Monday, April 30, 2012


Monday, April 30—Quotes About Perseverance

If you knew that two manuscripts from now you’d hit upon a best-selling picture book, would you keep writing? Of course you would (and so would I)! Perseverance and perspiration may be the two things that contribute to success more than anything else. If practice makes perfect, than NaPiBoWriWee is going to get you to perfection in a snap. But along the way, you’re going to have to persevere. Today, be encouraged! Success might just be a manuscript away.

Enjoy these quotes. You may even want to pick a favorite to hang above your computer.

Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul.
—Douglas MacArthur

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of education derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
—Calvin Coolidge

Edison failed 10,000 times before he made the electric light. Do not be discouraged if you fail a few times.
—Napoleon Hill

How long should you try? Until.
—Jim Rohn

Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.
—Walter Elliot

By perseverance the snail reached the ark.
—Charles H. Spurgeon

It always seems impossible until it’s done.
—Nelson Mandela

Perseverance is failing nineteen times and succeeding the twentieth.
—Julie Andrews

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Quote of the week:
The act of writing is an act of optimism. You would not take the trouble to do it if you felt it didn’t matter.
—Edward Albee

Are you participating in NaPiBoWriWee? If not, it’s not too late. Visit Paula Woo’s site at and sign up. I’m strapping on my work boots and planning to write seven stories in seven days (May 1-7). I encourage you at accept the challenge, too. To encourage you in your NaPIBoWriWee journey, this week’s posts will include quotes to inspire you and practical tools to assist you.

Monday—Quotes About Perseverance
Tuesday—My Picture Book Graphic Organizer
Wednesday—Quotes About First Drafts
Thursday—The Plot Clock
Friday—Quotes About Moving Forward

Friday, April 27, 2012



 My picture book, COWBOY CHRISTMAS, is now available for pre-sales on and Barnes and Noble online. There are even Kindle and Nook Book versions!

Check it out:

Official release date is September 11, 2012!


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Odds and Ends from Joyce

Week of April 22, 2012—Creating Characters Kids Love with Joyce Sweeney
April 26, 2012—Odds and Ends from Joyce

When I attend a conference and review my notes, I often have a smattering of information in little, one-line quotes. Often the richest information is found within those one liners. Today I’ll list the odds and ends, the one liners I have in my notes from Joyce Sweeney’s session about Creating Characters Kids Love.

·        Don’t research before you write a book—research as you write. Otherwise you’ll be tempted to put all kinds of “interesting” information in the book that you learned and feel you need to share.

·        The first person on stage in your book and the first person to speak must be your main character.

·        Stay with a narrow point of view.

·        The main character’s job is to tell us what is going on, to orient us.

·        Start writing with a theme question in mind, such as: Is it ever ok to cheat?

·        Don’t ask a dramatic question that you already know the answer to.

·        Every story we read should make us stronger.

·        Plot is really the circle, the cycle, the main character is going through.

·        The story is something that comes into the main character’s life and pulls him/her into a different situation.

·        First person—the “I” who tells the story—brings the reader as close as possible to the character.

·        A story is close third person is really the same as a story in first person, but with different pronouns.

·        In close third person the reader isn’t or doesn’t become the main character in the story, he/she is a bit more removed, and sometimes that is more comfortable for the reader.

·        To read: Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Visit Joyce’s web site at:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Getting to Know Your Main Character

Week of April 22, 2012—Creating Characters Kids Love with Joyce Sweeney
April 25, 2012—Getting to Know Your Main Character

You’ve heard of interviewing a main character or doing a biographical sketch of a main character. At our seminar with Joyce Sweeney, she suggested answering as many of the following questions about your main character as possible. These questions were developed for folks who write picture books through YA novels, so some may seem “out there” from a picture book perspective. But I found the list very helpful.

Joyce Sweeney’s 25 Questions to Get to Know Your Main Character
1. What trait(s) makes the reader identify with your Main Character (M/C)?
2. What quality(ies) of your M/C will readers admire?
3. What is entertaining about your M/C?
4. Which of your M/C's character flaws must be overcome in this story?
5. What does your M/C do when stressed?
6. What peculiarities of language does your M/C use?
7. What habitual gestures does your M/C make?
8. What stories about him/herself does your M/C tell repeatedly?
9. Does s/he like music? If so, what kind?
10. How does your M/C escape reality?
11. To whom does your M/C tell his/her darkest secrets?
12. Whom or what does you M/C hate?
13. Of whom is your M/C envious?
14. What is your M/C's passion?
15. What is his/her favorite social mask?
16. When is your M/C likeliest to lie?
17. What remains unfinished for your M/C at story's outset? At story's end?
18. Who/what is your M/C's god/G-d?
19. What will reader disapprove of about your M/C?
20. What would the other characters in the story say about your M/C?
21. Are those things true?
22. What is your M/C unable to see about him/herself?
23. How does that affect the story?
24. What does your M/C seek but never find?
25. How did undergoing his/her story make your M/C better/stronger?

