Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year - New Career - Learn to Write for Children - Free

A year-end bonus for you! Yes Learn to Write for Children - Free. Join The Children's Writer's Coaching Club in January 2009 and receive one month of lessons at no charge to you.

You will need a credit card to sign up but if you decide the club is not for you -- simply cancel your membership and you will not be charged one penny. But if you decide that learning to write for children is just what you have been looking for, then do nothing but continue on with your membership. No matter what your decision, you will not be charged for the first month.

What have you got to lose? Join the Children's Writer's Coaching Club and have access to a professional coach and mentor. Also, as a CWCC member you will learn how to strengthen your writing skills, meet other writers who will give you encouragement and support.

It's real easy to join. Just click the icon below.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Keeping Christmas

The Art of Keeping Christmas

How can we best keep Christmas? How can we best defeat the little bit of Scrooge in all of us and experience the glory of the Great Day?

By sinking the shafts of our spirits deep beneath the sparkling tinsel of the surface of Christmas and renewing within us the radiance of the inner meaning of the season.

By following the Star on an inward journey to Bethlehem to stand again in awe and wonder before the Babe in a Manger.

By rediscovering the faith and simplicity of a little child, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.

By being still and listening to the angels sing within our hearts.

By quietly evaluating our lives according to the Master's standards as set forth in the Sermon on the Mount.

By reaffirming the supremacy of the spirit in our conquest of ourselves.

By rededicating ourselves to the Master's ideals of Peace, Brotherhood, and Good Will.

By resolving to give ourselves away to others in love, joy and devotion.

By using the light of Christmas to guide us through the darkness of the coming year, refusing to go back to the dim kerosene lamps of the spirit when the brilliant electricity of Christmas is available to show us the way.

Wilfred Arlan Peterson

I will be back January 2009. I wish everyone a safe and happy New Years.
It is time to reflect and set new goals based on what worked and what didn't work in 2008.

Write it down,

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Gift of Love

The Best Gift
Betty Wirth

On Christmas Eve, a young boy with light in his eyes
Looked deep into Santa’s, to Santa’s surprise
And said as he sat on Santa’s broad knee,
"I want your secret. Tell it to me."

He leaned up and whispered in Santa’s good ear
"How do you do it, year after year?"
"I want to know how, as you travel about,
Giving gifts here and there, you never run out.

How is it, dear Santa, that in your pack of toys
You have plenty for all of the world’s girls and boys?
Stays so full, never empties, as you make your way
From rooftop to rooftop, to homes large and small,
From nation to nation, reaching them all?"

And Santa smiled kindly and said to the boy,
"Don’t ask me hard questions. Don’t you want a toy?"
But the child shook his head, and Santa could see
That he needed the answer. "Now listen to me,"

He told that small boy with the light in his eyes,
"My secret will make you sadder and wise.
"The truth is that my sack is magic inside
It holds millions of toys for my Christmas Eve ride.

But although I do visit each girl and each boy
I don’t always leave them a gaily wrapped toy.
Some homes are hungry, some homes are sad,
Some homes are desperate, some homes are bad.

Some homes are broken, and the children there grieve.
Those homes I visit, but what should I leave?
"My sleigh is filled with the happiest stuff,
But for homes where despair lives toys aren’t enough.

So I tiptoe in, kiss each girl and boy,
And I pray with them that they’ll be given the joy
Of the spirit of Christmas, the spirit that lives
In the heart of the dear child who gets not, but gives.

"If only God hears me and answers my prayer,
When I visit next year, what I will find there
Are homes filled with peace, and with giving, and love
And boys and girls gifted with light from above.

It’s a very hard task, my smart little brother,
To give toys to some, and to give prayers to others.
But the prayers are the best gifts, the best gifts indeed,
For God has a way of meeting each person’s need.

"That’s part of the answer. The rest, my dear youth,
Is that my sack is magic. And that is the truth.
In my sack I carry on Christmas Eve day
More love than a Santa could ever give away.

The sack never empties of love, or of joys
`Cause inside it are prayers, and hope. Not just toys.
The more that I give, the fuller it seems,
Because giving is my way of fulfilling dreams.

"And do you know something? You’ve got a sack, too.
It’s as magic as mine, and it’s inside of you.
It never gets empty, it’s full from the start.
It’s the center of light, and love. It’s your heart.

And if on this Christmas you want to help me,
Don’t be so concerned with the gifts `neath your tree.
Open that sack called your heart, and share
Your joy, your friendship, your wealth, your care."

The light in the small boy’s eyes was glowing.
"Thanks for your secret. I’ve got to be going."
"Wait, little boy," said Santa, "don’t go.
Will you share? Will you help? Will you use what you know?"
And just for a moment the small boy stood still,
Touched his heart with his small hand and whispered, "I will."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Gift of Peace

I heard the bells on
Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth,
good-will to men!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Whatever else be lost among the years,
Let us keep Christmas still a shining thing:
Whatever doubts assail us, or what fears,
Let us hold close one day, remembering
Its poignant meaning for the hearts of men.
Let us get back our childlike faith again.

Grace Noll Crowell

I am not alone at all, I thought.
I was never
alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.

Taylor Caldwell

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sharon Tregenza - Author Interview

I am happy to post my Email interview with Kelpies Award winning Author Sharon Tregenza. Her latest book, Tarantula Tide, can be found on Amazon. and here

Hello Sharon,
Thank you for your time with this interview. You are one busy lady. I loved the way you plotted the suspense in Tarantula Tide.

Hi Carma, yes it’s been an exciting end to the year. Lets hope it continues through 2009 and 2010 and . . . . I’m glad you mentioned the suspense in Tarantula Tide it was probably the toughest thing to get right. I knew I needed highs and lows to keep the action bubbling along and I made a lot of changes before I was happy.

What came first? The title or the story?

Usually, for me, it’s the title first. I love titles and have a huge list of them. This time it didn’t come so easily, though. I knew I wanted TARANTULA for its dramatic imagery and it’s importance to the plot, but I couldn’t come up with a satisfactory second word. It was a friend who suggested “Tide”. I knew immediately it was perfect.

How long did you work on Tarantula before you submitted to a publisher?

Hmmm, there’s a story to this answer. I was halfway through Tarantula Tide when I spotted an announcement for the Kelpies Award for a contemporary children’s fiction. I already knew of the Kelpies, of course, but further reading showed I already had the makings of a very suitable contestant in my book. But, and it was a big but, I had to complete it in a month to meet the deadline. I worked like crazy and more frantically as the deadline grew closer. It was touch and go and, for the last chapter and final edit, I worked for thirty-six hours straight. I posted the manuscript with only half an hour to spare - came home flopped into bed and slept and slept. Bliss.

Who did you pattern your characters Jack and Izzie after?

Because it was written in first person I have to admit that there were elements of myself in both Jack and Izzie. Mostly thought they are truly fictitious. You know when some writers say that their characters take over? Well it’s true – it really happens. I’d wake up with fragments of their conversation going through my head.

