I, I will Revise!! Pre-ReviMo Interview with Marcie Colleen

Monday, December 30, 2013

Two weeks until ReviMo! Hooray hooray! Today we have Marcie Colleen with us. Welcome Marcie!

Can you tell us about yourself?
Wow. That’s a HUGE question. Sometimes I wonder, myself. I am a former teacher and former theater educator from New York. I have always wanted to be a writer, but didn’t know what KIND of writer until 2010. And then it kinda seemed like a no-brainer. Picture Books + Marcie = perfect fit.
Let’s see. What are the top 10 spicy things I can tell you about…
  • I used to work in the Broadway theater industry.
  • I once met Sir Paul McCartney at a party.
  • Tony Randall, of THE ODD COUPLE fame, used to be my boss.
  • I’ve been skydiving.
  • I worked the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade once.
  • I just recently ran the NYC Marathon.
  • I studied for most of my masters degree oversea in the UK.
  • I starred in a B-rate horror flick back in the day. Eeek! Can you say “straight to video”?
  • My fiancĂ© is an artist who’s medium is Lego bricks. You can check out his work at BKNY Bricks on Facebook. (psst…for his REAL job he works at Little, Brown though.)
  • I am one degree from Kevin Bacon.

What has most influenced your picture book writing journey?
Truly, I think it’s the way I look at life. I tend to have a 5 year old sensibility. I view a lot of my household goings-on through the eyes of my sock monkey. When you look at life that way, the scenarios keep rolling in.

What inspires your revisions?
The drive to “get it right.” I want each one of my stories to be the best that they can be. Therefore, I want to be stretched and questioned. I belong to 3 critique groups and have many friends who read my work, as well. They truly inspire me to keep on keepin’ on.
The current manuscript my agent has out on submission is version #25! Yeah. You heard me. Number 25! I worked on the manuscript for 14 months and in that time wrote many drafts and had many eyes look at it. I had professional critiques and peer critiques. I think I was at version #23 when I signed with my agent. And then we went through two revisions together before finally deciding version #25 was the one we wanted to send out into the world.
So, revisions are important. Having patience is important. Being thorough is important. That’s why you have to love the process.

How has having an agent changed your revision process?
I have a greater sense of confidence since landing my agent. I guess I like the idea that at least one more person in the industry loves my work and thinks its worthy of publication. So, when Susan asks for revisions I take them very seriously. I know she has the best interest of the story in mind and I love that I now have a “business partner”. I trust her. Her critiques have been spot on.
Recently I sent a revision to her that I was certain was ready to submit. I was a little disappointed when she returned my manuscript to me a few days later with notes for revision. She apologized, but said she didn’t think it was quite there yet. But to be truthful, I would rather have an agent say, “Its not ready yet” than “Its good enough.”

Favorite picture book?
Hmmmm. I think I have to go with a classic. CAPS FOR SALE by Esphyr Slobodkina. Not only does it have monkeys in it (my fave!) but it is a fabulously fun read-aloud and a favorite of mine since childhood.

Favorite hair product? (Love those locks!)
Alas, it always comes down to the hair, doesn’t it? About 3 years ago I decided to splurge and get my hair cut at “The Curly Girl Salon”, officially called Devachan, right here in NYC. They specialize in cutting curly hair. My curls have never looked better. And, in fact, I use hardly any products now because the cut is so good. But I do use the Devachan hair products which are better for curly hair because they do not have any silicone in them. I use the Devachan Low-poo Shampoo, One Condition Conditioner and DevaCurl Light Defining Gel. That’s it. My routine is simple. I condition and use the gel every other day. The shampoo I use when needed…sometimes only once every 2 weeks. And there you have it.

Thank you Marcie, love your 10 spicy things! I have to ask, how are you one degree from Kevin Bacon? :D 

Check out all the Pre-ReviMo Interviews here!  

Last day to spread the word about ReviMo and win! Enter here!

Revvvvvvvvvv it up for ReviMo! With Pre-ReviMo Guest Penny Klostermann

Monday, December 23, 2013

Three weeks until ReviMo! Wow, time flies. Today Penny Klostermann is here to talk to us. Welcome Penny!

Can you tell us about yourself?
I write picture books and poetry. I was named runner-up for the 2012 Barbara Karlin Grant. My debut book, THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON, is coming from Random House Children’s Fall 2015. It will be illustrated by Ben Mantle (big smile!). I am represented by Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Can you tell us about your picture book writing journey?
I’ve wanted to write picture books for a long time. But I was all want and no action until Fall 2010. It was then that I decided that if I really wanted to do this thing that I’d better get serious. Early in 2011, I found a critique group (the critique group of awesomeness). I had never critiqued a manuscript in my life. So not only did I need to learn how to write a picture book, I had to learn how to critique. No, they didn’t just let me in. I had to give writing samples and they saw something. They didn’t see a well crafted-picture book…I can tell you that. Looking back…Oh my! But you know, the fact that they let me in challenged me to get to work. I worked!!! Then came Runner-up for the Barbara Karlin Grant. That was a HAPPY day and the encouragement I needed to pursue getting an agent. After researching, I knew my top choice was the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. But there were others I liked, too. I queried and submitted to several. In April 2013, I signed with Tricia Lawrence (Erin Murphy Literary ) and that was a HAPPIER day! Just a few days after Tricia submitted THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON, we had interest from Maria Modugno at Random House Children’s Books. And I guess the HAPPIEST day of all was when Maria said she wanted my story!
That’s very condensed because along the way…I wrote. I revised. I read picture books. I read craft books. I wrote. I revised. I read picture books. I followed blogs. I wrote. I revised. I read picture books. I critiqued. I wrote. I revised. I read picture books. I entered challenges. I wrote. I revised. I read picture books. I got discouraged. I wrote. I revised. I read picture books. You get the picture!

