particular at excellent examples of the first five pages of a wide variety of books. There are many ways to effectively open a book, and you need to find the way that works for your story. Reading other books like a writer will help you to zoom in on ways to perfect your craft.read like a writer

Another great resource for writers trying to figure out how to hook readers is editor Cheryl Klein’s essay “The Rules of Engagement” in her book Second Sight. It’s no longer available online (and I don’t believe the book is in e-book form), but it’s worth the price of the book for her discussion of various ways to hook readers via character, insight, action, and other methods. (Bonus: you also then get access to all her other thoughts on writing and revision.)

Over-reliance on common tropes

Several readers commented that several books relied too much upon Western European fantasy tropes (elves, fairies, etc.). There are ways of hooking readers with familiar story elements, but often most high fantasy tales boil down to “my elves are better than yours.”

The Coldest Girl in ColdtownLook for new inspiration. (We’ll cover worldbuilding more in full in a few weeks.) But especially in the first few chapters of your book, avoid leading with ideas that have been-there-done that.

If your story concept relies on tried-and-true tropes, it’s not the end of the world. Take a look at books coming out now that are successfully changing the mold—books like The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, who has revamped (haha) the vampire genre, for example. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown updates the genre, makes vampires scary again. In what ways can you update and revamp the concepts in your book to hook readers?

The solution to your writing being “not strong enough”: practice 

The number one complaint as to why a reader wasn’t hooked was that the writing wasn’t good. Once you get past obvious grammar and punctuation mistakes, this comes down to a greater need to practice your craft. Write regularly—it doesn’t have to be every day, but do it consistently. If your problem is time, you might find useful this advice from New Voices Award winner Pamela Tuck on how to carve out time to write on a regular basis. She has ELEVEN children, who require a lot of time and attention, especially because she home-schools them.

The more you practice, the better you’ll get. And next week, we’ll begin to drill down on elements that you can work on in the whole book, such as voice.

Stacy Whitman photoStacy Whitman is Editorial Director and Publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS that publishes diverse science fiction and fantasy for middle grade and young adult readers. 


Filed under: Awards, New Voices/New Visions Award, Publishing 101, Tu Books, Writer Resources Tagged: ask an editor, how to, Laini Taylor, New Visions Award, Science Fiction/Fantasy, stacy whitman, Tu Books, writing advice

0 Comments on Ask an Editor: Hooking the Reader Early as of 7/31/2014 7:16:00 PM
Add a Comment
4. Amazon Sales Strategies

This week we will look at a few strategies you can use to increase the sales of your books.

amazoncats

If you buy any books on Amazon, you may have noticed they list the Best Selling Books. You should give these categories some thought. It may help you get on one of their lists and getting on one of the lists will greatly improve your chances to get noticed and bought.

1. Try to choose a niche category on Amazon. There are less books, so you will have a better chance to be listed at the top.

2. By clicking the book ranked #100 in any given category, you can consult the Rank to Sales Estimator to see how many sales you need to qualify for that categories Best Seller List.

3. Self Published authors get to choose two categories.
Traditional publishers get to choose up to five categories. Make sure your publisher knows how the system works and how they can use it to their advantage. Choosing “Fiction” might not be the best category due to so many books. (over a million)

4. Example: Kindle Store> Kindle ebooks > Fiction> Mystery, Thriller & Suspense> Thrillers> Political. Your books will still show in all the categories above the one you chose.

A few scenarios:

Fault in Our Stars [Kindle Edition]
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#6 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store) This a list of all books (no categories)
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Teen & Young Adult > Romance > Contemporary
#1 in Books > Teens > Love & Romance

Isla and the Happily Ever After [Kindle Edition]
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#11,151 Paid in Kindle Store
#100 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Teen & Young Adult > Romance > Contemporary

The First Third [Kindle Edition]
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#172,765 Paid in Kindle Store (See how this book was able to make the Top 100 List by picking Social Issues? That’s because there is less competition. This helps give the book a chance to be seen.)
#100 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Teen & Young Adult > Social Issues

The Year We Disappeared: A Father – Daughter Memoir [Kindle Edition]
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,006 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Teen & Young Adult > Social Issues
#5 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Teen & Young Adult > Biography
#33 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Children’s Nonfiction

Neverwhere [Kindle Edition]
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,867 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#10 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Classics
#11 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary Fiction > Fantasy
#79 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Horror

5. Make sure you check to make sure the category you pick is on both the book side and the kindle side if you have a print book. Some of the categories do not match up.

6. If you are self-published you will need to do this for yourself, but don’t assume your publisher is choosing the best categories. Do your homework and discuss what you have found with them. But make sure you do this before they list it on Amazon.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, demystify, How to, Marketing a book, need to know, success, Tips Tagged: Amazon Book Sales Strategies, Amazon Rankings, How to Sell More Books, NJSCBWI 2014 Workshop

9 Comments on Amazon Sales Strategies, last added: 8/4/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
5. Amazon Reviews and Ebook Price Reductions

reviews

  • Give out a ARC to people who have a large following on their blogs, but ask them to commit to reading your book and doing a review. Need to work on this months before your book is released. Remember the more reviews you get the better your book will do, but they need to be good reviews.
  • For the people who you gave an ARC to, ask them to pass on the book to another person to read to expand your audience.
  • Ask everyone who does a review on Amazon to also put it up on Goodreads, too.
  • If you have an ebook, consider having Amazon offer it on their Deal of the Day. Reducing the price for a few days or a week, will boost your sales and start word of mouth.
  • Have family/friends/colleagues/fans buy your book during a ‘soft’ launch (pre-advertising, or promoting your book on social media).
  • Price your book at 99 cents (the lowest allowed by Amazon) and drive as much traffic as you can during your ‘soft’ launch window.  Once you have the bar filled you can re-price your book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, How to, Marketing a book, need to know, reference, Tips Tagged: Advanced Reader Copy, Amazon Ebook Price Reduction, Amazon Reviews

1 Comments on Amazon Reviews and Ebook Price Reductions, last added: 8/7/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
6. Illustrator Saturday – Rebecca Caridad

I would like to introduce you to illustrator Rebecca Caridad. I think you will enjoy reading the interview I had with her and getting to know her through her playful artwork. Here is Rebecca:

rebeccapicFor me, illustration is the key to my secret garden, my golden ticket, my looking glass, my glass slipper. I draw and paint as a way to free my mind and escape into the many worlds of the written word. Whether it be for the pages of children’s books, greeting cards, gifts, or decor; I incorporate children, adults, animals, fantasy creatures, and landscapes in a unique and imaginative way in order to tell the story. I work digitally to bring my characters and environments to life and transport the viewer to a place of dreams.

Sep 2003 – Present, Whippany Park High School, Art Teacher

Sep 1997 – May 2001, University of Delaware, Bachelor of Fine Arts; concentration: Photography

Jan 2002 – May 2003, William Paterson University, Initial Certification Program; K-12 Teacher of Art

Jun 2010 – May 2014, Academy of Art University (AAU), Master of Fine Arts; Traditional Illustration Program: Children’s Book Illustration

2014 MFA Illustration Spring Show

Here is Rebecca discussing her process:

rebeccaSecretGarden_reference

I shot a reference photo for the girl (this is a picture of my cousin’s daughter) and used this to draw out the pose. I found other references for the animals using Pinterest.

rebeccaCaridad_Sketches

rebeccaSecret Garden_stage1

Then I began sketching. I had an idea of the composition, but I drew out my characters separately first so that I could scan them and make the arrangement and adjustments in PhotoShop.

rebeccaSecret Garden_stage2

I change my sketch layers to blending mode: multiply so that I can see through them and I start to build my layers of color. I start with my background color and a few background elements.

rebeccaSecret Garden_stage3

I then start to build up some of the surroundings – adding layers of textures.

rebeccaSecret Garden_stage4

In this particular image, I added the archway next, this provided the frame for the composition.

rebeccaSecret Garden_stage5

I painted in my characters with their basic colors and shapes.

rebeccaSecret Garden_stage6

I then turned off the visibility of the arch sketch and added in the detail and the layers of ivy.

rebeccaSecret Garden_stage7

I turn off the visibility of the sketch layers and put in highlights, shadows, and details of the characters.

rebeccaSecret Garden_stage8

Work to finish the highlights, shadows, and details.

rebeccaScreen Shot_showing layers

View of screen and layers in Photoshop.

rebeccaSecret Garden_resubmit2wText

Final illustration.

How long have you been illustrating?

I haven’t been illustrating long. I just finished my MFA program in May and I have just started to promote myself as an illustrator.

rebeccacharlie

I see that you got your BA at the University of Delaware; concentration: Photography, what made you choose to get an MFA in Illustration from Academy of Art University in San Francisco?

I actually started as a painting major at the University of Delaware. I always knew that I wanted to do something that involved art, I just didn’t know what exactly.   It wasn’t until I took a photography class as one of my BFA requirements that I fell in love. I loved capturing an image and then watching it emerge on paper in the darkroom. I decided to pursue photography after that experience and was even able to do a study abroad trip to New Zealand during my time as an undergraduate. Soon after graduating I realized that I wanted to be able to share my passion for the arts, so I went back to school for my teacher’s certification. I have been teaching ever since. I truly love sharing through my artwork, and I thought what better way to do that then through illustration. I still remember the artwork and stories that I read as a child and how they shaped me. I wanted to be a part of that experience and help express the words of a written page into a world that any child could enjoy. I chose the Academy of Art University to pursue these dreams because of its excellent reputation and the convenience of taking my classes online while I continued to teach full time.

rebeccacharlotte

Since you live in New Jersey did you do most of your studies online? If so, can you tell us a little bit about that experience?

At first I was a bit hesitant about pursuing an art degree online, but the way that AAU runs its classes is pretty incredible. I didn’t miss trucking my supplies to different classrooms and I was able to enjoy being part of a University with peer feedback and discussions and professors that were extremely helpful and available! Artwork is submitted digitally, whether you work traditionally or not. If you are working on an oil painting, you shoot photographs of your work, if you are drawing, you can scan it, and if you are using Photoshop you just save it. Classmates and professors review your work and make comments. Many of the professors would mark up the files using what they called a “whiteboard” and even left audio files of their comments. Demonstrations could be viewed as videos, so that they could be reviewed whenever you wanted. I thought the experience was fantastic and I am so glad that I was able to do it.

rebeccacinderfloor

Does getting your MFA online, help to cut the cost of getting your degree?

The MFA program was not any less expensive then taking traditional classes. You still pay tuition and buy the supplies that are needed. What was better about the online degree was that I was able to attend a university across the country and work on my artwork and lessons when I had the time… evenings and weekends.

rebecca snow

Does the school promise to give you help in getting established with work?

They didn’t promise an established career, but they certainly prepared me to head out into the world. All of the professors were working professionals and their expectations for us during our classes were to prepare us for working in the industry.   Previous to graduation we were required to take a Professional Practices course that shared valuable resources and pushed us to do research that would get us started on our path to be recognized by art directors and agents. During that class I was able to create my first promotional postcard and business card, as well as a list of 50 contacts in order to start my promotional mailings.

rebeccadoctor

What was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

The very first artwork that earned me money was in high school. I painted a fantasy garden mural for a baby’s nursery that included a frog prince and fairies of my own design. I babysat for many years and it helped me pay for my teacher certification program after undergrad, but creating artwork for the families to decorate their children’s spaces helped me earn even more.

What type of work did you do after you graduated with your BA?

I have been teaching high school art, photography, and graphic design now for 11 years and in that time have designed, built, and painted the scenery for the dramas and musicals, designed t-shirts and posters for the school, and have even been the head yearbook adviser. I have continually found ways to share my artwork no matter what I was doing. I have even done event photography, event décor, and face painting for an event planning and rental company on the side.

rebeccaboydog

Do you think the classes you took in college influenced your style?

