Tie your rafts.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, “I’d be lost without my critique group” or “my critique partners got me to where I am today”.  What’s a critique partner you ask?  It’s how we say ‘friend’ in kid lit-anese.  Trust me when I say, a writer in this world is nothing without them.  Tying your raft to a good and trusted partner, or an active and engaged group is the difference between floating alone in the Kid Lit ocean or floating with others, who bring drinks, chips, and dip and maybe even a karaoke machine.  You’re all still floating, but tied together will be much more fun!  It’s the strangest thing, sitting patiently while a good friend takes a red ball point pen to your latest creation, and magically, in the end, everyone wins.

Let me back up a little bit.  Only a couple of months back, I felt like the most eager, but isolated writer on the planet.  I shared here, many times, about my struggle to find my place in the community.  Then as the weeks passed, connections were made.   Some happened thanks to blogs, this one or others.  Different forms of social media have played a role, and as always seems to happen, the world grew smaller and connections bloomed from right under my own nose.  If you’re reading this and feeling like you’re bobbing alone, missing out on the party, I’d love to share some of the places I’ve met friends.

  • Facebook, seems obvious but there are so many groups it can be daunting. Some are active, others are not.  Some allow for good news to be shared, others only allow for questions to be asked and craft to be discussed.  I’ve found a critique group through Facebook, and there’s also a steady stream of blog posts and interviews that appear, always filled with new and exciting authors, or advice from the more seasoned ones.  This is really the best place to build a community.
  • Instagram is filled with book reviews and ‘beyond the book’ activities. It seems like each day there are one hundred book reviews, new and old.  Publishing houses post here too.
  • Twitter… sigh, I have an account now, but I still don’t really get it. I have heard that this is THE place to get info from agents and editors, and all around general kid lit news.   Using things like #MSWL (manuscript wish list) you can find out firsthand what they are all searching for and get a feel for whether you would be a good fit.
  • The Writers Match. This is a fantastic website that offers all the benefits of social media without the drama/excess.  The Writers Match is a place to help writers find critique partners, which hopefully turn into long and fruitful friendships.  You’re able to create a small bio, select what genre you’re interested in critiquing (anything you want is there, way more than just kid lit) and send private messages back and forth. I’ve had a wonderful experience since joining. thewritersmatch.com
  • Blogs! This is what’s always exciting for me because it’s the reason Magnolias was created.  I was in search of a community and convinced that others were out there too.  I’m fortunate enough to have crossed paths and connected with a few of them, and I’d like to introduce you to their sites as a way of saying thank you.  We have a lot of similarities between us, but we are all in different stages of this journey.

https://meganhaslemjones.wordpress.com/ Megan and I are kindred spirits, who met through NaPiBoWriWee.  We live on opposite ends of the country, but I’m convinced we were next door neighbors in a previous life, living in a cute little cul de sac with a certain other someone (*cough*Jody *cough*) living in between and balancing us out.

https://julielacombeauthor.wordpress.com/ I am lucky enough to be in the same critique group as Julie.  We quickly discovered that our writing styles are similar and personally we have a lot in common.  She even has a Cajun connection!  Our journeys started around the same time and continue to mirror each others I hope this doesn’t change.

http://www.patriciasaunders.com/ About ten years ago, I spent part of two summers living with my aunt and helping at a camp for gifted kids that Patricia was teaching at.  Fast forward to current day, and unbeknownst to be, she’s chasing a similar dream.  That same aunt helped me reconnect with her and she’s taken me under her wing and nudged me in the right direction on more than one occasion.  Her debut picture book, and a second, will hit bookstore shelves soon!

And finally, http://themaggieproject.blogspot.com/  Randi was probably one of the first connections I made and has been a gracious mentor and friend.  Her debut picture book is due out this summer!! You can learn more about Maggie, and her journey to publication at the link posted.  Randi has a couple of other websites, including an e-magazine that she publishes. They’ve all been filled with great information. I’m honored to be a part of her book launch team next month! Stay tuned for more!

