Back In the Saddle Again

 

5 Things I did to get back to my writing—and one or two you might use, too.

 

By Lana Wayne Koehler

 

This has been a strange season of life. First there was COVID, then canceling conferences, then canceling submissions, then canceling publications, now the variant, and on and on, and on. And all the while, we, as writers, struggle to connect with each other and our stories. Do you need encouragement to move on? I know that I did.

 Here are five things that I did to help me get back to my writing:

1.     I started reading again. First, I read for enjoyment—Checking out things like Pinterest and Facebook (don’t judge!). I read some classic children’s books from my home library. Then I found myself checking out some articles and blogs on writing. Before I knew it, I was studying writing again!

2.     The next thing I wrote was something short. I know that as a writer for children’s books that they are naturally short, but this exercise has little to do with that kind of intense writing. Instead, I wrote a congratulatory letter to my granddaughter who managed to finish her degree during Covid. Preparing for and actually writing it started my creative engine going.

 3.     With my engine idling, I went off and proceeded to live my semi-regular life again, without writing anything else. This time I had a level of guilt that I hadn’t experienced in quite a while. After all, don’t we all have some guilt about not writing or not writing enough? I took a deep breath and gave myself some space to linger without writing. It helped me get to # 4.

 4.     I finally opened my computer to write the next best-selling book and found that I had lost the ability to write anything on my computer because I did something dumb when I uploaded a new IOS! (I’m still in denial about what I did and why I did it!). Needless to say, I could only print my manuscripts and read or correct by hand. I was infuriated. After all, I was finally ready to put my thoughts together and the stars aligned against me. Again, I took a deep breath and pushed through. This time with renewed confidence, I finally knelt to the writing gods and bought some new software. Which brings me to #5.

 5.     Somewhere in the dark recesses of my twisted mind a new idea formed. More than one, actually. And they have merit and could possibly be the next best sellers. Or at least something to spend every waking hour thinking about, writing about, and crying about. After all, isn’t that what we writers do?

For one brief moment I thought my writing career was over. Now I can’t wait to get my stories on paper and share them with the world.

 Here’s to all the fabulous stories that you will write because you decided to join me back in the saddle again. And, hey, isn’t the view up here wonderful?

It's A Book Birthday!

 

                      Who Knew? Under the Apple Tree

August, 2021

Author, That would be me, Laurie Knowlton,

Illustrator, Stephanie Marshal

Publisher, Amicus Ink.

 

 

            This book began under an apple tree, one that I see every time I look out my kitchen window. I watch the comings and goings of critters from the early morning until I turn off the lights for the evening. Like many authors, I am inspired by my intimate world--the people I know, the land that I live on, the creatures that I share my life with.

            So how does “life” become a story?

            An author can choose from many different types of picture books, fiction, non-fiction,    predictable stories, and concept books that teach skills like the ABC's, colors, shapes, opposites, numbers, and more.

            I read many picture books, and although I have seen books that teach numbers, 1,2,3 etc., I haven't seen many books that use ordinal numbers: first, second, third, words that are used daily in classrooms. Examples:

            “Tommy, you will be first in line.”

            “Gwen finished second in the race.”

            “Farra, please go to the third door down the hall.”

            As I sat under my apple tree, the idea of an ordinal number book including apples began to flicker in my brain.

            The final piece for the book had to do with critters and how they communicate. A big part of critter communication seems to have to do with gathering food. And that brought me back to the apple tree.

            Having been a teacher, I knew that most pre-school teachers and early elementary teachers included an apple unit as part of their fall activities. Thus, I knew there would be a market for my book.

            My markets are teachers, librarians, and fall-loving families.

            Having a market is important when you write a book.  Authors, illustrators, editors, and publishers must produce books that the public will buy. After the editing is finished, the illustrations are turned in, proofs are checked, and the book is printed. It’s time for the book to begin its life.

            That’s what brings me to our book birthday! Today is the official day people can purchase the book: 

            WHO KNEW? UNDER THE APPLE TREE.

            This is where the proof is in the numbers. Authors and publishers want big sales numbers. Most publishers will wait to see how the sales of the author’s first book go before they’ll offer a second contract for the next book.

             As an author, you pray that your latest “baby” is received well. You pray that the public will fall in love with your precious “child” that you labored over.  And you pray that people will enjoy the book enough to make a purchase. Then, if you are really lucky, the hope is that readers will purchase more books as gifts.

            Today I’m grateful for the opportunity Amicus Ink. has given me and my apple tree.

