Published

The Maggie Project is published the first of each month.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Glimmer of Goodness

It doesn’t take much
to bring a writer down:
a rejection,
no response to a follow-up,
few markets to pitch a nicely-written piece.

At times, the world of writing seems grim.

And yet, through it all
a writer emails you
an image,
(no words)
just an image of candles
burning so brilliantly you can almost
feel the warmth of the glow—
a  heartfelt Diwali greeting,

or, another writer sends a comment:
she likes your latest post
(the one you spent hours
editing,
getting the words down
just right).

No doubt, there are days when the writing world is grim
yet sometimes, sometimes, a glimmer of goodness
shines down, spreads its warmth
when you least expect it,
when you need it the most.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Entering Contests

Maggie and the First Grade Blues has won three picture book awards.  That said, you’d think I’d have editors knocking down my door to publish my book.  Not so.  It takes more than winning writing contests to get a picture book published—it takes a lot of love.

This is what I recently discovered after attending Editor’s Day in Lexington, Kentucky and WriteOnCon online.  An editor has got to go gaga about a book if she wants to publish it.  She’s got to love it so much it pierces her heart.  It’s the kind of love that impels her to gush about it to everyone she knows.  If she is not passionate about it, she won’t recommend it to the acquisitions team, no matter how many awards it’s won.

At first, I felt discouraged.  Why bother to enter contests if a manuscript fails to interest editors?  But then I realized there are many advantages.  Here are a few benefits to entering contests:  

Offers writers a challenge
Encourages writers to create an outstanding piece
Puts a writer’s work before a judge
Requires a writer to follow the guidelines
Can build a writer’s resume

These five benefits may prepare you before submitting your work to editors.  So what are you waiting for? 

Look online or in writer’s magazines for a listing of contests.  Search for a contest that charges a small fee, something like twenty-five dollars or less. Find a contest with a deadline that is far enough in advance so that it allows you time to perfect your work.  Then, go to it.  Strive to write an  exceptional piece or edit another one you have in the works.  Have a trusted friend read your work to guarantee it is free of grammar mistakes.  Double check those contest guidelines. Submit your entry. 

Consider submitting to more than one contest.  Enter the same manuscript or create a different piece.  Regardless of the result, know that you’ve accomplished an important goal that will help you in the future.  One day your manuscript just may capture an award and quite possibly, capture the heart of an editor.








Monday, October 17, 2011

Writer's News

 

photo by Lucas 

 

It's been a little over a year since I first began submitting Maggie and the First Grade Blues. Here is the update on my picture book submissions:

I submitted to Bloomsbury Children’s Books, Peachtree, Chronicle, Star Bright Books, and Harcourt Children’s Books.  After the standard three month waiting period, I received no word and conclude that these publishers have passed on my book.  Kira Lynn with Editorial Department of Kane Miller responded that my picture book was not right for their list. However, Maggie Lehrman with Abrams Books liked the voice, but felt that the market was crowded with school stories. 

As for agents, I received no reply from Sanford J. Greenburger and Mark McVeigh.  On the other hand, Marietta B. Zacker with the Nancy Gallt Literary Agency sent a kind, personal note:  [This is] “ an endearing story with a fabulous message, but admittedly, I didn't quite connect with Maggie the way I know you need me to.” Emily van Beek with Folio also sent a kind, personal note.

Recently, I submitted to Paul Rodeen Management.  I also submitted to Jessica Sinsheimer with the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, who encouraged me that she’d take a look at my picture book.  I’ve also submitted to Sterling Publishing Company and KRBY creations.  These last four bring me to my goal—30 publishers and 15 agents.  I will report on the outcome in a few months.  In the meantime, I am writing a new picture book, editing another picture book, and researching topics for nonfiction articles.  But I will keep my eyes open for other opportunities for submitting Maggie and the First Grades Blues


Monday, October 10, 2011

Tips for Writing Picture Books



Today, Maha shares suggestions for writing a picture book.  Her tips are intended for self-publishing.  Keep in mind that traditional publishers usually don't require illustration notes or page breaks.

Word count
First thing I learned is that picture books are 500-1000 words, 30 pages long. Remember that the 30 pages include the title, dedication, and the copyright pages, which leaves you with only 28 pages.

Illustrations and description
When you write a story, you would think you need to describe your scene in detail. Not so in picture books. The illustrations describe the scene. I deleted a lot of description before the illustrations, but when the illustrations arrived, I found out that I could delete even more. When I wrote my second and third stories (not published yet), I took that into account from the very beginning. What I did was to keep the description between brackets for the illustrator's benefit. This will give the illustrator an idea of how I want the scene to appear. I made another copy without the descriptions to keep count of the words.

Make a dummy
I made a dummy of my book, When Monsters Get Lonely, by adding the illustrations to the text, exactly where I wanted them to appear in a word document. I then clicked on view > full screen reading to render it in book form. I made sure the page turns left the reader wondering what’s coming next. This is the way I sent my book to the publisher to show them exactly where I wanted the text in relation to the illustrations.

Word choice
I struggled with word choice because I’m not used to writing for kids. I tried to make my words as simple as I could. This was not easy, because the idea I was trying to convey in When Monsters Get Lonely is not simple. In the end, I felt that my words were descriptive and sensory enough to engage a child. Parents will read a book if they like its theme.

Read it out loud
One of the tips I read when I was writing my book was to read it aloud, and I did do that not only to myself, but to my husband and my sister-in-law. It helps you get an idea of how it will sound to the kids.

Plot and theme
All good books must have a climax and resolution. I’m afraid that my editor gave me a really poor critique, which was an education to me. I rewrote my story and revised my plot to include the all important climax and resolution. It didn’t change what Grams wanted to teach Hannah, but it handed Hannah a way to find the solution herself. Hence, Grams didn’t sound like she was preaching and it made for a much more interesting story.
Character
The main character must have strong traits and resolve the problem. By resolving her own problems, Hannah’s character naturally developed and emerged as a strong and intelligent child despite her fear.

Maha Huneidi says she learned quite a lot when she wrote and self-published When Monsters Get Lonely. She thinks you can learn from the mistakes she made and corrected along the way.


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Monday, October 3, 2011

The Backstory of the Quincy the Horse Books



The real Quincy is now 20 years old and has many accomplishments under his belt. He is an Equine Assisted Psychotherapy horse and the protagonist of the Quincy the Horse Books; but to his family, he will always be known as “Little Quince.” Quincy is the little guy in our barn. His neighbors are Silver, an Irish sport horse who is the big guy, and Buck, a tall, rangy gray who is the head guy. I am afraid he does not get much chance for input. On the whole he usually has to go along with whatever his big brothers want.
Quincy has always been a beautiful sight with his shiny copper coat, a white blaze and soft brown eyes. He and I have always had a special bond. The events that inspired the Quincy the Horse Books happened many years ago when Quincy came to live with me. I brought him from New York, where I had lived for many years, to New Mexico. I am sure readers would enjoy knowing more about our real life adventures.
I bought Quincy because my old Quarter horse, Beaujolais, needed a partner at our new home in New Mexico. I planned to have a small horse barn on my property rather than stabling my horses in a boarding facility. Beau and Quincy hit it off from day one. Quincy looked up to Beau and wanted to be with him and Beau clearly enjoyed having Quincy as a friend.
Soon after our arrival to New Mexico, I took Quincy on our first trail ride. I quickly discovered that trails in the West were different than the manicured parks and wooded lanes of the Eastern U. S. There are wide vistas in every direction and many horses react to this by wanting to move out. When they are held back, it is not unheard of for them to buck. Sorry to say that on that first ride, I ended up on the ground. Unfortunately that was not the last time; it was more of a regular occurrence than I would like to remember.
Readers will not be surprised to hear that one of my first ideas for a story was a plot where Quincy wants more than anything to be a calm trail horse, but his Big Problem is that he has an irresistible impulse to buck. I could see humor in that story line. Maybe I wanted to laugh rather than cry!
The next real thing that happened was not so funny. Quincy got sick. He was diagnosed with what was then a little known and poorly understood disease called Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis or EPM. For two years he struggled with repeated outbreaks, experiencing pain and instability and requiring toxic medications. Those were sad and scary times.
Luckily, better medications were forthcoming and Quincy responded well to them. Quincy and I then spent many hours in the round pen during his rehabilitation. It was standing in the round pen day after day feeling grateful that he had made it through, when I first thought of writing a book about his life. As I said earlier, there were various ideas that came to mind. In addition to the bucking bronco scenario, I thought of a book called Quincy in the Round Pen that would have recounted his illness and recovery.
In the end, I settled on a more gentle tone about his every day adventures. I also decided to highlight his personality and loving bonds to me and his best friend, Beau. I hoped that children would relate to his day to day challenges and the way he tried to find answers to his problems. I especially hoped that they would enjoy being part of Quincy’s world and learning the joys of life with horses.






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