I’m now on Goodreads

Lookit! I’ve got a Goodreads Author page now.

Goodreads Author Badge

I’ve actually been on Goodreads for awhile. I use it to track the hundreds of books a year that I read. I also use it to keep track of the books I read with my kids. (Not that I don’t love Thomas the train but only a parent’s love would compel me to read every title in our library. Repeatedly.)

But now I’m also a Goodreads author. That means if you want to checkout what others are saying about my book, you can click over to my Goodreads Author profile and see.

 

An Open Apology Letter to My Blog

Dear Blog,

I’m sorry we haven’t written recently. What with actual writing and all, I just haven’t had time to blog regularly. I hope you understand.

Don’t be alarmed but you should know that I’m seeing another website. I’ve volunteered to help the good people at KidlitNation get their website off the ground. It’s been a big job and I’m sorry I haven’t had as much time to spend with you. I promise I haven’t forgotten you Blog and it’s for a good cause. Things should settle down soon and I’ll be back around more regularly.

Sincerely,

Your Blogger

Best Books for Writers

I’ve been working hard on improving my writing lately. And my first stop when I want to learn about anything is usually a book. Today I gathered up my favorite writing craft books from all the various nooks and crannies and I’m going to share them with you.

 

Books for Fiction Writers:

Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron – Half of my writers group has been raving about this book since they saw the author at a conference last year. I’m just now getting around to reading it but…. wow. This is a great guide to writing fiction for any genre and any age range. Bonus: my writerly friends assure me that it’s quite understandable even if you’re not a brain nerd like me.

 

Writing Picture Books: A Hands-on Guide from Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul – If you write picture books, you need this book. I read this late last year and I could feel myself leveling up as I read it. This book covers the basics of writing for kids, so it’s a great pick for a newer writer. But I think it really shines for people who are less knew but still have a lot of room for growth. (Which is all of us, right?) The tools and methods she discusses for revision have become staples of my process. Seriously, this is the best.

 

Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grades Readers by Mary Kole – I found this book after reading many of the helpful articles on her webpage. It covers writing middle grade and young adult books. If you don’t know what that means or what the difference is, this is a great place to start.

 

 

Books for Nonfiction Writers:

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by Willian Zinsser – This book is in about it’s billionth revision and jillionth reprinting. This book is geared towards writing for adults, but the advice is just as relevant if you’re writing to kids. At the end of the day, good writing is good writing and this will help you get there.

 

Anatomy of Nonfiction: Writing True Stories for Children by Margery Facklam and Peggy Thomas – This primer covers everything you need to know to get started writing nonfiction for kids. It was a great book for me when I was getting started and it’s still a great book now that I have a few manuscripts under my belt.

 

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gutkind – This book is focused on a specific form of nonfiction writing – creative or narrative nonfiction. It’s nonfiction told in narrative form so the reader can step inside the story. Like On Writing Well, it’s geared for those writing for adults, but the techniques still apply when writing for younger audiences.

 

How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larson – When writing nonfiction you often send publishers a proposal rather than a completed manuscript. This book is everything you need to know to write a proposal. If you have no idea what I’m even talking about, this would be a good place to start. It’s thorough but written to be an easy read and includes lots of helpful samples from real proposals.

 

The Weekend Book Proposal: How to Write a Winning Proposal in 48 hours and Sell Your Book by Ryan G. Van Cleave – If you want a lighter version to get you started on your book proposal, this might be the book for you. The title is a bit misleading. That means 48 working hours. Maybe some people work around the clock on the weekend but I for one like sleep and food. Misleading title aside, it’s a really helpful book and would be fine for someone just starting out with writing proposals.

 

Books for authors ready to submit:

Once you’ve gotten your manuscript or proposal squeaky clean and ready to send out, you’ll need to figure out how to get it into the hands of the agent or editor of your dreams. These books are designed exactly for that. They’re updated every year to keep up with changes in the market.

Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market or, if you’re writing for adults: Writers Market

 

The Book – If you write for children, you should be a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). One membership perk is this free book. It’s available on the website as a PDF or you can pay for a print version. Your first year of membership they’ll send you the print version for free.

The 5(+1) Stages of Critique Grief for Writers

I’ve just come back from an Illinois SCBWI Spring conference. The whole conference was themed around writing pitches. I got to sit down at a table with other writers and an agent while they gave me feedback on my work. Not only that, I got back an agent critique that was full of hard truths. Getting professional feedback on your work is both vitally important and…. well…. terrifying.

Which has me reflecting on the nature of the critique beast. Getting feedback on your work is a lot like the 5 stages of grief. (BUG IN A VACUUM by Melanie Watt does a wonderful job of illustrating this process.)

5 STAGES OF CRITIQUE GRIEF FOR WRITERS

  1. DENIAL: “No, you’re wrong. There’s nothing wrong with my narrative arc.”
  2. ANGER: “How dare you! What do you know anyway?”
  3. BARGAINING: “But I can leave in just this one part, right?”
  4. DEPRESSION: “I’ll never get published. This manuscript is hopeless.”
  5. ACCEPTANCE: “Ok, you have a point. I guess I’ll have to revise.”

