Sunday, March 27, 2016

Book Review: three picture books by Leanne Dyck

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie
author:  Laura Joffe Numeroff
illustrator:  Felicia Bond
publisher:  Laura Geringer Books--an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers
publishing date:  1985

The story begins with the mouse's request for a cookie. It continues as the mouse asks for something else and something else and something else. I enjoyed the author and illustrator's light touches of humour. The author doesn't supply an ending; the illustrator does--with a drawing of a clearly exhausted narrator. The repeated phrase built suspense and carried me through the story.

author:  Jo Ellen Bogart
illustrator:  Barbara Reid
publisher:  Scholastic Canada Ltd
publishing date:  1995

The poetic text began as a song. 
Grandma travels to Africa to Australia to Mexico to Hawaii to the Arctic to India to Switzerland to China to England. And as she travels she sends gifts to her granddaughter. This truly is a feel good story. Through the illustrations we watch the granddaughter grow from a little girl to a young mother. Like If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, this book also continues after the ending--with Grandma promising to send gifts to her great-grandson. 

This Tree Counts
author:  Alison Formento
illustrator:  Sarah Snow
publisher:  Albert Whitman and Company
publishing date:  2010

This book was printed on recycled paper.
This clever counting book is sure to delight tree huggers young and older. Mr. Tate takes his class outside where they learn why trees are so important to our environment and the students plant trees. The ecological message is driven home by the charming illustrations.

photo by ldyck

Spend time reading picture books...But don't just read them--think about them. Take notes. Study why one works for you and another doesn't. This is good training before starting to write and should continue throughout your career.


Ann Whitford Paul

Sharing my author journey...
How do you introduce your characters to your readers. There are so many fun ways. This week I found another.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Book Review: Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul

I was so stoked by all the helpful information I found in Writing Picture Books:  A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication that I couldn't wait to share it with you. But my mind boggled when I started to write this post. I wanted to tell you about this and this and this. Writing Picture Books is 242 pages. My average blog post is (very) approximately 800 words. That's a problem. There's no solution other than urging you to buy this book...

All I can do is scratch the surface. All I can do is tell you what stood out for me...

About the illustrations...

A song is a marriage between lyrics and tune; a picture book is a marriage between text and pictures. Leave room for the illustrator.
The writer wisely trusted the creativity of the handle the description. Description, unless vital to your story, should all be eliminated. That allows you, the writer, to focus on the action and dialogue of your story... You want to write a text that allows the illustrator space for a variety of interesting picture possibilities to keep the listener involved with the book. You can do this in four ways:
1) Write scenes with action
2) Introducing new characters with the story
3) Moving characters into different settings.
4) Changing the emotional intensity of a scene. (p. 9)
Sometimes...information can be found in the illustrations and does not need to be spelled out in the text.  (p. 77)
For example, the setting may be  better revealed in an illustration.

About the characters...
'We want our characters in our picture book stories to be.
1)someone the reader cares about
3)a child, or an adult, or animal who is childlike
4)an imperfect character
5)someone who behaves in ways believable to that character
6)active, not passive
7)able to solve their own problems. (p. 57)
Create well-rounded, not cookie-cutter, characters. (p. 16)
If characters...merely make cameos, they can probably be cut. (p. 113)
Animal characters give your listeners an opportunity to distance themselves from the characters, especially when they are dealing with issues that might be too threatening and scary. (p. 50)
[T]ry to get rid of adults as much as possible. (p. 102)
 Your main character needs to come on first and leave last. (p. 103) 
About the plot...

Beginning:  characters and story problem are introduced. 
Keep in mind a child's short attention span and only address one story question per book.

Middle:  The character takes action to solve his problem. The action taken builds from smaller to larger. Keep in mind the rule of three--the character takes three actions to solve his problem.

Once the problem set out in the beginning of the picture book is solved, the story is over, finished--except perhaps for quickly tying up any loose ends. (p. 87)

About your reader...

Children love repeated phrases but don't give them too many or you'll risk turning off your adult reader.

Picture books are short not only for the child, but also for the adult. (p. 18)
Because, hopefully, the book will be read over and over again.
Dialogue helps your reader. It's easier to put expression into what characters are saying than in sections of narrative description. (p. 17)
Children are wise enough to figure out what a story is about without tacking on a moral. (p. 14)

About the writing...

The concepts of an hour from now, tomorrow, or next week are not clear to young children. For that reason, picture books...usually take place in a few hours, a day, or a night. (p. 12)

Most picture books are told using the third person point-of-view (he/she/it) but that doesn't mean yours has to be. Experiment. Be creative. Use the first person point-of-view (I). Write your story in letter form or as journal entries.  

In conclusion...

I can't stress enough that this is a mere sample of the information that awaits the wise writer who purchases a copy of this fine book. 
Next post (Sunday, March 28th):  Just like a publisher, you can help make a picture book author's career. In my next post, I'll tell you how.

Sharing my author journey...

I continue to work on my novel; I continue to learn how to write. For example, transitions are a lot easier to write when you take the  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Book review: Shimmer by Paula Weston (YA fantasy)

Title:  Shimmer -- book 3 of the Rephaim series
Author:  Paula Weston
Publisher:  Tundra
Date published:  2016
Book blurb:  Gaby thought her life couldn't be more complicated. She was wrong.

