And Last, But Certainly Not Least, the Final Two ReviMo Prizes!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Final ReviMo 2016 Prizes:

Keila Dawson

*  Alayne Kay Christian's writing course ART OF ARC or Critique  *

Maria Marshall

*  Susanna Leonard Hill's Making Picture Book Magic Class  *

Congratulations ladies! I will be in touch with you, via email, about collecting your prize. If you don't see my email, check spam folder or contact me!

But wait!

Just when you think the fun is over.... Susanna Leonard Hill is hosting the First Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Contest! Sounds like fun and a chance at more awesome prizes! Keep writing and having fun, everyone!

Second Set of Winners!

More ReviMo 2016 Prizes:

Mona Pease

* Skype Critique with Marcie Colleen *

Judy Rubin

Congratulations ladies! I will be in touch with you, via email, about collecting your prize. If you don't see my email, check spam folder or contact me!

Be sure to check out the CafePress Shop! All proceeds (through Fri. Jan. 22nd) will go to Reading is Fundamental


First Two Winners!

ReviMo 2016 Prizes:

Alayne Kay Christian

* Critique from Karen Grencik, Red Fox Literary *

Joanne Sher

*Critique from Deborah Warren, East West Literary Agency*
Congratulations ladies! I will be in touch with you, via email, about collecting your prize. If you don't see my email, check spam folder or contact me!

I wish I had prizes for everyone!
Be sure to check out the CafePress Shop! All proceeds (through Fri. Jan. 23nd) will go to Reading is Fundamental

We're Wrapping Up ReviMo - Rafflecopters for Prizes!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

First of all . . . 

A HUGE THANK YOU!! to ReviMo Guest Bloggers and Sponsors. I couldn't do this without you! 

WHAT a wonderful week! I hope you pushed through on some days when you didn't feel like revising and were empowered by it. I know it might also make you pull out a few hairs or perhaps curse ReviMo and it's little creator too, but overall I hope you had fun! Thank you for joining me in revising! :D

Please Read Carefully, lots of info!

To enter Giveaways, for those who have revised at least 4 days:
1. Scroll down to the Rafflecopter widget(s) in this post  You have until Sunday midnight CST January 17th to enter. Each prize is in a separate Rafflecopter, enter all that you would like to win.
2. Under the prize listings, CLICK on the “I Revised 4+ Days During ReviMo 2016button. If you revised 6 or 7 days you may also click to enter for the bonus points.
3.  Click ENTER and you're entered. Remember you are on the honor system. :D
4. Be sure you commented to be eligible. (I know some peeps had trouble with the blog, so FB comments can count.)

******Did you revise 4 or more days??******
(If you've not used Rafflecopter before, you can check out a how-to here). 

Repeat after me, I pledge that I made significant revisions to manuscripts for 4 or more days the week of January 10-16th. Now enter away!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway  

For everyone who revised this week, a winner badge for your website, blog or wherever! 1 day or 7, you are all winners in my book! If you'll link it back to my blog, I'd appreciate it!

If you want it any ReviMo schwag, don’t forget to stop by the shop. Proceeds from this week and the next few days will to go Reading is Fundamental. In 2014 and 2015 we donated $50!

Thank you all! This week has been fun and productive! 


ReviMo Day 7 with Pat Zietlow Miller

Friday, January 15, 2016

How I Revised My Manuscript Until It Became an Actual Book

by Pat Zietlow Miller

I think most people assume writers write their books in solitude, edit a bit and wait for a publishing offer to arrive. That’s usually not the case, although — because I may be the biggest introvert in the world — it sounds appealing.

My fourth picture book — The Quickest Kid in Clarksville — releases from Chronicle Books on Feb. 9th. Here’s how I got the idea and how a village helped me make the sale.

Step One
I wrote a first draft at my kitchen table after being inspired by Jacqui Robbins’ and Matt Phelan’s picture book The New Girl … And Me. I thought its depiction of a beginning friendship and the pitfalls that can occur was spot-on. I wanted to see if I could take that theme in a new direction. I’d also been hanging around my daughter’s school, and the voices of some of the kids had gotten stuck in my head and made their way into my manuscript. The first draft was titled The Fastest Feet on Fleet Street and had two girls competing to see who was the better runner, jumper and double-dutch rope-skipper. The girls started out disliking each other, but ended up as friends. But, I knew I wasn’t done, I needed …

Step Two
I sent the draft through two critique groups. They made comments, and I made adjustments. Then, I won a picture book critique from esteemed picture book writer Dori Chaconas. She had great things to say about the voice and suggested that I have one of the girls be new to the neighborhood so she’d be more of a threat to the other, who had been reigning queen of the block. I thought this was a great idea, rewrote accordingly and proceeded to …

