Friday, April 29, 2011
Thursday, April 28, 2011
We are proud to announce our last installment in our partnership with Seattle Children’s Theatre for the 2010-2011 Season! During the run of each show of the season, we will be hosting weekend Drama Story events with artists from Seattle Children’s Theatre Drama School. The artists share concepts and actions from the play interactively with the audience. This one is Jackie & Me, adapted from the book by Dan Gutman.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
We writers are all guilty of this at some point or another: we write something and we are so excited that we send it off to our agent or to our editor, or to a reader friend- and then three days later we think of a better ending- or we realize we left out an important transition. Let your work REST! If you still like it a month or so later- then send it out to see if it is worthy of publication.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
To survive the tumultuous first years with kids, smart parents learn to do things faster, cheaper, and easier. Wouldn't it be great if their hard-won shortcuts were collected into one handy reference? Here's a book that does just that. Featuring 400 of the best tips and tricks from veteran moms and dads, MAMA'S BIG BOOK OF LITTLE LIFESAVERS gets straight to the point with modern solutions to age-old parenting dilemmas such as getting baby to sleep, potty training, saving cash on baby gear, streamlining bedtime, and much more. Easy to dip in and out of, this book helps parents get through each day with a few spare minutes, a few extra dollars, and their sanity intact!
Bring your questions and meet these local experts at this free event. You can find out more information on the Secret Garden website.
Monday, April 25, 2011
The instructors for the workshop will include five established children's book authors (between them, specializing in YA and middle school novels, picture books, non-fiction, magazine pieces, and poetry), two children's book editors from major houses, and one children's book agent. Summer Workshop 2011 promises to be our best yet because:
- The instructor-student ratio will be a maximum of one to seven
- Each day you will meet with an instructor for at least one comprehensive consultation
- You can have one-on-one informal meetings with instructors each day as well
- Every student who wishes can have an anonymous first page manuscript critique by all eight instructors in front of the class
- We will offer at least twelve instructional lectures on various aspects of writing and publishing
- There will be two evening presentations by instructors
- Out-of-class consultations with instructors are available
- There will be at least three guest lectures/writing workshops
- There will be two wonderful parties (quite appropriate for friends, partners, spouses, children)
If you are ambitious to publish a children's book (or simply adore children's books) this is the workshop for you. It will allow you to connect directly with authors, editors, agents who are active in the children's book business. If you go to the website and look under Evaluations, you'll see that it's received extraordinarily high praise (some listed below).
The course is available for graduate credit.
For complete information we welcome you to visit our website. There's a generous refund policy (described at the website) if you decide to register now and then later on change your mind.
There will be games & goodies galore! For more information on Stephanie, and her work, visit her super cute website.
We’ll kick off our evening by sharing a brief conference highlight (from those of us who were able to attend). Then we’ll slide into the subject of social networking: Why should I? What are the benefits? How do I do it? Please join us for an encouraging evening as we discuss these questions and more.
No RSVP required. We will be meeting at Barnes & Noble again (in the café). Questions or comments? Please contact Angelina Hansen: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope to see you there!
Sunday, April 24, 2011
The 9th Annual Pacific Coast Children’s Writers Workshop presents
THE WHOLE NOVEL RETREAT:
Envision and Edit Your Story with the Pros
A Team-Taught Seminar Focused on Character-Driven Novels
October 7-9, 2011 Coastal Santa Cruz, CA
Are you a skilled writer, published or aspiring, seeking something “different” in a fiction
workshop? Perhaps it’s time for faculty feedback on your full novel—including two inperson
consults with your mentor. Or maybe you’re ready for multiple professional
critiques on your polished, opening chapters… and a thoughtful review of your synopsis.
Here’s how our event can assist up to fourteen goal-oriented writers like you:
COST: $769-$799 for adults (less any work or teen discounts). Fee includes pre-workshop materials, all
workshop sessions, townhouse lodging on a private beach and most meals. Additional
fee for whole-novel, written editor or agent critique with two consults: approx $400-600.
Click here for more information and to apply. Apply by May 15 for priority consideration. Later applications accepted until June
25 or until filled.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
ETA: Okay, it'd help if I used the correct email address. If you tried and failed, it's fixed now!
Friday, April 22, 2011
Thursday, April 21, 2011
If you're interested in talking to Tim about his services, check out his Facebook page; his email info is listed there. He notes, "I take pains to forewarn people that they will get the most advantage of my services if their work is as far along as they can take it first."
