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Monday, January 30, 2012

Picture Book Craft Intensive Webinar

Earlier this month, I discovered that Writer's Digest was sponsoring an intriguing online workshop.   Literary agent Mary Kole would be giving an hour and a half webinar.  The fee also included a critique of one picture book.  What an opportunity—I immediately registered.

A week later, I sat in front of my computer with the speakers turned on waiting for the session to begin.  Moments later Mary introduced herself and dove into her discussion.  She started by explaining  the word count for picture books.  She said that most picture books are well under 1000 words—700 words is good, 500 is even better.  She stressed the importance and the performance of page turns.  Next, Mary offered the audience some tips in writing an irresistible query letter:  make the editor care, describe what the main character wants most, and touch on the action that launches the story.  

Before the webinar ended, Mary read an assortment of picture books.  Here, I learned what makes a great story.  I also learned about the kinds of stories that touch Mary's heart.  It was amazing listening to her reaction to words.  I could just imagine her smiling.  

I loved this webinar and would suggest that you consider registering for one too, should you find one that meets your needs.  Taking the webinar forced me to take a critical look at one of my favorite picture book manuscripts.  Just when I thought it was ready to be submitted to publishers, I felt that I had to make my page turns more compelling.  I also had to reduce the word count.  And so, I edited the manuscript accordingly.

Several weeks later, I submitted it to Mary for a critique.  I'll have to wait patiently (90 days).  She has over 300 critiques to read.   But when she gets to mine, I'm hoping that this story, the characters, and the concept will touch Mary's heart.  I am hoping it will make her smile.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Uplifting Young Learners

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Molly Nero discusses the inspiration behind her book:

Teaching children of elementary age has been my life, so it makes sense that Smarty Pig is set in that environment.  Teaching 4th grade awakened my love of writing.  As I encouraged and nurtured my students in their own writing, my own abilities were strengthened.  Being critiqued by ten year-olds was very humbling, but allowed me to make sure that I was relating to them as my audience.  

Moving from the classroom to the music room brought changes not only to my teaching, but to my relationship to my students who ranged from kindergarteners to 5th graders now.

I was never your “typical” music teacher.   I would start class with everyone dancing along to the beat of an “Alvin and the Chipmunks” song with arms flailing and feet jumping.  Flinging music papers across the room to pass them out was another way to allow my students to escape from the structured classroom into my spontaneous music room.  Every child wore smiles from ear to ear. I worked hard to create a classroom where kids could talk to me about their frustrations concerning different things, and that has given voice to my writing.

During the state testing schedule, students would arrive for music absolutely drained and despondent. The idea for Smarty Pig came from hearing students express their growing apathy toward school after several days of taking these tests.  Testing was taking over the creativity and joy of learning.   As the years passed, I heard this from younger and younger students. 

My object in Smarty Pig is to uplift our youngest learners early in their academic life to see the value and fun in learning.  She gives learning a purpose in the lives of her family, making it important and relevant.  Other Smarty Pig stories will be dealing with more situations and frustrations that young students deal with like test-taking anxiety and bullying.  What was my inspiration for Smarty Pig?  The students that I have been blessed to teach for so many years.  They are my inspiration. 

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Blog visitors can submit their entries on any blog that contains the list. The entries will appear on each blog where the list resides.

Blog readers see the same list on each blog, and can "HOP" from blog to blog seeing the same list of links to follow: BLOG HOP!

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Please play nice and follow our simple rules! Make sure to FOLLOW AT LEAST ONE PERSON and as many other blogs as you'd like to have more follow back. This is what makes Book Lovers Blog Hop work, so if you're not willing to follow, please don't link up.


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January 2, 2012 at 12am MST and closes January 31, 2012 at 11pm MST!





Monday, January 16, 2012

Diary of My Days in Kenya

Rachel Yurchisin is the author of Diary of My Days in Kenya.  Her love of science and nature  inspired her to write a children’s book in the hopes of passing on her passion to other young "budding" naturalists. She is currently a sophomore in high school and resides in  Cleveland, Ohio. Rachel participates in educational programs at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and the Museum of Natural History.  

The inspiration behind the book began when Rachel was in elementary school.  Rachel's fifth grade teacher Sister Elizabeth gave the class an assignment to write a story appropriate for their age group.   Rachel says, "The book took a lot of research for a fifth grader, but I got an A+ on the assignment."

