PiBoIdMo Day 13: Jane Yolen Does the Work She Was Meant To Do

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Picture book stories are everywhere – just waiting to be told. Thanks to Jane Yolen for sharing!

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

janeyolen© 2013 by Jane Yolen

I have a Muse who works overtime, or at least that’s how it looks from the outside. But I think about something my late husband once said. An ardent birder and, in his retirement, a bird recordist whose tapes now reside in both the Cornell Library of Natural Sounds and the British Natural History Museum, he was known in the birding community as “a lucky birder.” That meant he seemed to find more rarities and more hard-to-see birds than anyone else. But his response was, “I show up.” And that’s what I think the Muse actually is: the writer showing up every day and doing the hard work of writing.

If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on…

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Do you write every day?

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How many works in progress can I juggle? I have two children’s picture books in revision, a holiday short story that will hopefully be done by the end of the month so I can submit it for possible inclusion in an anthology.  There are a few more ideas rumbling around in my head trying to find a way out.

How do you write? One thing at a time? Grab little bits of ideas and jot them down to flesh out later? I’ve heard some famous authors just plow through to the end the re-write. It has been said that as long as you write anything you will come out ahead in the end because practice makes perfect. Or at least a little better than you were before you started writing regularly.

I’d have to agree. But take that statement as seriously as you can considering I’ve never had a book published. But I am working on it. Every day. 🙂

Book Review: Desert Baths by Darcy Pattison

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Book Review


Desert Baths

A nature picture book
written by Darcy Pattison
illustrated by Kathleen Rietz


Animals and birds in the desert don’t take baths like people. Darcy Pattison takes children along with her on a trip through the desert to find out how desert animals clean themselves. They learn all kinds of fun facts along the way.

Twelve desert creatures are highlighted. Birds, bats and bobcats take unique baths. One creature even uses bugs to bathe! Teachers and parents can use this interesting book to teach children about weather, different climates and geography.

Each of the desert dwellers are brought to life with Kathleen Rietz’s magnificent, realistic illustrations. Detailed animals and complex backgrounds grace each page.

There are six pages of learning activities that will encourage further discussion about the desert and the creatures that live there. There is an additional teacher’s guide available that expands learning by additional fun activities. It includes a word search puzzle, a matching game and instructions to make your own bird bath, a coloring page and other fun activities.

Darcy has written books for children and adults, she has been published in eight languages. Her website is a wealth of knowledge just waiting for writers and want-to-be writers to check it out. http://www.darcypattison.com/

Kathleen is an Illinois native, who teaches art classes when not illustrating books. See more of her work on her website: http://www.kathleenrietz.com/Site/Welcome.html

If you are a member of Goodreads, sign up to win a copy of at: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/32839-desert-baths



Recipe for Success – Cooking and Writing have a lot in common

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There are as many websites, books and blogs as there are children’s picture books. Most of them have the same underlying theme. Read, write, submit. Repeat until you have it right, repeat some more to make it better than right. Find someone who loves your story as much as you. Hope and pray it all works out.

That is the path to the perfect picture book. Or so it seems. It is the “go withs” as my son would say, that make the meal – and perhaps the perfect picture book.

A good story is the perfect lasagna. Grandma’s old world recipe, fresh from the butcher ground beef (or tofu if you are so inclined), wonderful cheeses from the little store that smells like Sunday dinner and homemade gravy (sauce by another name).

But does it stand alone? Maybe. If you are lucky. But most family members and friends want a bit more. Not to mention the kids and parents you want to read the book you write.

So dig deep while that lasagna is cooking. Pull out the freshest veggies and make a huge, colorful salad.





Tickle their noses with the fragrance of warm garlic bread wrapped in a linen towel.


And be sure to add a sweet ending – gelato or lemon knots, maybe spumoni. Now you have something that pleases everyone and, in turn, pleases you.


Start with a tried and true recipe. Use the best ingredients (words) possible. Add color and action then finish it off with something sweet. That is how I’d suggest writing a picture book. I’m off to try and follow my recipe to perfection. 🙂

thanks google docs for the great pics

Set a Goal, Even if it is just for you!!

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Maybe it is because I was a first born child. Maybe it is because I have a type A personality even though in my heart I would really love to be such a laid back type B I’d fall into the Cs if there was such an animal. Anyway, I function better with goals.

They can be little ordinary goals, such as the list of things I need to get done on the weekend. Extraordinary things such as clean the wood floors, iron, clean out the fridge…you know all the stuff we hate to do but have to.

They can be much larger goals. One of my goals this year has been to get a children’s book and/or magazine article for children published. This goal may or may not be met, but logically thinking I made a sort of “publishing plan”.