What has influenced you most?
As far as influences, my critique group gets a ton of credit. They are honest and encouraging. They push me to write my best. Other influences have been my online writing buddies that I share with many of you through Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog activities, Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo, and Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12. I love you people!!!

Can you tell us a little about your revision process?
After I write my first draft, I try to look at it as a manuscript I’m critiquing for someone else. I know I can’t really let go of the fact that it’s my story, but I try. By doing this, I find a lot to reconsider, delete, and/or change. Then I send it off to my critique group. I read each of their critiques and let my thoughts simmer. I’ve learned to consider each of their comments in terms of what I want to do with my story. From their comments alone, I may come up with several revisions. Then when I have it revised to my liking, I send it back to my critique group. And so the process continues until I feel my story is the best it can be.
If my manuscript is rhyming, I send it through my poetry critique group, The Poet’s Garage. They are wonderful to point out problems with meter, logic, or forced rhyme.
I consider each word. I use the heck out of the thesaurus. As I’m considering an idea, writing a draft, and revising, I do a lot of research. I keep a glossary of terms and images relating to my characters and settings. Even though my manuscripts are fiction, the research has had an influence on all my stories. For instance, while writing THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON, I researched dragons and medieval times. I pasted the information and images at the bottom of my manuscript. The research is informative and inspirational. I know my revisions wouldn’t have come as quickly if I hadn’t had my research for reference.
I did have to revise THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON. That scared the beejeebies out of me! It’s rhyming…Eeek! I totally got what Maria wanted to see and knew if I could find my way to the revisions that my story would be stronger. At first nothing came to me! Nothing! Nada! Blank! I took a deep breath and did other things for a few days. Then slowly, new lines began creeping into my brain. I made notes and turned those words into text that got me all kinds of excited about the transformation of my story. I came up with two options. I sent them to my critique group and my poetry group. Mixed opinions! I had my favorite, but the other one was strong, too. We ended up showing them both to Maria. She picked my favorite

Favorite picture book?
You saved the hardest question for last! There is no way I could pick a favorite! I do have a soft place in my heart for Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes because it never fails to entertain me and is one of the picture books that inspired me to try my hand at writing. I love Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein! I could go around all day reciting Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz. Then there’s Can’t Sleep Without Sheep by Susanna Leonard Hill which I read over and over again. And Pat Zeitlow Miller’s Sophie’s Squash just came out this fall and I just know it will be a classic. I’ve made it known that I actually hug the picture books that I love! I read them the first time and I just can’t help myself…*HUG*! There are many more I have hugged, but I’ve gone on too long.
You can learn more about me at my blog, ~a penny and her jots~. Be sure to check out my Perfect Picture Book Friday posts. You can search for them with my Search box at the top of my left sidebar. I would love to have you drop by my Pinterest (HERE) where I pin a plethora of picture books.
Now get revvvvvvvvved up! ReviMo is not that far away!

Thanks for having me, Meg!
Thank you for joining us Penny! I love that you hug favorite books.
Check out all the Pre-ReviMo Interviews here!

Let's Get Ready to Revise! Pre-ReviMo Guest Blogger Kristen Fulton

Monday, December 16, 2013

Four weeks until ReviMo! I hope you are gearing up for a fun week of revising. Today Kristen Fulton is going to talk REVISIONS!

My fingers have typed and typed, the draft is on the page, what next? REVISE!

Being a firm CDO candidate (OCD in the proper alphabetical order), my revising process is very exact. Granted that as writers and illustrators we are artist, so my organized method may seem insane. But, perhaps an idea or two will help you along your journey.

You will need a box of crayons or markers with at least 12 different colors (I told you that my way was exact) and 1 index card. You can use different colors for different things but this is my story, so it’s my color description :-)

Blue- I underline each time my main character is referred to or speaks.
Red- I put a mark by each time another character is mentioned or referred to.

Is there more red than blue in your story? Then ask yourself, “who is my story about?”

Let’s check our tenses:
Purple- mark every word that ends with an “ed”.
Yellow- mark every word that ends with an “s” or an “ing”.
Pink- mark every single did, didn’t, was, wasn’t, were, said, asked, had, hadn’t, went, gone or been.
Green- mark every single do, does, doesn’t, is, am, are, says, asks, has, hasn’t, have, haven’t, go, goes, going, be and will.

Words that  end with “ed” are generally past tense while words that end with an “s” or “ing” or generally present tense. Check all of your purple and yellow marks to ensure that you aren't tense wobbling.

Now, do you have pink and green marks in the same story? You are tense wobbling. Decide your point of view and then fix it.

“There ain’t no stinking math in revising.” Oh, yes there is. Know your word count without any authors notes, back matter or bibliography. Put an Orange line at 10% and 75% of your story.
At 10% of your story we need to know the who the main character is and what the problem is.
At 75% we need to feel that all hope is lost and begin our resolution.

