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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Tami Lewis Brown, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 7 of 7
1. Review: The Map of Me by Tami Lewis Brown

Is it grand theft auto if it’s your daddy’s truck? Is it kidnapping if she’s your sister? Is it even wrong if you’re chasing your runaway mother? In THE MAP OF ME, Margie never even pauses to ask these questions. As soon as she sees her mother’s note that says, “I have to go,” she grabs her annoying sister, Peep, her daddy’s keys, and hits the road. This wouldn’t be too shocking if Margie wasn’t twelve years old.

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2. A Novelist's Storyboard

What exactly is a storyboard?

A storyboard is a sequence of images that tell your story. In the 1930s, Disney Studios' artists began taking on more complicated projects- intricate stories with many scenes- and before long one cartoon generated so many sketches that it was impossible to keep the flow and sequence of the story straight.

Sound familiar? This is exactly how it feels to me when I have an early draft of a novel. So much great material-- backstory, dialog, action sequences, contemplative moments-- but it's a jumble. Some parts drag. Others race. Worse of all, with hundreds of pages of material and almost no perspective from my position close inside a project, I can't pinpoint  the problem spots.

Disney animator Webb Smith had a solution- storyboarding. Basically a sequence of images arranged in the order of the final product.

Here's a storyboard from a famous Disney movie-

Beautiful, isn't it?  Is this what my storyboards look like? No way. For one thing I'm no artist. But believe me, that's not a handicap for storyboarding a novel. In fact in some ways it may be an asset because my drawings are free and spontaneous. We'll talk about why this is important tomorrow--- and how storyboarding can pull you into the "flow state". But let's stick with practical matters today.

What does a novelist's storyboard look like?

I've had a more or less hellacious time downloading images today... if I can get my camera to work with my computer I'll post a photograph of the actual storyboard I'm working on right now later. Until then take a look at this template-

This is generic but it will work for our purposes. There's a block for an image, and underneath, lines for text. So how do you fill it in--- what goes in those blocks? I have some recommendations but ultimately it's up to you.


1) Consider including three elements for each storyboard "segment". Below the block make a brief note about the major ACTION in the scene or part of a scene you are storyboarding. In the block draw what's happening. Above the block write a one word description of the overriding EMOTION in the scene. This will gauge both the arc of the story itself (what is "happening") and the emotional arc of your protagonist or of the story. If every block is "Sad" "Sad" "Sad" that's a good clue your story is stagnant.

2) Play with the pictures. At least until you've decided one method works best from you draw whatever you feel in each block. It may be one strong visual image (perhaps I'd draw a handprint in one of my blocks). In the next block you may chose to draw the major action (how about two characters embracing?)  When you stay loose and free you're going to surprise yourself. Something entirely unexpected might pop up anywhere. Don't "overthink" it. Just do it.

3) Don't get hung up on how it's coming together while you're working on it. You're not storyboarding fo

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3. What A Waste Of Time

I know a whole lot of people but I do not know one person who thinks they have too much time on their hands. Especially writers. Every second I'm not sleeping (and sleeping hasn't been a whole lot of minutes, lately) I feel like I should be writing. This is probably not a particularly productive way to work... but that's not the subject of my blog today. 

Today we're talking about social networking (or as I prefer to call it Meet and Greet) Whether it's worth it - or just a big waste of time.

Measuring the benefit

I'm going to get geeky for a minute, then I'll go back to normal talk. Return On Investment (ROI)- comparing what you put into social networking compared to what you get out of it-  is something social media experts and business people toss around a lot lately. It's a concept I'm not especially comfortable with as applied to blogs and this is why: Return on investment is actually a business/finance term. It measures all the financial results, inputs vs. outcomes.

Quality return on investment analysis includes good will as one of the positive (hopefully) elements. What's that? No. Good will isn't related to Santa Claus. It's a technical term for that nearly unmeasurable element made up of reputation, place in the market, and depth of experience.Stuff a great established business has. Stuff a start up wants to cultivate. (I'm not sure that's a great economics description of good will, but it's okay for off the cuff, and fine for our purposes)  The problem with good will that it's, pretty much by its own definition, hard to measure... virtually unmeasurable.

But let me just be blunt. Good will is usually the only asset blogs and bloggers in the kidlitosphere have. We haven't "monetized" our blogs (YUCK what a word. I'm not against making money off my efforts but monetizing? Who writes this stuff?) Which means we don't generate ad revenue or get any significant amount of money from referring retail customers to bookstores, say. (The Tollbooth makes $0 ) Some bloggers end up with book deals. Diary of a Wimpy Kid started out on line. But let's be honest. As a blogger I'm not counting on becoming the next Jeff Kinney.  So the only benefit of most blogs, mine included, is enhanced reputation, experience, and, of course, personal satisfaction. Good will. Essentially unmeasurable.

Does that mean not valuable? No. Absolutely not.

Personal satisfaction is vitally important. Just read the comments from my post yesterday. It's key.

