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. – 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. 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, 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 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.

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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,

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday Links for the Inquiring Mind is a wonderful site and has hundreds of resources for children’s writers. I recommend you take some time to look around their site.

In the mean time I am going to point you to a few links to some free articles on The Business of Writing. This is information that all writer’s need to know about. For instance, “How do Authors get Paid” This is a vital subject. Yes, I know we are not going to get rich writing but we do expect some type of compensation for our hard work.

Also be sure to read the article “What do Editor’s Want?” and also “Researching the Market.” Research is essential and don’t miss the interview with publisher Josephine Nobisso.

Write it down,

Friday, October 17, 2008

Blabber Mouse - Book Review

Title: Blabber Mouse
Author and Illustrator: True Kelley
Harcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Dutton Children’s Books (division of Penguin Young Readers Group) 2003
ISBN-10: 0439441994
ISBN-13: 978-0439441995

Check out my book review of Blabber Mouse by author and illustrator True Kelley over at The National Writing for Children's Center.

It's about a funny and lovable mouse named Blabber, who talks too much. How fitting. Everyone will laugh out loud with this book.

Author and Illustrator True Kelley has written over 100 books. She says the excitement of holding her 100th book was just as thrilling as when she held her first one.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Know Your Copyrights and Rights Publishers Buy

A copyright is a form of protection provided to creators of original works, published or unpublished. It is not necessary to include a copyright notice on unregistered work unless you feel your work is not safe without it. Example of copyright notice: © (year of work, your name) For more information on copyright (not legal) go to the Library of Congress Web site: There are also FAQ’s and forms to download.

Below is a list of publishing rights with a short definition that you will most often sell to publishers. Also before signing any contract, take time to read and understand what rights it specifies before signing. An agent will often help sort out these issues but for those of us who are just starting out, we are our own agent and sometimes our own publisher. As you can tell, a career in writing or illustrating involves more than just talent.

First Rights. The buyer purchases the rights to use the work for the first time in any medium. All other rights remain with the creator.

One-time rights. The buyer has no guarantee that she is the first to use a piece. One-time permission to run written work or illustrators is acquired, and then the rights revert back to the creator.

First North American serial rights. This is similar to first rights, except that companies who distribute both in the U.S. and Canada will stipulate these rights to ensure that another North American company won’t come out with simultaneous usage of the same work.

Second serial (reprint) rights. In this case, newspapers and magazines are granted the right to reproduce a work that has already appeared in another publication. Proceeds from reprint rights for a book are often split evenly between the author and his publishing company.

Simultaneous rights. More than one publication buys one-time rights to the same work at the same time. Use of such rights occurs among magazines with circulations that don’t overlap, such as many religious publications.

All rights. Just as it sounds, the writer, illustrator, or photographer relinquishes all rights to a piece—she no longer has any say in who acquires rights to use it.

Foreign serial rights. Be sure before you market to foreign publications that you have sold only North American—not worldwide—serial rights to previous markets.

Syndication rights. This is a division of serial rights.

Subsidiary rights. These include serial rights, dramatic rights, book club rights, or translation rights. The contract should specify what percentage of profits from sales of these rights goes to the author and publisher.

Display rights or electronic publishing rights. They’re also known as “Data, Storage, and Retrieval.” Usually listed under subsidiary rights, the marketing of electronic rights in this era of rapidly expanding capabilities and markets for electronic material can be tricky. If a display clause is listed in your contract, try to negotiate its elimination.

Bottom line. Always read your contract or publishing guidelines carefully. This is just basic information. For a more in-depth look check your local library or bookstore for books and magazines to help you.

Write it down,

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Anxiety of Submission and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Monday again and my fingers have tirelessly pecked and punched HTML and URL’s to bring you some quality links to help you delve deep into cyber space that will bring up great ideas and articles. Today I have selected two great articles by Eugie Foster. One is about submitting to children’s magazines and one is about writing humor for children but also note that humor is lacking across the board in all fiction. Enjoy your read.

I don’t know what it is about submission that makes some writers cringe. Is it the expected rejection? Maybe it is the word. Submission to some people may mean obedient and compliance or even surrender. In other words do you lose control of your work when you submit? It is hard to let go if you think no one else will appreciate your creation. The following link will take you to a fabulous article by Eugie Foster “A Writer’s Resolution – I will submit” This article offers analytical ideas how to keep the creative aspects of writing distinct from marketing and business.

Humor is subjective and personal and could offend some while making others roll on the floor gasping for air. Writing about humor is also difficult. Eugie Foster uses a well known television series, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, to demonstrate some comedic writing in her article Writing Humor.

Write it down,

(picture by Clara Natoli)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Velma Gratch & the way cool butterfly - Review

Friday is book review day. Today I have posted a picture book review at The National Writing for Children Center. Surf on over and read my review of Velma Gratch & the way cool butterfly.

While you are there check out all the other great posts.

Author: Alan Madison and Illustrator: Kevin Hawkes.

This is a cool book that kids will love to read. Follow Velma Cratch on her field trip to the Conservatory and find out how a small monarch butterfly transformed Velma into the talk of the school.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Point of View = Perspective and Technique

When you write for children it is best to stick to a simple point of view but is it really that simple? In other words, point of view has two parts: 1) the perspective of the story or character and 2) how the story or character is articulated.

First things first. Before you begin to write your story you need to determine Who you want to tell the story. Lots of people can tell the same story but each time a new narrator is introduced, the story will change. What if you are writing a story about Louise who is learning to ride her bike without training wheels for the first time?

Louise falls off her bike and breaks a leg. Who is going to tell this story? Is it going to be Louise, her friends’ point of view or other people’s point of view?

Louise’s point of view will depend on her age. If she is very young there will not be much depth to her viewpoint. She will do a lot of crying and dialogue will be sparse.

A friend’s point of view may be exciting because this friend may be the one to run for help and when the paramedics come Louise’s friend gets to ride in the ambulance. Obviously the experiences of the two characters are quite different from a particular perspective.

Multiple points of view can open up a whole new set of complex issues. For example what are you trying to accomplish with this story? Are you making it clear who is thinking, feeling and speaking?

So you see, it is critical to familiarize yourself with the range of choices available as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each choice. How will you tell your story? When is point of view changed?

Questions on character point of view and other questions are explored in depth when you join the Children’s Writer’s Coaching Club led by Suzanne Lieurance. Click Here write for children ">Every week you are invited to attend a teleclass on a variety of topics relevant to children’s writing and publishing by a team of professional authors. In addition you can have your manuscript critiqued by a group of peers and professionals every week. All of this for the fabulous price of $27.00 per month. This is what I am doing. Come and join me.

Write it down,

Monday, October 6, 2008

Children's Writing Links to Boost Your Craft

Please enjoy the informative and rich children's writing links below.

Do you want to write a picture book? Don’t be fooled by the small amount of words (approximately 200) and pages (32). Successful picture book writing is far more difficult than it looks. Read this enlightening article.

Writing Picture Books

Sometimes it is difficult to know what one publisher means by picture book or early reader. Go to Understanding Children’s Writing Genres to view a glossary of children’s publishing genres by Laura Backes, publisher of Children’s Book Insider

The Query Letter and How to Write One, by Diane Thomas

Aaron Shepard exposes dangerous myths and terrible truths about writing and publishing in his article here:

Dangerous Myths and Terrible Truths

I would like to recommend this excellent article by Terry Whalin, writer, editor and literary agent. Read Some Basics on Magazine Writing. Within the article there are also a few links to some excellent books on writing magazine articles. Check them out. This is a great article for those of us who are participating in the LKFall Article writing challenge.

I came across this great quote.

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that, just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him out to the public.”
—Winston Churchill

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Interview with children's author Kirby Larson

Hi everyone. Head on over to the National Writing for Children Center and read my interview with award winning children's author Kirby Larson whose book Hattie Big Sky is the recipient of the 2007 Newbery Honor Award and please leave a comment. Also while you are there check out all the other great posts at the NWFCC.

Write it down,