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Posts Tagged ‘Lee & Low’

UNEARTH YOUR PROTAGONIST’S TRUE GOAL.

By Alayne Kay Christian

dig

CAN YOU DIG A LITTLE DEEPER?

In my picture book writing course, Art of Arc: How to Analyze Your Picture Book Manuscript, I talk a lot about consequences. What does the protagonist stand to lose if he does not solve his problem or reach his goal? Why is it important to him on a personal level? This is one way to get your readers to connect with the protagonist on an emotional level. That connection makes the reader want to keep reading.

Sometimes, writers have difficulty giving their protagonist a strong goal that will carry the story and engage the reader. I often fall back to my life coaching days when I think about story characters, and I’d like to share how I relate character goals to coaching clients’ goals.

Very often, clients come to a life coach with surface goals. One of the first things I do with new clients is work to get to their deeper goals. The goals that really matter. The goals that will motivate the client and drive her to take action. If after exploring and digging, the client can’t unearth her true desires, I try a different approach. I ask the client what she doesn’t want. It seems that it is much easier for most people to identify and express what we don’t want. And this brings us back to our story writing. When searching for a strong goal, try asking yourself, “What is my main character trying to avoid? What does he NOT want?”

One more little tip along the same lines. A main character’s goal can be something he doesn’t want. And that is what I will leave you to think about today. Now for some exciting news.

 

AWARD WINNER, A MORNING WITH GRANDPA HAS BEEN RELEASED!

gong gong cover

 

Books that we authors write often feel like our babies. Books that our critique partners write can sometimes feel like nieces and nephews. Today, I would like to welcome my new little niece into the world. The winner of the Lee & Low New Voices Award, A MORNING WITH GRANDPA was written by my friend and critique partner Sylvia Liu. The fabulous illustrations were created by Christina Forshay.

Gong gong signing

Sylvia signing preorders at Prince Books in Norfolk, Virginia.

gong gong book shelf

On the shelf!

REVIEW

By Alayne Kay Christian

Inquisitive, bubbly Mei Mei watches Grandpa “dance slowly among the flowers in the garden.” He moves “like a giant bird stalking through the marsh.” His arms sway “like reeds.”

“What are you doing, Gong Gong?” Mei Mei asks. And this starts a dance between inquisitive, bubbly Mei Mei and patient, loving Gong Gong. Every page walks the reader through this beautiful, playful relationship. Mei Mei’s creative attempts to follow her grandfather’s tai chi moves bring smiles when I read and explore all there is to see in the illustration. While I keep smiling, the end tugs at my heartstrings as the dance continues with a fun but touching role reversal.

Sylvia Liu and Christina Forshay are perfect dance partners as well. Liu’s wonderful storytelling with lovely lyrical language paired with Forshay’s lively, flowing illustrations create a dance of their own. It’s a winning combination! As a mother, grandmother, author, and picture book writing teacher, I highly recommend this beautiful book.

Gong Gong spread 2

Art by Christina Forshay, used with permission from Lee & Low Books

 

MORE REVIEWS AND SOME GREAT INTERVIEWS

I considered interviewing Sylvia, but there are already some excellent interviews and other reviews out there, so I thought I would share the links to them.

Lin Gong offers a review and a great interview.

The Reading Nook Reviews gives an extensive review.

Kirkus Reviews offers their praises of A MORNING WITH GRANDPA.

Publisher’s Weekly offers their views here.

Yvonne Mes interviews Sylvia with questions about winning the Lee & Low New Voices Award and much, much more.

 

Sylvia NewSylvia Liu was inspired to write this story by the playful and loving relationship between her children and their Gong Gong. Before devoting herself to writing and illustrating children’s books, she worked as an environmental lawyer at the U.S. Department of Justice and the nonprofit group, Oceana. She lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with her husband and two daughters. This is Sylvia’s debut picture book. Visit her online at www.enjoyingplanetearth.com.

