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Results 26 - 50 of 417
26. Examples of Tone

Last week we talked about what tone is, and isn't. This week we'll try to define it with examples.

You are writing a Romance.

Let's say Dick, your narrator, is at a company picnic in a park. The sky is clear. The grill is smoking. His coworkers are drinking beer and it is mid afternoon. How does Dick feel about being there? If he is an extrovert and happy with his job, he is lightheartedly milling around, joking, laughing, and downing brews with the best of them. He has a great time, until he learns something that turns his happy place into a not so happy place. Like the fact that his rival, Ted, got the promotion instead of him. Dick worries that Ted’s promotion gives him a leg up with the girl of both men’s dreams. Dick leaves feeling determined. He rushes to call Sally before Ted can. The tone in this story should reflect Dick's upbeat point of view and competitive attitude toward the situation. If your romance is light and breezy, Dick views this obstacle as a fun challenge. He finds a way to woo Sally, no matter what comical lengths he must go to. There is tension, but it is a funny situation. If your romance is a tragedy, Dick views this scene as one more nail in his coffin. There is tension, but it is bleak, foreshadowing inevitable demise, and somber.

You are writing a Thriller.

Dick is at the company picnic in the park. The sky is overcast and threatening rain. The barbecue smoke makes his eyes water and nose run. He hates hotdogs. He hates his co-workers. He wishes he never had to see those drunken slobs ever again; but he grins and bears it until he can steal the research documents. So, he sips water. He smiles, nods, and bides his time. When he feels everyone is drunk enough, he goes back to the office and begins the search. In this example, Dick views the situation as dark and bleak. He focuses on the negative. The picnic is something to be endured to meet his goal. The overall tone of the story focuses on the tension, the hurry, the risk. There may be light moments, but there is no doubt that the situation is serious and the consequences are high.

You are writing a Literary novel.

Dick is at the company picnic in the park. He desperately needs the promotion. He has child support and outrageous alimony to pay. He can't afford to be unemployed. The sun burns. He sweats profusely. The smoke is suffocating and the stench of roasting steak makes his stomach churn. Dick circulates. He shakes hands and fake smiles at his coworkers until his jaws hurt. He finds out Ted got the promotion. In fact, Dick’s department is being cut. Dick is grateful when it starts raining so he can leave and drown his sorrows in a bottle of Scotch. In this example, the tone could be comic or tragic. The reader walks away, wryly acknowledging that bad things happen to good people, or walks away ruminating on the evils of cruel corporations. There is tension. It is either released by continual humor, or you emphasize the pathos of modern living along the way.

Revision Tips
As you read through your manuscript, consider the narrator's tone. Can you identify it? Do you want the story to be breezy, syrupy, gripping, horrifying, or funny?

What is your genre? Does the tone correlate?

Look at your descriptions and setting. How does the point of view character view the situation? Is it consistent with the tone you have adopted?

Do the details that your character focuses on and the words he uses to relate them support the tone?

Is your tone consistent? Do you find yourself handling the material as dramatic in one scene and slapstick in another?

For these and other tips on revision, pick up a copy of: 

http://www.amazon.com/Story-Building-Blocks-III-Revision/dp/1475011369

http://www.amazon.com/Story-Building-Blocks-III-Revision-ebook/dp/B007SPPL68

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27. Gifts I Want

It's that time of year when everyone everywhere has a list of gifts for your favorite mom, or golfer, or skier. So here's my list of gifts for writers and readers. Mostly these are things I personally want or like to have, so it's pretty self indulgent. I'm sure you can add items to the list.

I'd like to preface my list with this statement: I am all about gifts of experiences or things that can be used up, consumed. I don't need more stuff in my life, but I do want more life in my life.

1. SCBWI membership for your favorite aspiring/published/nationally known children's author or illustrator. Many of us on this blog are SCBWI members, and I'd just like to throw out a couple of wonderful benefits of this membership. First, it's the world's largest and most respected professional organization for children's publishing. It's important to your career to belong to the professional organization for your industry. We have great programs, great publications, resources of all kinds, networking, critiquing, and conferences. You'll make contacts with editors and agents, fellow authors, and learn from the best.

2. Audio books. Personally, I have never outgrown my love of being read aloud to. My mom hooked me early on, and my fourth grade teacher read to us every day after lunch. My husband reads to me every night before bed. When I was in the hospital once, he read me Beatrix Potter stories. Audio books are perfect for car trips, subway rides, plane travel, or just doing the dishes. I have an app on my phone, so I can take my audio books anywhere I go. And when the hubby is out of town, I let my audio book read to me before bed.

3. This one is sort of obvious. Gift cards to bookstores. One of the highlights of our Christmas celebrations is going to the bookstore after Christmas and using our gift cards. I prefer indie bookstores.

4. Send your favorite author/illustrator to a conference. There are dozens of workshops and events close by, or if you want to splurge, send them somewhere like Highlights workshops or Big Sur. Of course, SCBWI conferences are awesome, and there are many. The big ones in LA and NYC every year, as well as regional conferences all across the U.S. and around the world. Go to http://www.scbwi.org/events-home/ to check out all the possibilities. Conferences are invaluable investments in perfecting one's craft and meeting people in the industry.

5. Pens and paper. Yes, I know it's the age of the computer and other electronics, but I have yet to find an author or illustrator who doesn't use the old-fashioned method once in a while. I keep a notebook with me wherever I go to jot down ideas, images, resources, etc. I used to write out all my first drafts in longhand, and even now that I've trained myself to write at the computer, I still occasionally like to write a chapter on paper. It uses a different portion of the brain. If you don't know what your author friend likes, a gift card to an office supply store is also a good bet.

6. Chocolate. I don't think this needs any explanation, except that I prefer the highest quality dark chocolate available.

7. Coffee. See #6.

8. Time. Writers need time. Life is busy and there are a million other things demanding our attention. Give your writer the gift of time. A weekend at a cabin. A babysitter once  a week. An offer to do the dishes every night (or insert appropriate chore here) while he/she writes. A nudge to attend a critique group.

9. Buy your writer/illustrator a critique with an editor/agent through one of the conferences in our area. Learning what professionals see in your writing is so important and valuable.

10. A puppy. So this is personal, but I have to include it. My dogs are always by my side when I'm writing. I have two of them. But I've been asking for a golden retriever for almost a year, and if anyone who loves me wants to buy me one, that would be the best gift. Pets comfort you when the writing isn't going well. They encourage you to get out for a walk when your butt has gone numb from the butt-in-chair work ethic. They are also characters in many children's books. There's a reason for that.

