Monthly Archives: July 2015

Why You Should Read With Your Kids

If you couldn’t already tell, I’m a writer, a teacher, and most importantly, a mom. Reading and writing are extremely important to me. I even got a Master’s in how to teach kids to read. I think it’s because books have always played such a crucial part of my life. When I was a child, I used my books to escape bullying, boredom, and every day life. I’ve traveled a million places and all through the eyes of characters in books. I’ve learned biology, internalized philosophy from masters, and witnessed events from multiple perspectives through the eyes of all walks of life. I want to give that to others, which is why I write. But I also want to give that to my girls.

Every night before bed, we read a bedtime story that my daughter has chosen since she understood what the word “choose” meant. We snuggle up on her bed and read. Sometimes, she’s even able to read it with me because of the patterns and repetitions in the text (I Love Dogs by Sue Stainton and Bob Staake is her current obsession). She’s even started the, “I do it on my own” declaration and will take the book and do a picture walk with it independently.

She also finds haven in a book store. She’ll sit on the floor and look through book after book with exclamations of “look!” and “wow!”. All the time my newest daughter who is only seven months old, watches her with saucer eyes, soaking it all in.

Why does this make me more proud than anything I have ever accomplished? To see them loving books is giving my girls access to other worlds. Anything they could ever want to know is written in a book somewhere. I’m giving them the power to be whoever they want to be whenever they want to be them. That is the single greatest accomplishment of my life.

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The Best Way to Cut the Crap Out of Your Picture Book

A few years ago, I got this brilliant idea, after just having a baby, to write a picture book. Completely normal. So I sat down and wrote a first draft. I loved it. It was a cute little story about a ladybug and her adventures. The first draft was over 1,000 words. I thought it was fantastic. I revised and edited. My subsequent draft was about 900 words. I know. I know. I didn’t know any better. Now I know that word count is the absolute top end for almost any agent or publisher to consider. But, I started to query and I received rejection after rejection after rejection. Surprised right? I actually was. My story is adorable! Why won’t anyone represent it? It must be them not me.

Then I decided to put the picture books away and give a novel a shot. I wrote a novel. Then I wrote another novel. Then I wrote another novel. But in the middle of working on a third novel, I got a request for my picture book manuscript during a pitch contest on a wild shot. So I opened up my picture book to take a look through and make sure it was agent ready, since I hadn’t looked at it in a while. That’s when it smacked me in the face.

First of all, I had shown everything with words. EVERYTHING! I took a class through Writer’s Digest which was fantastic, and @CarlyWatters did an amazing job of discussing important things to remember when writing a picture book. One of the points that really stuck with me was to let the illustrator do their job. I’d made the cardinal mistake of drawing a picture with my words. In novels, that’s fantastic. You have to use your words to show the reader. But in a picture book, you have to leave room for the artist. It’s difficult to remember that there are going to be images tied to your words . Your words don’t need to show everything because the pictures will encompass the other 50%.

I knew I needed to edit the crap out the manuscript. I started imagining what the page would look like if it was actually an illustrated book sitting in front of me. Then, taking a look at the words, I chopped anything out of the manuscript that was too showy or something that an illustrator would obviously include in the illustrations. I cut the manuscript down to a whopping 508 words. That means I cut about 400 words of unnecessary stuff out of my manuscript. I reread it and amazingly, the story was still there, just more succinct with room for an amazing set of images.

I’ve also learned to play with language a lot more. In a picture book you need less words so the language has to be as precise as possible. Opening up to new vocabulary and sometimes even creating your own. If you can use one word instead of five, do it. You have to channel the voices of your characters in order to  show instead of tell. Using unique story telling structures are another great way to show and still leave the illustrator a ton of room to paint your story. All these techniques take tons of time and practice to perfect.

It’s for all of these reasons that I love the challenge of writing picture books. But I have learned it takes a lot of time and revisions to make one great. I do have one thing going for me though; I have two little girls that read amazing picture books all the time.

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Amazon… A virtual marketplace, or Big Brother?

Wow

imy santiago

A couple of weeks ago I read the third installment of a series I really loved. I will refrain from sharing the name of the novel and its author.

Like any reader, as soon as I finished reading, I wrote my review. When I tried posting it on Amazon (I did buy the eBook, just like any normal and decent human being would), I received a rather concerning email.

I will not share the screenshot of the email as it does contain the title of the book and name of the author. In its place I have copied the body of the email below.

Dear Amazon Customer,

Thanks for submitting a customer review on Amazon. Your review could not be posted to the website in its current form. While we appreciate your time and comments, reviews must adhere to the following guidelines:
http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines

Here I was, thinking I had included an…

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