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Archive for the ‘Writing Contests’ Category

ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING V2This month’s ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING SERIES guest blogger is the sensational and talented Tara Lazar. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us, Tara. Just a quick note about Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo). PiBoIdMo is a free November writing challenge for picture book writers and illustrators. The object is to jot down one picture book concept daily. By the end of the month you’ll have at least 30 bright & shiny new ideas! You can then refer to these ideas throughout the year to jumpstart your creativity and write new manuscripts. Registration begins October 25 and ends November 4.

YOU ARE YOUR PLATFORM

by Tara Lazar

An author platform cannot live by social media alone.

You already know this, right? While it’s great to have a popular blog, witty Facebook page or oft-followed Twitter feed, social media does not equal your author platform.

Author Brook Warner outlined this so well for SheWrites.com last month—reminding those of us who remain slave to our blog that we need not be so post-obsessed. Your social media presence, while increasingly important, especially to sales and marketing professionals at publishers, is not your entire author platform. It’s only a small piece of it.

Remember, YOU are your platform. Your books. Your personality. Your message. For what do you want to be known? It should be shared through a variety of outlets, not just via an animated-gif Tumblr.

That being said, I suppose you’re wondering how I built my blog to reach over 4,000 followers?

It was all a lucky accident. I founded a writing event that touched a nerve with those passionate about picture books. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s PiBoIdMo—or Picture Book Idea Month.

piboidmo2014

The popularity of this 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge has grown steadily from 100 participants in 2009 to nearly 1200 in 2013. This year? It’s anybody’s guess, but I’m planning on welcoming 1500 folks to the fun.

But it’s not like I planned all this carefully. When I founded PiBoIdMo, I wasn’t thinking about throngs of people clicking on my blog. There was no plan for writing-world dominance. I was just jealous of NaNoWriMo participants and wanted something to do in November! I thought maybe a dozen people would join me! I had no idea it would become what it has. Listen, it’s not my fault. I was just being ME.

And that’s really what your platform is all about. As an author, you’re a personality. Why should people read your books? Why should they invite you to speak? What do you stand for? (The band Fun. asks this question repeatedly on my radio.) You should have a message and certain je-ne-sais-qua that engages an audience.

So I’ve built an event for writers, attracted writers, and therefore continue to serve this audience via social media.

But is this the right audience for me? Truth be told, as a picture book author, my desired audience is comprised of librarians, school teachers, and parents/family/caregivers of young children. A writing event doesn’t appeal to this group. I’m like Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom: “You’re doing it wrong.”

However, PiBoIdMo has become part of who I am as an author and a person. I enjoy inspiring writers to create great literature for children. I share this message on my blog but also via appearances at conferences and literacy events. I donate PiBoIdMo proceeds to Reading is Fundamental. monstorecover800Bear Book final coverAnd I write books that I hope children will love—quirky, off-beat, laugh-out-loud books. Books that I wish I had when I was a kid.

Let’s go back to the platform question: For what do I want to be known? Primarily, I want to be known for writing great books for kids. But if you look at my platform, I’m probably more well-known for PiBoIdMo than anything else. So platform is a tricky thing. Be sure you are creating something that really reflects you and what you ultimately want to accomplish.

PiBoIdMo really is who I am, though. I like making other people happy. Perhaps that’s my message, my legacy as an author. Whether it’s a child reading my book, a parent enjoying time with their child, or a writer getting a burst of inspiration, I hope what I do spreads joy.

Joy!

What better platform is there?

taranewblogpic2014ABOUT TARA

Street magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been. Instead, she writes quirky, humorous picture books featuring magical places that adults never find. Her debut THE MONSTORE was released in June 2013, with I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK and LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD to follow in 2015. She’s the founder of PiBoIdMo, Picture Book Idea Month, an annual November writing challenge. Tara lives in New Jersey with her husband, two daughters, and far too many stuffed animals.

To learn more about Tara, her books, and Picture Book Idea Month, visit her blog.

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Summer SparksThis week my guest post CAUSE AND EFFECT is being featured in the Summer Sparks challenge hosted by Tracey Cox. There is some great information, so I hope you will give it a look.

Also, here is the link to the top viewed post on my blog this year. USING CHARACTER-DRIVEN PICTURE BOOKS AS MENTOR TEXTS TO IMPROVE YOUR OWN WRITING, by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

I want to share that I have been taking an excellent course on chapter book writing. Emma Walton Hamilton’s Just Write for  Middle Grade and Chapter Book Course is a 14 week experience that will help anyone turn their writing dream into a reality. Offering several worksheets per lesson and providing thorough information on each chapter book element, Emma methodically walks her students from the beginning of their book to the end. I highly recommend this course.

Finally, in case you missed it, I have started a picture book manuscript critique service.

Next week my ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS series will feature guest blogger Vivian Kirkfield. She will offer her thoughts on “getting in the backdoor” with your manuscript.

Happy writing!