There you have it. A complete guide for gift-giving for the writer. Print it out and give it to your family, or use it to thoughtfully gift your writerly friends. Or hound my hubby about giving me a puppy.


by Neysa CM Jensen
up in Boise, Idaho

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28. Narative Summary


There is an art to narrative summary. Ideally the information should be related through the point of view character's lens, not an info dump, like this:

The city was founded in 1779 by tea and sugar plantation owners who commissioned elaborate mansions on top of the hill with a view of the inlet that was large enough to dock their ships. Small villages soon cropped up along the periphery to house the tradesmen needed to service their needs. Over the centuries, the spaces between were filled until it became a crowded, mish-mash of squalor and grandeur.

This passage provides the information, but dully and through the prism of the writer, not the character. 

Info dumps are often found in prologues, epilogues, summaries of what happened in previous books, long dialogue passages, as you know dialogue, long explanations of how things work, and extensive backstory.

Here are a few examples of how to use narrative summary effectively.

1. Narrative summary helps you skip ahead.

Sometimes you have to provide important background, condense time, and relate events that don't deserve a lot of page time through narrative summary. 

The call came at five o'clock on a Saturday. Dick never forgot the pitch of the sun through the pines or the way his boots sank in the mud as he arrived at a scene to view his first corpse. After fifteen years, he'd seen so many bodies, in myriad locations,and every season.He no longer got the shakes, or the sicks, or the rapid pulse, but the scent of pine, dirt, and dying heat still filled his nostrils when he received a summons. Funny how some things stuck. He snapped on gloves and booties before ducking under the yellow tape blocking a snow-drenched alleyway in the heart of downtown Chicago. "What've we got?" 

Narrative skips over the boring bits. Shift it into real-time when possible, particularly if you find paragraphs of it. Use specific details and strong word choices.

1) Narrative summary can offer new information or recap necessary information. 

It should support, extend, or refute the information given through dialogue and action. It can add context in a timely fashion and set up expectation. It uses a few words that work hard and lead into or trail action and dialogue. If narrative runs on for paragraphs or pages, you have some editing to do.

The carpet fibers were a dead end: could have come from any low-rent apartment anywhere in town. The call-ins were a bunch of attention-seeking loonies. No legitimate suspects. No obvious motive. No one seemed to know anything about Jane. That was the problem these days: everyone had bloody telephones and computers and social media but never talked to their neighbors. Jane worked from home and played games with virtual friends. She ordered everything online or shopped at big box stores where everyone was strange and a stranger. There were no angles to grab hold of. Who would kill a girl who never seemed to leave her flat? But girls didn't just drag themselves into the woods, cover themselves with debris, and choke themselves with their own pantyhose.

2. Narrative transitions between scenes.

Dick skipped the shower and shave and was at the crime scene by nine thirty. He stood next to the corpse lying on the ground who obviously hadn’t shaved in days either and the bath in the river hadn’t done him any favors.

3. Narrative wrinkles time.

Four days sped by in a series of dead leads and dull conversations. Dick tackled the stacks of paperwork he had successfully ignored for a month, drank gallons of coffee, and smoked endless packs of cigarettes. His anxiety grew like a bonfire as he waited for the DNA results.


Revision Tips
? Read through your manuscript. Highlight areas that contain narrative. Decide whether you should turn narrative into action and dialogue. If not, is it serving a distinct purpose? Does it support, extend, add to, or refute a proposition? Does it condense time or provide important background?
? Does it involve tertiary characters or actions that are of lesser importance?
? Does it involve clichés?
? Have you told the reader what someone thinks or feels instead of showing it?

For more revision tips on revision and narrative summary check out.

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29. Bald Eagle Costume

Bald Eagle Costume

Hope you had a happy Halloween. Ours was lots of fun, and thankfully, the cold and rain held off until right when we were all ready to go in anyway.

This year, I only made one costume, since my daughter only needed a thrifted dress for her “diva” outfit. Our son, seven, wanted to be a bald eagle. He has a thing for birds of prey. At one point it seemed his visions were never going to match up to reality, but in the end, both of us were happy with how it turned out.

It’s made from four thrifted items: brown jammy pants (unaltered), long-sleeved brown T-shirt (sized down), brown henley shirt (cut open and scalloped for the wings), and the cut-off top of a fleece hoodie (sized down and scalloped for feathers). My son made talons made of yellow foam and cardboard. He also made the foam beak, which he attached to a pre-bought plain white eye mask. I tried to convince him to just attach a beak to the hood, but he was having none of that.

I thought he did a great job making eagle poses here. For more semi-homemade costumes from previous years, click here.

Meanwhile, I’ve been slog, slog, slogging through my novel rewrite. Also, enjoying the fact that Bletchley Circle has new episodes. Woo!


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30. Interjections

Interjections are exclamations or parenthetical words that add color to your dialogue or internal dialogue. They are set off from the rest of the sentence with a comma or set of commas. They can be followed by an exclamation point. However, if the sentence is doing its job, you shouldn't need it.

Interjections express a gamut of emotions: surprise, doubt, fear, anger, hate, happiness, joy, glee, disgust, or sarcasm. They insult, incite, and ignite.

Here are a few examples (minus profanity, which is another topic).

All right
Cool
Far out
As if
Yeh, right
Dig it
Yo
Fair enough
Ouch
Dang it
For real?
Duh
No way
Sure
Yay
Whoot
Hilarious
Screw it
Drat
Yes
Lord have mercy
Meh
Cheers
Ciao
Oops
Oy
Touche
Big whoop
Nope
Nada

My YA series Mythikas Island was set in pre-written-history Greece. Not being able to reach for any of the usual curse words, insults, etc. felt like wearing a straight jacket. I ended up typing *insert insult/curse here* and developing a list of options later.

Here are a few tips when revising:

1.  As you go through your rough draft, it is okay to insert placeholders and fill them in later. You may want to put some thought into the types of insults and interjections you characters will use.

2. It is important that the interjections fit the time and place in a historical novel. Look up the first time your word or phrase was used. Nitpickers love to point out errors.

3. When you write fantasy or science fiction, developing unique interjections helps your story world come alive.

4. Avoid overuse. Strings of expletives or exclamation points are annoying. As you read through your rough draft, highlight the interjections. If you have too many packed together, space them out.

5. You can make them character specific. People living in the same place and time with little exposure to the outside world tend to use the same vocabulary. However, each character can have their favorites or quirks.