This is surely not a list of everyone’s path I’ve been fortunate enough to cross, but they are all wonderful writers who I’m lucky to call friends.  If you have a moment, check out their websites and read their take on this wonderful journey.  As always, I appreciate you spending time here.

 

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

Week Three of Our #100PictureBookSummer.

This week, the local chapter of SCBWI held a panel on ‘Creating Books for Children’ and the different avenues of publishing (traditional vs self).  I’ve not been able to make it to any SCBWI meetings prior to this one, but for a first timer, it surely did not disappoint.  It was energizing and inspiring to be in a room full of like-minded people from right here in my own community.  Because of this meeting, our library haul came in a little later than usual, but my kids have not wasted any time diving in. (To clarify, SCBWI is the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.)

Here’s our list for the week, and again, I’ve included the link to the Book Nerd Mommy post containing the entire list of 100 Picture Books for Your Summer Reading.

  1. Puddle Pug by Kim Norman
  2. Through the Forest by Stephanie Broccoli and Catherin Bidet
  3. Corduroy by Don Freeman
  4. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr, John Archambault, and Lois Ehlert
  5. ..Jane by Patrick McDonell
  6. What A Wonderful World by Bob Thiele and George Scieszka
  7. Rain by Linda Ashman and Christian Robinson
  8. The Snurtch by Sean Ferrell and Charles Santoso
  9. Float by David Miyares
  10. Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal

 http://www.booknerdmommy.com/100-picture-books-summer-reading/

(Jamberry continues to elude me! I’ve read the adorable story; I want my kids to read it too but I can’t seem to get my hands on a copy.  Each year we make strawberry jam, except we call it jelly… and I think it’s technically strawberry preserves but you get the point.  Jamberryyyyyy, where are youuuuuu?)

I don’t plan to make a habit out of this, but I went out of order on the list.  Float and Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt are two that wouldn’t have come home this week had I not, but I’m sure glad they did.  What’s great about this group of books is that theme, which is summed up in the title of one of its own, What A Wonderful World.  From learning about Dr. Jane Goodall to the magic world of earthworms that exists below the surface.  The stories in these books embraced the wonders of the world in which we all live, even if sometimes those wonders includes the perfect puddle for jumping.  I’m making a prediction here, all three of my guest reviewers will choose the same book from the stack.  Never mind what mom thinks, what does she know anyway?

 

And I was right, today’s favorite was…

The Snurtch–  (spoiler alert!) OC says, “In the beginning, the Snurtch is always bothering her but then everyone realizes they have their own Snurtches”.  MC and YC agreed, calling the book “hilarious” and “silly” respectively.  That’s high praise for boys their age.

(YC wanted to make sure that Puddle Pug was listed as an Honorable Mention, “because, Mom, you see, there’s dogs and puddles and I like that too.”)

Ironically, or not, all our ‘snurtches’ were out in full force this morning, so I thought it a perfect opportunity for us each to describe them, hoping they would run and hide.  Mine is orange, with yellow hair and horns.  OC decided hers was “teal, and turquoise, and purple, and black, and blue with some brown.”  MC is fully immersed in the ‘imitation is the greatest form of flattery’ phase, otherwise known as ‘I’m going to say exactly what my mom says’ so his was also orange, but with some nudging, has black hair and bull horns.  YC’s is green (as is everything in his life) with green eyes and green hair.

We still have a couple of days to love on this stack of books.  I hope you have something good to read on this warm Wednesday afternoon as well!

 

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

Happy Birthday-ish!

