Sunday, November 30, 2008

How to Cook a Turkey- From the Mouths of Three Year Olds

For Thanksgiving, my son's teacher asked each kid, "How do you cook a turkey?" Here are their responses:

Lauren - Go to the store, go to the aisle. Turn in and then you're there. Find a turkey. Bring it at your house. Mix it up with water. Cook it in the microwave for 200. Serve it with strawberries.

Logan - Go to the toy store. Put chicken nuggets and macaroni on the turkey. When the turkey pops out put it in the oven. Cook it for 15 minutes, then 16 minutes again. Then take it out of the oven. Put it back in the oven for 100 minutes. Take it out of the oven, put a fork in it and eat it.

Joseph - Buy a turkey at the kitchen store. Buy chicken nuggets, sandwich. Put meat on the turkey. Put it on the stove and burn it. Cut and eat with meat.

Rebecca - Buy a turkey at the farm. Put it in the oven for 10 minutes. Add rainbow sprinkles to make it be pretty. Serve it with orange.

Jake - Get a turkey from children. Cook it in a toaster for a long time. Turn it. Then it is done. Put it on a plate and eat it with a fork.

Rikhi - It's the farm. Add butter, bread and cheese. Cook it with a cooker. Cut it, make it, and put milk. Put it with salad.

Josh - Buy a turkey at the store. Grab it and put it in the shopping cart. You take watermelon and buy all kinds of things, peanuts.

Emily - Put spices on the turkey: cinnamon, pepper, brown spices. Put it in the oven for 50 minutes. You take it out and cut it into little pieces. Put it in the oven for five minutes. From cutting the turkey, put the crumbs into the garbage can, then put the cutting thing back where the knives are.

Sarah - Buy the turkey at the store. Make a sandwich out of it and put everything on it.

Lexi - I never made one! I would put soil on it, then I would put it in the oven. Cook it so long. Bring it to school and eat it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What's Better than Buying Books for the Holidays?

On the one hand, I am tempted to say NOTHING. Nothing beats buying books. Especially picture books (in my case). But... I am actually buying something that might possibly be just a schmoot better. Ready? Picture book art! And boy am I excited!

My husband and I decided we want to start collecting art from picture books. And we knew exactly where we wanted our first piece to come from-- the brilliant book, That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown, by Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton.

Emily Brown has so much fun going on wild adventures with her rabbit, Stanley, that the Queen becomes envious and decides she wants that Bunnywunny no matter what the cost. She sends in her Chief Footman to offer Emily a bribe, which Emily of course declines. Escalate- repeat. Escalate-repeat. Escalate-repeat. At which point, the Queen sends her Special Commandos in to kidnap him. Emily confronts the Queen and demands that she give Stanley back, but she does explain how the Queen can end up with beloved "Stanley" of her own.

This story is so tightly structured that I would use it if I ever taught a picture book writing class. But more than that, it is incredibly charming for both kids and adults. The art is a spectacular combination of collage, pen and ink, and watercolor. We all love it at our house! (Though it would definitely be funnier if I could read it with a British accent)

Friday, November 21, 2008

What's in a Name?

I read a very nice blog about character names the other day on Market My Words and that got me thinking... I find it hard to name my characters. I had no trouble at all naming my children, but characters are tougher. (and titles, forget about altogether!) In my first and only published picture book, Hop Plop, I went with Mouse and Elephant. I wasn't copping out. The story takes place at a playground and is very dependent on the differences in the two character's sizes. Giving them names would have only served as a distraction.

But when I do need a name, I can never seem to find one that feels like a perfect fit. In a new manuscript that is still untitled (See? I wasn't kidding!), my co-author and I chose "Scooter" for the little scurrying critter who gets bullied, "Mack" for the bigger bustling badger who bullies him, and "Tank" for the even bigger brute who bulldozes Mack. I was so proud at my cleverness for selecting three vehicle names until I discovered that not a single reader caught the metaphor.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Quote of the Day

When late morning rolls around and you are feeling a bit out of sorts, don't worry; you're probably just a little eleven o'clockish.-- Winnie the Pooh

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

One Way to Make a Picture Book Stand Out

Just because there are only 988,968 words in the English language doesn't mean an author needs to feel constrained when writing a picture book. Authors are not restricted to words that are currently in the dictionary. In fact, as my hero, Dr. Seuss, has demonstrated, words that aren't in the dictionary are often far more appealing. What could possibly be more fun to say than four fluffy feathers on a Fiffer-feffer-feff? Dr. Seuss tickles the tongue and the imagination with his snergelly hoses and cruffulous croaks.