            Authors have to promote. Today, WHO KNEW? UNDER THE APPLE TREE's “birth” is the beginning. But in a way, the work has just begun. Authors have to promote. I’ll do all I can to get WHO KNEW  a good start on its journey and into as many reader's hands as possible.

 

 

 

 

Deep Point of View - Is it For You?

 


by Gloria G. Adams



 

As writers, we are often told that one of the most important things, if not the most important thing, is to keep your readers in the story so that they don’t close the book and never finish it.

To do this, we need to craft our story so that the readers relate to our characters.

There are many tools in the writer’s workshop by which to accomplish this: a strong hook, lots of sensory details, great descriptions (one of my favorites is Cynthia Rylant’s lost cat in her Henry and Mudge series who looks like “mashed prunes”), and, of course, “showing, not telling.”

Another tool that is used less frequently but can be quite effective, is Deep Point of View.

 Deep POV is written as if the reader is inside a character’s head. According to author, Lisa Hall-Wilson, “Deep point of view is a style of writing that aims to immerse the reader in the story so they share the character’s emotional journey as though it’s their own.” 

One way to accomplish this is to remove filter words like thought, wondered, saw, knew, realized that remove the reader from the intimacy of deep POV.

Instead of this:

I heard a dog barking in the distance and wondered if it might be Max.

Use DPOV:

A dog barked. Not close, but, could it be Max?

 Here’s another example:

                                                               Without DPOV:

           I think Shelly looks so pretty in the new pink tutu. It makes her look as delicate as a rose petal. But I know she’s not really pretty or delicate. After what she said yesterday, I realized she was as hard and unforgiving as a thorn.

                  With DPOV:

Shelly looks so pretty in the new pink tutu. Delicate. Like a rose. But she’s not pretty or delicate. The real Shelly is hard. Unforgiving. More like a thorn.

 But as much as it can take us inside a character’s head, DPOV can be limiting, and it doesn’t work for every story. Unless you have multiple points of view, or sections of narrative, you can only see everything from inside one person’s head. Even so, it’s fun to try out new writing tools, and, though challenging, practicing writing in Deep Point of View can be a great way to stretch your writing “muscles.”

To see how others use this tool, check out these books that use DPOV:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Wish by Barbara O’Connor

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

ROOM by Emma Donogue

 Learn more about writing in deep point of view from Lisa Hall-Wilson and the Deep Dive Author Club: https://lisahallwilson.com/

 

Book Launch Celebration!

 


                        


           James A. Bailey: The Genius Behind the  Barnum & Bailey Circus

                                                           

                                              by Gloria G. Adams

 

From the beginning of my journey of writing this book, when people would ask what I was working on and I responded, “A biography of James Anthony Bailey,” the usual response was, “Who?”

After a while, I wasn’t surprised. I knew if I said, “Of Barnum and Bailey,” most people would say, “Oh, that James Bailey.”

I first became interested in James Anthony Bailey when I read an autobiography of equestrienne, Josie Demott Robinson. In it, she mentioned the time she worked for the Barnum and Bailey circus, describing the characters of both Barnum and Bailey. “Mr. Barnum was the advertiser, who loved the limelight, who rode around in the ring, and announced who he was. But Mr. Bailey was the businessman, content to be invisible...and interested only in the success of the show.”

This statement intrigued me so much that I decided to read some books about Mr. Bailey. Much to my dismay, there weren’t any! What? This man had owned and managed The Barnum and Bailey Greatest Show on Earth, one of the most famous circuses in American history, for years even after Barnum’s death, and his name had been plastered on posters and the sides of trains with the Ringling Bros. Circus since the early part of the 20th century. He had been the partner of the famous P.T. Barnum, and no one had been interested enough in Bailey to write a book about him?

 

I began to learn why; he had been an extremely private person, insisting on staying in the background and letting Barnum take credit for all the successes of their circus. Digging up information proved challenging, but it was out there. A librarian in Connecticut scanned an entire journal written by Bailey’s brother-in-law for me; it was a wealth of information. I discovered that Bailey had also invested in and managed Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, along with The Greatest Show on Earth and a second circus he and Barnum had bought out. Between the journal and many articles, I found enough to do what I really wanted to do: write a book about him myself.

Two and a half years later, the reality is here. My biography of James Anthony Bailey is out in the world!

My first review, from Reader's Favorite, received 5 stars: 

"Step by step for middle and high schoolers, Gloria G. Adams traces Jimmy’s rise to fame and fortune in easy-to-read prose, but adults with an interest in the circus and nineteenth-century history will enjoy it too...James A. Bailey by Gloria G. Adams is a magnificently presented biography that will inspire not only kids but adults."