6. If you have a diverse cast, each can have their own set of interjections, perhaps in different langauges. Avoid stereotypes. 

7. Avoid clichés . You can twist existing interjections in new ways. 

8. Interjections change as time passes. There is no way to avoid dating your book with them.

9. You can't cut them all. Your story would be lackluster without a few strategically placed verbal punches.

10. They can be used for comic relief. Sometimes after a tense moment, you need a little levity.

If you invent unique injterjections, they may become part of our language or at least the language of your fans. They may even be added to the dictionary. You could be the author of a new catchphrase.

For more information on revision, pick up a copy of:

http://www.amazon.com/Story-Building-Blocks-III-Revision/dp/1475011369

http://www.amazon.com/Story-Building-Blocks-III-Revision-ebook/dp/B007SPPL68


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31. How to make a book trailer

The Birth Of a Book Trailer

I knew I needed a book trailer to help promote my debut YA novel Winnemucca. First of all, I love movies. Heck, I live in Los Angeles. And, I worked in the entertainment industry. I knew the power of the trailer. Plus, how much fun would making my own trailer be?

But still, I didn’t know how to make one. Hmmm. I’d incorporated videos in my designs for years at E! Entertainment Television and at The Los Angeles Times. But they were provided to me by amazing teams of award winning videographers. And the photos I worked with were shot by Pulitzer Prize winning photographers. Who did I think I was trying to do this all on my own?

Well, that’s the best part. We aren’t on our own! Writers are some of the most generous people. And so I kept my eye open for trailers that I loved. Enter the wonderful writer Rebecca Rasmussen [@birdsisters] author of The Bird Sisterspublished by Crown/Random House. I was surprised to find out she made her own trailer. Rebecca was very generous with her support and advise. Thanks Rebecca!

So after a load of conversations I managed to conjure up a recipe for book trailers:

  • iMovie application.
  • A killer soundtrack.
  • stock videos.
  • stock photography.

and WaaaaLaaa! You have your book trailer.

A Recipe For Book Trailers

iMovie is a very easy application to work with. It’s drag and drop so no worries there. And it comes with every Mac.

A killer soundtrack is so important. I don’t mind book trailers where the author reads their work. There is something very pure about that. But, like I said, I love movies. Music that evokes your story is compelling and can draw a viewer into the trailer in a unique way. I used www.productiontrax.com. Most of the audio clips are very reasonable priced. [I splurged on this and purchased sound for $60 because I loved it and am a music junkie.]

Stock Videos. I’ve seen a lot of trailers that try to tell the story with static images and scrolling or rolling text. It’s a great effect. But, the medium is meant for video. And, if you don’t have any that you’ve shot yourself, stock video sites are great ways to add some punch to your trailer. Sites I like include istockphoto.com andpond5.com. Both have great selections and great ways to save multiple videos for your consideration so if you are busy, like who isn’t, you can come back later and make your final cut. Again, most videos are very reasonably priced, but watch it, some aren’t. And don’t worry if your video has a soundtrack with it. iMovie let’s you separate the audio channel out and you can use whatever audio you want with any video. My average purchase for a video was $15.

Stock Photography. I use the same sites I recommended above to find images for book covers and for book trailers. Again, stock photography is reasonably priced. But be sure you check prices.

As always, have a budget in mind and stick to it, mine was under $90. It’s really important to get the word out about your book, but what’s more important is how much fun you have doing it!

The Book Trailer

Winnemucca is a young-adult small-town fairy tale about a teenage girl awakening to her own intuition on an enchanted road trip. One lie will change Ginny’s life forever. The truth will will set her free.

Over To You

Did I miss anything? Do you have any tips or tricks from making your own book trailers? If you have anything to add to this article, or even just want to share your own book trailers, then please add it to the comments below…


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32. Spicing Up Your Prose Part 6 of 6

Over the past few weeks, we have explored an exotic array of language spices starting with A. This week, we complete the collection with Z.



Simile compares two different things that are similar to each other using like and as. They often border on cliché. A hidden simile does not use like or as.

Jane curled up on the couch like a satisfied cat licking her lips.

Jane curled up on the couch, a satisfied cat licking her lips. (hidden)

Symploce uses anaphora and epistrophe in the same sentence or paragraph. It should appear once or twice in a manuscript for maximum impact and emotion.

Dick should have walked away. He should have put the diary down. He should never have read the shocking words. Jane had charmed him, confused him, and consumed him.

Synecdoche uses part of something to refer to the whole, a whole thing to refer to a part, a specific thing to refer to a generality, or a generality to refer to a specific thing. It is referring to a car as wheels, workers as hands, eyewear as glasses, and bandages as Band-Aids.

When it came to books, Jane preferred paper over plastic.

Tricolon repeats phrases, clauses, or sentences three times. If the phrases, clauses, or sentences increase in length with each repetition, it is called a tricolon crescendo.

It was a dark, dark, darkmoment for them both.

The book was old, oldand faded, old enough to be dangerous.

Zeugma ends a sentence with a last word or clause that doesn't fit in with the proposition. It offers a twist. It should end a paragraph for maximum effect.

Jane left with her book, her suitcase, and her pride.

Jane needed him and wantedhim and wished him dead.

Next week, we will talk about how to use them and revise for them.

For the complete list of spices and other revision layers, pick up a copy of: 

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33. Spicing Up Your Prose Part 5 of 6

This week, we continue to add to our collection of rhetorical devices.



Polysyndeton uses conjunctions to string phrases in a series.

The library was dim and overly warm and full of sneaky shadows.

Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor hail would keep Dick from finding Jane.

Polyptoton repeats words from the same root but with different inflections appearing in close proximity.

Dick believed the only thing they had to fearwas fearlessness.

Prefabs can be used to create two and three beat rhythms to speed the sentence up. They include, but are not limited to:


  • boom and bust
  • bump and grind
  • daily double
  • doom and gloom
  • ebb and flow
  • eager beaver
  • fixer-upper
  • flimflam
  • flip-flop
  • harum-scarum
  • helter-skelter
  • herky-jerky
  • hip-hop
  • hotsy-totsy
  • hour of power
  • hurly-burly
  • itsy-bitsy
  • lean and mean
  • meet and greet
  • moldy oldie
  • namby-pamby
  • near and dear
  • oopsy daisy
  • razzle-dazzle
  • rinky dink
  • rise and fall
  • rough and ready
  • rough and tough
  • rough and tumble
  • shilly-shally
  • splish-splash
  • super-duper
  • super-saver
  • surf and turf
  • teenie-weenie
  • thrills and chills
  • tit for tat
  • topsy-turvy
  • town and gown
  • wear and tear
  • wheeler-dealer
  • whipper-snapper
  • wild and wooly
  • wishy-washy
  • zigzag

Next week, we will contine adding spices to your prose shelf.