But beyond personal satisfaction, it seems to me that when business geeks talk about return on investment and blogs they leave out another HUGE business school-type subject- public relations, publicity, and marketing. When you buy a new machine for your factory you can make x more widgets and earn y more dollars as a result. But when you are the subject of a flattering news article, or review, or place an ad ... what happens? Maybe more people want to buy your lovely widgets. Maybe not. No telling if that's what drove their purchase. That's the classic marketing dilemma.

Big companies do surveys and stuff to get some gauge but no way you're doing that for your blog.

So....You write a great blog post. People read it and say "oh she's smart or fun or naughty or something". Months or years later they see your book and pick it up. Is it the cover, the title, the fact they're trapped in an ai

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4. Where The Cool Kids Are

I couldn't resist that title because social networking can seem to be  "where the cool kids hang out" and that pushes more than a few of us away. Children's and YA writers are even more attuned than other adults to what it means to be cool-- or more often what it means to be totally uncool.So hopping into the cool kids' pool can be intimidating.

But here's the good news. Both Facebook and Twitter are filled with millions of completely uncool people. Think about it. Millions of people are typing into their computers instead of tossing their hair and prancing around the mall. Typing is so not cool. And you already know how to do it.

I'm kidding, obviously, but I have a serious point. Facebook particularly has become a gathering place for all demographic groups. Senior citizens love to use it to connect with old friends and classmates. How cool is that? The whole world is on Facebook. Should you be there, too?

I've had a Facebook account for a couple of years and to be completely honest I got it to monitor my own children's online activity, nothing to do with books. But as time has gone on I've built a collection of (real) friends, people I  don't exactly know (Sarah Aronson calls people you just sort of know but act like you know Facebook Friends, even when it doesn't have anything to do with Facebook) some I don't know at all in the real world, and, most important lately places, businesses, or events I want to get to know better.

At the basic level you can ask another person on Facebook to be your friend. If they agree you can see their posts- their "wall" and they see yours. Okay if you care about what that person's posting but not exactly riveting.

The exciting stuff, as far as I'm concerned, is beyond that. Facebook revamps their look and settings at a mindwarp pace (a drawback in my view) but in the last week or so they've moved away from "fan pages" which I always thought sounded just... odd... to plain "Pages". If you want to keep track of a place, event or public person with a Facebook account you search for their page and click "Like". Not as weird as saying you're a "fan" but basically the same thing. Then you get all the updates and musings and whatevers of that person, place or thing.

So now I "like" my agent's literary agency, my publisher's page... and lots more. How about that bakery down the street? Or my old high school? Or the bookstore where I like to shop? My fall book, Soar, Elinor! is about a girl aviator so I've joined women's history pages, aviation museum pages, pilot groups... you name it  and if it's about powerful females or airplanes and the page is interesting I click "like". Their posts feed right onto my Facebook page and I know what's going on in that world. If that page turns out to be creepy or something (which has never happened) I can always click "unlike".

Through The Tollbooth started out with a "Friends of" page. As far as I know Facebook doesn't even offer that option anymore. It was pretty inflexible compared to the fan pages. This morning I set up a group page... hop over and check us out. It stinks that they won't let us just move our "friends" to the new page but there are good reasons for that . Nobody wants to be jerked around page to page without their consent (actually Facebook has lots of Add a Comment
5. Finis!

I have great news. Last week I "finished" a novel. (And yes, last Thursday I looked pretty much like the guy in this picture!)  Sure I thought I was finished plenty of times before, but now the manuscript is headed to copyediting... which is pretty convincing evidence that it's going to be a book sooner rather than later.

This week I'll be posting about running for that finish line. How did I know I was getting close? What were the last dashes and final sprints? And what have I learned about starting a new novel now that this marathon is nearly done?

I don't have any secret potion or magic wand for getting you to the end of your novel. Just some ideas to try, and plenty of encouraging words.

Preparing for these posts I discovered a Facebook page called "I've Never Finished A Novel In My Life". And there's a wikipedia article for unfinished manuscripts.   I'm glad I didn't know about this stuff before I turned my novel in. There were lots of days (and months... okay years) when I was convinced I wouldn't finish. These pages would have fanned the flames of doubt. And when you get down to it doubt is the number one enemy here. If we knew for absolute certain we'd finish and it would be a novel and pretty soon it would be sitting in a bookstore this would be easy. No. Not easy. But easier maybe. So let's banish doubt together.

The number one thing that got me through was my circle of friends cheering me on and leading the way- all the members of the Tollbooth, my editor, my agent, my family, writing friends and teachers... a whole army of supporters and cheerleaders. But in the end it was me and my laptop. And maybe most of all my protagonist, who I've grown to know more intimately than any other person in the world, who led me to type that last word on the page.

What gets you over the hump when a writing project stumps you and self doubt takes over?

