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Posts Tagged ‘Susanna Leonard Hill’

kid-lit writing wisdom

For this round of Kid-Lit Writing Wisdom Q & A, I asked the team why it’s important for writers to read children’s books and how one might get the most out of reading them.

I thought it would be good to start this post with the definition of mentor texts. The Iowa Reading Research Center defines mentor texts as “. . . written pieces that serve as an example of good writing for student writers. The texts are read for the purpose of studying the author’s craft, or the way the author uses words and structures the writing. The goal is to provide students a model they could emulate in crafting their own piece.”

Because I once again have the wordiest answer, I will start with my answer to the question. However, before I get started, I’d like to wish a couple of Laura Gehl’s newly released board books, SOCCER BABY and BASEBALL BABY, a belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY! And I’m excited to share that my book THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS has won another literary award! Congratulations to illustrator Polina Gortman and me, of course : – )

Happy Book BirthdayBaseball soccer baby

Congratulations!

AWARD WINNER FOR HOLIDAY BOOKS TWITTER

Words of Wisdom

IN THE END, YOU’LL END UP BEING A DIFFERENT WRITER THAN YOU WERE BEFORE YOU STARTED DIGGING DEEPER

by Alayne Kay Christian

When I first started studying the art of children’s writing, veteran authors advised repeatedly, “read, read, read.” And so I read. I would bring home 50 picture books from the library (usually biweekly) loaded in my bag with wheels. What I didn’t understand, until I had read hundreds of picture books, was reading them wasn’t enough. What I really needed to do was analyze them. But how could I analyze them, if I didn’t know what I was looking for? So, my next step was to take writing courses specific to picture book writing. In those courses, I got a sense of story arc (narrative arcs and character arcs). When I started doing professional critiques, the “sense” of arc that I had learned from courses gave me enough instinct to know when something was off with the plot of the picture book I was critiquing. But I didn’t always know how to explain the problems to the author of the manuscript. So, I worked to find the answers and explain the issues. I continued to work to understand arc and plot deeper. I read craft books, I did searches on the Internet when something wasn’t clear to me, I took more courses, and I continued reading picture books. That’s when I discovered that the only way I was really going to learn what I wanted to know was to dissect the stories I read. And that’s exactly what I did. In the process of trying to help others, I helped myself as an author. I came to understand fully what makes a powerful beginning, what makes an engaging or compelling middle, and what makes a satisfying ending. I learned the importance of knowing your character’s motivation, want, and need. I discovered the power of solid cause and effect and growing tension. I love seeing how authors leave room for illustrators and how they both tell part of the story. I discovered the importance of pacing and so much more. Once, I understood how to build stories, and I had helped a hundred or so writers understand the same via my critiques, I wrote my picture book writing course, Art of Arc: How to Write and Analyze Picture Books and Manuscripts. Does the fact that I’m a retired acquisitions editor and I offer professional critiques, a bit of mentoring, and a writing course mean that I no longer need mentor texts? Absolutely not. There is still much more to picture book writing besides the plot. Today, I analyze picture books for word choice, voice, and execution of the idea or theme (usually looking for why it stands out). I pay attention to unique characters and character building. I study the huge variety of storytelling structures. I read humor and dream of one day writing something funny. I read heart-tuggers that connect me emotionally to the character and story (That’s the kind of story I tend to write.) I look for “why” I enjoy a book or “why” I sometimes wonder how a book ever ended up published (meaning I didn’t enjoy it). I’m always looking for something, and I’m always learning. I love studying books for language—especially lyrical stories—love them! I could go on forever about the treasures found when you start looking deeply into a story instead of just reading it. But I won’t.

Analyzing or dissecting mentor texts will stretch you as a writer. You’ll be more willing to take risks and try new things. You’ll start wondering things like, what if I used that format instead? What if I tried that cool or clever strategy? The puzzle pieces of what makes a sellable picture book will start slipping into place. And in the end, you will be a different writer than you were before you started digging deeper.

We have lots of great wisdom on this topic, and it’s time to make way for those answers. I do want to say that many moons ago, I discovered that our wise author Marcie Flinchum Atkins knows her way around a mentor text, and you can find some of her posts here and here. At the end of this post, Marcie offers some excellent tips and tools for using mentor texts. Also, our wise author Kirsti Call is the co-founder and of Reading for Research Month (a.k.a. REFOREMO) along with Carrie Charley Brown. They not only offer this very focused annual challenge. They also offer posts year round that walk us through a variety of books with hints regarding what they might teach us as writers. In addition, look around their site for lots of resources. Finally, if you join their Facebook page, they have lots of files that list great mentor text books by categories.

