Remembering Richard Peck

 

by Gloria G. Adams

 

It’s January again, and my turn to write for our blog. I thought about so many things that you often think about as a writer in January: setting writing goals, taking workshops, attending conferences, making a list of all the books you want to write this year or how you’re going to finish writing that one that tugs the most at your mind and heart strings.

 

Then I thought a list of inspirational writing quotes might be appropriate. And when I think about inspirational writing quotes, I always think about Richard Peck.

 

Richard Peck was one of the pioneers of young adult literature, whose books I discovered when I first started working in the library. He won many awards, including the Newbery Award, and the prestigious Margaret A. Edwards award for his “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.”

I was fortunate enough to attend a few conferences where I heard him speak. He had piercing blue eyes and a compelling presence that commanded everyone’s attention. I was even lucky enough to meet him and share lunch and conversation with him at a writing festival in which I participated while working as a librarian.

 But even more than his talent as a writer and speaker was his heart for young readers. He had taught English to middle-schoolers before he began his writing career in 1971, where he witnessed first-hand some of the negative consequences of peer pressure. His message resonates through his books: “You only grow up when you’ve walked away from those people. In all my novels, you have to declare your independence from your peers before you can take that first real step toward yourself.”

 When he read us some of the letters he’d received from his readers, you could tell he had touched many lives through his books and really made a difference. He passed away in 2018, but what a legacy he left us!


 We writers all have authors we admire, respect, and by whom we are inspired; the one at the top of my list is Richard Peck.

 Here are some of my favorite Richard Peck quotes:


 “The only way you can write is by the light of the bridges burning behind you.”

 

“Because nobody but a reader ever became a writer.”

 

“I'm a writer because I never had a teacher who said, "Write what you know." If I'd been limited to writing what I know, I would have produced one unpublishable haiku. Beatrix Potter was never a rabbit. J. K. Rowling did not attend Hogwarts School.”

 

“[A young adult novel] ends not with happily ever after, but at a new beginning, with the sense of a lot of life yet to be lived.”

 

“Learn five new words a day…You want to use words to create new worlds… If you are going to be a writer, you need to collect words.”

 

“If you cannot find yourself on the page very early in life, you will go looking for yourself in all the wrong places.”

 

“I read because one life isn't enough, and in the page of a book I can be anybody;

I read because the words that build the story become mine, to build my life;

I read not for happy endings but for new beginnings; I'm just beginning myself, and I wouldn't mind a map;

I read because I have friends who don't, and young though they are, they're beginning to run out of material;

I read because every journey begins at the library, and it's time for me to start packing;

I read because one of these days I'm going to get out of this town, and I'm going to go everywhere and meet everybody, and I want to be ready.”

 ― Richard Peck, from Anonymously Yours


For more information on Richard Peck:

https://www.nypl.org/blog/2018/06/11/life-work-richard-peck-nypl-catalog

https://www.kennedy-center.org/video/education/literary-arts/a-conversation-with-author-richard-peck/

 

 

Manuscript Fixer-Upper

 by Kate Carroll


As a children’s writer, I have files of flawed manuscripts. When I wrote them, I didn’t know they had structural damage, but over time, as they sat in a drawer, and I challenged myself to learn more about craft, I realized these gems could not survive in their current condition.  Now, when I need a change of pace, or new ideas aren’t surfacing, I turn to these old friends and challenge one to a renovation.   

 

Whether you’re a brand-new writer or a seasoned author, you probably have a manuscript that never made it into the world. Dig into your drawer, your files, maybe your own slush pile and pull out something that hasn’t seen the light of day in a while - a real fixer-upper. Grab your tools and try a makeover. I’ve watched builders whip old things into shape on HGTV shows and Food Channel chefs work wonders with leftovers, so why not renew an old story?

 

Here is a checklist that might make your something old, new again.


1.      Get ready to demo!

Read your story out loud. A noticeable something may glare at you. Or it may be hidden in the foundation somewhere. Stay with it, even if you must pull everything apart.                    

 

2.      Exactly how strong is your plot? Will kids care what your story is about? If not, can you twist and turn it so that they will?

What can you do to make it more appealing to kids? We know that the best loved stories are ones that allow a child to think, dream, laugh and grow through the pages.

 

3.      Does your main character need a tune-up?  Consider these thoughts. What is your main character really like?  Is it a character that a child can see and know? If your character isn’t well fleshed out, there’s a chance that it will remain invisible. Spend some time working on the MC ‘s attributes. Is he silly, magical, naughty, lazy, excited, mean, brave, curious, forgetful? Whoever your main character is, he must be unforgettable to the reader.

 

4.      Make tension intentional. No matter what age you are writing for, tension matters. Raising the roadblocks that a character encounters keeps the reader rooting for him. Imposing scenes that keep the reader turning the pages is a good goal.

 

5.      Is your dialogue dynamic? Does your dialogue give information that helps move the manuscript along? Do you create conversations between characters that cause tension? Sophie’s Squash by Pat Z. Miller is a great example of dialogue that increases the angst for Sophie.

 

6.      Employ the right words. Use writing techniques that help pace your story well. Think of a roller coaster ride. Experience the slow chug of the climb (I’m nervous already), the intensity of the peak, and the thrill of the finish. Using language that mimics this progression is one way that you can help your pacing.  Check out Oh, No! by Candace Fleming & Eric Rohmann.

 

7.      Be ready to redo if needed. If you’re lucky enough to uncover problems in your story, be prepared to work and rework until the foundation is solid and the details dovetail into a heartwarming finish.  


8.      Inspectors are necessary. Before your work goes into submission, seek final approval from your critique group or a paid editor. Seek honest feedback about your manuscript and accept all suggestions with gratitude. You are not required to use advice from others, but chances are, someone is going to see that one minor flaw that you missed.

 

I hope all your manuscripts are worthy of publication, but just in case they don’t pass inspection the first time, consider a makeover and see what happens.

 


 

                

          BREAKING THE RULES

                                    By

                              Gloria Reichert

 

 

Picture book writers frequently hear they should make their books stand out and sometimes “break the rules” to make them unique. I find myself wondering how we are to break the rules and still have a publishable book. I have a nonfiction manuscript which needs a fresh approach, so I have been on the lookout for inspiration and discovered a new picture book which helped me to have a better understanding of how this can be accomplished.

 

A Vote for Susanna, the First Woman Mayor written by Karen Greenwald and illustrated by Sian James provides a good example of successfully “breaking the rules.” In this biography, the author breaks the rules in regard to structure.

 

The subject of the biography, Susanna Salter, is a little known person who had an enormous impact in her community, the small town of Argonia, Kansas, and attracted worldwide attention back in 1887. The events in the story occurred over a hundred years ago and are told in an unconventional manner. Usually, a biography starts with an event from the subject’s childhood and is told in chronological order. Neither of these occurs in this tale.

 

Instead, the author creatively employs two methods of presenting the information. Sometimes the facts are presented in a straightforward manner, and sometimes Salter’s story is deftly presented in a conversation between a boy and his grandma as the grandma tells the story. The information is accurate and truthful, and the tale has all of the components necessary for a good picture book. A surprise ending wraps things up in a satisfying way.

 

Reading this biography has provided inspiration and has challenged my thinking. It has me considering what, besides structure and chronological order, can be altered and tweaked to give manuscripts a fresh approach. By thoughtfully examining other picture books and trying out some different ideas, I hope to find ways to successfully “break the rules” for my manuscript and hope you are able to find fresh approaches for yours also.

 

 

 

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.