Recently in The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing Category

When Educational Publishers Ask for Your Résumé

Guest post by Jan Fields

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detective.jpgA résumé that you send on first contact with a publisher (especially an educational publisher) is not the same kind of résumé you would use to find a job as a teacher or other position. The writer's résumé is basically a map of writing experience and any useful knowledge/experience/expertise in your brain because that's where the gems that interest the publisher lie. Approach your résumé by asking yourself, why does the publisher want to see my résumé? What's in it for him/her? The publisher approaches your résumé like a detective: "what do I see here that I could make use of?"

You're selling your KNOWLEDGE, EXPERIENCE, INTERESTS, and SKILLS.

So what kinds of things will you need to include? One very "normal" résumé item is education. Much of the time, the scope of your education doesn't matter, but occasionally an editor will look specifically for someone with a certain level of education (this is especially true with assessment writing or when a publisher is looking for a specific kind of expert.) Or a publisher may look for someone who'll look good in their catalogue because of education level. Education is almost always a bonus, but (most of the time) it's not a deal breaker.

Another "normal" résumé item is job experience, but most of the time, the jobs you've held won't be of interest to a publisher. However, if you have educational or classroom experience, or experience working with children in another setting, this will be of interest. It will suggest that any school scenes or similar moments in the book will be based on much more recent experience than your memories of your own childhood. For example, if you're pitching a fiction series that takes place in the classroom to an educational publisher, you BETTER have classroom experience as a teacher, room mom or other volunteer or the publisher will pass because they will worry that your books won't mirror modern classroom settings.

Even experience with children's Sunday School or Girl Scout leader suggests you are familiar with children TODAY and won't be writing with only your memories of what childhood was like when you were a kid. And if your experience is unusual, you never know what a publisher will cherry pick THAT part of the résumé and ask for a proposal on it. For example, I once volunteered to help with a creative problem solving competition. I mentioned that in passing to an educational publisher and was asked if I'd consider sending a proposal connected to that experience.

Focus on skills & experience

Any area where you are already an expert will shave time off the learning curve, so if you're a licensed diver, or you've taken a flying course, or you can rock climb, or whatever - put it in. BUT be careful NOT to include things that you don't want to write about. If you're a licensed pilot but don't ever want to write books related to flying, you might not want to mention being a pilot because editors will ask. So add in any unusual expertise, experience or interest. You honestly never know what will spur interest and result in an assignment offer.

Make the Résumé look LIGHT

The easier your résumé is to consume, the more likely an editor is to examine every item on it. Keep in mind, this is a different document than the one you would send when seeking a job. You don't need to give addresses and dates and extensive information about each place where you've worked. The removal of all that extraneous detail will help you to make your résumé look like something a publisher could easily look over on even the most stressful day. So don't overburden the document. Don't try to look too academic. The look you're going for is clean, light, and easily consumed. If you don't have a website, but you're regularly submitting to publishers who ask for résumés -- consider getting a website. It's a great place to put the more extensive details you didn't put on the submitted résumé. And it's a great place to load more writing samples. The kinds of editors who ask for résumés are also the kind who check out websites -- so having a clean, professional website to back up your résumé is always a bonus.


JAN'S BIO

Since my first magazine publication in the 1980s, I have been steadily writing for money in some form. Today I have over twenty books in print and still more in the pipeline - books for children and adults. I've also written for magazines, educational publishers and even a toy company! Writing is the only thing I've ever done really well that didn't eventually become more like work than fun.

Read more here. And see her own résumé here.

Say What?

photo courtesy of luisrock62 from morguefile.com
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Once a friend and I were discussing how people say "you." Where she grew up, in the Ozarks, it was "youns" for one person and for more "younses." When my brother-in-law and family lived in Greenville, SC, they explained that "you all" or "y'all" is said to one person and to more than one is "all y'all."

Going heavy on that type of dialect in a story can make for difficult reading. However, it got me thinking about regional differences that could add flavor without dialect.

