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2013 PiBoIdMo

24 Oct

While fall is cooling our bodies as winter prepares to visit, allow Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month to warm your creative soul!


CraveWriting has participated for the past three years and looks forward to awakening from a dormant period of children’s book writing hibernation. We strongly encourage all imaginators to participate by visiting and creating 30 original picture book ideas during the month of November.

Happy imagining everyone!


25 Dec



Taking Offense is Offensive

21 Mar

“Offense is taken when people employ fear as a sixth sense.” The Crave

It’s easy for people to take offense when it was never given to them in the first place.  Being offended by something is equal to theft and should be punishable by law.  Though I suppose it’s natural to object to your sense of pride, race, sex, or nationality being compromised. But if you don’t report the crime, you’re innocent. In other words, keep it to yourself.

Sadly, a vocal minority refuses to shutup. In recent years, the world has turned the ‘freeom of speech’ and ‘separation of church and state’ bandwagon into the world’s longest roller coaster.

From censorship, to whitewashing the planet with political correctness, to the continued tradition of burning books, acceptance seems to be an endangered emotion as intolerance and hatred bulldozes the natural landscape.

We often hear “not in my backyard” used when someone is opposed to something entering their community. I think the time has come to take that phrase literally. If it’s your backyard, then by all means, we won’t have the “International Overweight Same-Sex Partner Practicers of Paganism Parade” march on your property. But if your nextdoor neighbor wishes to throw the afterparty, deal with it (quietly and in your own backyard). As Kathleen Duey wrote, “I do not believe in censorship outside the home. If you don’t want your kids to read something, fine. Adults and other people’s children are beyond your jurisdiction.”

As children’s writers we face a rogue’s gallery of enemies. From close-minded librarians, to spineless administrators, to opionated parents; the deck is stacked with trump cards, with none being dealt to the writer.

The bottom line is don’t try to purposefully insult anyone. If you don’t have any regrets after you, your critique group, your agent, and editor have approved the text, then you’ve got nothing to worry about. If anything the vocal minority will only bring your book to the attention of the open-minded majority thus increasing sales of your book.

Despite an increase in sales, it stings to think that any number of children may be deprieved the chance of enjoying your creative work. One must hope that as they mature they are given the freedom to think for themselves and then may discover your work and allow their children to feast upon its imaginative goodness.

For a hilariously insightful look I recommend reading Chapter 44: Censorship from “The ABCs of Writing for Children,” compiled by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff. Children’s writers share their personal experiences with censorship. Patricia Polacco wrote, “Mankind with creativity is filled with light. Those who aren’t are dark.”

Withour further ado, here is a joyful list of links that deal with political correct, censorship, and all things ‘offensive’. But beware that if you happen to take offense from any of these, well…that’s your problem and not ours. Though please permit us to laugh at the outlandishness of your offense. Good day imaginators!

Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009: Published by the American Library Association.

American Bookseller Foundation for Free Expression: The title is self-explanatory.

Top Politically Incorrect Words of 2009: A detailed list from the Texas based ‘Global Language Monitor.’ My personal favorite is the listing for ‘Minority’ – “Talking about minorities is considered insensitive to minorities since this can make them feel, well, like minorities.”

Censorship Quotes: A slew of quotables on censorship. Some funny, some thoughtful and others like George Bernard Shaw’s “Assasination is the extreme form of censorship” are mind-blowing.

Politically Incorrect Dictionary: Half accurate, half edgy, this brief list profiles PC alternatives to politically incorrect words.

Banned Words: Another list of un-PC words.

Campaign Against Political Correctness: It almost seems hypocritical to take offense to others taking offense, but nonetheless it may be a cause you find worth fighting.

21 Mar

FYI: The new url is now active and will directly link here. Therefore, you no longer have to type ‘’ Instead simply use to access the site!

Happy imaginating everyone!

PICTURE BOOK FACTORY – Online Critique Seeks New Members

14 Mar

Click to join pbfactory

Click to join pbfactory

Looking for a place to comfortably and safely have your picture book manuscript stabbed by a rubber sword? If yes, then please join the ‘Picture Book Factory,’ CraveWriting’s official online critique group.

Moderated by Crave Cravak and looking for new members we only ask that all Factory workers write/share/critique often using Yahoo! Groups with occasional live Skype Chats. Submissions are limited to a maximum of 2,000 words per month. PB Factory is ideal for writers who wish to solely focus their creative/constructive efforts on picture book or early reader texts. If there is an interest in chapter, middle-grade, or young adult, CraveWriting will gladly sponsor additional online critique groups.

All picture book writers, published/un-published, are welcome!

To join simply visit the Picture Book Factory’s group page ( and request to join. Please keep in mind, you’ll need a Yahoo! account to join.

Happy collaborating imaginators!

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

2 Mar

Happy Anniversary of Theodor Seuss Giesel’s Birth!

With more written about Dr. Seuss than his 60 plus books themselves, I’ll refrain from failing at penning an earth-shattering composition about the best selling children’s writer of all time. Instead, here’s a random assortment of tidbitz and linkadoodles.