This week I’ll celebrate a birthday of sorts.  Not my actual birthday, though today is my sisters …Happy Birthday, AC! But this coming Thursday, June 15 will mark one year, to the day, that my first picture book manuscript was written.  I had been struggling with the desire to write for years, although at times I couldn’t identify the urge.  I started with a novel.  Eesh… then for a while most of my reading was Lifestyle/Parenting Blogs… I tried my hand at that too.  It took me entirely too long to realize that I was completely avoiding the genre that called out the loudest to me.  If I’m honest, I probably ignored the internal call to write picture books for six months before acquiescing myself to the idea. Even then I waited for the inspiration but to bite. Then one day, while traveling home from a business trip, enjoying the summer sunshine and the quiet car… BAM… it happened and Nathan’s story was born.  In fact, I remember being so overwhelmed with excitement and inspiration that I started talking out loud to myself and did so for the rest of the drive home.  For the next few days, I was completely preoccupied with the story, until I finally sat down and on June 15 put in on paper.  The preoccupation hasn’t lessened, and my desire to write has only grown.  It’s been a wonderful year. It’s been a stressful year.  I’ve been fortunate to make some exciting connections and have bigger, more exciting adventures on the horizon.

I love the original draft of Nathan’s story, and I can still recite it in its entirety.  I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that it could be a poster child for’ Everything You Shouldn’t Do When You Write a Picture Book’.  I literally made every mistake in the book.  The ones I didn’t make, I can promise you I made in the second draft.  The Original, as I’ve affectionately named it, rhymed with no reason or method to it, opened with a terrible cliché, had almost no conflict, and his mother was the protagonist.  It held no character development, no story arc, a preachy-theme and too many words.  It was a hot mess.  Thankfully I’ve learned a lot, though I still do love the mess.  What I love more, however, is where the story stands now.

My birthday present to myself, and to Nathan is a contest.  Rate Your Story, a website that allows its members to submit stories to editors and authors for feedback, hosts an annual contest open to members and non-members alike.  (I’m not a member, but I’ve love to hear from you if you are!) The 2017 RYS contest opens for entries from July 15th-July 31st and I do believe he’s grown up enough to enter.  I’ve enjoyed the experience of sending my kids off to school for the first time, and I hope this contest is no different.  I have a month to make sure his uniform fits, his hair is trimmed and there’s no food on his face.   My opener is cute, there are no rhymes, he is his own hero and I finished in just under 500 words.  His mom only makes a cameo and no longer has any speaking lines, though his younger sister shines in a lovable supporting role. He’s met two freelance editors, and been through eight different critique partners! It’s not always easy to read feedback on my work, but I’m so grateful for every bit that I’ve received.  I think my boy is as ready as he’ll ever be.

Another thing I’m treating myself to this summer is learning more about the world of Non-Fiction Picture Book writing.  As a science and history buff, it seems obvious that I would enjoy this style of writing but I’ve not yet exposed myself to this side of the industry.  Thanks to some guidance and encouragement, I’m signed up for a weeklong on-line seminar called WOW-NonFicPic, hosted by Kristen Fulton.  This will almost certainly be something I expound upon here as I learn more… that’s the point of all this blogging, after all.  I’ve included the link to both the contest and the seminar below in case you want more information.

https://rateyourstory.blogspot.com/p/writing-contest.html

http://www.kristenfulton.org/wow-nonficpic.html

 

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

JP

Week Two of Our #100PictureBookSummer

What a fun week of books this has been!  There was something for everyone in this stack. As we made our way through numbers 11-20, each day my kiddos had a new favorite.  In fact, it was hard to get them to commit to one, but I finally managed, thanks to a little wheeling & dealing.  (Toddlers are the world’s best negotiators.) Here’s our list:

  1. When Sophie Gets Angry… Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang
  2. If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano & Erin E Stead
  3. Owl Moon by Jane Yolen & John Schoenherr
  4. Frederick by Leo Lionni
  5. Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson
  6. The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
  7. The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson & Beth Krommes
  8. Tin Lizzie by Allan Drummond (this one was a substitution, I couldn’t find Pedal Power by Allan Drummond)
  9. Hooray for Hat by Brian Won
  10. Going Places by Peter and Paul Reynolds.

If you’re just joining us on our #100PictureBookSummer, here’s the link to Book Nerd Mommy’s 100 Picture Books for your Summer Reading that we’re following.

http://www.booknerdmommy.com/100-picture-books-summer-reading/

I couldn’t put my finger on an underlying theme through all ten books this week, but there were lessons there for sure.  In Owl Moon, Tin Lizzie and If You Want to See a Whale, it was one of patience and persistence.  Going Places and Frederick celebrated those who think outside the box, and Hooray for Hat and When Sophie Gets Angry… helped to illustrate emotions and simple, silly ways to overcome those which are not so fun.  Tin Lizzie also did a beautiful job starting a conversation of conservation (tongue twister) and change.