In Denver, my neighbor called a grocery cart, a grocery buggy. Buggy makes me think baby...

Some brand names change by region, too--same product, different name. i.e. Best Foods/Hellmann's Mayonnaise. Although be aware--there can be trademark issues with using brand names.

Traveling in upper New York near the Hudson River many years ago, we stopped at a restaurant and I ordered a "deluxe" hamburger. The waitress didn't understand what I wanted, so I explained I wanted lettuce and tomato. She said, "Oh, California style!" As a native Oregonian I was tempted to say, "No, California style would be avocado and sprouts!"

During a Kansas critique group, I read that my characters jumped onto each other creating a pile of kids and I called it a "pig pile." The Midwest natives explained they call it a "dog pile." My image of a pile of baby piglets changed to that of something not so pleasant from a dog.

Once I mentioned to someone how I saw my first fireflies in Kansas. She was shocked to discover they don't exist west of the Rockies. Though not sure how strict that border is as we never saw them in Colorado either...

Sitting at a banquet table with writers several of us poured milk in our hot tea. We'd all learned the habit in England. Speaking of tea, I've always ordered iced tea with those simple words. I learned in Joplin, Missouri that most people order "sweet tea," so there I must specify "unsweet."

I've retrained myself not to ask what flavors of "pop" someone has, but instead to call it "soda." I've heard some areas refer to all flavors of carbonated sweet drinks as "coke."

Clothing matters, too. Another brother-in-law, a long time resident of Montana, traveled to Alabama on business. The man picking him up at the airport had never met him but unerringly picked him out of the crowd because of his cowboy hat and heavy coat.

If you've never lived or visited another place, you may not be aware of your regionalisms. So take a gander (look, look see) at the Dictionary of American Regional English and check out what I think a "bear claw" is! (Listed in 100 Sample Entries.) You also might want to follow @darewords on twitter. It's fun and educational.

Write Well When the Muse Is Sleeping

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sleeping lion.jpg Not in the mood to write? No inspiration from the muse? Don't just give up, write anyway!

I love this quote from Peter De Vries, " I write when I'm inspired. I see to it I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning." And look at this comment, "In order to have a real relationship with our creativity, we must take the time and care to cultivate it." -Julia Cameron. That all means showing up! Or as Jane Yolen says, "BIC: butt in chair."

That's also the reasoning behind NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month). When a friend of mine completed this for the first time, she was so encouraged by reaching 25,000 words, then 50,000 words. She talked about writing "through." Write through the rough spots; write knowing you are writing badly; keep going. She learned so much about her characters and how she wanted her story to play out. She also learned about herself.

Recently, another writing friend and I were discussing how writing creates writing. The more you sit (or stand) and write, the more motivated we get to write. We get excited as we see what our characters are doing. We get inspired by the completion of a scene, a well said paragraph, word count going up, etc.

For me, sometimes I make myself "get in the mood," by rereading what I've written in the WIP novel. That might be the last three chapters or just a scene, but it helps me get into the flow again and remember what is at stake for my character.

I also find it helpful when I take a chapter to my critique group and they ask, "What happened here?"--referring to the between the scenes I wrote or when I glossed over something with a simple line. They awaken my muse in that moment.

The muse is like sunshine--it's so easy to write then. But we all experience rainy seasons too--times when the muse can't be found. This is where we find out if we are a real writer.

Julie A. Campbell also says, "The beauty hidden inside a tiny seed can never be discovered until it is planted, until the rains fall and the sun shines down upon it. The process takes time and patience..."

So how do YOU move forward if your muse is asleep?

Writing Process Blog Tour

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The lovely Heather Trent Beers tagged me for this blog tour. We met in Kansas and she's definitely one of the peeps I miss now I'm back in the Pacific Northwest. Heather is an encourager. Read about her writing processes here: http://heathertrentbeers.blogspot.com/2014/05/blog-tour-my-writing-process.html. I like that she, like me, does a variety of types of writing.

What am I working on?