In regards to branding and carrying a similar tone through one’s portfolio, I would have to say that Gary Larson is the comic strip industry’s Dr. Seuss.

Dr. Seuss’s Best Selling Children’s Books

BRAND: Dr. Seuss is best known for his made-up words, zany rhymes, and fantastical settings. But I believe his success is due to the Dr. Seuss brand. “Where the Wild Things Are” has always retained fame over its creator Maurice Sendak. Though Dr. Seuss as an icon and symbol hogs the spotlight even his most famous creations such as the Grinch, or the Cat in the Hat. Personally, as only a writer, I think it will be extremely difficult to build a “brand” for myself. Giesel luckily was also an illustrator and was able to stream a similar tone throughout all of his texts. Tomie DePaula has written/illustrated over 200 books, but does not shine in the market as a symbolic brand name. Even heralded Jane Yolen is more noted in the mainstream for individual pieces. Therefore, I encourage unpublished authors to consider their career with each submission. Perhaps this helps explain why I’m sitting on 60 plus manuscripts. I’d love to see “Where Should I Pee?” or “The Turd that Wouldn’t Flush” making conservative librarians giggle….but I need to establish myself before I’m type casted as a “gross” writer who employs cheap tricks to entice sales. In addition, my “What If?” series has the most marketable potential, but since each title is so reliant on illustration, I also need to wait until I’m embedded enough in the industry to be able to pull in and collaborate with an illustrator. Maybe I’m looking to far ahead, but I’m ready to write my history before it happens. So what do you think “Crave Cravak,” “Mr. Crave,” or “The Crave?”

Dr. Seuss’s first book, “And to Think That I saw It on Mulberry Street” was rejected 27 times before it was published. Keep sending until you can pass 27, so then when you become famous, people can reference how you were rejected ?? times to motivate aspiring writers.

All About Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss published his first children’s book at the age of 34. Since I turn 30 next week, I’ve got 4 years! I’m too scared to consider how it will take 2-3 years beyond acceptance for the book to be technically published. Oh boy, I better get sending!


Awards are great…for the winners. Just remember if you come out on the losing end that Dr. Seuss has never won a Caldecott or Newbury Medal. Though three of his books were runners-up.

Dr. Seuss Landing at Universal Islands of Adventure was constructed with “no straight lines.”

Seuss Landing Video

It’s not a coincidence that March 2nd, Dr. Seuss’s birthday, is National Read Across America Day.

Seussy is listed in Urban Dictionary as an adjective that is characterized by or possessing qualities similar to the works ofDr.Seuss.

PBM – Week 4

1 Mar

February has closed its curtain and the Picture Book Marathon has ended. Hopefully all of you imaginators out there successfully crossed the finish line. If not, you can always extend your marathon into March and wrap up the loose drafts.

Having finished four days early, this year’s marathon feels less of a monumental task and more of a useful writing exercise. While, according to PBM officials, each marathoner was to complete 1 manuscript per day with 2 days reserved for rest and recuperation. Eager to finish before a lengthy business trip to Tokyo, I opted for a sprint. Luckily, thanks to my ever-increasing writing endurance, on February 12th and February 24th I was able to pen 4 manuscripts. In fact, out of the 26 days, only on 4 days did I pen just one manuscript. It’s not that I carelessly rushed my way through each 500 to 1,000 word draft, but rather I’ve used my experience and resources to make use of the time. For instance, my desk job is simply that, for 75% I’m regulated at said location free to listen to music, surf the net, or in my case, write picture books. In addition, several of the pieces had been ideas crawling out of the boxes in my attic. So naturally with loose outlines and page turns penciled in various journals, I found it easier to dust them off and pen them to life.

Each manuscript has been dated, attached to a storyboard blueprint and a status sheet, and firmly placed into a clear plastic sleeve in the holy 2011 PBM Binder. Will I reference this holy resource in the future? Of course, but then again, there will be a few pieces left to rot until I can gather up the resources necessary to afford the plastic surgery.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s picture book marathon. In the meantime, I plan to send out 1 picture book as well as write 2-4 new manuscripts per month.

To see a list of manuscripts #1-22, plese see the previous PBM weekly posts. Below are the final manuscripts of this year’s picture book marathon.

  • 23.)  Father Goose Tries To Tell a Tale: Father Goose tires of being shushed at storytime and puts his beak to the rhyming test.
  • 24.) Unless: A Guide to What Kids Don’t Like: A list of things kids don’t like remixed into things they will love. For instance, kids don’t like cavities…unless faeries bury their shiny treasure there.
  • 25.)  Your Mommy: In the fashion of ‘yo mamma’ jokes, two boys verbally compete boasting how great the other’s mother is. “Your mommy smells so nice, perfume is made from her farts.”
  • 26.)  Wild Bowl: In a small African village, young Dede is presented a football which he views as a wounded warrior who joins him in battle with wild animals on the field of battle.

