Monthly Archives: September 2014

Books! Books! Books!

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     My four year-old granddaughter is visiting for a few days. She is a riot of fun!We’ve read over 50 books so far, and I’m also trying out a few of my newly written K-level stories on her…

     And I’ve observed a few things:

          1) Kids definitely like pictures with their story. Especially the K-level vocabulary early reader kind. The list of kindergarten words in The Children’s Writer’s Word Book are for kids learning to read, not listen to. So there’s a limit to what these books say. Thank goodness for illustrators who fill in unspoken words!

          2) Less vs. more. My granddaughter’s favorite book so far is less than 25 words. I also might add the illustrations make a difference, too, especially at this age.

     Well, we are heading out to the library this morning. Story Hour begins at 10:30. We’re also going to take our books back that we checked out yesterday (yes, we went yesterday, too!)

     She’ll be going home tomorrow and I am going to miss her…

     …but she’s leaving me with a pile of rocks and a few sprigs of chicory to remember her by…

 

Writing Prompt #14

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     “Don’t even try out,” the skinny boy said, pushing his bangs out of his eyes. “You don’t have any past experience. Too-bad-so-sad.”

     “But I’m good,” Fiona said. “I know I’m good. You won’t regret it, I promise. Just let me prove it. Please?”

     “You’re outta luck,” he said while jogging away from her. “Go play with your dolls.”

     “So how do I get experience?” she asked, but the boy was already out of ear shot, most likely looking for kids who were lucky enough to have already had experience.  It wasn’t fair. It just wasn’t fair.

     Now it was time for Plan B.

Should I Find an Agent? Can I?

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     Oh, yes. I’m feelin’ in a funk. I’m feeling like, “Will I ever climb out from the crack I’ve slipped through?”–meaning there are very few publishers now who take unsolicited manuscripts and it’s even difficult to find an agent… and do I want an agent? I’m thinking yes, but then… how many agents want to represent an author who writes kindergarten-beginning reader books and picture books?

     It’s like… ever since I bought a nice camera, everyone wants to be a photographer. Why is that? I want to publish children’s books and I really think I’m not too bad at writing them. But everyone else seems to feel the same way, like children’s books are easy to write, so let’s all send in our manuscripts and take up room in the slush pile, and overwhelm the editors with handwritten, misspelled, bad-rhyming stories so now they require an agent. Or previously published authors.

     Well… I am previously published, but not in the book department. And by previously published— do they mean with “their” publisher?

     Oh, so sorry. I’m just feeling a bit discouraged this morning. I put a lot of time into my writing (gladly, I might add) and I’ve spent so much of my time searching for publishers who might accept my manuscripts without agents, and I’ve also been reading up on agents, who are almost as picky as publishers, so it seems.

     And though I’m discouraged and ranting a bit, I’m still not giving up. I can’t. It’s part of me. It’s my mission in life… I know it is.

Auto Contrast?

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     This morning the sky is a crisp blue as the leaves on the trees struggle to stay green. The colors seem sharper than usual, like when I edit my photos in Picasa 3.   Auto Contrast makes everything appear rich and clearer.

     Which makes me think about words. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use the Auto Contrast option in our writing? Boring paragraphs would suddenly shift to sharp and clear sentences, words that are easy to visualize, easy to absorb, and hard to forget.

     But since we don’t have that option, we can learn to sharpen our vocabulary on our own. I’m not talking big words. I’m talking… Descriptive. Visual. Words that open one’s senses to touch, taste, sound, sight, and smells.

     If I read about a character eating a cheeseburger, I want to taste that cheeseburger. I want to put my book down and fry up that cheeseburger because the author’s words made me hungry!

     If I read about sunshine as it’s raining outside my window, I want to feel that sun on my face. I want to close my eyes and experience the sharp rays of heat on my skin.

     That’s what words should do. That’s what writers should strive for. Since we can’t Auto Contrast, we edit. And edit. And edit. Make your words shine.

     So guess what I’m going to do this week?

Children’s Writer’s Word Book

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     Recently, I have been challenged to write beginning reader books for kindergartners. Easy, right? Easy, no! If you write for children, you know it’s not as easy as it seems. And writing for beginning readers is extremely word-limited.

     My trusty Children’s Writer’s Word Book by Alijandra Mogliner, is a must-have! It includes word lists for grades K – 6 plus a thesaurus with the grade level in parentheses for each word. She also gives sound advice on social changes, classroom themes, and publishing tips per each grade level, along with writing samples. I highly recommend this book, especially to those of you who are writing for early readers.

     Try writing a story at a kindergarten level using only the words provided in that list. Yes, you can do it. But this writing style comparable to the Dick and Jane books leaves out many details. Just remember, though, the illustrator can fill in where the limitation of words cannot.

     Have you ever read a book to your child, student, or grandchild and thought, “I could’ve written that!” I will admit I have. But once you get started and figure out the rules to what makes a story publishable for that age level, you might think again. It’s not nearly as easy as it seems. Pay attention. Browse through similar books at the book store or your library. Word count is minimal, too. Try writing a story with a 150 word limit. It’s a great writing exercise, actually!

     Once again, I’d really like to recommend the Children’s Writer’s Word Book. It will make a difference.

     As always… Keep on writing!

Writing Prompt #11

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     She awoke to the alarm. But wait, she didn’t have an alarm! Squinting her eyes toward her nightstand, she froze. There stood the smallest person she’d ever seen! “Hi,” the skinny, red-headed boy said. “I’m here to help you write a story… with me as the main character, by the way.” He winked and blew a bubble with his gum.

Character Alarm

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     This morning as I lay in bed, snuggled warm under the covers, story characters threatened to disappear if I didn’t get right up and announce their presence to my computer. How dare them! I saved my rascally trouble-makers though and put them to work first thing.

     How I wish they would visit every morning, ringing their alarm of evaporation in my head. I am an early riser anyway, but I’d rather share the dark morning hours with book characters than an empty screen.

     Now I’m off to do a bit of housework, as my characters have worked me overtime this past week, and without pay! They do hint, however, that my hard work could very well pay off  in the near future. This, however, is only wishful thinking… a positive outlook… and determination.

     My fingers are crossed!

     Now for the cobwebs! (or perhaps I should leave them up for Halloween…)