The classes that I have taken have definitely influenced my style. I feel that with each course I took I was able to learn more and develop more through the experiences and expertise of those that taught each class. At first I had a hard time keeping my characters consistent, but after taking a Character Design course with the Animation department I was able to start to develop set character traits that could be used in multiple poses and more dynamic gestures. And, of course my medium of choice changed as well… I was able to try everything from oil, to watercolor, markers, collage, and digital painting. After several classes where we were able to choose our medium, I really started to pick up digital painting and I thoroughly enjoy it now.

rebecca4

When did you do your the first illustration for children? 10. How did that come about?

My illustrations for children started back while I was babysitting. I was inspired by the kids that I saw everyday and I would draw and paint things that I knew they would enjoy. Not all of it was for profit, but it made me happy because it brought smiles to their faces.

rebecca2

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate books?

I decided I wanted to illustrate books during my years of teaching.   I have been an avid reader all of my life. I love all forms of books… the children’s book section is a place of wonder and inspiration, YA books are fun to read with the fantasy worlds they evoke, whether reality based or imagined, and I wanted to be a part of it! I have been teaching book cover design in my graphic design classes for years and it is one of my favorite units. I thought it would be incredible to be able to create books for real!

rebecca5

Have you worked with educational publishers?

I am just getting started as a professional illustrator and have not been published yet.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

No, but I would like to.

rebeccadragon

Are you open to illustrating a self-published picture book for an author?

I am in the process of self-promotion so I am examining all options. I’d have to make sure that the author was serious about their venture, but I believe it would be an excellent opportunity for me.

rebeccaad

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own books?

I have tried writing in the past and although I want to illustrate picture books, my words and stories always seem more suitable to chapter books. After attending the NJSCBWI conference this past June, I was re-inspired to try it again. Maybe one day I’ll go for it, but in the meantime I would love to be able to illustrate for the stories of others.

rebeccabug

Do you have an artist rep.? If so, who? And how did you connect with them?

If not, would you like to have one?

I do not have an artist rep., but I think it’s an excellent idea to get one. It is one of my goals to try to connect with a rep. through my promotional mailings or even online.

PenguinLogo_line

What types of things did you do to market yourself and get your work seen?

So far, I have designed promotional cards, a business card, and updated my resume. I have a website, a Facebook page dedicated to my illustration, a Twitter account, a Behance portfolio account, and a Linked In profile. I have been submitting my work to contests and shows in hopes of getting recognized for my art. So far I was honored to be a part of the Academy of Art’s MFA Spring Show, an honorable mention from 3×3 The Magazine of Contemporary Illustration in their International Show (both for my Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover design concept), and I am submitting work to Creative Quarterly’s competition this month.   I also think attending the recent NJSCBWI conference was a great start to the process of getting my work seen, because I took part in the Juried Art Show and the Portfolio display. I was also able to meet many new people in the industry that have been incredibly helpful and friendly!

rebeccapenquintwins

What is your favorite medium to use?

I love to dabble in just about everything, but my medium of choice is definitely digital.

Has that changed over time?

The reason I prefer digital painting is the easy clean up. There really isn’t any, plus it is safe, odor-free, and I am able to make corrections fairly easily without having to start over, like I might with watercolor paints. I was terrible at digital painting in the beginning, but I have grown and learned so much through my MFA courses and I think I have really developed a style through it.

rebeccadowntheshore

Do you have a studio in your house?

I have a room dedicated to my work and art. It has everything I need in it for my digital painting process. I have a drawing table, a light box, a bookshelf with inspirations and supplies, a computer, a scanner, a printer, and my wacom tablet.

rebeccatree

What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

I could not live without my Wacom Drawing Tablet. I love to be able to paint using what feels like a brush or a pencil, instead of my laptop’s track pad mouse. It has controls right on it, so I can easily zoom in, or change my brush size, or even pick up new colors. Eventually I would love to trade up to a Wacom Cintiq tablet. That would allow me to “paint” on the actual surface of my artwork, instead of next to it. I think it would feel more like the natural painting process and I look forward to that – someday….

rebeccahappy

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I dedicate a bit of each day to my artwork. Sometimes it’s actually working on a painting and other times I am sketching ideas, either way it helps me realize my ideas.

Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

I like to shoot references for my drawings/paintings, but if that opportunity isn’t available look at myself for expressions and poses, or use the Internet (google images or Pinterest).

rebeccastaurt

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

The Internet has definitely opened doors for me after all I was able to earn an entire degree online. It is a great resource for references (although I prefer to shoot my own) or inspirations. Most of all, I think it has provided me with many opportunities to share my work with people that I may not ever have the chance to meet in person, or even know about. Social networking has brought about many more chances to network.

rebeccapenquinyellow

What do you feel was your biggest success?

So far my biggest success was earning my MFA. It has allowed me to realize my dreams and create a body of work that really reflects my style.

Do you use Photoshop and/or Painter with your illustrations?

I mostly use Adobe Photoshop, but sometimes I will bring my illustrations into Corel Painter to enhance some of the textures. Sometimes, I will even use Adobe Illustrator to draw or even refine my sketches.

rebecca8

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

Yes, as I mentioned before, it has really made the painting process so much more natural. I love it!

rebecca1Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I would love to illustrate a children’s picture book and have it published. I know that many of your reader’s have already achieved this goal, but I’m so excited and passionate about reaching it!

rebecca7

What are you working on now?

Right now my goal is to develop more portfolio pieces and character designs. Much of what I took away from the workshops at the NJSCBWI conference was that the ability to develop a strong character (and show him/her in multiple ways) could get you noticed by an art director or agent. Strong characters mean the possibilities for additional stories or even merchandise. So I am continuing to draw and paint, and of course trying to promote my work and get it seen.

rebeccapajama

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I like to use Non-Photo Blue pencils as I begin to sketch. It allows me to rough out gestures and poses and make mistakes and corrections without interfering with the final result. The great thing about them is they will not copy. So, I can go over the lines I want to keep with a graphite pencil and only see them when copied. If I scan my drawings, I can easily remove the rough blue lines in Photoshop and just keep what I need to get started in my painting. I like the quality of line and movement that you get when you are first drawing a subject. If you have to trace the lines later, I often feel like they stiffen up.

rebeccamouse

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Since I am just starting out I don’t feel like I can properly impart any words of wisdom, but I know one thing… enjoy what you do and never lose your passion. It is what has gotten me where I am so far and I’m hoping it leads me to fulfilling my dreams.

rebeccaoil

Above: One of Rebecca’s oil paintings.

Thank you Rebecca for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about your future successes.

To see more of Rebecca’s illustrations you can visit her at:

Website: http://www.rebeccacaridad.crevado.com  

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Rebecca, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Process Tagged: MFA Children's Book Illustration, Rebecca Cardid

3 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Rebecca Caridad, last added: 8/11/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
7. TYING YOUR NOVEL INTO THE CORE CURRICULUM

WoCCover01A few weeks ago I was out with Darlene Beck Jacobson and she started talking about the work she was doing to develop a curriculum and study guide for her debut book that is coming out in September.

I asked her to share what she was doing with all of you, since we can all learn from each other.  Here is part one of the three part series.

TYING YOUR NOVEL INTO THE CORE CURRICULUM By Darlene Beck Jacobson

Schools are changing. So are the curriculum requirements. With teachers being squeezed for time and tight budgets limiting purchases of “frivolous” things like fiction for the classroom, what can we writers do to give our books a fighting chance on classroom reading lists?

You can develop a CURRICULM GUIDE and STUDY QUESTIONS to tie into the Core Curriculum Content Standards. For my historical middle grade novel WHEELS OF CHANGE, which takes place in 1908 Washington DC, I developed a curriculum guide on the second wave of the Industrial Revolution. (see attached)

I also did a separate set of Study Questions that tie into Reading and Literature objectives. (see attached) You can do the same thing for your novel…even if it isn’t historical. Begin by generating questions that fit the Reading and Literature sections of the standards. Then look for the universal theme or ideas that would generate good classroom discussions on topics that cover important issues such as war, homelessness, divorce, illness, poverty, prejudice, etc. These topics can be part of Science, Health, and Social Studies units. Fellow writers have even tied their books into art and music areas as well.

You can also develop worksheets, puzzles, games or other reproducible activity sheets that teachers can use in the classroom. Everything you can do to make life easier for a teacher, will help make your book stand out from all the others that cry for attention in the curriculum.

To learn more about Common Core Standards visit: www.commoncorestandards.org

PART II: Curriculum Guide tomorrow

Darlene Beck Jacobson has loved writing since she was a girl. She also loves bringing the past to life in stories such as WHEELS OF CHANGE (Creston Books), her debut novel.    Her stories have appeared in CICADA, CRICKET, and other magazines. Her blog features recipes, activities, crafts and interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators. She still loves writing and getting letters. Check out her website at: http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.com

WHEELS OF CHANGE is due out on September 22, 2014.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Filed under: article, How to, reference Tagged: Common core Guidelines, Curriculum Guide, Darlene Beck-Jacobson, Study Guide, Wheels of Change

6 Comments on TYING YOUR NOVEL INTO THE CORE CURRICULUM, last added: 5/27/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
8. It Was a Dark and Stormy Night ...

I recently finished reading the classic book "Wrinkle in Time" with my eight-year-old. It begins with the famous—and much maligned—line, "It was a dark and stormy night ..."

Writers look down on this opening phrase as being "obvious" and "too moody." It has been the butt of jokes from "Throw Momma from the Train" to Peanuts comics. But I'd like to write a brief defense of Madelaine L'Engle's linguistic choice as well as take a look at what makes descriptions work ... or not work.

L'Engle's phrase, at its most basic, does, indeed, set a tone for the book. And it describes the intensity that the character Meg feels. It also foreshadows the "dark"/sinister beings the characters will encounter, as well as the darkness through which the characters travel during their cross-planetary adventure. So I think that mentioning a "dark night" is thematic and relevant to L'Engle's whole book; she writes it as a fight between love and "the dark."

So what about the complaint that to describe night as dark is too obvious? I would argue that there are all kinds of nights. There are nights that seem like a faint orange hue hangs between the greenness of piled snow and heavy-set clouds. There are purple nights. There are also cold bright nights when the sky is clear and the moon shines like a shadeless pendant bulb.

And yes, there are stormy nights when the darkness seems to swallow up every detail out of reach, as though a cocoon of black velvet envelopes you: a dark and stormy night.

But these days, readers want more than that. We expect writers to paint with words in a more extraordinary way.

On the other hand, overly long or beatific descriptions are considered passé: Flip to almost any page in the classic "Anne of Green Gables" series and you'll find paragraphs of detail like: "a veritable apple-bearing tree, here in the very midst of pines and beeches ... all white with blossom. It's loaded [with apples]—tawny as russets but with a dusky red cheek. Most wild seedlings are green and uninviting."

While most of us still appreciate (and even love) L.M. Montgomery's lengthy stylistic descriptions for its time, these days such florid language is considered "purple prose."

Needless to say, descriptions can make or break even the best concepts and plots. Writers need not only to be gifted storytellers, but word makers and image creators of a new bent.

One author who excels in this is Mark Zusack. Consider some of these images from "The Book Thief":

  • a short grin was smiled in Papa's spoon
  • one [book] was delivered by a soft, yellow-dressed afternoon
  • empty hat-stand trees
  • the gun clipped a hole in the night
  • the summer of '39 was in a hurry
  • the smell of friendship
  • [the] crackling sound ... was kinetic humans, flowing, charging up
Zusak has an uncanny ability to describe. A grin is offered up as if it is a picture from a film director's storyboard. A sound is described using imagery. A feeling is described as a scent. Ideas are personified and people are chemicals.

