Picture Books the Write Way

41mlw2twmol-_sx331_bo1204203200_ A Children’s Writer Insider Guide from Mentors For Rent – Lisa Bullard and Laura Purdie Salas.

Picture Books the Write Way by Lisa Bullard and Laura Purdie Salas is one of my newest books On My Kindle Shelf. It contains about 40 pages that answer 10 questions that will strengthen my (or your) picture book manuscript.

40 pages is just the right size for me to read, chew on, and apply to a manuscript in an evening.

I’ve been writing picture book manuscripts for several years and seeing steady improvement in my skills. This little volume (Picture Books the Write Way) helped me to shore up some areas where my current manuscript was weak. One of the 10 chapters gave me a key to fixing a major problem with the same manuscript.

Picture Books the Write Way enabled me to focus on some basic areas where I was getting a little sloppy. It helped me to remember the things I’ve been learning about writing picture books.

The 10 questions answered succinctly are:

  • “Is It a Short Story Insead?”
  • “Does It Lack a Fresh Take?”
  • “Is It Too Long?”
  • “Is It Unfocused?”
  • “Will Young Kids Fail to Relate?”
  • “Is It Too Nostalgic?”
  • “Is It Too Quiet?”
  • “Are There Illustration Issues?”
  • “Is Your Meter Imperfect?”

Picture Books the Write Way also contains a useful Revision Checklist.

I highly recommend this little volume and the Mentors For Rent website. It’s more than worth the really small price tag. Mentors For Rent have several little volumes available on Kindle.

I’m getting ready to read Rhyming Picture Books the Write Way. I’ll let you know what I think.

Thanks, Lisa and Laura!mfrheader_3tm

Ten things to do by Linda Ashman

la-cropped-as500kb-300x294Many thanks to author Linda Ashman for permission to “borrow” this page from her website.  Linda is the author of more than thirty-five delightful picture books and the creator of The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books. Her books have been included on the “best of the year” lists of The New York Times, Parenting and Child magazines, the New York Public Library, Bank Street College of Education, and the International Reading Association. She leads writing workshops and gives presentations about writing and children’s books at conferences and schools.

Thanks for the great advice, Linda!

Ten things to do if you want to write picture books:

  1. Join SCBWI. And find out what’s happening with your local chapter.
  2. Read craft books. You might start with (ahem) The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books and Ann Paul’s Writing Picture Books.
  3. Read picture books—lots of them. You’ll find recommendations at our group blog, PictureBookBuilders, and many more in The Nuts and Bolts Guide.
  4. Read children’s poetry. Notice the sound, the rhythm, and the way a story can be told or a world created with very few well-chosen words.
  5. Write. Obvious, I know, but somehow it’s easy to let other things take precedence.
  6. Revise, revise, revise. Think you’re done? Revise some more.
  7. Make a dummy or storyboard. Nothing better demonstrates the unique structure of a picture book or shows more clearly if your text is working in this format.
  8. Think visually. Imagine your story as a movie, and leave out anything that doesn’t move the action forward.
  9. Cultivate patience—with your writing (don’t rush!) and with the publishing industry (nothing happens quickly).
  10. Hang in there. Rejection is part of the business. It’s good to have a supportive critique group and/or at least one sympathetic friend.

http://lindaashman.com/how-to-write-picture-books/more-resources/

Called to Write-Part 1

called-to-writeCalled to Write: 7 Principles to Become a Writer on Mission

By Edna Ellison and Linda Gilden, published in 2014

Called to Write: 7 Principles to Become a Writer on Mission identifies seven key competencies required to become a writer on mission for God. Each competency is explained in its own informational chapter. Then readers are challenged in a “how to implement” section for each skill.

I found this volume to be a quick read, but I’ve been practicing writing for publication for almost thirteen years now.

 

(My goodness! Has it been THAT long?)

I think Called to Write is a great book for Christians who are fairly new to writing for publication.  Both Linda and Edna are experienced authors and writing coaches. Their advice is solid.

On My Kindle Shelf

I have more than one book shelf, you know. One is tangible—I love its ready accessibility and it’s physical beauty.

But the other—my Kindle Shelf—is so mobile and convenient that I love it, too.

Several of the books on my Kindle are for writers. I’ll chat about three of them which are by the same Christian author, Ed Cyzewski.

All three are quick reads that lead to some serious thinking.

faith-bloggerChronologically the first book is Become a Better Faith Blogger. The title pretty much sums up the purpose of this little book. Cyzewski share ten tips about becoming a better blogger while living out your faith. He offers inspiration, practical ideas and advice borrowing from ten notable people of faith who have successful blogs.