This works for everything, watch movies and television. On a one hour TV show, by the first commercial we know who the story is about and what their problem will be. And, when there is only fifteen minutes left we lose all hope: the good guy is captured, the couple gives up, etc. Then we begin the resolution as the good guys picks the lock and breaks free only to save the day or the couple run into each other in the grocery store and all love is rekindled. It’s the 10/75 solution.

Turquoise- Have someone read your story and put a X by any part where their mind wanders off in another direction. This lets you know what to cut or where to amp up the drama.

Now, let’s grab that index card. Does your story satisfy the reader? On one side write your first sentence or two. On the back side write your last sentence of the story. Now read it as though those sentences were your story. Does the end satisfy the beginning? I call this the “Once upon a time, they lived happily ever after effect.”

Look at some of your favorite books and you will see the satisfaction that the ending delivers.

And finally- SHOW-vs-TELL, the words we hear over and over and over again.
You should have four colors left to use.
Lime Green- mark every sensory word including all forms of feel, smell, taste, listen, heard, saw, viewed and touched.
Brown- mark all words that show emotion such as scared cried whimpered, trembled, laughing, saddened, and even cliches like knots in her stomach.
Lavender- Action words, lets use those verbs. Mark ever action word from ran, skipped, chop, bark, hid and more.
Baby Blue- Mark every adjective from colors, temperatures of cold, hot, muggy, actual sounds such as creaking or tastes like sour or bitter. Words that end with an “ly” are very often adjectives.

Now look at your story, do you have lots of lime green, brown, lavender and baby blue filling your story? You should. These are the words that put us in the story.

Example of us telling:
In July, 1776, men gathered in a building to sign a piece of paper.
Can you see the illustrations? Sun shining since it is July, men in clothes from 1776 era, a building and maybe even a banner that says, “1776.”

Now let’s show the story:
On a steamy July day in 1776, some very important men gathered. Excitement filled their hearts as they signed not just any piece of paper, but the declaration of the United States of America.

Whatever your revision process might be, I hope that it brings your story to success.

Thank you Kristen! I'm feeling inspired, anyone else? Print out a couple manuscripts and a grab a box of crayons and let's prep for ReviMo! :D

Read more Pre-ReviMo interviews, click here and scroll down.

R-E-V-I-M-O - ReviMo!!! Pre-ReviMo Interview with Christine Irvin

Monday, December 9, 2013

Five weeks until ReviMo! I'm excited, how about everyone else? Today we have Christine Irvin with us. Welcome Christine!

What has most influenced your picture book writing journey? 
I have had a passion for writing ever since I can remember. When I was younger, I liked to write poetry. It just felt right to write poems about things that were important to me. Now, I don't write poetry very much, but I like to write stories, particularly stories for children, hopefully ones that will become picture books. I started reading very early and I am an avid reader. Books have had a major impact in my life. I would like to have at least one picture book in print that is the kind of book that kids ask for again and again and again. Okay, I want to be the author of a whole slew of those kinds of PBs, but ya gotta start somewhere. That dream is there, and has been for quite some time, and I keep pursuing it even though I sometimes get sidetracked.

Christine you have several craft books published Paper Cup Mania, Egg Carton Mania and more (click here), how have they influenced your picture book writing? 
Well, at the beginning, right after they came out in print, I was under the mistaken impression that I had hit the big time. I had eight craft books to my name (then, there are 9 now). Surely, publishers would want to publish other things I had written. Right? Wrong. It's been a very slow, uphill journey in my picture book writing career. I keep writing stories and they keep getting rejected (for a number of reasons). That's discouraging, but I keep on trying. I've incorporated the idea of making things into the story lines of a couple of my most recent endeavors. I like the idea of the main character learning how to make things, how to create something decorative or useful. I think that idea could work well in the picture book market. I'm going to keep working on it...

Favorite picture book? 

Gosh, I don't think I have a FAVORITE one, there are just sooooo many really, really good ones. I LOVE most of the picture books J. Patrick Lewis has written. He writes a lot of poetry for children and I love his style.

What inspires you to revise? 
I've joined a couple of critique groups whose members are very helpful and encouraging. They are good at pointing out the places in my stories that need revision, but they also are very good at offering suggestions for revisions. They help me look at my stories from different angles to see what works and what doesn't work, so I have a better idea of how to revise and make them better.

Thank you Christine!

ReviMo 'Toons and a Contest!

Friday, December 6, 2013

The 'toons for the winners of my ReviMo contest! It was fun painting you Angie and Dani. :)
Would you like me to 'toon you? Enter to win your own personalized cartoon by spreading the word about ReviMo! You can enter once for a FB post, once for Blog post and once for a Tweet. 
Contest runs from today to Dec 30th. Good luck and thank you! 

And if you'd like to learn more about me, Meg Miller, ReviMo master(?)mind, check out Elaine Kiely Kearns interview, here!

*****Post Updated to extend contest to Dec 30th.*******
To Enter: Share the news about ReviMo (http://megmillerwrites.blogspot.com/p/revimo_16.html)
*Post about ReviMo on Facebook
*Blog about ReviMo
*Tweet about ReviMo 

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RmmmmRmmm... ReviMo! Pre-ReviMo Interview with Julie Rowan-Zoch

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Six weeks until ReviMo! Today we have an interview with Julie Rowan-Zoch, writer AND illustrator!