For writers I would add one more step to the process:

6. EXCITEMENT: “Wow, this is so much better!”

This is what people mean when they say you need to have “tough skin” in this business. We pour our hearts and souls into our writing then serve it up on a platter for others to tear apart. It’s hard. Just remember that your work will be better when you accept help.

Some people get to the depression stage and just give up.  Finding flaws in your writing is not a terminal diagnosis. One-dimensional characters can be rewritten. Plot holes can be bridged. Stilted dialogue can be changed.

The only thing that’s terminal, is giving up. If you keep going and get to the other end of this process, your work will be much stronger.

This process works better the more times you do it. Every time you throw yourself into this process, you get a little better. So not only is your first manuscript stronger at the end, your tenth manuscript will start out stronger because of what you learned in the previous nine manuscripts. And by the time you get it to the end of the process, it will be a masterpiece that you couldn’t have dreamt of back there at manuscript number one.

If your thinking that subjecting yourself to this emotional turmoil more than once sounds like a writerly version of hell, let me tell you a little secret:

When you’ve been at it awhile, this process changes a bit.

5 STAGES OF CRITIQUE GRIEF FOR THE EXPERIENCED WRITER

  1. DENIAL: “No, you’re wrong. There’s nothing wrong with my narrative arc.”
  2. ANGER: “How dare you criticize my work! What do you know anyway!”
  3. BARGAINING: “Well, what if I just keep this one part? This character is ok, right?”
  4. DEPRESSION: “I will never get published. This manuscript is hopeless.”
  5. ACCEPTANCE: “Ok, you have a point. I guess I’ll have to revise.”
  6. EXCITEMENT: “Hey, this is going to be so much better. Yay!”

With time and experience, you learn to skip right over all the angst and get to the productive end of the cycle.

Ok, this is a simplification. Of course seasoned professional writers can get emotional when they’re getting feedback. They’re people, not robots, after all. But with experience these emotions aren’t so raw. And they can move to the good stuff at the end more quickly. After all, they’ve been to the other side and seen the fruits of this process.

So, take a breath. Thank the person for their time. Then go have some chocolate. In a day or a week or a month when the sting is a little less, you can sort out what’s valuable and use it to improve your work. The important part is to keep going so you can get to the shiny new manuscript at the end of the tunnel.

After this conference, I have a lot of feedback to sort through but I’m looking forward to the manuscripts that will come out of the other side.

But first, chocolate.

FREE GIVEAWAY! Alexandra the Great: The Story of the Record-Breaking Filly who Ruled the Racetrack

Free Book Giveaway: Alexandra the GreatDeb Aronson is my critique partner and all around great person. She’s also has a fabulous new book Alexandra the Great: The Story of the Record-Breaking Filly who Ruled the Racetrack. This book for ages 9-13 tells the story of Rachel Alexandra’s, the filly that beat the boys and broke records while running her way into our hearts.

I’ve been so excited to share this with you. It’s a great book. Plus horse racing is part of my heritage. I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky home of the Kentucky Derby – the biggest horse race of the year.

The Derby is a big deal there. Horses are everywhere – from statues to subdivision names. It’s such a big deal, that local schools close on the Friday before. And once a year, they hold a month long party all in preparation for 3 minutes of colts racing.

Once in a great while, a filly comes along that can keep up with the colts. Rachel Alexandra didn’t just keep up, she left them in her dust.

So I was very excited to get a sneak peek at the manuscript a few months back. I read it in one sitting! This book tells Rachel’s story – from her troubled birth to her triumphant wins. By the end you’ll be rooting for Rachel just like I was.

And now is your chance to get it for free.

I’m happy to be giving away one copy of Alexandra the Great: The Story of the Record-Breaking Filly who Ruled the Racetrack.

FINEPRINT: The giveaway will be open until April 12th at 8pm Central Time. To enter you must leave a comment on this post and use the rafflecopter widget below. The winner will be chosen at random and notified. If the winner cannot be reached within a week, a new winner will be chosen at random.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

4 Pinterest Boards for Writers

4 Pinterest Boards for WritersI use several tools for storing useful tidbit. Evernote is hands down my favorite for book research. But Pinterest is my favorite for storing other things. Pinterest is especially great for sharing those collections with others. When Goodnight Jesus was published, I made a Pinterest board of useful tidbits for my readers.

Today, I’m sharing some resources for my fellow writers. These are the 4 Pinterest boards I use to store my writerly resources.

 

Writing

Getting words on paper (or screen) is fundamental to writing. Nothing else can happen without that. This Pinterest board is full of the stuff you need to get those words out: writing craft articles, motivating quotes, and funny memes.

 

Writing Tools

Having the right tools can make all the different. This board features articles on my favorite tools for writing.

 

Revising and Editing

If writing is fundamental to being a writer, but revising is fundamental to creating something others want to read. Or that publishers want to publish. This Pinterest board is full of resources to help you perfect your prose.

 

Blogging, Branding, and Social Media

Writers are expected to do a lot more than just write and edit these days. Most of us have to spend some time thinking about how we will market our work. That includes spreading the word through blogs, social media, and branding.

 

4 Pinterest Boards for Writers

Announcing the Little Elephant’s Big Adventures Series

I’ve hinted a few times that I have a big project in the works. Today I finally get to share it with you.

Since last fall I’ve been writing the Little Elephants’ Big Adventures series. The books are about the adventures of  brother and sister elephants, Benjamin and Lucy. They’re humorous and fun. They’re also designed to teach math to preschoolers.

The series is the brain-child of a team of early childhood researchers out of Purdue University. They did research on math language in picture books. Preschool children who were read books that used math language improved their math skills. And not just on the skills taught in the books.

That’s astounding. Imagine being able to give kids a leg-up in school just by reading them a book. It’s already something preschool teachers and many parents do. No expensive equipment or fancy degrees required.

Just one problem. There weren’t many books for teaching the concepts. So they got grant funding to create books for preschoolers based on their research findings.

That’s where I come in.

I was asked early on if I would be interested in the project. Boy was I! My degree in Cognitive Psychology and my experience creating curriculum and writing children’s books made me a perfect fit for the project.  I was thrilled. It’s a great combo of my professional training with things I’m passionate about: education and children’s literature.

The first three books have been written and are in the process of being illustrated. Every week I get a new peek at my words coming to life in pictures. As a writer that’s just about the most exciting thing imaginable.

The process was a whirlwind. Anyone who has written children’s books knows that the process is excruciatingly slow. Years to write manuscripts. Years to submit.  Then, if you’re lucky, you find a publisher and get to wait a couple of more years for production.

Not this project. Starting early last fall I developed character and story concepts with the Purdue team. Then I wrote and delivered three books. Each went through multiple rounds of revision with the Purdue team. We made sure the stories correctly conveyed the math concepts without sacrificing good storytelling. The illustrations for the first book are almost done. The books are being translated to Spanish as we speak. And all of this has happened in less that 6 months.

The full series will be available sometimes in the next couple of years. I couldn’t be more excited or more proud.

FREE Goodnight Jesus Lesson Plans and Activity Sheets

Goodnight Jesus Lessons and Activity Pages

Today I’m sharing something I’m really excited about. Lesson plans and activities based on Goodnight Jesus  for older children.

Wait, you’re thinking, isn’t this a book for little kids?

Yes, it is. But it’s also for older kids, too.

When I wrote Goodnight Jesus, I had the youngest children in mind. My inspiration came from watching my own toddling daughter kiss icons every night.  So I wrote the text to be short and sweet – just right for a cuddle before bed.

But I also wrote it to introduce children to the depth of our faith. It’s a foot in the door and an invitation to dive deeper. As children get older they are able to explore more and more of that depth.

These lesson plans will help you do just that.

There are several lesson plans for a variety of ages. They’re perfect for Church school classes, homeschoolers, or parents to use at home.

GO CHECK IT OUT!

 

FREE Sticky Note Picture Book Dummy Templates

Sticky Note Picture Book template

I’ve been working on a top-secret picture book project for the last few months. I can’t quite spill the beans (yet).

One thing I can tell you is that this project has been like picture book writing boot camp. I’ve written multiple manuscripts on tight deadlines. I’ve also had more editorial control than writers usually would. I’ve had to make decisions about the page breaks, illustrations, and layouts.

I needed a way to keep track of all the pieces: narrative arcs, character development, page breaks, and layouts. I just couldn’t keep track of it all. I tried lots of tricks of the trade but nothing worked for me.

What I really wanted was a template. Something that would show me where all the pieces should go: the opening to hook my readers, the climax, and the satisfying resolutions. Then I could just fit my story into the template. And if it didn’t fit, I would know what to edit.

So I made one.

 

Free Sticky Note Picture Book template

These templates are made with 3×3 inch squares for each page of a picture book, perfect for sticky notes. There are versions already laid out for a standard 32-page book. These have helpful information to keep you on track: where text starts and stops, where to put the resolution, reminders to include a good hook, and checklists to make sure you have strong opening and endings. There’s also a blank so you can make your own if you need something other than a standard 32-page book.

Grab a printed template, your manuscript, and a stack of sticky notes. Write out your text onto sticky notes. Each sticky note should be a page’s worth of text in the final picture book. Stick these onto the template and see how it fits.

Does the resolution come when it should? Does your text fit in the right number of pages? Look at each spread, is there a compelling page turn that will move the reader forward?

You’ll probably realize at this point that you need to make some changes. Working with your text page by page shows you things that are hidden when your text is flat on the page. At this point you can go back to your manuscript and make changes.

You can also revise right there with the sticky notes. Move them around, scratch out lines, jot down notes, mess them up as much as you like. And deleting words is a lot easier when you can crumple up a little square and bank shot it into the trashcan.

Want to get a copy? Here it is: 

GET YOUR FREE STICKY NOTE PICTURE BOOK TEMPLATE