Some of our authors, Vivian Kirkfield for example, participate in Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Fridays. Participating in this activity will expose you to lots of different books, plus Susanna offers a list of books by themes (scroll down on linked page). Following are some other links that will lead you to mentor text info from Marcie and Reforemo.

http://www.reforemo.com/2019/09/mentor-text-talk-with-author-marcie.html

https://www.marcieatkins.com/tag/reforemo/

https://groggorg.blogspot.com/2015/03/show-me-way-mentor-texts-as-lights-into.html

10 REASONS TO READ CHILDREN’S BOOKS

(ESPECIALLY PICTURE BOOKS)

(AND DEFINITELY PICTURE BOOK BIOGRAPHIES)

by Rob Sanders

1. To learn something new.
2. To soak in the story.
3. To examine the structure.
4. To observe the page turns.
5. To analyze what makes the story work.
6. To dissect the craft.
7. To enjoy the illustrations.
8. To investigate the word choices.
9. To evaluate the back matter.
10. Because you can’t not read them!

GET INSPIRED TO SIT DOWN AND WRITE!

by Laura Gehl

I read children’s books to marvel at thoughtful page turns, to laugh at witty spreads, to appreciate the interplay between text and art, to let various rhythms and cadences wash over me, to get refrains stuck in my head, to admire different text structures, to soak in new information, to feel characters tug at my heartstrings, to think, “I wish I had written that,” and…most of all…to get inspired to sit down and write!

READING PICTURE BOOKS ALOUD HELPS ME DELIGHT IN STORYTELLING AND LUSCIOUS SOUNDS

Kirsti Call

I read picture books to learn about what works and what doesn’t, to appreciate the poetry of sparse text, to feel and to heal. Reading picture books aloud with children helps me delight in storytelling and luscious sounds. And of course reading picture books inspires me to create my own stories, putting words together in ways that (hopefully) evoke laughter, love and connection.

WHY I LOVE READING CHILDREN’S BOOKS

By Melissa Stoller

As a children’s book writer, it’s vital for me to read children’s books. I write chapter books and picture books, so those are the book genres that I mainly read. I like to read children’s books for several reasons. First, it’s important to keep up to date with all the new books. I love reading newly published picture books so I can stay current about topics and what is selling at the moment. Second, I can apply the knowledge I gain from reading children’s books to my writing process. I use books as “mentor texts,” meaning they teach me about writing in some way. For example, if I’m writing a non-fiction book about sea life, I will read every current similar book I can find to see how other authors handled the subject. Or, if I’m trying to add more “heart” into my fiction picture book manuscript, I will read books that I know pull at the heartstrings. I also notice how the author chose specific words and language patterns, handled pacing, left room for the illustrator, and other craft points. Third, I use current children’s books as “comparative titles” that can help me pitch my manuscripts and place them in the marketplace, comparing my manuscript to a recently-published title, and also showing how my manuscript is different. Finally, the most important reason that I read picture books and chapter books is that I LOVE them! I enjoy reading children’s books almost as much as I like writing them! A perfect afternoon would be spent curling up with a cup of mint tea, a gluten-free muffin, and a stack of wonderful children’s books!

READING KID LIT MAKES ME FEEL LIKE A CHILD AGAIN, WHICH IS HOW WE NEED TO FEEL TO WRITE BOOKS ABOUT AND FOR CHILDREN

Pippa Chorley

Every Wednesday morning, we start our critique session with a table piled high with books; childhood favourites, classic picture books, brand new purchases, library searches and recommendations. It’s one of my favourite parts of the week. I always feel like a kid in a sweet shop!

It gets our conversation bubbling immediately, what we like, what we don’t like, what we find clever, beautiful, funny, endearing, or even why we don’t like something or think it could have ended differently. It opens up conversations about craft and style, and it also gets our own creative juices flowing. It helps us generate new ideas or writing styles and helps us critique our wobbly new manuscripts at a much higher level and gives us courage to try new things. Sometimes it even sparks a whole new idea for a manuscript too!

I think the reason why we read children’s picture books as authors is endless and unquestionably important. But, for me personally, why I love it so much, is because it brings me and my fellow critique partners together weekly through a shared love of children’s writing. And most importantly, it makes me feel like a child again. Which is just what we need to feel when we are writing books about them and especially for them!

IF WE’RE GOING TO WRITE BOOKS, WE NEED TO LEARN FROM THE BEST

by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

If we are going to create stories, we must also admire stories. If we are going to write books, we must learn from the best. One of the most accessible ways to learn about what the greatest writers are doing is to utilize your library card. I make a habit of keeping my holds and checkouts at the library maxed out. At least once a week, I take a big stack of picture books and read and analyze them.