Can you tell us about yourself?
First, thanks for having me over - I love opportunities to talk PBs! A reformed graphic designer, I am a pre-published author/illustrator of picture books. Currently illustrating 3 board books for a local indie press, to be launched in Oct.'14. Originally from Long Island, New York, I transplanted from northern Germany to Colorado 15yrs ago. Let's just say, I got around.


Why and where do you write and/or illustrate picture books?
I started writing because I needed something to illustrate, but now I have to write because I can't help myself - I enjoy it that much! But I've never thought to be writing for kids, I'm just having fun! When an idea hits, any scrap of paper will do. And no office, I have to get everything done before other family members need the computer! Otherwise I sketch while sulking on the sofa.

Favorite picture book?
Too many, but Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell and Lillian Hoban, holds sweet and sticky memories for this former picky eater. For about 3 years I have, at times, been reading close to 100 PBs a week. My librarian says I am their best customer! Now I am a picky reader.

Favorite illustrator?
Again too many - even tougher to name one, so I'll include the link to the growing list on my blog: http://julierowanzoch.wordpress.com/illustrators-i-link/ And I totally judge book by it's cover - so glad when I am wrong!

What inspires your revisions?
Everything. I love my critique group partners, face-to-face and online, but I read and re-read craft books and articles, and otherwise let problems stew while I pursue other activities, like hanging wash on the line. I play badminton competitively (stop laughing, Meg - it is an olympic sport!), which puts me in a zen mode - I only focus on the next hit. This acts like a gray-cell duster and story revision comes easiest when the mind has had a chance to clear. At least for me!

How is your revision process different when you are illustrator and writer?
I don't really know how to answer that. I'd like to say it's tougher. It's not easy to ask for a critique when you haven't got a dummy to accompany your text and all the images are in your head. My mss would look a bit art-note heavy if I tried to put it ALL in words! On the other hand, I can revise without changing the words - ha, ha! Now there's a skill, eh? Generally, I try to get the text completed before I do a sketch for every scene, but I definitely flesh out my characters visually - that's a LOT of fun! Sometimes the character sketch cries out for a story, but at this point I more often have an idea first and the character is developed through the pencil - drawing IS thinking!

Love it and your art, thank you Julie!

Revvvvvvvvv it up! ReviMo! Pre-ReviMo Interview with Deborah Holt Williams

Monday, November 25, 2013

Seven weeks until ReviMo! Tonight we have an interview with the lovely Deborah Holt Williams, (who is also my critique mate!). 

Can you tell us about yourself? 
 My name is Deborah Holt Williams and I'm a retired preschool teacher, still subbing and visiting classrooms as a storyteller. I have five kids and three grandkids, and I live in the mountains in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Favorite picture books?
 I love Bruce Coville's Sarah's Unicorn, and The Friendly Giant. Mrs. Wishy Washy by my writing hero Joy Cowley is another favorite. And Bubba the Cowboy Prince, and old, wordy books by Virginia Lee Burton and Robert McClosky, the Little Bear books--so many favorites!

If you could be a superhero, what would your power be? 
It would be nice to have a superpower that let me see exactly the fix my stories need to become beautiful, published picture books for my grandkids!

Can you tell us about your picture book writing journey? 
 I graduated with a journalism degree from UW-Madison and I've always loved writing. I made up bedtime stories and finally started writing them down in the early 90's. One summer I made it my goal to send off five manuscripts, and one of them sold to Seedlings (which at the time was a new publisher started by two teachers) as an easy reader. They bought four more before Seedlings was bought by Continental Press. Continental hasn't purchased any more from me, but they keep my books in their catalog and I'm still earning royalties. In '96 I sold a story for $2000 to a New Zealand publisher. I was a single mom, and I celebrated by taking my youngest to Disneyland--before I got the check. I came back to find the gas cancellation notice, the electricity cancellation notice, and the check--whew! The company was purchased so it could be closed down and my story never ran. I later reworked it and sold it to Highlights as a rebus!

Which segues into reworking and revising--four times now, Highlights has asked me to revise pieces, and I always take their suggestions and most of the time, they go on to publish them. I find revising with suggestions, from the publisher or my critique groups, is SO much easier than trying to do it on my own! But, when I do my own revising, I pay attention to the sound of the words together (I like a little alliteration), and to using the verbs to illustrate the character (stomped vs walked, for example). Picture book writing is so tight, words have to do double duty when they can. I've had good luck with my magazine writing (Highlights, High Five, Hello, Jack and Jill, Turtle, AppleSeeds, Spellbound) but no luck yet with my picture book manuscripts. Now days, with picture books having so few words, I think the short word limits for magazines are good training--or so I tell myself between rejections! But, a magazine story will probably only get one illustration, and with a picture book, you have to think about an illustration on every page, so it is quite different. Every sentence has to pack a punch as a caption to a picture.

So very true. Thank you Deb!

Rev up for ReviMo! Interview with Elaine Kiely Kearns

Monday, November 18, 2013

Eight weeks until ReviMo!  Are you getting excited? I am!! I'm going to  interview some talented guests each week to REV UP for ReviMo.

Our first guest is the lovely Elaine Kiely Kearns, "Rev up those engines!"

