Recently in The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing Category

Kids Reading Books and Saying What They Think

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image courtesy of Phaedra Wilkinson on morguefile.com
I recently ran across some blogs of preteen and teen bloggers because of MMGM (Marvelous Middle Grade Monday). Which made me interested in looking for more teens blogging about books.

It's fun seeing how articulate these kid bloggers are and what they are interested in reading. These kids are promoting good books now, which is so exciting. It was also fun seeing the books we like in common. We may be many years apart in age, but we share a love for some of the same stories.

What does that mean for me as a writer? It's a reminder that inside at some level we are still the same no matter what age we are. We still have hopes and dreams, struggle with issues of self-esteem or failure, have worries in our lives, etc. Those universal experiences are what make it possible for our stories to reach others and for others' stories to reach us.

It also is giving me a chance to see what books are appealing to some of today's kids. (I have grandsons and we discuss books they are reading, but no granddaughters, so don't get much firsthand experience on the girl side.) And, yes, this means my to-be-read list is getting longer and longer.

In case you are interested in checking out these young reviewers yourself, here's some I found.

Personal Websites:

The Paige Turner

Cindy Reads A Lot

Libraries:

This LA County Library has a teen review board! What a great idea!

Oh, look, Sno-Isle Libraries does the same thing, plus you get to find out what grade the teen is in.

Teen Space at the Cincinnati Library has a place for teens to review books and music.

Other:

Teen Ink is a magazine that features book reviews (and much more) by teens. Of course, at this age, many are reading "adult" books, too.

LitPick Student Book Reviews features reviews from kids all over the world.

Reader View Kids is a company that posts kids' book reviews.

Like many blogs, I found ones started by teens that have lasted a number of years and then the teen (or now adult) quit posting. Even found one library system that quit having teen posts although the old ones are still up.

If you know of any teens blogging about books, I'd love to hear about it.



Retreat!

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Recently, I visited Kansas and Missouri friends for a writing retreat where we each worked on our own projects. Four of us were writing and one illustrating. Because this group used to write together once or twice a week, it was easy to fall into a comfortable rhythm. During meal times and evenings we chatted, played games, and chatted some more. Of course, we took breaks for bird watching, stretching our legs, seeing the fish in the pond get fed, etc.

One of the advantages of a retreat like this is limited cell service and limited household chores (only cooking and cleaning up after meals). That meant dedicated time to focus on work. I caught up on a bunch of rewrites I wanted/needed to do and moved forward in my WIP. I saw others doing research, writing, planning a future book, editing, drawing and painting. Work!

Another advantage of a retreat is the shared information. One gal is working on a low residency MFA in children's writing through Vermont College of Fine Arts. She shared tidbits from lectures. We urged her to get her submission in for an award. We all encouraged another gal not to give up writing. And, of course, we exchanged information about good books--now my "to be read" list is even longer. ☺

A task I was doing was comp titles for a picture book I'd written. One friend asked me how I found them. "I just used Amazon," I said. I showed her there was a lot of nonfiction on my topic, but only one fiction picture book and it was from the 1980s.

The same gal asked a question about her new Mac (she's switched from PC) and the result was I and another made changes to our word doc default, too.

So, work, exchanging information, good friends, fun, food, all equaled a great time! The others enjoyed it too and we unanimously decided to repeat the retreat. THANK YOU, Heather Trent Beers, Kate Barsotti, Jenn Bailey and Lisha Cauthen. It was so much fun being with you all.

Recommendations for planning and enjoying YOUR personal creative retreat:

  1. 1. Choose people you trust and respect. Everyone at our retreat paid her agreed upon share. I love that my friends were considerate and said to the two of us with knee problems, "take the downstairs bedrooms."
  2. 2. Don't invite people who do drama. No one fussed about where she sat, slept, what she ate, sharing bathrooms, etc. People drank, or didn't drink, alcohol as desired, but no one got drunk. A peaceful atmosphere goes a long way to make a productive retreat.
  3. 3. Plan at least two full days for work not counting arrival time and departure time. We arrived on a Friday afternoon and settled in and didn't worry about serious work that day, although we talked about writing and the publishing business. (Of course!) This let everyone unwind. We left Monday morning at check out time--again since we were packing up, no creative work was done. Loved having two solid days of accomplishments.
  4. 4. If you're not used to working with these people, agree on an informal schedule.
  5. 5. Bring some fun games or relaxing activities. But if someone wants to continue working when everyone else is recreating, no nagging.
  6. 6. Keep your group small enough that you can share a bed and breakfast or retreat cabin/vacation house and be the only guests.
  7. 7. Someone needs to be the point person to find and book a venue. We started planning two plus months in advance.
  8. 8. Decide whether wi-fi at your location is important to the group or not. We wanted it.
  9. 9. Share the food expense, meal planning, preparation and cleanup. The only problem we had was too much food. For example, ladies kept adding items to bring that weren't on the agreed list, so we had duplicate snack foods, which returned home. (Or choose a venue that provides food, although you'll still probably want snacks.)
  10. 10. Arrange carpooling because it's a lot of fun to talk while driving, too.

My local writing group and I have been talking about a retreat. I think we need to quit talking and plan!

Selling Photos to Magazines

photo courtesy of morguefile.com
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Do you have your own images that would make a great addition to your article?

Do you know if the magazine you're submitting to accepts photos?

Since images are often purchased separately, offering photos can increase your rate of pay. However, just as there are rules and guidelines for writing, you'll find the same for photo submissions.

First, consider:


  1. 1. Do these photos add value to the article or short story? Do they help illustrate or demonstrate the content?

  2. 2. Do you own these photos? You either took the pictures with permission in a private location or they were taken in a public place.

  3. 3. Or, do you have permission of the photo owner to use these images? If so, note photos courtesy of "first name last name." Your editor may want contact info to verify this permission.

  4. 4. Are they quality photos? Do they have good composition, originality, good color and lighting? Are the images in focus or deliberately out of focus for effect? Are they cropped and/or modified well? Compare your images with pictures in the magazine you're targeting. Be honest with yourself. Can you see your photo in this magazine?

  5. 5. Do you have a photographer's release? If the picture shows a recognizable person, the editor may need a copy of this form. Here's a good site with information on release forms: http://www.free-legal-document.com/sample-model-release.html. You may also search online for model release or photo release to see similar forms.

  6. 6. Does the photo format fit the magazine's photo guidelines? You'll find some information in market books, but check the magazine's own submission guidelines, which are often available online.

  7. 7. What rights you are selling.

How to sell your photos:


  1. 1. Find out what format the magazine wants. Yes, it's so important, I'm repeating it. Formats usually are:

  2. a. Digital, including number of pixels

  3. b. Color slides or transparencies

  4. c. Black and white photos, a size is often specified


  5. 2. When submitting a query letter for an article:

  6. a. Send a sample of the best photo. This can pique an editor's interest.

  7. b. Similar to a bibliography, list the photos available with a brief description of each.

  8. c. Communicate the format of your picture(s) to the editor in a way which shows you know what format the magazine expects.


  9. 3. When sending the full article either on spec or by request:

  10. a. Send a list of the enclosed or attached photos. Include a label for each photo, a brief description, and if the magazine puts captions on photos, possible captions.

  11. b. When sending by snail mail, put photos in protective sheets, and protect them with cardboard. Don't send your only copy.

  12. c. Send a photographer's release, if the magazine indicates they want one. At least mention you have it available.

  13. d. Depending on the type of article, you may need to indicate where each photo goes in the article. This can be done simply by putting "(photo #)" in the text and including numbers on your list of photos.


  14. 4. Some magazines may be interested in photos of children involved in activities or in photos of animals and plants. They would probably not purchase them outright, but have them on hand to use when needed, or contact you when looking for a specific type of photo.

  15. a. Send photocopies, tear sheets or other nonreturnable samples.

  16. b. Include previous photo publishing credits (where your photos have been published before, if any).

  17. 5. Never send your only copy of a photo. Photos are usually returned but can get lost or damaged.

  18. 6. Label any physical copies with your name and photo identification (name or number).

Sample photo guidelines--note how much they vary and remember they can change at any time:

U.S. Kids magazines: "We do not purchase single photos. We do purchase short photo features (up to 8 or 10 images) or high-quality photos that accompany articles and illustrate editorial material. Digital format is best with high resolution (300 dpi in an image size of at least 4×6 inches). We purchase one-time rights to photos but reserve the right to use the images on our websites. Please include captions and signed model releases."

Nature Friend: "Photographs are selected, month-by-month, based on articles selected that need illustrations, along with a front and back cover photo. What this means to a photographer is that photographs are secondary to writings and cannot be anticipated and selected in advance. Photographic submissions that require us to return material in a specified number of weeks will likely not be useful to us. Photographs that are in our files the day we are making selections will stand the greatest chance of being selected for use."

Dramatics: "Photos and illustrations to accompany articles are welcomed, and when available, should be submitted at the same time as the manuscript. Acceptable forms: color transparencies, 35mm or larger; color or black and white prints, 5 × 7 or larger; line art (generally used to illustrate technical articles); JPEG and TIFF files of high-quality scans. Unless other arrangements are made, payment for articles includes payment for photos and illustrations. We occasionally buy photo essays.

Just as it is work to sell an article or short story, selling photos takes effort. However, following the guidelines may give you the reward of seeing your own pictures in print.

Poor Man's Copyright, a Myth

image courtesy of jdurham on morguefile.com
file801246654450.jpgA number of years ago at a writer's meeting the issue of "poor man's copyright" was raised as a means to protect your works. Basically the idea is to put your work in an envelope, seal it, mail it and the postmark will "prove" when you wrote it protecting your copyright.

Recently, I heard chatter about this on a listserve, so I updated my research on this topic and am sharing it here.

One of the biggest flaws of this idea is that the postmark and seal prove something.


  • What is to prevent someone from mailing an UNsealed envelope to themselves? It has a postmark. But since it is unsealed, material can be placed in it at any time--2 months later, 2 years later, 10 years later, then sealed.

  • Sealed envelopes can be steamed open (and probably opened by many other methods that I don't know), the material replaced with something else, then resealed.

Read what the copyright office itself has to say at www.copyright.gov. The Frequently Asked Questions page is very helpful resource. This page has "Copyright Registration of Books, Manuscripts, and Speeches."

A book recommended by the Author's Guild is The Writer's Legal Guide by Tad Crawford & Kay Murray. It is in its fourth printing.

Here are some articles and a transcript on this topic:

"Poor Man's Copyright" by Peter Clarke

"Poor Man's Copyright" by ©opyright Authority.com

"How To Copyright a Book" at Go-Publish-Yourself.com begins with this sentence: "Before learning how to copyright a book, you need to learn how not to copyright book."

Intellectual property lawyer Linda Joy Kattwinkel talked a lot about copyright in this chat on the ICL website.

Want to know more?

Some authors may want to consider an intellectual property rights lawyer. I found some information on copyrights here at intellectual-property.lawyers.com. Here's an interesting post with a Literary Agent Attorney FAQ from Literary-Agents.com.

So now you know--poor man's copyright, only a myth.

Missing Students

sw_Editing_N10_20130809_230442.jpgphoto courtesy of Stuart Whitmore

Not as in "no one knows where there are," but as in "my student load is greatly reduced and I'm missing seeing people learn and grow in the area of writing for children." (I teach for the Institute of Children's Literature.) I love it when someone "gets it"--whatever it might be for them: showing versus telling, passive writing, organizing an article, keeping the child main character in control, adding sensory details, overcoming danglers or run-ons. The list of possibilities is lengthy.

Here's a sampling of quotes from students:

"Thanks for your encouragement with my stories and the constructive criticism." Janice, March 2012

"Hey, thanks for the helpful insights on my first paper." Chris, May 2012

"I sure have enjoyed the course and have already seen a big improvement on my writing skills. Hope you have seen a difference, too. Thanks for being a wonderful instructor (and I really do mean that)." - Carrie, October 2012

"What a great experience I have had-with an excellent teacher. I have learned more about my writing style with you, than in many English classes throughout my adult life. You are succinct, kind, and inventive with your feedback." - Sally, September 2013

"Thank you so much for your time and guidance throughout this experience. I took your words and criticism to heart and learned so much. I appreciate you spending the past year with me and for all your guidance and encouragement!" - Shannon, October 2013

"You have been a wonderful instructor over the past year. I have appreciate your candid feedback and the encouragement you have given me along the way." - Lori, November 2013

"Thank you for all of your suggestions, critiques, and help!! I have learned a lot!! I realize now that writing for publication requires a lot more than jotting a story down!! I appreciate your patience when I took such a long time in turning in some of my assignments!!" - Peggy, June 2014

With fewer students, I don't see these kinds of comments as often anymore. What's a teacher to do? Think outside the proverbial box.

After spending an hour with one children's writer who asked me to mentor her for pay, and finding that was helpful for her, I realized I could offer paid mentoring to others.

This is what you'll get for an initial hour of mentoring from me at the cost of $40:

Manuscript critique

  • Up to five pages in standard manuscript format

  • Overall comments--both what's working well and what isn't

  • Line-by-line editing, if needed

Submission help

  • Query or cover letter critique

  • Or help in writing one

  • How to submit electronically, if needed

Answers to questions

  • Craft related

  • Genre specific

  • Publishing info

  • I may not know the answer, but often know where to find the answer

  • No question is "too stupid"



How Paid Mentoring works:

  • Customization to meet your writing needs

  • Meeting in person with print outs of manuscript and/or letter(s)--coffee shops or bookstores are good venues

  • Email critique(s) and Q&A - an hour's worth of my time

  • Afterwards you'll receive an invoice or statement you can use for your taxes



Interested? Feel free to email me to discuss at sue@susanuhlig.com. If you'd prefer to discuss over the phone, email me your phone number (and time zone) and I'll return your call.


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 can 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?