In The Recess Queen, by Alexis O'Neill, Mean Jean is the schoolyard bully.

If kids ever crossed her,
she'd push 'em and smoosh 'em
lollapaloosh 'em,
hammer 'em, slammer 'em
kitz and kajammer 'em.

Pretty rollicky, huh? I love how lollapaloosh bounces around in my mouth. My daughter and I are starting a petition to have it added to the dictionary.

In Lynn Plourde's Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud, animals are blocking the road and members of a family are taking turns trying to shoo them.

And she shooed.
And she jeered.
And she baa-ed.
And she sheered.

But the sheep didn't shuffle.
Not a tiny little schmuffle.

What better way to stretch my kids' minds than to ask them to make up their own?

The squirrels didn't scoot.
Not a tiny little schmoot?

Words are like toys -- to be played with and turned inside-out. A sprinkling of Sneetches and a smattering of Schloppity-Schlopps can really spice up a tale.

So, if you want a story that really stands out in a slush pile or in this crowded picture book market, put aside your thesaurus and invent away.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Looking at Real Life for Picture Book Ideas

My very clever and talented friend, Tara Lazar, has decided that in lieu of NaNoWriMo, she is going to come up with one new picture book idea for each day in November. One idea a day! I have a hard time coming up with one idea per year!

Why is it so hard for me? My writer friends say, "Look at your life. Ideas are everywhere." So, let's look at my life for second. It is certainly not uneventful.

Just last night, I tried to take my three-year-old, Josh, to Chucky Cheese and I had a car accident. I must be the only person in the world who can get rear-ended and be at fault. Yes, despite the fact that the police officer tried to convince me that the gentleman behind me must be at least partially to blame, I was adamant that I was solely responsible. I was merging onto a highway and it was dark and rainy. Unable to see well in my side view mirror, I had a moment of panic and hit the brakes. Any ideas here? My Mommy- a Hazard to Herself and Others?

And this past Tuesday, our skylight fell in. It didn't happen completely out of the blue. We had roofers working and a nail got too close to the glass. There was a deafening crash and the skylight shattered into thousands of pieces. Thank goodness Joshy was eating his breakfast on the couch in the living room instead of at the kitchen table. Used up another of his nine lives. (I think he has 4 remaining) Any ideas here? I'd be Safer at the Third Little Pig's House?

Hmmm, so it isn't as if there is no drama. I just have trouble converting a real-life incident into an appropriate kids plot. All in all, I have about a dozen PB manuscripts and I don't think any have come from personal experiences.

If you've turned a real life event into a PB, I'd love to hear about it!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Very Brief Tribute to Dr. Seuss

So, why Thing 1 and Thing 2? Well, for one thing, I have my own two little wild Things running around my house wreaking havoc. But the main reason is that Dr. Seuss has been my biggest influence (along with A.A. Milne). I remember reading The Cat in the Hat and The Cat in the Hat Comes Back and then sitting down and writing my own sequel when I was about seven. God, I wish my mom had saved that! (I am dying to see if it was any good!) I also wrote my own Curious George caper. So easy to start a writing career with an already established character and a formulaic plot. Admittedly, I have a much harder time now.

Who were your major influences? Please share.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Quote of the Day

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try! -- Dr. Seuss

Confessions of a Picture Book Writer

I confess... writing for an adult audience scares the heck out of me. It pretty much leaves me paralyzed. But I am participating in the 21 Day Comment Challenge and I am suffering from blog envy. So, I either have to face my fears or continue to live vicariously through my blogger friends.

I have decided to give blogging a try. Now that the election is over and I no longer have to check the polls every ten minutes, I have a surplus of time on my hands and what better activity for a self-proclaimed writer than writing? So, I am going to take a page from the Obama playbook and assert, "Yes, I can!"