Can you tell us about yourself?
I am the mother of two, a writer, an educator, and an optimist. Not necessarily in that order.

Tell us about your picture book writing journey? What has influenced you most?
Even though I teach second grade, I have always wanted to write picture books. It wasn’t until 2007 that I decided to pursue it as a career. I started out slowly, researching different agents and editors. I sent out manuscripts and got rejections. However, it wasn’t until I won a contest on DEAREDITOR.com in early 2012 that I threw myself into the craft. Deborah Halverson gave me a really great critique and, without knowing it, a really great boost of confidence. She is an expert in the field, has many books published, has been an editor at Harcourt for years—and she likes my writing! She has been my freelance editor ever since. After that, I joined an in-person critique group (which has since dissipated), and then got together with some 12x12 people; together we have formed a really great online group. We are very close, and I would be lost without their constant support and invaluable critiquing.

Favorite picture book?
Of course that’s like asking me to pick my favorite child. I love all picture books, but if I had to pick just one author, or just one book, it would have to be anything by Mo Willems. I love his picture books—they’re fun without the slap-you-in-the-face messages. I’ll take a fun romp that has the kids in stitches any day. My all-time favorite is DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS. I love doing the voice of the pigeon and the silliness that the book demands when you read it. I got to meet Mo Willems at the NY SCBWI Conference last year, and he was lovely. I was a babbling idiot when I met him; he must have thought I was a total nut. I found out that we even share a birthday—February 11—so it’s destiny that I should love his work so much!

What gets you inspired to revise? 
I think that having a critique group is extremely important. The feedback you receive from other people can put you on a completely different path and give you a new perspective, particularly when you are sick of your manuscript. I typically go through several rounds of revisions with my critique group, and then I send it off to Deborah Halverson for line editing. Each time the manuscript comes back to me for revisions, I am excited by the thought of revising. Yes, excited!

Thank you Elaine! :)

Halloweensie Time...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Here is my entry for Susanna's 3rd Annual HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST!
For details, click here! Thanks Susanna for the challenge. :D

Halloween CAW! Ball 

by Meg Miller (full story removed)

“Crunchy leaves, crisp breeze . . .
It's time for Halloween Ball!” announces Scarecrow.
“Prizes! Games! Sweets!”
“Ooooh fun!” caws LittleCrow.
“No CROWS allowed.”
LittleCrow flap flaps away.
Why can't crows and scarecrows play?

Power of a Picture Book - Highlights Foundation Workshop

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I debated and debated about going to The Power of a Picture Book workshop at Highlights. It seemed like so much money. How would I come up with the money? And if I did, I could get 10 professional critiques for that much money! I could go to a few nearby conferences. I kept telling myself that I'd go next year, 2014. Something keep bringing me back to thinking about it though, and finally I signed up.

THANK HEAVENS! It was an AMAZING, enriching experience. I was picked up at the airport and found out that a fellow workshopper had been on my flight, Lisa. We were taken to lunch, then wandered around Honesdale. We met our group and toured the Highlights office. We met Highlights Magazine Editors and heard what kind of submissions they'd like. We got to speak to an editor from Boyds Mills Press. Everyone was kind and informative.

Dinner (and every meal following) was phenomenal, the chef Joseph is a wonderful cook and such a nice guy. Martha and Brinna were lovely as well. I never once felt out of place or uncomfortable. Even when I locked myself out of my cabin just when I was needing a boo hoo about missing my kiddos and instead had to go request the extra key. (Myself and one of the ladies were dubbed "the sprinklers" because we kept misting up over various things - eeeesh! haha!)

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Barrett George
We started right in on the workshop after dinner. Deborah Underwood and Lindsay Barrett George
were amazing. Over the weekend we did writing exercises, drew picture book dummies, colored with crayons, and discussed picture books. They made it so clear what makes picture books great. Lindsay and Deborah bared their souls and showed us how they write picture books. I wasn't sure what to expect from the workshop, but I never dreamed it would be as incredible as it was.

 An editor from Highlights Press came and spoke with us. Also book buyer and accounts manager for The Blue Marble Children’s Bookstore and general Kidlit information guru, Dave Richardson brought some picture books to share with us and told us how to create a good working relationship with independent bookstores.

Power of a Picture Book Group Photo Courtesy of Highlights Foundation
Not only was the information top notch, the company was phenomenal. I came away from The Barn with wonderful, new friends. One of the ladies commented that we all needed that weekend, for different reasons and it was so true. It was nourishment for the mind and soul. We're talking about a reunion workshop next year. I can't wait!

I'm only bummed that I didn't take any pictures, it was gorgeous there with the leaves changing for autumn. Next year!

Blog Hop

Tara Lazar, creator of PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month - 2013 will be my first, so excited!), author of The Monstore started a BLOG HOP. I was tagged by Elaine K. Kearns. The idea is for me to answer 3 questions and then tag 3 more authors for them to continue the blog hop, but no one volunteered, so I'm going to leave it open!


1. What are you working on right now? I have over 20 stories drafted, but they need to be taken to the next level. I just went to a Highlights Foundation Workshop, Power of a Picture Book and I learned SO MUCH. I have lots of ideas for revisions floating around in my head, but my 4 year old has been working on riding her bike without training wheels so we've been very busy and I've been very tired. I have the Kansas SCBWI Fall Conference this weekend and then the REVISIONS are on like Donkey Kong. :)

2. How does your writing process work?  Sometimes ideas simmer in my mind for a while, sometimes I just sit down with an idea and the story comes out on paper. I like to just let the story flow when I'm typing it. If I try to edit while I'm typing it ruins my mojo!