I can’t pick a favorite, but if you’ll indulge me for a moment I do want to share a sweet story.  We live in such a rural area that it takes two libraries (and two library cards) to get all 10 books each week.  I try to get as many as I can from our local, small town library, and Owl Moon was one of those.  As the rest of my family was running around, burning off the last of their summer evening energy, I picked up Owl Moon and snuck to my room to enjoy it in quiet.  As I opened the cover, I stumbled upon a touching and tender surprise.  Twenty-nine years ago, I lost my older brother.  My parents channeled their grief and honored his memory in many ways over the years.   I’m not sure if they even remember all that they did to help my sisters and I to remember him. I am fairly certain that when they bought and donated a book to the library in his honor, they never thought about the effects it would have almost thirty years later.  As I looked on the inside cover of Owl Moon, I saw his name, my parent’s name, and my own.  It was like I had been given a heavenly hug and a playful nudge of affirmation.  I was quick to share the moment with my own family, and I savored every word of the book (amidst the running, jumping and squealing in the background).  I guess I do have a favorite, after all.

*Sniffing & clearing my throat*… And now, on to my guest reviewers…

They were asked, “Which book was your favorite? Why?” and then I elaborated a bit.

OC- When Sophie Gets Angry… Really, Really Angry.  Her opinion, “I like that book because it teaches a great lesson about how you can’t be rude” … In my opinion, OC identified with Sophie because she roars when she’s angry too.  It always takes her a while, but she usually figures out how to channel her emotions and work through her ‘volcanic explosions.’

MC- Owl Moon.  His opinion, “I think it was super cool how they went looking for owls in the night time!” … In my opinion, MC is fascinated with the tree line, aka ‘woods’ behind our house and the animals that live there.  We do hear owls from time to time, we’ll just have to try and spot one now. (Thankfully minus the snow.)

YC- Hooray for Hat.  In his words, “I love the grumpy elephant and all the hats!” … My opinion, YC is three… he loves hats and all things silly. End of story.

Time to place holds on our next week stash… so glad you’re following along!

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

 

PS- these opinions are just that, opinions… and kid’s opinions at that.  Our ‘reviews’ are only my attempt to keep my children engaged in their summer reading and taking the stories deeper than face value.  We are (obviously) not compensated for these reviews… of library books… by toddlers.

Game Plan.

I’m going to give away a little of myself as a sports fan and tell you, today I called an audible.  For those of you who are football fans, you get the analogy.  If you aren’t, an audible is when the quarterback changes the play on the line of scrimmage in the seconds before the ball is snapped.  I had a post ready for today, and it was uncharacteristically somber for me.  In a nutshell, I’ve found myself struggling lately, having lost sight of all that I have in the shimmery fog of all that I want.  To quote my previously written, then scratched blog post ‘I could share the internal conversations I’ve been having, but I’ll spare you the gritty, melodramatic details.  Let’s just say there’s a healthy mixture of envy, irritation, frustration and impatience.’

Thankfully, one well-timed blog post and two nuggets of information saved my spiral. For starters, Bookends, Literacy Agency posted a short and sweet kick-you-in-the-pants-and-keep-your-eyes-on-the-prize blog post about believing in yourself and your story.  It struck a nerve with me, in the best possible way, and helped me to remember what’s most important.  I believe in all my stories, but Nathan, my first-born protagonist, has taught me so much. I believe in Nathan, and I believe in his story.  That should be all the motivation I need to keep pushing on.  Sure, I’ll keep wrestling with doubt.  It’s only natural to think that I’ll feel incredibly self-conscious as this journey continues, this is all uncharted waters.   But I owe it to Nathan, and the others, to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Secondly, I found out about two conferences that are, believe it or not, in my neck of the woods, and both in October.  The best news, both are both being visited by agents I was hoping to query.  Coincidence? I don’t believe in such things.  I need to sit with this a while, but I’m sure we’ll talk more about it one day.

