SCBWI-MI Fall 2013 Re-VISION Retreat Filling Up Fast!

PictureTransformations Spirituality Center

Wouldn’t you love to spend a weekend here? You can if you sign up for the SCBWI-MI Fall 2013 Revision Retreat. There are very few spaces left in an intimate retreat designed to move your picture book or novel to the next stage in development. Two tracks are offered: picture book revision lead by author Audrey Vernick and novel revision lead by author and freelance editor Deborah Halverson. Peer and faculty critiques are an important part of the retreat. The deadline for manuscript submission for critiques is August 15 so DO NOT DELAY!

Want a Fresh Story? Do This.


Kathy Temean shares some great tips from Emma Coats who compiled nuggets of narrative wisdom she received over the years working as a storyboard artist for the animation Pixar studio. 

 1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

 2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.

3: Trying for theme is important,  but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it.  Now rewrite.

4: Once upon a time there was  ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___.  Until finally ___.

5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them.  How do they deal?

7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

10: Pull apart the stories you  like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

12: Discount the 1st thing that  comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way.  Surprise yourself.

13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

14: Why must you tell THIS story?  What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

17: No work is ever wasted. If  it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.

18: You have to know yourself:  the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How would you rearrange them into what you DO like?

21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Emma Coats is a freelance director of films, boarder of story, and sometime public speaker.

Mentorship Opportunity for Picture Book Writers from Michigan!!

PictureBoni Ashburn

You know how I love mentorships and you can’t get a better opportunity than this…

SCBWI-MI proudly announces the 2014 Mentorship Program for Fiction Picture Books. This is a competition and the Grand Prize is a 12 month mentorship with acclaimed Michigan writer, Boni Ashburn, author of six fiction picture
books including, Hush, Little Dragon, Over at the Castle, I Had a Favorite Dress, Builder Goose: It’s Construction Rhyme Time, and forthcoming The Fort That Jack Built. The competition is open to a pre-published Michigan resident who is a current member of SCBWIFor more details about the mentorship program and the application form, click here.  Please note: the submission deadline is August 5, 2013

Disclosure: Boni is a friend of mine and I’m already jealous of the winner. ðŸ˜‰

 A 2FER: revision and voice


A writer friend, Shutta Crum, shared a great post today that I will pass along for two reasons:

1. to see if you fall into the trap of “ya, butting” when provided with a critique of your work (note: you should not!), and
2. to see a perfect example of “voice.” I don’t know the author Keith Cronin but I sure feel I do after reading his post.

Without further ado, here is your 2FER for today (dare you to say that 10 times fast!):

Enjoy and let me know what you think.

Shameless Plug for SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators)


Let’s say you REEEAAALY want to write and/or illustrate a children’s book but after getting the idea, and maybe starting to put it on paper, you don’t know what the next steps should be. Whenever I’m quizzed on this topic, my first recommendation (aside from patting yourself on the back!) is to join the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). It is simply the best community to learn, grow, connect, and move your dream to reality.

If you are still trying to decide whether to join, read this great post at Ink and Angst and you’ll get it.

Whatchawaitin’ for?

What’s all this about “Show Don’t Tell?”

PictureWatch 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 revealing 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 most often telling.

Insert comment from Carrie: “Oh! It is really that simple?”

Fast forward to May 27, 2020 and I’m updating this timeless post with a new short video by picture book author and creator of the 12 x 12 Program, Julie Hedlund. The video is about how to tell the difference between showing and telling, and the role of telling in picture books. Julie has a way of cutting to the important stuff and this video will help solidify Show and Tell concepts. Go ahead and check it out. I’ll wait…

Hi! Are you back? Here’s one more example of showing and telling:

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]

Hope this helps you think about showing and telling and how each are needed in picture books. 

45th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference 2013

Life Shrinks or Expands in Proportion to One’s Courage
                                                      – anonymous


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?


Ryan Hipp,, and How Little Steps Can Become A Big Deal


Ryan Hipp (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 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: and support Little Steps if you can.

Let’s Re-Vision!


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 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.