For the complete list of spices and other revision layers, pick up a copy of: 

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34. Bruce Coville: Plot, Character, and the Emotional Life of Story

Bruce Coville is the award-winning and beloved author of over a hundred books for children and young adults.

Bruce says plot and character are inextricably linked. You can't talk about plot without talking about character. You can't talk about character without talking about plot.

Bruce is a plot writer.

The best story telling energy has a bridge between male and female storytelling energy.

A great ending is both a surprise and inevitable. It is not a coincidence.

You can use a coincidence to start a story. The further along the coincidence occurs, the less believable it is.

What is a good story? Three thing Bruce loves to find in a story and also tries to put them in his own work. He likes to call them: Ha, Wah, and Yikes.

  • A belly laugh
  • A tear
  • A gasp of surprise

If all three are in a story, the reader is bound to be satisfied.

Story recipe: Take somebody you like and get them in trouble.

By asking questions and inventing scenes that answer those questions you write a story.

Stories happen when characters have to choose. Make your character make a tough choice. Your character's need will drive the action.

Plot happens when desire meets obstacle.

If you've never heard Bruce Coville speak and you get the opportunity, don't hesitate for a second.





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35. Maggie Stiefvater Keynote: A Thief & An Artist, Stealing Stories from Life

The magical Maggie Stiefvater
Maggie Stiefvater is nothing short of astonishing. She's the author of many YA novels, including the bestselling Raven Boys series and the Printz Honor Award-winning SCORPIO RACES.

She talked to us about her life as a writer—which has more dimensions than that single word contains.

"I'm not sure if my job description is actually writer," she said. "It should be thief. Or maybe, if I'm being kind, artist."

"I used to think that my ideal job was to write. To make up stories. To lie for a living." Now that she's a professional writer, knows that she observes, steals, and stylizes for a living.

When she writes, it's not so much that she is creating new things out of nothing, but that she steals from the world and makes it her own. She used to be a professional portrait artist, something she had to practice a lot (much like writing). One challenge of being a portrait artist was that people would move. She learned to look for people being still.

She found one once in a window seat on an airplane—the seat she wanted—and she sketched him with delight. And then she found out he was watching her draw. She teased his life story out of him, or at least part. Specifically the hand part. He had an oddly shaped hand, so he told her the story of how he broke it. On someone's face.

He said he was defending his sister's honor, and she listened to him with her mind on record, as she planned to steal him and his soft southern accent.

Over the years, her thefts have gone from the surface much deeper. Faithful, accurate renderings aren't what she wants. These are mere copies. She wants the essence. The soul. Why that guy threw that punch, or why he never threw one earlier. His broken hand was broken for a reason. He could have been, and probably was, lying.

The truth: A boy had once lost his temper, much to his shame. He had to look at the memory of that moment every single day. Everything else was just details. Just noise. "That was the soul," she said. "And that was what I stole."

He became Adam Parrish in THE RAVEN BOYS.

She talked to us about what the old writing advice "write what you know" really means, charming us with the stories of her childhood horse, a former racehorse that wasn't ready to retire and very well could have killed her. This fed into THE SCORPIO RACES, a book about vicious horses that are very likely to eat anyone who tries to ride them.

The thief then hands the job over to the artist, who understands what details to keep, and what details to cut.  "If I do my thievery well, if I steal the truth and not the details, and then I add the details back in, then I end up with a book that is not just true, but specific, and in only the way I can write it," she said.

She said her most Maggie book of all is THE RAVEN BOYS, one rich with things she's pilfered from her childhood, and literally about someone who can summon things from his dreams, just as she summons from her own.









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36. No Fighting, No Biting: Arthur A. Levine on Communicating without Pissing People off

Arthur Levine and
Deborah Underwood
started off with a song.
Arthur Levine is something of a legend in the children's publishing industry. He's published many beloved books, including Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, and the comic novels of Lisa Yee.

He founded his own imprint at Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, in 1997. The imprint publishes everything from picture books through young adult novels. His authors and illustrators include Shaun Tan, Dan Santat, Markus Zusak, Francisco Stork, Erin Bow, Mike Jung, and Jaclyn Moriarty.

What's more, Arthur is the author of several picture books—A VERY BEARY TOOTH FAIRY, illustrated by Sarah Brannen, is the latest. So he knows about communicating from both sides of the email server.

He talked to us about things that can derail communication between editors and authors, using principles that work in critique groups (and in real life).

Here are three of the thoughtful, helpful tips he shared.

1. Don't leave anything out. The person you're writing to doesn't necessarily already agree with what you're trying to say. For example, if you describe something as a "circular story shape," does everyone know what you mean?

"The narrative was hurt by Jordan's snide remarks" might not be the best feedback, for example. The writer might not feel the remarks were snide. The writer might feel attacked.

A better way to say that might be to give a specific example, perhaps like this: When Jordan says his mother's kindergarten class is full of party poopers, he was less sympathetic. Did you intend for that to be the case?

The shorthand might feel insulting. The more specific reaction, built off positive reactions, is more clear and ultimately more helpful. 

2. Leave some things out. He shared an exchange from a cover discussion where an author tactfully expressed preference for an earlier sketch, where an agent chimed in with something that sounded harsh and critical.

Don't assume everyone agrees with you. Inflammatory political commentary on Facebook can be off-putting, for example.

3. Be respectful of people's boundaries. A fellow editor told him the story of someone showing up with a manuscript at her home office. (Yikes!)

If you sense someone getting defensive or upset, back off, or apologize, or find a different way of communicating. When someone gets upset, it's natural to want to respond with equal anger. But the anger is a someone setting a boundary. Instead of charging the boundary, try retreating and apologizing, he said.

He talked also a bit about email, which gets a bad rap as a communication medium, but isn't always bad. Calling people when you're angry is a bad idea. Taking the time to think and compose a thoughtful email can be very effective.

Follow Arthur A. Levine Books on Twitter.
Like the imprint on Facebook

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37. Linda Sue Park: The How of It: Making Every Word Count

Here's a fun fact about Linda Sue Park: She once was a contestant on jeopardy. Yes, she is that smart. Which is why this room is packed and ready to soak up her brilliance.