One of my favorite ways to determine which ones I want to study in depth is to read through the stack of books. I make three stacks:

1) Not for me.

2) These are great, but not my style.

3) THIS is the kind of writing I want to do.

Pile #3 is the one that I take more extensive notes on. It’s the type of books I type up to see how it looks on the page, examine the structure, and bask in the language.

For more posts about reading mentor texts, you can check out the many mentor texts posts on my blog.

For a more extensive post on how I organize and keep track of my reading, you can check out this bullet journaling post.

One other tip: If I’m feeling stuck or mired in muck about my own writing, often reading stellar books can bring me back. It usually takes me only about 20 minutes of immersive reading to realize I really DO want this writing life, and I really want to create stories.

Next week, we will get more great tips and stories from Beth Anderson, Vivian Kirkfield, Ellen Leventhal, Dawn Babb Prochovnic, Michelle Nott, and Rosie Pova.

TO READ PART 1 OF “LONG AND WINDING ROAD TO PUBLICATION” click here.

TO READ PART 2 OF “LONG AND WINDING ROAD TO PUBLICATION” click here.

TO READ PART 3 OF “LONG AND WINDING ROAD TO PUBLICATION” click here.

TO READ THE TEAM MEMBERS’ ANSWERS TO “MY MOST IMPORTANT LESSON LEARNED” click here for Part One and here for Part Two.

TO READ MORE ABOUT THE KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM TEAM AND THEIR BOOKS click here.

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ValentinyLast month, I participated in Susanna Hill’s Valentine’s Day writing contest. I was fortunate to win an honorable mention for Beautiful Language and win a copy of Rhyming the Write Way by Laura Purdie Salas and Lisa Bullard. Thank you! The reason I say “I was fortunate” is because after I entered the contest, I realized I was so focused on the theme of hope that I never mentioned Valentine’s Day. So a good reminder to me – watch those submission guidelines.

50 precious words 2018This month, I’m participating in Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words contest. There’s still time for you to enter and challenge yourself to write a story in 50 words. There are many great prizes. My entry is below.

Reading research 2018I’m also participating in Reading for Research Month as a viewer of the many wonderful posts. This is a great event and challenge with lots of opportunity to learn from mentor texts.

In addition, Chapter Book Challenge just started. Write a Chapter Book in a month! So, if you are writing a chapter book or have been thinking about writing one, here’s your motivation and accountability if you want it.

Now for my 50 Precious Words . . .

Wally Earthworm’s Quest
by Alayne Kay Christian

Wally Earthworm hated dirt  wally earthworm5
Reading’s what he loved the best
That, and snuggly, silky shirts.
Ready to begin his quest,
He squirmed, he searched, he wished, he roamed
He dreamed of silk and book abodes
Until a page of silken words
Became his perfect bookworm home.

(Metrical variance intentional)

 

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ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING V2Our guest bloggers for the final ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING series are Sylvia Lui and Elaine Kiely Kearns. I’m proud to call these two smart, talented, and lovely women my friends and critique partners. In this post, they share what they learned from planting a seed of an idea and nurturing it into a successful platform. Thanks Sylvia and Elaine for sharing your experience and wisdom.

 Top Ten Signs That You’re Building a Successful Platform

By Sylvia Liu & Elaine Kiely Kearns

A year and a half ago, we created a kid lit resource website, www.Kidlit411.com. The idea was simple – a website where children’s writers and illustrators can learn about the world of kid lit – from writing and illustration tips, to finding an agent, to listings of conferences, classes, contests, and more. kidlit 411

We soon added weekly interviews with authors, illustrators, agents, and editors, a weekly update email, a Facebook page to connect with our community, and a manuscript swap group. Earlier this year, we were named by Writer’s Digest as one of The 101 Best Websites for Writers, as well as one of The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2015 (The Write Life) and The Top 50 Writing Blogs for 2015 (Positive Writer).

A side effect of Kidlit411 was that we created a nice platform for ourselves as children’s authors and illustrators. (What exactly is a platform? Jane Friedman defines platform as having visibility, authority, and a proven reach to a given audience). We didn’t set out to do so, but we learned the following about building a successful platform:

  1. You grow naturally and organically.

No, we are not talking about free-range chickens. We have found that platform building is an organic and slow process. When you do something you love and share your passion, like-minded people will find and join you. Instead of having a grand plan, you let things evolve over time.