The biggest drawback of this little book is that it was copyrighted in 2012, and blogging has come a changed enormously since 2012.

 

 

The second volume is Pray, Write, Grow published in 2015. This book “offers life-giving practices that will help you grow in both prayer and writing and shows you how the two can work together…” Cyzewski’s premise is:

“If you want to improve your prayer life, try writing.pray-write-grow

If you want to improve your writing life, try praying.

The two require many of the same practices, disciplines, and virtues.”

That sounds simple. But Cyzewski’s words were provocative to me. I highlighted numerous passages that spoke to me regarding both my prayer practices (especially the practice of being silent before the LORD) and my writing practices.

 

 

contemplativeIn The Contemplative Writer Cyzewski weaves the practices of prayer, meditation and writing together. He emphasizes the calling of writing and the persistent, regular practice of writing as communication with one’s self and with God. He offers a “life preserver of sorts to writers of faith who perhaps feel like they are drowning. He defines contemplative prayer as resting in God and offers suggestions for making that happen.

This perspective was thought provoking for me. It made me mindful of using writing as a way to focus on my spiritual condition, improve my spiritual relationship to God, and use my writing as a gift of gratitude back to God.

Each book is a quick read—60 to 90 minutes—but offer plenty of things to think about for a long time.

On My Shelf Again

img_20170205_114710445_hdrThe books that belong On My Shelf have been packed in boxes and out of sight and reach for more than a month. And my “shelf” didn’t even exist. For this writer that’s kind of like trying to type or word process my words with both hands tied behind my back.

True, I can find almost any tidbit of information I want on the Internet. But, I miss my books!

I miss touching them, flipping through the pages, “accidentally” finding nuggets of gold as I scan the pages. I miss scanning their titles as they stand at attention (or, sometimes, at ease or even sound asleep!) On My Shelf. 

However, I am making progress.

Two weeks ago my NEW shelves arrived! I admired their brown cardboard containers as they acclimated to the environment of my office.

img_20170211_141226159_hdrA few days ago my son and grandson came to set those shelves free. Halelujah! Of course, the job was not without complications. What should have taken an hour to accomplish ate up three, almost four hours of their time.

But now My Shelf stands dutifully waiting to be filled.

Over the past few evenings I’ve been ripping into boxes and liberating my books. Just a few more boxes to go.

I’m an organizer. It’s in my DNA. It was joyous and satisfying last night to not only unpack my books, but to put them in the best possible order On My Shelf.

  • My Bibles (more than a few)
  • My Bible reference books and study guides
  • My books for personal and spiritual growth
  • My books about writing
  • A very short stack of anthologies that contain stories I have written (Yay!)
  • Picture books
  • Other children’s books and YAs (I love to encourage other writers by purchasing their books.)
  • A menagerie of reference books ( I know—use the Internet.)
  • Books on leadership
  • Classic fiction books and poetry
  • Notebooks from writer’s conferences and workshops I’ve attended
  • Books and notebooks for courses I have taught at church

See what I mean? I’m enamored with pages dotted with ink.

img_20170214_210822468As I read the titles it was so much like seeing old friends that I haven’t talked to in a while. Reading each title brought back some of the great things I’ve learned from those books. I remembered how those authors inspired, and continue to inspire, me. Some of these books dramatically changed my life.

Those thoughts led me to thank God for those people I’ve never met face-to-face. But I’ve met them on the pages of their books. I’ve seen inside their souls and minds. I’ve felt our kinship, or, our incompatibility sometimes.

Someday I pray that someone will step back from his or her Shelf and see my name on a few book spines. Someday I pray that someone will have similar thoughts of me and the impact my words have had on their lives.

Impact.

Encouragement.

Influence.

In a positive and godly direction.

The Way Back – Part 6 “Finale”

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I did it. It was scary at first, but I finally dove in.

 

Since last Friday I’ve been tossing weird “What if…” ideas around in my head. Nothing developed from them.

So, I cheated. Just a little.

On my laptop I keep EVERYTHING I write or try to write. I have a folder for each year. Inside those folders are sub-folders for manuscripts, publisher, shards (leftover scraps of phrases, sentences, paragraphs) and quotes, thoughts and ideas that I never developed. I also have a folder for poetry and children’s poetry – mostly containing incomplete works.

I usually start a writing session by warming up on poetry. I may try to create some new poem, or work on a poem that has been on my hard drive for years. Either way, working on poetry gets my writing muscles ready.

Like I said, I cheated. Just a little.

So, I scanned through my junk, thoughts, and ideas folders. I found a few things I had saved from years back. One was a brief conversation I had with my grandson about nine or ten years ago. (I know—I told you I keep everything!)