 

Christina ForshayChristina Forshay is a full-time illustrator known for her colorful images and joyous style. Born and raised in sunny California, she was inspired to become an illustrator by her many visits to Disneyland and by watching hours of cartoons as a child. Today, she still watches cartoons for inspiration for her illustrations! Christina lives with her husband, son, daughter, and two dogs in California. Visit her online at www.christinaforshay.com.

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AAS Q&A 4This month, I asked the All about Submissions team the following questions: How do you cope with rejections? What do you do with the rejection letters – even if they are just form letters? I shared some of our answers yesterday in Part One. Here are the remaining answers plus links to some excellent posts. Please feel free to comment and share your tips for coping with rejections. And remember, if you have questions you would like answered, either ask it in the comment section or contact me by clicking the “contact” button at the top of this page.

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Teresa Robeson, author and artist

teresarobeson.com

Rejections used to get me into a deep funk. I think that’s partly why I gave up writing for a while in the 2000s (that, combined with the stress of homeschooling two young kids during that period). I had some wonderfully encouraging, personalized rejections among the form ones, but it was still so depressing.

I think that, with age, I have grown a thicker skin and now rejections don’t bother me as much. They still do, but they don’t define my self-worth. Also, I’ve gotten fan letters and compliments (from readers and editors) on my published works, and that really helps to sustain me when I receive a rejection.

Because I’m semi-organized (more hypothetically than in practice), I save all my rejection letters in files, either real or virtual. I occasionally, like once every seven years, pull out the encouraging ones to look at, but I don’t do anything with them otherwise. No need to re-live the angst of the form rejections, and I hold the good ones in my heart anyway.

As much as rejections pain me, in today’s world of “we’ll reply only if interested,” I would rather receive a form rejection than no rejection at all!

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Sophia Mallonée, Children’s Writer

www.sophiamallonee.com

Rejections suck. Yeah, your skin might grow a little thicker over time, but there really is no getting used to the rejection process.

For me, my coping mechanisms vary from rejection to rejection. The best rejections are the personalized ones. With those, I like to pick apart the letter and try to view my manuscript the way the agent or editor did. Can I utilize their advice? I’ll pour over my manuscript and try to find any weak links that I might be able to strengthen. I take these rejections as learning experiences. Yes, it still sucks to be rejected. But at least in these cases (most often) I’ve received a little bit of knowledge as a consolation prize.

It’s the form rejections that are the worst. It’s more difficult to take away a great lesson when you receive an “It’s wonderful…but just not for me” type of letter. That always stings. It’s like a breakup where you’re never able to say how you felt in the end, and the closure is never had. Why? Just give me something. If it’s so wonderful, then why is it not for you? It took me a while to let go of those rejections. But I get it. I know that a manuscript can be good and still not connect with you – I read stories like that all of the time – for no particular reason. I understand that to respond to every single query/submission would be a ridiculous waste of time. But still, just because I understand the rejection process, doesn’t mean I have to like it. I definitely allow myself to have a mini pity-party, followed by a phone call or lunch with my critique buddies, where we all commiserate. After that, I’ll write something new. Nothing makes me feel more accomplished and happy than diving into a new story.

I like to keep my rejection letters. I keep all of my electronic rejection letters filed away (even if they’re form) in my email. That way, if I query or submit to the same agent/editor again in the future, I can reference back to any correspondence we might have had in the past.

I don’t, however, keep any paper rejections unless they’re personalized and mailed to me. I don’t have the time or space for extra paperwork.

I’ll mention that I also have a running “Submission Tracking” spreadsheet that I maintain. I track all letters received, dates and any specific notes next to the agent/editor info on this sheet. That way, even if I don’t have the letters themselves, I’m still able to reference specifics quickly.

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Cindy Williams Schrauben, Children’s Writer

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

http://www.RaisingBookMonsters.com

What do I do with form rejections? I log them (on my submission spreadsheet) and forget them. Done.