  1. You’re filling a need.

A great way to build a platform is to identify a need for something (a service, a community, a challenge) and meet it. For Kidlit411, I (Elaine) found myself gathering links to good articles and resources on writing for children. I (Sylvia) joined her, designing a site and adding my illustration perspective. We now have a convenient, organized, and curated site for all things kid lit. Other excellent resources are available, but many require a membership fee, such as the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

  1. You’re building a community.

Our Facebook page is a great way to connect with old and new online friends in the kid lit community. Through the group, we are able to keep people up to date on our new postings. Better yet, our group has become a place for people to ask questions, share tips, and connect with one another.

  1. You’re not doing it alone.

Having two of us work on the site, with the help of many others who send us links, makes the task easier. We can back each other up when other life and work obligations come up and two minds are generally better than one.

  1. You’re thinking outside the box.

You do something new that excites people, or you do something that’s been done, but with a new twist.

About seven years ago, the kid lit world was a lot less connected. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) had piboidmo2014started in 1999, but it wasn’t until 2008 when Tara Lazar created PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) and Paula Yoo started NaPiBoWriWee (National Picture Book Writing Week) that the picture book community found a way to connect and encourage each other to develop ideas and write picture books. What a great idea – spur people to create stories, while providing prizes and expert advice.

Other successful platforms also harness individuals’ creative impulses while creating a community. Tania McCarthy’s 52-week illustration challenge (an illustration a week) and Jake Parker’s Inktober challenge (31 drawings in 31 days) are illustration challenges that have grown tremendously.

Other kid lit people also thought outside of the box to create great platforms. Katie Davis has been the mastermind of over 200 Brain Burps podcasts over the past five and a half years. 12-x-12-new-bannerJulie Hedlund leads the enormously successful 12×12 picture book challenge (write 12 picture book manuscripts in a year).

When we started Kidlit411, we didn’t re-invent the wheel. But we like to think we provide a visually appealing and user-friendly wheel.

  1. You are building on your areas of strength and expertise.

Part of building a platform is knowing yourself. Are you a people person who loves to socialize? Do you love information and technology? Are you an artist at heart? All of these characteristics will steer you naturally to the platform that best suits you. We figured out that we both enjoy seeking, organizing, and sharing information. We are curious about the career paths of other creative people, which led us to our weekly interviews of authors and illustrators.

  1. Your project is self-sustaining without enormous amounts of work.

If you find yourself spending more time working on your platform than doing your creative work then you are not using your time wisely. For Kidlit411, we read and keep up with kid lit, so adding the links to our website does not take much additional time. Our weekly interviews involve finding people, asking questions, and formatting their answers, also not time consuming.

If you do find that your platform has grown beyond your individual capabilities, you hire or outsource your work. For example, NaNoWriMo is now a professionally run nonprofit organization. 

  1. Your project has grown beyond your initial expectations.

The great thing about many successful platforms is that most times, the creator didn’t expect or imagine what it would turn out to be. For example, an artist begins a personal creative challenge and invites a few friends, and before he or she knows it, it becomes a widespread challenge. 

  1. You’re not in it for yourself.

You didn’t build the platform just to sell your wares. You provide meaningful content, or a meaningful experience that attracts others to fill a need. We found that providing easy access to good information is an idea that sold itself. 

  1. You are having FUN.

Life is short. Don’t start or continue a platform-building project because someone said you had to. Only work on things that you enjoy and are having fun doing. If the side effect is that you are bringing other like-minded people along, all the better.

Sylvia New

SYLVIA LIU is a former environmental attorney turned writer-illustrator. Her debut picture book, A MORNING WITH GRANDPA (Lee & Low Books) is scheduled for publication Spring 2016. She lives in Virginia Beach with her husband and two daughters. She is inspired by aliens, cephalopods, bunnies, and pigs who want to fly.  Her portfolio: www.enjoyingplanetearth.com and blog: www.sylvialiuland.com

ELAINE KIELY KEARNS is currently chasing the dream as a published author. Armed with a master’s degree in Education Elaineand working from her home office, she spends her time creating picture book and middle grade stories. She lives in New York with her husband, two beautiful daughters and three furry babies. When she isn’t writing, she can be found doing yoga and eating chocolate but not usually at the same time. She is represented by Linda Epstein of the Jennifer Di Chiara Literary Agency in New York.