So think well when you are describing. Go over your story and take the time to find new ways to bring imagery to your reader. And keep it somewhere between "purple" and "dark and stormy."

Do you have a favorite metaphor or simile? Share it below!

0 Comments on It Was a Dark and Stormy Night ... as of 5/30/2014 12:05:00 PM
Add a Comment
9. Study Guide – Darlene Beck-Jacobson

wheels

WHEELS OF CHANGE STUDY GUIDE

  1. Change is the overriding theme of this novel. Discuss good vs. bad change and how the characters accepted or rejected change. CCSS RL 4.9
  2. How did Emily’s ideas about change evolve throughout the story? CCSS RL 3.3
  3. What does the horseshoe symbolize? Do you think it really had power? Explain. CCSS RL 5.4
  4. Do you think Beatrice’s personality and behavior are her own or as result of trying to please her mother? CCSS RL 3.3
  5. What characteristics made Charlie a good friend for Emily? Vice versa. CCSS RL 3.3
  6. What do you think of Emily’s reaction to Mrs. Peabody’s comments at the tea? Was Emily justified in dumping tea in Mrs. Peabody’s lap?   Explain why or why not. What would you have done? CCSS RL 4.3
  7. 1908-09 was a time in history when segregation was common. Do you think Mr. Soper was courageous in employing an African-American? Explain. CCSS RL 3.3
  8. Was life easier or harder in 1909? What did you like about the time period?
  9. The roles of males and females were more sharply divided in the early 20th Century. Do you think Emily’s resistance to learning proper lady-like behavior was typical for girls her age? Why or why not? CCSS RL 4.3
  10. How did Emily’s relationship with Mama change? CCSS RL 5.2
  11. The story takes place when there were fewer luxuries in everyday life – especially regarding entertainment. What would you do if you had no radio, television, telephone, electricity or car, like most of the people in the story? CCSS RL 4.9
  12. Learning skills and being self-sufficient was important during this time in history. Why? Do you think these values are still important today? Explain.
  13. Emily and Charlie were expected to help the family by doing daily chores. If they weren’t completed, the household and family suffered. Does your family depend on you to do certain jobs? What would happen if you didn’t do them? CCSS RL 4.9
  14. What did Emily expect President Roosevelt to do for Papa? CCSS RL 4.3
  15. What did you think of Emily’s suggestions for changing Papa’s business? What might you have done to help? CCSS RL 4.9
  16. Do you think it was foolish or brave of Emily to stay in the barn during the fire? What would you have done? CCSS RL 3.3
  17. There were limited opportunities for women at the turn of the 20th Century. Single women who were not from wealthy families could teach, work long hours in a factory under awful conditions, or work as maids, governesses, or servants to wealthy families. Once married, they were expected to stay home and care for their husband and children. Do the opportunities enjoyed by women today make their lives easier or more difficult? Explain. CCSS RL 4.9
  18. When Mama first meets Mrs. Jackson, they seem ill as ease with one another. Why? CCSS RL 5.2
  19. Do you think it was unusual for Emily’s best friend to be a boy? Why or why not?
  20. If the story took place today, do you think it would be easy for a girl to become a blacksmith? Explain.

Hope this gives you some ideas of how proceed when you publish your book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: demystify, How to, inspiration, marketing, Process, Writing Tips Tagged: Darlene Beck-Jacobson, Study Guide, Study Guide Example, Wheels of Change

3 Comments on Study Guide – Darlene Beck-Jacobson, last added: 6/1/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
10. Illustrator Saturday – Craig Cameron

Croc&flag

craigCraig Cameron is originally from Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. He graduated from the University of Ulster, Belfast in 1995 with a First Class(hons) degree in Visual Communication.

After graduating, armed with paintbrushes and guitar, he travelled across to the north of England to pursue a career as an illustrator, working initially as a graphic designer in advertising and Children’s Book Publishing, and since 2002 as a freelance artist.

Over the last decade Craig worked on many exciting projects – with book publishers in the UK and US, also creating illustrations for licensed characters, magazines, greetings cards, and product packaging.

He currently lives in Manchester, UK, with my wife Annette and 3 children, Ellie, Lewis and Joe.

Here is Craig Explaining his process:

The steps I take in my process of creating an illustration

Client – NetJets – International Children’s Day Card / promotional item.

This brief was to create a colorful illustration to celebrate International Children’s Day, which would be handed out to passengers on 2nd June 2014.

I generally start with very small sketchy thumbnails in my sketchbook, thinking about the general concept, layout and composition. From this I then work up more detailed sketches in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet and pen. I enjoy both sketching with pencils and directly into Photoshop. The benefit of Photoshop is that you can rotate, enlarge and move items around easily.

I submitted 3 concept ideas to the client as sketches. I think my sketches tend to be fairly detailed, probably due to my personality and wanting to get them resolved in terms of tone and composition so I have a clear idea of how they will look when I go to final color artwork.

Netjets 1

Rough concept sketch

Netjets 2

Refining sketch

Netjets 3

First concept sketch sent to client.

Netjets 4

Second concept sketch for client.

Netjets 5

Third concept sketch for client. The client liked options one and three best but decided to go with option 1. There were pleased with the design and asked for a few small changes including adding the livery /stripes on the plane and NetJets branding.

Netjets 6a

Although I work digitally primarily, I often like to use painted textures and backgrounds. In a small messy corner of my office I like to create these textures, using canvas boards, acrylic paints, gesso and dry brushing techniques until I get a texture which looks suitable.

Netjets 6b

I’ve built up a library of these which can also be used with the photoshop brushes to give a more hand tooled effect. I scan the texture as a grayscale tiff file, using an Epson A3 scanner at a fairly hi-res (approx 400dpi).

Netjets 7

Once scanned I import into Photoshop and position the sketch on top as a positional guide.

Netjets8

I color the background, often using layer options and adjustment layers, allowing the texture of the canvas effect to show through.

Netjets9

Netjets10

I tend to use a lot of layers, grouping the various items into folders. I paint using the airbrush and lasso tools, blocking out the general shapes before adding shading, details and highlights.

Netjets11

 

Netjets11b

 

Netjets11c

 

Netjets12

 

Netjets13

The final stages often take the longest time – adding highlights and extra texture until I’m happy with the overall look and feel.

Netjets14_final

Recently I have enjoyed trying out new brushes in Photoshop which can give more natural, painted or hand tooled effect. The client was really pleased with the final artwork and asked for one small change which was to make the clouds on earth look less scribbly and more like soft swirls.

spaced out1The Rough Sketch

spaced out2The Final Sketch

spaced out3

Working on tones.

spaced out4

The final illustration.

BHJ

Backhoe Joe, written by Lori Alexander and Illustrated by Craig Cameron will be released on 16th September by Harper Collins US.

BJ_

Above is some interior art from Craig’s Debut Picture Book.

3 little pigs

When did you first know you wanted to make a living doing art?

I went to Art College after A Levels, knowing that drawing/art was definitely the direction I wanted to go as a career after school. I attended a place on a Foundation Studies course in Art & Design at Belfast. At that stage I hadn’t made up my mind that I wanted to be an illustrator but my interest has always been in picture books and children’s brighlty coloured artwork. I then went on to an Illustration HND course at NEWI (North Wales). It was during those 2 years that the idea of actually working as an illustrator became more of a reality.

Big-Train_cvr

How long have you been illustrating?

I was fortunate to get my first commercial illustration commissions when I was at University, so have been illustrating for just over 20 years. After leaving University I initially worked in a design agency for 3 years and then for another 3 years as a book designer for a UK publishing house before going freelance in 2002 as a full time illustrator.

Engine-color_p26-27

What was the first thing you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

At school I had 2 brilliant art teachers. I can honestly say that if it weren’t for them I probably wouldn’t be an illustrator today. They were very supportive, inspiring and encouraging and I loved working in the environment of the art studio. They both commissioned me to paint their portraits!

My first commercial commission was for Alton Towers theme park here in the UK. It was for a promotional page in a national newspaper and came through an illustration agent who had seen my work as part of my graduate exhibition. I think this was the turning point where I realized that having a career as an illustrator could really happen!

City-Train_cvr

city_train-15

I see you graduated from the University of Ulster, Belfast in 1995 with a First Class(hons) degree in Visual Communication. What made you choose Ulster and Visual Communication?

I am from Nothern Ireland and grew up in a town called Carrickfergus, 15 miles outside of Belfast. I had previously studied for 1 year on an Art&Design Foundation course and I liked the University and of course it was close to home, friends and family. The Visual Communication course offered lots of flexibility to try different disciplines, photography, graphic design, art history, film making etc, which appealed me me as I was trying to figure out my possible career direction. Other famous children’s picture book artists have graduated from the same course at Belfast, including the wonderful Oliver Jeffers and Alison Brown.

freight_train-7

What types of things do you study with Visual Communication? What makes it different from getting a BFA?

The course offered a grounding across a range of diciplines in Art & Design but then the opportunity to specialise in the final years, so it was ideal for students who were initially unsure of their specialist subject or who wanted a more general Art & design qualification which might be suited to education or similar.

BaM_colour

Did the School help you get work?

Prior to my degree at Belfast I did a 2 year illustration HND course in North Wales. (NEWI). This course was extremely practical and designed to help graduates find relevant commercial experience and contacts within the industry. During these years I was very fortunate to do a work placement with Penguin Books in London. Also, our final exhibition was moderated by an illustration agent based in Manchester, UK. She liked my work and asked me to meet her for an interview which lead subsequently to my first commercial commissions and having a artists rep whilst still at University.

BaM_front-cover

Do you feel that the classes you took in college have influenced your style?

I’m not sure that the colleges really pushed my work in any particular direction, but certainly the working environment and seeing the work of other students helped to inspire and encourage me to constantly develop and improve my work. The biggest influence came through the illustration rep. The agency I joined was called The Art Collection and there was a studio with about 8-10 in house professional illustrators. I was completely blown away by their talent, humour and professionalism.

BTB_Tum-Xmas_col12

Was your after graduating trip with your guitar just for fun or were you on a quest to find a job?

After graduating I moved from N.Ireland over to Manchester, England to work with the Art Collection. I have always loved music and have played guitar in college bands, but never really considered following music as a career – maybe in the future, who knows…!

Bob4

How did you find your first job doing advertising graphic design?

Again I was quite fortunate. An illustrator friend of mine had been renting space from a design agency in Manchester. They were looking for a junior designer with good drawing skills as they did lots of work for local restaurants and businessess. She gave them my name and I went for interview. The position was really good in that I spent about 50% of my time on illustrations and the other 50% on graphic design, logos, concepts etc. I really enjoyed my time although it was a bit hectic at times and often long hours. I learnt an awful lot in terms of producing artwork for print and using commercial DTP software such as Photoshop, illustrator etc.

Bob2

What children’s book publisher did you work for and how did that come about?

I have always loved children’s picture books so when I saw an advert for a book designer in Manchester for Egmont Books, I jumped at the chance! I was fortunate to pass the interview and worked there for 3 years, prior to going freelance full time.

It was a small design team, friendly, fun and a great environment to work in, surrounded by toys and books. I worked mostly on educational, licensed character and novelty books.

cook

Was that job the reason you got into illustrating for children?

It certainly didn’t put me off, but I think my love of illustration and books has been there since I was a child. It was a really good platform to start from as I learnt a lot about the business of publishing. I developed valuable skills in layout, design, typography and in producing artwork for print. Also I made good friends, many of whom I still keep in contact with now.

Rocket-&-croc

What was the first illustration work you did for children? How did that come about?

In the early illustration agency days, I received a number of jobs aimed at the children’s market, including the work for Alton Towers and a promotional Children’s Book for Boots the chemist. I think my illustration style always tended to fit the chidren’s market best as the colours are bright and playful.

croc's-away

How did you get to do eight early readers books with Stone Arch Readers?

