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Easy Listenin’ Kid Lit…

October 1, 2014

picturebookinglogo

Hey. Check out this new podcast I’ve discovered about picture books, called Picturebooking, by Nick Patton.

I had a new app on my laptop and phone. While searching to add a podcast to the one other kidlit podcast I love (see Brain Burps About Books, by Katie Davis…link next door), I discovered Picturebooking.

These are two totally different podcasts.

While Katie’s podcast revs me up, Nick’s calms me down. What engages me so with Nick’s pocast?  Maybe it’s including his baby daughter in the process, maybe it’s the slow and easy, simple focus of his approach.

At any rate, I like it.  It’s filled a spot.

Not Katie’s spot, mind you.  I need Katie’s full-of-life go-get-it cheerleading style in my writing life as well.  For an old guy needing motivation, spurring on, and a swift kick in the but every other episode to keep me moving, writing, and marketing, Katie, my friend, is the key.

Meanwhile, I also need the stroking, calm, encouraging affirming smile that comes across through Nick’s moments when he shares himself as a writer, through interviews with generous published guest writers, and directly to me, the listener.

Wow.  What a balance.

PICTUREBOOKING PODCAST     BRAIN BURPS ABOUT BOOKS PODCAST

AND, check out the CONTEST going on now.

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Nothing is Better than a Cuddle with a Kid You Love…

September 26, 2014

…and I know the perfect book for it.  Julie Hedlund’s My Love For You Is the Sun is now available at various outlets, and is a premier work of picture-book writing, picture-book art, but more than that, a work of love.  Inspired by Julie’s childhood this book is an expression of grace and gratitude that will become an avenue for your love for the children in your life.

With metaphors illustrated by the marvelous rich colors of Susan Eaddy’s clay art, page by page the dimensions of a parent’s care and affection are unfolded and revealed.  These are feelings that every parent–and every child–will recognize and understand.

This book says it all, and I can’t wait for my copy to arrive.

Variety may be the spice of life—but it’s the DEVIL at a Buffet…

September 20, 2014

My 8th grade English teacher in Louisville, Mississippi, always said “Variety is the spice of life!”  I still agree with Mrs. Camille Fulton, even to this day.  I’ve noticed, however, that variety CAN be a devil.

Today we took Mom to the local Chinese buffet.  I was determined to have a single, simple plate, be a good boy, eat light.  Hey—I’d had several complements lately on weight loss.  I had motivation. I had some accomplishment.

But variety took me by surprise.  It ambushed my ambitions. I’d whispered to myself about 15 times, “Just a taste of this,” and “Only a bite of that,” and “What’s Chinese without a mound of rice?”  “Oooh…pretty dumplings!”

After my second plate of variety, with dessert choices pending, I felt the post-buffet blah. I began to wonder.

Having just figured out Twitter I now have another social network serving line. Within each serving line there are many sterno-heated bins of varieiy.  Advice, wisdom, trends, challenges in multiple genres, forms, and styles.

No wonder I feel stuffed, overwhelmed, and groggy.

How do I battle this buffet-style mentality?  I am working to integrate these strategies into my writer’s diet  (uhh…I mean lifestyle.)

Focus for purpose. One of the best things I’ve done this last year is focus on non-fiction.  As much as I love the fiction line as a story-teller, I felt I needed a focus.  This focus helps me bypass the items that don’t fit on my plate. Focus on a genre, a form, or a style for a season…and only pick from your network feeds what matches that focus.

Fewer entrees for more flavor. Can you imagine dumping your full plate into a food processor before you eat it and pressing the pulse key a few times?  You will loose the flavors of every post in the mix. Overwhelm your system and the delights of flavor, seasoning, and aroma can’t be enjoyed. Savor the posts that matter to your writing career moment.

Smaller servings for full satisfaction.  Gorging on anything minimizes the satisfaction you can feel from good food.    Set a timer when you browse. Avoid checking facebook, Twitter, email notifications all in one setting. Don’t join in on every challenge that’s offered and available.

These strategies can help me appreciate the variety of options up for grabs, while helping me to savor distinct selections in our kid-lit community—without the post-buffet blahs.