Following are the links to the other guest posts in the ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING series:

THE PUSH AND PULL OF PLATFORM by Heather Ayris Burnell

A CASE OF THE WHY NOTS: How I Built (and am still building) My Platform by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

IF YOU BUILD IT, WILL THEY COME? AND WHO WILL THEY BE? by Susanna Leonard Hill

JULIE HEDLUND BUSTS MYTHS ABOUT AUTHOR PLATFORMS

BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL: My Platform-Building Strategy by Miranda Paul

YOU ARE YOUR PLATFORM by TARA LAZAR

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ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING V2

This month’s ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING guest blogger is award-winning author, writing teacher, and the sweetest person ever, Susanna Leonard Hill. Thank you Susanna for sharing your story with us.

IF YOU BUILD IT, WILL THEY COME?

AND WHO WILL THEY BE?

by Susanna Leonard Hill

Once upon a time, there was a writer (that was me) who wrote stories for children.  Although she dreamed from girlhood of picture books with her name on the cover (and not because she wrote it there with a crayon), she was pretty sure she wasn’t good enough to get published.  (Due to word count limitations we’re going to skip a bit…)  Blah, blah, blah, some other stuff happened and one day in 2002 her dream came true and life was good.

“Now then,” said the Powers-That-Be, “go forth and build a platform!”

Tools

“Uh…,” I said.  “Have you seen me with tools?  This is not a good idea.”

Apparently they weren’t talking about that kind of platform.

“Uh…,” I said.  “Have you seen me with technology?  This is not a good idea.”

Apparently they did not care.

BUILD was the directive, so by golly I had to try.

Let’s just be clear on one thing: I had NO idea what I was doing or how to do it!

To save you from landing in the same predicament, I will share with you Susanna’s Rules for Practically Painless Platform Building.

Rule #1: Eat Something Chocolate 

chocolate

Really.  It’s good for you 🙂  Construction is hard work.  You must be properly fueled 🙂

Rule #2: Know what platform is.

It is helpful before you begin construction to have some idea of what it is you are hoping to build.  Otherwise your go-cart might turn out to be a lawn mower… or in our case, your platform might turn out to be a mineshaft. 🙂

So what is platform, anyway?

Basically, it’s your visibility as an author:

  1. Who you are –

Well, that’s obvious.  You’re you! 🙂 Whether you’re a stay-at-home dad of 7 who loves to bake Lebkuchen and play the tambourine, or a NASA engineer who is consumed by competitive crochet in your down time, it’s you as an individual that people want to know.

  1. Your personal and professional connections –

Friends and family, coworkers, critique partners, your dentist, your son’s trombone teacher, etc.  You might also include people you know through the Internet, but that overlaps into the third category a bit.

  1. Finally, the part people tend to think of more as “platform” – the work you do specifically related to being an author, and your online presence –

Any form of media where your writing is available or where readers can get to know you, including bookstores, newspaper articles, radio interviews, school/library visits, book signings, online booksellers, and anywhere you are active in social media – your website, blog, newsletter, FB, Twitter, etc…

Do not feel that #3 is the only part that matters.  All three of these elements are equally important, and #1 is arguably most important because it colors everything else.  But you likely feel pretty comfortable with #1 and #2, whereas #3 might be the place you feel a little out of your depth. So that’s the focus of the other rules.

Rule #3: Find Your Comfort Zone

Some love to travel.  Some love to stay home.  Some love to dress to the nines.  Some love to loaf in pajamas.  Some like it hot… well, you get the idea.

You’ve got to be comfortable with what you’re building, and not all social media options are created equal.  Scout around.  Sample the choices.  Hold it up and see how it looks before you nail it in place 🙂 Do you love the brevity and variety of Twitter?  Or would you prefer the option to discourse at greater length on a blog?  Or do you like the happy medium of Face Book?  Do you see the world through a camera lens? Then how about Instagram? Pinterest? YouTube?

There are lots of options out there.  Don’t make yourself miserable forcing yourself to participate in something that doesn’t suit your personality and style.

Rule #4:  Don’t Wear Yourself Out!

We are all busy.  We have spouses, and kids, jobs and homes and cars and pets and aging parents and yoga/running/swimming/watching basketball on TV – you know, exercise :), and some of us have to bake Lebkuchen and practice the tambourine…  There are only so many hours in the day!

Cookies

Choose 2 or 3 at most of the social media options and limit time spent on them each day.  That way you can give your best to the options you choose, avoid burnout, and still have time to write, which is, after all, the whole point of all of this!

Rule #5: Figure Out What You Have To Offer (and yes! you have something to offer!) Preferably Before You Start Blogging 🙂

Okay.  So now we get down to the nitty-gritty.  What’s going to be the focus of your tweets, your FB posts, your blog?  What are you going to put out there for the world?

