Tag Archives: picture books

Focus. Write. Squirrels!

There’s a new post in Marcie Flinchum AtkinsWe’re All In This Together. This month we answered this question: What is one thing that you’ve done to help yourself grow as a writer that you would recommend to someone else?” If you’re a writer, hop over to WAITT and see what Marcie, Vivian Kirkfield, Sue Heavenrich, Romelle Broas, and I have to say.

I talked about staying focused. That’s a tough thing for me. If you follow astrology, you’ll understand when I say I’m a Gemini. I love projects, and it’s easy for me to start many and finish few. So to stay on target with my writing, I need to remind myself of my goals.

Every. Single. Day.

Mmmm…good omelet.

Oh, sorry, I’m having breakfast as I write this. Got distracted. (Focus, Carol.)

In the 12×12 online community of picture book writers (best place ever for PB writers), our challenge is to write one new manuscript per month. So far this year, by staying focused, I’ve written nine. Two of them include squirrels. Maybe because I’ve also renewed my focus on photography (pun unintended), and squirrels in our yard have been a subject for me. Check out this baby (an eight week old, I’m guessing).

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He fell asleep in the nook of my arm.

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Lessons learned, life paths paved

This past week, a friend mentioned diagramming sentences in a blog post and in a Facebook comment. It brought back fond memories. How I loved deconstructing sentences and labeling their parts.

It got me thinking about Miss Baronian’s English class in junior high, and Mr. Joy’s, Mrs. Martin’s, and Mr. Cass’s English classes in high school. Oh, how I loved those teachers and all they could load on me. More. More. Give me more.

And then I thought farther back – to that day in grammar school when I first learned about paragraphs. I actually remember being amazed. I probably sat there in my little chair with big eyes and dropped jaw. I could hardly wait to break apart a body of text into paragraphs.

And this brings me to a conversation I had with a friend earlier this week. She’s worried about her son who’s beginning to think about college and life pursuits. He seems, to her, directionless.

I don’t think I helped her much that evening, but now that I’ve been thinking about my introduction-to-paragraphs experience, I’d ask her to try to remember what little, mundane, everyday things made his eyes sparkle or his voice sing. If my teacher had truly looked at me the day she taught her paragraph lesson, she would have known right then and there, I would be a writer.

And a reader. Here are my favorites of the picture books I read in January:

  • HAVE YOU SEEN MY NEW BLUE SOCKS by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier, 2013, Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • LET’S SING A LULLABY WITH THE BRAVE COWBOY by Jan Thomas, 2012, Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster)
  • WHEN LIONS ROAR by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Chris Raschka, 2013, Orchard Books (Scholastic)

P.S. The link above will take you to KidLit 411, a new website created by Elaine Kiely Kearns (with help from others) for kidlit writers. It’s almost cooler than diagramming sentences and making paragraphs.

Another P.S. If you write picture books, you may want to check out the ultra cool 12×12 Picture Book Challenge. If you want to be part of this phenomenal community — with access to agents, a sparkly new forum, and loads of inspiration, information, and support — you need to register by February 28. After that, membership is closed, and you’ll be pounding on the door until next January. That will hurt.

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More about goals

It’s January, so it’s goal-setting time. I’m pretty excited about that because setting goals last year proved successful for me. Yeah, some aspirations fell into that dusty place behind the desk, but that’s fine. I think most of us tend to over-do it, inspired by the spirit of the season and peer pressure. So I don’t beat myself up for those lost goals. I consider it the angel’s share, and I focus on my successes.

This month, over at Marcie Flinchum Atkins’ We’re All In This Together, Sue Heavenrich, Amie Rose Rotruck, Donna L. Sadd, Alayne Kay Christian, Vivian Kirkfield, Marcie, and I talk about writing goals for 2014, and how we expect to achieve them. Go check it out. There are links to resources that may help you.

