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Highway to the Creation Zone: A Peek at Writer Rooms

21 Dec

The magical world of Harry Potter must have whirled itself within J.K. Rowling for years before it became a world wide sensation. But at some point she needed to sit down and scribe every word of the seven book series. So where do authors pen their inspiring works of fiction? What do these desks, spaces, crevices, and creative caves look like?

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Hold that Hyphen!

11 Dec

Ever wonder if a word requires a hyphen? Well thanks to TerriblyWrite, your-stress-over-hyphens-is-over! Visit this fellow WordPress blog today and eliminate unnecessary hyphens!

Magazines: A Writer’s Oasis

22 Mar

“Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it.”  William Knowlton Zinsser

All writers wish to see their name on a creation of their own imagination. It’s ego that drives the need, though current ‘supply and demand’ pummels our ego into fairy dust. Instead of brushing the remaining particles into the trash bin, we should instead sprinkle the fairy dust into the medium of magazaines.

Of course, we won’t see our name on the cover, will be limited in size/scope, and we won’t enjoy a  flow of royalties. But writing for magazines  provides a cushion of cash, while still reaching audiences with your creativity. Much like aspiring entrepreneurs, writers would rather have their ‘own business,’ than go to work for an existing enterprise. If anything, writers should see magazines as sports franchises. Become a fan of a few, and try out for the team. You never know, with enough practice, you may be under their spotlight.

The road to publication does not entirely center on the quality of your writing. Every book publisher takes a huge financial and professional risk on a new author, by providing a reel of magazine credits you prove that you’re level of writing and professional has been honed by the publishing experts. While an agent is a crucial piece of the puzzle, magazine writing credits may prove to be an equal weapon towards convincing an editor you’re a safe bet.

Having written over 60 picture book drafts, I’m now going back to see which ones don’t necessarily need 32 pages of pictures. Also, if your manuscript doesn’t lend itself to page-turning, you may also want to consider sending the manuscript to a magazine. In addition, you work doesn’t even need to be fiction. Magazines accept poems, puzzles, games, photos, and even recipes.

While I would love to provide a list of useful links, I’m so happy that others did their homework and are allowing us to cheat off of them. Please visit the two sites below for information regarding submissions for children’s magazines or consult Writer’s Digest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.

Kid Magazine Writers: An epic resource of links and submisison guidelines for children’s magazines.

Children’s Magazines: Kathy Temean provies a helpful list at her blog “Writing and Illustrating” listing the average payouts for various children’s magazines.

Happy submitting imaginators!

Snowclones

14 Mar

Writers are taught to avoid cliches as it blends your original voice with the-all-too-familar. Though, we humans never tire of ‘remixing’ old diddies, and thus I encourage you to say hello to the ‘snowclone.’

Snowclones, a relatively new English language classification refers to any phrase containing a cliche that has been tweaked or re-formed in a new context. For example: “to____ or not to _____;” “don’t hate me because I’m _____;” and “to boldly ____ where no man has _____ before.”

While they still carry the blood of dreaded cliches, snowclones can function in a variety of ways. They can be used for book titles, chapter headings, or even in dialogue to highlight the voice of a corny/witty character.

To progress your understanding of ‘snowclones’ and spare you from my ignorance on the subject here is a salad bar of helpful/hopefully-helpful links.

Fellow imaginators, snowclone like you’ve never snowcloned before!

The Snowclones Database: A helpful list of snowclones with an interesting blog.

What is a snowclone?: A brief and straightforward guide from ‘wise geeks.’

Language Log: Snowclones: A brief post with an extensive list of links.

Of course (thankfully) Wikipedia has its say.

Greeting Cards: A Gateway Craft

8 Mar

It comes as no surprise that most people feel they can write/illustrate a children’s book. Don’t not discourage these fine believers, as outsiders aren’t conscious of the inspiration, reading, writing, disciplined revision and marketing necessary to be published. Luckily, children’s writers have an organized system of submitting their work unlike musicians who need to be ‘discovered’ by a talent scout.

Regardless, if you are feeling overwhelmed by the process and aren’t yet ready to overdose on publishing in the children’s market, may I suggest a gateway craft.

Greeting Cards.

By no means is penning a greeting card an easy task. You have to be poetic, romantic, or sincere. But most of all you must speak in unique voice with clarity delivered with poise and sensitivity to a wide audience.

Greeting Cards can function as a savvy segue to picture books because both are all about the page turn and require a punchline or twist. The pay may be nominal, but if accepted you earn a notch on the belt and can still proclaim yourself as a published writer.

To take a peek into the world of writing for greeting cards pay a visit to the following sites:

Artist & Writer Submission Guidelines for Card Companies from Kate Harper’s Blog

How-To Greeting Card Writing Websources

Breaking into the Greeting Card Market by Sherry Ma Belle Arrieta

Greeting Card Association’s Writer Page

Sandra Miller-Louden’s Greeting Card Writing Dot Com

How To Get Paid Writing Greeting Cards

One Look Yields Many

17 Feb

“One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart you can’t utter.” – James Earl Jones

My mental machinery was penning the picture book, “The Word Factory,” when the assembly line suddenly came to a screeching halt. I couldn’t produce words that rhymed with ditzy. Even, RhymeZone, a funtastic online rhyming dictionary, was unable to deliver a marketable product. Luckily, they recommended OneLook, part online dictionary, part google search.

Usually a rhyming dictionary will deliver enough usable entries. However, in the case of “The Word Factory,” words with duplicate endings were required. This is where OneLook flushes my linguistic toilet. Their interface allows you to simply place an asterisk before the ending, for example “*itzy,” and a list of words with that ending will be displayed, with each word featuring a parade of links for the definition.

In the case of “itzy” I was supplied with:

  1. ditzy
  2. fitzy
  3. forbush mitzy
  4. glitzy
  5. liltzy
  6. ritzy
  7. spritzy
  8. witzy

The search yielded ample results. I was tempted by ‘glitzy,’ but its “extravagant but superficial display” definition would present my character in a negative light. In the end I ran with ‘ritzy,’ and ‘spritzy.’ 

In addition, OneLook will help you find word beginnings, words with similar beginnings and endings, as well as related words. You can even find phrases to match acronyms. For example, a search for F.B.I. discovered 53 choices, while N.F.L. scored 65 options.

Whether you’re hungry for a word, or just want to play with them, take multiple glances at OneLook.

I’m not sure if similar sites exists, but if anyone happens to stumble upon one, please pass us the link in a comment. Thanks!

Happy word hunting imaginators!

Wild Resources

25 Nov

From fierce fangs, to snorting snouts, to treacherous trunks, kids love animals! Any children’s book full of molting, stampeding, or even hibernating creatures will instinctively leave its readers’ drooling.

While some publishers frown upon personified animals, allow them to inhabit your story. But whatever you do, PLEASE BE ACCURATE!!! I don’t claim to be Jack Hanna, and my subscription to Zoo Books expired over a decade ago, but I know enough to spot a fake. Unlike the world of fur, when it comes to children’s books, real is better!

While frolicking through many a picture book it’s hard not to notice inaccuracies, mistruths, and utter laziness. For example, why is a gorilla eating meat? There shouldn’t be a carnivore in an exhibit with gazelles. And a book about Africa certainly should exclude tigers. Unless of course they are tourists or apart of an exchange program.

Please break the rules, but these ‘exceptions’ should be treated as such. For example, in my picture book ‘Bo Eats a Burger,’ a cow dreams of escaping exile after accidentally chomping into a cheeseburger. Cows aren’t supposed to eat meat, so when Bo Vine does, he has to fight his way through the consequences.

In addition, you can stay true to the natural order of things while dazzling the short attention spans of your reader. Instead of calling a seal ‘Sammy,’ look to the scientific world or the ocean for a ‘thematically savvy’ moniker. The animal kingdom is rich in history, stories, and names. Apply them to your stories!

Below is not a holy doctrine, but a mere starting point for online resources. Writers of non-fiction may be asked to provide print sources, but there’s nothing wrong with beginning your search on wikipedia. Please Note: This list will continually be updated as new sources are discovered. Last updated: 11/15/2010

Go wild imaginators! But please be responsible.

 

Animal Name Lists:

Enchanted Learning’s Names of Animals, Babies and Groups

Indian Child’s Animal Names List

General:

Animal Bytes

World Wildlife Fund

CyberSleuth Kid’s Animal Links

The Electronic Zoo

Wikipedia’s Lists of Animals

Amazon’s 2010 Top 10

13 Nov

With 2010 coming to a close, it’s time to review the year in print. Amazon has posted their Top 10 Children’s Picture Books for 2010. David Weisner’s Art & Max earns the top nod followed by: Olivia Goes to Venice; The Quiet Book; City Dog, Country Frog; A Bedtime for Bear (Bear & Mouse); Brontorina; Ladybug Girl at the Beach; Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters; Three Little Kittens; Dog Loves Books.

With all of the acclaimed talent behind these books this list looks like more like a business decision to move more of what’s already selling. Of Thee I Sing, written by the President of the United States of America Barack Obama isn’t even released until November 16th. Even with advanced copies being available to Amazon editors, one naturally questions this decision. But I’m sure each of these books is a delight.

If you’d rather trust  your fellow consumer, Amazon also provides a Top 10 Costumer Favorites, which is a list of the bestselling picture books.  Pinkalicious and the Pink Drink tops the list followed by: Fancy Nancy and the Late, Late, LATE Night; The Easter Egg; Fancy Nancy’s Elegant Easter; Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion; The Quiet Book; Fancy Nancy and the Sensational Babysitter; Llama Llama Holiday Drama; Fancy Nancy: Ooh La La! It’s Beauty Day; and Ladybug Girl at the Beach. With all these best selling female character driven books, it looks like many of my protagonists need a sex change.

Being in rural Japan, I haven’t had easy access to this year’s crop. Personally, I can’t wait until I visit America in December. With Deborah Underwood’s The Quiet Book appearing on both lists, it’s, for me atleast, a must read. Though I will grab each of these off the shelf and steal a seat in the children’s section at Barnes and Noble.

So what made your list?

Lovely Link: 400+ Things That Kids Like

6 Nov

Head on over to Tara Lazar’s blog for a list of 400+ Things That Kids Like. For example, campfires, popcorn, and weekends. The list is both un-scientifically but so-obviously accurate and more importantly, amusing. Instead of checking to see if your project’s topic and characters are on the list, use this list as inspiration for a new story.

In fact, the list was so inspirational, that before I even read a single item, I drowned my journal with a new idea for a children’s book. Working Premise: A boy moves to an upscale neighborhood  where he meets a group his own age. Before he can become one of them, he must pass their test to prove he’s a kid.

You never know where an idea may spring from, but a list of hundreds of things kids like will certainly ignite your creativity engine. If interested Tara also has a list of 79 Things Kids Don’t Like. Happy imaginative driving everyone!

Recommendation: Children’s Writer

3 Nov

Living in Japan’s northern countryside, I’m isolated from the English-speaking world of Children’s Literature. Thankfully, my friend the internet provides me with plenty to stay informed. Though, I crave words written on (recycled) dead trees. I need to physically read the paper, which explains why I’m constantly restocking the printer at work. But one source spares me the hassle. “Children’s Writer” is geared towards professionals in Children’s Literature. It’s similar to “Children’s Book Insider,” (which I also enjoy) but something sets it apart. They deliver!

Most of the snail mail I receive is written in complex characters I fail to recognize, but once a month I look forward to the day there is a surprise (in English) waiting for me. Astoundingly, international delivery costs only an additional $1.75 per issue. It’s well worth it, especially when amazon.com in Japan charges usually 20-40% more for foreign books. It’s comforting to see a publisher refusing to profit off of delivery.

Each 12-page issue of “Children’s Writer” includes in-depth features with a parade of useful links and resources covering all mediums and genres. Not all of the topics, including November’s piece on Children’s plays, play to my interests, but they do offer perspective and motivation. My favorite part is the 4-page “Marketplace” insert that profiles publishing houses, agents, and contests. While some of this information is repeated in other sources, being reminded of the opportunities available to writers is priceless.

Each month, ignoring my work duties, I rescue the hi-lighters from the desk drawer and search for juicy tidbits, inspiration quotes, and professional leads. My tip for readers is to make check boxes with goals next to each useful article. For example, “Look at this publisher’s list to see if their needs fit your style.” Instead of gathering dust, I constantly revisit each issue to ensure that I am following up on my to-do list and check off and date my accomplishments.

More than an enjoyable read, “Children’s Writer” is a motivational tool, and an effective one. If you have yet to subscribe, why not take a look today! Or print this post out, and draw a check-box. : )