Who or what has influenced you the most in your career?

I had that all important special English teacher many years ago and then favorite writers. I still get that real “stomach kick” feeling when I read an author who excites me.

When did you decide to become a writer?

I think the dream was always there floating around in my subconscious. I come from a very small seaside town though, and the only options, when I was a teenager, seemed to be teaching or the local shoe factory. I didn’t fancy either. Life with marriage, children, and travel intervened and it wasn’t until about fifteen years ago I sent off my first (very amateurish) story. But the monster was unleashed.

What are your future goals for your writing?

Lots more children’s books. I’ve got a wealth of ideas for picture books, children’s poetry and at least two follow up novels to Tarantula Tide.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If so, what seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

Nope. Writers block has never been a problem for me. Occasionally, I wish it was when the constant stream of ideas, characters and dialogue keeps me awake at night.

What makes up a typical writing day for you?

There isn’t a typical day. I just get to my computer as often as I can. I’m passionate about what I do and would quite happily spend all day, everyday, writing. There is life outside fiction though and there are other things that have to be done and people to consider.

Tell us where to find more information on you? Website? Blog?

Happily. My website is www.sharontregenza.com there’s a special site for Tarantula Tide too at www.tarantulatide.com. I’d love people to contact me. I’m on facebook and myspace as well.

Are you working on any new titles now?

Yes. I’m busy with the next adventure for Jack and Izzie. This time the mystery is set in Jack’s city of Edinburgh in Scotland - a fascinating place with a dark and bloody history. This book is called “Scorpion Sky”. Hope you like the title.

What advice would you give to aspiring children’s writers who are trying to break into the field?

Do it! Do it! Do it! And more importantly KEEP doing it. It’s hard and sometimes demoralizing sending manuscripts out to publishers. But if the writing itself is fun what have you got to loose? And then one fine day . . .

Is there anything you would like to add?

Just a big thank you, Carma for setting up this interview. Oh, and the warmest of wishes to you and all the readers of your website. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and a happy and successful New Year. Bye.

Bye Sharon, and thanks again.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Gift of Family

Christmas reminds us we are not alone. We are not unrelated atoms, jouncing and ricocheting amid aliens, but are a part of something, which holds and sustains us.

As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same. Christmas shows us the ties that bind us together, threads of love and caring, woven in the simplest and strongest way within the family.

Donald E. Westlake

Donald E. Westlake is a three-time Edgar winner and the recipient of the Grandmaster award. He is the author of more than 40 novels, including The Hook. He lives in New York City.

For me, the spirit of Christmas is about letting the loving but messy little rituals become just as important as the solemn
and graceful ones. It's about making
room for everyone.

Ann Michael

My gift to you will be uplifting and motivational quotes by famous and not-so-famous authors over the next two weeks. I hope you enjoy them and I invite any comments on what any passage may mean to you. Christmas is the time of sharing.

Write it down,


Friday, December 19, 2008

The Gift of Christmas Day

The Gift of Christmas Day

I sometimes think we expect too
much of Christmas Day. We try
to crowd into it the long arrears
of kindliness and humanity of
the whole year. As for me, I like
to take my Christmas a little
at a time, all through the year.
And thus I drift along into the
holidays--let them overtake me unexpectedly--waking up some
fine morning and suddenly saying
to myself: "Why this is Christmas Day!"

David Grayson
(1870 – 1946)
American Journalist and Writer

My gift to you will be uplifting and motivational quotes by famous and not-so-famous authors over the next two weeks. I hope you enjoy them and I invite any comments on what any passage may mean to you. Christmas is the time of sharing.

Write it down,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Gift of The Honest Scrap Award

Writing Coach and Award winning Author, Suzanne Lieurance, has awarded me with the Honest Scrap Award. Challenging me to reveal ten honest to goodness deep dark secrets about myself. Thank you Suzanne. I am not sure the world is ready for this but here are the rules.

1. List 10 honest things about yourself (make it interesting, even if you have to dig deep!)
2. Pass the award on to 7 bloggers.

1. I am a licensed Plumber and my husband works for me.
2. I went back to college at age 55 and graduated with a GPA 4.0. I was always older than my teachers.
3. I lost 104 pounds in 1998 by following Weight Watchers guidelines. For the first time in my adult life I wore a size 14.
4. I gained back 60 pounds by 2007. What happened? Behavior Modification fall out.
5. My weight loss/gain experience has taught me that one can never, never, stop practicing the principles of success in any venture in life.
6. I am lousy at journaling but I love to write.
7. I wrote a play when I was in the 6th grade. I got an A.
8. I never drank store bought milk until I was 16 years old.
9. I am thankful that I was born in America.
10. I love this award because it is all about me, me, me.

OK you guys let's all fess up. I believe you all have the gutz to tell it all.

Lisa Holdren
Yvonne Perry
Phil Gerbyshack
Judy Ferril
Theresa Schultz
Karen Cioffi
Dawn Phillips

Thanks for participating.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Gift of Humbleness

Think about it, the good news was proclaimed first to ordinary working people.

And so the good news was told to shepherds, to working men who were toiling in the fields. The coming King would hallow the common work of man, and in His love and grace all the problems of labour would find a solution.

The Lord of the Christmas-tide throws a halo over common toil. Even Christian people have not all learnt the significance of the angels' visit to the lonely shepherds. Some of us can see the light resting upon a bishop's crosier, but we cannot see the radiance on the ordinary shepherd's staff. We can discern the hallowedness of a priest's vocation, but we see no sanctity in the calling of the grocer, or of the scavenger in the street. We can see the nimbus on the few, but not on the crowd; on the unusual, but not on the commonplace. But the very birth-hour of Christianity irradiated the humble doings of humble people. When the angels went to the shepherds, common work was encircled with an immortal crown.

(John Henry Jowett)
(1864 – 1923)

Jowett was born in Halifax, England in 1864. "I was blessed with the priceless privilege of a Christian home," he later remarked.

His love for reading manifested itself early as he spent his evenings in the town's Mechanics' Institute, devouring volumes from their library. Jowett's father had arranged for him to begin working as a clerk for a lawyer in Halifax, but the encouragement of his Sunday school teacher, Mr. Dewhirst, turned Jowett's heart toward the ministry.

Over the next two weeks, my gift to you will be daily uplifting and motivational passages by famous and not-so-famous authors. I hope you enjoy them. If any passage moves you, please comment and share. Christmas is the time of sharing.

Write it down,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gift of Defrosting the Heart

Christmas is for children. But it is for grown-ups, too. Even if it is a headache, a chore, and nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chill and hide-bound hearts.

Lenora Mattingly Weber

Lenora Mattingly Weber wrote books and short stories for over 40 years. She is best known for her Beany Malone series and Katie Rose/Stacy Belford books. Beyond these series, Mrs. Weber wrote ten non-series books which are also captivating to readers of all ages. Her numerous short stories in McCall's, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Saturday Evening Post, American Magazine and Pictoral Review reveal this author's amazing gift for character presentation and storytelling.

