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, 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, Picture Book Journey

The Picture Book Journey: Get ready to write a LOT

One of the things I didn’t know when I first started writing picture books was that you need to write a lot. Like many writers, I thought I would write one book and then try to find a home for it.

The reality is that what you OUGHT to do is write another picture book manuscript, and another, and another. Kate Messner explains why in this post on “Picture Book Math,” which anyone who wants to write picture books should read.

What I want to talk about here is how you can write a lot. One of the tricks I discovered last year is Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm, a one-month challenge that encourages people to generate a month’s worth of story ideas. It’s not as daunting as it may sound, because there’s also a month’s worth of reading about how to generate ideas.

Last year, I was so excited by StoryStorm that there were many days when, rather than just writing out an idea, I actually sat down and dashed out a whole draft. I happen to be a fast drafter, and I had more free time due to a sabbatical, so I had a number of complete drafts at the end of the month, in addition to a page or two of ideas. That was great in some ways. Writing so many drafts in one month gave me a lot of material to work with as I tried to learn my craft.

I’m still trying to learn the craft, of course. But I already have drafts from last year that need revision. Plus, I have a new semester of teaching to prepare for. So while I admit that I’ve already turned one of my StoryStorm ideas into a January draft, I’m trying to pace myself. Dashing off a first draft is probably the most fun part of writing for me, but it isn’t necessarily what I need to be working on now. (Have I mentioned that revision is my nemesis?)

Of course, when we get to the first week of May, all bets are off, because that’s National Picture Book Writing Week!  A challenge that involves drafting a new story every day for a week is prefect. And it’s demanding: by the end of that week, even I needed a break from drafting.

For now, I’m trying to balance the work of generating new ideas –which is important–with my need to focus on revision and polishing. Picture book writers, how do you balance those two?