Step Three
I took the manuscript to the Rutgers One-on-One Plus writing conference (which is a wonderful experience if you get the chance to go). This conference pairs you with an editor, agent or writer. You spend 45 minutes with them digging into your manuscript and absorbing their knowledge. I was paired with Chelsea Eberly, then an associate editor at Random House. Not only did Chelsea explain the concept of a story hook better than I’d ever heard, she also turned on a light bulb for me by suggesting I set the story in the past and look for a historical angle to give the story a stronger identity. Almost instantly, I thought of setting the story in 1960, the year American sprinter Wilma Rudolph won three gold medals at the Summer Olympics in Rome. I went home full of excitement and rewrote the story so both characters idolized Wilma and wanted to be just like her. That brought me to …

Step Four
I attended an Iowa SCBWI conference. I was paired with Brett Wright, then an assistant editor at Bloomsbury. He had lots of good things to say in his critique, but he also suggested amping up the tension between my two competing athletes so, as he put it, “They earn their happy ending.” This made sense to me, and was relatively easy to do, so I went at it and moved to …

Step Five
Now, the story seemed ready to submit. Ammi-Joan Paquette, my agent, agreed and sent it out. Some rejections arrived, which is inevitable, and then we received a nice note from Tamra Tuller at Chronicle Books. She liked the story, but said something didn’t seem quite right. Maybe there wasn’t enough Wilma Rudolph? She didn’t know how to fix things, but if I was willing to try, she’d be happy to look at it later. I was willing, so that led to …

Step Six
I was off work and alone in my house the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and I made revising the story my top priority. But I wasn’t exactly sure how to get started. So I sent the story to my critique group friends asking for ideas. They did not let me down. Norene Paulson sent a list of brainstormed thoughts about how to make Wilma more prominent. Lisa Morlock suggested using the story’s setting to add punch. And, Jill Esbaum offered character advice. So I pondered, and began …

Step Seven
I read Wilma’s autobiography and children’s books about her. And, I learned interesting things. Wilma grew up in Clarksville, Tenn. which was segregated in 1960. Blacks and whites went to separate schools, saw separate doctors and ate at separate restaurants. But after Wilma’s Olympic victories, Clarksville wanted to throw her a victory parade. Wilma agreed, but said the event had to be integrated. So that parade was the first integrated event in Clarksville history. Knowing that, I moved my story’s setting to Clarksville and had both girls planning to attend Wilma’s victory parade. I also removed the jumping and rope-skipping and had the girls’ competition focus on running events loosely patterned after Wilma’s three Olympic events. And the title changed to The Quickest Kid in Clarksville. I look a deep breath and advanced to …

Step Eight
I sent the story to Joan. She asked a few questions, I made a few alterations and Joan sent the story to Tamra, who took it to an editorial meeting and then to an acquisitions meeting and then, amazingly, bought it, resulting in …

Step Nine
Celebration! (And, awaiting Tamra’s editorial notes.)
So here’s my advice. Get your idea, and write your story. But once you’ve gotten your manuscript as far as you individually can, send it out into your village. Listen to what they have to say and use the ideas that make sense to you. It will help.
And, if you don’t have a village, find some like-minded people and create one. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is a good place to start.
You and your book will be better for it.

Thank you Pat!

Pat Zietlow Miller has three picture books in print and seven more on the way. Her debut, SOPHIE’ S SQUASH, won the Golden Kite Award for best picture book text, an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor and a Charlotte Zolotow Honor. It also won the Midwest Region Crystal Kite Award and was a Cybils’ finalist. WHEREVER YOU GO briefly made Midwest Booksellers bestseller list, and SHARING THE BREAD was, at one point, the No. 1 release for new Thanksgiving books. Pat blogs about the craft of writing picture books at She lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with one wonderful husband, two delightful daughters and two particular cats. Find her on Twitter at @PatZMiller.

ReviMo Day 6 with Alayne Kay Christian

Thursday, January 14, 2016

by Alayne Kay Christian

Before I start, I’d like to thank Meg for inviting me to be a guest blogger for ReviMo 2016. When Meg asked me to be a guest, we bounced around the idea of me teaching a mini-lesson from my course Art of Arc: How to Analyze Your Picture Book Manuscript. Because the course is structured in a building-block style, I found it difficult to choose a portion to share. However, at the end of this post, I will share my list of questions for critiques, edits, and polishing (for picture books built around a traditional arc).

After much brainstorming, I’ve decided to let the wisdom of other authors guide me in writing this post. I hope their words will guide you (or at least entertain you) while revising your work. Comments in blue are yours truly.

What do Michael Crichton, James Michener, and David Sedaris have in common with Ernest Hemingway? They all revise, revise, revise!

“Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.” [Seven? Only seven?]
– Michael Crichton

“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”
– James Michener

“I tend to write things seven times before I show them to my editor. I write them seven times, then I take them on tour, read them like a dozen times on tour, then go back to the room and rewrite, read and rewrite, and I try to learn as much as I can on my own before I show it to my editor at The New Yorker. I would never show him a first draft, because then he’s really going to be sick of it by the twelfth draft.”
– David Sedaris

David Sedaris’s method of writing is an important one to consider. Be patient. Don’t be in a hurry to submit. Some agents and editors have been quoted with variations of “I can only read a story for the first time once.” Make sure you are sending your absolute best. How do you do that? Revise.

Don’t be in a hurry with a request for revisions from an agent either. On her blog, Heather Alexander gives some reasons why you should let revisions simmer for a while before resending a manuscript.

“When asked about rewriting, Ernest Hemingway said that he rewrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times before he was satisfied. . . .” [Thirty-nine – now that’s more my style!]
– Susan M. Tiberghein,
One Year to a Writing Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art and Craft.

Are you sick of revising? How many times have you felt like giving up? Do you have what Sophy Burnham said it takes to succeed? (below)

“There are so many different kinds of writing and so many ways to work that the only rule is this: do what works. Almost everything has been tried and found to succeed for somebody. The methods, even the ideas of successful writers contradict each other in a most heartening way, and the only element I find common to all successful writers is persistence – an overwhelming determination to succeed.” – Sophy Burnaham

As Sophy Burnham said, the methods and ideas of successful writers contradict each other. Following are some methods and ideas on revision from a few authors – sorry about the language.

“Revision means throwing out the boring crap and making what’s left sound natural.”
– Laurie Halse Anderson

“I’ve found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living shit out of it.”
– Don Roff

“My approach to revision hasn’t changed much over the years. I know there are writers who do it as they go along, but my method of attack has always been to plunge in and go as fast as I can, keeping the edge of my narrative blade as sharp as possible by constant use, and trying to outrun the novelist’s most insidious enemy, which is doubt.”
– Stephen King

Wow, even Stephen King struggles with doubt. Outrunning and outsmarting doubt is one the best ways to overcome thoughts of giving up. How can you combat doubt as you move into this new year? I challenge you to come up with a strategy.

Following are some fun quotes related to how revising puts the magic in writing.

“Writing a first draft is like groping one’s way into a dark room, or overhearing a faint conversation, or telling a joke whose punchline you’ve forgotten. As someone said, one writes mainly to rewrite, for rewriting and revising are how one’s mind comes to inhabit the material fully.” – Ted Solotaroff

“Fiction does not spring into the world fully grown, like Athena. It is the process of writing and rewriting that makes a fiction original, if not profound.”
– John Garnder

“Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.” – Patricia Fuller

“Editing is the very edge of your knowledge forced to grow – a test you can’t cheat on.”
– S. Kelley Harrell

“Editing is like pruning the rose bush you thought was so perfect and beautiful until
it overgrew the garden.” – Larry Enright

Following are a couple common questions from writers: How do I know when my story is ready? How do I know when it’s time to stop revising? There are many answers to these questions. I think the following quote from Terry Brooks is one good answer.

“If you are ever completely satisfied with something you have written, you are setting your sights too low. But if you can’t let go of your material even after you have done the best that you can with it, you are setting your sights too high.”
– Terry Brooks

The following quote from Jo Walton speaks for me regarding writing and revision. “There aren’t any rules, except to do what works for you.” I say learn all that you can possibly learn, and then take all that information and create your own recipe for getting the story written and polished. In the end, your best work will come from a natural process that flows from you authentically.

“I do everything they tell you not to. I go back and fix things as I go, otherwise I can’t move forward. I don’t write every day, I write in binges. I don’t write drafts, what I write, fixed as I go, is pretty much what gets published. Everybody writes differently, and there are a lot of people who want everybody to write in the same way, people who have a lot invested in telling people to write a whole crappy first draft and then revise it, and so on. That absolutely doesn’t work for me. I tell people there are things they can try, and things that might help, but there aren’t any rules, except to do what works for you, what gets the story on the page.”
– Jo Walton


“Rewriting is the crucible where books are born.”
– Cathryn Louis

As you revise and polish, you learn. And as you learn, something wonderful can happen. . . .

“There were days when I wondered if I was a glutton for punishment or simply delusional. [Sound familiar?] However, my writing must have been improving because one day I found myself with three agents interested in my latest manuscript.”
– Lois Winston

Persistence and an overwhelming determination to succeed are common to all successful writers. In the writing community, we repeatedly see proof of writers who grew through the determination and desire to learn and keep going. We see proof of their growth in announcements of signing with an agent or receiving their first book contract and in some cases a fifth, sixth, twentieth! Keep writing, keep revising, and keep dreaming. Like the characters in our stories, we may have struggles or obstacles to overcome. Yet we will learn, grow, and change as we seek our desire and battle our obstacles. But also like our characters, we will find a way to achieve what we set out to do.

As promised, here is the checklist for critiques, edits, and polishing.

