Friday, March 27, 2009

A Ten Critique Week!

Phew! Just finished my tenth and final critique of the week. Yes, tenth. That is too many as far as I am concerned.

I am reading 1-2-3 Magic to learn how to better handle my bratty five year old and I find myself thinking, "Oh, this section should really come after the next paragraph!"

UGHHH! I can't turn it off.

Anyway, here are a few tips that I have compiled after reading so many PB manuscripts this week:

1) Ask yourself if you are sure you want to be writing picture books.
I've read 2600 word PB manuscripts! I've read clever, sophisticated stories that are WAY over the heads of PB audiences. Is this definitely the right genre for you? You may be better suited to chapter books.

2) If you are going to repeat a line several times, it had better be a good one.

I am one who loves repetition and The Rule of Three. But if you are going to say a line over and over it has to be something that people will enjoy hearing. Something fun, something catchy, something memorable. Something like "Hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats. "

3) Make sure your ending is satisfying.
Okay, this is something I struggle with at times too. Eve Heidi Bine-stock, from the post below, discusses this in that same interview. For those of who haven't read it, she says one way to make your reader feel satisfied is to use a technique called the "Echo." This strategy entails repeating a central idea that is introduced at the beginning of the story. She uses the example of Harry the Dirty Dog which begins with Harry stealing the scrubbing brush and ends with the echo: Harry slept so soundly, he didnt even feel the scrubbing brush he'd hidden under his pillow. Gene Zion is a master at utilizing the echo. He begins and ends No Roses for Harry with a sweater that comes in the mail from Grandma. And he begins and ends Harry by the Sea with a big beach umbrella.

I'm going to revisit some of my picture book manuscripts and see if my endings can be improved. Then I am going to go finish reading 1-2-3 Magic!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Great Read for All Picture Book Writers

On Sunday, I am attending a NJ SCBWI Mentoring Workshop. We each get 20 minutes with an editor or an agent. (I can't wait to see what my mentor says about my Pigs story!) We also get placed in a group with seven others writers. All participants email their stories to their group beforehand so we can read and critique each manuscript. My group contains quite a range of writers, from those who I would publish on the spot to those who don't seem to have any understanding of story structure.

In an effort to help those who seem clueless, I went searching for a good article on picture book structure. And I came across this interesting interview of Eve Heidi Bine-Stock. I found it particularly valuable when Eve diagrams basic PB structure or what she refers to as the Symmetrical Paradigm.

Take a look at the whole interview for a lot more useful information!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Help! I Need a Spark.

As I've said before, I generally get one decent picture book idea a year. 2009's came in January! I wrote it in February, polished it in March, and now it is almost ready to go out. So, I'm either going to have a very dull, uneventful nine months. Or... I am going to break my record and come up with multiple PB plots this year! I am hoping for the latter.

But, so far... nothing. I've been thinking, listening intently to my kids, brainstorming with Becky, and I don't even have any inklings of an idea.

I so envy those people who get like an idea a minute.

Help! Anyone have an idea for sale? :)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I Want My Two Year Old Back!

I miss the two-year-old Jordan. I know most people talk about terrible twos and tantrums and tears, but my daughter was a delightful toddler. The two year-old Jordan dressed herself and even put herself to sleep. The five-year-old Jordan wants me to do everything for her! The independent streak is gone. She is needy and demanding and whiny and obnoxious! My adorable, feisty little girl has been replaced by a brat. I want my sweet little cutie back!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Consulting the Experts- Kids!

Home at last. Lost my Knucklehead status. Things are returning to normal. Phew!

Now, I can once again focus on writing and blogging. Trouble is... I forgot what it is I like to blog about! Maybe since it's my first day back, I'll just "borrow" an idea from another blogger. One of my new favorite blogs is Zook's Book Nook.

Kimberly has lots of interesting posts, but the one that really grabbed my attention was The Rhyme and Reason of a Child's Choice of Books.

Wouldn't we all love to get inside the head of a child to understand what attracts him/her to a particular story?

Kimberly's daughter is only nineteen months, so she can't just "ask her" why she finds some books appealing, but not others. My preschoolers are just getting to an age where they can start articulating what they like and dislike about certain stories. (Of course, Jordan did tell me when she was only two and a half that she didn't like Hop! Plop! because it "didn't have enough characters." But I think she was just being contrary to exert her power :)

Becky's kids are older and she's been consulting them for years while we are in the midst of collaborating. Jordan just turned five, and I read her one of my manuscripts for the first time in the hopes of getting some genuine feedback. (it's hard to read a kid a picture book with no pictures!) She listened carefully to my Pigs story and when I was done, she actually had something helpful to contribute that no one else in my critique group mentioned. Mommy, I think Pig 3 should be a girl.