How do I cope with rejections? This question sounds very straight forward, but there are many variables. I can say, though, that my coping mechanisms have become much stronger over time and I can even say that I am grateful for them – okay, not grateful that they said NO, but grateful for the fact that they responded at all.

My first few rejections were very difficult – I, simply, didn’t know how it worked. I had written a story – a good story, so I thought – and put it out there for the world to see. Time for agents to start knocking at my door, right? Finding that others didn’t share my passion for this manuscript was, initially, really tough. I know now that it isn’t quite that easy. But I can say that I ALWAYS read a rejection like a critique, quickly the first time… let it sit… and then read it again later with less emotion and more objectivity.

Call it rationalization if you like, but I cope with rejections by asking myself a couple questions:

Was this a dream agent? If the answer is no, I tell myself that this rejection is just getting me closer to the right one. If the answer is yes, well, I blubber away for a while and then I eat some ice cream.

Another determining factor is the type of rejection – they are not all created equal. Form rejections, for example just suck; that’s all there is to it. There is nothing to learn from them other than perseverance and a tough skin. One way to help is to go to Literary Rejections and read about all the hugely successful authors who have been rejected hundreds of times.  Their tagline is: “helping writers persevere through rejection.” Their web and Facebook sites both offer commiseration and inspiration.

Personalized rejections are a different story entirely. I recently received one from an agent that included real reasons for rejecting my work. It wasn’t a copy/paste response like: “I wasn’t in love” blah, blah, blah, or “not a good fit” blah, blah, blah, but offered some constructive criticism.  I treat these rejections like gold. They are, in fact, critiques from someone who truly knows the business. Sure, it is just another opinion, but an informed one to say the least.

My final piece of advice/rationalization is to tell myself that I want an agent who LOVES my work. Period. If they don’t… well, they aren’t right for me.

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Sylvia Liu, Writer-illustrator

portfolio: www.enjoyingplanetearth.com

blog: www.sylvialiuland.com

Sylvia Liu is a winner of the Lee & Low New Voices Award. http://blog.leeandlow.com/2014/01/15/announcing-our-2013-new-voices-award-winner/

I am very practical and dispassionate about rejections. I figure it’s a numbers game and I will need to rack up many rejections before I find the right fit. I also look on the bright side. If I get deafening silence, I can imagine that the agent or publisher is still pondering the story. If I get a form letter, I get closure. If I get a quick rejection, I’m happy to move on. If I get personalized feedback, I am thrilled to improve my story and am buoyed by the prospect that it is one step further out of the slush pile.

The hardest rejections are after an agent has requested more work and they end up passing on my work. It’s hard not take that personally, but it does spur me to keep strengthening all my pieces.

I keep all my rejections. In the olden days, I’d get photocopies of form letters that I still have in an accordion file. Nowadays, I keep an “Agent Correspondence” file in my emails. My favorite rejection was one where my husband and I submitted a piece he wrote and I illustrated about six years ago. The rejection was addressed to him, but the line, “Tell Ms. Liu her illustrations are brilliant,” still sustains me today.

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Alayne Kay Christian, Award Winning Children’s Author

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio

Before I share this month’s links, I want to make one point. Many of the All about Submissions team members mentioned developing tough or thick skin. First I want to say that a form letter rejection, a kind/helpful rejection, or the emptiness of no response from a manuscript submission can all be perceived as criticism. I believe one excellent way to develop thick skin and practice coping with criticism is to join a critique group. But here’s the thing about critique groups, a critique partner who is afraid of hurting someone’s feelings and therefore is not as honest as they can be about their crit partners’ manuscripts is doing a disservice to their fellow writers. Be honest. Tell what you see, think, feel. Critiques are like dress rehearsals for rejections. The author of the manuscript can decide if they agree with you or not. Of course, you want to give positive feedback as well. Ask your critique partners to help you out by honestly telling it as they see it.

