Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Chicken's Cooking!

Okay, so it's been a while since I talked about a WIP.    When I last left off, my little chicken was having some problems.  And not the good kind that you throw at your character to make the story more compelling.  That was back in March. I am happy to report that he is doing much better. But picture books (especially those written in rhyme) are very labor intensive.  Becky and I can sometimes spend two hours on one line!

For any PB writer who missed it, Mem Fox's Green Sheep Secrets is a must-read!   She makes this point very well when she talks about the last stanza of Where Are the Green Sheep.

It originally read:

Where IS that green sheep?
Let’s turn the page softly, and take a peep. . . .
Here’s the green sheep,
Fast asleep…!

But she goes on to explain it was missing an essential element that she now recognizes as "solace."

It was re-written many times. In the end, a single word provided the solace of togetherness in the last lines—the use of ‘our’ instead of ‘the’:
Where IS that green sheep?
Turn the page quietly—let’s take a peep. . . .
Here’s our green sheep,
Fast asleep…!

Amazing, how one tiny word made such a difference, huh?

Anyway, back to our chicken.  We pretty much had him fried, baked, and fricasseed.  But in the end, the foxes decide to make him into chicken stew!

We started with the super BLAH

     When darkness falls, we'll have a meal
     of tasty chicken stew

and revised until we had

     Tonight we'll feast on finger-lickin'
     chunky chicken stew

Now, we're cooking, baby.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Speaking of Strengths

I was playing Jenga with Jordan recently.  In her version of the game, each stick that you pull out has a question written on it like  "What was the best day of your life?"  or "Who is the cutest boy in your class?"

Jordan got the question, "What is your best physical attribute?' 

JORDAN:  What's an attribute?
ME:  It's like a trait or feature. Something about the way you look.
JORDAN:  Oh, I guess mine would be my hair or my smile.
ME:  Actually, I would definitely say it's your eyes.  You have gorgeous eyes!
JORDAN:  And yours would be... your smile
... or your boobs.

I almost died.  The funny thing about it was ... she was dead serious.(and she's seven!)

So, I guess for the foreseeable future, I will be writing in rhyme and buying some low cut dresses.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Play to Your Strengths

I stirred up a lot of controversy with my last post.  That certainly wasn't my intention.  If I wanted controversy, I would have said something like... pretty friggin' scary when Michele Bachmann is declared the "winner" of a presidential primary debate.

Anyway, my point was... write what comes most easily and naturally to you.

Sometimes my writing partner, will say to me, "Let's write this PB in prose."  And my response is "Okay, and maybe Derek Jeter should try out for the Jets."

Rhyme is what we do best.  Why would we throw our best asset out the window?

When editors read our manuscripts at conferences, they don't say "Wow, what a great plot!"  Or "Oh my gosh, I LOVE this character!"  They say, "This has a lovely, rollicking rhythm." 

Once we are a bit established, then we can experiment with different formats and styles.  But for now, we should play to our strengths.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Are You Writing for the Right Age?

At the 2009 Rutgers's conference, our five-on-five panel leader asked us to go around the table and tell everyone two things.  (1) our name  (2) the age we felt inside.

I am clearly a four year old.  A very smart four year old, but a four-year-old nonetheless.   Some of us were 8-9.  Others were 11-12.  But for most of us it was easy to answer.  And THAT is the age you should be writing for.

I have seen lots of people who write picture books who should really be writing chapter books.  At the first page session I attended Sunday, at least two people (out of the half a dozen who attempted PBs)) were told, "This sounds like the first page of a chapter book."

If you've heard this comment about your work more than once, chances are you are writing for the wrong age!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Conference Woes- But Not the Kind You Might Expect

I'm going to the NJ-SCBWI conference this weekend.  I've been to lots of conferences before, but never one that meant being away from home for two nights.  I've given my husband detailed lists and schedules, but I'm still nervous.   Everyone knows... a father is not a mother.   KNUFFLE BUNNY makes that abundantly clear! (Have I mentioned Mo Willems is a genius!)

Will David remember to sunblock the kids at the pool?  Will he make sure that Jordan  wears her black jazz shoes on Sunday for her Aladdin show?   Will he leave the can't-live-without bunny in the laundromat? (No, wait.  That's Trixie's dad!)

Usually my biggest fear is "Will he give them nightmares for years by showing them completely  inappropriate movies,"  but with Jordan in her first Disney musical, there is a bit more at stake!  (and, no, of course I am not missing her big debut.  I am skipping out of the conference early and going straight to the theater)

The good news is.. with all these worries running around my head, I have no time at all to be nervous about meeting editors and agents!