Let Us Not Be Lazy


Although I have many faults, being lazy isn’t one of them. HOWEVER, I do fall into lazy writing occasionally. I use cliched phrases when a quick twist would create something much more memorable. I drop in pet words — like “the” — without restraint. But I didn’t know I was a pleonasmist until I read this list of redundant phrases (pleonasms). Are you? Just ditch the word shown in parentheses: (many thanks to www.fun-with-words.com)
(actual) experience
(advance) planning
(advance) reservations
(advance) warning
all meet (together)
(armed) gunman
at (12) midnight
at (12) noon
autobiography (of my life)
(awkward) predicament
(baby) boy was born
(basic) fundamentals
cease (and desist)
cheap (price)
(close) proximity
cold (temperature)
commute (back and forth)
consensus (of opinion)
(difficult) dilemma
each (and every)
(empty) space
(end) result
estimated (roughly) at
filled (to capacity)
(free) gift
(frozen) ice
(general) public
green (in color)
join (together)
(natural) instinct
never (at any time)
(null and) void
(pair of) twins
(past) experience
(poisonous) venom
reason is (because)
(regular) routine
(small) speck
(suddenly) exploded
surrounded (on all sides)
(unexpected) surprise

One Can Never Have Enough Marketing Ideas


The website, 30 Day Books, offers marketing advice and tips for pre-self published and published authors. Even though I am traditionally published, I receive their Magic Monday newsletter and have found great stuff there. For instance: I’ve been working on a new marketing plan for A Warm Winter Tail because the debut shine has worn a bit. Ironically, the Magic Monday tip for today was to create an anniversary or birthday for your book (or a character in it) and use that to start a conversation. It’s not rocket science, but its a hook and just the bit of magic I was looking for.  

Here’s the link:  http://www.30daybooks.com/

Good luck and let me know if something you read on 30 Day Books helps you, too.

PiBoIdMo Registration is Here!


If you are a picture book writer or illustrator, I sure hope you will consider participating in Tara Lazar’s extravaganzic Picture Book Idea Month. She’ll have guest posts from some of the industries best thinkers, opportunities for prizes (including critiques from stellar agents), and a community-wide buzz. Go here to learn more.  

A “Must Read” by Lisa Kron


Once again, I am following Shutta Crum’s lead on sharing a REALLY IMPORTANT POST ABOUT WRITING. It’s on Writer Unboxed which is one of the most helpful writerly sites out there. This post
written by Lisa Kron is about how crucial it is to determine our main character’s point of reference to the world before we begin writing his/her story. Otherwise the story becomes a winding journey with no real destination or satisfying conclusion. I’m starting a new category of posts on this blog called, “Must Read” and this post by Lisa Kron will reside within.

A Warm Winter Tail Wins Gelett Burgess Award!

PictureCool gold seal!

I used to say nothing exciting happens on a Friday in the children’s book industry, but I’ve had to change my tune. I found out about winning a WOOP grant on a recent Friday (WOOP, WOOP!) and this past Friday, I learned about A Warm Winter Tail winning a Gelett Burgess Award! Here’s the description of the award. Click on the link to learn about winners in other categories.  

“The Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Awards advisory council looks for books that entertain and teach with an energetic and creative approach. The books the Center selects must stimulate the child’s imagination, as well as  inspire them creatively. Advisory council members want to know a book will make an impact in a child’s life by helping them grow: socially, emotionally, ethically, intellectually, and physically.”

I am officially in love with Friday.

Rhythm Sticks: How to Fix Your Two Left Feet


I love this post from the Institute of Children’s Literature’s E-News editor, Jan Fields. about writing with rhythm. It breaks down the basics and if you know the basics, you can build from there.

Have You Got Rhythm?