Usually I'm working on more than one project--often a novel and a picture book or a short story. Sometimes two novels. Right now I'm working on an upper middle grade novel--I'm not the fastest writer (see more than one project), but this story is about 2/3s done. On the back burner is a ya novel. I have some not-there-yet picture books in process, as well.

My chapter book called "Imagine That" is on submission with an agent--I should be hearing something soon and I need to get it sent out to others if she isn't interested. I also have a picture book called "Pizza Dog" on submission to an editor. Both of these were requested manuscripts from critiques at writing events.

I occasionally dig out some of my short stories and look for homes for them. Sometimes they are new stories--sometimes I'm selling reprint rights, etc.

As a writing instructor and editor, I'm frequently commenting on the work of others. It's hard for me just to tell someone something is wrong--I want to give a resource to explain it further, too. That's one of the reasons I have a bunch of resources here on my website.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Who made up this question? It's a hard one to answer. *grin*

My novels often have a theme of "facing your fears." I didn't realize I was doing that for a long time, but from my one out-of-print novel to my current WIP all of them deal with that issue in one way or another.

Why do I write what I do?

I love writing for children from the little guys through teens. I dreamed of being an adult writer and have some novel manuscripts languishing in the drawer, but I then I got hooked by kids' magazines and books when I took a correspondence course through the Institute of Children's Literature. I still read some adult books for enjoyment, but I think children's books are often better written than many adult books.

How does my writing process work?

As I mentioned earlier, I'm often working on more than one project at a time. That means if I get stuck on one project, I switch to another project for a while and let the first story simmer in my subconscious.

The actual how is I write on my desktop (a PC) or on my laptop (a Mac). I have a standing station for my desktop and of course the laptop can go anywhere--often a recliner in the living room. My favorite way to write is to meet with other writers away from home and have dedicated time to write. I'm not as easily distracted there.

I'm definitely not an out-liner. Instead I start with a character and his/her situation. I have an idea of how it might end. I start writing and learn about my characters as I go. Sometimes I do some writing exercises to learn more about my character. I usually write in scenes with a page turn at the end and like to write at least a few lines of the next scene before stopping--that way I don't forget what I had in mind. I usually go back and revise what I wrote the previous time before continuing on. That reminds me where I am and what's happening. It helps me get in the flow again.

Eventually, I start taking chapters to a critique group, which causes more rewriting. I go to a conference or writing event and something said there makes me think of something I need to add or change in my WIP and I rewrite some more. Something happens with my character and I realize I need to go plant some seeds earlier in the story, so more rewriting.

Some writers know how many versions of a story they have--I don't. The only time I keep old versions if I change the story majorly, e.g. from 1st person to 3rd person. Otherwise, I just keep saving each revised chapter in the same document.

When I've done all that, I put it in one document and search for weasel words and overused works. I use a story ladder to check the flow and frequency of subplot mentions or small details that should be repeated in some way or another.

When I think it is as good as I can make it, I have trusted readers read the whole thing. I know I'm weak in going deep into characters so I ask for help there. Then I rewrite again.

Writers I'd like you to meet:

I first met SueBE, as she is affectionately, called online. I was in the Seattle area--she in the St. Louis area. When I moved to Kansas, we got to meet face-to-face and she's just as gracious in person as online. When I met her she was the long-time Regional Advisor for SCBWI Missouri.

In addition to writing a wide variety of nonfiction, Sue Bradford Edwards teaches Writing Nonfiction for Kids and Teens through WOW! Women on Writing. She writes fiction too but nonfiction is her bread-and-butter. To find out more about her, visit her blog (suebe.wordpress.com) or her site (www.suebradfordedwards.com).


Another former SCBWI Regional Advisor I'd like to introduce you to is Erin Dealey. We met at an LA conference, where we've continued to meet annually and we are in touch online. She also writes in a variety of genres, from board books to YA.

