Quote for the SUMMER

"Books are about change. No, really, they are." ~Brian Farrey

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

So, I am finally making the time to actually write a blog post...AND announce the long-awaited winner of the Lucky Clover Picture Book WINTER Contest.

Congratulations goes out to...

Kimberly Cowger for Sprinkles Goes to School! 

Kimberly, you will receive your long-awaited critique in your e-mail shortly. And if you have perchance already made these edits, I will even take a SECOND look at your story since I made you wait so long.

Congratulations, Kimberly! Keep on keepin' on...

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Zombies Are Coming

Actually, the zombies already came and went and now I'm retaliating. I escaped, and I'm still...

 A - L - I - V - E!!!

I've been up to a LOT these last, let's count them, um...FOUR months!!!

  • the race, of course, you've only read about that for the last four months...
  • working on a website for my first client, Kristi Holl, going live next week! (I'll post the date here so any clicks onto her site AFTER that date, will be my design - currently it's hers... Go ahead and peek and be sure to come back in a week to see the difference.)
  • attended a Week of Writing (W.O.W.) Retreat with the great Kristen Fulton in Georgia (AWESOME!!!)
  • training my assistant at work (I got a promotion)
  • WRITING on a few of my manuscripts, polishing them to get ready for submission
  • enjoying the summer with my family
  • took son to his 1st karate tournament in which he won TWO 2nd place trophies!
  • Judging all the entries for the Lucky Clover Picture Book Contest (winner announced SOON, I promise!!!)
  • planting and harvesting a garden (heard of Salad in a Jar?) 
Enough about me, here's a fun gift for you. A video I just stumbled on in YouTube. If you haven't read The Day the Crayons Quit, then you're in for a treat as a librarian reads the book aloud to a 2nd grade class.

What fun! Enjoy!


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Writers Who Run: Push Yourself to the Finish Line

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Last Saturday, I ran the 4th largest foot race in the U.S., the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, SC. It's a 10k (6.2 miles). Nearly 40,000 runners show up to run the race and "Get Over It." Lots of fun costumes and great music. They even had watermelon cups at the finish line this year. YUM! Yep, I'll be going back next year. Can't wait. Did it in 1:21:19, which is slower than last year's time, but I was recovering from two separate injuries, too!

Anyway, onto the writing lesson and running analogy for the day. Motivation station, here we come! So, what do writing and running have to do with each other? Lots, if you love to do both! Pushing yourself through to the end comes to mind this week.

As writers, we must push ourselves to read more, write more, get the words down, revise, revise, revise. Submit, revise again, submit again. Perseverance is what it's all about, after craft, of course. If we don't push ourselves, no one else will. We must first write the story. Including the ending. Then, we can celebrate, revise, get published, whatever. And we start planning the next book. The characters. The plot. The theme. The format. We must write the next book!

As runners, we must push ourselves to get out and run. To take it easy to get through injuries. To bundle up on those cold days and just get it done. And at races, to make it to the finish line. When we're at the start line, the end is already in sight. It's like writing through the last chapter of your novel. You can hear the crowd cheering for you, and you simply have to finish it. Once we cross the finish line, we celebrate. We plan for the next race. When. Where. What distance. Who will go with us. Who will run with us. What the next training plan looks like. We must run the next race!

To the finish line and beyond!!! Because is there ever really truly a finish line? They just keep coming, and we must continually push ourselves to cross them. Others can't do it for us, they can only cheer us on.

What's YOUR next book about? What's YOUR next race coming up?

Keep on keepin' on... 

Friday, April 11, 2014

High Five #32: Persistance Is Key

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Here’s a big HIGH FIVE congratulations to Cynthia Grady for her debut picture book, I Lay My Stitches Down. Thanks for being here today, Cynthia! Get ready for the fabulous five questions and Cynthia's fantastic answers. Take it away, Cynthia!

Title:  I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery
Author: Cynthia Grady
Illustrator:  Michele Wood
Publisher:  Eerdmans
Release date:  February 2012
Word count: Not sure. (14 poems plus historical notes for each poem)
Using the American folk tradition of quilting as a structural framework, poet Cynthia Grady weaves together spiritual, musical, and quilting references with evocative imagery to express the pain, sorrow, and weariness as well as the joy and hope sustained by those living in slavery in America. 
Each poem is named for a traditional quilt block pattern: Broken Dishes, Log Cabin; Birds in the Air, etc. and each poem is spoken in the voice of a different slave (except first and last poems—they are present day speakers). Each page also has an explanatory note that provides historical and sometimes literary context for each poem.
Question ONE: What are three of your favorite picture books? 

This is such a hard question! I never know whether to list all-time favorites or current favorites. But here are three books I love.

  1. The Ghost-eye Tree by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault
  2. Ol’ Bloo’s Boogie-Woogie Band and Blues Ensemble by Jan Huling
  3. If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano

Question TWO: All sound very interesting. Haven't read any of them, but I've heard of the third one. Despite not having any children of your own, how do you feel that you were drawn to write for them?