Linda Sue has written novels, picture books, and poetry for younger readers, including A Single Shard, winner of the 2002 Newbery Medal, and the New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water. Lin Oliver also introduces her as adorable, fun, and full of energy.

Stealing a note from Tim Gunn (from Project Runway), Linda Sue tells us, "Don't bore the editor."

We need to make every word count. But how do we do it? By using the tools of the writer's craft.

Linda Sue shows us photos of the many illustrators tools: brushes, paints, pencils, etc.




What do writers have?





WORDS

As writers, we all use the exact same tool. That's all we've got so we have to use those words to the their maximum potential.

Linda Sue speaks to those in the room who believe they have a submission-ready manuscript. When you think your work is submission ready, Linda Sue suggests putting it away. Not for hours, but for a month. Or even two.

When you pull it back out you can make it better still, but how?

Linda Sue shares many practical way to examine the words you're choosing. Here are a few:


  • Choose a scene in your manuscript that has a lot of dialogue in it. Rewrite it entirely in dialogue alone. Then go back in and reinsert only the narrative that is completely necessary. 
  • Choose a small section of your manuscript and put it all caps. Doing this can make you examine the words differently. 
  • Read your manuscript out loud. Linda Sue reads each manuscript (even novels) at least two times before she submits. Have someone read it out loud for you, especially if it's a picture book.

Words are everywhere right now. They have become one of our cheapest currencies, which makes it even more important for the words in our stories to be special.



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38. Lisa Yee: First and Sentences

Lisa Yee is the the award-winning author of many novels for children, including Millicent Min, Girl Genius, which won the first Sid Fleischman Humor Award in 2004.

You might also know her because of her famous pal, Peepy.

Lee Yee works the room.

The crowd is playing a game with Lisa Yee: Name That Line. After reading through well-known first lines and trying to name the title, the room now goes through, choosing their favorite three, and thinking about why they chose them.

Here's a sampling:

"All children, except one, grow up." ~ Peter Pan

"There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife." ~ The Graveyard Book

"If your teacher has to die, August isn't a bad time of year for it."~ The Teacher's Funeral

First lines are very personal. They sets the tone for your story. With that line you're giving a clue as to who is telling the story.

There's no formula for the perfect first line. Lisa likes to think of first lines like food. They can be an appetizer (a bit of a taste or a tease), an entree (nice and meaty), or dessert (really lovely and delicious). A first line needs to wet the appetite.

Check out Nancy Pearl's Book Crush to find lists of things in books for kids/teen, like great first lines. You'll find the first line of Millicent Min, Girl Genius included in that list of great first lines.

Here it is:

"I've been accused of being anal retentive, an overachiever and a compulsive perfectionist, like that's a bad thing."

Definitely worth of that list.

What makes a great last line?

If your first line is the promise of the story, your last line is the payoff.

When you write your last line it can be helpful to know what you are writing towards as your draft.

Don't ignore that your you have first and last lines within a book. Pay attention to those too, like the first and last lines of a chapter.


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39. Lamar Giles: Stay Tuned - Using TV Techniques to Keep Readers Hooked

Lamar Giles writes for adults and teens, and in several genres. His YA debut mystery, FAKE ID, is about a teen in witness protection investigating his best friend's murder. A thriller called ENDANGERED will come out next spring from HarperCollins.

He talked to us about the art of the cliffhangers at the ends of chapters and scenes, and how we can use a television technique to keep readers turning pages.

When he was growing up, he loved television. "I was probably the only fourth grader in Hopewell, Virginia with a subscription to TV guide."

TV when he was a kid wasn't like TV today. There was no on-demand, and you couldn't always record what you wanted to watch. Lamar never wanted to miss a moment of a show, and a few times, he got burned by leaving the TV during commercial breaks. The experience left him with anxiety.

"I realized that anxiety was being manufactured," he said.

Something enticing happened at a commercial break. In a half-hour show, the creators would generate 3 of these (and more for longer shows). He tries to use this sort of manipulation with his stories.

"This is how I try to keep people reading even if they're tired, even if they have something else to do."
Shows take longer to read than a TV show does to watch, so we're asking people for a lot.

He gave us six techniques to use, and showed examples of books and TV shows that them.

Here are three of his techniques:

1) The Ned: Blindside the Audience 
In this technique, you lead the reader in a certain direction. They think they know what's going to happen. In GAME OF THRONES, for example, an unexpected death occurs in the ninth episode. In MOCKINGJAY, Prim dies unexpectedly when a brace of parachutes full of explosives detonate.

"Having that situation go down the way it did, there was no telling what would come next. But there's no way in the world you're not going to hang in there and find out what happens next."

Use The Ned in pivotal scenes. If you want to do this in a three-act structure, use it around inciting incidents or going into Act II.

2) The Winchester: Making a Vow or Accepting a Mission
In Supernatural, Sam and Dean lose their mother. Their father trains them to lose the same. Sam wants a regular life, but Dean becomes a hunter. In the season premier, their father is missing. Sam's girlfriend was killed in the same way his mother was. So they make a vow to hunt the demon down and find their missing father.

A novel called RED RISING by Pierce Brown uses a similar technique. It's set on Mars. The society is broken into classes. The ruling class punishes the hero by killing his wife. He leaves home with terrorists.

When you accept a vow, you're implying or stating there is a difficult, possibly insurmountable goal. If you use this, do it early in the book, because it sets the tone for the entire novel.

3) The Clark - Tell a Secret
This technique delivers information to a pivotal character. The effects of this secret keep people hooked. Laini Taylor's DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE uses this when Akiva kills Karou's family. This relationship and this moment drive two more books. So, it's a technique to use later in the manuscript because it pays off threads you laid earlier.

His approach to story structure and its emotional influence was really smart and helpful. And anything that lets you you justify delicious television viewing as work is OK by me.


Learn more about Lamar Giles
Follow Lamar Giles on Twitter

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40. By the power of Skype! Tomie de Paola's Virtual Keynote!

We miss him but Lin's Skype interview with Tomie was fantastic! Hardly any technical difficulties!

Lin starts by telling us Tomie has published 250 or so books over fifty years, she asks him the secret of sustaining a lifelong career.

Tomie: Courage!

Lin: Courage to...

Tomie: Just courage! I get up in the morning and I have to face a blank piece of paper and my brushes all clean and ready to go. I panic, I freeze, I know I'm going to make a mistake... By then it's the afternoon! 

Without scaring anybody, I think it gets worse! The more you know. You know, fools rush in, now it's all of these pressures that come from the outside, it's really hard to put them in their place. I'm so aware of the responsibility I have for creating something for young people.