The quotes in this post are from the book WRITING QUOTES: 1000+ Inspirational and Motivational Quotes about Writing by Great and Successful Writers. Researched and Compiled by Saeed Sikiru.

Alayne is offering one lucky winner the choice of free enrollment in her picture book writing course ART OF ARC: How to Analyze Your Picture Book Manuscript (deepen your understanding of picture books written with a classic arc) or a detailed analysis of a picture book manuscript that is built around an arc – prose only, preferably fiction, 850 words or less. To learn more about the course and Alayne’s detailed critiques visit her blog

A rafflecopter will be posted at the end of ReviMo, where you can enter to win!

Thank you thank you Alayne!
Alayne Kay Christian is the award-winning author of Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa, a life coach, and teacher of Art of Arc: How to Analyze Your Picture Book Manuscript (deepen your understanding of picture books written with a classic arc).

More about Alayne 
More about the Art of Arc course 
Alayne’s Blog 
More about Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa 

ReviMo Day 5 with Jenny Whitehead

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Everyone, please welcome Jenny Whitehead for a ReviMo interview! 

Jenny, why do you write picture books?

I truly believe that anyone passionate about this field is not writing solely “to get published" but has a genuine love of the process. I enjoy the challenge of getting every word right in a story or poem because we have a tough audience to please---not the editor or agent but the child reading the book. I try to never underestimate this sophisticated reader! They can sense when a story is confusing or dull, an ending is flat or a rhyme seems “off.” If they lose interest, they’ll simply close the book and find another one. It’s our job as writers to create stories that draw a reader in and stay. To write something that even my toughest critic will love, remember, memorize and pass on motivates me more than anything.

On a side note---for me, the love of writing doesn’t come from wrestling words on a computer or a pad of paper for several hours. It’s the collection of story parts and characters and dialogue I pick up from everyday life. I’ll jot down unusual names I hear at the doctor’s office or notice fun-to-say words on a menu. I look for story characters passing by me on the street. It’s a great way to keep the writing fresh and colorful and the writer’s-life only a scrap of scratch paper away.

What keeps you writing through it all?

I just can’t let it go! I often think to myself how much easier it would be to focus only on my part-time preschool job, free-lance illustration and family…maybe have a little extra time to read books for people older than five. But I can’t give up the feeling I get when I settle into my spot on the couch with my laptop and story notes or the poem I struggled to resolve the night before. I know I’m in my element and for the next three to four hours I will get lost in the words.

It’s taken me twenty years to get four books published with Christy Ottaviano at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers (she is the most patient and talented editor ever!) and selling at book stores. Fortunately, my entire body of work incorporates much more than those four books. First, there are the 35 poems I wrote twenty years ago “to learn my craft” as my brother advised me to do before sending anything out. I have written 140 poems for both Lunch Box Mail and Holiday Stew in addition to dozens more in my file just for fun or self-expression or experimentation. I have one picture book story published and 8 more manuscripts in the files, as well as a half-written chapter book and a close-to-completed middle grade novel.

Click image to enlarge

And then there are the 1000 ideas and story concepts jotted down in my journals and notebooks and Word Documents. Do I only feel successful because I’ve published four books? No. I feel successful because I kept writing regardless of whether something was bought or turned down. I kept going to SCBWI conferences and workshops. I kept doing school talks, hopefully inspiring kids to love writing. But this very uneven success rate can be frustrating at times without a doubt. But true writers keep writing because they are called to do it. Amateurs go to a critique group, get defensive about their work instead of motivated to fix it, mail it into a publisher and give up after the first rejection. I’ve seen it over and over again.

What keeps me going is learning more and more about my craft. It’s seeking out the counsel of those who know more than I do. It’s being open to critiques that are honest and constructive. It’s considering all feedback with the confidence that ultimately it is my work and I can make the final call about its content and structure. It’s writing smart. It’s writing creative. It’s writing that surprises and delights even myself sometimes.

What is your revision process? 

When writing a rhyming poem, I add the rhyme words LAST and not as I go. Otherwise, it dictates the way a poem unfolds.

If you iron out the poem’s content and story arc first, then rhyme and meter bring the poem to a whole new level by enhancing the language and flow. Adding rhyme too early only flowers-up a flat and/or predictable poem.

If you can predict what rhyme word comes next in most of your text, it’s time to get the Rhyming Dictionary out and come up with some unexpected solutions:
  • i.e. mix up syllables---lean, mean, gasoline, big green bean
  • throw in a name---instead, Fred, gingerbread, big bunk bed (alliteration)
Stop writing if you are falling asleep. Sometimes a good night sleep or nap gets my brain to work out the problems for me.

My friend, Laurie Keller (author of Scrambled States of America and Arnie the Donut will often ask me (and vice versa) during a writing session “are you having fun?”. It’s a great way to remind me that if it feels like a chore, than the writing is going to feel labored, too. Switching that small gear to “having fun” lightens the mood and helps me address plot problems or poetry structure in a new and clever way…worth trying!