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AAS Q&A 4DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT SUBMISSIONS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE ANSWERED? ASK YOUR QUESTION IN A COMMENT.

When I first got the idea for the ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS series, I asked children’s book writers what questions they would like answered regarding manuscript submissions. Several people asked similar questions about agents and editors. I decided to share all the questions with the team, as I believed it would offer them more brainstorming power. I think if I were to combine all the questions asked, they would lead to two basic questions.

1) How do you manage your agent/editor searches, information gathering, and so on?

2) How do you determine who you sub to?

Here are the questions as asked:

  • How to narrow down your “where to submit” list?
  • I find researching agents and editors overwhelming. Where is the best place to start?
  • How do I know if I am really targeting my manuscript to the right publisher? I know that we are supposed to study publisher’s websites, market guides, read other books published by them in the same genre, etc., but how do I “really” know if mine is right for their list? Are there any tips or tricks that help you to narrow down potential publishers? Are there any “tried and true” methods used by those of you who are published? I don’t know about anyone else, but I tend to feel somewhat overwhelmed when I peruse those market guides.

Once again, the team came through with excellent answers. And once again, they have offered so much information that I will do two posts. Part Two will go live tomorrow.

* * *

Teresa Robeson, Author and Artist

teresarobeson.com

My least favorite part of the writing life is not coming up with ideas, or the initial writing, or even the several hundred revisions I have to do on each manuscript. No, my least favorite part is doing market research to send it to the appropriate agent or editor. I don’t know why I dislike it; perhaps it seems so dry and methodical after the creative process of writing a story.

The following are steps I take to ensure I’m targeting the right person, be it an agent or publisher:

1)   I determine what specific category (that is, age range) and genre my story is in. This is very important since agents and editors have their likes and dislikes and won’t rep or publish anything that’s not on their want-list.

2)   I look through a copy of a children’s writers market guide and see who is accepting works in the category/genre of my story. Usually, I use the Writer’s Digest one – CHILDREN’S WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET or the Institute of Children’s Literature version – BOOK MARKETS FOR CHILDREN’S WRITERS. Those market guides will have not just a general alphabetized listing of publishing houses and agency names, but they also have listings by specialization. For example, the Category Index of the “2014 Book Markets for Children’s Writers” goes from Action/Adventure to Fantasy to Young Adult Nonfiction, and everything in between.

3)   After narrowing it down to a section comes the tedious but necessary part of skimming through all the entries under that section. You may decide to choose more than one section to look at. For example, if you have a fantasy for middle-graders, you should check both the Fantasy section and the Middle Grade Fiction section. The optimal agents/editors to send to would be the ones that fall into both categories.

4)   While doing step 3, I put the agents/editors into three categories: Most Desirable, Somewhat Desirable, and Last Resort.

5)   I start with the Most Desirable and look up their websites to see if they’re currently accepting clients/manuscripts and see if there’s more info about their likes and dislikes. Plus, their websites will have their most updated mailing (or emailing) addresses.

6)   Step 5 might help you further rank all the people/places in your Most Desirable list from your dream agent/publisher on down. Start submitting!

There is no guarantee that, even with all that work, you are targeting the best person/place for your manuscript — perhaps Agent A just broke up with her boyfriend the day she reads your story, and even though she normally loves YA romance, she may hate your romance that particular day. You can’t control these things, but if you’ve done the research above, you can be certain you’re sending your story to the people who would be interested.

Note from Alayne: The market guides that Teresa mentions in her answer also offer a variety of manuscript submission related articles, information and examples. They also have lists of contests. The info provided is different every year, so if you get a chance, give them a look. Some libraries have these guides in their reference section, plus Amazon has their look inside feature.

* * *

Cindy Williams Schrauben, Children’s Writer

Raising Book Monsters – kids who devour books and hunger for knowledge

http://www.RaisingBookMonsters.com

I am still an agent-orphan, but . . . I have studied, researched, and absorbed information for quite a while now, so I will share what I believe to be best and worst practices.

This process is overwhelming; one that is driven by passion and a desire to reach a goal as quickly as possible. Blind drive and determination can be problematic at times. It can, I’m afraid, cloud our vision and instigate reckless behavior. Let me give you an example: I have my list of “dream agents” carefully chronicled on a spreadsheet with links to their interviews, wish lists, current titles, and agency sites. I have created this list with care and a clear mind. I know what I want and who can help me to get there based on hours of research. But then . . . my internet writing family starts buzzing about the fabulous Agent X who has just opened up to submissions. Hmmm, doesn’t sound familiar; I check my list, but he’s not there. I check out his stats, current clients, past sales, and desired projects and realize that he isn’t really a good fit. But, as the buzz continues and I get caught up in the excitement . . . Maybe I will be the exception. Agent X says he doesn’t like quirky-zany stories, but surely he will like mine! So, I spend hour upon hour researching and writing a killer query, and I send my story off. Wait, why did I just do that? Because I lost sight of my writing . . . my goals . . . and the best path to get there.