The actual story line came from the Plain Dealer newspaper. Rachel used friends' names and names of famous tennis players for characters in the book.  The animal characters in the book received their names from Swahili, the main language of Kenya, because those words reflected their attitudes and demeanors.   Rachel revealed that the protagonist's name, Susan Polling, was randomly selected from a phonebook.  

Rachel admits that she had forgotten about Diary of My Days in Kenya until the summer of 2010.  While she and her mother were cleaning out some grade school boxes, they found the story. Rachel says, "We decided to send it in to a publisher, Halo Publishing, and the rest is history."

Synopsis:

Diary of My Days in Kenya is a fictional story loosely based upon the real life occurrences of a nomadic lioness who nurtures baby oryx as if they were her own young. During a drought, the naturalist Susan Polling and other professionals are sent on assignment to observe and document this special pairing. Polling offers readers interesting insights as to why this unique phenomenon has transpired. The story explores how the traditional relationship of predator and prey is transcended, presenting a spellbinding account of how a parental bond—even a non-traditional one—can never be broken.

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What is a blog hop?
A blog hop is a link list that is SHARED ON MULTIPLE BLOGS. When several blogs put the same link list code on their blog, the exact same list appears on each blog.

Blog visitors can submit their entries on any blog that contains the list. The entries will appear on each blog where the list resides.

Blog readers see the same list on each blog, and can "HOP" from blog to blog seeing the same list of links to follow: BLOG HOP!

There will be three (3) winners and each will get a different book in the Book Giveaway.

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Book Giveaway Rules:
· Join the Book Lovers Blog Hop. (One entry)
· Follow the World of Ink Tour and leave a comment per tour blog stop.
Make sure to include your safe email so we can contact you if you are the winner.
Example: vsgrenier AT storiesforchildrenpublishing DOT com. (One bonus entry per blog stop)
· Ask a question per World of Ink Tour blog stop. (One bonus entry per tour blog stop)


Please play nice and follow our simple rules! Make sure to FOLLOW AT LEAST ONE PERSON and as many other blogs as you'd like to have more follow back. This is what makes Book Lovers Blog Hop work, so if you're not willing to follow, please don't link up.


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Book Lovers Blog Hop is Open…
January 2, 2012 at 12am MST and closes January 31, 2012 at 11pm MST!




Monday, January 9, 2012

Maryann B. Sawka Guest Blog

Today, Maryann B. Sawka shares her views on inspiration as well as the incident that prompted her to write a book. 



Writing a book is hard work! Sometimes the words flow easily from your mind directly to your keyboard or pad and pencil, while at other times you suffer from the dreaded “writer’s block” and go to amazing lengths to unblock the block.  Perhaps your unblock is to venture out for a walk, literally walking away from the project to clear your mind and refresh your senses by focusing your energy on an unrelated task.  Maybe you are the type of person who relishes the calm, soothing movements of yoga to relax and refocus your mind.  By pushing the writing from the forefront of your mind and releasing it into your subconscious thoughts, you are giving yourself permission to become inspired. 

Inspiration is a key component in most of what we do in our daily lives.  Imagine that you are inspired by a pair fashionable shoes that are priced beyond today’s balance in your checkbook, so you go to work each day in hopes that the shoes will inspire you to deliver an excellent product so that you can afford the new shoes that call your name with each passing glance in the store window.  Inspiration keeps us going even when we dream of giving up.  Inspiration is the hook that draws us in even when we have thoughts of turning the other way.  Inspiration is what changes an impossible task into a mere challenge.

When I began writing my book, Good Table Manners Made Easy, I was inspired by a negative that I hoped to turn into a positive.  As a parent of two young children, I occasionally found myself spending time in fast-food restaurants that offer “play places” where children can unwind while waiting for their meal or release some energy after enjoying their meal.  It was during one of these outings when I realized that as parents, we often throw our children into social situations without always teaching them the rules of appropriate behavior.  They are involved in activities with people who are around their same size and age, but not always with the same skill set for socializing.  Without teaching them how to behave and interact appropriately, how can we expect them to act in an acceptable manner? 

This was clearly brought to my attention during an outing with my daughter who was around five-years old at the time.  She was going about her business of playing, going up the stairs and down the slides, having a good time when another child in the play area rushed up to her with a mouthful of food and screamed in her face.  The look on my daughter’s face was a strange combination of shock, revulsion and disgust as she politely told the young gentleman that he “should not talk with food in his mouth.”  Bravo, I thought!  She did not dissolve into a fit of tears or run to me for safety.  She shared her thoughts in a polite manner and went on about her business of climbing up the stairs and sliding down the slides without seeming to give the incident another thought.  I casually turned to look at the young gentleman with the mouthful of food who was still standing with his mouth hanging open after my daughter’s comments were made to him.  His mother was involved in a discussion with another parent and didn’t notice the incident.  After swallowing his mouthful of food, he returned to his table where he finally decided to eat his meal while sitting down.

I decided that if my daughter could share a brief manners lesson with a peer, that I could help her by educating others in the lessons of appropriate behavior and manners.  My daughter inspired me to be a voice for better behavior that helps our society be the best that we can, putting forward positive interactions that build strong characters full of self-confidence and ambitions to be better.


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All you have to do is post the Book Lovers Blog Hop and World of Ink Tour Banners below to your blog. Promote the Book Lovers Hop and the January '12 World of Ink Tour on any social network. Tweet it once a day, share on Facebook and then follow others back that leave you a comment. By joining the Book Lovers Blog Hop, you are automatically entered in our Book Giveaway!

What is a blog hop?
A blog hop is a link list that is SHARED ON MULTIPLE BLOGS. When several blogs put the same link list code on their blog, the exact same list appears on each blog.

Blog visitors can submit their entries on any blog that contains the list. The entries will appear on each blog where the list resides.

Blog readers see the same list on each blog, and can "HOP" from blog to blog seeing the same list of links to follow: BLOG HOP!

There will be three (3) winners and each will get a different book in the Book Giveaway.

Copy this code to your website to display this banner: a href="http://familiesmatter2us.blogspot


Book Giveaway Rules:
· Join the Book Lovers Blog Hop. (One entry)
· Follow the World of Ink Tour and leave a comment per tour blog stop.
Make sure to include your safe email so we can contact you if you are the winner.
Example: vsgrenier AT storiesforchildrenpublishing DOT com. (One bonus entry per blog stop)
· Ask a question per World of Ink Tour blog stop. (One bonus entry per tour blog stop)


Please play nice and follow our simple rules! Make sure to FOLLOW AT LEAST ONE PERSON and as many other blogs as you'd like to have more follow back. This is what makes Book Lovers Blog Hop work, so if you're not willing to follow, please don't link up.


Remember to leave a comment on the blogs you follow to let them know you found them here at FAMILIES MATTER, and if someone follows you, be sure to follow back. If you follow us and leave a comment, we'll definitely follow you too!

Book Lovers Blog Hop is Open…
January 2, 2012 at 12am MST and closes January 31, 2012 at 11pm MST!















Monday, January 2, 2012

Leaning on an Expert

You decide to write a nonfiction article for children.  You research a topic using reliable sources: newspaper and journal articles as well as current books and websites.  After you’ve written your article, you edit it for grammar and enlist the aid of someone you trust to review your work.   All done and ready to submit to an editor?  Not yet.  Have you checked your facts? 

One of the best ways to have your facts verified is through an expert.  Search the Internet to see if you can locate and contact one of the sources you have used in your research.  Ask her politely if she would have time to review your piece for accuracy.  Mention your topic, the audience, and the publication for which you plan to pitch.  Thank her for her consideration and add that you’d give her credit for her expertise. 

It’s your choice whether you use an expert or not; however, I highly recommend it.  From my experience as a writer, I learned the hard way that some Internet sources and even some “reliable” print sources are not always trustworthy.  In fact, if it hadn’t been for an expert who had reviewed one of my articles, I may have submitted a piece that contained some erroneous information.  Likewise, from the standpoint as an editor, I would recommend that authors have their work reviewed by an expert.  Knowing a manuscript has been evaluated by an expert gives me faith that the facts have been accurately presented. 

Keep in mind that experts can offer you more than just checking the facts.  They can point out material that ought to be re-worded or omitted.  They can provide better explanations and more in-depth views on the topic that you may not have found through your research.  They can offer you some amazing quotes in which their personalities shine through—and editors love that!

Mentioning in a cover letter that your manuscript has been reviewed by an expert will impress an editor.  She’ll know that she can count on your research.  In fact, she may be more likely to send you an acceptance.  She’ll know that you’ve gone the extra mile to make sure your facts are correct.