Creating and writing a book is seldom a solitary endeavor. A big THANK YOU to my critique partners, the librarians who helped with research, my son’s help with the tech, and everyone who encouraged me to get this published.

Gloria

 

Finding Inspiration

By Gloria Reichert

Lawn mowers buzz the emerging grass. Leaves fill the bare branches of trees. Flowers pop up to add fragrance and color to the world. Birds fill the air with song. All around, we can see signs of spring reflecting the growth this season brings.

As writers and illustrators, we need to be growing too, not only in spring but throughout the year. We can do this by searching out different resources that expose us to new ideas, stretch our thinking, and inspire us to think creatively. Listed below are some resources that can inspire us to grow.

BOOKS 

Writing Picture Books Revised and Expanded Edition by Ann Whitford Paul. This updated book guides readers every step of the way from the early stages of creating a story to publication. The end of every chapter includes exercises to help readers apply the information presented to their own manuscripts. 

Big Magic: How to Live a Creative Life and Let Go of Your Fears by Elizabeth Gilbert. Gilbert is best known for her novel Eat, Pray, Love, but in this nonfiction book, she discusses her ideas about how to deal with that fear that all creatives face, how to act on the ideas a writer notices, and how to have less stress as you go forth to create. Our fears will always be there, so we might as well acknowledge them and get comfortable with them but let our curiosity and creativity reign. She presents a new approach to the creative process.

TED Talk Mac Barnett

In this whimsical talk about “Why a Good Book is a Secret Door,” Barnett focuses on the “art of fiction,” that special place between truth and lies. In addition to sharing information about 826 Valencia, a tutoring center for writing, he discusses art as a doorway to wonder and shares what kids say to a fictional whale. Barnett is a humorous, inspiring speaker who believes kids deserve the best stories we can give to them.

THROUGHOUT THE YEAR

12x12 - This year long writing challenge focuses on helping members write 12 picture book manuscripts – one each month of the year. Also included are opportunities for webinars by industry leaders, critiques, and submitting to agents or editors – depending on the level of membership.

Nonfiction Fest – Held in February for the last two years, daily blogs written by folks involved with nonfiction highlight different aspects of writing nonfiction and share books which exemplify the topics discussed.

Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo) Each March, daily blogs written by authors, illustrators, agents, or editors discuss topics of interest to picture books creators and present mentor texts as examples of the topic being discussed. Participants analyze the mentor texts to see what makes them successful. 

These suggestions represent only a few of the many resources available to help writers and illustrators. As you peruse these, may you be led to many other resources which inspire you and help you to grow and to hone your craft.

 

Throughlines

By Laurie Knowlton

A fellow critique member recently asked if she had kept to her throughline in a biography she is writing. I have to admit, I was not familiar with that term. I researched THROUGHLINE and found wonderful articles, TED talks, and definitions. This is what I gleaned from my research.

 A throughline is the thread that binds the story together. It is the one thing that motivates the main character to keep moving forward, short-term to long-term, in spite of all the challenges that arise.

This got me thinking about our personal throughlines as authors. Our throughlines are to write something that is good enough to get published. This seldom happens without studying the craft of writing. Attending conferences, workshops, and writing retreats. Reading HOW-TO and mentor texts. Joining critique groups. Poring over the Writer's Market guide. And writing.

Yes, writing. Everyone has their own rhythm for writing. Some people have a set time and place. Some people wait for the muse. Some people go out into the world eavesdropping and writing down bits and pieces of dialogue they hear. Some people stick with one genre. While others write a little bit of everything.

But they write. All hoping for the elusive goal of publication.

What stands in the way of accomplishing the desired outcome? FEAR. Self-defeat. Rejections. Age. Ourselves. This writing business isn't a romantic ideal. It is reality, sometimes a difficult reality.

BUT if you are focused on your throughline, if you hold onto it with tenacity, if you hone your talent, if you can be patient for your time, if you can be generous with your accumulated knowledge and pass it onto others on the same journey, I believe God will bless you with accomplishing your throughline as an author.

I have been blessed to watch many people hold onto their throughlines by focusing on the end goal of getting published, in spite of the struggle. This group of bloggers is a great example. To Gloria Adams, Lisa Amstutz, Kate Carol, Lana Koehler, and Gloria Reichert, you rock! You accomplished your throughlines and continue to do so while helping others to follow their dreams of publication. I am so proud of you all.

Readers, be true to your personal throughlines. Great stories are waiting to be written and published.