“SuperHERo Tales: A Collection of Female Superhero Stories”

It’s out! The female superhero anthology with one of my stories in it is out on Kindle.

Female superheroes are underrepresented in literature. So a group of us got together and decided to do something about it.

Proceeds go to the Because I am a Girl charity.

Thanks to Becky Fyfe of the Chapter Book Challenge for putting together this important anthology.

Stay tuned for the print edition.

5 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Write

I am finding it hard to write this month. I know that there are two times of year that I have particular troubles in my life, and that is the change from fall to winter and the change from winter to spring. It is hard on my body. I just don’t feel well during these times and find it hard to get motivated.

At least I am hoping that this is what is happening. Although it is not a pleasant state to be in, I can think to myself that it is only temporary.

Perhaps you are the same way. Are there times of the year or month or day that you feel unable to write?A particular season maybe? Maybe it’s a whole month like November or February. Lack of light can be one cause.

So since I have been having troubles motivating myself internally, I have been thinking that perhaps I may need a way to motivate myself externally.

Here are some of the things that I have come up with:

 

My well loved candle on one of my pottery pieces

My well loved candle on one of my pottery pieces

1. Set the mood

I love candles, especially beeswax candles. So if I set up a special space lit with my special candles, perhaps it will set the mood for writing. You might like something else like music.

2. Set a schedule

But I set myself a goal to write 100 words a day, and some days I don’t even achieve that. That’s where I think that maybe I need to be doing more of #3.

3. Reward myself

If I write those 100 words, then I can eat a square of my favourite dark chocolate. And if I do it seven days in a row, then I can have an even larger reward.

4. Journal it

Sometimes writing about the fact that you are not writing causes a creative insight. And it still is writing, just in a different way.

5. Take a creative break

Often I find doing something else creative will spur some writing. So I decided to go and paint some pottery last Sunday afternoon. And you know what, the next day I did actually write more than I had in a while. So either I need to schedule creative breaks more often (maybe cooking or even learning how to crochet or knit) or I need to use them as rewards.

 

I have been told that since I am a Libra, I am good at giving advice, but lousy at taking my own. I hope that this is not the case this time.

What about you? Do you have down times? What are your motivators?

3 Nonfiction Mentor Texts

Just what are mentor texts? They are books that you can study in order to find out how published authors approach something. Approach what, you might be asking. Well anything really, especially something that you may be having trouble with. See this article for an excellent explanation.

What books do you need to use? You can use a book that captures your imagination, one that appeals to you in some way. You can use recommendations from other people or dig up a list of some of the award winners.

Since I am interested in the nonfiction market, I decided to study and compare three nonfiction books. And in my case, just getting started, I wanted some general knowledge about nonfiction picture books. So I typed out three books  (for my eyes only), which is always a good exercise to do when you are studying a book.

 

The three books, all of them about animals, that I chose were:

 

1. “Vulture View” by April Pulley Sayre (Grades K-3)

Awards include:

Theodor Geisel Honor Book

ALA Notable Book

 

2. “Hello, Bumblebee Bat” by Darrin Lunde (ages 3-6; preK to grade 1)

Awards include:

Booklist’s Notable Children’s Book

Theodor Geisel Honor Book

 

3. Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator by Sarah C. Campbell (ages 4-9)

Awards include:

Theodor Geisel Honor Book

Mississippi Library Association’s Youth Author’s Award

 

I kept my first mentor text study basic, and so I looked at word count (being confused by so many suggestions) and first sentence.

1. Word Count

These were the results:

“Hello, Bumblebee Bat”: 196 words (Back matter: 76 words)

“Wolfsnail”: 389 words

“Vulture View”: 180 words

What surprised me was how few words were in each book. I wasn’t as surprised by “Hello, Bumblebee Bat” due to its target age group. Still, I expected there to be many more words in a nonfiction book. Though, there was a lot of back matter in both “Wolfsnail” and “Vulture View”.

Perhaps I should not have been as surprised. As Kristen Fulton mentioned in one of her fabulous Wow Nonficpic webinars, in nonfiction word count in more flexible: you should focus on using the correct number of words to get the story out.

What did I conclude? That I should not focus so much on word count, but on telling the story instead.

 

2. First Sentences

None of these three books had catchy first sentences. However, as one of my former teachers pointed out, it is harder for nonfiction books to have first sentences that grab you.

I can think of one that is fabulous though, which is from the book called “Surprising Sharks” by Nicola Davies. So it is possible.

My conclusion is that you don’t need a catchy first sentence to get your nonfiction book published, but it may give you the edge.

