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When Images Attack

1 Nov

Fresh into Picture Book Idea Month, my mind is wired to think the wondrous, the innocent, and the politely bizarre. It feels good to be a kid again and my senses are tuned to pickup on any visual, smell, taste, or sound that may spark an imaginative idea. So today when my wife accidentally pronounced ‘leopard’ like it was ‘leotard,’ the good husband in me vanished with a writer taking over. “Leopards, leotards… hmmmm…LEOPARDS IN LEOTARDS. Yes!” Whenever an idea in my head is labeled by the processing department as “Children’s Book Friendly,” I search on Google and Amazon to see if it’s been done before. While I’m sure this combination is in a ‘grammar’ book, creatively speaking I was in the clear. My next task was to perform a google image search for continued inspiration. That’s when this happened… LeopardsInLeotards With all due to respect to this lovely lady, I can’t bring myself to think of ‘leopards’ or ‘leotards.’ So imaginators, what did we learn today? Sometimes a picture is worth 1 word: “Yuck!”, and it may be best to let an idea fully blossom before allowing a cruel world to influence you. Happy writing everyone!

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!

PiBoIdMoParticipantBadge

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 TaraLazar.com and creating 30 original picture book ideas during the month of November.

Happy imagining everyone!

Seasonal Reading

9 Nov

There’s nothing easy about writing (publishable) picture books except for one thing… the research. As the cliche saying goes, “writers read, and readers write.” It’s especially important for picture book authors to stay current and catch up on the latest trends. Luckily for me I’m living back in the Sort of United States of America and have access to those glorious selfless kingdoms known as libraries. Sure Japan maintained a healthy arsenal of literature thick borrowing stations, but besides a biography on Dan Marino and a few obscure picture books, it was all in Japanese. Continue reading

October Project: BOBE

3 Oct

Thanks to a handful of generous souls and the social networking capabilities of the internet, imaginators have several themed months of writing open to them. From November’s NANOWRIMO and PIBOIDMO, to February’s Picture Book Marathon, to April’s Script Frenzy, there’s no excuse for not being able to churn out heaps of material. While all of these aforementioned initiatives are quite popular and effective, there’s still room for more.

In October 2011 I’m personally testing a prototype “month.” BOBE (Book Of Beginnings & Endings) asks imaginators to pen one beginning and one ending each day in October.

While first entitled “The Beginning End,” I couldn’t resist joining the acronym party. So until further consideration, this endeavor will be titled “BOBE: Book Of Beginnings & Endings.”  Continue reading

Idea Factory: A-Z Titles

1 Oct

“A good title is the title of a successful book” – Robert C Gallagher

Writer’s block got your pen’s tongue? Unable to stir the creativity pot? So you need an idea…well, that’s no problem. It’s time for the “A-Z Title List.”

My “Sell What You Write: How to Get Published” professor, the wonderfully talented Ms. Kathryn Radeff, used this exercise in class ensuing bountiful bushels of imagination. The assignment was simple, generate a list of original titles with the first letter in each one corresponding to a letter in the English alphabet. The results were astounding and led several students on a focused path towards publication.

For this exercise, simply use a lined sheet of paper and write the alphabet (in order) from top to bottom. Then next to each letter, write an original idea for a title. You can do this exercise for any style or genre. For example, create a list of titles for picture books, articles, poems, or don’t set any boundaries. You can even scour through your drafts and use existing titles as a reminder of the pieces available in your archives. Feel free to also use the A-Z list format for character and setting names.

For those partaking in Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo in November (and everyone should!), this activity is a great precursor and could help you generate some of those picture book ideas.

In addition, you will subconsciously hone your title writing skills. Since the title isn’t bound by word limits and grammar per say, the sky is the limit on what you can produce to lure an editor into buying your piece and convincing a reader to halt the page-flipping.

Complete this exercise as often as you desire or whenever you feel a drought in your idea archives.

Remember, there’s no finite goal here. Just enjoy the exercise and let it take it wherever you end up.

Tips:

  • Don’t think too hard. You can add as many titles per letter as you desire.
  • “A(n)” and “The” don’t count for A and T respectively
  • If doing article titles, add in subheadings. A sub heading acts as your clarifier, providing enough information about your piece to make readers decide if it’s worth their attention. This permits your title the utmost freedom to be as creative or catchy as you please.
  • There’s no time limit, though I recommend hashing an entire list out in one sitting.
  • Scan the magazine racks at your look bookstore, or search online through article/book databases for inspiration.
  • If one title inspires you to the point where you want to start writing it, immediately abandon the list as it’s already done it’s job at getting you to write.
* Special thanks to Ms. Kathryn Radeff for allowing me to share this exercise with you.