Links:

From Jessica P. Morrell

Three posts (all appear on the same page – if you click on any one of the three links below, you will access the page):

What Editor’s Notice

Top Eleven Reasons Why a Manuscript is Rejected

Tips for staying out of the rejection pile

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From OneWildWorld.com:  SIX GUIDELINES FOR TURNING REJECTION INTO SUCCESS by Carol Despeaux

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From Distractify: 10 PAINFUL REJECTION LETTERS TO FAMOUS PEOPLE PROVING YOU SHOULD NEVER GIVE UP YOUR DREAMS by Averi Clements

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From Kristin Lamb’s blog: HOW TO TAKE CRITICISM LIKE A PRO by J.E. Fishman

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From MORE online magazine: KATHRYN STOCKETT’S “THE HELP” TURNED DOWN 60 TIMES BEFORE BECOMING A BEST SELLER

by Kathryn Stockett

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TOP 10 FAMOUS BOOKS THAT WERE ORIGINALLY REJECTED

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From Schuler Books Weblog: 30 FAMOUS AUTHORS WHOSE WORKS WERE REJECTED, by Michelle Kerns

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Romelle Broas shares a humorous post, REJECTION LETTERS FROM A POSITIVE PERSPECTIVE

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Tidbits from Alayne

Two responses to rejections that I see in the writing community that I enjoy are as follows:

Onword and upword! (spelling intentional)

Now I’m one step closer to publication (variations: signing with an agent, a book contract)

A list of all the ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS posts.

 

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AAS Q&A 4Welcome to the launch of ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS Q & A. This will be a monthly feature with some bonus posts here and there. I have been collecting questions about submitting to agents, editors, etc. from writers with inquiring minds. I have recruited a fantastic team of children’s writers who have many years of experience with submitting. I developed this team because I thought it would be beneficial to writers to see answers from a variety of perspectives. This month’s answers have some common threads. Two strong threads are “Join a critique group – maybe even more than one.” And “Don’t be in a hurry. Take time to let the story marinate.”

The team had so much to offer that I will be posting more answers tomorrow. Elaine Kiely Kearns will share the seven stages that her manuscripts go through before she considers them ready. Cindy Williams Schrauben will give you eight simple, common sense guidelines for determining if your manuscript is ready. I will share a few tips and provide some links with more tips, including some additional checklists that you can use to decide if your story is ready for submission. Before I move on I would like to announce my new picture book manuscript critique service. Click here to learn more about what I offer.

Introducing the team members!

Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Kirsti Call

Julie Falatko

Elaine Kiely Kearns

Sylvia Liu

Sophia Mallonée

Cindy Williams Schrauben

Alayne Kay Christian

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOUR MANUSCRIPT IS READY TO SUBMIT?

 Sylvia Liu, Writer-illustrator

portfolio: www.enjoyingplanetearth.com

blog: www.sylvialiuland.com

You know your manuscript is ready if: (1) it has sat in your computer and marinated for a while; (2) it has gone through at least two rounds of critiques and revisions, one for big picture issues and one for fine-tuning and word-smithing; (3) you’ve street tested it (read it out loud to children in your target age group, preferably not your own children); (4) optionally, it has gone through a professional paid critique, and (5) you read it and get that feeling that you have captured magic in a bottle. Getting to the fifth step is the hardest in my experience. I’ve sent out plenty of manuscripts that weren’t quite there and in retrospect, they were not ready. The one that met all of these criteria ended up being the manuscript that got me a publishing contract.

A BIG CONGRATULATIONS to Sylvia Liu. She is the winner of the Lee & Low New Voices Award. She tells all about it in her Interview on Clarike Bowman-Jahn’s blog.

Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Children’s and Young Adult Writer

www.marcieatkins.com

I consider my manuscript ready to go when I’ve vetted it through all of my critique groups (sometimes multiple times). When they start fiddling with commas and moving a word here or there, then I know it’s pretty close. Sometimes I’m so immersed in revisions that I think it’s ready before it really is. This year my goal is to take the manuscript as far as I can, put it away for 2-3 months, then re-evaluate it again. Sometimes that manuscript I think is really ready is really not.