3. Who are the authors you most admire? Wow, tough question, there are SO MANY! After my Highlights Conference, I'd definitely have to say Deborah Underwood and Lindsay Barrett George, it was so cool seeing their process and how their ideas came to fruition. In addition, Oliver Jeffers, Jim Averbeck, Susanna Leonard Hill, Ashley Wolff, Chris Haughton, Melissa Sweet, Philip C. Stead. So many more, those are just the first to come to mind. I love a succinct picture book that makes you fall in love with the characters and adorable illustrations. Who doesn't, right? :D

TAG- YOU'RE IT - answer these questions and keep the blog hop rolling!


Thursday, September 19, 2013

An old illustration of mine, 2003 perhaps?? Strawberry cake, yum!

Life is so crazy busy right now... Hubs is working lots. I'm a stay at home mom, trying to write. I'm also organizing a writing a writing challenge (ReviMo) and I've started Word by Word (thank you Marcie Colleen for help with the name and Blanche Baxter for help planning and running!) book club where we are studying Ann Whitford Paul's book, Writing Picture Books.

Then today I was asked by a wise woman to take a picture book manuscript and CUT THE WORD COUNT IN HALF. I automatically thought, but mine are well under 600, she doesn't mean me. But as I read on, she said, if your story is 200 words cut to 100. Darn.

But as I'm thinking about cutting my word count in half, I'm thinking, why don't I cut my clutter in half? Why don't I get rid of half the kids toys? Or if not half, at least a bunch. We have too many toys, stacks of magazines that I will never re-read or maybe even read, too many dishes, a coffee cup collection that could serve coffee to 50 people (and no 50 people around to serve) and then more junk. I'm going to donate what I can and trash the rest! Who's with me? :)


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Meg Miller 2004

Thanks to ALL of you for helping me get the word about about ReviMo! I'm so excited about this writing challenge.

The winners are *bummina bummina bummina bumminnna*

Angie K. and Dani D.!!!

Thanks to all your great help spreading the word, there are 121 people signed up for our revision challenge. This is gonna be AWESOME!

Word by Word Book Club

Monday, September 16, 2013

Some friends and I are studying Ann Whitford Paul's wonderful book Writing Picture Books. 
I tried studying it on my own, but didn't stick with it. Hopefully with a group we can power through.

I'm hoping that after Writing Picture Books we can move on to other great books. Here's the list we've compiled:

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne LaMottWriting Down the Bones by Natalie GoldbergWord Magic- Cindy RogersRIP the Page!, Adventures in Creative Writing- Karen BenkeBook Love, Creating good books for children- Juanita HavillWriting Magic, Creating Stories the Fly -Gail Carson LevineWriting With Pictures- Uri ShulevitzSeize the Story- Victoria HanleyAnatomy of Nonfiction- Margery Facklam and Peggy ThomasShow me a story, why picture books matter- Leonard S. MarcusYes! You can learn how to write beginning readers and chapter books- Nancy I. SandersHow to write a children's book and get it published- Barbara SeulingSecond Sight - Cherly Klein
Writing it Right - Sandy Asher
Writing Irresistible Kidlit - Mary Kole
Save the Cat - Blake Snyder

How to Write a Children's Book Vol. I: Structure - Eve Heidi Bine-Stock
How to Write a Children's Book Vol. II: Word, Sentence, Scene, Story
How to Write a Children's Book Vol. III: Figures of Speech

The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books - Linda Ashman (Thank you Cathy Ballou Mealey!)

You're gonna hear me ROoAR!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Meg Miller 2011

A painting I did for my son's room! Rawr! I need to do more painting, I love it so much, just don't take the time to do it. :)


It's ReviMo! Spread the word and WIN!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hi friends, I'm so excited about ReviMo, we've got some wonderful prizes to give away. Can you help me spread the word? Tweet, Facebook or Blog about ReviMo and enter to win!

Prizes are a gift card (either Starbucks or Target) and a chance to be cartooned by me! Contest ends Monday, September 16th at midnight. You can enter once for a FB post, once for Blog post and everyday for Tweets. Thanks all!

Fun Picture Books for a Friday

Friday, August 30, 2013

Ame Dyckman's Boy + Bot is a favorite in our house. Fun, funny and simple, Boy + Bot is a wonderful tale of friendship. Lovely illustrations. Cute book trailer here!

Picture book writers, Ame (who is kind and hilarious) is donating a book and swag for a ReviMo (Revise More Picture Books) winner, sign up here for a reminder!

Leigh Hodgkinson's fractured fairy tale Goldilocks and Just the One Bear is fun and funny. We laughed our way through it. I LOVE the illustrations. Check it out here, read by Leigh Hodgkinson.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Need some motivation to get those picture book drafts revised?

Announcing the very first ReviMo! Coming at you January 2014! A full week of motivation to revise those picture book drafts. Prizes will be given away, fun will be had. I hope you'll join us!

Sign up here to get a reminder in January!

Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Keep checking back picture book writing friends! Fun writing challenge to be announced soon. Oh the suspense!