 

You can use mentor texts to study all kinds of things. I intend to study these books again later for other things such as page turns (a particular weakness of mine).

Have you studied any mentor texts? If so, what conclusions did you make.

 

 

Book Review: “The Return of the Library Dragon”

I took “The Return of the Library Dragon” by Carmen Agra Deedy out of the library in order to study the end papers. This was because of a post I had just read about end papers, which was written in the days leading up to PiBoIdMo. In the post, Dianne de las Casas talks about how end papers can enhance a book, so authors should consider their inclusion.

I did love the end papers in this book. There were some beautiful quotes about books and reading including this one by Roald Dahl:

So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray,

Go throw your TV set away,

And in its place you can install,

A lovely bookshelf on the wall.

It was not only the end papers I admired, but also the book itself and the message it was trying to get across. Miss Lotty has decided that the time has come to retire. However, when she sees that her replacement, a man called Mike Krochip, has gotten rid of all the books and is planning on turning the library into a cybrary, Miss Lotty cannot help but turn back into the library dragon.

Books vs. technology is a neverending debate. There are many who argue that in time print books will die.

However, lately I have been reading a strong argument some people have for allowing print books to live. And that is to unplug. Our world has become so steeped in technology that we are losing the ability for quietness and stillness. Many people are always connected. Other people are recognizing that we need times when we can get away from social media and the like.

Tomie de Paola recently wrote a fantastic post about this topic on the picture book month website.

Laura Vaccaro Seeger argues for the inclusion of both in her recent post on the same website.

The fact remains that we as authors and parents cannot ignore the growing children’s ebook market. However, that does not mean we should give up on traditional print books either.

What do you think? Do you prefer print books or ebooks? Do you think that print books will die and ebooks take over? Or is there room for both?

3 (+3) Favourite Picture Books from Childhood

Today is the second day of PiBoIdMo. I have already had several ideas during the PrePiBoIdMo activities. Let’s hope that I will continue to have ideas and not dry out during the actual challenge.

If you are looking for further inspiration during this challenge, then head on over to the Picture Book Month website, where a series of picture book champions blog about why they think picture books are important.

There have been many other related picture book activities tied into PiBoIdMo. For example, you can twitter your thoughts on #YIWritePB. I’m not big on Twitter, but I couldn’t resist answering the request for people’s favourite childhood picture books. These were my responses (expanded here):

1. “Good Morning Farm” by Betty Ren Wright

I was lucky to rediscover this book at a library book sale. I snapped it up in order to read it to my daughter.

I am a big animal lover, and so this simple story about a dog saying good morning to all the farm animals always delighted me. My favourite part was the surprise creature at the end of the book.

2. “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats

Even before I knew it was groundbreaking, I enjoyed reading this book.

I loved being wrapped up, warm inside, while I read about Peter’s journey through the snow. I still shiver looking at those huge mounds of snow.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading this book, then there is a website where you can read it for free called We Give Books.

3. “Make Way for Ducklings” by Robert McCloskey

If you have forgotten the story, then click here for a youtube reading.

My favourite part of the book was when the police officer called Michael stood with his hand raised, stopping the traffic, helping the ducklings cross the road.

I noticed that there have been a couple of similar duckling rescue books published in the last few years including “Lucky Ducklings” by Eve Moore. It would be interesting to compare the differences between the Robert McCloskey book and the newer versions.

Because my mother was German, she read me books that were in her mother tongue. I still have many of my favourites, including these:

1. “Der Schwarze Schimmel” by Ernst Heimeran

When I was young, I was horse crazy. Naturally horse stories always were amongst my favourites.

In this book, the main character, a horse, is uncomfortable in its own skin. So it asks the local artist to paint it a different colour. The horse is ecstatic until the weather conspires to put things right.The horse though is forever left with a reminder of its short journey as a different creature.

2. “Ich bin das kleine Baerenkind” by Ole Risom

A little bear takes us through a day in its life, introducing us to its home and friends.

3. “Wenn die Sonne Scheint” by Hilde Heyduck

This book is nothing more than  few simple statements about what happens when the sun shines.

It is the smell of it that really appeals to me. I have one other book that smells like this, a Christmas story, and I have never know any other books to smell like these. It must be a secret from Ravensburger. But it’s funny how the smell of these books can transport me back to my childhood and the many warm memories I have.

One thing I noticed is that my childhood books are much simpler than the books of today. When studying picture books, I have been advised that I really need to focus on the recent publications in order to find out what publishers really want now. Yet some of my childhood favourites are still popular today. Some stories will appeal for generations, and it is these stories that we as authors hope to write.

What are your favourite picture books from childhood?