I have advertised my illustration work on the Children’s Illustrators website (www.ccillustration.com) and have received a number of really good commissions through this page over the last 4 years, particularly from the US. I was initially approached by Stone Arch Publishing, through this website in 2012 to do a series of 4 x Early Readers based on train characters. They followed this with a second set of 4 books in 2013.

bears1

Illustrating seven books in one year must have been a lot of work? How long did it take you to illustrate each book?

The work fell into 2 sets of 4 books. Each project took around 4-6 months from start to finish with each book taking around 6 weeks to complete.

mac_box1

Are you under contract to illustrate more?

No.

mac-box2

How did you land the contract with HarperCollins to do BACKHOE JOE?

Backhoe Joe came through my agent here in the UK, called Beehive Illustration. I think Harper had also seen my work on the children’s Illustrators website as I had a number of examples of diggers and construction vehicles on there which fitted the look they were going for.

JCB-wall-chart

Was this your first book with a US publisher?

This is my first children’s picture book which is very exciting. It’s due to be released in August 2014 so I’m really looking forward to seeing a printed copy! I have worked with a number of US publishers before on early readers, magnet and sticker books and educational illustration.

JCB_frankie

Do you have an artist rep.? If so, who? If not, would you like to have one?

I am currently represented in the UK by Beehive Illustration and also a local agent in Manchester called Monkey Feet Illustration. Some really great projects have come through these in recent years, including a style guide for My First JCB and publishing projects.

jcb2

 

Do you think you will ever try to write and illustrate a picture book?

I would love to!… and have a number of ideas that I have been recently working on.

I’ve always particuarly loved children’s picture books and this is an area I would really love to develop and focus on in the future.

bob1

 

How did you get to illustrate Bob the Builder books?

I have worked on licensed character illustration since my days at Egmont Books as a designer. I worked on a set of Bob the Builder Story Library books and have illustrated Bob for BBC magazines on a monthly basis for almost 10 years.

kids

 

How many picture books have you illustrated?

Only one so far, although Harper collins have mentioned the possibility of a second follow up title to Backhoe Joe – to be confirmed.

height-chart

 

mouse skate

Do you sell a lot of your black and white illustrations?

I have been commissioned to create B&W illustrations for publishing editorial and for the my 1st JCB licensed character style guide. I was approached recently to work on a young fiction title with B&W interior illustrations, which is something I would enjoy doing more of.

icecream

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes – lots! I have worked for a number of BBC magazines here in the UK, including Bob the Builder, Cbeebies , Thomas the Tank Engine and The Magic Key magazines. I have been commissioned also for a few editorials including Practical Parenting and Woman’s Weekly!

mermaids

What is your favorite medium to use?

I almost always work digitally now, mostly in photoshop or illustrator, although I love to include painted textures and patterns in the artwork if possible. Working digitally allows so much flexibilty in colouring, designing and making alterations when required – and it’s not as messy! Although I do still really enjoy sketching in my sketchbook.

monkey

Has that changed over time?

It used to be that all my work was drawn or hand painted – but over the last few years almost everything is done directly on my Apple Mac. I use a Wacom pen and tablet to draw with. I now also do the pencil roughs on the mac using a style/brush effect that has a sort of pencil look to it.

Over recent years I have intentionally tried to create artwork with a more painted, textured feel.

max

What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

My Wacom drawing pen and tablet.

EDU_moose+canoe

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I’m typically busy with commissioned work during the day. We have three children and I drop them off at school at 9am – I then have the remainder of the day to work on commissioned projects.

The challenge I find difficult is to find time to work on personal projects or sketchbook time. I tend to put client work first, especially if there’s an urgent deadline to work to. However, I do really want to focus on some personal projects and development over the next few years.

ringaround

Are you open to working with self-published authors?

I am contacted quite regularly through the Children’s Illustrators website by self-published authors. I tend to say no, as the work is speculative and I have personal projects I want to concentrate on. That said, I did agree to work with one unpublished author a few years ago, called Giles Paley Phillips, on a project called Balloon and Me. I really liked his writing and we went as far as to collaborate and complete a picture book dummy and colour cover and spreads, which we sent out to a number of publishers in the UK. We received an offer and some advance payments but unfortunately the project fell through shortly after. Giles went on to have a number of successful books published including The Fearsome Beastie, which won The People’s Book Prize 2012 and is currently being made into a CG Short Animation.

CM_Pop&PLay_OnMove_INS_Layout 1

Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Yes – I generally take reference photos and also spend a considerable amount of time online finding reference as the first stage in my process. I also often create a mood board, which might include colours and textures and reference which I find helps me to develop a clearer idea in my mind of the general feel and direction of the illustrations.

CM_Pop&PLay_OnMove_INS_Layout 1

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely! 10 years ago all my work was coming from UK clients, whereas in the last 5 years that has changed and I am receiving more interest and commissioned work from the US and Europe. Also It has become so much easier to network and publicise our work through personal websites, the internet and social media. It’s easier to source reference materials and there are fantastic resources available such as podcasts and online tutorials. It’s probably never been easier or cheaper to promote yourself, but with that is increased competition, Global competition! and the challenge of competing in an extremely competitive market.

undersea

Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes – Photoshop is my preferred software for creating illustrations. If I’m putting a book together I would tend to use InDesign and sometimes use Illustrator for logos and flat colour or black and white illustrations.

teddies

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

Yes – I currently have a Wacom Intuos 3 tablet which I love, although I have been looking at the Cintiq’s and am considering splashing out on one of those – They look fantastic but are expensive!

walkinwoods

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

As I mentioned previously my first love is children’s picture books and I would really like to create my own. I have a few ideas – so watch this space!

forest

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a fairly large educational project for a UK publisher and also a set of editorial illustrations for Thomas the Tank engine magazine.

puppies

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I have really enjoyed working with painted textures in Photoshop. There are lots of really interesting brushes available or you can make your own. That’s an area I’m exploring and enjoying personally. Also listen to podcasts from other practicing illustrators. I tend to listen while I work and it can be very inspiring and encouraging to hear about the experiences of other professionals as they discuss their methods and share advice and expertise.

camp

balloon

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Draw a lot!  When I was at college/university the tutors always stressed keeping a sketchbook and drawing constantly. I didn’t do it enough to be honest. But certainly I appreciate the value of drawing now… it will make life a lot easier!

Also experiment and don’t bogged down too quickly with one particular style. It’s good to be versatile and to be able to work in different ways, mediums. Try some photography, graphic design and computer software too… When you’re working as an illustrator it’s very easy to get recognized for one particular style. That can be good but it can also be restricting. My feeling is that you should constantly be developing and pushing yourself to be the best you possibly can.

finish

Thank you Craig for sharing your process, journey, and expertise with us. I know you will have many more successes in the future and we’d love to hear about all of them, so please keep in touch.

To see more of Craig’s illustrations you can visit him at: http://www.craigcameronart.com/

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Craig, I know he would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, Picture Book, Process Tagged: Backhoe Joe, Craig Cameron, licensed characters

10 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Craig Cameron, last added: 7/1/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
11. Pitch is Concept

artshow jasonSHORE sketch 6

This Team Sand Castle Contest was illustrated by Jason Kirschner and won Honorable Mention Unpublished Illustrator Award at the NJSCBWI Artist Showcase. http://www.jasonkirschner.com/jasonkirschner.com/Home.html

erikaphoto-45Hello all! Jersey Farm Scribe here. Last time we talked I was giving you my take away on how to Attack a Conference. I promised I’d tell you some of the specific, tangible things I learned at the NJ SCBWI.

So here is one of the biggest:

Pitch/Concept

It seems so simple. But I hadn’t thought of it like this before.

Pitch IS Concept.

I took Jill Corcoran’s workshop on concept and selling through to readers. I wasn’t sure what I expected, but I knew Jill is revered for her grasp of plot and revisions. I’ve been over her website A Path to Publishing, quite a few times, and gotten invaluable information from her blog, so I was ready to see what she had to say in person.

One of the first things that struck me was how interchangeably she seemed to use the words “pitch” and “concept.”

To me, pitch was what you practice saying over and over to be prepared to present my idea to one of the editors and agents walking around. It was what I put in the beginning of my query letter. That elevator, two or three sentence wrap of what my book was.

Concept was…. actually, to be honest I hadn’t really thought about it.

As Jill said in the workshop, and as she explains in the beginning of her free video on PlotWriMo (Revise your novel in a month), the CONCEPT is how you’d convince someone to read your book.

Okay, so that means it’s what’s the book about, right?

Well… yes and no.

If I want to go see a movie, and I have to convince other people to want to go see it, what would I say? What makes it special? What draws me to want to see it? Why should someone else want to see it?

That’s more than going over the plot. It’s more than what happens, or who the main characters are. It’s what gives the movie meaning, substance, interest and originality.

And that’s not easy to do in a few sentences!! As Kathy has said, write it all out first. go back to cut and condense.

But how do we know if we’re cutting the right things?

In the workshop, a few of us read our “pitch” to Jill. And a common theme in her response was, “You’re not really TELLING me anything. I know you think you are. But you’re not.”

A lot of it came down to specifics. The pitch has a reader. That reader needs to know what’s going on. It’s a book about heroism! Great. But how so? The kids are going to save the world? Excellent. But WHY? What’s wrong with the world in the first place? Shelby finds herself confused and alone. Okay. But why? And who isn’t? So what’s so special about her confusion?

So how to attack punching up the concept/pitch? I learned to do three things:

1) How will a publisher SELL the book? I hadn’t really thought about this before either. At all. It was especially meaningful for me, because I have a chapter book with a surprise ending. Sure, a surprise can be great. But TOO much surprise makes for a pretty weak back flap on the back of book! How do you sell that?

I don’t want a publisher sitting there thinking. “Yeah, it’s great. But I can’t TELL potential readers why it’s so great or else it’ll ruin the whole thing!”

You’re looking for a pretty serious commitment from someone, whether it’s an agent, editor, publisher, or even the final buyer of the book. Whatever is going to make them go: THIS IS IT! This is the next book I want to my devote time and money to! That’s your concept. That’s your pitch.

Then it’s time to examine it closer:

2) One line at a time:

I read each sentence of my pitch at a time. Then ask myself, WHY?

Four fearless friends save a town from despair.

Okay. There is some element of plot in there. But honestly, the fact is, there is probably millions of stories this could be describing. So let’s see… why? Why do they do it?

What drives them to do it? How much despair are we talking about? Can I express that level of despair in just a few more words?

3) One WORD at a time:

Once I have the sentences I want to say on paper and I’m confident with WHAT they say, it’s time to look at HOW they say it. Am I using the right words?

We only have so many words we get to use in a pitch. And let’s be honest, as someone brought up in the comments of my last pitch, being specific leads to a longer pitch. It’s just a fact. So every word is even more important. Let’s look at the beginning of that same line:

Four fearless friends…….

Four: Does it really matter that there are four of them? Probably not. Maybe I can replace it with something more meaningful.

Fearless: Really? I couldn’t have done better than that? How did I ever think that sounded good?

Etc….

Every single word gets analyzed, condensed, replaced, sometimes even re-envisioned entirely, which ends up leading me back to step one and starting all over again.

Pitch.

…….Sigh. It’s definitely not my favorite part of the process.

But Jill’s workshop really made me feel like now, I have a plan of attack, a process, specific, tangible things to look for, to look at and to strikethrough.

And again, you know I’m a big believer that, well…. our manuscripts are worth it!

