Aspiring picture book writers are repeatedly told “no more than 500.” Meaning, your manuscript better have a marketable, visual kid-friendly story crammed into 500 words or less. For most, their first few manuscripts tower well above a thousand. If anyone wants to be schooled on the brilliance of brevity, pour your eyes into Jon Agee‘s “My Rhinoceros.” Continue reading
“Ideas are the beginning points of all fortunes.” - Napoleon Hill
The time has come again for you to dust off your thinking cap. It’s “Picture Book Idea Month” or PiBoIdMo, where imaginators generate 30 original picture book ideas in the month of November. Published and aspiring authors alike can benefit from filling up their idea tank for when they’re ready to put pen to paper. As of October 24th, Nearly 300 participants signed up with many more to follow…including you! Continue reading
I’ve learned that amassing a lengthy to-do list only wastes the time you could have spent on accomplishing something. It’s better to begin working naturally and then once you’re aware of your drive to succeed, setting, and time limitation, then set small goals on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. For instance, I’ve created a PDF checklist for CRAVEWRITING in which I have to post 10 new entries each month. Given how I wrote 30 in November, 10 posts has proven to be a reasonable and achievable goal.
When looking at my 2010 reading list and the scores of un-read novels collecting dust on my desk, I felt the urge to compile a list of books long enough to blanket Rapunzel’s hair. Luckily my brain posessses the ability to re-think. While it would feel heroic to pick off titles from the list one-by-one, the reality is that I would probably never finish it. I don’t know about the rest of your imaginators, but I like the feeling of completion, especially since I get to blast the Superman theme song from my speakers. Plus, who knows what ‘must-reads’ I’ll encounter over the next year. It’s inhumane to ask myself to name each and every title I must scour over the next 365 days.
So I opted to look beyond the books and into my soul. I asked myself, “Why do you read?” Wait a minute, I read? I then re-phrased the question to “Why should you be reading?” There, I got it.
Well, let’s see. I read for many reasons. Specifically, I read to…
- Learn the trade from the published masters: As they say, “writers are readers,” and if I’m going to write, I need to aggressively yet comfortably dive into stacks of similar titles, past, present, dusty and famous.
- Increase my reading speed and endurance: I am a slow reader, and quickly fall asleep mid-way through a chapter. I’m beginning to notice though the more I read the faster and longer I’m reading for. On several occasions I nearly pulled an all-nighter by being glued to the final pages of a novel (in this case Harry Potter). Time is limited, thus reading more in less time appeals to me.
- Increase my working vocabulary: I may have an English Education degree, and can spin words in infinite directions, but my arsenal of weaponry is is bone-dry. I need to upgrade my vocabulary not only to rock the GRE in the hopes of entering a creative writing PHD program but to also add a glitter of diversity and spice to my word parades.
- For entertainment: Honestly, I enjoy everything I read. Though I would say that non-fiction essays and memoirs from comedians such as Lewis Black and Steve Martin have equalled the joy of watching a movie in a theatre. I love reading about the adventures of like-minded souls, but namely ones who are funny and successful.
- To learn new things and/or enhance my knowledge in certain areas: This would include cookbooks and Lonely Planet titles, but mostly this is goal exists to satisfy my unearthly obsessions with all things roller coasters, zoos, cartoons, professional wrestling, toys and mythology. Pretty much whatever fascinates me as a kid, still does today. Just because something is intended for children, doesn’t mean an adult has any less to learn.
Then I perused my GoodReads account and analyzed the types of books I read. I graciously ommitted the recipe and travel books. While they belong on the shelf, and satisfy Reason-To-Read #5, I figured I should stick to literature. Consequently, the types of books I am (should be) reading are listed below and in paranthesis are the Reasons-to-Read they satisfy along with descriptions and books on deck to read.
- Picture Books (1,3,4) Despite how I said I wouldn’t set lengthy goals, I’m determined to read at least 100 picture books published over the past two years. Having been in Japan, I’ve lost access to new trends/styles/leading publishers. When I return in the fall, I’ll be able to quickly catch-up by scaring children in the local Barnes & Noble and pissing them off by borrowing all the good titles at the library. I could easily list all of the great titles I’ve seen from other blogs and newsletters, but I’ll just wait to see what’s available to me in the fall.