EXAMPLES: Below I’ve posted two A-Z lists I created to simulate how you can take the titles in any direction you desire.

PICTURE BOOKS:

  • Anywhere But There
  • Buster Bee
  • (The) Complaint Department
  • Dunce for Hire
  • Eeny
  • Fill A Delfia
  • Goodie Gumdrops and the Sinful Sugar
  • Hell’s Gym: Exercise Your Demons
  • Island for Two
  • Junk In the Trunk: The Story of the Garbage Collecting Elephant
  • Kite Swimming
  • Lavender Lou
  • (The) Melted Hearts of Princess Way
  • Nothing But Nuts
  • Only on a Wednesday
  • Parentnapping
  • Quotes of Our Lives
  • Red, White, and Boo!
  • Some Like It Cold
  • Tea Time For Boys
  • United Shapes of America
  • Venus for Sale
  • (The) Witch’s Waffle
  • X Marks Spot the Dog
  • Year of the Cockroach
  • Zoochini

ARTICLES:

  • Achilles Nostril: Hay Fever Wreaks Havoc on Residents
  • Bad News Deer: A Wild Buck Crashes A Little League Baseball Game
  • Captain Crunch Remembered: A Retrospective Look at an American Breakfast Icon
  • Dog’s Best Friend: Is Man Really a Fit Canine Companion?
  • Entitlement Era: Welcome to America’s Selfish Movement
  • For the Record: Local Music Shop Re-Opens Selling Only Vinyl
  • Green This: Exposing the Awful Truth of an Eco-Friendlier World
  • Hit or Miss Weekend Getaways
  • Impossible Meals: Top Chefs Unlock Their Treasure Chest of Recipes
  • Jokers Tame: City Officials Sanction A Local Comedy Club
  • King Wanted: America Desperate For Royalty
  • Lions, Tigers, and Beer Oh My: The Zoo Holds Its Annual Oktoberfest Fundraiser
  • Mary Had a Juiced Up Lamb: Enhancement Drugs and Livestock
  • Never Ever…: The Things Parents Warn Children Not to Do
  • Ohio is For Credit Card Lovers: State Must Face Credit Crisis
  • Please Don’t Tip Me: One Waitress Takes a Stand Against Greed
  • Quiz Me Not: Students Protest State Assessments
  • River Rage: A Jetski Driver Picks a Fight with Local Fishermen
  • Stare Roids: When Gawking Becomes Harassment in the Men’s Room
  • Throwing a Cold: The Top Ten Causes of the Common Cold
  • Union Strikes Out: Factory Workers Unable to Retain Insurance Benefits
  • Vader for Senator: James Earl Jones Throws His Name in the Hat in State Senate Election
  • Will You Marry Him?: Arranged Marriages a Rising Trend in America
  • X-Women: Female Firefighters Come to the Rescue
  • Yes You Can’t: The Truth Behind Obama’s Campaign
  • Zipper Killer: Buttons Outsell Their Nemesis at Clothing Convention

Picture Yourself

21 Jun

Penciled Me

I urge all writers (published or not) to spread the word of their passion. From your next-door neighbor, the cashier at Wendy’s,  to the old lady you ran over with your car, tell everyone you’re a children’s book writer. While they may not have an editor or agent in their rolodex (do people still have those?), they may just brighten your day with a thoughtful gesture.

Perhaps you like to picture how others think of you. When I recently turned 30, I didn’t have to: my friends did that for me. The party organizers and dear friends Makoto and Tesia instructed the evenings guests to feature me by drawing ‘something out of a children’s book.’ The result was a binder filled with dozens of flattering and embarassing artistic portrayls of your’s truly. These drawings don’t just decorate my soul, as they can be used for business cards, blogs, websites, and school visit materials. I also received a custom made stamp of my likeness for ‘future autographs’ and various Japanese picture books. Sure the standard bottles of booze would have made me smile, but these personalized gestures proved to me that I’m not the only one who believes in me. I can’t ask for anything better! Special thanks to everyone who despite the catastrophic earthquakes made my 30th birthday in Japan one I’ll never forget!

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What are you waiting for? Get out there and spread the word that you’re a writer, and if you cross paths with a generous soul there’s no telling what they may do to convince you you’re an imaginator who matters!