Instead of reiterating the Internet sites and market guides that are available for research, I will end here with general advice. This journey to publishing is a rough one, and it should be traveled with a sure foot and discriminating mind. Do your research. Keep careful records. Determine a path and stick to it. Stay true to yourself and your writing. Submitting your work to long-shot agents not only wastes countless hours, it plays games with your self-confidence as well. So, garner your patience, use the down-time to learn more about your craft and stay on a straight road toward your goal.

Note from Alayne: After I read Cindy’s answer, I asked her the following: You mention when Agent X pops up, that you get sidetracked and check out his stats, current clients, past sales, and desired projects. Do you have a specific place you go to get these stats? If so, would you be willing to share?

Cindy’s answer: As far as researching, I use an agent’s site, first and foremost. Facebook, Twitter, Literary Rambles, Query Tracker, and good old Google for interviews. I feel that interviews give me the best insight into the agent and not only their wish list, but their writing preferences related to style, voice, etc.

* * *

Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Children’s and YA Writers

www.marcieatkins.com

1) Read, read, read. When you find books like the ones you write, look up the author. Google the author’s agent. Then you can say, “I really like your client xxx’s work, and my work is similar to xxx.” Knowing who agents represent or the types of authors they represent is very important. You aren’t going to send a picture book to an agent who represents adult thrillers. It’s a waste of everyone’s time. Reading books like those you write will help you know the market, but it will also help you get a leg up on agent research.

2) Follow blogs and industry newsletters. I find Literary Rambles a helpful site as a starting point. I also subscribe to Children’s Writer Newsletter and Children’s Book Insider. They often write about agents and what they are looking for. If an agent mentions that she is looking for a middle grade magical realism novel, and you have a completed one, then that might be an agent you should consider researching a little bit more. You can also Google the agent’s name + interviews. I’ve found interviews all over the internet just by Googling.

3) Go to SCBWI conferences or join groups like 12×12. Agents go to these conferences or participate in 12×12. Live conferences help you get an idea of personalities of different agents.

4) Connect with other writers. Once you get to know people in critique groups, Facebook groups, and at conferences, ask them about various agents. My critique group had dinner together the other night, and between the five of us, many of us had experiences with various agents through in-person critiques, e-mail contact, or even representation. Nothing can beat networking in that form.

5) Stay organized. I recently wrote a post on this blog about submission organization. Once you do your research, keep track of it. I use a spreadsheet. Every time I find someone who I might be interested in, I put them on the spreadsheet. I make notes to myself, paste in website addresses, then it makes researching much easier next time. If I just have a name, I don’t know why I put them there. But if I put a name, a web address, and a note to myself “looking for multicultural YA,” then I even know what manuscript I want to send.

* * *

Alayne Kay Christian, Award Winning Children’s Author

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio

First I want to announce my professional picture book manuscript critique service.  Click here to learn more about my service. Between today’s answers and those that will be posted tomorrow, I believe the team has done a thorough job of answering the question. Therefore, I have decided to share some links that fit well with this topic. But first, I want to tell you about tomorrow.

RESEARCHING AGENTS AND EDITORS PART TWO

  • Sylvia Liu will offer some additional resources plus her five step strategy for researching and querying agencies.
  • Sophia Mallonée will give her photography industry ex-agent perspective on the importance of finding the right agent.
  • Julie Falatko will talk about her super-focused, very personalized approach to finding, and signing with the agent that appreciates her “oddball” writing style.
  • Kirsti Call will share three things that help her decide where to submit. And I will offer more links to other agent/editor resources.

Alayne’s Links for HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHO TO SUBMIT TO? Part One

Perfect fit! MARCH 27 WEBINAR through Michigan SCBWI – HAROLD UNDERDOWN PRESENTS: FINDING THE RIGHT FIT – RESEARCING THE RIGHT AGENT, EDITOR, AND/OR PUBLISHING HOUSE.

https://michigan.scbwi.org/events/webinar-3-researching-the-right-agent-editor-andor-publishing-house/

https://www.facebook.com/events/402818103189026/?ref=3&ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

Since a couple answers mention Literary Rambles, I thought it might be good to start with the following:

THREE PART SERIES ON LITERARY RAMBLES: RESEARCHING LITERARY AGENTS

PART ONE

PART TWO

PART THREE

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN BUZZING AROUND THE WRITING COMMUNITY THIS WEEK.

ON TWITTER, GET THE INSIDE SCOOP: EDITORS AND AGENTS POST THEIR MANUSCRIPT WISH LISTS – OVER AND ABOVE GUIDELINES.

 #MSWL PICTURE BOOK

#MSWL MG (Middle Grade)

#MSWL (Other)

SHARON K. MAYHEW OFFERS A LIST OF AGENTS, EDITORS, ETC. 

http://skmayhew.blogspot.com/p/blog-awards.html

Click here to find all other ALL ABOUT SUBMISSION posts.

DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT SUBMISSIONS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE ANSWERED? ASK YOUR QUESTION IN A COMMENT.

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My friend, Renée LaTulippe, is hosting Poetry Friday this week. Poetry Friday is a weekly meme in which lovers and advocates of children’s poetry share their own kids’ poems, poems by major kids’ poets, interviews, videos, and more. Join the fun! Click here to learn more about Poetry Friday and to find the hosting schedule.

Several months ago, if I had heard the words Poetry Friday, I would have ran in the opposite direction. But because I am one of the lucky few to beta test Renee’s new online class, I have mustered the courage to share a little of my poetry today. Before the ‘reveal,’ I want to introduce Renee’s course, THE LYRICAL LANGUAGE LAB: PUNCHING UP PROSE . . . WITH POETRY! 

Renee's course

I highly recommend this 4 week course. Editor, writer, and children’s poet, Renée LaTulippe, teaches the fundamentals of poetry for picture book writers, whether they plan to write in rhyme or not. The course covers basics such as meter, rhyme, and types of poetry, as well as techniques to bring poetic and lyrical language to one’s writing, both rhyming and prose. Renée will begin monthly classes in April 2014.

For the chance to win a FREE course and learn how to punch up your prose, just go comment on Renee’s giveaway post!

As you will see by some of my poems, I sometimes struggle with scanning beats or understanding stresses. But thanks to Renée’s course; her individual comments on each course participant’s work; her audio demonstrations of beats; and her great homework assignments, it is all starting to click for me. I finally have confidence that I can write rhyme, improve my poetry, and succeed in writing lyrical prose. Before this class, I had given up on writing rhyme and never dreamed of writing lyrical prose. Now, I dare to continue trying. The quatrains that I am sharing today show some of my first attempts in the course. They are from lessons two and four. The course offers 21 lessons. I thought it would be nice to show Renée’s excellent approach to helping her students understand what works and what doesn’t work and why. Therefore, I have included some of my poems that worked, some that didn’t quite work, and Renée’s comments on all.

LESSON FOUR

Alayne’s Anapestic Quatrain One

I see ice on my sill. Is this Texas?
It’s so cold, it’s so gloomy and dark
We had sunshine just yesterday noon
When we took a long walk in the park

Alayne’s Anapestic Quatrain Two

How I wish I had written The Elf on the Shelf
It’s a marketers dream to extreme
I am pleased my elf Blizzard arrived just in time
For some fun and some tricks – she’s a scream

Alayne’s Anapestic Quatrain Three

Can we mourn for a stranger, someone we don’t know?
Can a heart fall and break when a hero lets go?
Can a tear leave the eye on its own – will more flow?
I say yes, we are humans, our endless love grows

Renée: Well done, Alayne! You used headless and catalectic meter to good effect in the first quatrain with anapestic trimeter; a perfect mix of anapestic tetrameter and trimeter in the second; and perfect anapestic tetrameter in the third. WHOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

Alayne: Holy Moly! I got them all right, Renee LaTulippe????? A first. I know they aren’t the best poems in the world, but just to get my stresses right puts me on top of the world and gives me SO MUCH HOPE! It must be very rewarding as a teacher to see a student grow.

Renée:YES!!!! Alayne, it is exciting and rewarding indeed! And don’t worry about content now – we’re just working on stresses. It’s a big hurdle to get over, and you guys are all SAILING THROUGH!!!

LESSON TWO

Alayne’s Iambic Quatrain One

I have some friends who help me out
When I am feeling down
If not for them, I’d sit and pout
Instead, I am a clown

Alayne’s Iambic Quatrain Two

Although I’ve tried, I can’t write rhyme (Or: Although I’ve tried, I cannot rhyme)
I can’t hear stresses or the beat
I’m working hard and taking time
To study both iambs and feet

Alayne’s Iambic Quatrain Three

I write, not clean. You all know that.
Cobwebs are dangling. Soiled dishes are stacked
It’s time to feed my starving cats
My house is filthy, but my subs are tracked

Renee’s Comments for Lesson Two Iambic Quatrains

I hate to tell you this, but your first quatrain is PERFECT. Yup! That means you have to stop saying you can’t write rhyme! PERFECT.

The second quatrain is ALMOST perfect – just the last line is off because you have put a stress where it doesn’t belong on the second syllable of IAMB. The stress has to go on the FIRST syllable. You could fix that line with: to STUDy Iambs, MEter, FEET.

The first and third lines of the third quatrain are also correct. Lines 2 and 4 are where things get sticky. Line 2 starts with a stressed syllable instead of unstressed, and there are some extra beats. In Line 4, “my house is filthy” is correct, but then you have extra beats with “but my.”

Renee’s possible fixes.

I write, not clean. You all know that.
The cobwebs cling, the dishes stack.
It’s time to feed my starving cats.
A filthy house–but subs are tracked!