Lin: When you were starting out were you aware of that responsibility? Or did you just really want to make picture books and felt your art was suitable?

Tomie: It was a bit of both. You know, the 'fame mosquito' buzzes around for a while, and you want that in the early days. 

And eventually you will have a HUGE disappointment in your career, and you ask yourself why you are doing this?

Why are you doing books for children?

And I realized it was because they'd been important to me, in my life as a child, and I wanted to be that for new generations. I was lucky to have this epiphany early on.

Lin: Is there something you hope your books say to kids? Or is it that you want to create an atmosphere of something beautiful for them. 

Tomie: All of that. I want kids to fall in love color and line and character, I want to make people laugh and cry...

Lin: Your books have such a present sense of childhood, what you do you think gives you that fresh sense?


Tomie: I'm blessed to have a very good memory. And the more I remember of my childhood, the more I remember. I really cherished those memories, and I had some help, I have home movies of me as a child and that helps me remember the experiences. What's important is I remember how I felt. It's not important what color the car was or what color the socks were. It's the feeling.

I also come from families of great storytellers.

Lin: Many artists are asked to write an artistic statement, how would you write your statement?

Tomie: My first response is I want to say 'Why do YOU want to know?!?!' I don't think it's a bad idea to write what your purpose is. But write it twice, write the first one very honestly and don't let anybody see it.

I was trained in the middle fifties at Pratt, a very fine art school, by very fine professionals. We were told not to be afraid, to try everything, you're just students—don't take yourself seriously—yet.

I look at curriculums today and I frankly don't recognize them, I remember when I bought a rapid-o-graph pen and everybody said, Oh my god! There is an emphasis on computers/technology today, and if I was in school today I would want to take advantage of all of that, of everything that's on offer. What bothers me most is the lack of history. People forget that Giotto and Fra Angelico were illustrators. They were visual storytellers and that's what illustrators have to be. I worry that young people today aren't given enough time to develop and flower. If they don't come out of the gate winning awards, the industry just says, "Next!"

It's like that Thornton Wilder quote, "Money is like manureit's not worth a thing unless it's spread around encouraging young things to grow..."


Some Tomie laws:


  • Don't ever try to illustrate something you don't like.


  • You and your art director speak the same foreign language.


  • Don't get so busy with your work (Tomie's speaking to artists and art directors here) that you stop looking at others' art and going to shows. Have your household gods, surround yourself with images you love.


  • You should be able to tell the story of a picture book just by looking at the pictures.


  • Try reading The Courage To Create, modern society almost doesn't understand the creative act. So know you'll probably be misunderstood and try to make something anyway.


Lin's Lightning Round of questions for Tomie! His FAVORITE...

Classical artist: Piero della Francesca 

Musical : Gypsy

Play: Glass Menagerie

Saint: Francis of Assissi

Pizza: margherita

Color: white
Flower: anemone

Paint brand: Golden Acrylics

Icon/Household god: Virgin of Guadalupe

Piece of Advice: 

Be brave.

Thanks, Tomie!!




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41. Profanity



Oh, the hellish question! Dare you use profanity in your writing? 

1) It depends on your target audience.

Will they be offended? Do you care? The more explicit terms should be left out of cozy mysteries.

2) Does it fit the context of the plot?

If you are writing about nuns in England in 1300, I doubt they used the F-bomb. You might have a salty old nun who muttered the occasional "bloody hell" but only after the reign of Bloody Mary I (queen regent from 1553 to 1558).

I wrote a series set in 3500 BC. Trying to write without some form of expletive, insult, or curse word was painful. I had to resort to them calling each other names of animals etc. Some form of exclamation is needed, but not every other paragraph. I had to stringently edit it.

3) Is it appropriate for your target audience? 

If you write children's picture books or Christian romance, I'd leave it out.

4) Are you using it to define character?

Some characters swear like sailors. Others never would. Do your space aliens have potty mouths? Are your characters living in the ghettos of New York City? If so, drop the F-bomb a few times. Don't use it for shock value. The F-bomb has lost its impact by overuse. It isn't shocking anymore. The F-word is versatile. It is a noun, adjective, and verb, even though it stands for "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" and did not exist prior to England adopting the acronym in roughly the 1400s. Modern television and film scripts overuse it and it becomes redundant.

5) Are you using it effectively?

A rare profanity inserted for effect is better than twenty in a row. Profanity offends many. They are red words and imply anger, even if the person isn't angry. It may limit your audience. It's important to ask how your agent or editor feels about it. If she hates it, she might insist you take it out. If you stand your ground, you may have to find another agent or editor, or publish it yourself.

If profanity is inserted into every sentence, it feels abusive. No one likes listening to abusive people rant, even in fiction.

6) Can you make up new ones?

This is a serious challenge for fantasy and science fiction writers. Come up with a few, carefully selective, highly descriptive swear words for your characters. We'll love you for it. It may even get included in the English lexicon. For historical fiction writers, make sure the word was used in the era you describe. Make sure the word is something your character would have come into contact with. If you don't do this well, it is a speed bump.

REVISION TIPS


? Do a search and kill for all swear words, especially the ones you make up. How many times have you used them? Can you minimize them for better effect?
? Have you committed profanity abuse? Should you trim them?
? Does the profanity fit the time and place?
? Does the profanity fit the background and personality of the character uttering it?




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42. Redundant Words

Redundant words are so common they are hard to recognize. Redundancies use two words when one will do.  They are found in newspapers, broadcasts, and magazine articles.

A character would use redundancies in conversation. Few speak that formally.

Search for them all. Choose which ones to keep and which to kill.

Cutting some of them feels like amputating a limb. 

Yes, this rule is frequently broken . You will find redundancies everywhere. You decide.

Here is a short list to get you started:

  • absolutely essential
  • absolutely perfect
  • absolutely positive
  • actual fact
  • advance forward
  • advance planning
  • advance preview
  • advance reservations
  • advance warning
  • add an additional
  • add up
  • added bonus
  • affirmative yes
  • aid and abet
  • all-time record
  • alternative choice
  • A.M. in the morning
  • and etc.
  • anonymous stranger
  • annual anniversary
  • armed gunman
  • artificial prosthesis
  • ascend up
  • ask the question
  • assemble together
  • attach together
  • ATM machine
  • autobiography of his/her own life



REVISION TIPS

Do a search using [Control] [F] for redundant words. Eliminate one of the redundant words.
If you keep a redundancy, use it sparingly and for effect.
If you disagree with this rule, ignore it. Make sure your editor and agent feel the same way.