Then earlier this evening, I had a small revelation.  My natural instinct is to move fast.  I’m decisive and quick to act. I value efficiency in others consider that, at times, one of my strongest traits.  You don’t need to know much about the publishing industry to know that it operates at a very different speed.  I can be patient, but this persistent patience is a beast of a different color.  So, I have a choice; I can continue to resist the slower and more deliberate pace of this industry, making headache and heartache for myself, or I can reset and realign, embracing the time that I’ve been given to sharpen my skills.  No doubt this lesson will be a work in progress, but let’s get started.

So. I have two conferences on my horizon, with an entire summer ahead of me to hone my skills, read more picture books, and fill my tool box.  The other manuscripts waiting in my wonderful blue binder can now get the attention they deserve, and I can continue to document my journey and expand my network.  I think this sounds like a mighty fine game plan indeed.

Down, Set, Hut…

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

 

Week One of our #100PictureBookSummer

I’m excited to report that our #100PictureBookSummer is off to a great start.  Thanks to a little careful planning and a couple of library cards, we are well on our way. My kids were excited to come home to a stack of ‘new’ books yesterday and dove right in.  Here’s our list for the week:

  1. Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio & Christianson Robinson
  2. Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
  3. Jamberry by Bruce Degen*
  4. Octopus Alone by Divya Srinivasan
  5. Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin & Harry Bliss
  6. The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Whinfield Martin
  7. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andrea and Guy Parker-Rees
  8. You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang & Christopher Weynat
  9. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  10. A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney & Steve Johnson

*As I was typing this, I realized that we didn’t make it home with Jamberry for some reason.  Hm, well that’s a sweet one (no pun intended) to kick our week off next week! Here’s the link to Book Nerd Mommy’s 100 Picture Books for your Summer Reading that we’re following if you missed last week’s post.

http://www.booknerdmommy.com/100-picture-books-summer-reading/

These first ten were a wonderful mix of new and old favorites, featuring everything from adorable puppies to terrible monsters.  There is a definite theme that carried through many of these books and that is the importance of being true to yourself, even if what you know to be true goes against the grain of popular opinion.  I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite from this list.  As a mom, I want to use the pages of Emily Whinfield Martin’s delightful little book as wallpaper in my kid’s bedrooms so they can be surrounded by its wonderful message of love.  I’m also a history buff and I knew that I was holding an important piece of history as I read The Snowy Day, but the combination of The Snowy Day and A Poem for Peter together was powerful.  Diary of a Worm and Leonardo tickled my funny bone and caused a healthy dose of giggles from both my kiddos and me.

When I approached my daughter with the prospect of a summer filled with books, she was quick to agree, but not without making she and her brothers received a bit of recognition too. Always a negotiator, she thought it would be fun if she and her brothers could share their favorite books with you as well. That was an easy deal to shake on, so here’s a little about the three guest book reviewers that will be joining me all summer.

  • OC (oldest child) is seven years old, with wonderfully curly hair and a personality to match. She’s well rounded and a bit impulsive; you can be sure there are grass stains on her powder pink dancing tights.  She has an inquisitive mind to match her giant and generous heart.
  • MC (middle child) is five and a future superhero if there ever was one. He loves fighting bad guys, hunting zombies and practicing his ‘incredible ninja moves’.  He does life at his own pace and is filled with an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm for life… all day every day.
  • YC (youngest child) is three years old and our comedic relief. He loves making us all laugh and does it well.  He’s into (almost) anything his older brother tells him is cool, but really loves trucks, trains, and playing in the dirt.  He believes ‘the more, the merrier & the messier, the better’.

So, there you have them, without a doubt, the cutest and chattiest guest reviewers to ever grace these pages. I’ll have more from them next week and a fresh batch of books! Happy Summer!

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

The Summer of 100 Picture Books.