PBM – Week 1

10 Feb

The first week of February is history, and we’re a quarter of the way through the Picture Book Marathon. I haven’t had nearly enough practice to near perfection, but this being my 2nd year the experience is paying off. This time last year I had already used my two vacation days and was far behind. Desperate to advance to the head of the pack I wrote several ‘visual heavy’ drafts as part of the Mission Imaginable series.

This year I’m not about to just add a stack of paper to my own slush pile. Instead, the goal is to produce 26 usable seeds that when planted, watered, and whispered to will blossom into a publishable bouqet of picture books. Ok, let’s be honest, I’d be happy to have 5 of them bloom, but I’m reaching for 20.

As of February 7th, I’ve managed to pen seven manuscripts. My heart rejoices at seeing old ideas spring to life. But seeing a great range in stories, style, voice is not only comforting but reassuring that I’m not just a one-trick humorous list generating pony.

Of the seven, one is ready for the critique group, another needs an editing bath, four require time to runaway from my ego so that I may slash it to pieces later on, while one is a short cut excuse to jump start the process.

Overall, I’m enjoying this marathon. Not behind, nor needing to rush promotes a kinder attention to detail and editing while writing.

Sadly I’m not an illustrator, so I can’t provide delicious covers like imaginators Nathan Hale, Jed Henry, and Julie Olson. Please visit their blogs, view their impressive work and drop them a comment or three.

I’ll leave you with week one’s marathon roster members. I hope one day we can enjoy them together.

  1. Pin the Tail on the…: There’s a box full of animal tails, help the lost and found find each tail’s owner.
  2. Just Bailey (working title): Bailey doesn’t know if he is a she or she is a he.
  3. Mingo the Dingo Plays Bingo: Through Bingo, Grandma Dingo teaches Mingo the purpose of winning.
  4. Ropunzel: The Boy Who Wouldn’t Get a Haircut: A boy is interrogated about his long hair, but what will he do when the questions stop coming? 
  5. Witches Day: A little boy plans to stop the witches from crashing the school dance.
  6. Coastergeist: A scaredy-ghost must overcome his fears and haunt Mammoth Mountain.
  7. Airhog Day: To avoid the suffocating attention of Groundhod Day, Wilbur takes to the sky.

Picture Book Blueprint

21 Jan

“I write scripts in storyboard fashion using stick figures, and thought balloons and word balloons and captions. Then I’ll write descriptions of what scenes should look like and turn it over to the artist.” – Harvey Pekar

Once you’ve penned your picture book masterpiece, regardless if you’re the illustrator, it’s time to put on your editor glasses. I’m not referring to spelling, punctuation or gooey grammar. But rather how you need to look at your book in 3D (sort of).

Like an architect’s blueprint, a storyboard or dummy helps the author/illustrator visualize the physical layout of the story. Even without pictures this can be done at any stage of the book’s development. It’s essential to see how each page turn is elegantly teased yet surprisingly delivered.

From students to writers, everyone seems to get caught up with asking “how long does it have to be?” While each publisher differs in desired word counts, if all of the text naturally fits in a 32-page layout, you don’t have to worry. If there’s just too much text, you may be able to convince the publisher to move your words to a 40 page book.

To help with this storyboarding task, I’ve created a blank thumbnail overview and a black template to download, print and use at will.

To get a clearer picture on storyboards and dummies check out the following useful links:

Tara Lazar thoughtfully explains the storyboard concept.

Uri Shulevitz visually breaks down a storyboard from an illustrator’s perspective.

Sarah S. Brannen covers the process of making a picture book dummy.

Picture Books: A Thematic Gift

18 Jan

I’m probably the only one in my circle of family and friends who has children’s books on their Christmas and birthday wish list. But that doesn’t mean I can’t gift someone else an illustrated gem of creativity.

At some point in time everyone was a child, making picture books relatable. Given their thin lightweight size,  minimal word count and pleasant illustrations they are a wonderful addition to anyone’s never ending collection of junk.

For Christmas I desired to give an innocent yet thoughtful gift of encouragement to a special lady aiming to enter dental school. So what better present than an assortment of dental themed books. I went to, typed in ‘dentist’ and was bombarded with scores of titles. Luckily for me, many were paperbacks and generously priced at less than $5.  I literally could have dropped over $100 on these books, but I was happy with the collection of 7 books I assembled.

Then on Christmas day I drowned her in my world of children’s literature while tailoring it to something dear to her heart. “When you open your first practice, you can put these in your waiting room for children to read.” Folks, talk about brownie points!

Now keep in mind picture books are written for children, so there may not always be one to directly match your desired theme. For example, if your friend is about to open a gentlemen’s club. But…there are oodles of books of encouragement and motivation including Jerry Spinelli’s ‘I Can Be Anything.”

When giving a thoughtful present, there’s no need to waltz into a Hallmark Store or get lost in Party City, just scour through your local or online bookstore shelf.

Happy gifting imaginators!