Those who have not Christmas in their hearts
will never find it under a tree.

Roy L. Smith

Write it down,

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Gift to You - The Gift of Simplicity

Over the next two weeks, my gift to you will be daily uplifting and motivational passages by famous and not-so-famous authors. I hope you enjoy them. If any passage moves you, please comment and share. Christmas is the time of sharing.

At Christmastime, children play an essential part in our celebrations. So much of what we do is intended to please them--and all the while our hearts keep hearkening back to the Christmas memories of our own childhoods. On Christmas Eve, sometimes we can't help but envy our children the stars in their eyes, especially when our own eyes are dull with exhaustion.

Christmas is so much simpler for a child. Can we open our tired, adult eyes to that same simplicity?

Ellen Sanna
For Unto Us a Child is Born

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tarantula Tide - Book Review

Tarantula Tide
Author: Sharon Tregenza
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Floris Books (October 16, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0863156738
ISBN-13: 978-0863156731

Tarantula Tide is a fast paced, page-turning suspense novel for the middle grade reader. Jack grudgingly accompanies his mother to one of the Shetland Islands for a holiday which is known for their Land of the Viking Fire Festival. During the long ferry ride to Shetland, Jack gets sick and vomits all over a pair of red boots that are on the feet of a biker named Slasher. Jack spends the rest of the trip avoiding Slasher but mysterious circumstances involving, suspense and humor will bring them together again.

Jack’s summer holiday becomes more interesting when he meets his next door neighbor, Izzie, who has a penchant for exotic pets. A couple of favorites of mine are Karma the chameleon and Minx the Siamese cat. Shetland is full of adventure with its private coves, historical brochs and Viking history. Izzie knows her way around and her connection with the police department comes in handy. Things are not what they appear to be. The curious duo discovers the wandering tramp is not a tramp and the local vet does more than care for Shetland ponies. At the center of all the mysteriousness is an eight legged visitor named Octavia.

Also throughout the adventure, Tregenza describes a variety of other wildlife native to the area such as skuas seabirds, seals and puffins. Tarantula Tide is an exciting and easy read for everyone. Kids will love this book because of the unpredictable plot. There are a few unexpected twists and turns when Izzie and Jack explore the historical broch. You may guess the ending will turn out OK but there is no way you can guess how.

Award winning author Sharon Tregenza has written over 400 articles of poetry and short stories for children published worldwide. Tarantula Tide is her debut children’s novel and won the Kelpies Prize which rewards new Scottish writing for children’s literature.

Write it down,

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Find Out What All the Buzz is About. Join the CWCC Today!

The Children’s Writer’s Coaching Club (CWCC) is open for business. All that is needed is a desire to learn to write for children. No experience required. Already have a writing career? The CWCC can help you make more of the writing career you have.

Writing is not the only thing writers do. They need to learn how to market their books, author visits, how to conduct seminars and workshops more effectively.

As a member of the CWCC you will work with both published children’s authors and aspiring authors to achieve the career of your dreams.

The best part of all this is that you can do it all in the comfort of your own home. Full time or part time. The decision is yours.

Membership is $27 per month. Read on and see what a member receives.

  • LIVE teleclasses EVERY month. Each teleclass is taught by a successful children’s book author and/or illustrator who knows the “tricks of the trade” of children’s writing, illustrating, and publishing.

  • A monthly writing assignment, designed to become a finished project ready for submission to a publisher, usually by the end of the month, although some projects take longer. Each month we focus on some area of publishing. For example, one month we study how to write short fiction for children’s magazines. Another month we focus on writing nonfiction for children’s magazines. Another month we target writing picture books, etc.

  • The opportunity to have your monthly assignment professionally critiqued, so you know if further revisions are needed before it is ready for submission to a publisher.

  • Network opportunity via an online discussion list with other members of the CWCC.

Come and join the Children’s Writers’ Coaching Club today as I did and you’ll be on your way to creating your own career as a published children’s book author. Click the logo below.


Write it down,

Monday, December 8, 2008

Writing and Illustrating - Not for the Faint-of-Heart

My objective for choosing to write for children is to instill a love for reading and writing and to make a difference in children’s lives. During my search for quality content I came across this article by Alan Jordan.

Below is a summary of four major lessons Alan Jordan has learned.
(photo courtesy of Flickr)

Lessons Learned Number 1 to 4 - Writing and Publishing an Interactive Book & CD For Children

Be warned: Writing, illustrating and recording a children's picture book and audio-book CD is not for the faint-of-heart. One 850-word book took me over three years to go from concept-to-completion. To put that into perspective, I have written six 50,000+ word books that were targeted to business people. These took an average of six months. Here, in a summary fashion, are four of major lessons that I have learned. Future articles will provide additional insights. To illustrate these lessons, let's focus on a suggested sentence for a non-existent book: "Billy struggled to climb on top of the red fire truck."

1. Use as few words as possible - Would "Billy climbed up the fire truck," be better? It might or might not. It's definitely shorter, and gives the artist more freedom. On the other hand you might be eliminating some crucial concepts. Read on.

2. Understand that every word you write has the potential to restrict the artist. As an example, "climbed," means that the artist must show Billy going upward, ascending, using his hands and feet. This might make sense if it is important for Billy to climb up the truck, but what if the artist could add humor by having Billy swing on a vine to reach the top of the fire truck. Either way, Billy could struggle to reach the top of the fire truck, but, is struggling important? If it's not, imagine the fun that Billy could have jumping onto the top of the dire truck from a tree.

You may not see Billy jumping onto the fire truck in your mind's eye, but an artist might--if you don't restrict him or her with your words. Perhaps it will help to compare writing a children's book to writing a play. In the children's book, your words give you veto power over the artist. In a play the stage directions you provide give you veto power over the Stage Director and actors. I once wrote a play where the main characters were a man with two alter egos. Imagine my surprise when an avant-garde production of the play cast the alter egos of the man as female. It worked, and it was a valid interpretation because I did not specify that the alter egos had to be male.

3. Consider children equals when you're writing. Talking down to children, explaining what's happening to them is silly. They know what's happening. Also, don't be afraid to use a few challenging words. Children will figure them out, or look them up. Want proof? Read the Harry Potter books. Children understand them.

4. Read the story to several children as you write it. Be open to unexpressed criticism. Do not expect praise. You won't get it. Watch, instead, for involvement with the characters. Listen for excitement as they talk about your plots. If you don't find these things, you've failed. Go back to the drawing board.

Writing for children doesn't pay much, unless you happen to have a blockbuster best seller, but it’s fun. Mix a children's book in with your other writing. If you do your job right, you're liable to make a difference in the lives of many children. That's a big deal because today's children are the people who will influence tomorrow's world.