Thank you Erika for another great article to help all of us improve our skills.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, demystify, How to, Process, Writing Tips Tagged: Erika Wassall, Jill Corcoran, Path to Publishing, Pitch is Concept

8 Comments on Pitch is Concept, last added: 7/18/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
12. What Writers Can Learn From ‘Goodnight Moon’

here: http://nyti.ms/1not0iV

0 Comments on What Writers Can Learn From ‘Goodnight Moon’ as of 7/22/2014 8:01:00 PM
Add a Comment
13. Illustrator Saturday – Colleen Kosinski

 

colleen_baby_cropped_300x300Colleen Rowan Kosinski has always been involved in creative projects. She is an alumna of Moore College of Art and graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in Visual Arts. While in college, Colleen worked with The Robert Wood Johnson Hospital as part of her curriculum. She developed, designed and constructed step-by-step instruction booklets to be used by nursing staff. After graduation, Colleen worked as a jewelry designer. While working as a designer she won a scholarship to the Gemological Institute of America and earned a certificate in Colored Stones. Colleen, having a great interest in science, volunteered at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, PA. She worked with Dr. John Gelhaus in the entomology department rendering illustrations of insects for scientific publications. She also worked at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA, were she designed illustrations for a cookbook featuring Ben Franklin’s favorite dishes.

After the birth of her first child, Colleen opened her studio and virtual gallery. She has been working as a visual artist, with clients all over the United States, for the past eighteen years. You can visit her site at http://www.myartsite.com. She specializes in pet portraiture and still life. Her mediums of choice are oil or pastel.

Colleen resides in Cherry Hill, NJ with her husband, three sons, doberman pinscher, rottweiler, and miniature dachshund and volunteers at the local animal shelter. During the summer you can usually find her nursing a sick squirrel or robin back to health.

Here is Colleen explaining her process:

This painting example was created for the NJSCBWI 2014 Conference. I knew I wanted a dreamy, fairytale-ish feel. I wanted the viewer to wonder what would happen next. I also wanted to include the theme of the Jersey shore.

First I researched elements I needed for this particular piece of work, ex. I needed to research old-fashioned bathing suit attire, seagulls, and Victorian style homes in Cape May for this piece.

Next, I drew (in pencil) each element that was to be included in the artwork. I scanned in the early sketches and placed everything in the space to see if worked. I’d drawn a lifeguard chair and the Cape May lifeguard boat but they didn’t fit in the composition, so they were cut.

Then, I went back and shadowed each drawing in pencil.

I scanned each shadowed piece into the computer and placed them on the page.

All the shadowed pieces were built as their own layers. I then painted in colors, using varying opacities and brushes.

colleenstep_1_pencil_sketch_cape may girlOriginal pencil sketch

colleeenstep_2_scan_and_cut_cape may girl

Scanned image, cut out, cleaned up and contrast adjusted.

colleenstep_3_color_layers_cape may girl

Colored layers built up.

colleenstep_4_highlights_shadows_cape may girl

Shadows and highlights are added last.

colleenseagull_pencil_sketch

colleenseagull_full_colorI brought the colored drawings back into the original composition.

colleencapemayflag sketch

colleencape may flag_full_colorI adjusted scale and brightness.

colleencape may houses_pencil_sketch

I then layer in shadows into the final composition and sometimes I add various textures into the composition.

colleencape may girl 3_head_tilt

Finally, when the painting looks finished to me, I put a bump map of a watercolor texture over the entire painting. This makes the work look less “computer-like”. Copyright ©artshow colleenscbwi entry 2_6

After critiques by my trusted artist friends, I add my finished piece to my portfolio. For example, they suggested her head should be tilted toward the bird so I made the adjustment as seen here.

colleendiving girl comp5

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been drawing forever. I participated in my first “show” when I was thirteen (and won first place.) I’ve been seriously working on illustrating for children for the past three years.

What made you choose to get your degree in visual Arts at Rutgers University?

I was originally granted a full scholarship to Moore College of Art when I happened upon a portfolio day after a Saturday class at the Philadelphia College of Art. I attended my freshman year, but then transferred to Rutgers to follow my boyfriend. I know. I know. But we’ve been married now for 27 years. : )

colleenbeach girls14

What were you favorite classes?

I loved figure drawing, creative writing, and anthropology. I’d always try to convince my professors to hold class outside on beautiful days. All except figure drawing. Naked models posing outside in the middle of campus would have been frowned upon—but would probably have drawn quite a crowd.

Did the School help you get work?

Actually, Moore College of Art helped me get my first internship as a scientific illustrator for the entomology department of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

colleenriver of wishes9hair lowered a smidge3tdep5_6_14_3NO-WORDS

What was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

In high school the teachers would commission me for artwork.

What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

After college I worked in a jewelry store and did some jewelry design. I was fascinated with gemstones and won a scholarship to study colored stones with The Gemological Institute of America.

 

colleenmermaid comp 8Do you think the classes you took in college influenced your style?

The figure drawing classes may have helped a bit but my style has organically evolved over the years.

When did you do your first illustration for children?

I started working on children’s books illustrations about three years ago.

colleenswimming with the fish7

How did that come about?

I had worked as a fine artist for many years, but stopped drawing to seriously study writing. I’ve written screenplays, YA novels, and MG novels, along with picture books. NJSCBWI was holding their first illustrators showcase three years ago and I decided to participate and developed a character, which then became a story.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate books?

After all the positive feedback at the NJSCBWI conference.

colleengoldilocks comp_v7

How did you get interested in writing novels and when did that happen?

I had a friend who worked in the SAG office in Philadelphia. I had an idea for a movie and asked her how I could try to sell my idea. She told me I’d need to write a screenplay. I bought books on the mechanics of writing screenplays and started networking with other screenwriters. I decided to try to convert one of my screenplays into a novel. Then I wrote bad novel after not as bad novel until I finally had one that I thought was good enough to submit. But it really wasn’t. So I kept writing more and more. I think my eighth book was the charm and is now being read by several editors.

Are you open to illustrating a picture book for a writer who would like to self-publish?

I think I’d rather work on my own books or be paired with an author from a traditional publisher.

colleenflying girl comp4

Have you worked on illustrating a book dummy to help market your illustrating skills?

Yes.

Since you already are writing novels, have you thought about writing and illustrating you own picture book?

I’ve written quite a few PBs and I have one finished dummy and one in process.

colleenbad luck boy new comp6

Do you have an artist rep.? If not, would you like to have one?

I’m presently not represented, but would love to work with an agent interested in an author/illustrator. I’m a hard worker and not afraid of revisions.

What types of things do you do to market your work?

I show at conferences, tweet, network on FB, display my work on the SCBWI illustrator showcase, and I have a website—ColleenRowanKosinski.com

colleenjaquar11What is your favorite medium to use?

I’m currently working with a combination of pencil sketching and digital painting. I also love oils, and soft pastel.

Has that changed over time?

Many years ago I worked primarily in pen and ink and watercolor. I did a lot of hand-numbing stippling with a rapidograph pen. I transitioned to pastel. Sold quite a few, then fell in love with oil painting. Oil painting is a long process because of the practice of building layers of colors and the drying times involved. That’s why I love digital so much now. I approach color the same way I did in my oil painting but have zero drying time!

colleentweed_composition_v6

Do you have a studio in your house?

I don’t have a designated studio. Because of very bad back issues I have trouble sitting for long periods of time in a regular chair, but I’ve found a recliner takes the stress off of my lower back so you can usually find my there, either writing, sketching or working digitally. I do have an office with my supplies, a desk, computer, scanner, printer and bookshelves from floor to ceiling.

What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

My laptop computer.

colleenHanging Around4

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I work every day for at least eight hours or more. I try to attend at least one SCBWI conference a year and as many other workshops that I can fit into my budget and schedule.

Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Yes, I take pictures and research reference images online.

colleenskunk girl_portfolio3

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Definitely. I used to have to find reference photos by paging through books and magazines for hours. The Internet also helps me network with other writers, illustrators, agents, and editors.

What do you feel was your biggest success?

I don’t know if I’ve experienced a “big” success yet. I just keep doing what I’m doing while constantly trying to improve.

colleenfox running picture 16Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I actually use GIMP, which is a free version of Photoshop. I did finally bite the bullet and start subscribing to Photoshop (you can’t buy it outright anymore, you must pay a monthly fee.) I’m experimenting with it but feel more comfortable with GIMP.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

Yes, I use a Wacom pad when creating my artwork.

colleen02_2ps_mother_and_baby_all_the_layers4

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I dream of finding an agent who knows the craft and market, and being traditionally published. I guess if I want to dream big, I’d love to win a Newberry or Caldecott.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a story called Lydia Light Takes Flight. The character I created for the 2014 NJSCBWI Conference Art Competition inspired the story. The text is finished and I’m currently working on the dummy. It’s a lyrical story with a fairytale’ish feel. I also have a couple PB biographies ready to go, and two other lyrical PB texts. Editors are reading my older MG novel and I’m hoping one of them will make an offer soon.

colleen06_2ps_fire_all_the_layers4

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

I don’t know if I can really speak to being successful, but I can say that you have to be a fighter. Don’t wallow in rejection and keep moving forward. Be open to critique and learn from it. Lastly, be involved in the kidlit scene. It’s a wonderful, supportive community.

colleencozette and the black umbrella7

 

Thank you Colleen for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about your future successes.

To see more of Colleen’s illustrations you can visit her at: www.ColleenRowanKosinski.com Twitter: @writergirlrowan 
Facebook: Colleen Rowan Kosinski

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Colleen, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, Interview, Process Tagged: Colleen Kosinski, Illustrator Saturday, Moore College of Art, Rutgers University

9 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Colleen Kosinski, last added: 7/26/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
14. Amazon Ranking vs. Daily Book Sales

Thought you might be interested in the information I presented at the “How to Sell More Books” Workshop I gave at the NJSCBWI Conference in June. You might want to use it as a general rule of thumb when checking out your book (on other books) on Amazon.
amazon rank

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Book, demystify, How to, list, need to know, Publishing Industry, reference Tagged: 2014 NJSCBWI Conference, Amazon Ranking vs. Daily Book Sales, How to Sell More Books

4 Comments on Amazon Ranking vs. Daily Book Sales, last added: 8/2/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
15. Creating Your Own Flourish List

Now that I’ve outed myself as the secret author of books by Elizabeth Ruston, I can freely talk about one of the concepts in the book Love Proof.

We writers always hear “Write what you know!” Well, I’ve known many of the things I wrote about in Love Proof, including the life of a striving law student, the beginning uncertain years of practicing law, the sometimes disgusting personalities of some of the lawyers you have to deal with, and yes, even the unexpected excitement of accidentally falling in love with your opposing counsel. Yeah, that happens.

But I’ve also known the kind of poverty Sarah Henley experiences in the book. And that was really interesting for me to write about, because I know I still have some vestiges of that poverty mentality deep inside my brain. And I have to actively make choices to move myself past that way of thinking.

One of the things Sarah does in the book to deal with her own poverty mentality is to create a Flourish List. It’s an idea that came to me a few years ago, and something I tried for myself before ever putting it into my fiction.

The name comes from both definitions of flourish: “an extraneous florid embellishment” (or as Sarah puts it, “something I want, but don’t actually need”), and “a period of thriving.”

I don’t know about you, but at times I am MUCH too stingy with myself. I call it frugality, but sometimes it’s just being harsh for no great reason. Perfect example from last night: I was down to maybe the last half-squeeze on my toothpaste tube, and I could have forced out that last little bit, but I decided to make a grand gesture of actually throwing it away–that’s right, without it being fully empty (call the frugality police, go ahead)–and treated myself to a brand new tube. I’ve had to give myself that same permission with bars of soap that have already broken into multiple parts that I have to gather together in a little pile in my palm just to work up a decent sud. Lately, out they go, fresh bar, and if I feel guilty, I know it will pass.