First – I had to write something for children. Duh, couldn’t publish a kid’s book if all I was writing was for adults. So I’ve been writing, rewriting and writing again. And I also read any children’s books, current and classics. I suggest you read the type of books you want to publish also. It really helps.

Second – I am active in my children’s critique group on Yahoo. The gals are the best ever. They are honest and encouraging. I would suggest anyone writing in any specific genre look for a critique group to join. Mine is online, because it is difficult for me to be someplace on a specific day and time each week. Whatever works for you, go for it!

Third – I had to actually submit my stories to editors, agents and magazines. Anyone that is trying to publish anything needs to be thick skinned. One of my children’s picture book manuscripts as been rejected 4 times this year. Each time I get the bad news, I rewrite again. Might be a little, might be a lot. But it will make me a better writer someday. I hope 🙂

Lastly – I need to realize that it may just be so-so, not great and start this whole process over again. Will I get published? Who knows. Will I give up? Nope. Maybe I’ll be a retired grandma before I get a book published, maybe I’ll never see it happen. Either way, I am not giving up. My type A won’t let me 🙂

images from Google

One month and counting

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This week’s writing has been very productive. I’ve completed all of the  informational documents that the editor requested for my picture book. It was mailed on Monday and late yesterday afternoon I received an email letting me know that they manuscript and all of the other paperwork arrived safely. I will know within a month if they choose to publish my book or not.

I received the contract for my short story that is going to be included in a Thanksgiving e-book anthology. As soon as I get the information from the publisher about when and where it will be available, I will blog it far and wide!

I’ve entered a contest for a free critique on Writing for Children and Teens website. http://www.writingforchildrenandteens.com/. This is such a great website, with so much valuable information, I highly recommend it to anyone who writes or wants to write for children from picture books to young adult novels.

My latest endeavor is another picture book. I’ve written the entire manuscript, but have to leave it alone for a week or so. Then I’ll start picking it apart, sentence by sentence to boil it down to tell the story in the best way possible with a lot of images for the future illustrator to make it come alive with pictures as I make it come alive with words.

I have two other children’s books picture that I need to cut up to make sure there are enough spots for the illustrators. I will get those down within the next few weeks and start sending them off on their own into the world of publishing – hopefully they make it 🙂


thanks to google docs for the great images

Manuscript mailed – let the nail biting begin!


Yesterday was a day of writing. I made sure my children’s picture book was as tight and perfect as possible. Then I polished the synopsis that I wrote last week. My bio was tidied, my resume was updated.

The last thing to prepare was the answers to questions requested by the editor. I have been jotting information for about a week to add, then created a document with the answers (hopefully) that were needed. Part of the instructions for the proposal packet asks how I would promote my book if it were to be published.

There are so many ways now to get the word out about a book debut. You are reading one of them! Blogging is a great way to promote your work. Twitter, GoodReads and FaceBook are all vehicles to spread the word about books, short stories, magazine articles … anything you write can be written about.

The world is changing so fast these days. What happens on one side of the world can be seen and heard just about anyplace else within minutes if not seconds.

I don’t think social media can replace face to face contact with readers, but would argue that it really holds an important place in today’s promotions.

If my book is picked up, I was brainstorming out of the ordinary places I might market it.  Because it has puppies in it, I am thinking pet events like pet parades, pet adoption events and maybe even pet stores and veterinary practices may be a connection.

Thinking outside the box could get my children’s picture book out to places that are unusual and interesting.

And classrooms! I love being in schools. I worked in an elementary school for over ten years and loved the kids and their enthusiasm. It would be such a great honor to be able to read my book to them and donate copies to the learning centers.

And libraries! I spent so many hours in my local library as a kid. I used to walk downtown at least once every 2 weeks to get books. When I was smaller, there was a branch library in my elementary school. Ah,the smell of books is better than perfume!!!! I know not everyone believes this,  but for me it is true.

I am getting way ahead of myself. Yesterday I compiled everything, had my fabulous husband proof all of the documents and sealed them in the envelope.

This morning I sent my manuscript off to the acquisition editor of a Chicago area publishing house along with all of the other info requested. The editor requested my manuscript, so I am fairly sure she will give it a serious read. While I bite my nails and imagining what may possibly happen if she likes it.

I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Synopsis or not to Synopsis – there is not question!

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I have to write a synopsis page for the picture book I wrote. I need guidance.

When I looked on the internet, there were so many sites that explained now to do this, it was daunting. I finally settled on Writing for Children and Teens. (http://www.writingforchildrenandteens.com/) It was a pretty clear outline as to what needs to be done.

The basic points to remember are the need to give the reader a clear idea of what happens. It needs to be interesting to read on it’s own. The focus is on the main characters and the plot. I don’t have to worry about subplot and the minor characters aren’t really an issue because there are only a few. Will this matter?