That little 50 words of conversation birthed the “new” idea I’ve been working on.

I tried framing that idea into poetry. The result is a trilogy of poems that I think have promise for some children’s magazine. I HOPE so! I’ll keep polishing them.

My second attempt was to recreate that conversation as a fiction story for a children’s magazine. That idea definitely needs a great deal of work. But I began that work in spite of my trepidation.

I dove in. I dog-paddled my way around the pool.

Since last Friday I’ve committed to a writing schedule that I think will work for me. I’m committed to one hour of “writing” each morning and one hour each evening.court-friends

It’s a start, right?

I have to admit the water feels great. Refreshing.

So, how did YOUR new idea work out last weekend?

The Way Back – Part 5

swimming-1265932_1280.jpgWednesday night I sat in front of my laptop and REWROTE something.

I started out revising a PB manuscript I’ve been working on for years. As I worked I could see LOTS of places that needed help – a lot of help.

So, I printed it out and took a blue pen to it. Circling things, scratching things out, moving things around. I was being creative. It felt good to stretch those writing muscles.

Each time I read the manuscript I saw more things to eliminate. Then, I got a couple of new ideas. The theme of the story that I’ve been chasing round and round for years rose to the surface effortlessly. I was excited!

I felt kind of like a swimmer who has been out of the water for a long time. When she finally gets to dive into the pool and starts reaching out with long, smooth strokes she feels strong again.

Wednesday night I felt strong again. I’m ready to jump in and start swimming.

 

Step #6 for me is DIVE IN. TAKE A RISK. START SOMETHING NEW.

All week I’ve been thinking about writing, and reading about writing, and talking about writing. Now it’s time to actually DO what I’ve been blogging about.

Now it’s time for me to write something from that creative center that God gave me.

Time to stop procrastinating, stop staring into the water. Time to dive in.

bulb-40701_1280So, I’m making a pact with you. Before my next blog post (Tuesday) I am going to start a manuscript that is totally new for me. Something I’ve never worked on before.

I’m going to search through my imagination for an idea and go with it. It might turn out to be great. Or, it might turn out to be garbage. But it’s going to be something brand new from inside me.

How about you? When is the last time you wrote a brand new manuscript from nothing? Will you jump in with me this weekend?

animal-1851495_1280

 

Or are you going to be a big chicken?

Come on. I dare you!

 

 

 

 

The Way Back – Part 4

PTL!

IMG_4468I’m eager to share with you how the Lord provided for me last week. I mentioned that I’m somewhat isolated because of my recent move. Well, since that post I found the Louisville Christian Writers (or https://www.facebook.com/lcwriters/)  who meet monthly just ten minutes from my home.

Then, a writing friend contacted me on Facebook about a one day conference she’s organizing this spring in – you guessed it, Louisville.

AND, I was invited to join a small critique group of folks who write for children.

Isn’t God good? Amen! Thank you, Lord, for hearing our smallest requests.

Now, to return to step five of my journey.

Step 5-SPEND TIME ON SOCIAL MEDIA EVERY DAYphiladelphia-224462_1280.jpg

Do you ever find yourself in the far left lane on an Interstate highway, then suddenly realize you need to be four lanes over in the far right?  You survey the hundreds of cars and truck zooming by and dread grabs you. How are you going to get from here to there?

I feel that way about marketing most of the time. But, I need to get my mind into gear for it. What good is one of my books or articles doing if no one reads it?

These days marketing begins (and sometimes ends) with social media. <sigh>

I admit that I do NOT enjoy maintaining a social media presence. I’m making some progress in that direction, but I keep easing off the clutch too soon and rolling backwards. I believe I resent the time I spend “socializing” instead of researching and writing. I’m trying to look at it from a different perspective.

I am learning to use Buffer.com to make better use of my time. But, it takes TIME to use Buffer (and such programs) to save time.

I’ve decided to use my writing time one day each week for learning how to use, and maybe enjoy using, social media.

I’m taking advantage of Buffer’s free educational videos to learn how to optimize the time and energy I put into it.

My agent, Cyle Young, is a media/marketing guru. His newsletter Almost An Author is loaded with marketing tips and advice. I’m determined to implement some of his advice.

But it’s kind of like taking cough meds with that horrible Guaifenesin taste. (BTW – the only way I’ve found to neutralize that taste is peppermint.) Time to be a big girl, isn’t it?

This week I’ll watch the Buffer videos. Next week, my goal is to locate and read Cyle’s posts about social media. And, of course, to try to understand what I’m reading!

auto-racing-558089_1280.jpgCan you share any tips you know, or videos you’ve viewed, or online courses you have taken on better use of your time on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and all of those other sites out there? Thanks. I’ll take all the  help I can get!

Okay. It’s time to hit the road.

“Jean, start your engine!”

 

 

The Way Back – Part 3

Step 4-USE ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES

IMG_0785I need to review the basics, practice the intermediate things I’ve learned, and start learning something new to improve my writing and marketability. Easy-peasy, right?

Websites and blogs for writers in every genre abound. Many have great archives. I’m dabbling.

I also belong to a couple of organizations that offer ongoing free education and advice online. Just spending a few minutes on one of these sites gets my creative brain in the right lane.

Here are a few for you to sample:

Writer’s Digest offers hundreds of articles. Shucks! Maybe thousands of them.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/list-of-50-poetic-forms-for-poets

Evelyn Christensen offers gobs of information and education for writing nonfiction for children.

http://evelynchristensen.com/mags.

The Write2Ignite! blog posts practical and informative articles specifically for those who write for children. They also have a great Conference in SC in March.

http://write2ignite.com/blog/

Emma Walton Hamilton’s page of her favorite resources is great.

http://emmasfavorites.com/

Tara Lazar’s blog is jam-packed with informative stuff. Love it.

https://taralazar.com/

Julie Hedlund offers tons of informative blog posts plus her for-hire services.

http://www.juliehedlund.com/

One more – right here under my RESOURSES tab.

https://jeanmatthewhall.com/resources-for-writers/

And there are hundreds of thousands more online.

Browse them, decide whether or not each one will be helpful for you. If so, dig in. The banquet is free. Absolutely free.

The Way Back Part 2

I have to get my creative thinking back on track.

Since December 30, I’ve been focused almost entirely on getting settled into our condo. Buying things, hanging things, returning things, unpacking things, donating unneeded things and cleaning things became all important to me. I hate the stress I feel when I’m surrounded by disorder, chaos. So I was compelled to get everything in its proper place. I’m almost there.

I’ve ordered book cases so I can free my beloved books from their cages and give each one a permanent home, then I can organize my writing space. I can hardly wait.

Meanwhile, I’m working to get my mind and emotions off the new condo and back onto writing and all that goes with it.30308067981_3ef33779f8_o.jpg

I have to do it step-by-step. I think most people do.

 

Step 1-READ SOMETHING RELATED TO WRITING EVERY DAY:

Last September I purchased a great book at the SCBWI-Carolinas 2016 Conference. A Writer’s Guide to Persistence: How to Create a Lasting and Productive Writing Practice by Jordan Rosenfeld. I finished the first third of the book when my life went into hyper-drive. I dug this book out of its box and started reviewing the chapters I had completed. Highlighter in hand I dove in. Within a few days I was reading new material.

I felt a wee bit like a communicator again.

Three days ago I started actually reading all of the blog posts coming into my email inbox.

Two days ago I cleaned out my bulging inbox. PTL! It was good to permanently delete more than 500 emails! Kind of like cleaning out a long-neglected closet. I LOVE that feeling!

 

31678674716_62a70bd1bf_o.jpg

Step 2-WRITE SOMETHING EVERY DAY:

 

 

Okay, the first day I only wrote a few comments on blogs and Facebook. But it was a start, right? Oh, and does my to-do list count as writing?

The next day I started typing out my prayers. I’ve done this for years. It’s effective for me on several levels. But, along with everything else, I had neglected this practice for a couple of months.

This past weekend I wrote Part 1 of this blog post. Baby-steps, I know.

Here I am tonight working on Part 2. I think my fuel pump is kicking in.

 

Step 3-GET INVOLVED AGAIN WITH A CRITIQUE GROUP (OR TWO)27228570313_dbe5bc9126_o.jpg

Relocating has temporarily isolated me. I know only a handful of people here, none of whom are writers. I’ve searched for contacts, but I’ve found

NO SCBWI chapter in Kentucky

NO Word Weavers chapter near Louisville

I found an ACW group in this area. I emailed them tonight.

Anyone in the Louisville, Kentucky, area who knows of a critique group please let me know!

I also reconnected with the online critique group to which I belong. I need to get their feedback on my stories. I need the accountability of preparing something to submit. I also need the practice of critiquing their work. It puts my head into the right mode to work on my own stories.

 

Step 4-I’ll pick up here on Friday.

 

How do you get your creative engine running when you’ve been away from writing for a while? Do you use a similar process? Or do you have another method?

Please share in the comments below. I could use your help! I’ll bet other readers of this blog could too. Thanks.

PHOTO CREDITS:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/16391511@N00/31678674716

http://www.flickr.com/photos/68134711@N00/30308067981