- Chapter Books / Middle Grade (1,2,3,4) Currently, I’ve penned 38 PB manuscripts with another 28 rough drafts on their way in February. Of course the publication process could take years, but I’m already eyeing potential titles in the early reader / chapter / middle grade arena. Though having neglected the classics as a child, it’s one that I’m ill equipped for. I feel the need to begin reading timeless award winners to modern trend setters, so that when I am ready to pen one of my own, I’ll have the background knowledge necessary to propel me. Books on deck include: the Hank Zipper, Captain Underpants, Dear Dumb Diary series.
- Fairy Tales / Fantasy (1,2,3,4)I’ve longed to write in the folktale and fantasy genres. While many drafts have been written, including 200 pages into my ‘Book of Feste’ original folktale collection. But I have much to learn and rejoice in relaxing in the worlds of other imaginators. Books on deck include: Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Neverending Story, Peter Pan, Chronicles of Narnia, LOTR, Harry Potter (books 4-7).
- Motivational / Resources (4,5)When I can’t bring myself to write for children, I enjoy reading about children’s literature. While many of these ‘how-to’ books repeat information, a few of them are quite inspirational. If anything, these books just help keep me on track and remind me of my dreams. I’m currently reading Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book edited by Anita Silvey, Today I will by Eileen & Jerry Spinelli, and I Wish Someone Had Told Me That! edited by Jon Bard (ebook).
- Short Stories (1,2,3,4)I wouldn’t mind penning a collection of short stories. Especially after reading Haruki Murakami, I’m eager to try my hand in the abbreviated literary world. But mostly I need to swim in this genre in order to gain acceptance into a creative-writing program. Currently on deck is a short story collection by Roald Dahl and I’m eager to get my eyes on two more collections by Murakami.
- Essays / Autobiographies (1,2,3,4)I did my 11th grade book report on Howard Stern’s autobiographical ‘Private Parts’ partly because I like controversy but mostly because it was the only interesting thing I could find to read. I’m constantly on the look out for amusing non-fiction from comedians and laid-back personalities. I found David Sedaris too dry and Chuck Klosterman too academic on topics I didn’t care about. Any suggestions? I’m currently reading David Cross’s “I Drink For a Reason,” and for the first time am reading the text as an editor/writer. Instead of feeling miniscule, I feel that I’m ready to tackle this genre.
- Mythology (4,5) I’m obsessed with studying mythological creatures, especially Japanese folklore monsters. I never tire of reading repeated information or finding conflicting reports on those curious creatures. On deck: Pandemonium and Parade, The Mythical Creatures Bible, The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, and Cryptozoology AtoZ.
In conclusion, outside of picture and chapter books I would like to say that I read one book per week in 2011. Thus I have a loose goal of 52 books for the year. But as long as I continue to satisfy my reasons-to-read and am covering a fair amount of material in each area I will walk into 2012 an accomplished reader (writer) with the Superman theme song deafening the neighbors.
To all you imaginators out there, happy reading in 2011!
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained!”
Deadline: January 31st, 2011 (postmarked after January 1st)
Prize: $1,000 (3 winners) or tuition for the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua.
Type: Fiction/ Topic: embarrassing moment.
Specifics: Maximum of 750 words (450 words for beginners)
Special Notes: At least 16 years old. Entries not accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope will not be returned. All submissions must be previously unpublished. Manuscripts or envelopes should be clearly marked FICTION CONTEST. Those not marked in this way will be considered as regular submissions to Highlights. *** Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua: July 16-23, 2011, $2,400 ( $1,985 1st-time attendees registering before February 26, 2010). Includes: full week’s immersion in the world of writers and their words, all meals, conference supplies, gate pass to Chautauqua Institution.
Highlights for Children
803 Church Street
Honesdale, PA 18431