For the chance to win a FREE course and learn how to punch up your prose, just go comment on Renee’s giveaway post!

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sub six series 2

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Read more about the Sub Six Series: All About Submissions Here

AdobePhotoshopExpress_2014_01_03_18-53-56 (2)

Guest Post by Sylvia Liu

Contest and Other Submission Opportunities in 2014

Besides submitting work to agents and publishers, don’t forget to submit to contests, grants, or mentorship programs. These are great ways to get your work noticed and perhaps published, to improve your craft, or to help pay for your writing or illustration habit.

Here’s a list of contest and submission opportunities in 2014, for both children’s book writers and illustrators, with deadline dates ordered chronologically. When a range of dates are listed, applications are accepted only within that window. If a date is in parentheses, it is the date for last year’s contest because the new date has not been announced (but it is likely this year’s deadlines will be on a similar timeline). Click the links to find out application information.

A great resource: Be sure to check the SCBWI Event Calendar for local mentorship programs and awards. Just in the month of January, the following SCBWI regions have mentorship program or scholarship applications available and due soon: Southern Breeze (conference tuition for illustrators; AL, GA, FL, Feb. due date), Carolinas Mentor Program (Jan. 10 due date), California North/Central Digital Mentor Picture Book Program (Jan. 10 due date),

JANUARY

Jan. 1 – Jan. 31           Highlights Fiction Contest

  • What: best short story (up to 800 words) with a holiday theme
  • Who is eligible: anybody, published or unpublished
  • Prize: three $1,000 prizes or tuition to any Highlights Foundation course

Jan. 15- Feb. 3                        Rate Your Story

  • What: best manuscripts in three categories: Picture Book, Novel/Novella, Everything Else
  • Who is eligible: free to RYS members (Basic members can submit 1 MS to each category, Pro members can submit 2 MSs); $5/MS for anyone else
  • Prize: First place gets $50, a professional critique, and free Pro membership, 2nd & 3rd prizes available

FEBRUARY

Feb. 28           Sustainable Arts Foundation 2014 Spring Grant (application available Jan. 15)

  • Award: Five $6,000 awards and five $2,000 awards for writers or artists who are also parents
  • Who is eligible: applicant must have at least one child under the age of 18

MARCH

March 1 – March 31:  SCBWI Work In Progress Grants, includes:

General WIP Grant

  • Award: seven $2,000 grants in each category (Picture Book Text (Barbara Karlin Grant), General Fiction, Contemporary young adult novel, Multi-cultural fiction, Nonfiction research (Anna Cross Giblin Award)
  • Who is eligible: SCBWI members

Karen and Philip Cushman Late Bloomer Award

  • Award: $500 and free tuition to any SCBWI conference
  • Who is eligible: SCBWI members, authors over age 50 who have not been traditionally published

Don Freeman Illustrator Grant

  • Award: two $1000 grants to illustrators (1 to a published illustrator, 1 to a pre-published illustrator)
  • Who is eligible: SCBWI members

March 15-April 15:  Student Illustrator Scholarship to SCBWI Conference

  • Award: 2 scholarships to the national LA SCBWI conference in August 2014, including the portfolio showcase and the illustrator intensive
  • Who is eligible: full time graduate or undergraduate students studying illustration

APRIL

April 15: Student Writer Scholarship to SCBWI Conference

  • Award: two scholarships to the national LA SCBWI conference in August 2014, including an SCBWI advisor to help navigate the weekend
  • Who is eligible: full time students over 18 at an accredited academic institution

MAY

May 5  Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition

  • Award: cash prizes, work seen by editors & agents, etc.
  • Who is eligible: anyone writing for all genres, including kid lit (fees are involved to apply for this competition)

JUNE

 

JULY

(July 31)       Unfortunately, THE CHEERIOS CONTEST WILL NOT RUN THIS YEAR  Cheerios 2014 Spoonful of Stories Contest

  • What: a national search for a winning picture book story
  • Who is eligible: unpublished writers (very strict – can’t have published in kidlit market, including magazines)
  • Prize: $5000 and publication & distribution in Cheerios boxes nationwide

AUGUST

Aug. 31           Sustainable Arts Foundation 2014 Fall Grant

  • Award: Five $6,000 awards and five $2,000 awards for writers or artists who are also parents
  • Who is eligible: applicant must have at least one child under the age of 18

SEPTEMBER

(Sept. 30)       New Voices Award, Lee & Low Books

  • What: a national search for a winning picture book story
  • Who is eligible: unpublished, unagented writer of color (can be published in kidlit magazines)
  • Prize: $1,000 plus standard publication contract

OCTOBER

NOVEMBER

DECEMBER

(Dec. 13)        Tomie dePaola Illustration Contest

  • What: annual search for a winning illustration following a prompt given by Tomie dePaola
  • Who is eligible: SCBWI members
  • Prize: trip to the winter New York SCBWI conference, award presented, and lunch with Tomie dePaola

Sylvia Liu is a former environmental attorney turned writer-illustrator. She is working on several picture book projects and is being mentored by illustrator David Diaz as part of this year’s Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program. Her art and infographics have been published on Huffington Post and other venues. She is inspired by aliens, cephalopods, bunnies, and pigs who want to fly. Check out her portfolio at www.enjoyingplanetearth.com, her blog at  www.sylvialiuland.com, her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ArtbySylviaLiu, and her Twitter handle is @artsylliu.