I asked Joyce when a writer should use a list like this. Do you do it before you start writing? As you’re working on a story? When you’re trying to convince an editor you really know your character? (LOL!) Joyce said that you use a writing tool when you need it. Often when writers are stuck and don’t know where to go with a story line, a plot, a character, stopping and using a writing tool, like the one above, can give the insights needed to take the next step forward in the writing. I like that idea. After all, it seems like most characters reveal themselves over time. The more time you spend with them, the more you know and the more you know that you need to know.

Another insight from Joyce—when you explore a character, you don’t have to put everything you discover into your writing. You’re trying to learn as much about your character as possible, but just like with a good friend, you won’t share everything you know with a total stranger. 

Try Joyce’s twenty-five questions on for size. They just might fit!

Visit Joyce’s web site at:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Picture Book Characters

Week of April 22, 2012—Creating Characters Kids Love with Joyce Sweeney
April 24, 2012—Picture Book Characters

 This past weekend some writing friends (CiCi, Shannon, Augusta, Teddie) and I brought our friend and mentor, Joyce Sweeney, to town to teach us about creating characters. The twenty-one writers who jammed into the room represented genres from picture books to YA novels. None of us left disappointed. (As a testament to that, we’ve already filled sixteen of the twenty slots for Joyce’s September return visit.) This week, I’ll share some of Joyce’s insights about character development.

First, a definition:

Main Character—A role the reader wants to play.

Joyce said to imagine a character that a picture book audience would enjoy, you have to think of the audience members themselves. Picture books are aimed at 0-5 year olds. (Though we know other ages love picture books, too.) The books are usually read aloud by adults which means the language and vocabulary actually might be higher than that found in some middle grade novels. Why? Because an adult is there to explain and interpret, and don’t forget the assistance provided by the illustrations.

Picture characters are often children, but can be animals, child-like adults, or other stand-ins for the child. This age group, more than any, will accept characters of their own age. (Unlike older children who like to read about kids who are older than themselves.) So to understand what makes success characters in picture books, Joyce said to think about what five year olds are like:
·        Tah-dah!—They often walk into the room with an “I’m-here” attitude.
·        In general, they are optimistic.
·        They don’t understand the difference between fantasy and reality and they don’t mind the two being mixed together. If you tell them a bear is speaking, they won’t question it!
·        Five year olds like to become cowboys and monkeys, firemen and astronauts—so the sky is the limit with the kinds of characters we use.
·        Often this age group feels protected. So if there’s something scary in a picture book (for instance, a monster under the bed), they can deal with that because an adult is close by to protect them. They aren’t afraid of adventure. As Joyce said, “Mommy will be there to pull me back to safety.”
·        The world is a big place to explore and discover for this age group, so they are open to almost any and every adventure, story line, and event.
·        Remember—who reads a picture book? EVERYONE! But who is the market pitched to? Zero to five year olds.

Many picture books (and other works of fiction) have a supporting cast of characters. Joyce said, “We are each made up of hundreds of different people. When you write a book you have to become all the characters. All the characters have to come from some place in your heart.”

Coming tomorrow: Interviewing your main character.

Visit Joyce’s web site at:

Coming This Week!

Week of April 22, 2012—Creating Characters Kids Love with Joyce Sweeney
Quote of the week:
‘Let it be loudly asserted that character, strong characters, are at the heart of all great literature and always will be. Plot, even in detective fiction, is a very secondary matter. Not many readers could outline the plot of The Sign of the Four but no one has any difficulty bringing Holmes and Watson to mind.

“A writer who does not create convincing characters will fail. A writer who creates thrilling, troubling, seductive, insistent characters need not worry too much about any other aspect of writing. You do not need to know how to spell. You do not need to know much about grammar. You do not even need any huge sensitivity to language, though this is the other quality that really matters in writing; it is also, perhaps, the most resistant to any kind of formal teaching.”

—Andrew Miller

This week we’ll spend time with Joyce Sweeney, author, writing coach, mentor, and workshop leader to learn about creating characters kids love. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

What Makes for Success in the Eyes of The Horn Book Reviewers?

Friday, April 20, 2012: What Makes for Success in the Eyes of The Horn Book Reviewers?

Today we’re celebrating the books that received ratings of 1 or 2 in The Horn Book Guide, Spring 2012 issue. As a reminder:

Outstanding, noteworthy in style, content, and/or illustration


Superior, well above average



I’ll list the books rated 1 and 2 and comments from the reviewers about the books rated one, indicating what makde the text of those books outstanding. Enjoy!