Just like any piece if writing, there are three parts to every synopsis. The beginning, the middle and the end for a total of three to five paragraphs. Oddly enough the website says that writing the synopsis “…should only apply to chapter books/novels. Writing one for a picture book is kind of silly.” Well. If the editor asks me to write one, then write one I shall.

( picture from: peoplepets.com)

 The blog goes on to say that I should write up to eight paragraphs for the beginning, then some for the middle and end. Now I am picturing the issue with a PB because the synopsis is going to be more words than my book. I am just going to be brief, to the point and edit, edit, edit until it comes out polished and perfect.

Now for the details of the sections. The first section, or beginning, sets up the context of the story. It includes the main characters. Age, setting and reason you stated the book at the place you did should all be included.

The middle will be where I have to list the chain of events that increase the tension that leads to the climax or end of the story.

The end describes the climax and then the resolution.In a perfect synopsis, the story will come full circle. Whew. This will have to be much tighter than I imagined, but if I stick to the guidelines set out, I think I can do this!!! After all, I did write the PB that has gone through a one critique group twice and another one once. Deep breath, a big nod of thanks to Cynthea Liu for her extremely excellent detailed instructions and I’m off to write! (As for my choice of pictures – they’re a nod to the picture book I wrote)

 (picture from alekhya-ilovedoggies.blogspot.com)

Seasons change and so do I….

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Maybe it is the change in seasons, but I feel like trying my hand at writing a different genre. Fall is just around the corner. In northern Illinois, we have distinct seasons. It’s a known fact that they may overlap one another, or flip like light switch. Yesterday it was in the upper 80’s and muggy when I went to work. After dinner last night it was in the lower 60’s and downright chilly. The good news is the air conditioning has been turned off again and the windows opened to let fresh air sweep through the house.

For the last year and a half I’ve been writing children’s picture books. I have four decent manuscripts (read no one has snatched one up yet). One has gone out four times. Another is the subject of a query letter I sent last week. Still holding my breath, awaiting a response. The other two are ok. They need to be awesome. I printed them out this AM and will be cutting them up to tape into mock-ups to see how they need to be tweaked hopefully tomorrow.

Getting back to the urge to change genres, I feel the urge to begin a middle grade or YA novel. Recently, there have been many requests on the websites I frequent for both of these. The idea has been rolling around in my head since last year about a young boy with an unusual talent that scares and fascinates him. I need to flesh out his character and see where he wants to go.

Aside from books, I am exceedingly pleased to have one of my short stories chosen for an anthology by Untreed Reads Publishing. It felt right to work on a humorous murder story. My voice seems to want to tell stories like this.

Perhaps I should shake the dust off of the cozy mystery I started a few years ago. It might be fun to see if I can run with it.

Like the crazy weather here, I am changing my mind every few minutes. So far I am planning three projects for fall.

Project 1: Punch up my picture books by adding action, making sure there are enough changes in scenes to give the illustrators wonderful visuals and cut out anything that doesn’t move the story forward.

Project 2: Flesh out the character in my head, decide if he fits better in middle school or high school (my instinct is middle school) and see where he takes me.

Project 3: Read through the chapters I’ve completed on my cozy and tear it apart. I know it has to be reworked, but need to see what is worth saving.

I don’t know what order I’ll proceed. But as I’ve told you all before, I am crazy when it comes to meeting self imposed (or other) goals. As with my knitting projects, my writing progress will fair much better once I have outlined my goals.

I’ll keep you posted 🙂

GenReviews and Picture Books

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I just finished reading “The Donors” by Jeffrey Wilson. It was so intense I shut the windows to keep the demons out when I read it late at night! My review should be complete and uploaded within a day or two. Check out Tony Burton’s Genre Fiction Reviews site at http://www.thegenreview.com.

Feel free to check out my previous reviews and those of others I am humbled to share the page with.

It is a great site to get honest reviews of mainstream and newbie novels.

If you have a book you’d like reviewed, contact Tony via the website.

Regarding the picture book genre, I the second draft of my latest picture book, Eli’s Spots, is in my crit group and ready to send out to houses as soon as I get their feedback and tweek it one last time.

“Jumping Joey” is going out tomorrow. It’s been out 3 times now. One editor liked the main character so that is a plus!!

My productivity has increased exponentially now that I gave up Farmville. For anyone familiar with this facebook game, you know how many hours a week it can suck out of your life. I used to work the farm for an hour or 2 a day. Then I realized I could get the same relaxation from writing during that time, and it actually made me feel better than I did after clicking on animals to feed them and crops to harvest.

Farmville is fun diversion, but writing is a better choice for me.

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