I tried everything.  I think literally actually everything.

Trial and Error, thy alias is Susanna!

Try to avoid that 🙂

Platform, platform, platform… We’re supposed to reach our audience of readers.  Well, obviously that’s impossible in the case of picture book writers – our readers are pre-reading listeners.  They tend not to frequent FB, twitter, or phyllis coverblogs of any kind 🙂 The actual readers of our books – the mouthpiece through which our audience hears our stories – are parents, teachers, grandparents, librarians etc.  Those are also the people who buy our books, since most 3-8 year olds are hampered in the cash flow and transportation departments 🙂 So really, our platform efforts should be directed toward these adults.

I tried writing posts on dogs, gift-wrapping, song-writing, Mondays, book drives, how useless I’d be as a pioneer… all topics that should appeal to parents, teachers and librarians, don’t you think?

Alas, they apparently appealed to no one!  Just go back and look at my early posts… and how there are no comments on almost all of them!

So I stumbled along, trying this and that, until one day I hit on the idea of Would You Read It Wednesday (primarily for writers, but with hopes of attracting teacher and librarian feedback), and then Perfect Picture Book Friday (intended as a resource for parents, teachers and homeschoolers…but which seems to appeal to writers seeking mentor texts), then contests for writers (an opportunity for writers (of all ages) to write stories for kids that could be read by parents, kids, teachers, etc.), Short & Sweets (for writers but hopefully also for teachers and kids), Oh, Susanna! (intended for writers, teachers and parents… but writers were the only ones who ever seemed to have questions), with a few author and illustrator interviews and a mini-series on self-publishing thrown in for good measure.

And by gum! 4 years down the road it appears I’ve got a nice little platform of people I adore, who make my blog a wonderful community where I’m grateful to spend time. Can't Sleep

And yeah… if you noticed that the platform I intended to build for parents, teachers, librarians and such turned out to be a platform for writers, well, maybe that’s because I am a writer and that’s the way I think.

I choose to believe that many of the writers who make my blog and FB page and twitter…area…whatever you call it 🙂 … such a great place to hang out are also parents, teachers and librarians.

As Gilda Radnor said on Saturday Night Live, it’s a dessert topping AND a floor wax 🙂

Happy Platform Building! 🙂

Thank you so much for having me, Alayne.

Note from Alayne: Pardon my intrusion. Because I am interrupting, I want to say make sure you scroll to the bottom of this post for Susanna’s bio and links to her website, blog and more. Now for my reason for the intrusion. . . .

I had no idea what Lebkuchen is, so I looked it up. For those of you who also don’t know, Lebkuchen is a centuries-old German gingerbread specialty that is traditionally baked during the winter holiday season.

Also for those of you who don’t know Susanna and all the wonderful things she does for the writing community, I want to give a basic description of some of the things she mentioned in this post.

Oh Susanna is the children’s literature world’s version of Dear Abby, except not about relationships (well, not yours – character relationships would be OK). It is an advice column/question forum for those of us in the children’s book world, as it were 🙂 People can ask Susanna questions about writing, reading, teaching writing and so on.

Short & Sweets was started as a way for writers to keep their writing oars in during the happy, busy, outdoor fun summer months. Susanna offered fun exercises that writers could do together.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Is a group effort. Using a set format, bloggers share picture books they want to recommend to others. Susanna then shares that link on her blog in her extensive list of picture books, categorized by theme.

Would You Read It Wednesday? This is a weekly feature that offers a chance for writers to try out pitches for their Picture Books, Early Readers, Middle Grade, or Young Adult Works-In-Progress.

Contests and Picture Book Writing Course Susanna also has Holiday writing contests with excellent prizes. And then there is her Making Picture Book Magic writing course, which, as a graduate of the course, I can personally recommend. You can find more information on all of the above on her website – links follow Susanna’s bio.

slh wyomingAbout Susanna

Susanna is the award winning author of nearly a dozen books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis (A Book List Children’s Pick and Amelia Bloomer Project choice), No Sword Fighting In The House (a Junior Library Guild selection), Can’t Sleep Without Sheep (a Children’s Book of The Month), and Not Yet, Rose (a Gold Mom’s Choice Award Winner.)  Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, and Japanese, with one hopefully forthcoming in Korean.  Her newest book, Alphabedtime!, is forthcoming from Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Books, in Summer 2016.  She lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs.

