Monday, January 28, 2013

What's in a Name?

I just finished a story where the main character is named after my father, Marvin. It's a perfect fit - or so I think.

me: "Dad, what is your favorite color?."

dad: "Ooooh, oooh! Blue. Why?"

me: "I am writing a picture book and the main character is named Marvin and he has a favorite color."

dad: "A dashing fellow no doubt?"

me: "'Sort of. He's a marshmallow."

For more on this subject (names, not marshmallows) check out this great post:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Weasel vs. Duck

Okay. My blog title has little to do with the actual blog post, but I'm nonetheless excited to share Crooked Book's first interview. Fellow author and blueboarder, Anna Staniszewski, has agreed to answer pressing questions about her new novel, My Epic Fairy Tale Fail, which is scheduled for March 2013, as well as her first picture book, Dogosaurus Rex, coming from Henry Holt in Spring 2014. Let’s start with the important stuff.

(1) Anna, thank you for stopping by. What’s your favorite funny word? Mine is weasel.
Definitely "duck." The word is just fun to say, and it rhymes with lots of things. Plus, ducks are the funniest. They waddle. They quack. They wiggle their feathery bottoms. You really can't go wrong with a duck.

(2) Does this word appear frequently in your new novel?
Sadly, no, but I think that's something that needs to be rectified immediately. Thank you for pointing out this huge duck oversight!

(3) Okay, now I need to know more about My Epic Fairy Tale Fail. It’s a sequel, right?
Yes! The first book, My Very UnFairy Tale Life, came out in November 2011. In the sequel, Jenny the Adventurer is back, solving more magical problems, encountering ridiculous fairy tale creatures, and trying to find her long-lost parents.

(3) I love the title. How was writing a sequel? Were there any “Ack! Pressure!” moments?
The hardest part of writing the sequel, by far, was the beginning. It was a challenge to weave in background info to remind readers of what had happened in the previous book, but to do it in an active and interesting way. The original opening chapter was the main character and her friends sitting around, chatting. It was BORING. Finally, I scrapped the opening all-together and started over. Instead of focusing on setting up the story for those who hadn't read the first one, I focused on making the opening funny and exciting. Thankfully, that took some of the "sequel pressure" out of the process.

(4) I think it is great that you write novels AND picture books. How do you compare the two processes?
Overall, they're not that different. There's a lot of brainstorming, revising, cutting, and polishing that goes into both. I would say the main difference is how much work happens on and off the page. With novels, I tend to spend a lot of time reworking scenes and playing around with them in the document. With picture books, I find that I often need to put the whole manuscript aside and just stare out a window for a while. I also tend to write picture books out by hand while I stick to my laptop when working on novels. Somehow it's easier to find the exact right words when I have pen and paper in front of me.

(5) How did Dogosaurus Rex come about?
Not long after my husband and I adopted our black Lab, Emma, I was getting ready to take her for a walk. She was squeaking her furry head off, trying to hurry me along, so I said, "Hold on, dogosaurus. We're going!" The minute the words were out of my mouth, something clicked in my head. As I walked the dog that morning, my brain kept playing with the idea of a dog/dinosaur character. Eventually, after many many revisions, that idea turned into an actual story.

(5) When you first began writing for kids did you start with novels, or picture books?
For years I thought of myself only as a novelist, mostly because I was so wordy. I couldn't imagine being limited to so few words! But eventually, as I learned to focus and cut and tighten my writing, I became more comfortable with the picture book format. Now I love working on picture books. They're challenging but in a way that I find invigorating.

(6) Do you have any advice for an author aspiring to write in both formats?
Well, since I've mentioned focusing, cutting, and tightening a few times already, I would say that's my main advice. Learn to really boil down what your story is about and try to pinpoint how your character will change from the beginning of the story to the end. And don't be afraid to cut! I know your words can feel like precious gems, but they're not. They're replaceable. And sometimes, you need to flush those darlings down the toilet and start over. It will pay off. I promise.

Thank you so much for sharing your time with me and my readers. I look forward to your new releases!

For more information about amazing Anna visit her website at:

Friday, January 11, 2013

It's Been a Good Week

Actually it's been dance-party-in-my-kitchen-fantastic. And when I accomplish certain goals, like finishing a new draft or remembering my children's doctor's appointments, I reward myself with a treat. This week's treat is Lester's Dreadful Sweaters by K.G. Campbell. The language is brilliant, the plot is hilarious and I'm more than a little in love with the main character.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Flying Eye Books

I started polishing one of my manuscripts and I found something fabulous. Well, someone actually. A plucky main character. In purple polka dotted rain boots. But before I get too distracted, here is another picture book resource:

"U.K.-based indie graphic novel publisher Nobrow Press is launching Flying Eye Books, a children’s book imprint that will debut in... March in the U.S. Flying Eye Books will release 12 titles in the first year including comics, picture books, activity books, fiction, and nonfiction for kids aged 4-11 years old."

And now back to writing. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Nice Surprise

I just learned that my children's poem, Where Prayer Ends, was published in My Light magazine's Christmas 2012 issue. What a lovely way to start the day. Thank you My Light magazine!!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge

Book+Eating+Boy.jpg (368×400)
See, over there on the right? The 12 x 12 badge? It means I just registered for the 2013 Picture Book Challenge. Because I eat challenges for breakfast. (Okay, not really - more like bagels and Diet Coke. But, whatever, I'm pumped.)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

More (Latino) Books Please

I am not Latino. I am instead part Irish, part Scottish, and all nerd. Nonetheless I do have two multicultural books in the works (among other, more serious manuscripts about bunnies) and was thus interested in the article, "Books for Young Latinos Exist – Just Not in the Classroom."