Thursday, April 26, 2012

Oh! For the Love of Picture Books

Some picture books tickle our fancy
Some are evocative.  (For me, this one brings on a gully-washer. *See my reason below*

 Simple & pure. 

 Others are downright fun & silly! 

 Many stretch the imagination beyond our wildest dreams. 

 And, others let us know that we can be forgiven for our wrong doings. 


Picture books can teach us how to rhyme or prompt us to say ridiculous words that make us giggle as they roll off the tongue. (You may be asking yourself...what's "Oobleck?")

 Writing picture books is not an easy task, just ask any picture book author. They may even question themselves WHY do we do it? Well, quite simply, because children adore them, all over the world.

***I'll never forgive myself for not taping my youngest daughter reading, The Giving Tree when she was four. I cried every time she read it to me. The memory of her reading that story, over and over, is why picture books must exist.

If you have a few minutes, check out Ms. Sally Rose reading Ten in a Bed. OMG, it's priceless. I mean, look at that face!
And, if you're a Maurice Sendak fan, watch his interview on what it means to be an illustrator. He is a one-of-a-kind artist.

My all-time favorite picture book has to be A Poky Little Puppy by the Texas author, Janette Sebring Lowrey and illustrator, Gustaf Tenggren.

Enjoy this cutetastic storytelling video of an adorable 23 month old. Even though all you can understand are the words, "Poky Little Puppy," she reads with feeling and adorable animation, which will leave you shaking your head with a smile.

This week NPR interviewed some fabulous picture book authors. Here's are the links:
NPR Interview with Mo Willems-Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
and author Martin Salisbury gives us his thoughts on what draws the "read again & again" factor for picture books. 
The Artistry of Children's Picture Books Revealed

Learn more about the history of picture books: The Picture Book

I'm giddy today. Do you want to know why? I attended our monthly SCWBI Schmooze yesterday. The one time I have the guts to bring something for an open critique, and an amazing Texas (published & well-known) author happened to come to her old stompin' grounds for a visit. I had no idea who she was. I've heard her name a thousand times and read her work, but never met her before. Respecting her anonymity, I'm not announcing her name, BUT she said my writing was, "evocative and beautiful!!!!!!" She also had some fantastic advice for me if I wanted to turn the story into a picture book. :)) Can you say cloud nine?

Do you have an all-time favorite picture book? What qualities do you believe makes a great picture book?

"Design is an essential part of any picture book. It is the first aspect of a book that a reader judges. It is the frame-work for the text and illustration. It is the subtle weave of words and pictures that allows both to tell one seamless tale." ~John Scieszka in "Design Matters" from the The Horn Book

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Can" Is Short For Candy

But, does that mean I want to be referred to as a metal object or an auxiliary verb? Not really. Do you find yourself wanting to shorten your character names? I have two characters, in two separate stories, where I've shortened their names. I've mentioned them as examples below in blue.

Ex: Josephine (an inherited family name), I shortened to Josey. There is a significant reason she's named after her great-grandmother, and it's revealed in the end of the story, but she's referred to as "Josey" for the entire ms.

I guess if a character reveals a "Cathy" instead of "Catherine," then by all means, shorten her name. Reveals being the key word. It's more about who the character is, rather than typing a shorter name.

I'm currently reading a YA Paranormal Romance, which I will refrain from giving the title. My point for this post is not to bash other authors / writers. I'm in no position to judge. I'm merely making a writing style observation.

This particular author chose to give each character a shortened first name, like a nickname. Ex: Can for Candy. I can (no pun intended) see doing this for maybe a character or two, but all of them? I'm talking every character brought into the pages of this story has a shortened name.

I'm so crazy-busy flipping back the pages to figure out who Ran or Til are, that I'm losing plot focus, majorly! (I made up the nicknames Ran and Tin, btw.)

On the other hand, I think if it fits the character, use a nickname. Ex: I have a character named Magdalene, in which she goes by Mags. But, Mags fits her personality. She can't help it that her mother is an artist, born of German decent, and merely adored the classic biblical name when Mags was born.

As writers, what do you think about an author's use of shortened names? When you read novels with shortened names such as, Bal or Tin, do you find it distracting?

On a slightly different note...
Speaking of character names, when I'm naming a thug, criminal, sketchy or questionable character, I like to use the following pattern:

Pet name + Mother's maiden name = character name. I've used a few pet names and maiden names in the family to put together some great names!
Ex: Moochey Smith, Tweetie Greene, and Bones McCall

I can't recall where I picked up that trick years ago, but feel free to pass it on if you find it useful.

Upon my research about naming characters or using nicknames for characters, I went into information overload online. But, here are a few great sites:

Click here for an in-depth post about naming characters:  A Guide to Naming Characters
This site has a free downloadable name generator: Character Name Generator
Great naming resource!
To find cool names for almost anything such as, monsters, organizations, taverns, strange beings, places, settings, worlds, diseases, etc.  CLICK HERE *I particularly found this site helpful!* 
This naming site gives you all you need to know about names! Behind the Name
For fantasy or sci-fi type character naming: Go here

Here's a funny name generator if you're looking to name a pirate: What's your pirate name?
(My pirate name is "Cap'n Misty Cannonballs". No kidding.)

Do you have a favorite technique for naming characters and want to share?

Does anyone else remember the Name Game song by the lovely Shirley Ellis? We used to have so much fun "doing" everyone's name in the family. Enjoy!

 "Candy, Candy, Bo Bandy, Bonana Fana Fo Fandy,
Fe Fi, Mo Mandy, Candy!"

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Writer's Struggle to Juggle

In honor of Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group, I'd like to share a bit about my struggle to juggle for April's post.

1. To keep (two or more objects) in the air at one time by alternately tossing and catching them.
2. To keep (more than two activities, for example) in motion or progress at one time.
1. A harmonious or satisfying arrangement or proportion of parts or elements. 
 Do you struggle to balance your real life and the writing life?
If so, you're not alone. 

Truthfully, most people struggle with juggling their lives, it's not just us writers. Children, jobs, 2nd jobs, health, friends & family, hobbies, homes, pets, the list goes on and on...

Grrr...cranky pants
Personally, for me, juggling life as a mom, wife, extra crazy. Writing isn't a hobby I can just cut out when I get too busy. Writing is a must, a have-to. It's something inside of me that needs to be done. When I don't pencil in writing time, suddenly, I've got my cranky pants on, and nobody in the house likes the cranky pants. They're cantankerous, dreary, and sometimes, ferocious.

I'd like to discuss balance for a moment. We all need more balance in our lives, right?

As a Yoga Instructor (one of the many juggled stuff in my life), I teach my students how to achieve balance. Quite simply, if we cannot find balance while in posture, we will fall.

But, as humans, we're all different, we must find balance in our own unique fashion. What may be right for me, may not work for you.

Image courtesy of Google Images

For balance postures, it's all about firmly grounding yourself, finding the perfect balance between you and the earth, and the world around you.

 Tips on juggling for writers:

~Set reasonable goals
~Make to-do lists
~Join "goal setting" groups such as #wipmadess on Twitter.
~Learn how to say "no" to things outside of your life priorities. (
~Live as a writer-meaning, go through your day, notebook in hand, and watch everyone and everything around you. Life inspires the artist, one just has to pay attention. 
~Recognize you're not a superhero. Give yourself a break.
~Find external motivators such as, conferences, contests, blogging, etc.
~Feed your inner creative self by taking field trips, gardening, crafting, whatever you need to replenish the soul.

~And, if all else fails, and you've reached the end of your rope, staring at a blinking cursor on a blank page, about to pull every last strand of hair from your precious little head, dance. Yes, I said dance. Turn up the Pandora, stereo, iTunes, or CD and let loose. Take your hair down, loosen those collars and release your inhibitions...
(If you have time, watch this great video!) 
"Staring at the blank page 
before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find." ~Natasha Bedinghaus 'Unwritten' (This song has great lyrics for writers, btw)

 Here's a cool website where you can fill out your very own Wheel of Life . It's a great visual for me, and I've hung it above my computer desk.
"The best time for planning a book is while you're doing dishes." ~Agatha Christie Quote from
I myself, can only intake so much "stuff" and how-to information. So, without giving you too much stuff, here are two books that really helped balance my real life with my writing life.
King's book gives "tough-love" advice to writers in his own unique way. Lamont's book helped me realize I can create miracles and achieve my dreams, but I must take them "bird by bird".
Check out how to Creating the Perfect Time Management Souffle' on Kristen Lamb's blog.
Need some assistance balancing writing & social media? Find out here what author Lynda R. Young says.  


Remember, balance is within yourself. You are the juggler. Only you can decide how much stuff you can handle, and how many objects you can keep spinning in the air.