 For a larger list of some common redundancies and other revision layers, pick up a copy of: 


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43. Spicing Up Your Prose Part 1 of 6

Variety is the spice of life and these rhetorical devices sound like exotic spices. We know how they taste but have forgotten the names.


These spices should be sprinkled in carefully. They enrich a sentence or paragraph when you want a little punch. You shouldn't overwhelm the reader with them and should be mindful of clichés. You earn a gold star for using them effectively. You earn two gold stars if you remember their names.

Abstraction advances a proposition from generic to specific.



Jane opened the book1, a thick tome2, a collection of poetry3.


Alliteration repeats initial consonants in consecutive or grammatically corresponding words.


Jane opened the diary, the wild, wishful, window to its owner's soul.

Amplification repeats a word or phrase, adding more detail to emphasize a point.



Jane wanted to deny the truth, the truth about the diary1, the truth about the ghost2, the truth about herself3.

Anadiplosis repeats a word that ends a phrase, clause, or sentence at the start of the next.



Jane opened a book. The book was a collection of poetry, poetry that made her blush.

Analogy compares two things that are alike and is more clinical than a simile. It can use: also, and so on, and the like, as if, and like.



Jane was drawn to Dick1 like a humming bird to nectar2.

Anaphora repeats the same word or words at the beginning of each successive clause or sentence. There are at least three or four beats. You can separate the beats with other sentences but they should be in the same paragraph. The last beat should be in the last sentence of the paragraph.

She should have ignored the diary. The truth was too horrible to acknowledge. She should have burned it. She should have escaped while she still had the chance.

Antithesis connects two contrasting propositions, usually in parallel clauses or sentences.



Jane knew he loved her and she knew he hated her.

Assonance repeats similar vowel sounds in successive clauses or sentences.


The rain on the plain drove Jane completely insane.

Next week, we will continue to add spices to your prose shelf.

For the complete list of spices and other revision layers, pick up a copy of: 

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44. Spicing Up Your Prose Part 2 of 6

This week, we continue to add delicious rhetorical devices to your prose spice shelf.

Asyndeton omits conjunctions and speeds up the sentence using three or four beats.

Dick ran, laughing, hysterical, howlingfrom the library.

Balance offers two propositions of equal value joined by a comma or semicolon. The second half mirrors the first half but changes a few words.

Dick asked not what Jane could do for him1, but what he could do for her2.

Chiasmus repeats a sentence or clause but reverses the order in the second half.

When the water gets rough, the rough get in the water.

Chronicity moves the sentence backward or forward in time using connectors such as: after, before, during and until.

BeforeDick would agree to enter the library, before he would agree to read the book, he insisted that Jane go home.

Conduplicato repeats a key word from the base clause to start the next sentence or clause.
                
Dick was hard to love, hard tohate.

Consecutive clauses reveal a series of actions or thoughts.

Dick ran through the hall1, up the stairs2, skidding around the corner3, breaking into the library4 in time to hear Jane scream.

Epanelepsis repeats the same word or phrase at the beginning and end of a clause or sentence.

Dayfollowed day, week followed week, and Jane still had no answer.

Epistrophe repeats the same word or phrase at the end of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences. It carries emotion.

Jane charmed him, confused him, and consumed him.


Next week, we will contine adding spices to your prose shelf.

For the complete list of spices and other revision layers, pick up a copy of: 

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45. Super Simple School Bus Craft

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

We've noticed lots of school buses on the streets of our town this week! While my two little ones are still too small to ride the big yellow bus to school this year, we had lots of fun learning with a school bus book and craft. 

The Bus for Us Gus by Suzanne Bloom is one of those books that your child will want to read again, and again, and AGAIN (trust me on this one). While the text follows a predictable repetitive pattern, the pictures allow the child to guess what comes next. My little 20 month old just loves to turn the pages to see if the little girl Tess is ready to hop on the bus. There's also a certain silliness to this book when the page is turned and it's not the school bus, but a different vehicle. My son just loves to shout, "No Tess!" and laugh. 

School Bus Craft



We paired this book a super simple school bus craft that only uses construction paper and glue! Here's what to do to create your own at home.

1. Gather materials: yellow, black & orange construction paper; glue stick 
2. Cut the yellow paper into a shape of a school bus
3. Cut the black paper into 2 circles, 1 rectangle, 4 squares, and 1 triangle
4. Cut the orange paper into 1 small circle, and two rectangles
5. Glue the shapes on to the school bus outline

(note: you could add a red octagon for the stop sign, too)
 
Easy.

Great way to practice colors, shapes, and counting, too!



Don't have The Bus for Us Gus? Try pairing this craft with School Bus by Donald Crews. It's also great for little minds.


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46. Loom Bracelet Phenomenon

If you have kids, nieces, nephews or grandkids, you’ve no doubt heard of the loom bracelet phenomenon. It’s a new craze of making friendship bracelets from tiny coloured rubber bands using a plastic loom and crochet hook. There are many different patterns and designs and with so many colours to choose from the possibilities are endless. […]

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47. Spicing Up Your Prose Part 3 of 6

Here are more delicious rhetorical devices to add to your prose spice shelf.



Epizeuxis repeats a word in a sentence or clause for emphasis.

It was a long, long night for them both.

Hyperbole uses deliberate exaggeration. It can be funny or sarcastic. Use it sparingly.

Jane was so tired she could have slept for a year, maybe four.

Hypophora is similar to a rhetorical question, only the question is answered. Often the base clause or sentence poses the question and the modifying phrases answer it. In dialogue, it can be provocative if the character asks the question then answers it for the other person.

Jane turned to Dick. "So you want to slay the ghost, by yourself? No, no, I get it. You're strong; I'm weak. You're fast; I'm slow. I'd just get in your way. Fine, see if I care."

Isocolon stresses corresponding words, phrases, or clauses of equal length and similar structure.

Never had Dick promised so much, to appease so many, to benefit so few.

Litotes is an understatement that denies the opposite of the word the reader expects. It can use no or not. It creates confusion.

Jane was not a little angry with Dick for leaving her.

Metaphors can add richness and texture if used wisely. Metaphors compare two different things without using like or as in sentences and paragraphs. Not every simile is a metaphor, but every metaphor implies a simile. Dead metaphors and similes are often cliché, so it's important to cut them or change them up when possible.  The biggest offender is the mixed metaphor in which the second proposition is inconsistent with the first.
                