Sophia Mallonée, Children’s Writer

www.sophiamallonee.com

This is probably the single most difficult question to answer when it comes to writing, and honestly there’s no clear sign or finish line. It would be so much easier if there was!

For me, I like to pound out a very rough first draft and then leave it for a week or two before I do anything with it. I usually then go through 1-3 rounds of personal revisions before I send it off to my critique group and then 1-2 rounds of edits with my crit partners. After a series of thorough revisions, I’ll leave the story to sit and marinate on its own for a couple of weeks.

The passage of time is really my best tool to judge the strength of a manuscript. After enough time has passed for me to feel distant from the story, I’m then able to pick it back up and read it with fresh eyes. If it reads smoothly, makes me smile in the right places and so on, I’ll send it out. Otherwise, I start the process all over again and might add a few new eyes into the mix for more suggestions.

I also prefer to do small batches of submissions at a time and that way, if I get any helpful feedback from my submissions, I’m able to make further revisions before I send it out again. So you might find that even after you think a manuscript is ready to submit, there are still changes to be made!

Kirsti Call, Children’s Author

www.kirsticall.com

Her debut book: The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall! (trailer)

I started submitting almost immediately after I got back into writing 3 years ago. I thought my first story was fabulous and ready to be published.  Sadly, no publisher agreed with me!

Now that I’ve had more time working in the industry, I realize that it wasn’t ready.  I needed to go to a critique group, get a writing partner, revise, revise and revise some more!  I needed to attend conferences and hone my craft.

Now that I do that, I know my manuscript is ready when I have no qualms about the beginning, middle or ending. I know it’s ready when I can read it out loud without stumbling.  I know it’s ready when my critique partners have nothing much to say about the story, except for how wonderful it is, of course!  Nothing’s better than making a manuscript sing!

Julie Falatko, Author

http://worldofjulie.com/

Her debut book: SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK) (Viking Children’s, 2015)

Represented by Danielle Smith, Foreword Literary

In so many ways, it’s very, very hard to know when a manuscript is ready to submit. For me, at least. It took me years — YEARS — to understand that first drafts are SUPPOSED to be terrible. And that it is my job to fix them. So usually when I write, I go through a fairly normal cycle of “this is awful/this is brilliant.” I need to make sure that when I think a manuscript is done, that it is really done, and it’s not that I just happened to catch myself at a “this is brilliant” upswing. Having more than one critique group helps. Taking some time away from it helps, too, so you can come back to it like someone else wrote it, to see what still needs to be fixed.

But eventually, you’ll know in your gut that there’s nothing else you can change in a manuscript. You have to be really honest with yourself about this. It might, and probably should, take months. Take your time. Take it seriously. It’s a tough balance — you need to give yourself enough time to get it right, but at a certain point you also have to let go and trust that you’ve done all you can.

Alayne Kay Christian, Award Winning Children’s Author

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio

As I mentioned earlier, one of the strong themes in this month’s answers is do not rush to submission. Don’t let your desire to be published or get an agent interfere with good judgment. In a recent Interview on kidlit411, I offered the following advice to writers. Do not be in a hurry. I don’t want to discourage any writer from submitting because there are some people who are new to the writing scene who find success in achieving publication in a very short time. However, I believe that this is rare. I know it is tempting to jump right into submitting, but I caution you to take your time. Learn your craft, and learn it well. If you can afford it, take classes, get professional critiques, and read, read, read. Be sure to join a critique group. Immerse yourself in the writing community, and learn from those who have already learned from their mistakes. It is not a race – it is a journey.

Click her for HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOUR MANUSCRIPT IS READY TO SUBMIT – PART TWO with additional answers and some excellent resources for deciding when your manuscript is ready for submission.

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