Can’t Miss with Chris…

August 12, 2014

SCBWI MemberWhen I heard about an easily affordable webinar on writing for children’s magazines, I was highly interested.

Then when I learned it was being offered by Texas Southwest SCBWI, I paid closer attention. Hmmmm.  Professional. Quality. Relevant.

THEN, when I saw it would be presented by Chris Eboch, I

  • moved everything else off my agenda
  • signed up immediately
  • set reminders on my phone alarm and calendar
  • and kid-literally drooled until the webinar began.

I’ll have to tell you, this class was right on target for me. Chris graciously showed up a half-hour before the normal time to tell us more about her experience in the kid-lit world.  Then she taught us about the value, the process, and the rewards of writing for children’s magazines.  What I learned was priceless.

We covered much…but the kick-off for the session was a critical question:  “Why do you most want to write for children’s magazines?”  We had three choices:

Money or Personal Satisfaction or Writing Credits

I knew magazine stories were not going to get me much money.  I am not–at this time in my writing career–that prolific. I haven’t been published yet in a children’s magazine.  I’ve really only submitted about 20 times.

Yes, I enjoy writing.  I have written some magazine articles that were very satisfying personally, and professionally.  I think they’re good articles and stories.

Since I had to choose only one, I was forced to chose Credits. I suppose I really am wanting, more than anything else right now, some credit for what I’ve done. Something to validate that I write, I write for children, and I write for why kids read.

Needless to say, I won’t hit my target without firing a shot.  Pulling the trigger and submitting is the next step, after loading my laptop with any story.  I finished the ICL classes last year with all good intentions of submitting like crazy…but I determined I wanted to focus on non-fiction picture books, and that ‘shift’ to picture book writing distracted my magazine article efforts.

This webinar was very timely.  Recently a successful author shared she felt she had spent a lot of time through the years focusing on magazine articles, having believed it would bring her credits and practice for her primary dream of book-writing. She advised picture-book writers to write for their target–picture books.

Her thoughts made me wonder.  Would I be spinning my wheels in magazine writing?  Would it transfer to other forms and opportunities?  Though she felt her experience was not particularly useful to her picture-book success, would the same principle apply to me?

I realized during the class and the chat, that I’m energized by small pats on the back.  I am motivated by small successes, something magazine articles can provide.  I learn from gradual experience (success and failure), and from networking and connections with people in the craft.

So now I am aiming again for magazine publication, thanks to the experience and focus that Chris shared in tonight’s webinar, “Get Published in Children’s Magazines.”

If you can find her teaching anywhere–at SCBWI, at Writer’s Digest Webinars–get there.  Get on target.  With Chris Eboch, you can’t miss.

Garden Tending

June 7, 2014

Copy of Egypt-20120418-00516I am finding myself again feeling honored and privileged among a host of poets and writers much better than I.

If you have followed Poetic Bloomings at all you might have noticed that for some time Walt Wojtanik has invited frequent contributors to help him demonstrate the prompts for the topic poem and InForm poem of the week. Those hosts and hostesses have led the way with examples of imaginative responses, and their introductions explain the reasons by way of experience for quality poetry that results.
I will be Walt’s guest host this week. I don’t have the experience, publishing history, or disciplined practice and long-nurtured expertise that some of our leaders at PB have had.
But I do have the passion.
In fact, it was Poetic Bloomings that reignited my passion for poetry in the last several years, and has begun a process of nurture and affirmation that I am profoundly grateful for.
Come by and you will see what I mean. Each poet brings inspiration and insight to the garden. I’m excited to be there this week in turn tending to many who have tended so well to me.

14:14 PB ELEMENT Blog Review: CHARACTER – Looking at Of Thee I Sing by Barack Obama

February 27, 2014

OfTheeISingCover(My post #14 of the 14:14 Picture Book Review Blog challenge, conducted by Christie Wild, February 14-28, 2014.)

Title:  of THEE I SING,  A Letter to My Daughters
Author: Barak Obama
Illustrator: Loren Long
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Year: 2010
Words: 1,572

Until I found it on the shelf, I was not aware of President Obama’s book of THEE I SING, and found inside a delightful and affirming message to his daughters.  As a dad of two girls, I appreciated this lyrical expression of inspiration.  There are several picture book elements that are present here, with character being one (again, as in yesterday’s post the second-person point-of-view); theme (the premise that there are talents, strengths, and skills embedded in our nature); word play (the lyrical language which mimics song with phrase repetition); and pacing (including page-turn anticipation of each re-worded key question).