Erin's newest picture book, DECK THE WALLS (Sleeping Bear Press/ Fall 2013) is a kids'-eye view of a holiday food fight and family. Her picture books with Atheneum, GOLDIE LOCKS HAS CHICKEN POX, and LITTLE BO PEEP CAN'T GET TO SLEEP have taken her to school visits as far south as Brazil and as far north as Tok, Alaska. Check out her Writer's Rap at http://www.erindealey.com, her blog at http://erindealey.com/blog/, and follow her on Twitter: @ErinDealey.


I met Martha Brockenbrough through mutual Western Washington friends. I really like the thoughtful posts on her blog: http://marthabrockenbrough.squarespace.com/blog. She wrote an educational humor column for Encarta for nine years, and founded National Grammar Day and SPOGG, the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar. A friend after my own heart.

Martha is the author of seven books, five for young readers. The three out now are the YA novel DEVINE INTERVENTION (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books), which was one of Kirkus Reviews Top 100 Books for teens in 2012; FINDING BIGFOOT (Feiwel and Friends); and THE DINOSAUR TOOTH FAIRY (Scholastic/AAL). A second YA novel, THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH, comes out in spring of 2015. Another picture book, LOVE, SANTA, comes out in Fall of 2016. Both are with Arthur Levine at Scholastic. You can follow Martha on Twitter, too: @mbrockenbrough


These gals will post their writing processes on Monday, May 19th. Check out what they have to say.


Truth in Fiction

image courtesy of chelle on morguefile.com
truth.jpgOur fiction is inspired by reality and by truth. However, reality and truth have to be used judicially in writing fiction.

Some writers make the mistake of writing something that actually happened as fiction and when someone says, "It's not believable," the writer says, "But it actually happened that way!" Perhaps the writer should use the event as an anecdote for an article or a personal essay.

Fiction has to be believable. It can't break that willing suspension of disbelief. Yes, we want the reader to feel as if what they are reading actually happened to the characters. However, in story readers expect a logical progression and a satisfying resolution. Reality often isn't logical, nor does it have a satisfying end, and readers know that.

Does that mean writers can never write about a true event as fiction? Of course not. But the writer has to be willing to step away from what actually happened to make a better story. For example, when my middle grandson was in third grader, he got slapped by a little girl in his class. The slap was witnessed and the girl confessed to slapping him another time, too. It was serious enough she was suspended from school. My grandson couldn't resolve this problem himself. He wasn't allowed to. But could you or I write a story where the slap wasn't witnessed and he had to resolve the problem in some way? Definitely.

Truth also gets used in fiction to add verity. The day after Thanksgiving in 2012, I fell and broke my leg, which required surgery. My fall down a few stairs doesn't make a story. But, I can use much of my experience in bits and pieces in future stories. Need someone to be coming to consciousness after fainting? I know what that feels like and can write about it. Writing about someone in a wheel chair? I now have been personally frustrated by the lack of handicapped parking. Need to describe the flaccidity of muscles not used for several weeks? I witnessed it in my own leg.

Sometimes the truth we need to tell to make a story realistic or believable isn't our truth. I've never been a boy, nor have I raised one, so I have to depend on what I have learned and can learn about boys to write from a boy viewpoint. This is where I personally rely on help from males around me and those who have raised boys. Articles, stories, books, etc. help me in my quest to be realistic, too.

Another place where truth is used judicially in fiction is when the story has an unreliable narrator. Often this is someone who is lying to himself. As the story unfolds the reader learns the character isn't as innocent of wrong doing as he says he is. His actions have shown otherwise.

Another piece of reality we don't use in fiction is how people actually talk. Listen to all the ums, uhs, and sometimes meaningless and often off-topic talk that goes on in many conversations. They'd make boring reading. Every "hello" or "how are you?" or "what do you want for dinner?" isn't necessary in a story either. Fictional dialogue usually has to be much more direct and to the point.

I'll end with this quote from Jay Asher @jayasherguy, "Truth isn't stranger than fiction (unless you haven't read very much fiction), but it often has too many coincidences for fiction." Don't forget it!

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?