I’m drawn to the artful use of language, and combined art forms working together, so I love picture books for that reason. I don’t see myself as a writer for children so much as a writer who uses (among other things) the picture book form—one tool in a writer’s toolbox.

Question THREE: Interesting! I think that's especially true for nonfiction picture books. Picture books aren't just for children. The elementary schools in my area don't call them Easy Books, they call them Everybody Books. How might your book be used in the classroom?

Stitches can be used in so many ways! I’ve written a teacher’s guide that can be downloaded from the Eerdmans website. Teachers of older students can use it to supplement their study of American slavery as well as using it as a mentor text for writing and studying imagery in poetry, writing monologues, and in writing diary entries. All of the poems are written (mostly) in iambic pentameter, so it can be used for advanced work in poetry writing as well.

Teachers of younger students can use Michele Wood’s incredible paintings to anticipate the poems. Study the illustrations before reading the poem. What questions might the students have? Does the poem answer these questions? Does the illustration answer questions the poem may generate? How does the illustration support and/or extend the poem?

Question FOUR: Great! I think have a teacher's guide makes your book more accessible. Anyone's book, actually. I can see your book being used in an art unit as well. Maybe even have the children create their own quilt squares and/or poems with either the same theme of slavery, U.S. history, or any topic they choose. Well, the question we most want to know is what was your road to publication like?

I’ve been writing and submitting for a very long time! I’ve had a few individual poems (for adults) published, some essays on children’s literature, librarianship, and poetry published, but no books until 2012.

I wrote the first three poems in Stitches while designing a quilt over my winter vacation. They came to me all at once (author’s note contains a little more detail on this). The following February, I was taking a writing class where I workshopped these three poems and was encouraged to keep going. I wrote the next 11 poems over eight months.

I have no agent (yet), so I submitted to editors I’d been meeting at SCBWI conferences. It took me a little over four years to find a publisher (each editor kept my mss. for nearly a year before rejecting!). I think I submitted it a total of 6 times before I sent it to the slush pile at Eerdmans. Six months later I had an offer from them to publish.

I used no illustrator notes, but I did provide a small, 2-inch diagram of each quilt block to go with each poem (in case they didn’t know quilts).

Once accepted for publication, a few poems were tweaked in minor ways, but the historical notes were revised more substantially. I didn’t have book design in mind when I wrote them—some were a few sentences long and others were several paragraphs! I learned that they needed to all be of similar length, so the editor and I worked hard to get them there. Also, my author’s note was originally about 600 words—we ended up breaking it into a preface and author’s note of about 250 words each…. and the title was kept—I came up with it when I finished all the poems. It’s a line from the final poem.

I have 4 other picture book manuscripts that are submission ready, and one nonfiction manuscript currently out with an editor—THAT manuscript has been revised countless times, growing from 600 words to 4,000 words, and now back down to about 500 words—all at the request and suggestions of various editors via conference critiques. I’ve been working on it since 2005!

People are not kidding when they say persistence is key.

Question FIVE: That is such an awesome story. I love that the editor accepted your book even though you still need somewhat substantive edits with the historical notes. I also love that your title was able to be kept. And finally, what are your top three writing tips you can offer to writers seeking publication?
Cynthia Grady
1. Study and analyze the masters in your genre.
2. Play, play, play with language if you want to improve.
3. Get out of your head by doing physical tasks—whether swimming laps or washing windows.

I love these tips, Cynthia! So very true. Playing with language. That could be as simple as playing word games with my kids more often. And being physical really does help. I'm pretty sure I've even read studies about that to prove it. Thank you so much for being with us today! I hope you get an agent soon and that your 2005 book will find a home, too!

You can find out more about Cynthia's other writings on her website.

Keep on keepin' on...

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Writers Who Run: Our Mantra

PhotoRACE DAY IS HERE. #CRBR is twitter lingo for Cooper River Bridge Run, which is in Charleston, SC. (Hey, they "stole" my phrase.) I always like to say, "You don't have to go fast. You don't have to go far. You just have to show up!" Anyway, 6.2 miles, here I come. And I won't be fast - at ALL. But I'm still super excited about it. There's something uniquely thrilling about being among 40,000 people with the same goal. Live and in person. To run a race and cross the finish line. I can already feel the adrenaline swelling within. If you've never tried it, start out with a local 5k. That was my first race. And then I went straight to a full marathon, 26.2 miles. And now I'm hooked. Even though lately, I might only get in 1-2 runs a week. At least it's not ZERO.

Running a race is the equivalent of attending a writer's conference. So many like-minded individuals sharing the same dream, sidled up next to each other to soak in the wisdom of those who have gone before. Imagine. A writer's retreat AND a race, rolled into one event. It's coming. August 2016. For Writers Who Run.

But today, I run. And hope to not be in too much pain afterwards (and during). I do see ice packs on the horizon. Catch you next week, in a book, on the road, or somewhere in between.

What are YOU going to do this weekend?

Keep on keepin' on...