Links:

Website: http://www.susannahill.com/HOME.html

Blog: http://susannahill.blogspot.com

Face Book Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/SusannaLeonardHill

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SusannaLHill

Making Picture Book Magic (online picture book writing course): http://www.susannahill.com/MAKING_PICTURE_BOOK_MAGIC.html

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ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING V2It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve been away regrouping in preparation for my upcoming blog series on platform building. I’ve also been busy with my critique service. I’ve added many more testimonials to my website, and I’m working on some new ideas and services. I continue to plug away at my picture book and chapter book writing and edits with my fingers crossed that some of them will soon meet with Erzsi’s approval, and the submission fun will begin.

Speaking of submissions, before I move on with my DON’T BE AFRAID TO FALL post and my announcement about my new blog series, I want to thank the ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS team for sharing so much of themselves during the series. Thank you: Cindy Williams Schrauben, Elaine Kiely Kearns, Heather Ayris Burnell, Julie Falatko, Kirsti Call, Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Sophia Mallonée, Sylvia Liu, Teresa Robeson. Your posts continue to help writers who visit my blog.

When it comes to submissions or the business of writing, it can sometimes seem much easier to get discouraged than encouraged. Today, I offer some food for thought about discouragement, or perceived failure. I’ve had the following piece in my collection for many, many years. I’m guessing since the early seventies. You can tell it’s old because of the people and events mentioned. I’m sure we could find some remarkable statistics on more current people. But what really matters is the message. I’ve modified the piece slightly and interjected a little in parenthesis.

FALLINGDON’T BE AFRAID TO FALL

Author unknown

 You’ve failed many times, although you may not remember. You fell down the first time you tried to walk. You almost drowned the first time you tried to swim, didn’t you?

Did you hit the ball the first time you swung a bat? Heavy hitters, the ones who hit the most home runs, also strike out a lot. Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, but he also hit 714 homeruns.

R.H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York caught on. (Macy’s now has 800 stores. They are in every major geographic market in the United States plus their Macy’s.com website.) English novelist, John Creasey, got 752 rejection slips before he published 564 books. (I’ve read elsewhere that it took him 14 years to sell his first story, and he wrote 600 books, using 28 pseudonyms.)

Don’t worry about failure. Worry about THE CHANCES YOU MISS WHEN YOU DON’T EVEN TRY.

ANNOUNCING MY NEW BLOG SERIES 

ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING

In the ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING series, ten awe-inspiring social media mavens will share their key lessons or tips for building strong, engaging, and of course, successful social media platforms. I’m excited about this series because I think it will be a great service to the writing community. I’m also excited to have the opportunity to work with each of these phenomenal women. I am so proud to be able to feature them on my blog. One of the many things that I love about this series is each team member has developed a unique platform. I believe that the guest posts will be as unique as each of these talented people and their successful platforms. I expect that their posts will show others that ingenuity and the thing that all writers have, creativity, is the key to a strong platform.

piboidmo2014In celebration of the quickly approaching Sixth Annual Picture Book Idea Month and her upcoming picture books I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK and LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD, the one and only Tara Lazar will kick off the series on October 25.

It is also my pleasure to introduce the rest of the team:

Elaine Kiely Kearns and Sylvia Liu – Children’s Book Authors, Founders of KIDLIT411, and more

Heather Ayris Burnell – Children’s Book Author, Founder of Sub It Club, and more

Julie Hedlund – Children’s Book Author and Founder of the 12 x 12 Writing, and more

Katie Davis – Author, Founder of Brain Burps about Books, Video Boot Camp, Author, and more

Marcie Flinchum Atkins – Children’s Book Author, Queen of Teaching about Mentor Texts for Writers and Teachers

Michelle Lynn Senters – Children’s Writer and Founder of Kids are Writers

Miranda Paul – Children’s Book Author, Founder of Rate Your Story, and more

Susanna Leonard Hill – Children’s Book Author and Founder of Making Picture Book Magic, and more

See you in a few weeks.

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catch that babyOne day, I was studying Nancy Coffelt’s picture book, CATCH THAT BABY! Illustrated by Scott Nash (Aladdin 2011). I realized Nancy must have had to write a lot of art notes for this story. If you give CATCH THAT BABY a read, you will see how I came to this conclusion.

I had the good fortune of having Nancy as an instructor for my advanced course with The Institute of Children’s Literature, and we have continued to stay in contact. I emailed Nancy and asked her if she would have time to share with me the proper way to submit a manuscript with art notes. Not only was she gracious enough to help me out, she is also allowing me to share this information with you.