The balance among these story elements is well done, but if I had to choose a main element from those I’ve listed, it would be character.

First, the second-person point of view is well-executed. Mr. Obama writes the story as a letter to his daughters, with a key question throughout:  “Have I told you…?”

Second, the question isn’t really a question…it’s an affirmation of qualities he sees in his daughters.   Each time he asks his daughters “Have I told you…” the question-affirmation is rephrased, but the added element of reflection in other characters’ lives helps to affirm the qualities stated:

  • “Have I told you…that you are creative?”  The story of artist Georgia O’Keefe is pictured, who “helped us see big beauty in what is small.”
  • “…that you are smart?”  Albert Einstein is featured, who “turned pictures in his mind into giant advances in science…”
  • “…that you are brave?”  Jackie Robinson swings on the facing page, who “showed us all how to turn fear to respect and respect to love.”

In each instance, the recognition of these ‘common’ traits are reflected in the famous Americans who, relying on the strengths embedded in them, made great changes and did great things.  This reflection is what I see as the best use of the element of character in this beautiful, inspiring book.

In which of your stories has the main character (whether by first-, second-, or third-person point-of-view) been validated, affirmed, or defined by reflections of other secondary characters?  This is a technique that I think is especially effective here, and can be quite powerful in the stories we write.

14:14 PB ELEMENT Blog Review: CHARACTER – Looking at Insect Detective by Steve Voake

February 26, 2014

InsectDetectiveCover(My post #13 of the 14:14 Picture Book Review Blog challenge conducted by Christie Wild, February 14-28, 2014.)

Title: Insect Detective
Author: Steve Voake
Illustrator: Charlotte Voake
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Year: 2010
Words: 1,092

I must admit, I am struggling to determine which picture book element I need to focus on in this selection.  I was looking for something with enough dialogue to examine, and almost wanted to tag Voake’s approach in this book as voice, which is a sub-element of dialogue.  But in reviewing Christie’s Wild’s series of posts on picture book elements, it seems more likely that what I am really trying to define here is character.

A sub-element of character, (point-of-view) in Insect Detective serves an important purpose in this book about discovery and learning:  Because the point-of-view is in second person, it makes the reader the main character. Here’s the opening text (emphasis added):

“Right now, all around you,
thousands of insects are doing strange
and wonderful things.
But you can’t always
see them right away.

Sometimes you have to know
where to look.”

I’ve never thought of using second-person POV in non-fiction, but now I’m suspicious that I have used it—I just wasn’t conscious of it. And throughout the text, there are ‘commands’ (imperatives) for the reader to do:

Listen…over by the fence…”
“First find an ant…then follow it.”
Look at the crinkly brown leaf.”
Lift up a stone…”

So, I’m suspicious that the element I’m seeking to emphasize here, the one that makes this book fun and personal and almost ‘instructive’ to me, is character, based on the second-person sub-element point-of-view.

BUT there also seems to be a dialogue going on. At one point the story reads “…and once I found a baby frog!” The story speaks, and the reader is not just a reader, he/she is a ‘listener.’  If the reader responds, imagines, or ‘participates’ (such as counting insect legs) is it dialogue?  Technically, it probably isn’t.  Is it just narrative?  Perhaps, but it seems to be more than just ‘telling.’

What do you think?  Is character, especially the sub-element point-of-view, a valid and maybe valuable way to approach non-fiction picture books?  Have you ever used second-person point-of-view in your stories?  What effect did it have?

CREATIVE BLOOMINGS

Established as POETIC BLOOMINGS in May 2011 by Walter Wojtanik and Marie Elena Good to nurture and inspire the creative spirit. Hosted by Walter Wojtanik and the contributors of this site.

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the intersection of graphic design + picture books

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My heart envisions what my eyes refuse to see. ~Poet Walter J Wojtanik

Sara Toole Miller - Fiction & Non-Fiction Writer

The musings of Sara Toole Miller on writing, reading and life.

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