Book Announcements, Picture Book Journey

Something SPOOKY this way comes!

If you’ve visited this site before, you may notice that I’ve changed the color scheme . . . and I have a new logo. What’s Thousand Acre Wood Books, you wonder? It’s the name of my writing business, and the name under which I’m going to self-publish one of my picture book manuscripts!

This particular manuscript is near and dear to me. I wrote the earliest version back in 2016, when I had no clue what I was doing. In 2017, it was the first manuscript that I shared with other writers for a critique, and wow, did I learn a lot about what I didn’t know about writing picture books!

The story has changed a lot since 2016. The current version is quite different from what I originally imagined, but it has the same aesthetic and the same lovable characters as that flawed draft. Now, it reads like a picture book rather than a short story. I’m excited to launch this book this fall.

Why not traditionally publish? Have I given up on that route? No, I haven’t given up: I’m still hoping to traditionally publish picture books, and I’m still seeking representation. But after querying agents with this manuscript quite a bit, I’m at a point where I really ought to set it aside. And I’m too attached to do that. So I’m launching it myself, largely because I want to have this beloved book in hand to read to my children while they are still young enough to enjoy it. Plus, it’s going to be fun. 🙂

You may be wondering what the story is about and what the title is. But you’ll just have to wait for a cover reveal. Mwa ha ha!

Picture Book Journey

Make Pitching Playful

I have a confession to make: I like writing pitches. It’s fun. And I like to think that I’m good at it (though I don’t have any concrete support for that claim!).

If you already are a pro at writing short pitches that you can use for Twitter pitch parties or in-person pitch fests, you can maybe skip this post. If you don’t know why you need a short pitch, do a little reading first.

If, on the other hand, you know what a pitch is and why you need it, but feel like you are terrible at it, I have a suggestion for you. Get ready to . . . <drumroll, crescendo> play a board game!

Specifically, see if you can track down Balderdash. You’ll need the version that includes the movies category. In that category, you are given the title of a movie and you have to construct a one sentence description of it. Your challenge is to make it sound just wacky enough to be a believable real-life weird movie. You’ll do better at the game if you can imitate the language and structure of a traditional movie logline. And the practice you get from making up those loglines, I think, can help prepare you for pitching.

Don’t want to play an actual board game? You can still make pitching a game. If you don’t know what good pitches look like, I urge you to prowl through the #pitmad pitches on Twitter. See which pitches get lots of hearts or lots of forwards. What makes pitches work? Ask yourself which pitches make YOU want to read the book, and why.

Then practice. Try to “pitch” your favorite classic works of literature as if they were popular works in your preferred genre. Or, make it more fun and try to pitch classic works of literature as if they were in a DIFFERENT genre. What if you pitch GREAT EXPECTATIONS as a thriller rather than a bildungsroman? Or what if you pitch STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI as if it were primarily a romance, with Leia and Han as the main characters? This could get really fun, I promise. And if you play it was a game in a group, it’s a great way to build community . . . which is important for writers, as I’ve written about in the past.

If you want more serious practice, try helping other writers write THEIR pitches. This will give you practice in taking a title and concept and making them compelling. You will grow stronger yourself while helping another writer. It’s a win-win! So, why not play?

Challenges

Summer Writing Plans

Memorial Day Weekend is just around the corner (can you believe it?). For many parents, finding writing time in summer is challenging. For me, summer is a bit easier: I’m no longer teaching classes, but my youngest children are still in daycare. Summer is a chance to work on research, revise my syllabi, and generally recover from the academic year.

Since I’ve gotten more serious about my creative writing, summer has also become a special time to focus on creative writing. Last year I participated in the Camp NaNoWriMo challenge in July. I recommend this to anyone looking for accountability: it’s more flexible than the classic November NaNoWriMo. You don’t have to work on a novel: you can also work on short fiction or multiple projects.

This year, I’m hoping to get some more time working on my picture book manuscripts. I’ve managed to keep up with the 12 x 12 Community’s “one picture book a month” challenge so far . . . but only just barely! I’m hoping to do better over the summer.

I also have a novel project that I’m hoping to finish. I’m not going to say much about that because my track record for finishing novels has been poor, at least since college. If I manage to finish it, you’ll hear more about it!

What are you hoping to do with your writing this summer, fellow writers? Whether summer is a tough time for you or a great time for writing, I’d love to hear your plans!

Challenges

“Magique Comes Home”

I’m about to disappoint anyone who came to this blog looking for my fiction. I’m removing “Magique Comes Home” because I am revising and expanded the story. But if you’re here, pull up a chair and I’ll tell you how I came up with the idea for this award-winning short fiction!

This story was inspired by a conversation with my oldest child. When I told him about someone I knew who had found their lost cat weeks after the Camp Fire in Paradise, he gave me a wide-eyed stare and solemnly said: “That sounds like magic to me!” And I knew there had to be a story about that . . .

I don’t really understand how cats know to survive a wildfire, but I’ve heard many stories of lost kitties finally being found and claimed, sometimes months after the fire. It seems like magic to me, too!


Challenges, Picture Book Journey

50 Magic Words, One Tough Challenge!

The very first kid lit writing contest I entered was Vivian Kirkfield’s “50 Magic Words” in 2018. I’ve done a few other challenges since then, but wow, this one is still tough. If you think writing a 100 or 214 word story is difficult, try writing with just 50 words and no illustration notes!

This contest is both a challenge and a delight!

The amazing thing about it, though, is that if you read through the entries, some people really rock this challenge. We’re only two days into the challenge and there’s already an impressive range of flash fictions for children: funny stories, sweet stories, and tug-at-your-heartstring stories.

And if you’re up for it, by all means try the challenge. I think this one encourages lyrical or poetic stories, because every one of those 50 words has to carry so much weight.

Challenges

Penguin’s Perfect Present

You know what today is, right? Today’s the day for posting contest entries for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Valentiny holiday contest. This story was harder to write than my December holiday story: I had several false starts. But I ended up with a sweet story about friendship. Say hello to Penguin and Bear!

Valentiny Bear

Penguin was delighted to be invited to Bear’s Valentine’s Day party. She had to pick the perfect present, because a friend like Bear deserved something special.

Penguin chose a delicate vase with a bouquet of sweet-smelling flowers, then wrapped a sparkly pink bow around it. Stunning!

At the party, Bear was in the center of a crowd. This could take a while, Penguin realized. She put down her bouquet so she could grab some punch.

When she came back, her bouquet was gone. “Did you bring that salad?” Moose asked. “DEE-LI-CIOUS!”

“I’m . . . uh . . . glad you liked it?” Penguin said. At least she still had the vase to give to Bear.

Then something hurtled down from the ceiling. CRASH! The vase shattered.

“So sorry,” squeaked Flying Squirrel. “I messed up my landing. Oh dear, what a mess!”

“Yes, it’s all a mess,” Penguin agreed. She blinked back tears as she picked up the pink bow—all that was left. So much for giving Bear a special gift! All she’d done was mess up. Some friend she was!

“Penguin!” cried Bear. “Is that for me?”  Bear slipped the bow over her ear. It twinkled like diamonds. “How do I look?”

Penguin stared. Then she found the right word: “Perfect!”