Watch out for exclamatory cows!
Writers are admonished to "show don't tell" all the time. I've heard that concept described more ways than there are changes in the weather where I live. But this quick description from the Institute of Children's Literature RX
really sunk in: Show don't tell involves more than images...it is about immediacy. Whenever you're reveallng action right in the moment, you are showing and that's definitely a big part of picture books. The IMAGES are the gift of the illustrator but there is far more to a picture book and far more to showing than visuals.
Picture books and beginning readers are a mix of
showing and telling just like all the other forms of writing...they just leave out the visuals because someone else carries that burden.
Any time you are portraying a specific moment of story time, you are showing. When you talk in generalizations, you are telling.
Insert comment from Carrie: "Oh! It is really that simple?"As with ANY story, picture books are a mix...For instance (from WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE), "The night Max wore his wolf suit [showing, specific story moment, it wasn't just any night...it was the specific night when he wore his wolf suit...] and made mischief of one kind and another [telling, we back away and generalize the badness by compressing time with a generalization], his mother called him "Wild Thing!" [showing, specific moment where his mother spoke] and Max said "I'll eat you up!" [showing, specific moment when Max spoke] so he was sent to bed without eating anything [telling as it compresses time by not giving us the quote where the mom actually spoke and sent him to bed without supper]
Isn't that a great way to think about it?
Life Shrinks or Expands in Proportion to One's Courage
Why is there a quote about courage under a title about the 2013 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles
, you ask? Because I always need courage to sign up for a large conference. Here's why:
1. Money: my writing account will take a hit with this conference (you have a writing budget, right? you're tracking inflows and outflows, right?) and I'll need courage to write the necessary checks.
2. Time: although my spouse is supportive of my writing life, the reality is our home life is more challenging when I'm away. His job is stressful and time-consuming and having three teenaged daughters off school takes some careful monitoring. I'll need courage to request and enlist the support of the entire family.
3. Me as a Writer: sitting among 1199 other children's writers can be daunting because I am face to face with my competition. They aren't a fuzzy grey unknown blob out there anymore. Granted they are really nice faces, but it does make a person -- at least me -- realize I need to be at the top of my game to be successful. I'll need courage to keep growing and learning and taking educated chances in spite of competition I can actually see.
4. Participation: sometimes large crowds make me feel small. I'll need courage to reach out, make friends, ask strangers to have a cup of coffee. At the conference last year, I needed courage to participate in a flash mob
! But borrowing from Oprah, one thing I know for sure is that my life expands with courage.
How about you?
(SCBWI member and author-illustrator from the great state of Michigan), is nearing completion of his Kickstarter intiative for the picture book he wrote and illustrated called Little Steps. When I heard Ryan was using Kickstarter.com
to fund the publication of this book, I wasn't too surprised because Ryan is a creative, big-thinking, self-starter. But I was interested to learn more about the backstory of Little Steps through Tara Lazar's interview with him. Check it out: http://taralazar.com/2013/04/04/kickstart-your-project-like-ryan-hipp-hint-take-little-steps/ and support Little Steps if you can.
I can't say I'm one of those writers who loves revising. (Those writers do exist; I've actually seen them in real life.) But if I force myself to remember that revising is just RE-VISIONing
, it helps. Then I relax into the process and can almost, a l m o s t look forward to what may happen as a result.
If you are like me, or even if you are a revision-lover, take a peek at www.deareditor.com
now because it is Revision Week
and there is some really great stuff offered by authors at the top of their game. Speaking of offers, as part of Revision Week
, The Editor is offering a giveway for FREE partials and one full manuscript edit. I can't say enough good things about The Editor, Deborah Halverson. She worked on my novel manuscript and her insight brought the manuscript to a completely new level. So hop to it, little spring bunnies! And let me know what you think of Revision Week
. I'll be the one trying on new sunglasses -- and a new plot line.
I ADORE interacting with preschoolers. Topics zip around the room like hummingbirds. Here is an actual piece of dialogue from my most recent preschool visit in which we are reading A Warm Winter Tail and talking about adaptation to cold.
Me: What season is it outside right now?
Me: Is it a hot season or a cold season?
Me: Right. It's a cold season. It's winter. And its very cold today, isn't it?
Sweet Boy #1: I LIKE FROGS!!!!
Me: You like frogs? Um. Me, too. Do we see frogs in the winter?