Whew, okay, I’m glad that’s over.  Maybe you disagree, but for me, spring cleaning is fun at the beginning, exhilarating when you’re in the thick of it and utterly exhausting as you near the end.  Now that I’m (almost) clutter free, I can say without hesitation that I am very eager for summer to start.  I’m happy you found your way back here today because I’m excited to share a bit of our summer plans.  Look at the title of this post again, it’s more than that, it’s a goal!

Earlier this week, via Instagram, I came across Clarissa, aka @book.nerd.mommy, and her post 100 Picture Books for Your Summer Reading.  Let me tell you, it’s a great list; new titles, old favorites and everything in between.  For the past few summers, my kids and I have all had big reading plans.  The unfortunate truth is that I often lost track of things through swimming lessons, play dates and summer excursions.  This summer, there’s no excuses, we have a list to follow, and by my calculation, we have 10% covered just with our own home library.  I’ve included the link to her blog post, where you’ll find her carefully selected titles, with a brief explanation of what makes each story so lovable.  She also shares a free printable version of the list.  My list is printed and posted on my bulletin board already! I extended the challenge to my kids, and my oldest, who loves to answer for her brothers eagerly accepted.

In the spirit of the sweet, slow pace of summertime, I plan to scale my blog posts down to once a week.  In place of my Wednesday posts, I’ll let you know how our #100PictureBookSummer is going. My plan is to keep you posted on our progress, and share our favorites from the week. Here’s the link…

http://www.booknerdmommy.com/100-picture-books-summer-reading/

If you can, take a few minutes to peruse her website.  Clarissa has a wonderful ‘Beyond the Book’ section of arts and craft activities to help Picture Books become interactive for children.  She also shares recipes to accompany some of your favorite books (Truffula Tree Cupcakes, anyone?), and literacy tools for those of us with young, growing minds.

Here’s to 100 books, 10 fun weeks and 1 great summer. If you think this sounds fun, we’d love for you to join us.  I’ll be sharing here and on Instagram (@jennifergprevost).  Our first batch of books will be ready for pick-up from the library today!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend.  My thoughts are with those who have lost someone, now or then, near or far, in service for this great nation.

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

Clutter.

If you visit my house, you would see that I’m a ‘stacker’ by nature.  It’s always clean but sports a lived-in look.  With summer break staring me in the face and having 3/3 kiddos at home with me after this week, I was starting to sweat.  The only way I can even think about our time together, and not feel overwhelmed, is by finding a way to pare down first. So, I declared May the month to ‘clear out the clutter’.  I’ve made my way through the pantry, fridge, linen closet and laundry room ‘catch-all’ closet.  Today I tackled my own closet, and this coming week it’s my kid’s turn. (Lone socks, stained clothes, and kids-meal toys, beware.) I’ve even managed to move a little furniture around in the process.

That should’ve been my cue.  When furniture starts moving around my home, internal shifts start happening.  I can think of numerous times, large and small, conscious and unconscious that I started moving furniture around when I needed a good kick in the pants.  I’ll give you an easy example; Last summer, my oldest daughter found herself gripped with anxiety about her upcoming first-grade year.  She had heard horror stories about how much more difficult first grade was the kindergarten.  By the time she could explain her emotions and her convictions that she wouldn’t do well, it was almost enough to ruin the summer.  So, I used a dose of my ‘therapy’ with her and we moved her bedroom furniture around.  Together, she and I rearranged her room, using all her existing furniture and decorations, but when we were finished it had a completely different feel.  We declared it her ‘first-grade room’, and slowly, in her new space, she found the confidence she needed to face the school year.  Here we are at the end of first grade, and she did beautifully, just like I knew she would.

