Sunday, July 1, 2012

Farewell

The Maggie Project is officially closed, but I've started a new blog with a tighter focus on writing for children. Thank you to all of my friends and followers of The Maggie Project. I hope you'll check out and follow Children's Writer's World at www.childrenswritersworld.blogspot.com

Monday, June 25, 2012

Writing from the Heart





    Today Laura Smith shares the inspiration behind her book 
      In All Things: Giving Thanks When Hope Seems Lost.






What inspired me to write and actually have my story published was an accumulation of numerous events. My original intent was never to publish a book however; when I had one person read it and then another, and another, the feedback was amazing! It was like a sense of urgency that the message within was something people needed to hear. And even the men who have read it have been profoundly affected.


When I was very young, I remember sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen on the floor while my grandparents and their friends sat at the table playing cards. They would play for hours and hours and often times into the night. While I would sit there on the floor, I was very content in doing so because I was in my own little world doing what I never imagined would be my heart’s desire later in life. I was writing stories and songs and reading them or singing them out loud for my card-playing family to adore. Now, thinking back to that time (I was only about 4-years old and had no idea how to even write my name let alone a story or a song), I have concluded that it had to be God planting within me the inspiration and desire to write.



The life events that sparked this book began in my teen years where I remember wondering why I was even on this earth, or why would God put me in a family that didn’t seem to even want me. I was always called a mistake and they would tease me when I was younger saying that they found me on the streets of St. Paul. It’s no wonder that I married the town rebel two weeks after my high school graduation! Finally someone loved me and I wasn’t going to let that go. Fast forward 18 years, two daughters later and a divorce, I re-married. I had found out that my youngest daughter was molested by her biological dad when she was only two years old. She was diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and Bipolar disorder. My oldest daughter was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis and she faces numerous back surgeries and many other trials.  Then I was told that my husband and I would never have a child of our own. But wait! After weeks of being sick and a random pregnancy test to rule out that possibility, I’m PREGNANT! A miracle! It took us weeks to absorb this miracle and the growing excitement from our entire family. But, I lost the baby 3 months into the pregnancy.



While some write to entertain, I found the writing process was very healing for me. Journaling through trials helped me to empty the pain of the day from my heart onto paper so I could start fresh the next day. This was the case when I initially started writing In All Things. It was simply in a journal and was a way for me to try and process the grief of going through miscarriage. I write very honestly and hold nothing back. I believe that by the power of our testimony others can find healing. I also believe sugar coating things makes for a nice story but has no impact. The first editor I contacted to go through my book wanted me to remove a lot of life events because it wasn’t “Christian” like.  Well, I’m sorry but I’m a real person and I experience real life issues and others need to hear the real stuff.



Since the publishing of this book, I have had inspiration for another book to be the second in the “In All Things” series. The next one will be In All Things: Expect A Miracle which will be an account of the amazing two years going through my dad’s cancer journey with him. Also since publishing, I have been asked to speak at a few local events and my desire is to be able to do that more. I feel that when you can share your story in person, it can touch people more profoundly.  At one of the events where I shared my story, there was a lady in the audience that was healed instantly from the pain of miscarriage she was suffering from for two years! I would love the opportunity to see others find that same healing and freedom to live again. I encourage others with a personal story to get it out there. The reward and I don’t mean monetary is far greater than the fear. 



Author Bio: Laura works as a medical coding and reimbursement specialist in Northern Minnesota. In All Things is a witty and raw account of an otherwise normal life filled with incredible challenges that will make you laugh out loud and cry tears of joy and tears of sorrow. Her little family had no idea that the life experiences they walked through early on and one life altering event would prepare them for the near death of her oldest daughter.





Make friends, share the love of reading and be entered to win FREE books! There will be up to 3 winners during this Book Lovers Blog Hop & Giveaway*. All you have to do is enter the giveaway below.

There are many ways you can enter:
1) Promote the Book Lovers Hop and World of Ink Tours on any social network.
2) Tweet it once a day.
3) Share on Facebook.
4) Like this blog post.
5) Leave a comment.

Also, don't forget to follow those who have joined in the Book Lovers Blog Hop. By joining the Book Lovers Blog Hop, you are automatically entered in our Book Giveaway!



Join the Hop & Rules:
1. Follow the Top link of the hop! Hop Host: Families Matters
2. Grab the button for the hop and place it in a post, sidebar or on a blog hop page
and make sure to let us know.
3.Grab the button for the June '12 World of Ink Tour and place it in a post or side bar.
4.Make sure you let us know where it is in the comments section below.




Monday, June 18, 2012

Porcupine's Seeds

Today author Viji K. Chary shares the inspiration behind her book.



I have always enjoyed doing projects with my young son, Hrishikesh. One day, we planted seeds in small pots.  When Hrishikesh proudly carried the pot inside the house, he tripped over the threshold and the seeds and soil scattered all over the floor. This was the ‘incident’ that sparked the idea of Porcupine’s Seeds.

As Hrishikesh attended preschool, kindergarten, and first grade, I noticed that the textbook publishers recommended other fiction and non-fiction books for supplemental reading. The extra reading cemented concepts into the young children’s minds.

As Porcupine’s Seeds grew in my mind, I decided to connect my story to young children’s science curriculum.  All plants need soil, sun and water. Porcupine repeats this phrase throughout the book. Young readers can connect this to their science plant unit in school.

I added flaws to Porcupine as I developed his character for Porcupine’s Seeds.  Porcupine was not difficult to develop. He is a lot like me! I have a very difficult time growing plants—mostly because I forget to water them. Raccoon is the lovely character that grows plants beautifully—much like my mother.

The book has more to offer than just a science concept. In this fast-paced world of instant gratification, Porcupine works hard to plant the seeds. He knows it will take weeks for the first flower to bloom, yet he is willing to put in the work. He waters his seeds, “today, the next day, and the day after that.”

Problem solving is a great asset in the world of children and adults. Porcupine has problems at each turn of events. Yet, Porcupine finds a solution for each one.  Even after his greatest setback, Porcupine finds a way to grow sunflowers.

Finally, Porcupine’s Seeds shows growth in Porcupine’s self-esteem as he realizes that he can grow seeds. His internal conversation grows more positive as he solves each problem. Hopefully, young readers and listeners can reflect this in their own lives. Porcupine’s Seeds has much to offer—learning science concepts, appreciating hard work, and building self-esteem.




Make friends, share the love of reading and be entered to win FREE books! There will be up to 3 winners during this Book Lovers Blog Hop & Giveaway*All you have to do is enter the giveaway below.

There are many ways you can enter:
1) Promote the Book Lovers Hop and World of Ink Tours on any social network.
2) Tweet it once a day.
3) Share on Facebook.
4) Like this blog post.
5) Leave a comment.
Also, don't forget to follow those who have joined in the Book Lovers Blog Hop. By joining the Book Lovers Blog Hop, you are automatically entered in our Book Giveaway!



Join the Hop & Rules:
1. Follow the Top link of the hop! Hop Host: Families Matters
2. Grab the button for the hop and place it in a post, sidebar or on a blog hop page
and make sure to let us know.
3. Grab the button for the June '12 World of Ink Tour and place it in a post or side bar.
4. Make sure you let us know where it is in the comments section below.

**Note: One book per winner
*

Monday, June 11, 2012

Deliver What You Promise


When I first receive a nonfiction article submission, I glance at the title.  But if the title fails to promise what it plans to deliver in terms of content, I’ll ask the writer for a new title.

Recently, I had a submission with a title that led me to believe that the piece would be about specific scientists helping people in unique ways.  Instead, the article centered more on the inventions than on the scientists.  So the author had two choices:  either change the title to reflect an emphasis on the inventions or revise the article to focus on the scientists. 

Titles should reflect what the piece is about.  They can be straightforward, but a creative title works better when writing for young children.  For example, I titled one of my own nonfiction pieces “Wild Thing.”  The title entices children to read about the unruly plant known as kudzu. 

Titles should ideally pique a reader’s interest.  My article “Below the Sidewalks of Pioneer Square” makes people wonder:  what lurks underneath the city streets?   An article written by Erin K. Schonauer and Jamie C. Schonauer and published in Stories for Children Magazine was titled "The Cresent's Ghostly Guests".  Makes you curious, huh? 

Here are some tips in choosing titles:

Choose a title after you’ve written the article. 
Keep the title short.
Use playful titles and alliteration for a very young audience. 
Use snappy titles for older children.
Create intrigue.
Read your article again and see if the title is a good fit.

Nonfiction article titles don’t have to be boring.  Aim to create a title that will pique the interest of an editor and of course, the audience.  Above all, remember to relate the title to the content of the piece.  That way, you won’t disappoint your readers by promising them something you haven’t quite delivered.


Monday, June 4, 2012

Worms and School Visits

Not long ago, I volunteered again at the Children’s Garden at the Arboretum.  My station was set up to teach kids about recycling and to show them live worms.  Every kid—even the girls—stretched out their hands to hold a slimy wiggly worm.  And they loved it.  They giggled and squealed.  Holding and feeling the worms helped the children connect with the mini lesson.

What does this have to do with writing for children?  Plenty!  Imagine you’re doing a school visit.  You sit before a group of children.  You open your book, read a page and then show the illustrations.  But halfway through the story, a kid or two loses interest.  Soon more kids are talking, and only a handful is paying attention.  How can you avoid this?  How can you guarantee that you’ll have an entire captive audience? 

Several days before your visit, locate items that are mentioned in your picture book which are easy to transport and light enough for children to hold.  You can bring items that are interesting to touch, taste, and smell.  Take small musical percussion instruments so that children can make sounds that may relate to the story.  Put the objects in a colorful box in the order in which they appear in your story, so that when you reach for them, you can easily pass them out.  Reinforce listening by having the children raise their hands if they are holding an object that is mentioned in the book. 

By using their senses, children will connect better with the story.  More, they will actually be involved in the story.  Children will not only enjoy your presentation, they will remember you.  (And if your book is about worms, you’ll have a giggly, squealing audience—just don’t forget the wipes!)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Digging Deep

It always surprises me when a writer uses an encyclopedia or Wikipedia as a source when researching a nonfiction article.  As the nonfiction editor for Stories for Children Magazine, I occasionally see these sources cited in a submission.  I also wonder why a writer would ever consider using an out-date source.  Once I received a submission that cited a book published over 50 years ago. 

Your goal as a nonfiction writer is to find reliable sources of information.  Aim for primary sources. For instance, consider interviewing experts.  They may clarify information or divulge amusing anecdotes.  They may even offer facts not yet published.   

Think about using journals, newspapers, diaries, or letters.  The information from these sources will provide firsthand accounts with rich details.  

Once while I was researching a female American Civil War soldier (disguised as a male), I was able to locate and purchase photocopies of her letters.  Talk about holding history in my hands!  What an amazing primary source—the letters dated back to the 1860s!  Her handwritten letters not only  unveiled  her  spunky  personality, but revealed her lack of schooling:  "I dont belve thare is eny rebels bullet maid for me yet."

When trying to publish outstanding nonfiction, you need to dig deep when resesarching.  Put time and effort into finding reliable sources.  Library databases are a good place to begin to find these sources.  And if you plan to interview an expert for your article, politely ask her to review it after it's written.  That way, you'll know that the facts in your article are accurate.  Having impressive sources and an expert review are two ways to catch an editor's eye.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Word Count


As most of you know, magazine editors have word count limits.  Literary agents or editors may impose word limits when critiquing your work.  You job is easy:  keep your submission within the limits.

Recently, I received an 1800-word nonfiction submission for the educational website Viatouch,  where I'm an associate editor.  The guidelines state that we accept pieces that are 500 words.  The writer had read our guidelines and politely asked if I’d take a look at this longer piece.  But the article was much too long.  If it had been 600 words, I would have considered it.  The writer also suggested that the piece could be broken into 3 shorter pieces.  Perhaps, this is what she should have done in the first place.

Magazine editors establish word counts based on the needs of their audience.  The editor of the writers' e-newsletter Extra Innings likes the articles to run about 300 -500 words.  He believes that his readers like shorter pieces.  For Stories for Children Magazine, the word count varies for each of our three age group categories.  The younger kids like the shorter pieces and the older kids are more interested in the longer pieces. 

Editors and literary agents set fairly strick word counts when doing critiques.  They have stacks of submissions to read; so, the word count gives them just enough of a manuscript to get a feel for the story.        

If you are writing a magazine article or sending in a critique to a literary agent or editor, be mindful of the word limit.  Should your piece exceed the limit just a tad, it’s generally okay to submit it.  When in doubt, ask.  But it you’ve written an article that is grossly over the limit, an acceptance or a favorable critique may fail to come your way.