Me: Right. We don't see frogs in the winter because they can't stay warm in the snow and cold weather. They have to "adapt" -- change their bodies -- to stay alive in the winter. Just before it gets cold in the winter, they make a home under some leaves where it is a little bit warmer.
Sweet Girl #1: I'M HAVING A SLEEPOVER WITH MY AUNT TONIGHT AND SHE'S SLEEPING ON THE PULL OUT COUCH BUT SHE TOLD MY MOM THAT IT ISN'T TOO SOFT FOR HER BUT SHE'S STILL SLEEPING OVER!!!!
Me: That sounds like fun. So...I bet you will give your aunt a blanket to keep her warm, right? Too bad animals don't have blankets. Have you ever seen a wild animal with a blanket?
Me: Or jackets?
Class: (MUCH LAUGHTER)
Me: Or mittens? (I'm loving the escalation of humor) Have you ever seen a whitetailed deer with mittens? He'd have to have four mittens right? One for each hoof?
Class: (SO MUCH LAUGHTER I'M WONDERING IF I'LL REEL THEM IN AGAIN. Oops. Maybe went a little too far with the escalation of humor thing)
Sweet Boy #2: DO YOU HAVE A DUMPTRUCK?
Me: (smiles) No, sadly I don't. I've always wanted a dumptruck.
If you are a writer, you have to learn to deal with rejection. It is just part of the landscape. Here are two posts about rejection that might ease the sting. The first is by Darcy Pattison
, an author who I appreciate for her honesty and insight. And, this post
from Writer's Digest's Wendy Burt-Thomas may help decipher what the rejection is trying to tell you. (It is NOT telling you to quit, by the way.)
The Michigan Reading Association (MRA) has selected 40 children's and YA books written by Michigan authors to be part of the 2013/2014 Great Lakes Great Reads promotion. A Warm Winter Tail
is one of 8 selected for the K-1st grade division. Children across Michigan will read each story and vote on their favorite. Winners will be announced at the MRA Conference next year. Keep those fingers (and toes) crossed!
For more information on the program, click here
As a follow up to my post about the importance of attending conferences, let's share success stories. I'm not limiting "success" to just a sold manuscript. Maybe you've formed a new relationship, had a great critique, advanced your career in some fashion as a result of attending a conference. Spill it! We'd love to hear.
At my second ever conference, I participated in "first pages" but in those days, we read our own work to the hundreds of attendees. Talk about a knee quaking moment! After the session ended, a conference organizer pulled me aside and said, "Just so you know, this never happens, but the illustrative director from Publishing House X heard your first page and wants to take the full manuscript back to the editor. He wants to illustrate that story." Unfortunately, the editor wasn't as enamored with the manuscript as the illustrative director, but it was an experience that built my confidence as a writer.
C'mon, share your story!
People ask me if I think attending conferences is important in the children's book writing world.
My short answer is always, "YES!"
The somewhat longer answer is not only do I think conferences are important, I consider them a crucial strategy for advancing my career. Here is why:
1. 99% of the time, our communication with editors and potential agents happens over the transom via snail mail and email. At a conference, you see, hear, smell ? these folks, and even if it happens at a distance, you get a sense about them that is impossible to find in resource books or internet bios. This sense can be infused in your cover letters and queries. And you can weed out those publishing houses or agencies that aren't a good fit for you or your work.
2. You bypass the slush pile. Faculty often offer windows during which your work will be read if you attended the conference. Pay attention to their instructions for submitting. They may ask for a particular phrase referencing the conference as a subject line.
3. Your work can be evaluated by people in a position to buy it! Almost every conference offers first pages and/or critiques by agents and/or editors. Take these opportunites seriously. Register early and send your best work with the knowledge that it will be evaluated. Even if the piece critiqued at that conference is not requested (which is most often the case), I've have several critiquers offer to read more work in the future. Additional fees will apply but I've found these interactions to be invaluable.
4. You can experience the reaction of industry insiders to your work in real time through "first pages." Many conferences offer this session during which a panel of experts react to a first page of a novel or picture book. It is incredibly scary, but exhilarating to hear roundtable comments to your work! Just get over yourself and go for it. It's going to be a learning experience no matter what.
I say, "YES!" Add conferences to your expense column. You'll be glad you did.
This is my next conference. Hope to see you there!