So where did this new radical attitude come from? A few summers ago while I was backpacking in a beautiful section of the South San Juan mountain range in Colorado, I had an afternoon to myself when I sat out in a meadow, my faithful backpacking dog at my side, while my husband took off to fish. And as Bear and I sat there looking at the small white butterflies flitting over the meadow flowers, the thought occurred to me that those butterflies were not strictly necessary. Not in their dainty, pretty form. They could have been ugly and still done the job. Or they could have left their work to the yellow and brown butterflies–why do we need the extra? But having pretty white butterflies is a form of nature’s flourish.

And that led to the companion idea that if flourish is allowed in nature, wouldn’t it be all right to have some of it in my own life?

So right then and there I pulled out pen and paper and started making my Flourish List. Spent an hour writing down all the things I’d wanted for years and years, but never allowed myself to have. I’m not talking about extravagances like a private jet or a personal chef, I’m talking about small pleasures like new, pretty sheets (even though the current ones were still in perfectly good shape); new long underwear that fit better; a new bra; high-quality lotion from one of the bath and body shops; fancy bubble bath. The most expensive item on my list was a pillow-top mattress to replace the plain old Costco mattress we’d been sleeping on for the past twenty years.

I gave myself the chance to write down everything, large or small, just to see it all on paper. And you know what? It wasn’t that much. I had maybe fifteen items. Then, still sitting out in that meadow, I did a tally of what I thought it would all cost. I knew the mattress would probably be very expensive, so I estimated high (no internet connection out there in the wilderness, otherwise I could have researched actual numbers). I think I ended up estimating about $3,000 for the whole list. And that sounded pretty expensive to me. So I just put the list away and promised myself I’d start buying some of the cheaper items when we got home.

And I did. New underwear. Vanilla lotions and bubble baths. New sheets. And finally, a few months later, a pillow-top mattress, on sale, less than $400. By the time I checked off the last item on my list last fall, I had spent less than $1,000. That might still sound like a lot, but in the greater scheme I felt like it was too small an amount to have denied myself all those little pleasures all those many years. Especially if I had bought myself one of those items every year–I know I never would have noticed the cost.

So that’s my suggestion for today: Create your own Flourish List, just like Sarah and I have, and give yourself the pleasure of writing down every small or large thing you want for yourself right now. All the little treats. Maybe they’re not so little–maybe this is the year you need a new car or some other big-ticket item. But that’s a “Need” list. This is your Flourish List–everything you want but don’t necessarily need.

And then? Treat yourself. Choose one item every week or every month, and give it to yourself. And if you feel strange about replacing something you don’t like with something you know you will, then remember to pass on that other item to someone else who might love it more than you did. I’ve done that with clothes, kitchenware, books: it feels so good to take everything you don’t want and give it to a thrift store where someone else can be happy to have found it, and found it so cheaply. Maybe there’s someone out there with a Flourish List that includes a pair of boots like the ones that have just been gathering dust in your closet. Stop hoarding them. Move them on to their new, appreciative owner.

And by doing that, you make room in your own life for things you’ll appreciate and enjoy. It’s hard to invite abundance when you’re chock full of clutter. Make some room. Make your list. And then start treating yourself the way you deserve by no longer withholding those little items that you know will make you smile.

I felt pretty great throwing out that nearly-empty tube of toothpaste last night. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. But I didn’t really realize that until I sat in a meadow and enjoyed the simple sight of some unnecessary butterflies.

0 Comments on Creating Your Own Flourish List as of 4/13/2014 2:17:00 PM
Add a Comment
16. Reference Links to Help With Query Letter Writing

CarolynSchlamPINKGLASSES

This illustration of the cute girl with pink glasses above was sent in by Carol Schulman. She is the author of two books on art, both now represented by Schulman Literary in NY.  The first, “The Creative Path: Process and Practice” is a look at creativity from philosophical, psychological and practical points of view.  The sequel: “Art Smarts: A Book to Help You Become a GR8 Artist” is a sequel for children. See more at: http://www.carolynschlam.com/Art_Pages/Illustration/Illustration_info.html

Leslie has been focusing on querying agents and looking for places that had good information about navigating this process. She decided to share some resources she gathered from various writing friends on her blog “Rear in Gear”. She says, “I’m always thankful for their help, and thought I’d pay it forward in a small way.”

Queries Not Questions

by Leslie Zampettis at Rear in Gear.

Here is Leslie’s list, in no particular order:

AgentQuery

Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents

Successful Queries (a subsection of the above guide)

Preditors and Editors

Publishers’ Submission Guidelines

JacketFlap

SCBWI BlueBoard

 8 Steps to Finding the Right Agent

 Critiquing First Pages and Queries

10 Questions to Ask an Agent

Kidlit.com – Queries

How to Write the Perfect Query Letter

Query Shark

Query Tracker

Writers Market  *This is a subscription service. IMHO, well worth it.

Children’s Writer Newsletter  *Another subscription service. Articles often contain market bib biographies, and every issue contains market profiles. Also well worth it.

  • lesliezLeslie Zampetti has had stories published in online children’s magazines and is now querying agents for her middle grade fantasy novel. A childhood spent in Florida has this transplanted New Yorker frequently dreaming of sunshine – but she enjoys the whirl of the city and its riches, not least of which is the New York Public Library.

    According to most successful authors, the best way to succeed is to plant your tushy in your seat and write. Leslie’s been doing that for some years now and is beginning to see the seeds of her labor blossom. Interested in knowing more? Stop by her blog, “Rear in Gear,” at http://zampettilw.wordpress.com.

Thank you Leslie to sending this to me. It is nice to have a list and it is nice that you were willing to share the wealth. I am sure everyone will bookmark this one.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Filed under: demystify, How to, list, reference, Writing Tips Tagged: Carol Schulman, Leslie Zampettis, Links to resources, Queries, Rear in Gear

3 Comments on Reference Links to Help With Query Letter Writing, last added: 4/15/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
17. Becoming the Possible You

I’m reading two great books right now by Jean Houston: The Possible Human : A Course in Enhancing Your Physical, Mental, and Creative Abilities and A Passion for the Possible: A Guide to Realizing Your True Potential.

The premise of both is this: We’ve heard all our lives that we’re only using a tiny fraction of our brains, but then . . . we just accept that and move on. Why not instead retrain ourselves to use more of the hidden brain? Why not make the effort to access more of our potential in thought and behavior?

The thing I love about her books is she doesn’t make it hard. You don’t have to go to some boot camp of personality reconditioning where you sort out all your problems and your flaws and then sweat your way through getting rid of them.

Jean Houston’s books are relaxing. Her mental and visualization exercises are some of the best I’ve ever read and tried. I’ve turned other people onto her books, and they agree: it’s all so easy. And fun and (here’s that word again) relaxing. I’m into any self-improvement that makes me feel like I’ve been at a mental spa for half an hour, or even for five minutes. And some of her exercises take that little time.

One of my favorite visualization exercises of hers is walking up to a giant oak door that has a sign above it saying Room of the Skill. Deciding what skill you’d like to learn in there, then entering and feeling it in the air all around you. Maybe you’d like to learn to play the violin. You enter and violinness is already sealed into that room, and it starts seeping into your pores and you breathe it in and it sticks to your hair and it soaks into your bones.

There are other parts of the visualization that are important to gaining the skill–and I urge you to read the books to really get the full power of them–but I really love just that opening image of It’s already here. You’re already getting it. You don’t have to wait.

I’ve mentioned before my experiments in getting over my fears by just postponing when I want to feel them. The Jean Houston books open up another way of becoming what she calls The Possible Human. And what we’ll call The Possible You.

Let’s say you believe you have certain personality and physical traits: you’re shy. You’re not good at sports. You get angry easily. You’re a slob. You overeat. Whatever it is, I’m sure you could make up a list of four or five things right now with no effort.

What if you just decided Not anymore? And what if you also decided that there didn’t have to be any steps in between now and that next thing. You could just stop what you were doing before and start doing the new thing right now, right away, just decide.

Years ago I read a story in some Norman Vincent Peale book about a salesman who was having a really hard time. He couldn’t meet his sales goals, he felt awkward and ineffective around people–he was, in short, a failure.

And he got tired of that. Got tired of constantly having to stress over his paycheck and his bills, got tired of feeling so inadequate at a job where he actually meant to do well.

So one night he came home from another unsuccessful day on the road and decided That’s it. Enough. He peeled off his unsuccessful suit and took a bath. And decided during that bath that when he stepped out, he was a new man.

He threw away the old suit. Went out and bought a new, successful one (not expensive, just new. Different). And without waiting to go through some 9-step program of becoming a successful salesman, he just was one. He decided. He started behaving the way a successful salesman already does. No explanation to people who saw the change, no need to announce it to the world, just Do. Go. Be him.

By the end of the year he was the top salesman in the region. It looked like magic, but it was really just change. Deciding and then changing–right away.

I’ve done that, too. There was a time in my life when I got really tired of feeling shy. It was making me feel bad in social situations and even just stepping out my door into the world. I didn’t like it. It was a bad habit I’d picked up somewhere in my childhood, and I’d acted like it was just the way things were for the next however many years.

But one day I just told myself, “I’m not shy anymore.” And then in every single situation from then on, I made all my decisions based on that new law. I’d smile at people. Be friendly. Laugh when I felt like it. Little moments all day long, every day, when I let myself be different than I had been for years and years.

And what was key to pulling that off was I didn’t feel the need to explain the change to anyone. I got to skip all the steps of changing a little bit one day, a little bit more the next. I was like that salesman taking a bath and coming out a new person.

If anyone did ask me about the difference, I’d just say, “I’m not shy anymore” and move on. People don’t really need more explanation than that. They’re usually too busy thinking about their own lives.

I’ve also done the experiment with physical skills like athletic pursuits. Instead of telling myself “This is hard! It’s going to take a long time to learn this,” I’ve practiced just already being good at it. Letting it come easily instead of going through the performance of pretending to myself it’s difficult.

So much of what we do when we hold ourselves back really is performance. It’s theater. We’re so comfortable in our role of being shy, awkward, bad at math, a bad cook, bad at sports, ugly, scared (fill in your own blank) we just keep playing that part without ever realizing it’s only a part.

But if instead you start picturing The Possible You, the one who looks a certain way, is confident, has awesome skills, is friendly and happy (fill in your own blank), and then you just go ahead and begin being that version of you, right now, no middle steps, no announcements to the world–isn’t that a much better way of evolving into the next stage of you right now? Isn’t it time? Why do you have to wait?

In a way, it’s reverse-engineering your life. You think about how you’d like to be when you’re 80 or 60 or 19 or even a week from now, and rather than just hope you’ll turn out that way, you go ahead and become that right now. Skip all the time and skip all the steps.

The only steps you really do need to take are behaving the way that version of you behaves. Every moment of every day. And that includes reading the books that person reads, spending time with the people that person loves to be around, maybe taking the classes that person takes to learn the skills he or she loves to have.

And it means changing the things you hear yourself say. Because your ears are hearing it and your brain is taking it in. When you make a new choice and hear yourself say, even if it’s in a whisper just to you, “That’s right, because I’m not shy anymore,” it solidifies that new Possible You that you’ve become. Not “are” becoming, but “have become.” Because you already did that the moment you decided.

Why have I written this entire essay? For a couple of reasons: I’m not shy anymore. I love sharing my experiments and experiences with others. I’m completely confident writing in public and letting other people see my work.

I wasn’t always that way. But then I decided.

0 Comments on Becoming the Possible You as of 4/20/2014 2:59:00 PM
Add a Comment
18. The 100 Things You Keep Meaning To Do

You never know when you might “accidentally” be inspired in a very large way by a stranger you meet at the dentist’s office.

