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.



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?



Or are you going to be a big chicken?

Come on. I dare you!





Owl Moon

Owl Moon    A Caldecott Medal Book  By Jane Yolen    Illustrated by John Schoenherr

Published by Philomel Books in 1987

owl-moonI sort of assume that anyone who enjoys picture books enjoys Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon. I know it was one of the first picture books that I fell in love with.

To me the poetic text mimics the chilliness and the stillness of a late night in a lonely wood as the child and Pa trudge through the snow.

As the child follows Pa into the dark woods, then into the moon-bathed clearing, the text builds in anticipation. Finally, the owl appears and the child makes a deep personal connection with the owl and the moon and the dark woods.

She meets Nature face-to-face and is awed.

Holding to the hand of her protector, her guide, her teacher, her Pa, she connects with the mysterious natural world around her.

The beauty and music and cleverness of Yolen’s language amazes me in Owl Moon as in her other picture books. And the beauty of the themes of family and hope and amazement at the natural world all weave throughout that lovely language.

Reading Owl Moon aloud softly gives me the same peaceful feeling as the lullabies that my Grandma sang to my Mama, Mama sang to me, I sang to my children, and they sing to theirs.

Peace. Hope. Joy. Love. Wrapped up in Owl Moon.


The Best Pet of All

The Best Pet of All

Written by David LaRochelle                      Illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama

Published by Dutton Children’s Books in 2004

IMG_1874I like The Best Pet of All. It is a cute story. The illustrations are cute. The main character is a cute little boy. And the best pet is cute, too. But I’ve never heard anyone recommend it or use it as an example of a great picture book.

“Why not?” I wondered.

Then I remembered a really cute story that I wrote about ten years ago. I bravely sent it off to one of the big New York houses. And I actually got a personal reply from an editor. I was thrilled!

She thought my story was really cute, BUT—it was too slight.

What the diddly did that mean?

So, I set out on a search for an explanation of slight. I got several opinions. I finally concluded that a picture book story that is slight is missing a critical ingredient. It’s missing a premise. It’s missing a core dramatic issue that is played out through the plot and brought to satisfaction at the conclusion.

According the Nancy Lamb in Crafting Stories for Children, “The premise is what your book is about. Premise is not the plot. It is the underlying idea that supports the plot…Think of premise as the foundation of your plot, the essential truth you want to convey. Premise is the truth that gives shape to your story and meaning to the lives of your characters.” (p. 176)

My story was cute and funny. But it had no premise. No foundation. It had nothing of substance to make it appeal to a wide audience. Nothing to make a thoughtful child read it again and again.

It couldn’t satisfy the editor’s question of why the story should exist.

The Best Pet of All is, in my opinion, another slight story. The main character doesn’t undergo change. He gets what he wants—the pet—but he doesn’t grow.

Question:  Have you been working on a story that just isn’t coming together and you don’t know why? Try to write the underlying idea of your story in a clause or sentence. Try answering the question, “Why should I publish/read this particular story? What is it going to leave me with? What am I going to take away from this story?”

Other than a few chuckles, that is.