Recently in The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing Category

Diverse Books

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I have 271 book recommendation posts on my blog--some of those include multiple books. When I started the blog ten years ago, there wasn't such a big push for diversity as there is now. Recently, I was curious how many of my entries were about diverse books. Doing some research, I discovered 49 of the entries had books with diverse characters who were integral to the story. (That's about 18 percent.) The books were not necessarily fully focused on diversity, but at least presented an important character who was nonwhite or other "abled." (If you want to see what books are included, search my blog for diversity or go to this link where I've done the search for you.) If I'd looked at the fantasy books, many of them would fit the diversity category too, as fantasy books often deal with characters who are different from the mainstream of their culture, but I don't think those books are usually counted as diverse.

I didn't set out to read "diverse" books specifically. Fortunately, I was raised to believe people are people despite skin color, cultural differences, etc., which means when I hear of a good book, or pick up a book, I'm not automatically offended because the main character is not like me on the outside. What I see as I read is that these characters are so like me on the inside. Which is why it is so important for "white" kids, "abled" kids, poor, middle class, and rich kids to read these books. They need to see we are more alike than we are different!

On the other hand, according to the 2015 Census, about 62% of Americans are white only, 17% are Hispanic or Latino only, 13% are black only, 6% are Asian only, 1% are Native American or Alaskan, and 2.5% are two or more races. (Note: Arabs are classified as "white" for censuses.) And these statistics don't include "differently abled." But even with these skewed figures, it'd be hoped that good books are written by/about 40% nonwhite "abled" people. Because people who fit these "other" categories deserve to see themselves represented in story too.

The reality is we're not there yet. Look closely at the above infographic. You might find this source post from September 2016 of interest. And here's an interesting post on CCBC on how books are counted.

WNDB_Button.pngWhat can I as a white writer do? Deliberately support those writers who write diverse books by blogging about those books, buying them, sharing about them, etc. And support diversity organizations. I just came across this list: 2016 LINKY (Diversity Children's Books Reviews). It can be a source for me to find books. Plus, I can let people know about it through twitter, etc. And, of course there's the We Need Diverse Books organization. This site has links to awards for specific types of diverse books. Again, it's another source to find books that I can share. SCBWI has a page on their site that focuses on diversity, plus has two diversity grants. Several of these diversity sites want you to notify them if you know of books, awards, etc. not on their lists. That's something any of us can do.

FYI, Multicultural Children's Book Day is coming up on January 27th. You can download a free kindness kit here.
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Online Resources for Children's Writers and Illustrators

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There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of writing and/or illustrating sites on the web, and many good ones. Here is a sampling to get you started for 2017.

Categories
AE - agents and/or editors
F - fiction
I - illustration
MG - middle grade
O - organizations
PB - picture books
YA - young adult



Agent Query AE
http://www.agentquery.com/

American Library Association O
http://www.ala.org/
Check here for information on awards. They have a section of author and illustrator websites, too.

Art of Storyboarding at Temple of the Seven Golden Camels I
http://sevencamels.blogspot.com

American Booksellers Association/ABC Children's Group O
http://www.bookweb.org/membership/ABC

Bent on Books AE
http://jennybent.blogspot.com/

Children's Book Insider
http://cbiclubhouse.com/clubhouse/

Children's Books
http://childrensbooks.about.com/

Children's Book Council O
http://www.cbcbooks.org/

Cynsations
http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/

DearEditor.com
http://deareditor.com/

The Drawing Board for Illustrators I
http://www.thedrawingboardforillustrators.com/

Edit Minion
http://editminion.com/

Fiction Notes F
http://www.darcypattison.com/

Fiction University F
http://blog.janicehardy.com/

From the Mixed-Up Files... of Middle-Grade Authors MG
http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com/

Goodreads
https://www.goodreads.com/

Guide to Literary Agents AE
http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents

Helping Writers Become Authors
https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/

The Horn Book
http://www.hbook.com/

InkyGirl
http://inkygirl.com/

Institute of Children's Literature
https://www.instituteforwriters.com/about/institute-of-childrens-literature/

JacketFlap
http://www.jacketflap.com/

Jane Friedman
https://janefriedman.com/

Kidlit 411
http://www.kidlit411.com/

Literary Rambles
http://www.literaryrambles.com/

Literature and Latte - Scrivener
https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

Manuscript Wish List AE
http://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/

Monster List of Picture Book Agents AE PB
http://frolickingthroughcyberspace.blogspot.com/p/monster-list-of-picture-book-agents.html

Picture Book Month PB
http://picturebookmonth.com/

Publisher's Marketplace AE
http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/

Resources for Writers - including "Writing for Children's Magazines" and "Educational Markets for Children's Writers
http://evelynchristensen.com/writers.html

SCBWI's Blueboard - for members and nonmembers
http://www.scbwi.org/boards/index.php

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators O
www.scbwi.org

The 22 rules of storytelling, according to Pixar F
http://io9.gizmodo.com/5916970/the-22-rules-of-storytelling-according-to-pixar

The Write Conversation
http://thewriteconversation.blogspot.com/

Write for Kids
http://www.write4kids.com/

Write to Done
http://writetodone.com/

Writer Beware
http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/

Writer UnBoxed
http://writerunboxed.com/

Writing and Illustrating
https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/

Writing, Illustrating, and Publishing Children's Books: The Purple Crayon
http://www.underdown.org/

YA Books Central YA
http://www.yabookscentral.com/

If you have others you like, feel free to add in the comments. (If you can't see the comment box, click on the title above and scroll to the bottom of the resulting page.)


Rhyming Picture Books

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You hear it all the time, "don't write your picture book in rhyme." That's because many writers don't do it well. The story suffers to fit the rhyme; rhyme is forced; rhythm is off; there is no story.

I thought it would be fun to look at the openings of some recent rhymers.


HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez

Once upon a menacing time
two chicks knew a fox was at large.
Their Ma had been taken
and Pa was quite shaken
so Hensel and Gretel took charge.

First line does not rhyme, 2nd and 5th rhyme and 3rd and 4th rhyme. It sets up a pattern that the reader will expect. The same pattern is on the next spread. There's a fun twist in the old "once up a time" by adding the word "menacing." Again, we see a problem, and it feels humorous, so we expect humor to follow.


SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK) by Julie Falatko

Snappsy the alligator wasn't feeling
like himself.
His feet felt draggy.
His skin felt baggy.
His tail wouldn't swish this way and that.
And, worst of all, his big jaw wouldn't SNAP.

Only two lines actually rhymed. Although the last two were "near rhyme" which some editors will not allow. But look how we see the Snappsy has a problem. Kids relate to not feeling that great. SNAP in all caps sets us up to expect fun language, and of course, there's obvious humor.


A DARK, DARK CAVE by Eric Hoffman

The pale moon glows
as a cold wind blows
through a dark, dark cave.

Those words are split across multiple pages. The pattern of rhyming two lines and ending with a dark, dark cave continues. This sets a mood. The reader is set up for something a bit spooky or mysterious in only 14 words.


In all three of these examples the writers are leaving out what the illustrators can put in.

They also used language that is kidlike. And there is rhythm. But most importantly there is story. Intriguing story. Picture book author Josh Funk says, "Story is most important. Rhyme, frankly, is least. More important, but sometimes less emphasized (pun intended), is Rhythm." For further reading go to Lesson #9 "Rhyming is all about Rhythm" in Josh Funk's Guide to Writing Picture Books.



Preparation and Practice for Public Speaking

practice-615644_1280.jpgLast time I wrote about different ways of presenting:
1. A speech
2. An interview
3. A conversation
4. A reading
5. Show and tell
6. Acting it out

The most important part for any of these methods is preparation, practice, and personalization.

Prepare what you are going to say, how you'll answer questions, the section of your book you'll be reading, what you'll show, what images and/or text you'll use on a PowerPoint, what scenes you'll act out. Whatever you plan to use, preparation is essential.

Here's how I do it:

First, I either write an outline of what I want to talk about or create a PowerPoint which is affectively an outline. This helps me organize my talk/interview/conversation in a logical order. My outline or PP are not full sentences. Instead sections look like this:
DIALOGUE TIPS
• ATTRIBUTIONS - said, asked
• TAG LINES - She gulped her lemonade.
• NO SPEECHES
Or like this:
WHY DO YOU WRITE FOR CHILDREN?
• Age I was first hooked on books
• Limited pov
These are reminders of what I want to say. Not word for word text to read aloud.

However, if I have a quote by someone I want to share, that is written out completely in my notes. E.g. "Use adverbs as if they were rationed." -Juliet Gardiner. If I'm reading from my book, I might make enlarged copies of the pages (or retype them) so they are easier to read aloud.

Make sure your outline includes personal details. Share when/how you learned something, or why you have such and such opinion. People want to get to know you. Why you do something is interesting. What motivated you to write this particular story is interesting. People like what they perceive as secrets--those things that someone reading your book and/or bio won't know. Let them in on some secrets.

Second, I play with my outline until I'm happy with it. If I'm doing a PowerPoint, I build it and add images, etc.

Third, I practice out loud. This is where I discover:
• Things I've left out or should leave out
• Awkward phrasing
• Where I need to pause or hold up a prop
• A better ordering of the subtopics
• Perhaps a better story to tell to illustrate my point
• An approximate "runtime"
During this stage I may make reminders to myself, such as smile, or pass out a handout. Note: even adults can't listen while papers are being passed around, so don't talk during this time. Call them back to attention when ready. During my out loud practice I may realize I'm trying to cover too much for my allotted time. Rarely do I find I have too little.

I make my changes and go over it again. This time I make sure I'm not speaking too fast. And I practice again. And again until I'm not making changes but just rehearsing. It's not memorizing per se, but it's definitely familiarizing. And it means I won't be reading directly from my notes, but glancing down at them or looking at what I've chosen to include on the PowerPoint slide.

If I get the chance, I practice with a small audience. This person (or several people) can point out where he wants to know more, where she was confused, where he thought something was too basic, etc. Even if you receive no feedback from your audience, you'll hear problems. If something was supposed to be funny, did your audience laugh or grin? If not, the humor is not working. Watch for expressions of boredom.

Practicing for an Interview

But how does this fit with an interview? If you ask, an interviewer can give you the questions ahead of time, or at least you'll know what topics will be covered. Prepare answers to the exact or possible questions, such as "What are your favorite books?" or "What's the best part of writing?." Practice those answers until they flow off of your tongue. On the day of, if the interviewer asks a question that stumps you, use some stalling techniques to let yourself come up with an answer. E.g. "That's a good question." "I've never thought about that." Or even "No one has ever asked that before." If you can come up with an answer, well and good, give it. If not, there's no shame in saying something like, "I really don't have an answer for that."

Practicing for Acting it Out

If you are using the "act it out" method, how are you choosing volunteers? A show of hands? The teacher selecting? Award for answering a question first? If you plan ahead, you'll be more comfortable. Will you need/want props for "act it out?" Gather them and put in a handy container. Will you lay them all on a table ahead of time or will you be pulling them you're your container as you go? The latter is often more affective. Write out your instructions ahead of time and practice those as well.

Microphone Handling

Will you be using a mic? If so, practice with a real one if you can. Schools, churches, and other organizations may let you try one. Here are a few basic microphone rules:
• Don't tap a microphone to see if it is on. They usually have a light. Or you can blow across it.
• Speak into the microphone to test it.
• Hold the microphone near your mouth.
• Don't be afraid of the microphone. If the sound is too loud in the room, whoever is controlling the speakers should turn it down versus you pulling the microphone away.
• If you get feedback, make sure you aren't standing in front of the speakers.
• If you get popping, put the microphone below your mouth.
• Don't freak out at the sound of your voice--it only sounds odd to you.
If you can't practice with a real mic, at least hold something that is a similar size to your mouth when practicing. And when you arrive early, test the real mic at your venue.

Making Mistakes

Okay, I've prepared and practiced, but during the actual presentation I'm afraid I'll make mistakes. Of course you will. We all do. Correct the mispronounced word and go on. Don't anguish about it. If you leave something out, you can always say something like, "Oh, and I meant to mention earlier . . ." or "One last thought on the topic of . . .". If you get lost, pause and say, "I'm going to check my notes and make sure I haven't left something out." If you get sidetracked, you can even say "where were we?" and someone will probably answer.

Remember, the audience doesn't expect you to be perfect. What they expect is to be entertained or learn something. People like being in the know and when you tell something personal, they'll enjoy it. Be who you are, be prepared, and practice, and I'm betting it will go well.


Public Speaking Phobia

cartoon-1300891_1280.jpgRecently I've seen a number of writers almost panicking about being asked to speak. I understand. I am an innately shy introvert. As a kid I wouldn't call the library to see if they were open. (Obviously before internet days.) I didn't take debate or go out for drama in high school. At church as an adult I remember reading a portion of a letter in front of the small congregation and afterwards being afraid I wouldn't be able to return to my seat as my knees were shaking so hard.

I think we approach public speaking all wrong. We're all storytellers. Who hasn't been with a group of friends, or at the dinner table, and told a funny story of something that happened that day? Or when someone else tells a story of a kid/pet/work, been able to contribute a story of your own? We share what excites us, amuses us, annoys us all the time.

Think of a funny story right now and tell it! Ack. The pressure's on. I'm writing this and I can't even come up with one! That's because it is a command performance. We think about public speaking as command performances. What if instead we thought of it as talking to friends? A conversation. A conversation with a focused topic.

No one knows your book(s) better than you. You know your process, your struggles, your successes, your mistakes. You know what motivated you to write. Those are things the friends in your prospective audience want to know. Those are things you can share.

"But I hate speeches!" So don't do a speech. There are other options. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Have someone interview you. Ask someone to collect questions from the audience ahead of time. Or create questions yourself. Or find a list of commonly asked author questions on the internet. In either case, take the questions, decide which ones you like and put those on your list. Order the questions in an order that makes sense to you. If there are questions that can be answered with "yes or no" mentally add "why?"
  2. Have a conversation. Ask the group a question or two. Answer too. For example, I started out writing magazine pieces, so when I went into a classroom, I asked, "Do you like to read magazines?" Of course, some of the students said yes or raised their hands. "What magazines do you like to read?" I called on specific kids. I told them magazines I like. Then I told them what I like about reading magazines. I explained the different ways magazines get their stories and articles. I might ask "What's the difference between a story and an article?" A student or two answers. I agree. I tell them what I like to write best. I might show them some of my stories or articles. Read one. I might ask if they've ever gotten a grade they weren't happy about on their writing. I tell them writers get rejections and explain how that feels like a failing grade.
  3. Do a reading from your book or a wip. Follow it up with an interview or Q&A.
  4. Do a show and tell with slides or PowerPoint. You can start with your bio. Students like seeing pictures of you when you were young, where you lived, where you write, your pets, etc. If you did research for your book, show pictures of places you went, stacks of books from the library, people you interviewed. Show them rejections. Read portions from discouraging ones and encouraging ones. Show them a stack of manuscript pages. Show them a critiqued page with writing all over it. Show them an editorial letter.
  5. Act it out. Have you ever acted out a scene from your story or done an action trying to figure out how to write it? Show the audience that process. Encourage them to try writing some action so others know what the action is. Or in a classroom have students act out various actions and see if the others can guess the action. (I've provided actions on strips of paper for kids to choose from.)

Wow, I've gone on much longer than I had intended. So next time, I'll talk about preparation and practice.

Diverse Books

Online Resources for Children's Writers and Illustrators

Rhyming Picture Books

Preparation and Practice for Public Speaking

Public Speaking Phobia

Authors in the Classroom

Why Twitter?

What Should I Describe?

Magazine Story or Picture Book?

Nonfiction Writing

Do It Myself!

Swift Fiction - The Short Story in Focus

What Stops Me Reading!

Distancing Your Reader

Resizing Photos for Use on Websites

Overwriting

Are List Serves a Service or a Waste of Time?

Reducing Word Count

MS Wish List

How to Stand Out

NAMING CHARACTERS - FROM MARY'S NOTEBOOK

Kids Reading Books and Saying What They Think

Retreat!

Selling Photos to Magazines

Poor Man's Copyright, a Myth

Missing Students

The Right Number of Characters

What Do You Do When You're Stuck?

Naming Your Character

Considering Self-Publishing?

When Educational Publishers Ask for Your Résumé

Say What?

Write Well When the Muse Is Sleeping

Writing Process Blog Tour

Truth in Fiction

Plodding or Plotting

Raise the stakes, honey!

One Size Does NOT Fit All

BACK UP!

175 Proof

He Thought to Himself and Other Excesses

Confessions of a Writer Easily Distracted

Is That Right?

Writing Business Expenses

Subjective

The Hero's Journey for Magazine Writers

Altitude and Attitude - Adult or Child?

Slow Down, You Move too Fast

Kidz Only! Adults Keep Out!

A Dark Side of Social Media

Do you struggle with grammar?

Can children and teens get their work published?

Patience Required

I'm a Work-in-Progress

Illustrator Resources

Inspiration from Kate DiCamillo

Are Listserves a Service or a Waste of Time?

Writing and Life Balance

How To Start Querying an Agent

WEBSITE Q&A

Nancy I. Sanders on Writing Nonfiction

Heartbroken?

Perfecting Dialogue Punctuation

Ouch! Thin Skin!

Agents Telling What They Want

School Visits, the Extended Version

Going Back to School

One of 75 finalists

Make It Work for You

Down with Discouragement!

Do as I Say

Professional Problem Maker

4 Ways to Make Your Characters "Talk Different"

Picture Book Month

Work-for-Hire Resources

Work-for-Hire Wisdom

Work-for-Hire also known as WFH

Picture Perfect Picture Books

Picture Book Resources

Author Talks versus Workshops

My Favorite Online Resources

Technicalities - More Thoughts on Public Speaking

Do as I Say

Theme List Tactics

What Would Sue Do?

Attribution or Action?

Don't Throw in the Towel

Do You Remember?

Dragged to the Podium

Double Identity - Pen Names

Before You Sign: Contract Resources

Welcome, Diane Bailey, Work-for-hire Champion

Ready, Set, Goal

An Editor's Day

How'd You Get That Gig?

On the Hunt for Ideas

Bloggers Supporting Other Bloggers

Shadowing a Submission

Give up or press on?

Turning Ideas Into Stories - Workshop

After the Critique

Keeping Track

The Synopsis Shrink

Mind Your Cs and Qs - part three

Mind Your Cs and Qs - part two

Mind Your Cs and Qs - part one

Standard Manuscript Format

CUT IN THE CRITIQUE

Critique Methods

Market Research Resources - Agents

THE SANDWICH OF CRITIQUE

CRITIQUE GROUPS: GO FOR IT!

Organizations and Groups

Writing a Novel? Where Does It Fit?

Meeting Editors and Agents - In Person

Meet Editors and Agents - Online

Book It! - Recording What You Read

Theme and Premise

Self-Editing Tips

The Story Ladder or Novel Timeline

Showing Versus Telling

Read, Read, Read

The Power of a Good First Line

Hooking your Reader

Listen to the Voices

DIALOGUE TIPS

Viewpoint in Children's Fiction

Making Friends: Character Development

Glossary of Publishing Terms

Genre Resources

Children's Book Genres

Why Write?