CONTEST ADDITION AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT SYLVIA’S  LIST FROM ALAYNE

On JANUARY 11, SYLVIA’S LIST WILL BE POSTED ON kidlit411. It will be updated on that site throughout the year. Kidlit411 is an exciting new website that my friends Elaine Kiely Kearns and Sylvia have put together with a little help from their friends. They are building it up to be “the” place to go for kidlit information. I hope you will check it out. They have done a beautiful job. Just before I published Sylvia’s post, I thought of another contest. Pockets Magazine Fiction Contest – March 15 – August 15. BEST OF LUCK TO ALL WHO COMPETE OR APPLY FOR THE FABULOUS OPPORTUNITIES. MORE ABOUT THE SUB SIX SERIES: ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS

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hummingbirdBefore I get into the Trapped Hummingbird: Self-Created Fear portion of the post, I want to offer a quick blurb on picture book writing courses. One of the winners in the Grandparent’s Day writing contest mentioned that she is looking for more writing courses after completing a course through the Institute of Children’s Literature. Here is a short list of courses that are getting a lot of buzz. Please feel free to share additional courses in comments.

Susanna Leonard Hill’s MAKING PICTURE BOOK MAGIC course.

Mira Reisberg’s PICTURE BOOK ACADEMY

This one is FREE! Pam Calvert’s PICTURE BOOK UNIVERSITY

SELF-CREATED FEAR

Fear is a common stumbling block for writers and, for many people, in life. Before you continue reading, stop and take a moment to list some of your current fears. Once you have your list move on to the next paragraph.

The fears you have listed would most likely be nonexistent if you had no memory of your past and you did not have the ability to imagine your future. We all have our natural reactionary fear when we are in true danger, but I doubt that the fears you have listed are such. Look at your list, and consider the following questions for each fear. Is this fear something I have created in my mind based on past experiences or an imagined future? Is this fear keeping me stuck in place or leaving me feeling anxious?

One of the biggest fears that stand in our way as writers, and in life, is fear of the unknown. Most of us cannot possibly know the outcome of something, yet we create frightening scenarios in our mind that seldom come to be. Living a fearful life blinds us to new perspectives and opportunities. The darkness of our fear overshadows the light of our spirit.

TRAPPED HUMMINGBIRD

One morning, when I opened the garage door, I discovered that a hummingbird had been trapped in the garage overnight. Even though the now wide-open garage door left a huge escape route, the poor hummingbird could not find her way out. Why? Because she would not change what she was doing. She fluttered along the ceiling until exhaustion forced her to stop and rest on the garage door’s support brackets. Within moments, she commenced fluttering again – using up all her energy.

We opened the upper portion of a garage window that was only about a foot away from her resting place. Yet, with two good routes to freedom, she could not find her way out. She continued her exhaustive fluttering – resting routine over and over. I tried to lure her lower with a hummingbird feeder, so she could see the expansive escape route of the garage door. I went outside the window with the feeder and talked to her. My husband and I tried every way we could think of to guide her out of the garage. I believe she was so full of fear that she could not see the light emitting from her path to freedom. Finally, we decided to leave her alone, trusting she would eventually find her way out.

That evening she was gone. I believe she spent some time alone in peace where her fear subsided, and she could finally see the light and reclaim her freedom.

This story had two messages for me that I would like to share with you:

  1. My husband and I had to let go of our fears that the little bird would suffer injury or death. Then we had to let go of our efforts to control the situation. We had to let things unfold naturally.
  2. We only had goodness in our hearts and wanted nothing but the highest good for our little winged friend. Yet, her fear would not allow her to trust us. If she could have trusted, all her exhaustive struggling would have been unnecessary, and she could have found freedom with ease and much sooner.

What fears are creating struggles in your life? Holding you back? Slowing you down? Preventing you from trusting?

Read about other writers’ fears at Marcie Flinchum Atkins “WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER: FEAR.”

BONUS INSPIRATIONAL WORDS

This morning, I opened up Facebook to find some comments by Debbie Bernstein LaCroix. I thought her words would be perfect for this post. With her permission, I have included the comments below.