We were both early, waiting for our cleanings, I was reading a book and she pulled out her knitting. I said, “Oh, isn’t that so relaxing? I used to love knitting.”

“It’s like a meditation,” she agreed.

“I only know how to knit,” I said. “I never learned how to purl.”

“You could take a class,” she suggested. She asked what part of town I live in, and told me about a knitting store nearby.

And that’s when it got interesting.

Because she told me that for the past few years, she’s made a point of taking classes in all the things she’s ever wanted to learn: ballroom dancing, horseback riding, knitting, etc. But here’s the key: she fully commits to learning whatever it is, but only for one month. And at the end of that month, she moves on to something else.

Back up for a second. I’m familiar with Life Lists. I made one for myself about fifteen years ago, listing all the places I wanted to go, the new skills I wanted to learn, the other changes I wanted to make. It’s why I finally ended up writing my first novel. And also seeing a real Broadway show, learning martial arts, going on a Jane Austen tour in England, and all sorts of other interesting things.

But this woman, Danetta, took the Life List concept and made it better. Simply by putting a time limit on the things she was going to try.

She started the way a lot of us do, making an exhaustive list of absolutely everything she’s ever wanted to do and to learn and all the different trips she wanted to take. After that “brain dump,” she had a list of about 100 items. Big things from exotic travels to little things like getting a pedicure. Anything that sounded interesting or fun made it onto the list.

Next she organized her list into several categories: Health & Fitness; Travel; Friends & Family; Home; and Personal Growth/Learning Adventures. (I love that term learning adventures!) Then she made herself a schedule.

She knew if she wanted to try as many things as possible during the year and still give herself sufficient time to enjoy each activity, she could commit one full month to whatever she wanted to do. Twelve new activities every year, and they could be from any of her categories.

So one month she might tackle some home project she’d been meaning to do, and the next month she might take Czech lessons or hike as many miles as she could.

In the Friends & Family category, she made a list of all the friends and members of her extended family that she wanted to see more often, and made a rotating schedule of lunches, holiday gatherings, and other ways she could guarantee she kept in touch with all of them throughout the year.

In the Travel category, maybe she couldn’t take a big trip that particular month, but she could do all the research for it: look up airline prices, look for hotels, study a little of the language if she were going abroad.

And if it turned out at the end of the month that she had had her fill of a particular activity–like reading the Classics (because face it, a little of The Iliad and The Odyssey goes a long way)–she could move on knowing she had done it, tried it, and could check it off her list.

But if it turned out to be an activity she loved, like writing a novel, she could add it to her life more permanently.

It reminds me a little bit of Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. The difference is that Gretchen picked themes for every month, like working on her marriage, being a better parent, learning to have more fun in her life, and then worked on the whole category. I prefer Danetta’s strategy of choosing just one item on her list and really devoting herself to that. It seems easier and more doable.

And you just gotta love that whole short-term commitment thing. Get in there, try something in an intense, concentrated way, then move on. Yes, please.

I’ve done something similar by pretending every summer I’m sending myself to summer camp. I pick a few skills or crafts I want to try–like learning archery or how to make fire from scratch, or taking a beginning drawing class–and that’s something to look forward to when the temperatures here reach 117. At least I can go play at something for a while. Preferably somewhere that has air conditioning.

This summer I’m going to learn how to make lotion from scratch. I’ve already found a bunch of instructional videos on YouTube, and that will be my project for July. I might also take a sewing class. Who knows? I haven’t exactly decided on my themes for camp this year.

So there’s some inspiration that I’m happy to pass along to you. And it comes at a great time, since we’re about to enter a brand new month. What do you want to do with the remaining 8 months of this year? If you create your own list of everything you’ve ever wanted to do and try and learn, which 8 things could you start giving yourself right away?

And as always, if not now, when?

0 Comments on The 100 Things You Keep Meaning To Do as of 4/27/2014 3:15:00 PM
Add a Comment
19. Guest Post – Erika Wassall – Rivisions

Jersey Farm Scribe here on the Road to Revising! 

erikaphoto-45Pen down.

You’ve DONE IT!!! 

That’s right folks, you’ve written not only a beginning, but a middle and an end.

And it feels SooOOooO gooOooOood.

First… and please, don’t forget this step… give yourself credit. What you have done took talent and boatloads of commitment. You completed something most people only dream of even starting.

Get yourself a celebratory coffee/chocolate/wine/cupcake!

And then what?          

First things first:     DO NOTHING

WHAT? But I’m all giddy!! I want it to be perfect IMMEDIATELY!

Our manuscripts are worth the wait! Taking a step back for at least a week or two, sometimes as much as a month if I can stand it, gives a powerfully different perspective. Simone Kaplan Talks Revisions from RevIMo has some wonderful insight on this topic.

So it’s been a few weeks, and we’re ready to get started. 

Read the manuscript completely, OUT LOUD. 

While beneficial for any manuscript, this is especially important when writing for children. Forward Literary Agency has a thought provoking post by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg on its usefulness.

How does it feel rolling off the tongue? Is the dialogue natural? Are there inconsistencies or awkward spots?

Circle them, maybe jot down a note or two. But don’t linger! Come back later to play with them. For now, give it a cover-to-cover out-loud read.

And then, remind yourself, that’s YOUR BOOK you just read.

Whoo-hoo!  

The Nitty Gritty

Now it’s time to get dirty! I scour over my manuscript looking for whole sections, concepts, sometimes even characters that can lift out.   It’s amazing what I’ve found.

Darcy Pattison has an excellent post about her experience cutting down an already short picture book manuscript, when she realized she was telling the WRONG character’s story!

When in writing-mode, we allow the heartbeat of creativity to take us over; an important part of the process for sure.

But then it’s time to go back over every page, paragraph even word, and say, what happens if I remove this? Do I miss it? Do I really NEED it?

And that means… yup… we all knew it was coming: 

Killing Your Darlings

A well-known saying that is for some, (like me!) often feared.

While this could easily be an entire post, Lisa Spangenberg words it so simply by saying “Style should serve the purpose of the text, not the writer’s ego.”

Sometimes our Darlings are pinnacles of style and make our manuscripts absolutely SING.

Other times?   -   Not so much. 

The couple week step-back is helpful here.

Sometimes I’ll no longer understand why I was so attached in the first place! Or I’ll realize with that Darling, I was writing for ME, not my audience or the story itself. Then it’s time to break out the strikethrough!

Easier said than done of course 

But hey. We’re writers. We knew this wouldn’t be easy.

Which brings us to our next step:

Call in the Troops! 

Good critique partners/groups are undoubtedly worth their weight in GOLD.   No one is good at everything. It’s beneficial to have multiple people critiquing your work, some good at grammar, some at emotion, word count, consistency, etc.

Kid lit has a wonderful article on the tricky balance of What a Great Critique Partner or Group Means.

Keep in mind, being OPEN to anything is great. But you can’t, and shouldn’t take all the advice you are given.

Kathy Temean herself put it best when she critiqued one of my manuscripts and told me, “Always remember that it is your story and you should follow the vision that you have.”

Let people point out things to consider. DO consider them. But remember that they are critiques, NOT corrections.

The revision list is endless. But I’ll wrap up with this category:

Personalize Your Process

Maybe you’re good at word count, but struggle with getting to the conflict quickly, or excellent at character development, but overly descriptive.

Write down a physical list of your sticking points. It gives you something to refer to. AND you’ll find yourself increasingly aware of these concepts as you’re writing.

Here’s a few that might make it to your list: 

Keep age in mind: Josh Getzler, agent and founder of HSG, in Agent Q & A: Revisions by Operation Awesome says that it’s one of the most frequent revisions he suggests. He often has to give direction on matching the age of the reader, with character age, plot, tone, etc.

Check your opening: If someone only saw the first 100 or 300 words, would they be HOOKED? Like Erin Harris, agent at Folio, mentions in that same Q/A article, this is where you’re selling yourself and your manuscript the MOST. If you’re not immediately hooked, perhaps you started in the wrong place.

Put lists in your list: Bruce Coville, author of the Unicorn Chronicle series, talks about how he keeps a list of words he knows he overuses so he can search for them later, in Cuppa Jolie’s great Wednesday Whip Tip.

And again, never forget that what you’ve already accomplished is something to celebrate! 

As Erin Bartels discusses here, patience is really the name of the game.

Not easy. But worth it, because your manuscripts deserve to be treated right!

Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Filed under: Advice, article, How to, Process, Writing Tips Tagged: Darcy Pattison, Erika Wassall, Revisions

3 Comments on Guest Post – Erika Wassall – Rivisions, last added: 4/30/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
20. Putting Words on Paper

erikaphoto-45Jersey Farm Scribe here, on….

Putting Words on Paper

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I mean, we’re writers. That’s what we do.

But most of us have been there… struggling to get to that next thought.

I may know what I WANT to happen, but I don’t know HOW to get there. I may know the tone I need to create, but can’t grasp the words to create it.

Or with no explanation I’m just… stuck on being stuck.

When clearing my mind isn’t enough… 

It’s time for plan B…. 

Instead of letting my lazy-instincts take over and killing an hour or ten on Twitter or (insert your own social-media black hole here) I have a few things I do to break the cycle.

Review critique partners’ work: This keeps me in creative-mode, without focusing on whatever project is freezing me out.

Okay. Check.  

Hmm… still nothing? No problem! There’s no greater excuse to curl up on the couch and….

READ READ READ! Important for ALL writers, I find it even more key for writing for children.

Reading for the target age group for my manuscript, keeps my brain thinking in the right rhythm. There is undeniably a pace, meter and natural ebb and flow to the way children’s brain’s take in their world. Reading the genre I’m writing, puts me in the right frame of mind.

Okay. I don’t think I can avoid it anymore. I have to go back to “that spot”.

Sigh. Okay. Fine! (slooooowly reopens the manuscript)

If I’m still hesitant to jump back in the first thing I try is….

Retreat. Regroup. And RE-WRITE:

Maybe the reason I’m stuck is because somewhere along the line, I took a LEFT when I should have gone RIGHT. I re-write the last section and make as many changes as I can think of. (I can always change them back later!)

If Bradley had pancakes, now he has cereal. If he rode the bus, this time missed it and was late for school. If Katie was after school for detention, this time it was because she forgot her math book.

A new lead-in can smoothly take me in the direction I wanted to go in the first place.

And other times….   Ugh. I’m right back where I started.   

Okay…. deep breath.  

First, I remind myself that thunking my head on the table will most likely not actually help. 

Time to buck-up, straighten my shoulders and JUST WRITE!

Write anything.

Ignoring my next plot point, I’ll throw my character in a completely random situation. It can help with character development, and gets my pen on the paper!

I wrote an entire chapter about my character randomly being told the family was moving. It got pulled, but I learned more about how he reacts in stressful situations, and actually came up with some funny lines I worked into other places.

Does this break me out and spur an idea of what how to bring things together? 

Well…. Sometimes.

If not… and I’ve done everything I can think of and gotten NOwhere…

Well then, I’m back to thinking that thunking my head may just be my best bet!  

(Honestly just picturing it is frustrating!!)

AAAAAaarrgghh!!!!

This is incredibly discouraging, horribly painful, and unfortunately… just part of being a writer!!!

So what NOW???  

There’s really nothing left to do accept…. FORGE THROUGH!

Time to write badly!!!

I use this when I know WHAT I need to write next, I just can’t figure out HOW. I know where my plot line needs to take me and I’ve done all the free-writing I can. I pick up the pen, and I write horribly (and I mean HORRIBLY).

I don’t worry about voice, or style. I don’t think about flow or if the reader will be confused. The more awkward, out of place writing, the better!

I’m like a Super-Villain from a new line of DC Comics. (oh yeah… I said it)

She uses run-on sentences and self-indulgent language to laugh in the face of all that is good and professional writing! 