Bone Dog
Written and Illustrated by Eric Rohmann
Roaring Brook

NOTES: Rohmann’s relief prints with forceful black lines and high contrast, accentuate the weight of the story’s emotion—Gus’s grief after Ella dies as well as the poignancy of boy and dog’s fleeting moonlit reunion.

Haunted Hamburger and Other Ghostly Stories, The
Written by David LaRochelle
Illustrated by Paul Meisel

NOTES: The book’s humor is freewheeling and perfectly calibrated for its audience; it should evoke sniggers and belly laughs.

Over and Under the Snow
By Kate Messner
Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

NOTES: Spare, poetic words

Money We’ll Save, The
Written and Illustrated by Brock Cole

NOTES: Entertaining story; a brilliant solution satisfies everyone

Subway Story
Written and Illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach

Notes: Sarcone-Roach allows her theme of reuse and recycling to emerge naturally from a fine tale.


An Annoying ABC
By Barbara Bottner
Illustrated by Michael Emberley

Anton Can Do Magic
Written and Illustrated by Ole Konnecke

Bad Kitty Christmas, A
Written and Illustrated by Nick Bruel
Roaring Brook

Written and Illustrated by Harry Bliss

Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend
By Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Ramsey
Illustrated by John Holyfield

Blue Chicken
Written and Illustrated by Deborah Freedman

Written and Illustrated by Maurice Sendak

Carpenter’s Gift, The
By David Rubel
Illustrated by Jim LaMarche

Chanukah Lights
By Michael J. Rosen
Illustrated by Robert Sabuda

Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood, The
By Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve
Illustrated by Ellen Beier

Christmas Eve at the Mellops’
The Mellops Go Diving for Treasure
The Mellops Strike Oil
Written and Illustrated by Tomi Ungerer
Reissue (1958/Harper)

Christmas Tree for Pyn, A
Written and Illustrated by Olivier Dunrea

Crouching Tiger
By Ying Chang Compestine
Illustrated by Yan Nascimbene

Detective Blue
By Steve Metzger
Illustrated by Todd Arnold

Elmer’s Christmas
Written and Illustrated by David McKee

Everything I Need to Know Before I’m Five
Written and Illustrated by Valorie Fisher
Random/Schwartz & Wade

George Flies South
Written and Illustrated by Simon James

Gingerbread Man Loose in the School, The
By Laura Murray
Illustrated by Mike Lowery

Grandpa Green
Written and Illustrated by Lane Smith
Roaring Brook

Home for Christmas
Written and Illustrated by Jan Brett

Hornbooks and Inkwells
By Verla Kay
Illustrated by S. D. Schindler

How Dalia Put a Big Yellow Comforter Inside a Tiny Blue Box: And Other Wonders of Tzedakah
By Linda Heller
Illustrated by Stacey Dressen McQueen

I Want My Hat Back
Written and Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Jingle Bells: How the Holiday Classic Came to Be
Written by John Harris
Illustrated by Adam Gustavson

Let’s Go See Papa
By Lawrence Schimel
Translated by Elisa Amanda
Illustrated by Alba Marina Rivera

Lighthouse Christmas
Written by Toni Buzzeo
Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Littlest Evergreen, The
Written and Illustrated by Henry Cole

Melvin and the Boy
Written and Illustrated by Lauren Castillo

My Rhinoceros
Written and Illustrated by Jon Agee

Never Forgotten
By Patricia C. McKissack
Illustrated by Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon
Random/Schwartz & Wade

By Norton Juster
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Random/Schwartz & Wade

No Dogs Allowed
By Linda Ashman
Illustrated by Kristin Sorra

One Little Chicken
By Elka Weber
Illustrated by Elisa Kleven

By Blexbolex
Translated by Claudia Bedrick
Enchanted Lion

Perfect Christmas, The
By Eileen Spinelli
Illustrated by JoAnn Adinolfi

Princess of Borscht, The
By Leda Schubert
Illustrated by Bonnie Christensen
Roaring River

Samantha on a Roll
By Linda Ashman
Illustrated by Christine Daventer

Same, Same but Different
Written and Illustrated by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Scrawny Cat
By Phyllis Root
Illustrated by Alison Friend

Sniffles for Bear, The
By Bonny Becker
Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

By Mary Lyn Ray
Illustrated by Marla Frazee
Simon/Beach Lane

Strega Nona’s Gift
Written and Illustrated by Tomi dePaola

Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot
By Margaret McNamara
Illustrated by Mark Fearing
Random/Schwartz & Wade

Too Many Frogs
Written by Ann Hassett
Illustrated by John Hassett

Where’s My T-R-U-C-K?
By Karen Beaumont
Illustrated by David Catrow

Which Side Are You On? The Story of a Song
By George Ella Lyon
Illustrated by Christopher Cardinale

It’s Your Turn!
1. Time to go check out some new books, don’t you think? That’s what I plan to do!