I took her advice. Kids are, after all, our target audience.

So, here is my question. Do you seek feedback from your children and if so, how much weight do you give it?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Knuckleheads in Disney- Part II

I'm exhausted. When I get home, I am going to need a vacation! Am I the only person on Earth who doesn't love Disney? I am not a fan of crowds and lines. I feel like the Grinch saying this, but I would so much rather be scuba diving in Turks and Caicos.

Knuckleheads 1 and 2 are having a ball... when they aren't hot or cold or tired or hungry or thirsty or bored or fighting with each other. "It's Tough to be a Bug" scared the living daylights out of them. (Don't miss this 3D movie at Animal Kingdom if your kids are older) and the littlest Knucklehead had a great nap at Magic Kingdom from 7:30-9:30 PM. (I wanted to shoot myself.) It didn't occur to us that if we stayed for the fireworks, there would be like 50 million people headed for the monorail at the exact same time.

Thank goodness we are taking today off from the parks and spending it at the pool. I need to relax. Tomorrow is Epcot. And my final day as a Knucklehead.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Knuckleheads in Disney

Hi! I'm at Disney where I am suffering from major Internet withdrawal. (Thank goodness, they sell Starbucks frappuccinos everywhere so my other addiction is being fed)

I bought The Lightning Thief to read on the flight down, but my three year old didn't sit still long enough for me to get anywhere. (only to fall asleep AFTER the landing... while we were taxiing to our gate!)

My husband and kids have a club called the Knuckleheads, which I am excluded from. They decided to make me an honorary member for the trip. They count off and even have a Knucklehead cheer. My kids have always told me that I can't join because you can only be a member if you like to wrestle. But the real truth came out from David. The main criteria for membership is that you must have exceptionally bad judgment. That disqualifies me. Not saying I have great judgment. But it is better than a three year olds. (Sadly, my husband's isn't.) For example, I would know that it wasn't a good idea to pick up a two year old by her hands and feet and swing her though the air as high as I could. They apparently forgot to mention that in my husband's PhD program at Princeton. So he did it, and dislocated her elbow.

I am excited to be a Knucklehead, though, even if it is just for a week.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

My Little Martial Arts Expert

Since Josh inspired my new Karate Pigs story, I think he deserves the dedication. And a spot on my blog!

Friday, March 6, 2009

School Visit Debriefing

I was too exhausted yesterday to post, but the school visit went pretty well. The drive was a bit of a nightmare. I had the sun in my eyes and could barely see signs. I thought I was going to miss the Jersey Turnpike and end up God-knows-where. But I managed to arrive without getting too lost and even better, without colliding into any other cars.

When I walked into the Glenn School, I couldn't believe my eyes. There were Hop! Plop! bulletin boards and art projects everywhere! The walls were plastered with gorgeous paintings and drawings of Mouse and Elephant.

At the Bean school, every kid wore an "Elephant" hat and one class knew the story so well that they pretty much recited it word for word along with me as I read it! The faculty really prepared the kids for my visit and I was treated like a celebrity.

I did seven presentations in all and though I faded a bit around #6, I managed to keep all the students engaged. I felt a bit disorganized, but the media specialist assured me that holding the attention of 50 kindergartners for a half hour is no easy feat. She said I was very "animated" and she'd be happy to write me a testimonial, so I am considering the visit a success!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

School Visit Hysteria

I can't concentrate on blogging because I am a basket case over my school visit tomorrow. I don't know what I am more nervous about? The 90 mile drive each way. (Since my accident in Nov. I have avoided "merging" like the plague.) Or the fact that I have to present to three classes at a time. I am used to no more than 20 or so kids, and now I will have kindergarten and first grade groups of 50-60. How will they all see my picture book? How I will I engage them all? How will I make it through seven presentations in a row? UGHHHH! And it is my daughter's birthday. Why did I ever agree to do this.

Hopefully, I'll be back tomorrow night blogging about cute the kids were and how well it went!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

It's not only the 105th birthday of Dr. Seuss, it is also the 50th anniversary of his book, Happy Birthday to You! To celebrate, Seussville is a running a Happy Birthday to You Sweepstakes. Enter to win a trip to Universal Orlando.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I'm So Excited and I Just Can't Hide It!

Remember that song by the Pointer Sisters?

I am WAY too excited about my new PB manuscript. I already have the dedication written in my head. Very BAD. It can only lead to disappointment to be convinced that I have a surefire winner on my hands.

I am so completely lost in my fantasy that I can't concentrate on anything else. HELP! I have got to rein myself in.