ACTIVITY: 13 Candles

15 Jun

“My name is Crave, and I’m a ‘scaredy-cat.” The genre of horror doesn’t belong on my bookshelf, nor do I plan to pen a spine-tingling tale. Though I’m still a sucker for a good (bad) ghost story. As a boy scout, the burning logs may have warmed my flesh,  but the spooky campfire stories chilled my bones. Wanting to close my ears there was a mysterious force beckoning me to listen.

The power of strange and scary stories are epitomized in Japan’s 百物語 (ひゃくものがとり) /Hyakumonogatori/ 100 Stories. During the 江戸時代Edo period (1603-1868), Japanese would partake in this parlor game by lighting 100 candles. Participants would take turns sharing scary stories and after each one would extinguish one of the candles. As the night progressed, the room would become darker. Finally, when the last candle ws put out, it was believed that a paranormal event would occur or the room would be visited by a 溶解(yokai), a strange monster from folklore and pop culture.

For a more in-depth look on 百物語/100 Stories check out the original post at craveVSworld: 日本.

Hyaku Monogatori

ACTIVITY: 13 CANDLES

Today’s audience may not have the patience to wait through 100 stories in increasing darkness, nor would the fire chief approve of so many flames in an enclosed space. Therefore, to fit spacial and time constraints, this activity only requires an unlucky and forbidden number of candles/stories. 

Directions: Any number of people gather together in a closed space. 13 candles/lights/flashlights are lit/turned on. A sequence of 13 stories are read and at the end of each story one of the lights is extinguished/turned off. The stories should be meant to invoke fear in the reader, and can be published or original works. Participants may share the responsibility of bringing/reading stories, or a leader may supply and read them. Before beginning, set the mood by stating how once the room is blanketed in darkness, something out of the ordinary will occur. Be sure to sit in the darkness for a few minutes to allow imaginations to flood with fear.

Writers / Critique Groups / Writer Conferences

Ideal for a critique group to share their favorite or original works of horror. In addition, utilizing a conference room, participants could experience the power of the horror. This would be ideal if say R.L. Stine happened to be a keynote speaker.

Students / Classrooms / Camp
Emersing students into a Hyakumonogatori atmosphere invokes fear while promoting the power of storytelling. As a high school English teacher in south Florida, I taught a unit on Edgar Allan Poe in complete darkness. The students may not have learned anything from this ‘gimmick,’ but the experience engraved itself in their memories thus providing a bridge to the knowledge and skills taught in the lesson. Be sure to check with your superiors if this activity is deemed safe, or try using flashlights instead. If you are a writing instructor, encourage students to read their own original ghost stories. Feel free to increase the number of candles/stories to fit your needs.
 
If anyone tries this activity, please comment below with your reactions/thoughts.
 
Happy ghost story telling imaginators!
 
 

Desert Island Packing List

17 May

While some teachers may complain about the salary, the job certainly has its perks, especially for children’s writers. Depending on the genre you write for and the grade you teach, you may have prime access to your target audience.

While reading your manuscript may not be in the syllabus, you can definitely create lesson plans allowing you to stick your nosy fingers inside their thoughts, fears, opinions, and dreams.

Luckily for me, I’m responsible for grading all of the senior exam English essays. While I’m primarily a picture book writer, the prompt “What 3 things would you bring to a desert island” generously provided me with a buffet of creativity. In addition, I was able to spy what items Japanese adolescents hold dear and would now like to share the spoils with you!

Of the 280 essays I perused, ‘water’ reigned supreme with ‘food’ and ‘knife’ appearing often. Though, after those, all bets were off. Please consider that some students were possibly confused by the ‘desert’ in “desert island” and thus wanted to bring items to help them survive the extremities of an arid climate.

Without further ado, in no particular order here is a general list of items chosen.

  1. water
  2. food
  3. knife
  4. blanket
  5. fire starter
  6. cap/hat
  7. clothes
  8. light/lamp
  9. TV
  10. radio
  11. pen
  12. camel
  13. shoes
  14. computer
  15. bike
  16. cheese
  17. books
  18. telescope
  19. chocolate
  20. futon
  21. umbrella
  22. horse
  23. drugs
  24. games
  25. cookies
  26. cake
  27. fishing supplies
  28. coat
  29. kettle
  30. rope
  31. cell phone
  32. tent
  33. iPod / music player
  34. a knight
  35. Prime Minister of Japan
  36. a book on how to survive on a desert island
  37. toilet paper
  38. newspaper
  39. bow
  40. car made in Japan
  41. rabbit doll
  42. solar car
  43. bible
  44. trees
  45. empty box (to fill w/ sand and decorate)
  46. dictionary
  47. mirror
  48. money
  49. electric ship
  50. towel
  51. fan
  52. magnet
  53. shovel
  54. glasses
  55. oil
  56. pot (to cook in)
  57. long stick
  58. machine to make natural water
  59. friends
  60. lighter
  61. various species
  62. balls
  63. bats
  64. gloves
  65. roof
  66. seeds
  67. gun
  68. map
  69. fire
  70. chair
  71. branches
  72. strings
  73. peanut butter

If possible, give your students this prompt and see what they decide to bring!