All speech has rhythm. Rhythm is just the natural pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. Humans are naturally drawn to rhythm. Our heartbeat sets our entire lives to a regular rhythm. Children love rhythm. Give a couple sticks to a 10-year-old and he will certainly end up beating out a rhythm on the nearest surface (after he is done playing sword fight, of course). Long before babies can speak or even understand, some can  sway to a strong rhythmic beat in music. So it is no surprise that the rhythm
in your verse is very important.

The difference between the rhythm in verse and the rhythm in ordinary writing is that verse rhythm has a discernable and regular pattern. Normal speech will often fall into a discernable pattern for a sentence of two, but it does not stay regular.

Because long patterns of  verse can be broken down into its individual units, these units
have been given names. The basic unit of rhythm in a verse is called a foot. Let’s look at some different kinds of feet.

An Iambic Foot has an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed:
A Trochaic Foot has a  stressed syllable followed by an unstressed:
In a  Spondaic Foot, both syllables are stressed, like beating a drum two hard  beats:
In an Anapestic foot, you have two  unstressed, followed by a stressed:
to con-FRONT
to con-FUSE
There are lots of kinds of feet and you can write lovely verse without knowing the  names of any of them. But you do need to know the nature of them. These feet come together to form lines of verse. And the lines of verse have a clearly discernible pattern. Once you choose the rhythmic pattern for your poem, you  should stay in that pattern throughout, unless you have good reason for changing.

After reading an excellent guide to determining meter in verse posted on a message board by J. L. Bell, I tinkered with his steps a little to best suit my style (and isn’t that what we always do when we learn something new for our writing?) Let’s try applying this step-by-step approach to a few lines of verse to see if we can determine the
pattern of meter in a verse I’ve begun:
I’m tired of winter’s mucky mush
I’m tired of feeling cold
I  long for springtime’s virgin blush
And gardens full of gold.

What is the rhythm pattern for this bit of verse? Some people can judge the rhythm by  clapping while they read it aloud or patting it out on their leg, automatically clapping or patting on the stressed syllable. Some of us cannot. For the meter  impaired, there is a
process you can go through.

(1) For any word over one syllable, simply look them up in the dictionary and see.
I’m tired of WINter’s MUCKy slush
I’m tired of FEELing cold
I long for SPRINGtime’s VIRgin blush
And GARden’s full of gold.

(2) Now, we still have quite a few short words, which of those should be stressed? We tend to stress verbs (other than being verbs) so we have:
I’m TIRED of WINter’s MUCKy slush
I’m  TIRED of FEELing cold
I LONG for SPRINGtime’s VIRgin blush
And GARden’s full of gold.

(3) Although we do usually stress verbs, we normally don’t stress being verbs, and small words or connecting words…thus, I’m, of, for,  and would not be stressed. But our last five longer words – slush, cold, blush, full and gold have sufficient importance to the poem, and sufficient length to be stressed. Thus, if we look at the stressed and unstressed syllables in the poem we have:
And GARden’s FULL of GOLD.

Thus this little rhyme is made up of a pattern of unstressed/stressed/unstressed/stressed – clearly iambic feet. And the pattern 
 of stressed syllables per line is:
I’m tired of winter’s mucky slush (four stressed)
I’m tired of feeling cold (three stressed)
I long for springtime’s virgin blush (four stressed)
And garden’s full of gold. (three stressed)

If I add more verses, I would want to continue this pattern of iambic feet with 4-3-4-3 stresses per line. Editors expect your poetry to scan, to have a consistent meter that follows a pattern. Most poets write by “ear” and for some, this is an innate talent. For others, they may think they have an ear for meter, but find that their poetry is rejected again and again. If you’re suffering repeat rejections — give your poetry a little meter exam. Be sure each poem does have a pattern and that the pattern is used consistently.
If you deviate from the pattern, be sure you do so purposefully so that the
reader gets a sense that the poem sounds different because it needs to
dramatically. Meter can be a bucking bronco for new poets but breaking that
horse is essential to making the sale. You may write by ear but developing
poetry pitch takes time. In the meanwhile, take the time to give your meter a
check-up. You’ll be glad you did!

