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I’m Writing…

November 8, 2014

“Writing time” is rare for me it seems…but with the encouragement, and insight, and help of my NF4NF peers, I am learning to regard writing as more than just BIC.

ImWriting 001Pat Miller, at the recent Non-Fiction 4 New Folks seminar in Texas, gave participants a ‘bookmark’ that reminds us to ‘keep writing.’ She was careful to define that as whatever we are needing in our writing life to move forward with our goals.

That bookmark is reminding me to get my butt in my writing chair.

YES, butt-in-chair is critical…necessary…elemental to the writing experience.  But so are the following:

SIC- Self in Community – engaged in the writing community as a source for the pressure and affirmation we need from one another to write well, write better, write from ourselves in a way that others can read us.

BIR- Brain in Research – Learning both facts and truths about our topics and settings and causes-and-effects so that our stories can maintain for non-fiction authenticity and accuracy, or  for fiction a strong suspension of disbelief.

HIW – Heart in Writing – Discovering, if we don’t yet know, why we want to write. This can be empowering and freeing.

TIC – Training in Craft – How to write well for your readers is where a writer’s skills, knowledge, and passion combine to become the art of his or her heart.

Expression doesn’t happen automatically for writers, it’s learned and practiced and done.

So I expect, to paraphrase the old Sammy Fain song, that “[I'll] be  seeing [you] in—-all the old familiar [writing] places.”

Once Conceded—Twice (or Thrice) Deleted: Treats AND Tricks

October 31, 2014

It’s like trick, and treat.

You know. You discover some deep insight on someone’s blog, and you’ve got to ‘follow’ them.  You laugh out loud at another writer’s experience, and you ‘like’ their humor.  A new picture-book author impresses you with their success so you ‘subscribe’ to their writerly wisdom.

All good stuff.  Encouragement. Inspiration. Information.

The problem is, once I ring that doorbell–meaning once I subscribe, follow, or befriend, I am conceding to a social-media-stream of kid-lit community insight.

And soon I am overwhelmed by repeating waves of alerts, posts and notifications.

My facebook feed stutters.  Really.  Because many of my favorite news-feeders (and I can’t do without them) post to three other pages I liked, and to two other groups I joined.  So each priceless bit of wisdom they freely give appears multiple times.

My mailbox is full.  Not only facebook ‘notifications’  of those same feeds but also notices of ‘posts’ I have followed on a number of blogs, as well as podcast arrivals on my phone.

Don’t read me wrongly.  I genuinely treasure the ‘reciprocity’ that my kidlit heroes and my kidlit peers practice.  I know how valuable our free and open connections are.  Where would I be as a children’s writer without what I’ve learned and the opportunities I’ve discovered through our digital connections?

But wow. I often grow weary from deleting repeating posts and notifications, and wading through what I’ve already read more than twice, or thrice, or more.

Can I ask…how do you handle the onslaught?  It’s like getting a bucketful of candy every day.  Just what, and just how, do you throw some of it away? What tricks do YOU use to handle these delicious sweets?

Thirty Somethings

October 27, 2014

As an ‘older’ citizen in the kid-lit community, I have learned to enjoy rubbing elbows with, on average, a ‘younger’ crowd.

I have no idea what the ‘average’ age is for members in Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge, or the mean age of those disciplined writing souls committed to Meg Miller’s on-going periodic ReviMo revision sessions.  I couldn’t begin to even guess at the median years represented by members in Kristen Fulton’s non-fiction-picturebook WOW group, subscribers to Sylvia Liu’s and Elaine Kiely Kearns’ KIDLIT411, or listeners tuned in to Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books.

But I do know, in Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo Challenge, we’re all thirty-something for a month!piboidmo2014officialparticipant

Thirty (plus) days of inspiring and informing posts on writing picture books for kids.

Thirty (plus) days of insights into the kid-lit world through comments from a sharing and dedicated community of writers.

Thirty (plus) ideas for when a spark for a story is ready to plug in.  That’s thirty “somethings” with the potential to shine in my writing future.

So with bright excitement I’m participating again in one of the best challenges for writers I’ve ever discovered, Tara Lazar’s 2014 Picture-Book-Idea-Month, all through the month of November.  (The pre-posts have already begun, so check them out to get your ideas glowing.)

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.

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