My goals for 2014? I mentioned them in the previous post, but here’s the formal list:

  • Write at least one new PB manuscript per month.
  • Revise at least one PB manuscript per month.
  • Submit at least one PB manuscript per month. (Being a GOLD member of Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Challenge will help me achieve these first three goals. If you’re writing PBs, think about joining 12×12. You have until 2/28/14 to join, then the door to this BEST thing you can do for yourself slams shut. Go. Now. Really. Stop reading this blah-blah-blog and sign up.)
  • Continue to read lots of picture books. The focus is on books that are the best examples of the craft and to better understand what’s going on in the industry (what gets published).
  • Study craft. Take classes. Attend workshops and conferences. Improve skills.
  • Sign with an agent. Not just any agent. I’m very particular about whom I’ll choose as my partner in this business.
  • Give back to the community. Last year, I volunteered at the New England SCBWI spring conference, as a Cybils judge, and as a forum moderator for the 12×12 challenge. I’ll probably do the same this year (though I’m off to a rough start in 12×12, having been too sick to spend much time in the Forum these last two weeks). I’m also coordinating an NESCBWI workshop for PB writers that will be held in March, and I’ve taken a leadership role with my SCBWI crit group. Lastly, I’ll continue to share my favorite PB reads on my blog each month.

Sorry, angels. I expect to reach all these goals this year. I’ll have to share something else with you in 2014. Will you take my great and undying appreciation for sticking with me to my successful end? I thought so. Thanks!

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Kicking off the new year

I cheered in the new year last night with my sweetie, and this afternoon we partied with friends. This year, this is how it’ll go, I hope. I’m going to enjoy the year, make adventures, see what I can do to surprise myself.

And I’m going to work my butt off to meet some writing goals. More about that, and my 2013 accomplishments, in another post. For now, I want to tell you about my first challenge of the year, because if you write for kids, you might want to leap into this with me.

Shannon Abercrombie has put together “Start the Year Off Write 2014,” 21 days of writing exercises to get the challenge participants jived and writing. Interested? Go here to learn more. Hurry. It begins January 5.

I’m hoping this challenge works in concert with another one I’m doing in January — “ReviMo,” a week dedicated to revising what’s already been written. Picture book manuscripts, that is. This challenge is the work of the ever-supportive Meg Miller.

If you write PBs, find out more about this challenge here.

Speaking of challenges, I hadn’t mentioned on my blog that I would be participating in PiBoIdMo in November 2013 (Tara Lazar’s baby). Well, I did participate, and came up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days, which is the goal behind the challenge. Well, actually, I did it in the last five or so days of the month.  (November was otherwise challenging.) With those ideas and the extra large batch I have from the previous year, I’m armed and ready for Start Off the Year Write and ReviMo.

Let’s go then! Pencils poised…begin.

 

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My reign ends soon.

It’s almost time to disrobe (hey, watch where your mind travels) and turn in my gavel. My duties as a Cybils judge are coming to a close. It’s been a revealing and satisfying experience. If you write for children (and blog about kidlit), I recommend you consider volunteering for this task next year.

Along with other books in various categories, 224 fiction picture books were in the competition. The next step will be to join the other six judges in deciding which books will go on to be finalists. As a group, we need to select fewer than ten. Ten! From more than 200. There are a few books I think we’ll all agree on, but others — well, I’m looking forward to the discussion as each of us champions our favorites.

Speaking of favorites, here are mine from the 86 picture books I read in November:

  • DIGBY DIFFERS by Miriam Koch, 2013, Peter Pauper Press
  • THE GIRL WITH THE BRAVE HEART, A TALE FROM TEHRAN by Rita Jahanforuz, illustrated by Vali Mintzi, 2013, Barefoot Books
  • GOBBLE YOU UP! by Gita Wolf, illustrated by Sunita, 2013, Tara Books Pvt. Ltd.
  • IT’S USEFUL TO HAVE A DUCK / IT’S USEFUL TO HAVE A BOY by Isol, 2009, Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press)
  • THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS by Bil Lepp, ill Davit T. Wenzel, 2013, Peachtree Publishers
  • MY BLUE IS HAPPY by Jessica Young, illustrated by Catia Chien, 2013, Candlewick Press
  • ONE FROZEN LAKE by Deborah Jo Larson, illustrated by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher, 2012, Minnesota Historical Society Press
  • SNOWFLAKES FALL by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated byl Steven Kellogg, 2013, Random House CB (Random House)
  • TAP THE MAGIC TREE by Christie Matheson, 2013, Greenwillow Books / HarperCollins Children’s Books (HarperCollins Publishers)
  • THE TORTOISE & THE HARE by Jerry Pinkney, 2013, Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Books)
  • THE VERY FAIRY PRINCESS FOLLOWS HER HEART by Julie Andrews & Emma Walton Hamilton, illustrated by Christine Davenier, 2013, Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Books)

Check them out, picture book lovers.