Get your application ready: ON THE VERGE EMERGING VOICES AWARD


I’ve shamelessly lifted the full description of this amazing award opportunity. It’s your job to submit!
The SCBWI is  dedicated to fostering the emergence of diverse voices in children’s books. The SCBWI On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award was established in 2012 with funding from Martin and Sue Schmitt of the 455 Foundation. The grant will be given to two writers or illustrators who are from an ethnic and/or cultural background that is traditionally under-represented in children’s literature in America.

Any writer or writer/illustrator from an ethnic and/or cultural background that is traditionally under-represented in children’s literature in America.
(American Indian, Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander)  
The manuscript must be an original work written in English for young readers and may
not be under contract.  The applicant must over 18, be unpublished and should not yet have representation.

Two writers or writer/illustrators will each receive an all-expense paid trip to the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York, a press release to publishers, a year of free membership to SCBWI, and an SCBWI mentor for a year.

Deadline for submission is November 15, 2013.  The winners will be announced December 15, 2013 and the award presented at the 2014 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York. 

Application Procedure:

All applications will be accepted via email only between September 15th and November
15th at [email protected] and must include the following:

In the body of the e-mail:
1. An autobiographical statement and career summary in less than 250 words.
2. Why your work will bring forward an underrepresented voice in less than 250 words.
3. A synopsis of your manuscript in less than 250 words. 

Attached to the e-mail:
4. A PDF of your entire manuscript. 
If the manuscript is not complete, it is not eligible.

When your work is published the author/illustrator should include in the acknowledgement “This book was made possible in part by a grant from SCBWI”

The 2012 On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award Winners:

Mary Louise Sanchez
The Wind Called My Name – The story of a Hispanic
family in the 1930s in the Southwest.  
Sandra Headen
Cato’s Last Home Run – A book about the historic Negro Baseball League.
Alex Brown
Astral – A science fiction novel written by a young bi-racial woman from Tennessee.


Write Michigan Short Story Contest!


Here is information on a great writing contest for my Michigan friends…

On behalf of the Write Michigan committee, I am delighted to announce the Second Annual Write Michigan Short Story ContestWrite Michigan is a statewide writing contest featuring $250 cash prizes for Judges’ and Readers’ Choice winners in each age category. Judges’ Choice runners-up receive $100. The top five stories in each category will be published in the 2014 Write Michigan Anthology. The Write Michigan Short Story Contest allows entries from Michigan residents in three age categories: 
·  Youth, free submission  for ages 11 and under, 
·  Teen, free submission for ages 12-17, and 
·  Adult, $10 submission fee for ages 18 and up. 

Short story submissions will be accepted online at WriteMichigan.org until November 30, 2013.  Stories will be reviewed by librarians and booksellers to determine the  semifinalists. The top ten semifinalists’ stories will be available for judges and public review via the website in January 2014. Winners will be announced on February 3. The Awards Ceremony, featuring author Kristina Riggle (a Kentwood native) will be Saturday, March 22, 2014 at the Kentwood (Richard L. Root) branch of KDL where copies of the 2014 anthology will be sold.

For details on how to submit a story, please review the Contest Guidelines. For complete information on the contest, visit www.writemichigan.org. For inspiration, we
suggest reading the
2013 Write Michigan Anthology, available from Chapbook Press for $14.95. The second annual Write Michigan Short Story contest is offered by Kent  District Library, Schuler Books &  Music, Pooh’s Corner and Capital Area District

Please consider sharing this information with your staff, friends, family, neighbors,  kids’ English teachers and library customers, especially any writers groups who may  be meeting in your facility! Posters and fliers for Write Michigan can be printed from the media kit
here. Last year we received 551 short story submissions from 155 unique Michigan zip codes. Many of the entrants indicated they heard about the contest from their local public library so we really appreciate  your effort to help spread the word to aspiring authors.

Thank You!

Heidi Nagel  
Communications Manager, Kent District Library