I just filled out my survey for the 20th Annual Conference, but I feel compelled to send this email as an extra "thank you." As a newbie, I really didn't know what to expect (and, indeed, if I had, it would have been not to expect much--so's to avoid disappointment), but I have to say how utterly fabulous the whole weekend was! I don't usually wax poetic about things like this, but WOW--you guys did a fabulous job. I can't even begin to imagine how much work it was/is!! So I congratulate, and thank you all for making it such an amazing, memorable, and educational experience!
Finally, apropos of this, I thought I'd share a little bit of what I think of as "synchronicity" relative to the conference and this week's Illustration Friday topic, "Journey." When I read the topic on Friday morning, I thought, "oh darn, I won't have time to get my post up before I have to leave for the conference." So I made a quick sketch and decided I'd get to it when I got home. So yesterday morning, I pulled out the sketch and realized how it TOTALLY matched how I felt/feel about my experience at the conference this weekend. I Hope you don't mind that I attached my final version of it. It kind of sums it up for me :)
Again, my most sincerest thanks!
Elizabeth Rose Stanton
And here's her super-cute image. Yes, it kind of sums it all up for me, too. :)
-Too much information about the author
-Too much story, too convoluted (write a two sentence hook, NOT a synopsis)
-Query is too long (keep it to three short paragraphs!)
-Don't make references to how much friends, family, students like your work
-Don't tell them your book is a good fit (they'll be the judge of that)
-Don't use too many character names
Most of all they emphasized keeping it simple. Strip down your story to an irresistible hook and let it shine.
Tina, an agent at ICM, made it clear from the get-go there have to be five things present in a manuscript for her to take it on.
1. A strong hook
2. A fantastic opening chapter
3. Distinct voice
4. Memorable characters
5. An engaging plot
As far as taste is concerned, Tina looks for high concept stories. What she passes on are stories that are too quiet, too gimmicky, or feel like they are a copy of a copy instead of being original. Preferring minimal setup and back story, Tina looks for a hook and first chapter that will throw her into the story and keep her turning the pages. The number one reason she doesn't read past the first chapter is that she is BORED. The second reason is that she is not emotionally invested.
A consistent voice is paramount; pay attention to which words your narrator would and would not use. She says that plot is easy to fix, BUT she passes on a plot when it is too predictable, boring, or too twisty. There must be a strong setting. If your story could take place anywhere else, then you don't have the right setting. And of course, there has to be a satisfying ending.
After Deborah Wiles fantastic keynote Saturday morning, her breakout session, Understanding Revision, was packed to standing room only. Deborah began by crowd sourcing with the question, What is revision? She encouraged us to re-examine our process every time and to pay particular attention to reading like a writer to aid in revision. Ask yourself, HOW did that work?
Deborah then took apart three "perfect" picture books (Car Wash, The Paperboy, and Owl Babies) to show how every story should work (from picture book to novel). What they showed:
-Don't be afraid to use fragments of speech
-Ignore any prohibitive things, but know what you can't ignore
-Pay attention to language; make sure it's appropriate to your age, genre, etc
-Use foreshadowing judiciously
-Let your writing infer, DON'T spell everything out
-Bring the story full circle for a satisfactory ending
-Before starting a project, it helps to focus on "one clear moment in time." Writing a focus sentence about that helps keep your story in check.
-Make sure every scene, chapter, and story has a beginning, middle, and end.
-Remember that every emotion has an action.
-Make dialogue work for you. Its three jobs are: characterization, providing information, and pushing the story forward. If it's not doing this, then cut it.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Second runner up: Robin Kaplan
First runner up: Jaime Temairik
Grand prize winner: Ben Clanton
Yay for you all!
Jennifer K. Mann
Katherine Macomber Millman
Allyson Valentine Schrier
Laura J. Tiberio
Paula Van Enkevort
Kristin Elizabeth Wahanik
Congratulations to all and best of luck turning that promise into greater success!
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Children's Book Illustration I
Immerse yourself in the world of children’s book illustration with this introductory course. Through in-class assignments using a variety of media, you'll learn basic techniques to complete illustrations for young readers. Also learn the business side of children’s book illustration, including what it takes to get your work seen by the right people. Character consistency, portfolios, contracts, and other topics are also covered. Basic drawing skills are helpful but not required. Some homework is required.
Children's Book Illustration II
Explore in greater depth your passion for children's book illustration. In this intermediate course, you will learn, step-by-step, how to create a children's picture book dummy that, when
finished, can be submitted to publishers for possible publication. From developing an initial story board to completing full page sketches, this is the perfect course if you have a children's story you have longed to illustrate and potentially publish!
Bellevue Community College, Saturdays, 7 Sessions, April 23-June 11, 2011, from 1:30-4:30 p.m., Class fee is $145. Call (425) 564-2262, or visit the course page.
Whatcom Community College, Wednesdays, 8 Sessions, April 20-June 15, 2011, from 6-8:30 pm., Class fee is $199, visit the course page.
You can find out more information about Craig, his work, and see his blog on his website.
Monday, April 18, 2011
“Dialogue must come alive in the mouth,” said Lin.
This is just one of many nuggets of advice Lin gave us during her workshop. She told us to let dialogue give our characters voice, to move the plot along, to dramatize the action, to forward the story, to add pace and rhythm to the scene, and to allow characters to express their emotions.
A few of Lin’s tips for writing effective dialogue are: make kids sound like kids, always read your dialogue aloud, and beware of using too many alternative words for said.
And perhaps the best tip she gave us was: EAVESDROP! EAVESDROP! EAVESDROP! Pick out the tics in the way different people talk. Notice how teenagers talk versus five-year-olds. Can you tell where a person is from? Can you tell if they are passive aggressive or apologetic? Angry?
How will you know when you’re writing good dialogue? You as the author will disappear, vanish, and your characters will seem to move under their own power and speak their own voice, sometimes surprising even you with what they have to say. They and you will be in the flow.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Kevin Emerson has published six novels for middle-grade readers: CARLOS IS GONNA GET IT (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2008) and the Oliver Nocturne series (Scholastic, 2008-2009). His next novels, THE FELLOWSHIP FOR ALIEN DETECTION for middle-grade readers and book #1 in the Atlanteans trilogy for young-adult readers, will be published by HarperCollins in 2012. Kevin is also the singer/songwriter for Seattle band Central Services and their kids' music project, The Board of Education.
How do you make your characters unique? Make them pop off the page and into readers' hearts? Kevin gave us some helpful tools using wit, personal anecdotes, and his own work. Here's a quick peek :
Create relatable situations for your characters, drawing on your own experiences.
Push your characters into difficult situations, scenarios in which perhaps the character suddenly takes control after feeling powerless for so long.
Have your main and secondary characters interact and provide insight into their personalities through dialogue and sensory descriptions.
Language, descriptive sentences, setting, and dialogue all play a part in making your characters sparkle!
Reported by Liz Mills
Rosanne Parry is the author of the picture book DADDY’S HOME and the middle-grade novels HEART OF A SHEPHERD and SECOND FIDDLE. She lives in Portland, OR, and writes in a treehouse in her backyard.
In a straight-talking presentation peppered with heartwarming anecdotes and personal experiences, Rosanne took us through the steps to creating a collaborative marketing plan for our books or future books. While it is a reality that large publishers do not have deep promotional pockets for all their authors, there are ways to collaborate with each other as authors to celebrate the writing and reading community, establish a presence in that community, and hopefully sell books along the way. These partnerships can even focus on one aspect of your book, as in the event Rosanne did for SECOND FIDDLE, in which young musicians came and played pieces related to her book and provided a wonderful evening of entertainment in support of a good cause.
Rosanne focused her talk on two core ideas: tips on things everyone can do according to their book’s genre, and what authors should keep in mind as they brainstorm an appropriate marketing plan. Using the rubric Local, Level, Topic, and Clan, she encouraged us to read widely in our genre and get to know our fellows, so that we can partner with them effectively and meaningfully. I know I’ll be working on my marketing plan over the next few weeks, looking for creative ways to collaborate with and contribute to my community, helping to nurture a love of reading.
"I believe that characters are the beating heart that animates the plot."
Holly has found herself asking these questions when writing and thinking about plot:
-How do you KNOW what scenes are the right ones?
-How do you CHOOSE what your character does?
How do you figure out what happens next?
And, if you don't what happens next, how the hell do you figure out what happens AFTER THAT?
When you are deep in the character's head you can get stuck. When you're plotting sometimes you need to figure out how to take a step back and see the bigger picture.
If you look at most books, they begin and end with subplot. It's the interaction between the plot and subplot(s) that makes the story.
"Talking out loud made me think differently than I actually thought." Holly realized this was how she could get at the shape of story. She's using her brain differently while speaking out loud and talking plot through. It also allows people to ask questions. She also feels more freedom to try out a crazy idea.
Holly Black has just called E. Lockhart on stage to talk out plot! Too fun.
It helps to talk plot out because you don't feel committed to as much as you do when you write it down. It frees you.
|Liz Wanieski reads from FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB|
Liz suggests you ask yourself these questions:
If you could choose one book character to be your best friend, who would it be and why?
Which book character would be your mortal enemy, and why?
The characters we love the most give us insight to ourselves and our world.
Liz's first focus when she signs up a book is character. A books main character needs to be:
-fully fleshed out
-And... a character one that the story could never happen without them.
Richard Peck is a master at creating this kind of character.
Liz doesn't need to like a character right away but needs to wish to know him or her better.
When you're writing a series, it's a good idea to have a single sentence that can describe the whole series. "It needs to not be complicated," he says.
|Kevin, with ice cream|
He asks why we love series:
We love to read about characters over and over again, and we love to watch them grow and change.
"In real life, we tend to change in increments. What you get to do in a series is slowly evolve the character as you go along. You don't have to do a big switch."
All of the relationships in a book are dials that you can adjust. You don't have to attend to them all in a single book. "It's a little bit more realistic to how we operate on a day to day basis," he says.
Series also allow for big stories. Sometimes, the fate of the world is at stake.
How Kevin's first series came to be:
The books have come out in the Czech Republic, France, Spain, and Australia, among other places. He self-published a sixth book. (Just this week! Find more information here.)
With his next series:
He showed Katherine Tegen an idea, but it wasn't right for her. She asked what else he had, and he sent along the idea for the Atlanteans series. It had a lot of compelling elements: global warming, environmental degradation, dystopian/post-apocalyptic worlds. He brought three chapters and pitched a solid trilogy with an outline and sold it from the proposal.
"The way I have met editors has been by showing them single books. There is the question, 'What else do you have'?" And that's where the conversation turns to series.
About series proposals
Writing a good proposal is part of selling a book series. You want to sketch out the beginning in detail, and leave yourself room to get to know your characters better as you write. Include lots of information about the character, what he's going to do, and the world he inhabits.
Jim Whiting talked about The Good, the Bad and the Very, Very Ugly of nonfiction hooks.
Using dozens of examples from his own nonfiction writing, Jim demonstrated varied openings for a host of nonfiction topics, discussing the strengths in each.
· In a biography, instead of starting with birth, start with an incident that has immediate appeal.
· As in fiction, the rule of threes applies.
· When writing about historical events find a modern hook that today’s readers can relate to.
· Don’t be squeamish about appealing to a kid’s appreciation for the disgusting
Jim also handed out a baker’s dozen style notes, including things like:
· Use vivid, precise verbs. Instead of walk consider shamble, strut, amble.
· Try not to use the word “very” with any consistency
· Try not to use a passive voice
Seven local authors and illustrators share their successes.
She talked about "night logic" systems, which create the illusion that there's a working system of magic underneath your story. She asks these questions:
- Who has it?
- What does it do?
- How do you make it happen?
- How is a user affected?
- How is the world affected?
- How are magic users grouped and perceived?
It's an Open Fantasy (as opposed to a Closed Fantasy) in which everyone in the world knows about the magic. It's not a fairyland a person stumbles into. In her world, magic is passed from hand to hand, so people wear gloves. An ungloved hand is like someone coming at you with a knife. She worked through all these details and answered the questions above.
Then she asks additional questions such as these:
- What is the cost of magic? Give it a cost and it automatically feels more real. (Isolation and the weight of responsibility are common costs.)
- What are the limits of magic? All magic needs to be calibrated. You can use the same six questions to define the limits.
- What is a potential model for your magic?
- What do the rules of the magic say about the world? Magic is narrative (and also metaphor).
Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey
Sabriel by Garth Nix
Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
"Once you've created your magic system, the best thing you can do is try and break it," she says. "That is what your readers will do. And to a certain extent, that is what characters will do." (It's good to have friends who are gamers, she adds, because they ask incredibly annoying questions.)
Former regional adviser Sara Easterly presented the award to the wonderful Peggy King Anderson, who has taught a huge number of writers how to tell the best stories they can.
Her students describe her as maternal, effervescent, unconditional, ebullient, and generous, among other wonderful qualities.
There is so much love for Peggy in this region. She received a standing ovation (two, actually), and when Sara asked her former students to remain standing, half the 400 people here stayed on their feet.
A number of her former students shared their memories of their time in her class, speaking about the many ways she's helped them become better both as writers and human beings.
"I'm hardly ever speechless," Peggy said. "I thought I was this time, but I'm obviously not. ... You're such a special part of my life, and it's so wonderful to look out at you and know I know almost all of you."
Congratulations, Peggy, and thank you for everything you've given us.
GETTING TO POINT B
After many technical difficulties caused by Oliver the AV guy (just kidding, Oliver!!!!) Dan showed us a quick music video montage of his work. And then we all started crying. Because Dan is a giant ball of heart, talent, goodness and inspiration.
Since most of us have a goal, a Point B, Dan talked about his goals both personal and professional. And hopes what he's learned along the way will help us reach ours.
He describes himself as a very unconfident person in an overconfident shell. Early on in his career he really didn't have much of a support group. Dan's felt like he's always working harder than other people just to keep up, and he wonders if we ever feel like that, too.
Early Dan life:
Growing up an only child, Dan often stayed home with books if his mother was feeling ill. And all that time alone with books, especially those about drawing, made Dan a pretty talented little artist.
Point B #1
(become a storyteller)
Dan was all set to be a dentist! But one day at college, he took a short cut through a job fair and saw that there were actually jobs where you MADE ARTY BOOKS. After some initial surprise and ambivalence, Dan's family got on board and Dan enrolled at Art Center College of Design.
Dan went to school with Peter Brown. We're so sorry, Dan! No really, they were some of the only illustrators there interested in pursuing children's book illustration and banded together. David Shannon started the kidlit art classes at ACCD that Dan was in. Dan received a frank critique from David, "Kid you don't have what it takes. Yet." David thought Dan needed to find his own style and be true to himself as an artist.
Dan sez: Trying to find a style vs. letting the style find you. Don't try too hard, have fun, let go and be prepared for it to take time.
His first trip to NY: Went while in school, so he could get critiques on his current level of work, and use that feedback to direct the rest of his studies at ACCD.
Dan sez: Go to New York and just look at the publisher's building. Knowing where your portfolio samples and postcards go gets you connected and energized to your goal of getting published.
Point B #2
(earn a living while continuing to grow)
Dan wanted to prove to family that going to art school wasn't a mistake. First jobs after college were video games, six years of video game art. Thankless job, lots of manhandling, says Dan, but it was hard to beat having a steady income.
On the side he did freelance art like the Macy's Day Parade poster and ad art.
Dan wanted to make a children's illustration portfolio and did so by painting every night after work. He excused himself from any kind of photo reference and said to himself, "I'm not going to stop working on a painting until I'm happy enough with that painting to hang it on my wall."
With that devotion to just doing the work, with each portfolio piece, Dan got faster, and faster, and faster with his painting skills and drafting skills.
Dan sez: Do the blue collar thing, work hard on your portfolio.
With this work ethic, Dan won the Don Freeman Grant!
(land a book deal)
SCBWI! Dan went to his first LA conference in 2003. Kadir Nelson reviewed his portfolio and Arthur Levine was a portfolio judge. At the end of the day Arthur Levine came over and said "I'm Arthur Levine and I'd like to give you a two book deal."
And that is where we will leave things for now. I bet you a billion donuts or dollars that Dan will be headlining another SCBWI conference or doing award acceptance speeches soon, and you will want to go hear his story in person.
SCBWI WWA LOVES DAN!
Reported by Angelina Hansen
Author Emily Jenkins shared about revising and more during the Saturday afternoon keynote address. Here's some highlights:
Children’s books should be “small treats” that can be taken frequently without ill effects
Picture books articulate the connection to parents and caregivers. The child learns to accept things, know why parents are right. Obedience. Respect. Safety. These have agendas, but can also be fun to read.
Figure out why you’re writing your story. To educate or inspire? If so, you need another reason. You need a driving desire or problem. Figure it out by writing the story, otherwise it will be stagnant and boring. If you set out to teach a lesson, your book is in danger of getting bogged down by the message.
Make your story is an emotionally and mentally stimulating treat. If something is not delicious, it should go.
Writing across table from John Green, he asks Emily, “ Can you make the book better?”
“Don’t have time,” Emily says.
“Don’t turn it in,” John says. “DON’T TURN IT IN UNTIL YOUR BOOK IS GOOD ENOUGH!”"
* Add action.
* Have something physical happening.
* “There is a plan afoot” but do not tell reader what it is. Overt foreshadowing. Create a mystery, even if it’s not a mystery.
Find a voice and push it, push it, push it. How?
* Mess with punctuation.
* Add a lot of paragraph breaks and caps and ! Go back and fix it later.
* Incite the reader’s curiosity in the first sentence. For example “Where is Papa going with that ax?” CHARLOTTE’S WEB
*Let this sentence have a rhythm. Can’t be any other book. Unique.
Invite readers in and makes them care!
Brent Hartinger gave a talk titled "HOW FAR IS TOO FAR? The Limits of Teen Lit."
He started with a brief history of the YA genre:
1950s: everything’s “peachy”
1960s: new funding for school libraries and The Outsiders published
1970s: Judy Blume
1980s: school funding cuts = publishing disaster
1990s: edgier, more relevant books and the birth of a “new” genre
Brent showed us where the “limits” of teen lit are. Language, sexuality, homosexuality, guns, violence, rape, religion, etc. If we choose to explore these themes we must be prepared for controversy, but do not let this keep us from writing our books. With that said, we must write responsibly. No librarian is going to get behind a book that was written irresponsibly.
Brent said there is a difference between writing a book as an instruction manual for how a teenager should behave rather than writing a book on how teenagers actually are. What book do you think the teenager will actually read???
We must keep in mind that the “hot buttons” in society shift and change. The rules of today may be gone tomorrow.
Standing room only. Take that Tina Wexler.
Victoria Jamieson just finished art for a book coming out in a year and a half. Used to be a book designer at Green Willow. Great way to learn how to make books and see how other artists submit their dummies.
What is a dummy? Basically a working sketch of your picture book. Any size, filled with text and sketches. One or two color pieces. Could be designed or could be a Word document, cut and taped down. Showed 6 different dummies for same book. If you're not into making revisions, you should probably think about a different profession. Even the size changed in the course of her changes. Passed around her dummies.
Making a Dummy
Always start by folding a piece and folding in half, so you are aware of the gutter, Take 8 pieces of paper and fold them in half, you've got a dummy.
1. tool for you as the illustrator. You can see your text in the format of the book. Break it up. Do illustrations work? Did you leave room for type? Do you have a nice assortment of single pages and spreads? Visually too much text? Rule of thumb: cut text in half and then halve again.
2. Dummies are portable, so give them to your mean friends who will give you real feedback. You don't need to take all comments, but if you hear 10 times that they can't tell if it's a goat or a bunny, pay attention.
3. Perfectly acceptable way to give to a publisher or agent. Nice package - clear envelope, name tag, post card.
Dummies are invaluable for author/illustrators. Also good for writers just to see how text would break up. Nothing takes the place of having a tangible book in your hands. Illustrators have a definite advantage because they can tell a story visually. And then you add as few words as you can get away with.
Start with thumbnail layout. Usually 32. Make sure it's got a title and dedication page to show publishers you know how it's done, even though you might put dedication at the end.
Start with rough thumbnail sketches, but clean them up a bit before submission, so publisher doesn't think you're a raging lunatic.
How finished should your sketches be? Pretty close to finals, so no big surprises for art director.
What do you put in those 32 pages? Still follow rules of novel: need to have a beginning, middle and end. Exposition, introduce character, what are they like. Shouldn't be just a laundry list. Something has to happen. Complication: what's the problem, what's going on? Climax: everything comes to a head. Right around page 28. Resolution: problem gets solved.
Narrative Arc Formula (Darcy Pattison: 30 Days to a Stronger Picture Book)
• This is a story about ______
• Who more than anything wants _______________ or fears ___________
• But can't because of these complications:
• Until __________________________
You get to be a vindictive god who doesn't let your character have what they most desire, UNTIL ________________
Moe Willems' "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus" as example. Sets up conflict right away. Pigeon then starts pleading and whining and cajoling, etc. More pictures per page, reaching the climax of "LET ME DRIVE THE BUS!" Then he is resigned, cools down. Accepts his defeat, his reversal. But then a truck comes in. "Hey..." Now pigeon has a new dream.
"No, David" by David Shannon
Starts off with lots of "no's." Get to know David. Funny examples.. Runs naked, picks nose. But then pushes too far and breaks vase and gets in trouble and punished. But resolution: "Come here, baby. yes, David, I love you."
Good things to remember
1. fewest words possible
2. Repetition of phrases, often in threes
3. Does it reach climax verbally AND visually?
4. Is there a compact and ultimately satisfying ending?
"Where the Wild Things Are"
pictures get bigger and bigger, spreads. Wild Rumpus climaxes with three full spreads with no words. Then cools down with single page.
Ending Your Story
Introducing the MOTHER OF ALL PAGE TURNS
• Make your ending inevitable, but not predictable. Stay true to your character and the world you've created
• Let the story live beyond page 32
• moral or no moral?
Mother of All Page Turns
1, unexpected twist
2 begin the cycle again
4. emotional connection
"Miss Nelson is Missing" James Marshall
nice sweet teacher gets walked on by her students. Evil teacher shows up and scares them and they so want Miss Nelson back. Secret is never told outright, but the visuals let the kid reader see for themselves. Final page has a private detective looking for the evil teacher, which makes the kid reader smarter than this adult detective. Victoria used to just laugh and laugh at dumb detective.
Moral or no moral?
Don't always need a happy, expected ending.
"Bea and Mr.Jones" father and daughter switch places and both do very well, have fun. You expect them to go back to their lives, but they don't. They both really like it and stay in their new roles. And why not? Imagine what the different endings could be.
Letter with your dummy
Check out QueryShark to see how to write query letters. But don't stress out. Most folks will read a dummy no matter what. A query letter would be sent alone to ask if they would like to see your dummy. Good to find out at conferences who will take dummies cold.
Victoria showed us two pretty final dummies of "Olympig." Her first one kept getting rejected. Finally her agent told her it was too preachy, with a "lesson" for Boomer. He's really bad at all the sports, until the mud. He's gonna win, but hears a "help" and goes back to help someone. Loses the race, but becomes a hero. Multiple agencies rejected it. Comments about predicability and "everybody wins." How could she turn the story on its head? After she threw the letter in the corner, she really started thinking about it and watched more olympic tapes.
Final: more backstory about Boomer, why is he so obsessed? Who is his family? Why does he think he will win? The race reporter stays with him, interviewing, etc. Boomer keeps losing, even though he really tried and practiced. But his mom still loves him, so he goes back in, apologizes and tries. Still loses, but realizes it was terrific practice for Winter Olympics. And it's gonna be published! Yay!
Jesse Watson is fed spiritually and artistically in part by refereeing family ninja fights, school visits and surfing. After seeing his dad making no money in art he went into the lucrative business of art framing. But having to frame so much bad art forced him to go ahead and do art to feed his soul if not his wallet
First foray into children's books was the SCBWI New York conference, where he entered the portfolio show and won. Didn't get any work until a few years later, but it certainly boosted his confidence. He has since built up his body of work and clients and loves what he does.
How do you visually tell a story? Start with story boards that are very loose and cinematic. As a director, you get to call the shots. Do lots of simple thumbnails until you get what you like. Much easier to make changes at this stage than at final art. The decision-making happens (much easier) at the sketch stage.
Think about flow when you are making your thumbnail storyboards. Where does your eye go? You can see the entire story at a glance and see what's working and keep it flowing. As an illustrator, you are ILLUMINATING the text, not just regurgitating it. Similarly, the writer must trust the illustrator to illuminate and fill in the blanks. Don't overwrite.
Look at your flow like a movie director. When should you slow down for emphasis and when should you speed up? Move through your pages, aim your character toward the page turn, toward the flow.
Hope For Haiti. This is such a bleak story, how do you tell that story without seriously bumming everybody out? Answer: look at it from the eyes of a kid. This homeless camp is in a world-class soccer stadium. How cool is that? That helped Jesse tell his story and get it from concept to published in less than three months.
Thumbnail exercise: tell the story of The Three Little Pigs in 16 panels. How much text do you need? How much of the story can you tell with simple (badly drawn, sketchy) thumbnails? And have fun!
In her opening remarks at the SCBWI WWA Book to the Future Conference, Deborah Wiles shared with her listeners that story comes from three places: What you know, What you feel and What you can imagine.
Deborah, who is never without a notebook to record everything from grocery lists to the unfolding of daily life, encouraged the audience of rapt writers to Ask Questions and Be Curious. Ask questions and produce lists that will allow you to dig deeper into your own personal history. Deborah commented that this capture of the narrative of one’s life should be the backbone of one’s fiction.
Alont with photographic images from her past, Deborah flashed on the screen a list of Maslow’s Five Basic Human Needs:
- To love and be loved
- To be safe
- To belong
- To do, have purpose/matter
- To understand
Finally, Deborah asked the question: If you could only tell one question, what would it be? She shared her own long and twisting path to publication, finishing with a description of her latest work, a totally cool fiction/documentary book about the 1960s.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Martha Mihalick, associate editor of Greenwillow Books, spoke on Hidden Spaces: Building Memorable Characters and the Ties Between Them.
She said writers need to develop characters that their readers can identify with, love, sympathize with, or love to hate. It’s important to develop your main character, your secondary characters, and just as importantly, how the characters relate to each other. Characters come alive through their relationships, their objects/possessions, their actions/reactions, and their opinions.
Justin started his talk about the future of publishing by dispelling a couple of myths:
1) Myth: Simon and Schuster isn't interested in literary books. This isn't true--they have literary imprints.
But he wasn't about to disparage any sort of book. "If a kid wants to read it, then by God, we're doing something great. ... Our main goal is to get kids to read."
At S&S, they are happy to publish books that sell only 2,000 copies if those are books kids on the fringe want to read. It's not all about the mega-bestsellers. They've also received many awards from the American Library Association, which acknowledges literary works, he sayd.
2) Myth: S&S isn't going to publish picture books. He adores them, but said, "I am going to beat up on picture books today. I'm going to be doom and gloom. I'm going to be more doom and gloom afterward. That's realistic. We have to be realistic."
Picture books are the seeds to plant that grow readers, so they're important to keep publishing.
His list has gone from about 50 percent picture books a few years ago to 10 percent. (Teen books are selling much better.)
An uplifting thought about picture books: He commissioned a study of PBs sold on Amazon and Baker & Taylor (a distributor). The rate of sale of PBs is the same in each area, which means people still want them. It's about finding ways to get people the books.
Also, some picture books are actually working:
- Texts that are shorter. "If you think you've written a picture book that's too short, you're wrong. Make it shorter." Parents don't want to read Moby Dick to their kids. They want to read something that's short, that has a lot of life, that has oomph.
- Quirky is good. An identifiable character is good. Short. "I'm going to keep saying that till I'm blue in the face," he said. The age range is not really 4-8 anymore. It's more like 4-6 (or even 3-6).
Justin also wants books to be so beloved they will melt your face. (And maybe in the future, you can shape yourself new features with the melty remainders--Justin didn't say.)
Middle grade books
Middle-grade boys are reading (it's a myth they're not). Teen boys, not so much. But middle grade boys are reading and an author like Rick Riordan feels "boy." Ten years ago, people would say that couldn't be done.
What's on the downswing: pink, princessy books. The marketplace doesn't want it--but the marketplace doesn't know what it's doing, he said. Everyone but Abrams turned down DIARY OF A WIMPY KID. (Oops!)
There's a lot of contradiction in publishing, which is why you have to go with your gut.
Young Adult books It's a great time to be a teen debut novelist. Some warning signs: A lot of stuff about the world ending. He's read a lot about viruses. Is there ever a point when it's too much? He's seen it with picture books (and celebrity picture books).
"How much flesh-eating viruses do we need?"
He doesn't know what the next trend is. He wants to see more experimentation. "Good storytelling is going to be the trend forever."
Nothing trumps story and writing, he says. We're curating content and stories--not making movies and video games.
One final myth--that publishers are all about the bottom line: Publishers are NOT all bottom-line people, Justin says. They love books. Literature. The tradition, and making a contribution into this world.
Rosanne Parry is the author of DADDY'S HOME and the middle-grade novels THE HEART OF A SHEPHERD and SECOND FIDDLE.
People in this industry are nice people. A lot of nice people write nice characters.
Rosanne sees others write many characters with quirks rather than flaws. Quirks can be charming and funny, but you need characters that make choices that escalate the conflict.