Alan Jordan's latest children's books are featured on a web site designed to foster creativity in children and adults. http://www.LetsBeCreative.org Visit the site and become a member (free) then you can download the latest version of The Monster on Top of the Bed as a streaming video. A free download for an iPod is also available.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Alan_H._Jordan

Write it down,

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Sugar Child - Book Review

Title: The Sugar Child
Author: Monique De Varennes
Illustrator: Leonid Gore
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Athenaeum/Anne Schwartz Books (October 5, 2004)
ISBN-10: 0689852444
ISBN-13: 978-0689852442

The Sugar Child is a delightful story for the kindergarten through second grade bunch. It has all the makings of a “wish upon a star” fairy tale. However, this story is more unique than Cinderella or The Gingerbread Boy. The Sugar Child is made with love by a childless baker and his wife.

The setting takes place in a small Quebec town where a little girl is formed from marzipan and magically comes to life over night. Her name is Matine. The baker and his wife dance for joy because they now have a child they can love. The couple takes great care to protect Matine’s fragile, sugary skin. When it rains, Matine is not allowed outside because her fragile skin would be washed away. She becomes sad and wants to cry but her parents talk her out of it. Matine’s parents want to protect her from the sorrow that sometimes happens in life.

Although they are able to stop her tears this time they are not so successful when Matine wants to visit her best friend who is seriously ill. Matine knows the importance of her condition but she doesn’t let her friendship with Jean-Paul stop her from risking her own life to visit him at his home. She covers herself with a cape and hood then runs in the down pouring rain to Jean-Paul’s home.

This story is about friendship and love. Illustrated by Leonid Gore with full page pastel art, giving the story a soft and delicate structure it needs. The characters and landscape have a soft glow and Matine shimmers where you can almost “feel” the sugary glaze surface of the marzipan pastry. The illustrations are dream like with soft and billowy characters.

As you would expect, magic happens. Matine sheds tears of sadness for her fragile friend’s health and her marzipan shell is washed away. Matine is transformed into a real girl. However, the story does not make it clear if Jean-Paul recovers so miraculously but illustrations demonstrate that his spirit is lifted.

Young children will love this imaginative tale and the happy ending. I think it deals with the possibility of death in a unique way. The reader doesn’t know if Matine is going to melt or not so to a five year old the act of Matine running out in the rain is a suspenseful moment.

About the author: Monique de Varennes put in thirteen years at boarding school, then went to Cornell University, majoring in English Literature, and then to Johns Hopkins University, receiving an M.A. from the Writing Seminars. She worked in publishing for a number of years, and took great joy in raising her children, Chris and Kate. Gradually she began writing again, both books for young people, edited by the gifted Anne Schwartz, and short fiction for adults. Her fiction has appeared in literary magazines, and has received a Pushcart Prize.

About the Illustrator: Leonid Gore immigrated to the United States from the Former Soviet Union, where he trained at the Art Institute of Minsk and illustrated over fifteen books for children. Kirkus praised Jacob and the Stranger by Sally Derby for Gore’s “stunning black and white illustrations … evanescent, dreamlike.” He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Write it down,

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Criss Cross - Book Review

Title: Criss Cross
Author: Lynne Rae Perkins
2006 Newbery Medal award winner
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Pages: 337
Publisher: Greenwillow (August 30, 2005)
ISBN-10: 0060092734
ISBN-13: 978-0060092733

Characters in Criss Cross represent the feelings of many teenagers of all generations. Whether it be in the 1970’s or 1960’s. I dare say there is not a person among us who hasn’t wished they were someone else one time or another. Young teens will relate to the self-consciousnesses and uncertainty that all the characters exhibit, each of whom is struggling toward awareness.

Debbie and Hector, both 14, are the focus and most of the novel is through their narration. In addition to that, Perkins sets up a secondary story involving Debbie’s missing locket and the journey it takes as it is passed around by a number of different characters.

Criss Cross reads like a series of vignettes which is focused on Debbie and her friends. Debbie’s friend Linney teaches her to drive a pick up without leaving the drive way because Lenny’s parents are not home. This experience comes in handy much later when Debbie is placed in a precarious position being the only one who has driving experience and she has to take an elderly lady to the hospital.

Hector has a crush on Meadow and wants to take her someplace special. A place she has never been. The only place he can find in town is the garbage strewn ravine. He pictures it as a beautiful place if all the garbage was gone. His sister Rowanne reminds him it is only a ditch. Hector’s dad gives him a guitar but can’t afford music lessons, except for the free ones given down at the church by the priest.

There is a great deal of humor in this tender story about a group of childhood friends facing the crossroads of life and how they wish to live it. The book is illustrated with Perkins's amusing drawings and some photographs. Also Perkins experiments with writing an entire section of dialogue in haiku. “Jeff White is handsome, / but his hair is so greasy. / If he would wash it.”

What teen has not had the desire to just be somewhere else? A group of friends decided to conduct an experiment with travel. They decided to go to the bus station and get on the first bus that came through and get off at the first stop no matter where it was. They would spend a few hours and then come back.

Perkins has created a group of likable characters searching for who they are and who they will become. It is not hard to find a character to identify with.

About the author: Lynne Rae Perkins is the author of three picture books, The Broken Cat, Clouds for Dinner, and Home Lovely, a Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Book. Her novel All Alone in the Universe was named an ALA Notable Book, an ALA Book list Editor's Choice, a Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book, and a Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book for Children. She lives with her family in northern Michigan, where it snows all the time.

Write it down,

Monday, December 1, 2008

Today is Cyber Sale Monday!

On Cyber Sale Monday you'll find all sorts of bargains all over the Internet. So we just had to join in the fun.

TODAY ONLY! You can join the Children's Writer's Coaching Club for 1/2 price. Suzanne Lieurance is offering a block buster discount if you join TODAY.

Already a bargain at $27 a month for anyone but at the special low price of $13.50 per month you are receiving a spectacular opportunity. Just click on the Children's Writer's Coaching Club logo and it will take you to the sign up page.

Yes, there is more. You can begin learning how to break into the children's writing market TODAY by attending a FREE teleclass December 1, which is tonight at 7 p.m. central time and 5 p.m. pacific time and 8 p.m. eastern. Suzanne Lieurance is my special guest tonight. Click here to pose a question and if you are among the first 24 to sign up you will receive the New York Times Best Seller, The Christmas Box, by Richard Paul Evans.

After asking your question, type in your mailing address to have the book shipped to you.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Find Out Anything and Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Writing and Publishing for Kids

If you’ve been wondering how to get started writing and publishing your own stories and other work for kids, then you won’t want to miss this special FREE teleseminar next Monday night, December 1, 2008, at 7:00 central time, 5:00 pacific time and 8:00 eastern time.

I will host this teleseminar with special guest, Suzanne Lieurance, author of over a dozen published books for children, instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature, and founder and director of the National Writing for Children Center. Suzanne will be answering questions that are submitted prior to the call. Just sign up and attend the seminar to hear the LIVE answer to your question.

Sign up for this Free teleseminar right now, and ask your most pressing question about writing or publishing for kids. Then, attend the LIVE teleseminar Monday night December 1, to learn the answer to your question.

The first 24 to register and ask a question will receive a special gift. The New York Times Best Seller, The Christmas Box, by Richard Paul Evans. A Christmas classic. After typing in your question, please type in your mailing address to have the book shipped to you.

To attend the seminar, register here now.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Interview Experts for Non-Fiction Work

When writing non-fiction, research is not the only way to gain information on your topic. Interview an expert to illuminate what is important. Maureen J. Hinds has written an excellent article on this topic. I’m going to put this one in my notebook. Read on.

Writing for Children – Interviewing experts for Your Non-fiction Work.

Know Your Subject
This may seem contradictory to the purpose of conducting the interview—you’re consulting an expert because you’re not one yourself, right? Yes—however, you need to have a good grasp of your topic so that you know what you’re talking about during the interview. The purpose of contacting an expert is to clarify and gain additional information, not to be taught your subject. Experts appreciate the effort you put into understanding the topic and being able to speak as knowledgeably as possible about it.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Preparation is key to a good interview, no matter what method you choose. Make a list of your questions ahead of time, for your own purposes and to send to your expert. Many people appreciate knowing what they will be talking about, as it allows them to generate thoughtful responses rather than “off the cuff” comments. Send your list of questions to your interview subject, and follow them during the interview (while allowing the interview to veer as appropriate).

Decide How You Will Conduct the Interview
This depends in part on your subject, but your options often include in person, by phone, or through email. All methods are acceptable, and while a shy person may lean toward email, remember that the immediacy of an in-person or phone conversation can often add that “human” element that might be just what your piece needs. Sometimes you won’t have a choice, if your editor or subject prefers a particular method. It’s a good idea to practice various methods as you progress through your writing career. (If you record a conversation, be sure your subject knows and check any applicable state or governmental laws.)

Be Respectful of your Subject’s Time
Many professionals are happy to lend their expertise to your cause, as long as you don’t abuse the privilege. Be respectful of the person’s time, letting them know ahead how long you expect the interview to last. Be on time, and stick to your time estimate. If you run over, you can request a second interview, or ask if you can follow-up via email or phone.

Quote Accurately
No matter what method you choose, be careful that you quote your experts accurately. Obviously, this can be easier via email, but it is certainly possible for other types of interviews as well. If you have time, consider sending the quotes to your expert for review before submitting the manuscript. Not only will this help ensure accuracy, but it also gives your expert an extra opportunity to clarify a difficult topic or expand on an idea or comment. If your topic is technical, you can also request permission to rephrase the quote in terms that your younger readers will understand. Many experts are open to this, and will approve your changes—just be sure to let them know! And of course, when you write your piece, be sure to give credit to your source.

Where do you find experts? There are many options, but here are some ideas to get you started:
• Check your local yellow pages

* Investigate professional and nonprofit organizations

* Ask for references from research contacts, colleagues, those you talk to throughout the process, and even in casual conversations when someone says, “I know someone who…”

* Names you run across through Internet and other research

* Through online directories such as http://www.profnet.com

Maurene J. Hinds is a children's author with several published books and two forthcoming. She is an experienced teacher who has taught creative and technical writing and literature at the high school and college levels, and teaches online writing workshops and offers manuscript critiques through her website. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Teenagers from Vermont College. She is completing a young adult novel, "Bruised," under the name Maurene Janiece. Visit her website at http://www.maurenejhinds.com
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Maurene_J._Hinds

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Friday, November 21, 2008

While Mama had a Quick Little Chat - Book Review

While Mama had a Quick Little Chat
Author: Amy Reichert
Illustrator: Alexandra Boiger

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books (May 17, 2005)
ISBN-10: 0689851707
ISBN-13: 978-0689851704

“While Mama has a quick chat with Uncle Fred, Rose is supposed to be getting ready for bed.” Yeah right. All children know how quick these “quick little chats” can be when they try to get Mama’s attention. Rose’s Mama gave her detailed instructions what to do while she was on the phone.

“Brush your teeth. Wash your face. It’s getting late! I want you in bed by half past eight.”

Rose thought “No problem,” but then the door bell rings and four muscley men appear with a load of party supplies. To no avail Rose calls and calls out to her Mama but she keeps saying she will be through soon, so Rose lets them in.

More people begin to arrive and Rose tries to slam the door but people keep coming with waiters and trays of hors d’oeuvres. Rose can not stop this big party no matter how hard she tries so she decides to join in the fun. Something odd happens when a magician appears.

“Mama!!!” shrieked Rose “Come right now and see!”
“Rose, dear,” said Mama. “Stop Pestering Me!!!”

Finally the band arrives and they need a drummer so Rose steps in and begins to play a boogie beat. When Mama warns she is ready to get off the phone Rose makes sure everyone leaves and take their mess with them. Everyone left and thanked Rose for a fun time. Mama finds Rose fast asleep in her bed and none the wiser as to the big bash that had just happened in her living room.

The story is told in rhyme with an upbeat and steady rhythm and characterizes the impatience children often exhibit while waiting for attention from the parents. I think children will appreciate the humor because they will be able to relate to Rose. On the flip side parents will relate to Mama when she becomes irritable as Rose shrieks and begs for attention.

Mama and Rose both have skinny legs and pointy toes with red hair going everywhere. The cartoon type illustrations add a lot sparkle and life to the story. The addition of Rose’s cat in the illustrations adds a bit of amusement as a spectator to the party. This is a splendid book to share with everyone.

About the author: Amy Reichert has a home phone, a cell phone, a speakerphone, a headset phone, and call waiting. She can cook, clean, work in the garden, check e-mail, help with homework, brush her cats, eat, read, exercise, drive, watch TV, feed her fish, and write a book -- all while having a quick little chat! She lives with her husband and two children in Bethesda, Maryland.

About the Illustrator: Alexandra Boiger is the illustrator of While Mama Had A Quick Little Chat by Amy Reichert and Roxie and the Hooligans by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, as well as Doris Orgel's Doctor All-Knowing, coming in 2008. She lives in San Anselmo, California.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sprinkle a Few Sparkles Here and There

Jill McDougal has written over a hundred books for children. I found her to be quite informative and fun. I hope you enjoy her article on how to put that special something in your story.

Writing for Children – Add a Sprinkle of Sparkle

It's your worst nightmare. The editor at Blockbuster Publishing has sent you an email. She's read your manuscript and she likes it but there's one small problem (and this is where you stop breathing), your story needs more ... sparkle.

Your heart sinks to your toes.

If only the editor had asked for something else. Anything else. More words. Less words. Words without the letter 'e'. But asking for sparkle is like asking for a bag of fairy dust.

In my role as a writing tutor, I've read thousands of manuscripts and I'd say that sparkle is the element that writers find most elusive. A story can be competent, readable, even clever but in a competitive market, sparkle is the magic ingredient that will attract an editor.

There's no recipe for sparkle but if you want to put an extra coat of gloss on your story, try this:

First save a new copy of your story - a copy that you will work on for this exercise. That way you'll feel relaxed about making a ton of changes. You can always go back to your old sparkle-free version later. (Yeah, right.)


First read your story out loud. Don't just mumble it to yourself. Stand up and make your delivery as entertaining as possible. Pretend you're reading an excerpt at your book launch. There are some sentences, paragraphs and whole scenes that you know the audience will love, right? Gems that will have them giggling, or sighing or leaning forward in their seats. When you get to these engaging passages, colour them bright orange (use a highlighter).

There are also some bits of your story where the writing is flatter or the scene less interesting. Bits that might have your audience gazing at the freckle on your nose or wondering about Aunt Clara's recipe for tomato bisque. Be honest - you know there are. These are the ho-hum bits you'd prefer to rush over or skip altogether. Colour these parts blue.

To find out why go here to read the rest of the article.

Jill has written over a hundred books for children. You can find more writing tips at
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Jill_Mcdougall

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Learn the Do's and Dont's of Writing for Children

You want to be a children's author and you have discovered there is more to writing than writing a story. Embarking on a writing career is like enrolling in the school of hard knocks. You will learn many skills by experience only. As you write in your genre you will need to study various aspects of the publishing industry before you seek publication.

I know this is all overwhelming right now but you do not need to do this alone. Do what I and countless other writers are doing. Join the Children's Writer's Coaching Club. ">Join Here There is no need to be discouraged and alone.

Here are some great do's and don'ts you will learn under the guidance of author and writing coach, Suzanne Lieurance.

Learn the writing market. Spend lots of time in your local bookstore and library, reading through current bestsellers.

Perfect your craft. Before worrying about seeing your name in print, really learn how to write. Take courses, read "how-to" books, join a writing group, and so on. Write for the sake of writing, and enjoy the journey.

Focus your attention on "hot" areas in children's publishing. Current hot issues include multicultural stories, nonfiction for all ages, horror stories and easy readers.

Learn how to request publisher guidelines and catalogs before submitting your work to a publisher. Study these to make sure your work is what the publisher is currently seeking.

Learn to write an upbeat query letter that will hook the attention of a stressed editor.

Be persistent. Success as a writer rarely comes easily or quickly. Don't get discouraged by rejection...just keep writing!

Assume that today's kids' books are just like the ones you read as a child. Juvenile literature is more sophisticated, creative and far-ranging than ever before.

Get bogged down in cliches. Editors are sick of cute talking animals, "ugly duckling" stories about shy wallflowers who save the day, and moralistic tales that shout "it's OK to be different!" Strive for originality.

Treat kids like babies. Don't talk down to your readers. Use rich and interesting language that evokes strong visual images, not baby talk.

Preach. Your job as a writer is to entertain. If your story has a message, tell it through the plot and characters, not by a "moral" tacked on to the end.

This is just a sample of the wealth of information and support you will receive through the CWCC Join today and begin writing your passion.

Write it down,

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Full Belly Bowl - Book Review

Title: Full Belly Bowl
Author: Jim Aylesworth
Illustrator: Wendy Anderson Halperin

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Atheneum; 1st edition (October 1, 1999)
ISBN-10: 0689810334
ISBN-13: 978-0689810336

Too much of a good thing is usually just that. Too much.

An old man lived in a cozy tiny house with his cat Angelina. She was white with patches of black and the very old man thought that she was just about the sweetest cat in the world. When the old man becomes hungry he goes into the forest and searches for wild strawberries. Soon he hears the sound of a small voice calling for help. The old man sees a fox trying to carry a “wee small man” away.

The wee small man was injured and the old man gently lifted him up and took him home. For three days the old man shared generously with the small man. The wee small man became strong and one day he was gone. However, he left a letter on the old man’s doorstep beneath the rim of an overturned bowl that the letter described as a “Full Belly Bowl.” It was obvious the bowl was a gift but what in the world is a “Full Belly Bowl?” The letter explains the rules: "When not in use, store it upside down."

Later that evening the old man prepared some stew as usual and placed it in the bowl and began to eat. He ate and ate and ate, but the bowl was still as full as when he began. He even gave some to Angelina. The two had never been so full. They were so full that they fell asleep and the old man forgot to turn the Full Belly Bowl upside down.

The secret of the Full Belly Bowl was discovered. Any object or thing placed in the Full Belly Bowl multiplies until the bowl is turned over. After a few mishaps, the old man decides to multiply his coins at the prospect of untold wealth. However, greed gets in the way and the old man forgets the rules. Follow the old man and his cat in this light hearted folk tale that teaches the lesson: more is not always better.

Aylesworth keeps the story’s action going with some amusing capers. This is an excellent story time book and the wonderful colored-pencil drawings help to move the story along with little vignettes and borders with fruits, flowers and birds help to enhance the plot. Thoughtful attention to layout, visual detail, and a well-told tale combine to create a book that will compliment any library for a long time.

About the Author: Picture book author Jim Aylesworth tells his stories with generous doses of loud sounds, rhythms and rhymes. His experiences as a teacher have taught him that these are the elements children like in a story, especially when it is being read aloud. He has been honored in several years with an entry in Who's Who Among America's Teachers.

But it was his work with children that brought him the most reward. It was his experiences as a teacher that eventually led him to writing children's books. His students' enjoyment of his stories encouraged him to persist in pursuing his dream of being a children's book writer. It was in the classroom that he realized the power of books. He says, "I have seen a room full of children sit still and pay attention to a good book when it may be the first time they've been still at the same time all day."

About the illustrator Wendy Anderson Halperin: "My life enters into my books as if I were reading a mystery. I never know how, who, when, or why things and people enter my drawings. It is not calculated, however it is mysteriously woven."

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Writing Non-Fiction for Children's Magazines

It is common to think fiction when writing children's stories but there is also a great need for non-fiction articles. Writing non-fiction in a creative way can help children become excited about learning. Read Maureen J Hinds article below for some valuable tips on the non-fiction market.

Writing for Children-Non-Fiction Magazines

Nonfiction need not be dull; it includes a wide range of topics. It can include history, biography, personal essays, personal profiles, sports, biology, geology, geography, holidays … the list really is almost endless. Anything that you find fascinating can be turned into a riveting nonfiction piece for young readers. Also, keep in mind that you can write for whatever age group you prefer, from the youngest toddlers to teens.
If you’re interested in writing for the magazine market, the following tips will help you get started:

Stay Focused
Magazine pieces are short, which means that you will not be able to cover all sides of your topic. Choose the one that most interests you and that you feel has the most readership appeal.

Spice it Up
One way to avoid an “encyclopedic” feel to your article is to include quotes from experts, interesting quotes from your research, descriptions, and if appropriate, dialogue. Use the tools of fiction for a lively magazine piece.

Do the Research
This applies to both your article research as well as your market research. For your article, editors want to see a variety of resource materials. One entry from an encyclopedia will not make the cut. Use a variety of sources, and try to avoid those encyclopedia references. If possible, use both primary and secondary sources. If you are able to obtain a quote from an expert, that can also help sell your piece.

When doing market research use a variety of tools available to you, and do not forget the "hands on" approach. This means reading several back issues of your targeted magazine--reading a year's worth is ideal. When fine-tuning your piece, be sure to follow the each magazine's guidelines. This means staying within the word count, avoiding certain topics, and following any approaches listed. The following are some sources for learning more about the market and magazine guidelines. For up-to-date information, be sure to visit each magazine's website, as many post their editorial guidelines as well as upcoming themes if applicable.

BOOST's Magazine Database
Jan Fields offers a great website:
Writer's Market Online
Children's Writers & Illustrators Market, published by Writer's Digest Books
The Best of the Magazine Market, published by the Institute of Children's Literature (http://www.theinstituteofchildrensliterature.com/F9624/)

Lastly, be persistent! One common theme among published writers is that they do not give up. Find several target markets to begin with. If these do not work out, consider re-working the piece for a different age group, or give the piece a different slant. Whatever you do, keep writing and keep submitting. The nonfiction magazine market can be a great way to see your work in print. Yes, it takes focused effort, but it can be well worth it!

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Maurene_J._Hinds

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Chickerella - Book Review

Author and Illustrator: Mary Jane and Herm Auch
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Holiday House (March 15, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0823420159
ISBN-13: 978-0823420155

The timeless story of Cinderella is parodied into a hilarious “chick-lit.” “Chickerella had a wonderful chickhood until one night when a fox got into the coop and carried off her mother. Chickerella’s father, now a single rooster, did his best to raise her, providing her with a happy and stable cooplife.”

A few years later, Chickerella’s stepmother and stepsisters, Ovumelda and Cholestera, show up. As the reader would expect, it is not long before Chickerella is a servant in her own coop and banished from the main coop to live in the springhouse. Every day was the same for Chickerella. Work, work, work. Her sparse diet of bugs and spring water began to affect her eggs. Soon she was laying eggs of pure glass.

The clever dialogue is predictable at times with words like “eggscited”, “eggstravaganza”, “eggasparating” but nevertheless fitting for this fowl story.

To read more about this delightful story, surf over to The National Writing for Children Center. While you are there be sure to check out all the other great articles by Suzanne Lieurance's staff and faculty.

Write it down,

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

November Issue of Carma's Window Newsletter Now Available!

If you are a subscriber to Carma's Window you should have your copy of my Newsletter in your in box.

Not a subscriber? No problem. Go to the left sidebar to enter your email address and name. Then pick up your free Ebook "Tips for Children's Writers and Illustrators" and I will get a copy of Carma's Window out to you right away. If you are a subscriber and have not received your November issue, please contact me at carmadutra at att dot net.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Can You Write for Children?

Do you want to write for children? Read this article to determine if you CAN write for children. Go to The Writing for Children Resource Site then scroll down to sub heading "Where should I start?" and click on "Can I Write for Children?"

How does one get started writing for children? Do I need an agent? What are multiple submissions? Have you ever asked yourself these questions and more? I found a website where you can find out answers to these questions and more questions you may not have thought of yet. Bethany Roberts’ Writing for Children Workshop.

The Bethany Roberts Workshop is a place to learn tips that motivate and it will direct you to other helpful links. Do you want to know how to prepare for doing story telling at a library? Read the response here.

Another favorite bookmark of mine is The Purple Crayon. It’s about writing and publishing children’s books. You can also find articles about publishing and submitting etc. For example here is a great article titled Getting Out of the Slush Pile. In piles of hundreds of manuscripts how can you be sure that yours will be noticed? Harold Underdown breaks down some common concerns for writers. This article is about 1) the beginning, 2) overworked story types, 3) What to include 4) Recommended approaches.

Last but by all means First. How to Write a Successful Query There are tons of articles about query submission and from what I hear, the query letter may soon be the only way to break into some of the best markets. This article is one of the better ones.

Write it down,


Friday, October 31, 2008

Mama's Milk - Book Review

Title: Mama’s Milk
Author: Michael Elsohn Ross
Illustrator: Ashley Wolff
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hard Cover: 32 pages
Publisher: Tricycle Press; Bilingual edition (March 2008)
ISBN-10: 1582462453
ISBN-13: 978-1582462455

Mama’s Milk is wonderful, educational and entertaining for the picture story book age and parents. Michael Ross describes different ways mothers of all creatures nurse their babies. This provides parents a wonderful opportunity to discuss how and why mothers nurse and the benefits of breast milk.

The author begins with a human mother cuddling and nursing her child. “Cuddle little baby warm and tight Mama’s going to feed you day and night.” The story continues with pigs and their piglets, “She’ll fatten you up in a sunny pig sty.”

Every page depicts a different animal nursing their babies and also gives the correct name of each animal and offspring. For example: A Mare and her fold; An elephant and calf. In the back of the book a classification and illustration of each highlighted animal is added with factual statements about nursing practices. Foals nurse every thirty minutes. Kangaroo milk is pink. My granddaughters grimaced with a “Ewwwwww!” giggling all the while. Also, a dolphin calf holds its breath while feeding underwater. Can you imagine?

Michael Ross’ book is a celebration of the beauty of natural breastfeeding and a reminder how much humans and other mammal mamas on this planet earth have in common. The rhyming tone is gentle, comforting and loving. Parents will learn a lot too when they read along with their children.

The illustrations by Ashley Wolff contribute greatly to the message by providing a way for young children to learn and identify animals. The two page spreads are illustrated in deep, rich, velvet looking colors giving off a warm glow. I was especially drawn to the cover of Mama's Milk. Ashley's illustrations made me want to pet the soft fur.

About the Author: Michael Elsohn Ross has worked as a naturalist and environmental educator in Yosemite National Park for over three decades. He is the award-winning author of more than forty books for young people. Over the years he has acquired the nickname “bug author” Visit his website here

About the Illustrator: Ashley Wolff always wanted to be an artist and she has been illustrating books since 1984. All of them about animals, children and love. Please take a look at Ashley's website for more information. Check out her "what's new" tab.

Write it down,

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Stimulate Your Imagination With Online Prompts

Where do your ideas come from? If you are like many writers they come from all over. My ideas come from reading, music, playing with the grand kids and so on. Sometimes I use online prompts as a stimulus. I listed a few below.

Illustrationfriday.com – this site is very interesting. Illustrators visit this site each Friday to get a key word and then they produce a piece of art and link it to the Illustration Friday site. This is a way for them to showcase their art and expand their portfolio. If illustrators can do this why can’t writers? This week the word is Repair. Click here to view a list of art from a variety of artists and mediums. Who knows, you may get some wild ideas from a number of illustrations. There are many illustrations in the category of children's art as well.

Dictionary.com sends out a word of the day. October 28 word of the day is execrable which means detestable, abominable. If you don't like this word, look on the previous word of the day list. You can also subscribe for free to receive the word of the day.

For while agents and editors often misunderstand their market and sometimes reject good or even great works, they do prevent a vast quantity of truly execrable writing from being published.
-- Laura Miller,

Quotationspage.com is a great page and I love browsing around here. The trouble is I could end up spending hours perusing. Here are a couple of quotes on writing.

All of us learn to write in the second grade. Most of us go on to greater things.
Bobby Knight

The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn't behave that way you would never do anything.
John Irving

Can you see how quotes can stimulate your creativity?

I fell in love with Rhymer.com. It is a free online rhyming dictionary. Look up a word and then let your brain bounce around with all types of possibilities. For instance I typed in moustache and selected end rhymes. Thirty words popped up. Example: moustache/slapdash, moustache/panache, moustache/mishmash. If you like words and what writer doesn’t, you can see how much fun this site can be. There are six types of rhymes and a section on phonics and alternative pronunciations. This site is especially exciting for me since I am working on a picture book that needs to have a cadence to it.

Prompts are good for collecting ideas but it may take some patience and time. Stretch your imagination. Start with one workable goal per prompt. The more you actively brainstorm ideas, the better chance that one of them will grab you.

Try playing the “what if” game. What if boy meets girl becomes boy meets dead girl. Or girl meets cyber-boy. It doesn’t matter how you choose to practice generating ideas, just keep on practicing. The more you practice the more open you will become to possibilities that are all around you.

Write it down,

Monday, October 27, 2008

Writing Conference Secrets

Chance favors a prepared mind

These are the words of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) keynote speaker and author Elizabeth Partridge. Partridge is the author of biographies of John Lennon, Woody Guthrie, and Dorothea Lange, which is an SCBWI Golden Kite Honor book; winner of the Jane Addams Peace Honor; an ALA notable book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. The tranquil campus of Mills College in Oakland, CA was the perfect setting for a wonderful conference.

Writing conferences are the best way to meet and network with other writers and meet editors, agents and publishers from houses that do not accept unsolicited submissions. However, editors, agents and publishers graciously accept manuscripts from writers who attend an SCBWI conference. What an opportunity!

When you attend a conference and hear the presentations, you will learn more ways to get your proverbial foot into the door. Editors and agents know a writer is serious about their craft when they attend writing conferences. Also, editors and agents are more likely to read queries from conference attendees.

Editors and agents are also serious about their business. However, issuing rejections are the least favorite part of their job. Another little bit of information I learned was that we are all equal until the first page is read. How well your first page is written will determine if that first page is turned.

A query letter is the first sample of your writing an editor or agent sees. This is why queries are so important. Also, remember to research the agent. Find out what kinds of work they want. Do they want queries by email or snail mail and what about professional stationary? Should you use it or not? Make your cover letter and your query stand out from the manuscript you send in. Show your professionalism and show your knowledge of the market to agents.

Julie Romeis, editor at Chronicle Books related the story of first-time author, Lisa Klein’s Ophelia from acquisition to development and publication. A two year process that was satisfying and successful for editor and author. Romeis also took us behind the scenes and gave us a detailed look into the cover design process.

Write it down,

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hurty Feelings - Book Review

Here is a sneak preview of Hurty Feelings that will appear on The National Writing for Children Center, home of the Children's Writing Coaching Club on Saturday October 25.

Title: Hurty Feelings
Author: Helen Lester
Illustrator: Lynn Munsinger

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardback: 32 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin/Walter Lorraine Books; 1 edition (March 26, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0618840621
ISBN-13: 978-0618840625

An emotionally fragile hippo named Fragility and a rude elephant named Rudy will delight children from ages four to eight (and a few parents along the way.) Fragility is over sensitive and Rudy is overly rude. Author Helen Lester begins her humorous tale with Fragility was a solid piece of work. When she walked her world wobbled.

Fragility is very happy in her own world, she has strong jaws that could munch grass faster than any lawn mower, she never cries when she stubs one of her toes or all sixteen. However, something did bother Fragility and it was injured feelings.

Click here to read more about the author and illustrator.

Write it down,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Seven Reasons to Attend a Writers Conference

Mills College campus in Oakland, CA is where I will be this weekend at the SCBWI Nor Cal Writer's Conference. What a beautiful place. Below are seven strong reasons why I think you should go to at least one writers' conference every year. Anyone who has a desire to be a better writer will gain benefits for the taking.

1. Meet other writers. Well, of course, but where else can you meet hundreds of people who are at varying stages in their writing career? You will even meet others who have been there done that and who are ready to help you. Writers tend to be shy but a conference is one place to put your shyness on hold. Take a deep breath and make an effort to say hello and by all means take business cards with your name and phone number on it.
2. Find practical information you can put to immediate use. You might learn how to format a manuscript or how to send a query to an editor or how to do your taxes. You will definitely get some basic knowledge you can use to further your writing career.
3. Become energized. Becoming a successful writer is a goal for most writers. When you are mixing with hundreds of other writers who are dedicated to their work just as you are, you will find the desire to write more than you ever have before.
4. Find new markets for your work. Many writing conferences attract all kinds of writers unless you are attending one that is specific to children’s writing like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) At a children’s writers conference you will meet writers of all genres for children’s books. Some of them will write for genres you haven't considered yet. They might know of a magazine which uses the kinds of things you write. They may know of a publisher who is looking for a book like yours.
5. Improve your professional effectiveness. Writers' conferences are an excellent way to continue your education and improve your knowledge about your craft. If you are serious about your writing, attending a conference will prove that you are committed to your profession.
6. Become inspired. If you go with an open mind and open ears, there will be speakers who seem to be talking directly to you. It is rare to find a writer who has never received a rejection slip or faced difficulties and hardships. You may receive encouragement or that little push that sets you out on the road to success. The one thing I know you will find is the courage to keep on writing.
7. Meet editors and agents. This is the ultimate payoff: editors and agents take time out of their busy lives to attend writers' conferences because they are looking for people like you who have a book or an idea that will make money for them. Writers really do find agents and editors this way. At many conferences, you can sign up for an appointment and find yourself face to face with a living, breathing editor or agent who wants to hear about your work. This is a thousand times better than sending out a manuscript that will almost certainly land at the bottom of a slush pile.

I hope you make a decision to attend a writer’s conference near you. If you are a member of SCBWI go to their website and click on calendar of events. This will direct you to a number of events this organization sponsors. Another writer’s conference worth checking out is the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference coming up in summer of 2009.

Write it down,