She's not the teenage backpacker she thought she was. She is one of the Rephaim, descended from fallen angels. The brother she thought she'd lost is alive. And now Rafa--sexy, infuriating Rafa--is being held, and hurt, by the demons who want to get to her.

Gaby needs the bitterly divided Rephaim to work together; or Rafa has no chance at all. It's a race against time. And it may already be too late.

It's a series...
As this is book three and I'm new to the series, I was concerned that I won't be able to break in. But that wasn't a problem because there's a who's-who character list at the front of the book and the prologue offers a review of events. 

I read on and discovered a dense population of characters, a detailed world and a complex plot.

So many names...
Due to this dense population, the plot occasionally bogs down in a swamp of names.

And you are?
With so many characters it's difficult to develop individuals. Weston manages to maintain the individuality of her protagonist--Gabriella--but, unfortunately, many of her minor characters are largely indistinguishable.

Wham bam pow...
Weston is skilled at writing action...
Daisy takes off away from Jones, plants a foot on the second rope, spins and launches at him. He dives out of the way. She curls up and lands in a commando roll. (p. 55)
More, please...
The suspenseful last chapter makes me yearn to read book four Right Now!

Thank you, Paula Weston, for this entertaining read.

Hop on the tour (link)

Next post (March 20th):  Have you ever found a book that answered all your questions--even questions you didn't know you had? That's what happened to me when I read Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul. It was like taking a highly rated workshop from the comfort of my reading chair. I'll share my notes in my next post.

Sharing my author journey...
Re-writing my novel is going smoothly, now. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Writing and illustrating children's books--a panel discussion notes by Leanne Dyck

The ferry docked, I walked on and searched my purse. No pen. I'd left for this panel discussion without a pen--not even one. Not good, especially when you live on a rural island. (Ferries sail from Mayne Island to the mainland twice a day--in the morning and in the evening.) 

Solution:  I'm now an owner of a BC Ferries pen. It's red and features a window framing a ferry. The ferry sails back and forth when you tip the pen. (Which is much more frequent than Mayne Island to the mainland sailings)

Pen in hand, I sailed into the Greater Public Library, down the stairs and into the conference room...

The all female panel consisted of four authors (|Pam Withers, Linda DeMeulemeester, Beryl Young, Cynthia Heinrichs, Victoria Miles) and one illustrator (sorry, I didn't get her name). Ellen Schwartz served as moderator. All are members of CWILL. They spoke briefly about their careers. One of the panelist was 81 years old; first published at 66 years of age; she plans to keep on writing.

This event was information-rich. Here's what I heard...

Question:  How do you choose an illustrator?
Answer:  You don't, the publisher does.

-as a picture book author, it is valuable to understand the illustrator's side of creating your book

-85% of children's book authors are women and so male authors are given extra credit--by the industry. They are fine role models for boys (who are often reluctant readers).

-If the book you are currently writing feels too difficult, then you might be on the right track.

Book recommendation:  How to Write a Children's Book and Get it Published by Barbara Seuling

Bookstore recommendation:  Kidsbooks (a children's book bookstore in Vancouver)

-The illustrator (who was an author-illustrator), on the panel, encouraged author-illustrators to work as an illustrator first and then as an author-illustrator.

-Listen to your editor. They are your best friend. They can help grow your career.

-The more you are published the more a publisher will allow you to take risks (i.e. write in different genres, etc.)

Question:  What changes have you seen in children's book publishing in the last five years?
Answer: -Maximum word count for picture books is now 750 words
-Illustrations:  simple lines, simple colours
-YA (young adult) is edgier and edgier
-Profit margins are thinner and thinner
-Instead of in-house, publishers are now using contract editors
-Publishers want books that need very little editing

-Publishers are especially interested in self-starters (i.e. writers who are actively involved in building their social network, etc.)

-It may be tempting to self-published, but look realistically at your skill set. In particular, you need to be a skilled marketer and have enough money to finance your project.

Question:  What about kickstarter to finance your project?
Answer:  To be successful, you needed to be on the top of that wave. It's trickier to seek that financing now.

Be cautious:  Avoid publishers (and others) who ask for money and who don't offer money. Ask for an advance. Hire a lawyer to read your contract before you sign it.

Web site recommendations:
Preditors & Editors (to avoid being scammed) *be advised, this list is not a complete
Literary Rambles (to find an agent) *most children's book authors don't have agents
Canadian Children's Book Centre (to educate yourself regarding the Canadian children's book publishing industry)
Booming Ground (to grow as an writer)

Invest in whatever makes you feel stronger as a writer. Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. Instead, work on developing your creativity.

Writing Picture-Book Texts by Sophie Masson

Next post (March 13th):  I'm participating in another Tundra blog tour:  Shimmer by Paula Weston (YA fantasy). This is book 3 and I was a little worried because I haven't read books 1 or 2. But the publisher and author have done some really cool things to ensure this didn't happen. I'll take more about that in my next post.

Sharing my author journey...

Question:  How do you promote your books? How do you attract readers?