This week, it was my turn. I finally admitted that I was in a rut.  It was three-fold too; a mom-rut, a work- rut and a writing- rut.  Coincidentally, or not, as three pieces of furniture switched places and changed roles, I started to find my way out. From a writing standpoint, it felt contradictory, because I was writing more than normal.  Once I was honest with myself though, I’m not sure how much of it was productive.  I rarely feel like I have enough time to write, but suddenly I found my scale tipping towards the quantity as opposed to the quality. I’m trying to iron out wrinkles in my Picture Book manuscript and I’m finishing up a Board Book entry for a contest with a deadline quickly approaching.  I was editing, revising, rewording and reworking and not feeling confident that any of it was advancing my stories.  Thankfully, I received timely feedback from other writers who helped me keep focus and stay the course.   On the day that I moved furniture around, I also had a long talk with myself about my energy and expectations.  I’ve written already about designating time to write each day.  Somehow I fell out of practice, so I took a step back, re-read my post and pressed the reset button.   As I’ve cleaned through the clutter in my home, I’ve managed to start sifting through the creative clutter as well.

My to-do list for this week is lengthy,

  • I need to polish up my BB contest cover letter and entry. I have some rhyming wrinkles and inverted grammar to iron out.
  • I plan to work out a few more kinks on my PB manuscript. I hope to have it ready to send back to a critique partner and get another round of feedback.  If someone can help me know ‘when to say when’ and stop editing this thing I would be eternally grateful.  Do you ever really feel “done” with a manuscript?
  • I have a Sunday post (done) and a Wednesday post (blank) to work on.
  • I also have an idea brewing for a blog series to start this summer, I need to do some homework on it… stay tuned!
  • Organizing my kid’s closets and drawers… a mountain of a task.
  • I need clear work boundaries. In my real job, meaning the ‘not-writing-but-pays-the-bills’ one, I work from home. I love it, and I struggle with it too.  I owe it to my work, and my kids to find a rhythm that will work well for the summer.
  • Did I mention I have two books waiting to be read? Yikes!
  • Oh, yes, tball and softball games this week, too.

Thanks to the antique yellow pie cabinet that’s now residing in my living room, and even a new header image here on Magnolias & Manuscripts, I’m ready for the challenge.  I always appreciate that you take a few moments from your own busy day to spend time here.  I always hope you consider it a good use of your time.

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

Lessons from a Dummy

It’s a fact, the dummy changed my life.  Dramatic as that may sound, from the perspective of a picture book writer who felt stuck in her own revision process, it’s completely true.   I’ve known about the concept of dummy picture books for months now, and I’ve heard (or read) tons of people talk about what a necessary step it is.  I must be a slow learner because I’ve been avoiding it until this week.  But I did it, and I love it and I can’t wait to talk about it.

I used scrapbook paper because I like the weight of the paper in my hands.  After I cut them in half, stapled them together and numbered them 1-32, I pasted in my text.  I started on page 5. (And if anyone has a different opinion on this, please share.) For this dummy, which will be the first of many, I just separated my sentences into what I thought would work best.  You have to start somewhere, right?  It blew my mind what a different feel the story had, now that it’s not in paragraph form on 8.5 x 11” sheets of paper, and instead actually resembles a book.  Many of my hiccups became clear, as did clumsy wording and soft spots in my story.  There are a few of my sentences that need to be tightened up, and for probably one-third of those, I could easily see how to do so. I’m going to keep chipping away at the edits that are surfacing from this experience.  Of course, I’m going to make another, if not more after that, touching things up along the way. How crazy that I was leaving out this incredibly crucial step!

As I’m still digesting the revelation that I talked about in my last post, and coming off my ‘dummy’ high, I know what wrinkles need to be ironed out now… Read Aloud Potential.  It’s the obvious next step and is exactly what the dummy is helping me to discover.  I don’t just want to write a picture book; I want to write some kid’s favorite picture book.  On top of that, I want to write one that parents love to read to their children.  (aka Panda Cake!)  That’s where the magic happens in this corner of the market, and it’s completely unique to picture books.  I know my opinion of the book I’m reading affects the quality of my reading and the tone of my voice.  I know the pain of being asked to read a story to one of my kids that I REAAALLLYYYY don’t like, or when I suggest one that’s not a favorite of my kids. On the other hand, I know the joy and delight that comes when I read a story that we all love, and what a richer experience it makes.  I want to write one of those, and I need its real aloud potential to be off the charts.  (Mary Kole just posted a great video blog on this exact thing, you can find it here if you want more info)

So, the moral of this story… make a dummy of your picture book manuscript, in fact, make a dozen.  I’m going to the store tomorrow, stacking up on paper and glue sticks, and will turn my sweet little writing desk into a dummy factory.