I prefer to figure out a middle grade book or chapter book story structure before I begin (others figure it out as they go). If I know where I’m heading with the story and feel reasonably secure that a solid plot solution exists, I can jump around and write the chapters I’m most in the mood to write. (It’s sort of like filming a movie out of sequence but still following a storyboard.) Working out the sub plots, the character development changes, the foreshadowing elements in advance chapter by chapter (with notes and diagrams on a large board in my studio), I can then let my left brain rest while my right brain has fun with the material.

Reading your work out loud to someone else will instantly show you what is awkward or redundant or needs reworking. If you have to explain your work in any way while you read it….it ain’t done!

What is your favorite revision tip?

Think of a poem like a math problem---shift words and phrases around or substitute better words until the meter flows flawlessly. There is always another way to say the same thing.

Any other thoughts for fellow writers?

There is a whole range of solutions when crafting a story so developing something really original doesn't happen until you are "half-way up the pencil". Most people go with the first thing that pops in their head. It’s usually something that’s been done before. I like to go with the stand-out idea…something different and unexpected. It takes more work to think harder and longer but it gives your story a stronger foundation on which to build.

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge
In the beginning stages of my writing process, I literally use a pencil (and legal pad) to work out these ideas and story-lines, crossing out phrases, rewriting them, rereading them, rewriting them, replacing words and adding others. Trying to do this part on the computer is too "permanent" for me--once you back-space or delete, the words are gone. I like to go back and use lines and paragraphs I crossed off earlier. I doodle along the edges of the paper while I think. I use a rhyming dictionary and a thesaurus to help me broaden my word usage and keep my rhyming words from becoming too predictable. Typing the mostly finished story or poem on my computer is my reward after hours of revision. But who am I kidding? On the computer, I continue to revise until every word is in its perfect place!

Thank you Jenny!

Jenny Whitehead is an author/illustrator who is published with Christy Ottaviano at Henry Holt Inc. (a subsidiary of MacMillan).  Her newest book, You're A Crab, is on sale now!  She majored in art at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  She has a husband who is an illustrator and two daughters, Bailey and Chelsea. Besides making books, Jenny also freelances artwork for cards and magazines and designs jewelry.  She especially enjoys visiting schools to talk about creative thinking, writing poetry and stories, and illustrating.   She uses a unique approach to her illustration style by combining tissue paper, paint and Photoshop.

ReviMo Day 4 - The Annual Broccoli Hunt

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Today I'd like you to start your revisions by looking for your intuition, your "broccoli" as Anne Lamott calls it. That little voice inside you, it is how you "KNOW what your character will do.

Anne says we lose our intuition as kids. I think I misplaced mine in between to do lists and too little time spent daydreaming.

To reconnect with your intuition, quiet your mind and give your intuition some room to breathe. If you give it some space it "wafts up from the soul", but crowd it and it "becomes a fitful little flame." Too much "manic attention" and it will be blown out. [Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird]

So before you revise today, let your mind wander and wonder a while.

Happy intuitioning!

ReviMo Day 3 with Kevan Attebery

Monday, January 11, 2016

Visual Revision

by Kevan Atteberry

When I wrote BUNNIES!!! on a cold but inspired late fall day in December 2012, I thought it was perfect. All 44 or 45 words of it. I couldn’t imagine how there could or would be any edits or revision. My critique group loved it but felt it needed some minor tweaks. I changed a few words for impact and added a word or two to improve the pacing. Then I was certain it was perfect. I dummied it and since I was in-between agents used it to get my amazing agent. She had interests from several publishers and sold it promptly after I signed with her in a two-book deal.

At 48 words I didn’t expect much in revision requests from my editor, and indeed, there was only one—the addition of a single word. It was a great edit and it really completed the story. So, just like that, revisions were complete. Unless you are the illustrator of the book, too.

It is not necessarily called revision, but illustrators face the same fluid scrutiny to their work as writers. They are called art edits. Though the text for BUNNIES!!! was easily and brilliantly revised, the art edits would be much more involved. It ranged from the look of the main character to the background palette to the page layouts.

Declan, the protagonist in the story, originally had a look like this:

He was a monster with some edge, yet not too scary. The dummy that sold the book was done with this version.

After some discussion with my editor and art director they asked me if I would consider some changes. Absolutely. I like to think I am pretty open to change especially to make a better product. The way I figure it, they want to sell as many books as I do, they are the experts, and as long as the character is not compromised, why not?

So they asked if we could see some different versions of the eyes.

And lose the lips.

And less pointy horns.

And maybe a puff ball for a tail.

Which were all pretty drastic changes. I was mostly fine with these request, only questioning the puffball for a tail. And I only questioned it momentarily. In the end, I think we got a much more endearing character. You can see we also changed color, added spots, and changed the spacing on his teeth. Not all of those were suggested by the editor and A.D. but things I executed in the process of making the other edits.
Another area there was revision was the background palette. Most notably was changing the sky from blue to more of an aqua. I love this. I tend to be more pragmatic in my coloring and would probably have not thought of, let alone tried this. But it really works.

Finally, there were page layouts. The changes they suggested here ended up with me creating an extra 6 illustrations but I think it really worked well. We went from two pages, each with one illustration to series of 4 illustrations to show Declan looking for the bunnies that were just there a minute ago.

This helped dramatically with the pacing of the story. Especially since this particular situation occurs three times in the book. More work, yes, but a much better story and mood setting experience.

There were a lot of other little things, like having his horns droop the sadder he got, etc. In the end, all revision is for the good of the book and the experience of the reader. I am happy with what my editor and my art director got me to rethink and come around to. I think BUNNIES!!! is a much better book because of it.

Love getting an author/illustrator perspective! And something that stands out to me is how big an impact adding two more images of Declan had on the escalating tension. Too often when I am attempting to add tension to the middle of the story I just add a hot mess of confusion. Today I'm going to attempt to do it simply and elegantly, as you have illustrated here.

Thank you Kevan!

Kevan is an illustrator/writer of children’s books from the Seattle area. He has designed and illustrated many things over the years, including award-winning children's books. Among them are FRANKIE STEIN, by Lola Schaefer, TICKLE MONSTER, by Josie Bisset, and HALLOWEEN HUSTLE by Charlotte Gunnaffson. His first authored picture book, BUNNIES!!!, came out last year from Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins. And yes, he illustrated it too. It is the first of three books. This summer will see the release of PUDDLES!!!, a companion book to BUNNIES!!! And I LOVE YOU MORE THAN THE SMELL OF SWAMP GAS comes out in 2017. But up till now, Kevan’s biggest claim to fame is creating Clippy the paperclip helper in Microsoft Office, which, during its heyday was annoying hundreds of millions of people every single day.

ReviMo Day 2 with Marcie Colleen

Sunday, January 10, 2016

3 “Out of this World” Revision Tips


(what a little penguin and the moon taught me about the revision process)

by Marcie Colleen

In January 2012 I wrote a story about a penguin who longs to travel to the moon.

In September 2014, Scholastic acquired that story—The Adventure of the Penguinaut. It was my very first book sale and will be illustrated by the incredibly talented Emma Yarlett (Orion and the Dark). I couldn’t be happier…but sometimes I think getting to the moon would have been easier.

It took 39 drafts to get that manuscript into orbit. Here is what I learned along the way.

Every draft is like a mission. Writing is revision. Each draft should be viewed as exploration, with the spirit of curiosity.

Some drafts will feel like flight tests. Others might not even make it off the launch pad. Some will even veer entirely off course and lose direction…or find a totally new flight path that leads to brand new discoveries.

Is your manuscript in rhyme? Try it in prose. Have you written in first person point-of view? Give third person a try. Need more page-turning tension? Create another draft.

Do not worry. This is revision. Nothing is written in stone. Any changes you make can always be unmade if you want. In fact, to be sure each mission is not lost, take a cue from NASA’s Apollo missions and number them. Penguinaut v1, Penguinaut v2, Penguinaut v39. Therefore, every step in your journey will be fully documented.

Critiques are like Ground Control. Like being on a space mission in a tiny capsule, it’s easy to get consumed with a story and not be able to see the bigger picture. Therefore, you need to get other eyes on your manuscript from time to time to provide an outside viewpoint.

Find those who you trust to give honest feedback. Often, comments from fellow writing buddies or a critique from an editor or agent can be just what we need to get unstuck when calling out, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Writers are an elite crew. Not everyone that I know who started writing when I did is still writing.

Like the road to becoming an astronaut, becoming a writer is long and arduous. It’s a challenge. If it was easy, anyone and everyone would do it. But to put it into perspective, only 833 astronauts traveled to space as part of NASA’s space shuttle program. It’s an elite crew…and so are you!

The clean white sheet of paper is your frontier. A blank document is yours to fill with adventure. It’s a challenge. It can’t be rushed. Many give up before reaching their destination and with years to complete one sale-able picture book, it’s not surprising. However, the journey is amazing. The views along the way are breathtaking. Don’t lose heart.

Revision is how we learn. It’s how we navigate. It’s how we reach heights we never thought we would or could.

So in the words of the late Gene Roddenberry (with some creative liberty taken by yours truly):

“These are the voyages of the picture book writer. Its two (or five or ten or more)-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to create new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

Now reach for the stars, my fellow writers. It might not seem like it when you are in the thick of it, but revision will eventually end. It’s the accomplishment that will last forever.

Marcie Colleen is a former classroom teacher turned picture book author. In fact, she co-teaches the “Picture Book Revision from A-Z” class for with author Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. Marcie’s forthcoming picture books include Love, Triangle illustrated by Bob Shea (Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins, 2017) and The Adventure of the Penguinaut illustrated by Emma Yarlett (Scholastic, 2018). After calling Brooklyn, New York home for many years, she recently located to San Diego, California with her husband—LEGO artist Jonathan Lopes—and their mischievous sock monkey. Marcie is represented by Susan Hawk at The Bent Agency. To learn more, visit her at or follow her at @MarcieColleen1.

Marcie has generously donated a prize for ReviMo! A lucky winner will get a 1 hour Skype critique on a PB manuscript. Thank you Marcie! 

If anyone is on Facebook and would like to join us in the ReviMo group, click here! ReviMo swag shop is here (all proceeds go to Reading is Fundamental!). If you haven't registered, registration closes tomorrow (1/11/2016) at 10 pm CST.

ReviMo Day 1 with Lori Alexander

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Tinkering vs. Big Revision

by Lori Alexander

Nutty as it sounds, I love revising my picture book texts. Revision means the heavy lifting has been done. I have characters. I have a plot and a setting. For me, coming up with a unique and catchy premise is the tough part. A promising idea is like waiting to be struck by lightning. Revision is a sure-thing.

That said, in my early days of writing, I wasn’t always executing the right type of revision. My first picture manuscript, BACKHOE JOE, told the story of a boy who wanted a real backhoe for his birthday. It was written in epistolary format, with the boy hiding notes and letters to his parents all over the house, hinting at what he most desired.

Back then, I didn’t have an agent. I subbed BACKHOE JOE directly to editors. After the long, LONG wait, responses would trickle in. “This has some great bits of humor, but it’s not quite right for us,” or “Unfortunately, this is a pass for us. Keep writing!” or plainly, “Not a fit for our list.” I knew rejection was a writer’s middle name, so I would tweak a few sentences and mail it out to the next batch of editors.

It wasn’t until an editor pointed out the rather flat ending and asked if I would consider rewriting in a more traditional format, that I knew the story wasn’t working as-is. My problem was bigger than swapping around a few verbs.

At about the same time, I happened on a blog post from Mary Kole, former literary agent and current freelance editor. If you haven’t stopped by her site,, run don’t walk. It’s brimming with golden nuggets of writerly advice. The post I read was called Big Revision. It struck a chord with me. This is my favorite part (but go read the whole post, it’s worth your time):

Let me say it here once and for all: unless you make big changes, a revision isn’t worth doing. If you go out on a submission round and get roundly rejected, you’re not going to solve your problem by going back to the page to tweak a few words here and there. I’ve said this before, but look at the word revision…it means “to see again.” To see your story in a whole new light. To make massive plot, character, and language changes. And having so much on the page already often lures us into a false complacency.

I went back to my manuscript with new eyes. I rewrote it in prose, taking my favorite bit from one of the boy’s letters (why a backhoe is better than a puppy) and scrapping the rest. I wrote an entirely new story. It had every bit of the humor as my first draft. And now, a much stronger (twist!) ending. It was this version that helped secure an agent. It was this version that sold in auction to HarperCollins. Yay for big revision!

If you’ve been tinkering with a text and getting the same types of comments from critique partners or the standard “Thanks, but no thanks” responses from editors, it might be time for a big revision. Easier said than done, right? Maybe revising your story from 3rd person to 1st person jogs something loose. Maybe your meandering middle can be cut down to increase the story’s pace and tension. Maybe you brainstorm a completely new and satisfying ending. There’s really no harm in tearing it down and building something new. You can always go back to your original version. But after your big revision, I bet you won’t want to. ☺

Thank you Lori!


LORI ALEXANDER writes for young children and their exhausted parents. Her debut picture book, BACKHOE JOE, rolled out in 2014 from Harper Children’s. FAMOUSLY PHOEBE will release with Sterling Children’s Books in 2017.

Lori resides in Tucson, Arizona, with her scientist husband and two book-loving kids. She runs when it’s cool (rarely) and swims when it’s hot (often). She grew up in San Diego, where she earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in psychology from UCSD and SDSU, respectively. More information can be found online at or follow her on  Twitter @LoriJAlexander

Third Annual ReviMo Starts Tomorrow!!!

Friday, January 8, 2016

I hope you are all ready for some revision fun! I know I need it. :D I hope you'll all join us in the Facebook group or commenting on the blog (which you must do on the daily guest posts to be eligible for prizes!) and telling us how your revisions are going. The camaraderie makes ReviMo so much fun, in my humble opinion! And the awesome prizes don't hurt either! :D Register here, if you haven't already! (Registration closes tomorrow night)

For those of you who don't already have it, a little gift... A Revision Inspiration sheet with wisdom from many sage writers! 
Click to enlarge, then save or print!

Wondering what you need for ReviMo? Check out the ReviMo page and be sure to register! And get inspired by Linda Ashman's post below, reposted from 1/10/14. I reposted it last year and now it feels like a tradition!

What You'll Need for Your Revision Journey

by Linda Ashman

Happy New Year! First of all, kudos to Meg for using ReviMo to focus attention on revision, often regarded as the ugly stepsister of writing. Lots of people ask me, “Where do you get your ideas?”—but rarely does someone say, “Tell me about your revision process.”

That’s not surprising. After all, ideas are glamorous (Inspired! Brilliant! Clever!). Revising, on the other hand, is painstaking, repetitive, and—yes—sometimes tedious. And yet, as one of my former bosses liked to say, ideas are a dime a dozen. Sure, they’re essential. But turning ideas into something tangible and usable, well, that’s where the treasure is.

And where the real work begins. It’s not easy to transform a scrap of an idea—no matter how brilliant—into a compelling and marketable manuscript, so it’s good to be prepared.

I’m a big fan of lists (they make me feel more organized than I am). So, as you tackle your revisions this week—and beyond, I hope—here’s my list of things you’ll need for the journey:

1. Stamina. Ideas often arrive in a momentary flash of inspiration. Revisions, on the other hand, require hours, weeks, months—sometimes years. Be patient with the process—and yourself.

2. A playful spirit. Carl Jung said, “The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.” Presumably, you’re a writer because you love stories, language and words. So play with them! Experiment with voice, rhythm, structure, point of view. What brings your story alive?

3. Openness. Sometimes the story you begin with isn’t the one that wants to be told. If your idea starts taking you in a new direction, follow it. You can always go back if it turns out to be a dead end (and don’t be afraid of dead ends—sometimes they point us in the right direction).

4. An objective eye. If, like me, you find that the revision process sometimes brings on a severe case of brain fog, it helps to step back. Go for a walk, clear your head, and ask: What is this story really about? What am I trying to say? How can I say it more simply, clearly, and concisely?

5. A sharp knife. (A metaphorical one, of course.) If you’re writing picture books, in particular, be merciless with those long, rambling descriptions, and anything that isn’t visual and doesn’t move your story forward.

6. Small rewards. Writing is hard work, so it helps to have some carrots to keep you motivated. My own carrots? Cookies. Yep, a couple of cookies, or maybe a scone or muffin—along with a good cup of joe—keep me going through the afternoon lull. Walking, gardening, and trips to the library help too.

7. Commitment. There’s always a point in my revision process where my manuscript looks so messy, convoluted, and ugly that I’m ready to abandon it and move on to something “easier.” After many years of writing, I’ve come to accept that it always gets worse before it gets better. And I know it won’t get better unless I keep slogging through the morass. If I’m not willing to do that, I’ll never finish anything.

8. A touch of perfectionism. Save this one for the end of the process, after you’ve gotten all your ideas on paper, experimented, trimmed, and essentially completed your story. Now is the time to be a little bit obsessive—to clarify that slightly confusing passage, find exactly the right word, trim anything extraneous, fix typos, make sure your meter is flawless (if you write in verse), and polish, polish, polish.

9. Faith. I’m not talking higher powers here, although if you’ve got those connections, by all means, use them. I’m talking about faith in yourself. It’s tough when you’re struggling with a story. What’s the point? Who wants to read this? No one’s going to buy it. Chances are, no one’s pushing you to write this manuscript—or any manuscript, for that matter—so the motivation’s got to come from within. No one can guarantee that you’ll sell your story—but you can guarantee that you’ll do your best work and finish it.

Above all, as you pull out those scraps of ideas and half-finished manuscripts this week and beyond, remember why you’re a writer. Because you love words, perhaps. Or love stories, or art, or books, or writing as a form of self-expression. When you’re struggling through your manuscript for the fiftieth time, it’s good to remember the “love” part. Yes, revision can be a slog. But, for me, it’s a joyful slog. Enjoy the process.

Thanks for inviting me, Meg. And happy revising to all!

Thank you Linda!

Linda Ashman is the author of more than thirty picture books, including three new books in 2016: Rock-a-Bye Romp, Henry Wants More! and All We Know.  Her books have been named to the “Best of the Year” lists of The New York Times, Parenting, Cookie, and Child magazines, New York Public Library, Bank Street College of Education, the IRA/CBC and others. She's also the author of The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books, a "how-to" handbook for writers. For more information, visit

If you haven't read Linda Ashman's The Nuts & Bolts Guide to Picture Book Writing, I highly recommend it!

ReviMo 2016 coming soon!

Friday, January 1, 2016

The 3rd Annual ReviMo - Revise More Picture Books Challenge is just around the corner! January 10th-16th, 2016. Are you ready??

Dust off your picture book drafts. Get your story to your critique groups. Get ready to REVISE!

To register, comment on the ReviMo page on this site (just once, please!). Read the instructions and let's do this! I'm excited to get busy revising. :D

Happy New Year everyone!