Tag Archives: writing

Now Offering Critiquing Services and a Limited-time Special

Since 2012, my professional writing focus has been on picture books – learning the craft, understanding the industry, and reading what’s currently being published. Sometimes I needed blinders to keep my attention from wandering into other things, like running for a seat on the town council or starting a chocolate truffle business or taking up spelunking.

Focus, Carol. Focus on your goals.

I, indeed, stayed focused. And my devotion to my dreams recently paid off when I signed with agent Stephen Fraser of the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. What does this mean to me? Soooo much, but I won’t go into that right now because there’s something else I’m here to announce.

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© 2016 Photo by Carol Munro

Having an agent gives me extra hours in every day. I no longer need to research agents, editors, and publishers, write query letters, submit manuscripts, and track responses. So before I fill that time by, say, trying to break the Guinness world record for the largest yarn ball, I’ve decided to do something more meaningful while maintaining focus on my craft.

I’m now offering manuscript and query letter critique services primarily for serious picture book writers, but also for writers of other kidlit genres and novels for adults. Click here or on the Writing Services tab above for all the details.

I’m so excited! But to ratchet up the thrill just a bit more – and because May is my birthday month – I’m offering you a gift.

Request a picture book manuscript critique
now through May 31 and save $10!

So if you’re in the market for a professional critique, I hope you’ll use my services, especially if your focus is beginning to wander away from your dreams.

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From Beyond the Grave.

Happy 2015, everyone!

I began my new year with a party — drinking good wine, eating delicious food, chatting with old friends and making some new ones. It’s said that whatever you do on the first day of the year reflects what you’ll be doing throughout the year.

But I can’t party every day. Well, yes. I could. But there are bills to pay.

So over the next few days, I got things ready for business in 2015. I created documents to keep track of my writing and reading and client work. I reviewed goals I had set in previous years and set some new ones. I analyzed where I’d submitted manuscripts, researched editors and publishers’ catalogs, and made notes about where and what to submit this year. I created a new Excel document that would help me work more efficiently and submit manuscripts more wisely (which took more than three hours of data entry).

And then my hard drive said, “Tink. Tink-tink. Tink.”

Gone. All that prep work for the year, and everything else I had on that hard drive, gone.

It made me wish I worked in a field where computers weren’t necessary. I wished I wasn’t so dependent on technology. I wished I wasn’t a writer.

So right then and there, I quit. I shut my laptop. I declared myself Not-A-Writer.

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(c) 2014 Photo by Carol Munro

 

It was like a death. I felt hollowed. Empty and echo-y and silenced.

I stayed dead for about a day, then I put my party pants back on, drank some good wine, and got back to the business of writing. Because a writer’s gotta write, right?

One of the things that brought me back was Facebook. Or more accurately, the community of writing friends I have there. Yes, YOU. You saved me. Thank you.

Thank you, Julie Hedlund, Kelli Panique, my co-Elves, and 12×12 (which is open for 2015 membership now through February 28).

Thank you, Elaine Kiely Kearns, Sylvia Liu, and KidLit411 (celebrating a one-year anniversary now with a party full of prizes, but the best gift of all is the wealth of info for all kidlit writers all year long).

Thank you, Alayne Kay Christian and Sub Six. Thank you to my fellow Cybils judges, to Tara Lazar and PiBoIdMo (just named one of the top 10 blogs for writers), to the other online groups I belong to, and to the writers who are not only my friends on Facebook or face-to-face, but also in my heart.

You all brought this writer back.

And hopefully, soon, a techno-wizard will bring back the contents of my hard drive.

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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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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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Love it. Don’t love it. Ewww.

Whew! So far, 134 fictional picture books have been nominated for the Cybils awards. The nomination period for the general public is now closed, but over the next few weeks, professionals in the publishing industry will be making their nominations. Since October 1, I’ve read about 60 books (sincere thanks to the suddenly overburdened folks who manage and deliver books via the Inter Library Loan service), and I have a dozen or so on my short list. Some great books have been nominated, so I’m being very strict about how I evaluate which ones I’ll consider sending on to the final judging process. One little hiccup in the flow of the story, and sorry, not going on the short list. Fabulous illustrations but a story that’s ordinary? Sorry, no. A beautiful story but I just don’t like the art? Not getting recommended.

I compare my short list with the lists of the other four judges in my category. We agree on many books, but I’ve seen books on their lists and wondered, what are they thinking? I’m sure they do the same. This whole process has reinforced what I’ve known all along. It’s all subjective. We’re all judges, and we all have different tastes.

I submitted a manuscript to an agent yesterday. I LOVE this story I’ve told. It’s tender and funny and even a bit scary. It’s been rejected a half dozen times, and I got discouraged. I decided it wasn’t a lovely story. I decided it needed work – work that I put off doing. But I read it yesterday morning and LOVED it. So I submitted it. Everything is subjective. Maybe this agent will love it, too.

That’s my little bit of encouragement to my fellow writers. And here’s some more. Marcie Flinchum Atkins has another We’re All In This Together post on her blog. EW Clark, Sue Heavenrich, Vivian Kirkfield, Liz Parker Garcia, Alayme Kay Christian, Amie Rose Rotruck, Romelle Broas Guittap, Marcie, and I share some inspirational quotes for writers. Go take a look if you’re curious. Or need encouragement.

One more thing, I’ve been participating in Kathy Ellen Davis’s picture book reading challenge, 31 in 31. We pledge to read a picture book each day in October (yeah, not exactly a problem for me!) and post about it on her blog. Every five days, she has a drawing for a book. On day 15, I WON! Eagerly waiting for my copy of OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. Visit the blog to see what we’ve read and  get PB recommendations.

 

 

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What Surprises You about the Writing Life?

It’s time again for Marcie Flinchum Atkins’ monthly We’re All in This Together blog series. This month: Surprise! Things You Didn’t Know about the Writing Life.

My contribution, along with those of Lori Degman, Donna L. Sadd, and Alayne Kay Christian, can be found today in Part One. Tomorrow, you can read what EW Clark, Vivian Kirkland, and Marcie have to say in Part Two.

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