 

In somewhat unrelated news… Kid Lit College is having a Board Book contest, with two categories (standard & novelty) going on now through May 31.  There’s also a chapter book contest going at the same time.  I’m going to enter the board book contest with a blend of one of my NaPiBoWriWee stories and a previous project!  The winner gets their manuscript critiqued by five editors, what a great opportunity.

Also, my daughter finished and submitted her #50PreciousWordsforKids entry.  We had a blast working on her story together.  This was one she had previously written but was way above the word limit, so we talked and walked through a bit of editing together.  Mother-Daughter editing; it did get as dicey as it sounds, but that was short-lived, and she was very proud of her finished product.  You can read Mia the Cat and all of the entries here. The contest received entries from 15 states and 6 different countries.  It was a wonderful lesson for my seven-year-old on just how small the world is while at the same time expanding her view beyond the city limits of our small town.  Whew, I think that’s all I have for today.

 

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

The Power of Panda Cake

I’m still new to the blogging space, but I feel pretty comfortable making the following assumption… If you’re reading this, then reading is something you enjoy.  I’m going to take this a step further and say that if you do, in fact, love reading, then there are people in your past that introduced you to the magic and power of books.  In the spirit of Mother’s Day, and the role that my own mom (and dad) played in my love of reading, today’s post is dedicated to the adults around the world who are helping children love to read.  These children, the future writers, bloggers, and changers-of-the-world are lucky to have you.

My three kids and I spent the night at my parents’ house last week while the Mister was away on business.  The kids enjoyed the change of pace and toys, and I relished in having an extra couple sets of hands to help out.  Needless to say, it was a great night.  When it came time for their bedtime story, I declared it “Mommas Choice” and started looking through the closet of my childhood bedroom for just the right book. There was no shortage of sweet choices but pushed to the back, a faded yellow spine caught my eye and tugged at my heart.  Panda Cake (R. Seidler 1978) I can’t say that I remember why it was one of my favorites, but I knew the sweet rhythm of the story and the black and white illustrations would have the same effect on me as an adult as it did when I was a child.

I celebrated my discovery in the way that you would greet an old friend you meet unexpectedly and hurried to show my mom.  She celebrated too, declaring it one of her all-time favorites. There was a bit of a friendly dispute as to who would get to read it to my kids, but she conceded and asked if she could join us. My children had no way of knowing how much this story meant to me, and I had no way of knowing how powerful the next couple of minutes would be.  The five of us snuggled together on the floor, and I started reading, immediately losing myself into its familiar embrace.  The story came back to me instantly and I read with a smile, but when I heard my mom quietly reciting all the words to the story, my eyes began to water. She was sitting across from me, she couldn’t see the pages and there’s a good chance it had been 20+ years since she read it to one of her own daughters, but she didn’t miss a beat.

The book that meant a lot to me as a child now means the world to me as an adult.  In the moments, it took us to read the book, the joy of reading transcended generations.  My own children were experiencing one my most treasured memories from my childhood, first hand.  Panda Cake’s magic extended to my children, and I caught my daughter re-reading it and reciting lines for the next two days.  The significance of the Panda Cake moment will remain tucked into my heart for years to come.  It is why I write.  It is the very reason I am so passionate about writing stories that children will love.  I want children everywhere to experience the power of moments like that.

To Mothers everywhere; I hope your day is joyful, playful and restful.  I hope all of you reading have a chance to celebrate the women who are important to you; mothers, grandmothers, godmothers and the like.  If today is tinged with sadness for you, I hope your heart is filled with the love of the woman you may be missing and the peace that comes with knowing her love.  Thanks for sharing a piece of your day with me.  Stay tuned for my Wednesday post when I get back to the grind of writing and talk more about my Dummy.

 

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP