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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Book Review: Cold Tuscan Stone by David P. Wagner

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Cold Tuscan Stone

David P. WagnerCold-Tuscan-Stone-med-res-front-cover-178x276

ISBN: 9781464201905

Poisoned Pen Press

Former Texan Rick Montoya lives in Rome working as a freelance translator. Immersing himself in Italy’s rich culture and cuisine, he is an unlikely candidate for an undercover agent working for a local police department in Tuscany. But when his old high school buddy Beppo Rinaldi, who now works for the Italian Ministry of Culture, asks for his help he is intrigued and quickly steps up to the challenge.

There are art thieves in the city of Volterra, in western Tuscany, selling priceless Etruscian burial urns on the black market to the highest bidder. Montoya is to pose as a buyer from Santa Fe to connect with the antiquity art community to lure them out for the police. The job seems easy enough with the local police guiding him – until he arrives and finds out the locals really don’t trust an outsider from Texas who isn’t part of a law enforcement agency.

Rinaldi has him focus interviewing three possible suspects. One is a gallery owner, one is an heiress, and one is in the import/export business. Each of them agree to speak with Montoya, all of them are mysterious but in different ways. The night he arrives, someone ends up dead. Montoya appears to be the last one that spoke with the murdered man. This gives the local Commissario more reason to distrust the American.

Montoya’s investigation is further complicated because one of the prime suspects is a gorgeous friend of the woman he is seeing. Now Montoya needs to balance a jealous girlfriend, a resentful police force and work on a translation job all the while trying to convince the possible suspects that he is really an art dealer from the states. Will they find the art thief before someone else dies?

Wagner uses his intimate knowledge of Italy to bring this novel to life with the delicious descriptions of cathedrals, Italian art and foods that complement this mystery. The  plot has more twists and turns than a bowl of al dente rotini and is abundant with local flavor, that will surprise and satisfy the reader at the end.

I am delighted that this is the first in a new series by Wagner. He is the author of self-guided day trips that were written to accompany villas rented in Tuscany. Lucky for avid mystery fans he decided to take up novel writing, creating a memorable character like Rick Montoya. The nine years spent in Italy during his career in the foreign service, as well as living and working in Brazil, Ecuador, Uruguay and stateside will give him the rich background of different cultures to create many more mysteries for us to enjoy.

World Book Night U.S. 2013

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wbnamericaTomorrow is World Book Night U.S. 2013. If you’ve never heard about World Book Night U.S. please go to their website and check them out. http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/

Last year I was a book giver, and it was an awesome experience. I gave out copies of My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult at the Heartland Blood Bank in Aurora while giving blood. It was so much fun to see how surprised people were when I handed them a book.

I am honored this year to be a giver again, this year the book I am giving will be Look Again by Lisa Scottolini.  Look Again_World Book Night

Thanks to everyone involved with this wonderfully fun event.

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

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)

750 Words a Day – Part II

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Oh My God! Signing up for 750 Words was the best shot in the arm for my writing in a long time. Due to my competitive nature, I actually am making time for writing. Six days in a row and counting!

But the best part of this whole endeavor is my short story that was written on 750 Words the first two days was accepted for the anthology I submitted it to! I am super excited – holding my breath until I sign the contract which will be sent in a week or two.  I hate to blow my own horn, but sometimes shameless self promotion it totally called for. Watch for my blog with all the details soon!

Today I was trolling websites in search of a contest, call for submissions or any other source of inspiration for my next project. I have two children’s picture books that are complete – one of them has been through two critique groups and tweaked until it squeaked.

The other has been sent out several times with no interest so far. I think I am going to deconstruct it and use a mock-up to see if I can get more visuals and less telling of the story.

I have two more picture books in the works, but both need more work before being sent out on their own in the world. I’m thinking of revising the rhyming book because rhyming books are so hard to get right and it is a hard sell to get publisher’s to look at them. But I like the story so I don’t want to totally abandon it.

I also have a cozy mystery that I started quite a while ago. (Read about 8 years). I should start from scratch on that one also. Love the idea, but need to revamp and get more action going.

All that being said, I am seriously considering starting a murderous short story about Halloween instead. Even though the air is still steamy I am thinking about pumpkins and goblins because it won’t be long and fall will be here. Off I go to write something sweet or scary. I’ll keep you posted.

Mock-up/Dummy book

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This week rejection #3 arrived. Three isn’t that many, we’ve all read the horror stories of dozens and dozens of rejections. One of the gals in my crit group suggested using a mock-up or dummy book with my stories to make sure there is enough action and each page moves the story forward.

Looking online for examples seemed to be the easiest way to proceed. Of course there were hundreds of hits. I looked at quite a few, then picked two to work with. The best was Darcy Pattison’s blog (http://www.darcypattison.com/) She has so much useful info I go back to her site often. Check out her blog as a great resource for your writing.

She explains the basic set up: 16 pages of paper are folded in half to make 32 pages for text. Leave pages 1-3 blank, beginning the text on page 4 or 5. The text should spread across both pages from page 6, ending page 29.

If you don’t have enough text, or too much text – REVISE!

If you can’t create a picture in your mind (the illustrator has to have something to work with!) – REVISE!

If each page doesn’t move the story forward, or add to the tension -REVISE!

If you can skip pages without missing them – REVISE!

Cut words if needed, work on the pace, move settings from place to place, add emotion and action if flat!!!

I’m pulling out my scissors, mocking up my story to make it the best it can be before sending it out again!

Thanks Darcy for all of your great tips!

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