Dick was able to shed some light on the text. (light = understanding)

Jane stared through the window at the black velvet sky. (sky = black velvet)

Oxymorons connect contradictory terms. You can find extensive lists on the internet. If you look for them, kill them whenever possible. They are hard to spot because they are so frequently used. Most readers won't recognize them as such.
A few examples include:

  • act naturally
  • active retirement
  • almost exactly
  • approximately equal
  • blind eye
  • born dead
  • clearly confused
  • controlled chaos
  • deafening silence
  • exact estimate
  • found missing
  • larger half
  • old news
  • open secret
  • original copy
  • seriously funny
  • unbiased opinion
  • virtual reality


Next week, we will contine adding spices to your prose shelf.

For the complete list of spices and other revision layers, pick up a copy of: 



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48. Spicing Up Your Prose Part 4 of 6

This week, we continue to add to our collection of rhetorical devices.


Parallelism uses balance and three beats following a sentence or clause with a phrase that starts with a similar kind of word (adjective, adverb or noun).
         
 The book was damaged1, damaged beyond all hope of repair2. (balance)

Jane loved him more for it1, more than she loved her books2, more than she loved herself3. (3 beats)

Personification attributes an animal or inanimate object with human characteristics.
         
The book hid its secrets from her.

Phatics are used to begin or interrupt the flow of a sentence without adding meaning to it and act as speed bumps. They are used to strengthen the connection to the reader and can impart a confidential tone. It can raise or lower the dramatic potential of a clause, it can emphasize an important claim, certify content, or negate content. Be sure they are not used to preface an information dump. They include, but are not limited to:


  • after a fashion
  • after all
  • after all is said and done
  • almost inevitably
  • amazingly enough
  • and I agree that it is
  • and whatnot
  • as a matter of fact
  • as everybody knows
  • as I believe is the case
  • as is widely known
  • as it happens
  • as it turns out
  • as I’ve pointed out
  • as unlikely as it may seem
  • as we can see
  • as you can see
  • at any rate
  • believe it or not
  • curiously enough
  • fittingly enough
  • for God’s sake
  • for some reason
  • for that matter
  • hi
  • how are you
  • I am reminded
  • I can’t help but wonder
  • I might add
  • I suppose
  • if conditions are favorable
  • if I may call it that
  • if time permits
  • if truth be known
  • if you get right down to it
  • if you know what I mean
  • if you must know
  • in a way
  • in a sense
  • in my mind
  • in point of fact
  • in spite of everything
  • in the final analysis
  • it goes without saying
  • it is important to note
  • it is important to remember
  • it occurs to me
  • it seems to me
  • it turns out
  • just between us
  • just between you and me
  • let’s face it
  • let me tell you
  • make no mistake
  • my Lord
  • not to mention
  • of course
  • one might ask
  • or as unlikely as it may seem
  • shall we say
  • strangely enough
  • to a certain extent
  • to be honest
  • to my dismay
  • to everyone’s surprise
  • to no one’s surprise
  • to my relief
  • to my way of thinking
  • to some extent
  • what's up
  • we should remember
  • when all is said and done
  • you know
  • you know what



Next week, we will contine to stock your prose shelf.

For the complete list of spices and other revision layers, pick up a copy of: 



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49. Low-Sew Halloween

It’s time for the yearly round-up of costumes, in case you need some ideas. What are you dressing up as? Last year, I was the Prancercise Lady, but it’s going to be hard to top that one. The kids want to be a diva (10 year old) and a bald eagle (7 year old). We’ll probably get started on costumes this week. This always starts with a trip to the thrift store. Our costumes are of the slapdash variety—-altered rather than sewn from scratch, with not too much (okay, almost no) emphasis on perfection.

Here are a few from years past:

Fireman Costume

Fireman

Turtle Costume Front

Turtle Costume

Green Ninjago Costume

Ninja (Ninjago)

Anastasia costume

Anastasia Romanov (Russian princess)

Knight Costume

Knight Tunic and Helmet

DSC_0125

Princess

DSC_0399-002

Marco Polo

So glad to get my copy of the Budget Bytes cookbook the other day. If you haven’t yet discovered the Budget Bytes blog, you’re in for a treat. The recipes are on the simple side—weeknight friendly, for the most part, but not boring in the least. As the title suggests, the recipes are wallet-wise, but beyond that, they’re just appealing, and in many cases, less-meatarian, which I love. Also many are gluten-free or easily adaptable to GF. I checked the book out from the library and liked it so much I had to buy my own.

Discovered another new-to-me podcast for children’s and YA lit enthusiasts. It’s called First Draft, and it’s interviews Sarah Enni conducted with authors during a cross-country road trip. Good stuff, food for thought.

What about you? Discover anything good lately?


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50. Jill Santopolo: 20 Master Plots - Go on a Story Brainstorming Binge

Jill Santopolo
Jill Santopolo is an executive editor at Philomel Books, and is the author of book series for YA and MG readers, including the Alec Flint series, Sparkle Spa, and Follow Your Heart.

As an editor, she works with Jane Yolen, Andrea Cremer, T.A. Barron, and more wonderful authors. Her list includes picture books, middle grade, and young adult novels.

Jill was worried that no one would show up, but she ran out of handouts and several people were sitting on Dan Santat's lap.
She talked to us about strategies for developing plots, which she considers to be the backbone of stories. Her goal was for us to leave the room with five potential stories we can tackle in the future.

In addition to sharing several plot types with us, she walked us through questions designed to help us build the scaffolding of our stories.

Among the plot types she described:
  • The quest: Rick Riordan's THE LIGHTNING THIEF is a great example of this. Percy is at home, lacking an understanding of his life and relationship with his father. A force makes him act in a new way. A motivating incident occurs. And he meets buddies (there are always buddies). The middle makes things interesting; the end provides the answer to the lack.
  • The pursuit: Marie Lu's LEGEND. She establishes the good guy and the bad guy, the stakes of the pursuit, and the incident that sets it in motion. Twists, turns, and reversals follow. In the end, she sets someone free (though catching him could also be the resolution).  
  • The underdog plot: The story starts in a conflict-ripe world. A catalyst pits rivals against each other. There is a power struggle. The antagonists gain upper hand. In the middle: two sides are equal in power. Then come more power shifts. Then the underdog is empowered. In the end, there's a confrontation and the underdog wins.
It was an incredibly useful session, with lots of great insight about how we can frame the shape of the stories we're working on using a simple series of questions.

Jill's website.

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