~Tami Lewis Brown

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ps It's Memorial Day, among other things the "official start of summer" and we're moving to summer hours here at the tollbooth. We'll have regular posts every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and special features Tuesdays and Fridays. Stay tuned for lots of exciting changes and upgrades.

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6. The Corner of Creative and Organized

(Photo courtesy of Liz Gallagher)

Are you a plotter or a plunger? Can I see a show of hands for each category?

I've always hated that question a little because I just don't get it, at least for my own writing. Plotters plan ahead, arranging the sequence of events in their novels with the precision of a German train schedule. Plungers take a blind leap off a cliff and write whatever their heart tells them to put on the page.

I do neither.

Or maybe I should stand up and proclaim (with pride rather than shame) "I do both."  Now with a creativity technique I learned from my wonderful advisor Carolyn Coman I can do both at the same time. Her planning/reviewing method drops me off at the corner of creative and organized, right where I need to be to get an accurate view of my novel, it's strengths, and it's gaps.

The summer residency at Vermont College started up yesterday with a grand welcome -- Coe Booth, Frannie Billingsley, and An Na joined the stellar faculty, and a whopping 31 new first semester students began their journey (More about what's going on in Montpelier later this week!) On Friday alumni will converge on campus for an Alumni Mini-residency, along with a slew of agents, editors, and special speakers including Jacqueline Woodson, Gregory Maguire, and Holly Black... and um... me. I'll be teaching a workshop for alumni on Friday. Here's a description-

Storyboarding Your Way Out Of The Forest

Tami Lewis Brown
Deep into a novel's revision it can be hard to see the forest for the trees and navigate your way to a satisfying, well structured novel. In the 1930's Disney Studio's animators invented the storyboard technique to help visualize the shape of their stories. Carolyn Coman has developed a novelist's version of storyboarding which tracks both plot and emotion... and may reveal surprises your unconscious has buried inside your novel. Bring a pencil. Tami Lewis Brown will describe Carolyn's storyboarding technique with examples from Tami's own work and the work of other VC'ers, then we'll all try our hands at storyboarding. 

But wait! This post is no mere tease for my workshop! This week in the Tollbooth I'll explore storyboarding with all of you, giving you a new tool for your toolbox, a map to lead you to the corner of Creative and Organized. Following our summer schedule we have an interview planned for Tuesday in the Tollbooth, but on Wednesday I'll be back with specific hows and whys and whats and wrap it all up on Thursday. Sarah Aronson will be in the 'booth, live from the mini-residency with a writing prompt on Friday.

So what are you? A plotter? A plunger? Or someone who meets your story somewhere in the middle?

Bon voyage!
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~ Tami

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7. How is a blog like a puppy?

My dog Murphy Brown

Last week I went to a great SCBWI dinner where Pam Coughlan, aka MotherReader gave us the inside scoop on blogging in the Kidlitosphere. One thing she said that struck a major chord for me was "having a blog is like having a puppy." I couldn't agree more.

Lately it seems every children's writer, not to mention children's librarians, literacy specialists, parents who love books, and kids themselves, even, wants a blog. And more power to you, I say. More power to us all. The more voices there are shouting out about the importance of books and kids the better.

But before you jump into the "social network" with a blog think about how a blog is like a puppy. (Bear with me here. I'm serious.)

1- You have to feed it. Blogs demand content like puppies need Puppy Chow. You can not walk off and leave your blog for weeks or months (or even days) at a time. It will die. You will look like a bad blogger.And there's the clean up, too. Lots of technical maintenance, over time.

2- You've got to pick your breed. Do you want your blog to be a ferocious watch dog or a gentle lap dog? Like puppies, blogs have personalities. Will you write book reviews? Will you interview authors? Will you focus on marketing or your agent hunt or the daily work of a writer? Settle on  a blog personality then make the most of it.
3- Your puppy needs a place to live. A dog needs a bed. A blog needs a platform. When we started Through The Tollbooth LiveJournal was where children's and YA writers hung out. That's still true, to some extent (and we love our LJ friends!) but as years have passed our dog ...er blog has aged and grown. And LiveJournal hasn't changed so much in terms of upgrading the technology. If I was starting a new blog today I'd pick Wordpress, which is brimming with great features, beautiful premade templates, and posting ease.

In fact, we've hinted about this, but in coming weeks Through The Tollbooth will hit the groomers (web developers) and move to a new home with Wordpress. We won't leave LiveJournal behind, mirroring our posts here. But we can't wait to take advantage of the new technology.

What does this mean for you and your blog? Find an experienced blogger (or two... or ten) and ask them what platform they use. And what platform they wish they used.
4- Your puppy needs playmates- and your blog needs readers. How do you get people to notice your blog? Take it for a walk and when it's on the leash make sure it has good manners. Translation- enter the kidlitosphere and play nice. Write interesting stuff. Comment in a non-promotional way on other people's blogs. Visit the Kidlitosphere Central website and join. Keep writing interesting things. Keep commenting. On and

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