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This is my favorite picture book. Wait. This one is my favorite. Uh, no. Here, this one. This is …. um.

Marcie Flinchum Atkins has posted this month’s edition of “We’re All in This Together.” I joined Donna L. Sadd, EW Clark, Liz Garcia, Vivian Kirkfield, and Marcie in discussing our favorite picture books. What are your favorites? Have you read ours? Take a look.

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A picture book intensive, of sorts.

I read 136 picture books this month, most of them for my role as a judge for the Cybils Awards. I’m so glad for this opportunity. I’ve read so many wonderful books, and I shout a big thank you to everyone who nominated books for this competition. If left to rely completely on my own efforts, I may have missed some of these treasures or taken another year or two to stumble upon them.

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(c) 2013 Photo by Carol Munro

Speaking of thanks, I owe the staff at my library a yummy treat of some sort for processing books I put on hold, notifying me of books that arrive through the Inter Library Loan system, checking them out, checking them back in, sending them back from whence they came. They. Have. Been. Busy.

 

Here are my favorites of books read during October (not all of these were Cybils noms):

  • AGAIN! by Emily Gravett, 2013, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)
  • A HOME FOR BIRD by Philip C. Stead, 2013, Roaring Brook Press (Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership)
  • A IS FOR MUSK OX by Erin Cabatingan, illustrated by Matthew Myers, 2012, A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press (Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership)
  • THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO RUNNING AWAY FROM HOME by Jennifer Larue Huget, illustrated by Red Nose Studio, 2013, Schwartz & Wade Books
  • BEN RIDES ON by Matt Davies, 2013, A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press (Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership)
  • THE BLESSING CUP by Patricia Polacco, 2013, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)
  • BRIEF THIEF by Michael Escoffier, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo, 2013, Enchanted Lion Books
  • COUNT THE MONKEYS by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kevin Cornell, 2013, Disney-Hyperion (Disney Book Group)
  • THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER by Allen Say, 2013, Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic Inc.)
  • THE HIGHWAY RAT by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, 2011, Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic Inc.)
  • IN THE TREE HOUSE by Andrew Larson, illustrated by Dusan Petricic, 2013, Kids Can Press (Corus Entertainment Company)
  • JOURNEY by Aaron Becker, 2013, Candlewick Press
  • THE KINDHEARTED CROCODILE by Lucia Panzieri, illustrated by AntonGionata Ferrari, 2008, Holiday House
  • LEONARDO THE TERRIBLE MONSTER by Mo Willems, 2005, Hyperion Books for Children
  • LOCOMOTIVE by Brian Floca, 2013, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing)
  • THE MARKET BOWL by Jim Averbeck, 2013, Charlesbridge Publishing
  • MOONDAY by Adam Rex, 2013, Disney-Hyperion (Disney Book Group)
  • MY COLD PLUM LEMON PIE BLUESY MOOD by Tameka Fryer Brown, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, 2013, Viking (Penguin Group)
  • ROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts, 2013, Abrams Books for Young Readers (Abrams)
  • SOPHIE’S SQUASH by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf, 2013, Schwartz & Wade Books
  • TOO MUCH GLUE by Jason Lefebvre, illustrated by Zac Retz, 2013, Flashlight Press
  • TRAIN by Elisha Cooper, 2013, Orchard Books (Scholastic Inc.)

My bonus for all this dedicated reading? Today I got my very own copy of TOO MUCH GLUE signed by Jason Lefebvre. Yay!

 

 

 

 

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