She’s — The Agent Repeller!   MwaaahahahahaHA! 

I KNOW that I can’t write well all the time. So sometimes, I just don’t even try!

I write through it. I put words on paper.

Eventually, often without me even realizing it, things have smoothed out and I’m back to my natural style and flow of words.

Everyone’s process for how to work through these situations is different. All that really matters is that we have SOME way to deal with it, and don’t let it get us down.

What we do is HARD. Whether it’s picture books or YA, we’re creating entire realities that children have to believe in and CHOSE to visit.

No easy feat for sure.

We have to trust ourselves. Know that the story is in there and we will find it.

If we don’t put words on paper… sometimes even ridiculous, embarrassing words that we’ll never show another soul… then there won’t be anything to work with.

Anything written, can be fixed. (Even if that means deleting 99 percent of it!)

It sounds so simple, but sometimes putting words on paper, is the toughest part of the job.

______________________________________________________________

Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Filed under: Advice, article, Author, How to, inspiration, Process, Writing Tips Tagged: Erika Wassall, Jersey Farm Scribe, Putting Words on Paper

3 Comments on Putting Words on Paper, last added: 5/6/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
21. For Those Of Us Who Think We Don’t Like Math

Math is on my mind lately as I wrap up the Parallelogram series. (Yes, Dear Readers, Book 4 is coming! There are just so many words.) I, like my main character Audie in the series, enjoy quantum physics but do not enjoy the math. Or, to put it less charitably, cannot do the math.

But I can’t help wondering if I would have had a completely different attitude toward math in school if I’d had a teacher like this. Or at least seen a demonstration like this. Because there’s no doubt Arthur Benjamin makes math FUN. (Although no matter how fun it is, I still think there’s no way mere mortals could do what he does.)

Enjoy!

7 Comments on For Those Of Us Who Think We Don’t Like Math, last added: 5/8/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
22. How To Psyche Yourself Up for Whatever Your Next Big Thing Might Be (Part 1)

Here are the categories I’m dealing with lately: planning a new backpacking adventure. Planning a new book series. Planning another new series in a whole new genre. Which right now equals about 15 new books. I’m not even kidding.

And this morning it was starting to feel a little . . . daunting. As in, Can’t do any of them, just have to sit here and think about what I want to do.

That kind of stupor that could easily go on for days.

But I’m going to approach it a different way this time. Because recently I heard a great talk from outdoor adventurer (and mother and wife and owner of my favorite outdoor store Summit Hut) Dana Davis.

Dana has hiked up Mount Rainier. That right there qualifies her as badass. But she’s accomplished many other physical feats, and is currently training for her first Ironman triathlon, even though as she tells it she has bad knees, bad ankles, can’t run, isn’t so hot at either biking or swimming (I can’t remember which)–clearly not ideal when you’re going to be doing all three for miles and miles in one day.

But somehow that sounds fun to Dana.

And that fun is infectious. While it’s possible that some of the people in the crowd the other night might have thought to themselves, “Dang! I’m going to Ironman it, too!” I have the feeling they reacted the same way I did, which was to take Dana’s lessons about training for something hard and think about how we might apply them to some of the upcoming challenges in our own lives.

I think my favorite piece of her advice was this: Embrace the suck. Recognize that somewhere along the way you’re going to have to deal with a certain amount of discomfort, pain, and unhappiness. But if you recognize that ahead of time, really reconcile yourself to it, then when it shows up you can calmly tell yourself, “Yep, here it is. I knew it was coming. Here’s the suck. Let’s keep going.”

What’s “the suck” for me? There are times in every single backpacking trip when it’s as if I turn to myself and ask, “Did you really think this was fun? Are you really doing this on purpose?” Because mountains are high, trails are long, lightning storms scare the crap out of me, mosquitos bite, dogs roll in human feces (don’t get me started on people not properly disposing of their turds), and things just plain go wrong. That is the nature of outdoor adventures. Of any adventure, really.

I see it with my book adventures, too. When I set out to write something new, I know the time will come when my hands will feel like claws from typing for so many hours at a time, my brain will feel completely exhausted and empty, and yet the drill sergeant in me will try to force me to keep going even though all I really want to do is take the day off and watch Pixar movies. There’s a reason why The Incredibles exists. It is there to restore the worn-out brains of adults all over the world.

In a few days I’ll be posting Dana’s full list for psyching yourself up and preparing for something big, but for now I just wanted to whet your appetite for the whole thing.

Until then, you might want to reread a few earlier posts (that’s right, to psyche yourself up for the next big post. See how it works?):

How To Know When It’s Time To Make a Change In Your Life

Becoming the Possible You

The 100 Things You Keep Meaning To Do

Deciding To Worry About That Tomorrow

Stay tuned!

0 Comments on How To Psyche Yourself Up for Whatever Your Next Big Thing Might Be (Part 1) as of 5/11/2014 10:46:00 AM
Add a Comment
23. Blankety Books

BlanketyBooksLogo

Play Blankety Books and WIN Books!

5pm every Friday on Twitter

Follow @boomerangbooks and #blanketybooks to be part of the action!

How do you play?

We will post on twitter a book title and author with all the letters missing.

eg

_ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ by _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _

Guess a letter by tweeting at us using the #blanketybooks hashtag

eg

“ @boomerangbooks I guess the letter A #blanketybooks ”

We will slowly reveal the book title and author as more letters are guessed (you can guess as many times as you like but only one letter per tweet)

eg

_ _ _ _ A _ / _ _ _ _ _ by _ A _ _ A _ / _ _ _ _ #blanketybooks

_ _ _ _ A _ / _ _ _ _ _ by H A _ _ A H / _ _ _ _ #blanketybooks

B _ _ _ A _ / _ _ _ _ _ by H A _ _ A H / _ _ _ _ #blanketybooks

B _ _ I A _ / _ I _ _ _ by H A _ _ A H / _ _ _ _ #blanketybooks

First correct answer wins the book!

eg BURIAL RITES by HANNAH KENT #blanketybooks

We will contact the winner to post out the prize!

(Australian residents only)

Add a Comment
24. Researching Agents – Erika Wassall

erikaphoto-45

Jersey Farm Scribe here on…

Researching Agents

A completed, polished and ready to be submitted manuscript is a beautiful thing. Now it just has to find a home! But not just ANY home. It has to be just right.

You want the world to see this manuscript! See it’s creativity, it’s uniqueness and the joy it will bring others!

You’ve written your query letter and you’re ready to track your submissions.

But who should you submit to?

If you’re like me, the first thing you think to yourself is…

ANYONE AND EVERYONE!!!!

Then I have sit back… rein in my crazy… and remind myself… absolutely nothing is for everyone.

Plus, agents want to know that I’m submitting to them for a reason specific to my manuscript and not feel like I’m just going down a list sending to everyone who popped up when I Googled “Picture Book Agent”.

And wouldn’t you?

Some agents receive 100s of queries a DAY! That’s a LOT to shift through. It’s important that they immediately know that you are submitting to them because there is something special about THEM that makes the manuscript a good fit.

Okay, okay. So I’ll only submit to agents who are a good fit. How do I find that out??

Research!! Research!! And more research!! 

Newsletters like Publishers Lunch and sites like Publishers Weekly contain valuable information about deals being made and what’s going on in the industry. This can keep you in the loop about what specific agencies are looking for, or where they think the industry is trending.

Websites like Writer’s Digest have all kinds of agent lists to give you a good starting point of who to look into.

Social media like Twitter or Facebook are excellent ways to learn a bit about the agent personally. You can learn a lot from reading through their posts. You may even find them talking about their MSWL (manuscript wish list)!!

Blogs like this one! Kathy frequently has wonderful posts about what an agent or publisher is looking for. You can also check out blogs like Guide to Literary Agent, and Literary Rambles.

GOOGLE THEM! (Did you know Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary officially listed “Google” as a verb in 2006? Crazy!!)  

Before submitting to ANY one, I do a THOROUGH Google stalk… I mean search. I read and re-read every interview I can find with them it. I look at what conferences they attend and what organizations they are a part of. I look up who their past and current clients are and read interviews of them.

And it’s worth it. Being able to say in my query letter that I was drawn to their definition of literary development in their 2007 interview with such-and-such is a great way to show that I’ve done my research!

Which leads me to my last…. And possibly most important point:

BE HONEST! Most of this is obvious. Don’t say you attended a conference they were at if you didn’t, don’t say you were referred to them by someone if you weren’t.

But it’s more than that.

You don’t want to portray yourself as someone you’re not. Don’t say you align with their thoughts on where MG novels were trending towards if you really don’t.

Oh why not? What’s the harm of buttering them up a bit? It doesn’t REALLY matter.

But it does.   In this relationship, trust and honestly MATTER.

While there is obviously no need to tell them you do NOT agree with a comment they made, or hated the last book deal they signed, it can be detrimental to the future relationship to say anything that is not an accurate representation of who you are, as both a writer a professional and a person.

The relationship with your future agent will be a give and take that will rely on trust and mutual respect. As innocent as it may seem, you do not want this connection to start off based on a bait and switch tactic.

When you DO land an agent, it will become an important relationship in your life.

Like other important relationships, not everyone is the perfect match and there is some vetting out that is done on both sides before coming together.

You and your agent will join forces and present your manuscript — your blood, sweat and tears, your creation — out into the world. You don’t want that to be a person you just picked off of a list!

It’s worth it, to do the footwork, see who’s out there, and truly find the place your work will be happiest to call home.

______________________________________________________________

Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Filed under: Advice, Art Exhibit, Author, How to, inspiration Tagged: Erika Wassall, Guest Blog Post, Jersey Farm Scribe, Researching Agents

4 Comments on Researching Agents – Erika Wassall, last added: 5/14/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
25. Join Us on BlogTalkRadio's World of Ink Network show Stories for Children

The Stories for Children show is on Mondays and hosted by Mom's Choice and Award-winning Author Virginia S Grenier, who is joined weekly by guest authors to talk about writing for children and/or their favorite children's/YA books. Grenier, with her guests, hope to not only share their love of the written word, but also what makes a good book for young readers and much more.


This week on Monday May 19, 2014 at 3pm Pacific - 4pm Mountain - 5pm Central - 6pm Eastern, Grenier will be joined by two members of the Utah Children's Writers blog team.

Our guests are: 
Scott Rhoades has enjoyed writing since he was about five years old, when he used to make his own books by tracing pictures and making up stories to go with them. He especially enjoys writing stories set in the Middle Ages. He was a technical writer for Novell, Inc. from 1992 to 2007, after starting his career at Atari in 1988. He currently runs his own company, Write Field Documentation Services, LLC. He is also on the Board of Directors of The Tiferet Center, a center for Jewish education, ritual, and community service based in Vermont. Learn more at http://www.scottrhoades.com/index.html

Julie Daines spent eighteen months in London where she studied and fell in love with English Literature, Sticky Toffee Pudding, and the fellow who ran the kebab store around the corner. After editing for other authors, she decided to take up writing again--this time in the young adult genre. Learn more at http://www.juliedaines.com/

Writers are invited to call-in during the show at (714) 242-5259 or join us in our chatroom located on the show page (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/worldofinknetwork/2014/05/19/utah-childrens-writers--the-stories-for-children-show)!

Learn more about our shows and network at our website http://worldofinknetwork.com
Find great books and articles on our blog or follow us on our Facebook Fanpage

You can also catch the show through Facebook, Twitter, itunes and many more!

Listen in Monday May 19th at 4pm Mountain at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/worldofinknetwork/2014/05/19/utah-childrens-writers--the-stories-for-children-show

0 Comments on Join Us on BlogTalkRadio's World of Ink Network show Stories for Children as of 5/18/2014 8:08:00 PM
Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts