Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mallard Shoes

Wordy Bird is in love. With a pair of shoes.

Yesterday, I took some photos of a pair of mallards on the pond near my house:

And today, I received a link from my writer friend Joseph Barbaccia. Thanks Joseph!!! Here it is:

Must have the Kobi Levi mallard shoes!!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Whispering Pines 2011

Whispering Pines is my favorite SCBWI event. It's not just the incredible speakers such as Newbury Honor author Cynthia Lord, senior editor at Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic), Cheryl Klein, agent/author Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA, and Mary Lee Donovan of Candlewick Press, and author/illustrator Jennifer Thermes:

Ammi-Joan Paquette, Mary Lee Donovan, 
Cheryl Klein, and Cindy Lord ponder magic wands
Nor is it just the bountiful spread put on by WP's chef (yes, everyone who goes to WP feels compelled to mention the food!), or the setting, which is as peaceful as it is beautiful:

It's not just the catching up with like-minded friends who understand this fun, maddening, necessarily obsessive path we're all on, and the making of new ones.

There's a spirit about the place and the people who go to WP...I imagine it's a fairly rare thing to put forty or so published and aspiring writers in a room together and feel a complete lack of competition, to feel only support and warmth and a genuine desire to see others succeed. But that's just what you'll find here. 

While some attended peer group critiques on Saturday afternoon, I took a little time to write: 

Raffle baskets! 

And of course, Kids' Book Jeopardy!

Thank you to WP director, organizer extraordinaire, and author Lynda Mullally Hunt for a truly fab weekend! Only 51 weeks to go until WP 2012...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Musical Interlude: Briony

From the Atonement Soundtrack, one of my favorite soundtracks for writing.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Pines, They Be Whisperin'...

The 'Wordy Bird's Favorite Things' Raffle Basket.
You know you want it!
Early tomorrow, I'm off to New England SCBWI's Whispering Pines Writers' Retreat. 

I'm excited to catch up with some writerly friends, talk books and writing among the pines, and hang out with Newbery Honor winning author, Cynthia Lord; Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic) Senior Editor, Cheryl Klein; Charlesbridge Editorial Director, Yolanda Scott; and Ammi-Joan Paquette, agent at Erin Murphy Literary Agency... Maybe one of them will win Wordy Bird's Favorite Things!

Have I mentioned that SCBWI and its events are so very worthwhile? 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Puzzling Narrative, Parte the First… which a perfectly good picture book text is utterly dismantled.

I wrote a text for a picture book. It was a text I liked, and I submitted it to an editor who had invited me to send more of my work. On this particular text, she gave me some positive feedback and rejected it, and as one does sometimes with such things, I closed the file and let it sit…for two years.

But the text began to whisper again, and because I was somewhat desperate for forward creative motion in my life, I opened up the file, tweaked it a little, and took it off to crit group. They liked it. But I wasn’t ready to send it out just yet, because the narrative had an essential—and fatal—flaw. I knew it. I just wasn't sure how to solve it. The flaw was this:

The ending did not deliver on the promise I’d set up in the beginning of the story.

It’s the kind of flaw I pick up in students’ work all the time, and here it was, grumbling at me from my computer screen. 

Fast forward a month or four. I've decided it's high time I pick up a pencil and think about illustrating this text. I've felt a renewed excitement about it. But as I've storyboarded it out, the flaw has begun to shout. It's increasingly clear, as I think about the visual narrative, that this problem must be solved if the text has any chance of working. And while some problems can be solved in the visual narrative in a picture book, this one clearly has to have a textual resolution as well.

Today, I also had to face up to the fact that though there are many elements I love about the text, the glue that held them together was more than sticky and a little-bit-icky.

So here I am this afternoon. To my left, the text as it was, the bits I love underlined.

To my right, those beloved bits. Sampled and snipped. Cut up and mixed up. 

I have a feeling they’ll fall back into more or less the same place they were, but the glue between them is going to change. I needed to eliminate it completely to move forward. I’m hoping that within this puzzle is the solution to my dilemma.   

To be continued…

Guess What?

You've been asking for it, I've been wanting to do it, and now it's finally happening! Hooray!

This fall, I'll be teaching a new ten week course at RISD CE about writing chapter books. Through a series of writing exercises, lectures, group discussions, and workshops, we'll be looking at:

  • Discovering your writing process
  • Narrative structure 
  • Developing characters that engage, excite, and endure
  • POV, language style, and developing a voice
  • Handling exposition
  • Pacing... keeping your reader turning the page
  • How to imbue a single chapter book text with series potential
  • How to approach agents and publishers and writing great query letters
  • And much more.

RISD and I have some other children's book offerings in the pipeline, too, so watch this space.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Kidlit 4 Japan Starts Today!

Our online auction to benefit children affected by the devastating March 11th Sendai earthquake and tsunami begins today. Up for auction are many signed books and services such as manuscript critiques and editing. 

I have donated two signed sets of my Ginny Giles series and a picture book package (full developmental editing, copyediting, formatting, and long critique) OR up to 15,000 words copyediting OR a critique of the first three chapters of a middle grade or YA novel. 

Please bid generously here:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Some Possessive Apostrophes’ Problems!

Here is a man with a pointy moustache, and also a bird

Most writers are quite clear about how to use apostrophes with possessives:

Singular nouns— for most nouns, the possessive is simply made by adding an apostrophe followed by an s:

The mustachioed man’s chickens have laid their eggs.

Plural nouns — except for a few irregular plurals* that don’t end in s, the possessive is made by adding an apostrophe after the s:

Many of his chickens’ eggs are ready to hatch.

* For example: Many mustachioed men’s favorite egg-dish is the humble omelet.

But in my experience, there is a great deal of confusion when it comes to proper nouns, particularly names ending with s, and since many writers—particular those who write fantasy!—tend to choose names that end in s, x, or z, this issue arises frequently when I am editing.

The general rule** is that for (most) proper nouns, and this includes nouns that end in s, z, and x, the possessive still takes an apostrophe followed by an s.

Thomas’s toenails
Cortez’s gold fillings
Jimi Hendrix’s hairy knuckles
Karl Marx’s moustache
Robbie Burns’s sideburns
The Williamses’ washboard abs (Everyone in that family is an exercise nut!)
The Higganbothams’ horrible halitosis (Mr and Mrs Higganbotham are, sadly, both sufferers. Probably just as well).

Of course with every rule in the English language, there are exceptions happy to confound the unsure. The Chicago Manual of Style (7.18 – 7.22 15th Edition) gives lots of lovely examples including:

For Jesus’ sake but Jesus’s contemporaries
Also: Euripides’ tragedies (“a name of two or more syllables that ends in the eez sound”)
Decartes’ three dreams (“singular words and names ending in an unpronounced s”)

Confused? I suggest you follow the general rule… or you could just use of, such as the dandruff of Dickens and the sneezes of Strauss.

** According The Chicago Manual of Style, the fiction editing standard. 

Kidlit 4 Japan

We have all seen the terrible footage coming out of Japan since their devastating 9.0 earthquake and massive tsunami on March 11th. The kidlit community is coming together to auction off donated items to raise funds for UNICEF, providing basic needs and services for children in affected areas (very kindly set up by author Greg Fishbone).

If you are a kids' book creator, writer, illustrator, editor, etc. please consider donating items or services to this very worthy cause. Here's the link:

I am donating two sets of my Ginny Giles series (chapter books for eight to twelve-year-olds) and either a picture book editing and critique package OR copyediting up to 15,000 words. I will post auction details and where to place your bids for theses and many other items as soon as I have them.

Please spread the word. Twitter hashtag: #kidlit4japan

Monday, March 14, 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011

Happy National Grammar Day!

To celebrate, I'm posting two letters* that celebrate the importance of proper punctuation.

Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy--will you let me be yours?

Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

* Created by Gloria Rosenthal for Games Magazine, 1984

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's that time of year...

...and I couldn't be more excited! Tonight I start back at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD CE) teaching ‘Writing for Children’s Books,’ which is part of CE’s Certificate of Children’s Book Illustration, but works as a standalone class for those who write only.

This is an eight week course designed to cover all basic aspects of writing a picture book. Through lectures, discussions, book-shares, workshop-ing, writing exercises, and other hands-on activities, students learn about:

  • Children’s book sub-genres and markets
  • What the market will tolerate, and what publishers don’t want
  • How to get writing and stay writing
  • The importance of strong narrative structure
  • The relationship between image and word
  • Picture book structure, storyboarding, and pagination
  • Character development
  • Common language devices
  • Pacing
  • Point of View
  • How to show, not tell
  • Writing dialogue
  • Grammar tips
  • Revision and self-editing
  • Writing killer cover letters
  • Submission do’s and don’ts

My goal is that each student will finish the course with a submission-ready and publishable picture book text and a great cover letter. Students can expect to work hard to achieve this. :)

RISD and I will be designing a Part 2 advanced course, hopefully coming this fall, so stay tuned.

If you’re joining us tonight, I look forward to meeting you!  

*(Please note this semester’s class is full and always fills rapidly.)