All this ‘island survival’ talk has me generating an idea for a book.

Happy imaginating everyone!

POST CROSSING

1 May

“I would especially like to recourt the Muse of poetry, who ran off with the mailman four years ago, and drops me only a scribbled postcard from time to time.” – John Updike

In recent years E-mail has replaced the conventional letter. It won’t be long until people merely snap a photo of the Eifel Tower with their cell phone and send it to their friends instead of mailing a postcard. Thankfully the practice of sending a postcard remains the standard “wish you were here” gesture. But how many of us have friends charting the globe?

Say hello to PostCrossing, an innovative online social network that brings exotic locales into your mailbox through personalized postcards. Think of the site as an international ‘postcard’ trading convention. Register for free and then request to send a postcard at which point you’ll receive a randomly generated address of a fellow post crossing member. Send them a postcard from anywhere (preferably where you reside) with any message you choose. When they receive the postcard, hopefully they will log onto the site and enter the code you were instructed to write on the postcard. Once that happens then you’re entered into the system and for every postcard you send, there’s another chance you’ll receive one as well.

Personally, it’s sites like CouchSurfing, Craigslist and now Post Crossing that showcase the altruistic nature of humanity. Over the past three years I’ve sent over a hundred postcards while exploring Asia, and yet I’ve received just one from a friend back home in America. Through CouchSurfing, I’ve realized the power of meeting someone from another culture and while a postcard can only say so much about a person, it’s still a shining token from an exotic culture.

I recommend anyone who owns a pen and knows where to buy stamps take advantage of this amazing site and sign-up today!

But… just like you, I’m a writer. The life of a writer is similar to the life of a doctor. For being a doctor may be their ‘life’ in that they are always on call. The same goes for us, but only we typically aren’t typically called upon from those in need. Instead, we need to be thinking of ways to integrate our image/brand/work into the lives of others with every chance we get.

I have no shame in handing my business card to the dude selling me a slurpee at 7-11, and I certainly have no shame in writing a heartfelt message about being a children’s writer on each and every postcard I send with my www.cravewriting.com address attached of course!

There’s no telling who will receive your postcard, and if the time comes (or already has) where your name takes its place on the shelf of fame, just think about how you will not only brighten the receiver’s day but you’re also positively promoting yourself in addition to the rewards of Post Crossing.

Imaginators, what are you waiting for? Shamelessly plug yourself and lick those stamps!

Shopping List: A Writing Exercise

20 Apr

Each and everyday there linger biological and societal tasks we all must attend to: laundry, a trip to the little boy/girl’s room, and even opening the door for a total stranger. Usually they have nothing to do with our lives as writers, until now. It’s important for us imaginators to apply our creativity to as many daily ordeals as possible. Consequently, I present to you today’s writing exercise: ‘The Shopping List.’

Much like ‘Day in Disguise,’ this exercise gets your creative juices flowing. ‘The Shopping List’ allows you to play maestro masterfully conducting words to score the otherwise mundane grocery  list. Regardless of who does the shopping in your house, creatively re-name each item. Be sure to imploy figurative language, sensory details, and/or pop culture references.

Disclaimer: Make sure your list is appropriate for all ages, especially easily offended grumpies. By the way, I never take my own advice.

  • Milk: Udder Juice
  • Lamb: Mary Doesn’t Have This Anymore
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: E.F.O – Edible Flying Objects
  • Eggs: Plastic Nest
  • Mayonaise: Causasian Spread
  • Paper Towels: Liquid Huggers

Not only will it help get the creative juices flowing, it’s a fun activity for couples, roommates or the whole family. Have others try to solve the ‘riddle’ for each item. It’s important to see if your remixed names are merely beautiful letter parades or if they actually relate to your audience.

Even if the list is just for you, give it a whirl. If you can’t find the peanut butter simply ask the clerk, “Excuse me, where is the greasy peanut  poop?”

Happy shopping imaginators!