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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!

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The Artist’s Way

25 Mar

I’ve been a  “children’s writer” for over four years. While I have over 60 picture book manuscripts, a funtastic blog, contacts, critique groups, and a working knowledge of the industry, something is missing. Where are all of my rejections? If I’m not submitting, I can’t get rejected to later become published. I lack consistency, because I’ve lost my way. And now thanks to Julia Cameroon’s remarkable course within a book, I will find my way, “The Artist’s Way.”

“The Artist’s Way” is a 12 week course designed to help readers discover/rediscover the artist within. Each week consists of a motivational chapter, and a series of tasks. In addition, the emerging artist, regardless of discipline and medium, needs to handwrite three pages when they wake up (known as Morning Pages), and complete one artist date a week. The artist date is a 2 hour or more block a time where the artist spends time alone soaking in inspiration from the outside world. An artist date could consist of a trip to the zoo, checking out a movie, or bargaining at an estate sale. At the close of each week, the artist must then evaluate their journey with a “check-in.” Each week, I will be posting my “check-ins” here at CraveWriting in the hopes that more imaginators will take the plunge and re-emerge from the shadows as consistent, productive and confident artists.

I was turned on to this course through fellow writer and blogger Julie Hedlund. She in turn was inspired by a fellow blogger. This whole course has a “pay it forward” vibe written all over it. I’ve already secretly ordered a book for an artist friend. Instead of drowning you in related links, just google it yourself and see if Julia Cameroon’s “The Artist’s Way” is for you. If you’re not sold, just sit back and watch my progress.

Happy re-discovering imaginators!

Picture Book Marathon 2012

9 Feb

“BANG!” Equestrian bodies hurl past the open gates. Hooves pound the dirt below. The race is on!

For the past two years I’ve participated in the Picture Book Marathon and am proud to say that each time I came out a winner with 26 new picture book drafts.

This year is a little different. Instead of charging out of the gate, I haven’t moved an inch. Ever see a cartoon where one of the horses lazily stays in its pen. That’s me. I keep waiting for the jockey to whip my behind. Though I need to realize that if I’m going to finish this race it’s up to me and me alone.

It’s already well into the second week with 20 days left to pen the 26 required drafts.

Can I do it? Of course.

Will I? Well that’s the question I shouldn’t be pondering. It’s just like those wide receivers in the NFL that look ahead to the endzone before focusing on the catch at hand. What happens? They end up dropping the ball. Someone I love dearly once told me that starting is 50%. In any goal we wish to undertake, the focus shouldn’t be on whether or not we can finish, but rather that we started. I’ve never sat on the other side of an interview, but a resume full of half endeavours looks more promising than a blank one.

Recently, I’ve had some people astounded by the task at hand saying that 26 drafts is just impossible. Quite the contrary, I find it easy to generate new ideas. The hard part comes later with dissecting the raw draft into a marketable manuscript, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

By the end of February I hope you will see a post about my conquest, but to be honest I should be worrying about whether I start or not. So who’s with me in leaving the gate and starting the epic Picture Book Marathon of 2012? Better late than never!

Official Information from the Creators:

Your Goal: Between February 1 and February 29, write one picture book a day, until you get to 26. This year, February has 29 days (thus, Take the Leap!), so you get a bonus break day.

The Basics: We define a picture book as (1) a story or narrative, (2) with a  beginning, middle, and end, (3) for children, and (4) intended to be illustrated. They’re generally, though not always, published in a 32 page format. Given the speed of the marathon, your picture book DRAFTS (for that’s what they’ll be) will be very rough. What you hope to capture is the basic plot, characters, and emotion of each story.

Why Do It:
  • Generate a lot of material in a short amount of time.
  • Get your creative juices flowing by forcing yourself to write daily.
  • Circumvent your internal naysayer – they either won’t have time to criticize, or they’ll be too tired.
  • Practice a writing practice.

For encouragement please check out the official PB Marathon blog

Special thanks to the Picture Book Marathon masterminds Lora Koehler and Jean Reagan and illustrator Will Strong for providing the official 2012 logo.

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

Pledge Your Words – NANOWRIMO 2011

3 Nov

When I first heard of National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO) in 2008, I was living in the frigid north of Japan’s Honshu island. While I had scores of picture books under my belt I had yet to attempt a novel. Having read less than 1 novel a year probably accounted for my lack of confidence to try. Regardless, I decided to give it a try. Instead of writing a novel, I opted for a collection of anecdotes and folk tales entitled the “Book of Feste” depicting events and characters in a distant fantasy realm. And you know what? After spending many an early morning, late night, and dizzying train ride…I won! As November said goodbye, I said hello to over a hundred pages of my original work. While it’s now collecting dust, when ready I’ll breathe new life into it.

With 30 days in November and 50,000 words to pen, Continue reading

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!
 
 

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!

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 (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pbfactory/) and request to join. Please keep in mind, you’ll need a Yahoo! account to join.

Happy collaborating imaginators!

Morning Ritual

10 Mar

“Each morning sees some task begun, each evening sees it close; Something attempted, something done, has earned a night’s repose.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Writing is not a task; it’s a lifestyle. To climb the mountain of success, every imaginator must live the life of a productive writer each and every day. Just as breakfast is empowered as the ‘most important meal of the day,” what better time to swim in the currents of writing than morning?

Over the past few months I’ve developed and am ‘owning’ a morning ritual. It has nothing to do with push-ups, orange juice or tooth paste. Instead, this ritual is all reading, reading about writing. Monday through Friday when I arrive at work, I’ve conditioned myself with 4 tasks. Now keep in mind I have a desk job, meaning I literally (95% of the time) sit at a desk. I’m left to do whatever I desire, and take advantage by stocking my shelf with writer-friendly texts.

The first task is reading the daily entry from Eileen and Jerry Spinelli’s “Today I Will: A Year of Quotes, Notes, and Promises to Myself.” It’s short, simple and provides a motivational sting to start the day. The Spinellis use excerpts from children’s literature providing me with a crash-course in authors, titles, and quotable phrases. While this book was intended for youngsters, with 365 days, it gives me consistency, while instilling patience.

The second task is reading two entries from “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book.” This helpful resource furnishes readers with excerpts from children’s books, explanations by editor Anita Silvey, and comments from ‘famous’ people affected by the excerpted books. To avoid drowning in a sea of quotables, I’m purposefully reading this book slowly.

The third task is much like the latter, and I’m currently absorbing quotes from established children’s authors and illustrators in Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoof’s “The ABCs of Writing for Children.” This is a MUST own for any children’s writer. Though, reader beware. This book is so rich with insightful and inspiring words that if you take too big of a bite, you’ll end up with a toothache. I recommend choosing a section, such as ‘plot,’ ‘rhyme,’ or ‘book signings,’ and digesting its contents when best suited to your current stage of the writing process. For me, I simply choose one section a day and circle the sugary tidbits in pink. Previously, I used this slot in the morning to read “I Wish Someone Had Told Me That,” an e-book  from Children’s Book Insider with advice from a variety of children’s writers.

To complete the saga, I use the 4th task to read a chapter from a middle-grade or early chapter book. Previous selections include P.B. Kerr’s “Children of the Lamp: The Akhenaten Adventure,” and Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler’s “Hank Zipzer: Niagara Falls, or Does It?” At the moment, I’m playing in Neverland with Peter Pan. I’ve made it a personal goal to read all (most of) the classics. On deck is “Alice and Wonderland,” followed by “The Neverending Story.”

While some may argue that a writer should start their day writing, I do my best work at night. I’m more of a night owl than an early bird and therefore absorb in the morning, and create at night. More importantly, this ritual helps fill a void. Having not read as a child, and while currently living in Japan, I’m left out of children’s book society. But by ritualizing my mornings, each day I take a step towards the center of this joyous community.

Please comment below with some of your ‘writing-esque’ rituals.

Happy ritualizing imaginators!

Picture Book Marathon Checklist

31 Jan

Picture Book Marathon Checklist

 

To help visualize your progress during the Picture Book Marathon please print out a copy of this PDF checklist. Special thanks Jean Reagan, Lora Koehler, and Nathan Hale.

PBMarathonChecklist

(Click to view/print, and right click to save)

Happy writing imaginators!