This year, Aladdin released a second Baby Rudy book UH-OH BABY! Also written by Nancy Coffelt and illustrated by Scott Nash. To give me examples of how she handles art notes for these “art note dependent” books, Nancy has shared a VERY EARLY draft (she wants me to stress “very early draft”) of UH-OH BABY! What I am sharing today is a work in progress. The fun thing about this is if you read the final product, you will be able to see the evolution of UH-OH BABY! from rough draft to published book. UH-OH BABY 2

Before I offer what Nancy shared with me, I want to clarify a few things.

  • What I am presenting is the actual manuscript format that Nancy uses. I kind of see it as being more of a script. This format works best for her art note dependent stories.
  • “Off screen” means the character that is speaking is not visible to the reader.
  • “Panel” or “panel sequence” means several panels of illustrations on one page or spread.

Now for Nancy’s email to me. Although she sent me the complete manuscript, I have opted to share only a portion of it.

(email) Alayne, I am pasting a very early draft of my latest book UH-OH BABY! Everything that is in brackets is an art note. Since I already had a working relationship with this editor, she understood that the bracketed areas were art notes. But if this were a new relationship I would have made it clear that’s what they were. A cover letter would be a good place to state that information. Perhaps under the title on the manuscript a brief note such as: Art notes are in brackets–might be a good idea as well.

Page 4-5: [half title]

[Page 4: Mom opening present.]

Mom: It’s wonderful!

[(panels) Rudy looks on. Rudy runs off.]

[Page 5: Rudy finds ladybug.]

Page 6-7: [Title page, panel sequence, Rudy runs back to family.]

Page 8-9: [Rudy presents Mom with ladybug.

Mom: Hello Rudy! What do you have?

[Ladybug flies off.]

Mom: Oopsie, Rudy!

Rudy: No oopsie! Wonderful!

Page 10-11: [Brother walking past, Rudy holding blocks]

Brother: Hello Rudy! What are you doing?

[Rudy looks at blocks and then frenzied Rudy building action. In all the frenzied action scenes, no one is watching so the outcome is always a surprise.]

Rudy: (off screen) Wonderful!

Page 12-13: [Big reveal-amazing block construction. Mom and brother are so impressed]

Crash! [Buddy crashes into block tower and it collapses: no dialogue; like a comic book]

Mom: Rats!

Rudy: No Rats! Wonderful! [off to the next one…]

Page 14-15: [Rudy and Buddy in the backyard.]

Dad: Hello, Rudy! What are you up to?

[Rudy looks at flowers and then frenzied Rudy garden action]

Rudy: (offscreen) Wonderful!

Page 16-17: [Big reveal—Rudy briings in a flower sculpture of Buddy? Mom and Dad are so impressed]

Slurp! [Buddy jumps on Mom, muddy footprints everywhere, sculpture flies apart]

Mom: Icky, Rudy!

Rudy: No icky! Wonderful! [and off to the next one… Can Rudy look a little less enthusiastic with each exit to show he’s getting either discouraged or frustrated?]

Page 18-19: [Sister painting]

Sister: Hello, Rudy! What’s going on?

[Rudy looks at art supplies and then frenzied Rudy art action]

Rudy: (off screen) Wonderful!

Page 20-21: [Big reveal—amazing collage type painting of Mom. Mom and sister are so impressed]

Whoosh! [A gust of wind blows the pieces of paper all over]

Mom: Shucks, Rudy!

Rudy: No shucks! Wonderful! [off he goes…]

A big thanks to Nancy Coffelt for giving us an inside look at her creative world.

nancy-coffelt

ABOUT NANCY 

Nancy Coffelt began her career as a fine artist and soon branched out into illustration and writing for young people. While she is known for her bright oil pastel imagery and humorous picture books, Nancy’s young adult work has an edgier side. Her books have garnered praise ranging from starred reviews from Kirkus, Horn Book and SLJ as well as her FRED STAYS WITH ME receiving an ALA Notable mention as well as the Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award.

Nancy lives, paints, writes, teaches and obeys the whims of her family’s two small dogs in Oregon.

Here are links to Nancy’s books currently in print.

Catch That Baby!

Uh-Oh Baby!

Fred Stays With Me!

Aunt Ant Leaves through the Leaves

Pug in a Truck

Big, Bigger, BIGGEST!

SOME OTHER EXCELLENT POSTS ABOUT ART NOTES

Susanna Leonard Hill: Oh Susanna – How Do You Handle Illustrator Notes in Picture Book Manuscripts?

Picture Book Den: How do you present a picture book text to a publisher? By Ragnhild Scamell

Tara Lazar, Writing for Kids: Art Notes in Picture Book Manuscripts

KidLit.com: Should You Include Illustrator Notes in Your Picture Book?

PLEASE SHARE: HOW DO YOU HANDLE ART NOTES?

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