Here’s the thing… sometimes you have to take risks. Sometimes those risks will pay off, and sometimes they don’t. But if you want to be successful, it means trying new things and stepping outside your comfort zone. Later this week I will have a success story with Usborne that started 3 years ago. I totally took a leap of faith, and got nothing. Until 2 weeks ago… With writing, I take risks every time I send out a story. And most of the time, it comes with a rejection. It would be so much easier to quit. But I want to build and foster imaginations, so I don’t. When I share an idea with someone, it has the risk of failing. Some of my ideas end up horribly. Some of them take over 10 years to complete (The Children’s Museum)… but it’s all about knowing that you can do it, and not giving up. It’s OK to be scared. I am, a lot. But I know I have things to do. And I can’t do them if I just sit back and do what is easy. So here is my question to you, what risk will you take tomorrow?

(additional comment)

Just adding, I have a lot of people bringing me in to do author visits. For this, it’s a risk, an unknown. But the rewards for each are different… in building relationship, upping sales, fostering the love of reading or what ever their goal is. Just heard back from one that a Kindergarten teacher is really happy that I am going to be speaking to her classroom. She says they always get forgotten or ignored. Sure, speaking with the younger kids is a little more of a challenge in some ways. But they love to learn about where books come from too. Anyway, glad this consultant took a risk and that I can help make them happy.

To learn more about Debbie and Usborne visit the following.

Debbie’s Website

Debbie’s Blog

Usborne Books

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VOTING HAS ENDED . . . VOTING HAS ENDED . . . VOTING HAS ENDED

Because there were only six story entries in the Grandparent’s Day writing contest, I am announcing our six finalists and voting will start early. However, voting will remain open until the time originally stated in the contest rules – Friday, August 30 at 11:59 PM CDT. Winners will still be announced on Saturday, August 31 by 11:59 PM CDT.

All you have to do is read the six stories, note the number of the story that you like best, and vote on the poll at the bottom of this page. If you would like to read more about the contest or learn about the prizes go to  WRITING CONTEST IN HONOR OF GRANDPARENT’S DAY.

The contest inspired all kinds of long-distance love stories: Love across technology, heavenly love, old memories love, across the ocean love, funny love, and runaway love, What a variety of touching and fun writing. I am so happy that the contest helped encourage these writers to tell their stories.

The stories or links to stories are listed below.

Thanks to everyone for participating, and best of luck to the finalists.

STORY # 1

Where’s My Grammy?

by Sally Phillips

Emma spent her summers visiting Grams wonderful bakery. It was always filled with Emma’s favorite goodies. There were ooey-gooey chocolate frosted donuts and chewy soft pretzels. Baking marble rye breads and fruity pies of very kind kept Grams busy.

One day, Grams said, “Let’s make gingerbread cookies.”

Emma clapped her hands, “Let’s make Grammy cookies! That way when I go, I’ll have cookies to remember our visit.” Molly barked her approval.

Grams mixed the spicy dough and rolled it out. She cut a grammy shape. Emma added raisins and a tiny cherry for her nose. Grams drew a smile into the dough and popped it into the oven.

After baking, Grams put it on the counter to cool. “Just a few extra touches,” said Grams pulling out a bag of red licorice. Emma added it for her grammy’s hair with icing to tack it down. Grams used icing to draw a sweatband and racing shoes.

“That’s just like you Grams,” said Emma pointing to a picture.

“That’s when I won the long distance race last year,” said Grams smiling.

Then, quick as a flash the cookie disappeared from the counter. The screen door slammed like a 4th of July firecracker.

“Oh, no said Grams, I should have never added those racing shoes. The Grammy cookie has run off!”

Grams and Emma were out the door in a flash. “I see something brown running down the road,” said Emma.

Chasing after her grammy gingerbread cookie, Emma soon came across a police officer. “What’s going on?” asked Officer Jane.

“My Grammy cookie is running away,” said Emma catching her breath.

Officer Jane saw Grams running down the road. “I’ll call for back up. Well get your Grammy back,” she called to Emma. Officer Jane ran down the road.

Emma passed a field full of soccer players. “What’s going on?” the team captain asked.

My Grammy cookie is running away,” called Emma.

“We’ll get her, come on boys,” he said. All the players ran down the road too.

Emma heard a whirling sound overhead. It was a TV helicopter. “We heard on our radio that your Grammy from the bakery is missing,” the reporter said. “Well fly around and find her.”

“No wait,” Emma said. “My Grammy cookie ran off, not my Grams!” But they had already flown away.

At the end of the road, the TV crew was recording all the action. “And here’s the girl with her missing Grammy.”

“I wasn’t missing,” said Grams. “We were chasing Emma’s grammy gingerbread cookie!”

Molly appeared out of the bushes. She had gingerbread crumbs around her mouth. Molly’s nose had a red cherry on it.

“You ate the cookie?” said Emma.

“And so we have it, a happy ending after all,” said the reporter. “News at 9”.

Emma said, “Let’s record the news tonight Grams. When we feel sad about being apart, we can watch our adventure all over again.”