Writing Picture Books Is Easy!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Gah! Are you kidding me? When I started writing in February I thought I'd get an idea down on paper, tweak it a bit and then start submitting. I'd heard this process took a while, so in a year or so I'd have my contract (for a gagillion dollars of course!) in hand and voila!

Oh wow, what a humbling experience writing picture books is. It's SO hard. You have to come up with an amazing, fresh idea, write it in 600 words (400 or less is better). You have to have a conflict or problem that speaks to a child. It must have takeaway value (what the what??).

Andrea Davis Pinkney at the LA SCBWI conference shared that a friend told her, "I'm thinking of making a little money on the side by writing children's books." Andrea related that her friend might as well have said, "I'm going to make a little money on the side by becoming a professional ballet dancer." (SCBWI Conference Blog)

And here are Mem Fox's thoughts on picture book writing. I read this and I don't know whether to laugh and keep writing, or cry and throw in the towel on this crazy picture book writing notion!

Mem Fox (author of 40 children's books)'s "speech about the story behind the story of Where Is The Green Sheep?"

"Those who have heard me before will know how much I detest writing picture books. You will know that I loved writing this speech because it kept me from having to writing for children! Writing picture books is not what I live and breathe, in my daily life. It nibbles merely at the edges of my life. If it took up any more of my life it would be the death of me. Believe me, you wouldn’t want the misery of writing for the very young to take up any more than 10% of your time either, unless, of course, you enjoy being on Prozac and you look great in a strait-jacket. Writing picture books is madness. It’s hell on earth. Let me take you through the process so you can weep along with me and send me sympathy cards afterwards." (read the rest here!)

Ah well, when it comes down to it, if you love it, you gotta do it. And so I shall persist and perhaps someday publish . . .

Happy writing all!

Blog Hop!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

"Get hoppin' bloggers!" Frog girl says.
My writing friend Sue asked for three people to volunteer to blog hop with her so here goes!

My objective is to answer 4 or all of the following questions and then link to three other authors (or 3 helpful links if I am lazy, which I might be since I did the Electric Run last night and was up until dunh dunh dunnnnh 1:30a.m. *YAWN)

1. What are you working on right now?
2. How does it differ from other works in its genre?
3. What experiences have influenced you?
4. Why do you write what you do?
5. How does your writing process work?
6. What is the hardest part about writing?
7. What would you like to try as a writer that you haven't yet?
8. Who are the authors you most admire?
9. What scares you?

1. What are you working on right now? I'm working on several different fiction picture books right now. Some of them are about chickens because we have three and they are such characters! I'd really like to try nonfiction at some point, but right now I'm just focusing on writing good picture books with the info I have at hand, aka the fiction that roils and boils out of my imagination. :)

5. How does your writing process work? When I first started trying to seriously write children's books in February of this year, I had ideas coming out of me like crazy, all in rhyme, bad bad rhyme. I've learned A LOT since then, in particular the components of an awesome picture book. I still type up all the random ideas that come to me, but now I spend a bit more time rolling the idea around in my head to find a story arc before I start writing. Then once I find it sometimes I have to FORCE myself to sit at the computer to type it out. Other times the story just sneaks up on me, most often while I'm lying down with my daughter before she drifts off and then I rush to the computer and try to get it all down!

6. What is the hardest part about writing? MAKING time for it. I have a 4 year old daughter and a 2 year old son. Some days I try to write while my son naps, other days my daughter needs some one-on-one time and so writing must wait. Lots of evenings after the kids are asleep I try to write or at least think a bit about my writing. :D Depends on how much energy I've got left.

7. What would you like to try as a writer that you haven't yet? I'd like to go to a conference! I wanted to go to LA SCBWI 13, but it seemed like too much (money and everything) this year. So I'm going to the Kansas SCBWI conference in October. I hope it's as wonderful as conferences I've read about other authors attending. I'd also like to do a writer's retreat. The Highlights Foundation Retreats sound wonderful and Julie Hedlund has sent out some others. I'll have to blog about them all soon for any authors out there who aren't in 12x12 yet!

8. Who are the authors you most admire? Some of my favorites are Oliver Jeffers, Jon Klassen and Jim Averbeck.

9. What scares you? Writing is a tough business, chock full of rejection. You can run into rejection in your critique group, your family and friends not to mention the well-known rejection from editors and agents. This can be tough to face, but you have to do what you love! Many well-known writers have faced a lot of rejection before they got published. "J.K Rowling was famously rejected by a mighty 12 publishers before Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone was accepted by Bloomsbury - and even then only at the insistence of the chairman's eight-year-old daughter." (Huffington Post)

Some helpful links for all you writers:

Sites I use while I'm critiquing other writers work and my own:

My favorite picture book writing class (wonderful and VERY affordable): 
Susanna Leonard Hill - Making Picture Book Magic

A wonderful group for picture book writers:
Julie Hedlund's 12x12

A FREE Online Children’s Writers Conference:

For the kiddos

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cuteness and tutorials I've found...

Super cute mushroom table and chairs from The Gypsy Wagon.

Cutest Hat Ever from She Wears Flowers.

From In Between Laundry a cute idea to make no-slip socks.

Today is a good day, because . . .

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I love to read Marc and Angel Hack Life. They are so positive, wise and uplifting!