“That’s better than a cookie,” Grams said laughing and gave Emma a big hug.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

STORY # 2

An Ocean Apart, 

Near by Heart

by Maria A. Velardocchia

Brrrring! The phone rang right on time! When Antoinette’s daddy nodded ‘OK’, she answered the phone before it could ring a second time. Antoinette was so excited! She knew the phone call was from Pappou, her grandfather in Greece. On the first day of each month, at 8:00 in the morning, either Pappou called Antoinette’s house, or Antoinette’s daddy called Pappou. They took turns, and this month it was Pappou’s turn to call.

“Hi, Pappou!” Antoinette said, with a smile in her voice.

“Hello, my Antonia,” said Pappou. Pappou liked to call Antoinette by her Greek name. “Tell me how you are and what you’ve been doing, so I can hear your beautiful voice.”

“Oh, Pappou, we’re all doing well here in Florida. The weather is so nice and mommy and daddy have been taking me to the beach a lot. Daddy says it reminds him of when he was a little boy in Greece and you used to take him to the beach in the summer.”

“Yes, Antonia, your daddy is right. We would pack our lunch and go to the beach every day. It was your daddy’s favorite place to go,” Pappou said in a voice that sounded like he was remembering.

“Pappou, did daddy like to find shells on the beach?” Antoinette asked.

“Find shells, you ask? He sure did. Not only shells, but here in Greece we have beautiful little pebbles on our beaches. They are smooth and colorful, and your daddy loved to bring a favorite one home each day,” answered Pappou.

“He did?” asked Antoinette. I like to collect rocks. I guess that’s another way we’re alike!”

“Yes,” Pappou said. “Antonia, you remind me very much of your daddy when he was eight years old like you.”

“I know what, Pappou!” exclaimed Antoinette. “When we go to the beach today, I’m going to have daddy take a picture of me holding some shells. Then, when I write you my letter, we’ll send you the picture so you can see me at the beach!”

“Oh, Antonia, what a good idea!” said Pappou. “I can’t wait to get the picture! And do you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to find a picture of your daddy and me at the beach, many years ago, and I’m going to send it to you!”

“Hooray, pappou! I’m so excited! I’m going to get ready for the beach now while daddy talks to you. I love you, Pappou,” said Antoinette.

“I love you, too, Antonia,” said Pappou.

Two weeks later they got a letter from Pappou! Daddy carefully opened the envelope. There was a letter for daddy and mommy, and a letter for Antoinette. Tucked inside Antoinette’s letter was a picture of Pappou and her daddy at the beach. She loved the picture! As Antoinette went to bed that night, she held the picture close to her heart and dreamt of the day she would visit Pappou in Greece.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

STORY # 3

Grandma, Can You Guess How Special You Are?

by Kristina (Senese) Johnson

Grandma, can you guess how special you are?

This is my story and now you are the STAR!

When you are here or when you are there

You can count all the clues of the times that we share.

Clue number ONE is the first to let you know

It’s something you do from my head down to my toes.

Lots of smooches and big hugs that are so tight

I love to cuddle when you tuck me in at night.

Moving on to the next clue that is number TWO

In counting with numbers that is what you do.

Sitting at my house and watching me play

Us taking a nap together after a long hard day.

Using my fingers counting to clue number THREE

This you do in the kitchen and it makes me hungry!

Lots of baking and tasting so many delicious treats

Sitting next to me at the table when it is time to eat!

Clue number FOUR is a clue that I adore

But don’t you worry there are so many more.

You and I get to giggle and talk on the phone

The sound of your voice has such a friendly tone.

Next it’s time to count to the clue that is number FIVE

This is what you and I do as soon as you arrive.

I like when you play games with me like hide and seek

Grandma, do those glasses really help you to peek?

Using both hands to count to clue number SIX

This is a clue like the others that is easy to pick.

Your laugh is jolly with a rosy cheek on each side

You light up a room with your smiling eyes.

Bunny ears on one hand makes this clue number SEVEN

Another clue that shows how you are a loving person!

Really smart and funny, so soft and so gentle

Grandma, you don’t complain when I’m a lot to handle!

Wiggling my fingers to count to clue number EIGHT

All have been good, but this clue is sure great!

You are my Grandma forever and for always

How happy I am when you tell me all of your stories!

What can I say about clue number NINE

Just like apple pie Grandma, you are so devine!

When you are here or when you are there

I think of you always and how we are a pair.

The last clue is important it is clue number TEN

It is hard for me to say to you so carefully listen

My special grandma, I love when you are near

I don’t like to say “goodbye,” it brings me to tears.

Now that you have counted all the ways you are a STAR

Grandma, have you guessed how special you are?

One day when I am older and a much bigger me,

The memories of us Grandma, how special they will be!

I LOVE YOU GRANDMA!

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

STORY # 4

Helen Velikans’s story  “I Hate Grandparent’s Day” can be read on her blog.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

STORY # 5

Donna Sadd’s story “Vacation Sport” can be read on her blog.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

STORY # 6

Linda Schueler’s story  “Messages” can be read on her blog.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

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