Like this post, 5 Things YOU Should be an Expert At. #5 is Creating your own happiness
". . . Because you have to actively participate in the manifestations of your own joys and good fortunes – they are not ready-made for the taking; they are available for the making." Truth!

NaPiBoWriWee Wrap Up

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

NaPiBoWriWee ended a while back, but I wanted to give a little summary of the week. Some days I breezed through writing my ms. Some days I didn't (like 6 out of 7 - ha!) But I thoroughly enjoyed the process. One day I just wrote a very basic board book story. The very last day I had NO idea what I was going to write and not a lot of motivation. But I sat down, schemed, plotted (out stories) and I wrote a rough manuscript.

I felt SO GOOD that last hard day. I can write whenever I need to, just gotta logoff facebook and the interwebs and try, try again. Loved NaPiBoWriWee! Can't wait for next year!!

Oh and to top off the joy of success I won a NaPiBoWriWee t-shirt and Julie Hedlund's app story, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys. So exciting!

Anybody up for a little NaPiBoWriWee??

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

NAPIBOWRIWEE stands for National Picture Book Writing Week. Every year, from May 1st to May 7th, they attempt to write 7 picture books in 7 days. It sounds absolutely nuts, so I decided to join in! Anybody else??

Seriously though, I think this will be a great way to keep B.I.C, buns in chair. I do thrive on deadlines!

Happy NaPiBoWriWee!!

Writer's Block . . .

Friday, April 26, 2013

"I can't do this." "I'll never get published." "How does anyone ever get published!" Any other writers have these thoughts?

About a week ago my brain seized up. I couldn't write at all. I'd sit at the computer, cruise Facebook. Open a file, type a few words, close it up. Watch TV.

Finally, last night (after watching Oliver Jeffers neat video) I shut down the computer, got out a notebook (paper, not a laptop!). Concocted a writing exercise (See Writing Exercises, #2).

Tonight I sat down and wrote the manuscript (ms). Now my manuscript is done for 12x12 for April. Take that writer's block! hi-YAH!

Recommended Picture Books

My picture book writing journey

February of this year, I decided that I wasn't going to wait any longer to start my picture book writing journey. I joined Julie Hedlund's 12x12 group (12 picture books in 12 months). I started writing, and thought, hey this is easy, I'm going to be published in no time! Then I began reading books on how to write and realized that no, it was not easy and I had no idea how to write for children!

I joined one critique group (and then another) and that has been so helpful, I'm lucky to have very knowledgeable crit mates!

I found Mira Reisberg's class "The Craft and Business of Picture Book Writing" through 12x12 and enrolled. Five weeks of daily lessons loaded with information. A Facebook group for asking questions of Mira and classmates, a smaller Facebook critique group (lucky again with more wonderful crit mates!) and a 1-on-1, 1 hour critique with Mira.

I'm still learning and writing and rewriting. One day, I hope to be a published author! I'm working on resources and writing exercises for aspiring children's authors. And I'll keep you updated on my journey!

Stella's Spring

Monday, March 18, 2013

My entry for Susanna Hill's "The In Just Spring Contest!!!"
It could use work, but I wanted to enter, so here it is. :)
(UPDATE: I changed it to just a snippet! Maybe you'll get to read the whole thing in book format someday! *Fingers crossed*)

Squirrels zip and zoom, stop to scold Stella.
“Enjoy the day,” the breeze whispers and caresses.
“Time to fly your kite!” dad says.
Stella knew Spring was really here!

This is for you Renn!

Big Sister, Little Sister, A Book Review

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Just yesterday I read about Erik, an 11 year old who reviews AND writes books. He's a totally cool guy and I'm so excited to read more of his reviews. It gave me an idea though, I'd like to share the books that I have read and enjoyed with my kids, so here goes, my first review!

Big Sister, Little Sister, written and illustrated by Levyen Pham
Both my kids (3 and 1) enjoyed this cute picture book. It's a very simple tale that rings with truth about siblings. The illustrations are full of life and adorable. I love her style.

Juicing Journey

Monday, March 4, 2013

so far...

I watched Fat Sick and Nearly Dead last summer and thought vaguely about juicing. Then I recently watched Hungry for Change and it convinced me to try it. I'd been having a lot of cravings and nothing sounded or really tasted good, so when someone in Hungry for Change said we are starving on a cellular level when eating poor diets, it resonated with me. My hopes are that juicing will improve my energy levels and memory and perhaps help me (and therefore my family!) to eat better overall.

I'm using Drew Canole's book "Juicing Recipes." All have been good with a good, but distinctly veg taste, (I've added apples to all to sweeten a bit). We'll see if it really helps. I seem to be snacking less and eating better.

Day 1 Thursday got my juicer in the afternoon, and made pineapple juice (Drew's Aches, Pains, Sinus Drains recipe) - Kids loved it. Not sure it offered any sinus relief, since my sinus junk comes and goes.
Day 2 Friday made Drew Canole's Brain Juice recipe. Offered Peep some and she asked what kind it was, made the mistake of telling her. Brain juice, ewwww, I don't want brain juice! I explained it doesn't have brains in it, it's for your brain. ha!
Day 3 Parsley Pickup
Day 4 Pineapple for kids. Green Juice Energizer for me and Hubs. Then My Memory Oh My.
Day 5 San Francisco Fog Basher, Heaven Sent