A Gift: “Sneaky Art”

So I actually won something the other day. Wow! I have entered many a contest, but to win something…It doesn’t happen very often.

I won this prize by entering a comment on Cathy C. Hall’s blog.  A big thank you to Cathy for hosting the contest. Be sure to make a stop at Cathy’s blog. You won’t be disappointed. She has some great tips like “Friday’s fun find”. Cathy also writes for the Muffin, which is looking for writers. Could you be one?

The prize was a rather intriguing book called “Sneaky Art” by Marthe Jocelyn. The premise is that you should try to sneak art into people’s lives. Leave some art behind to give someone a surprise and brighten their day.

The book came at a perfect time for three reasons:

1. It has been the longest winter here in years. It has snowed since November and the windchill has been breaking records. Even the thought of leaving some sneaky art around for my neighbours to discover has cheered me up.

It's the winter of the polar vortex!

It’s the winter of the polar vortex!

2. I have chosen as my guiding word for the year “positive”. Making other people feel good is a great positive.

3. I am making a concentrated effort to clean out my clutter. Those old art projects that have been sitting around are getting a new life.

So this prize was actually a gift.

So far we have done a couple of things: pipe cleaner flowers and winter blossoms. And we have branched out into other art projects too. For one thing, we have left smiley faces in the snow using snow paint. I say we, because as soon as my daughter saw the book, she claimed half ownership.

Certainly all the art projects don’t need to be sneaky. My daughter also hosted a party for her father and me (another great polar vortex breaker), and had us make the cupcakes from the book.

Why not make someone smile today?


Revising your Manuscript

I finished participating in Meg Miller’s ReViMo, which was seven days of revising your picture book manuscripts, on January 18. It certainly was a challenge, but I am glad that I participated. It gave me that much needed push to start doing some revisions, which is my least favourite part of writing. And now I am starting to make it a habit.

Here are three new things I tried:

1. I consulted ‘The Emotion Thesaurus”
“The Emotion Thesaurus” was a book I had read about during last year’s chapter book challenge (which is fast coming up). I finally decided to buy a copy, but it sat on my shelf for a while, like most writing books I purchase.
As has been pointed out to me, I tend to use the same phrases in order to indicate a specific emotion. So this time I decided that I wanted to expand, and so I finally cracked open the book.
I highly recommend this book. The physical signals, internal sensations, and mental responses of several emotions are listed. The long term and suppressed effects of each emotion are even explored.

2. Ann Whitford Paul’s “Writing Picture Books”, Chapter 14
It just so happened that on the Thursday of ReViMo we had our regular session of Word by Word, and we read chapter 14 of “Writing Picture Books”. This chapter detailed how your prose can make music. Even if you do not rhyme in your book, you should still pay attention to rhythm and word sound. These are two things I am still weak on. The rest of the chapter talked about more familiar techniques such as alliteration, metaphor, and personification.

3. Cut your manuscript in half
Following the guest post of Deborah Underwood, I decided to use this technique. It was probably the most difficult technique I used all week, and I wasn’t too happy with the results. But I am glad that I tried it, and I will try it again.

Those certainly weren’t the only revision techniques I used. One surprise bonus method was consulting with my six-year-old. I thought I would have a lot of trouble revising while she was off school one day, but she was quite helpful. She was the most helpful when it came to language matters, making something more readable to a child. “Talked amongst themselves”? Mom, how about “talked to each other”? Or “what does glimpse mean”?

What are some new revision techniques that you have been using? What are your favourites?

Writing Exercise: Rewriting a Fairy Tale

I have been studying Ann Whitford Paul’s “Writing Picture Books” for some time now through the Word by Word Facebook club.

In chapter 9, the author suggests that we take a famous fairy tale and rewrite it using our own characters and/or setting while sticking close to the plot. This is a great way to study “how a well-written and enduring tale is plotted”.

I decided to base my fairy tale on “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”. At first I wanted to use three sloths, because I remember reading how some animals are just overdone. Then I changed my mind, because I couldn’t figure out who the antagonist would be. I will have to think more about that. So I settled on three chimps with the antagonist being the baboon. In real life, chimps eat baboons, so this baboon was putting herself in a precarious situation.

Because this story is a practice story, it is still only a first draft.

However, I found that ever since I have written this tale, I have thought in the “rhythm of threes”.

Why not try it and post below about your experience?


Brainstorming is always important.

Brainstorming is always important.


“The Naughty Baboon and the Three Little Chimps”

Once upon a time there were three little chimps. These chimps were good little chimps and they helped each other out. There was a big chimp, a medium sized chimp, and a little chimp.

One day the chimps made themselves some termite stew. But the stew was too hot, so they decided to let it cool. In the meantime they took a walk.

Now there was also a naughty baboon that lived in the forest. And that naughty baboon saw the chimps leave and so decided to investigate what was left behind.

The baboon crept over to the spot the chimps had just left and saw three bowls of termite stew. She sniffed. The smell was delicious. So, looking around, she went closer to the bowls.

She dipped her hand into the first one. “Ouch!” It was too hot.

Blowing her finger, she waddled over to the second bowl. She carefully put her finger into the second bowl. “Eeeewww.” It was too cold.

She moved over to the third bowl. This time her finger met success. “Mmmmm, just right.” She ate up the stew and rubbed her belly.

Feeling drowsy, she walked over to the group of trees where she knew the chimps rested. She leaned her back against the biggest tree. “Ouch, too hard,” she said, rubbing her back.

So she moved over to the middle sized tree. But it flopped back and forth and she could not get comfortable. “Ouch, too soft.”

The next tree was far smaller. She leaned against it and sighed, “Just right.” Then she heard a big “Snap”! Just in time she jumped out of the path of the falling littlest tree.

Looking up in the next tree she saw three nests. She climbed the tree and sat in the first nest.

“Ouch,” too hard, as the branches poked out into her.

So she moved over to the second nest. But the branches almost fell out from under her. “Too soft,” she yelped as she scrambled away.

The third nest was just right though, and she lowered herself down for a nice long nap.

Just then the three little chimps returned.

The biggest chimp looked into her bowl and noticed that there was a hole in the stew. “Someone has been eating my stew,” she said.

The second chimp also noticed something wrong with her stew. “Someone has been eating my stew.”

And then the third little chimp piped up, “Someone has been eating my stew and ate it all up.”

Then the first chimp noticed her tree had scratches on it. “Someone has been leaning on my tree,” she said.

The second chimp noticed how wobbly her tree was. “Someone has been leaning on my tree.”

And then the third chimp pointed and said, “Someone has been leaning on my tree and it is all broken.”

Then they looked up into their nest tree.

The first little chimp said, “Someone has been sleeping in my bed.”

The second chimp pointed and said, “Someone has been sleeping in my bed.”

The third chimp climbed up the tree and shouted, “Someone has been sleeping in my bed. And she’s still there!”

At the shout, the naughty baboon woke up. Seeing the chimp hovering over her, she jumped for her life, down, down, down.

And she was never seen again.


Book Review: “Voices in the Park”

I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to get my daughter to see things from someone else’s point of view. She’s only six though, so I know that she is still developing that skill.

But it’s never too early to try and teach her. So that’s why I thought that the book called “Voices in the Park” by Anthony Browne was a great idea.

The book takes the same story and presents it from the point of view of four different characters. There is a bossy mother, a sad father, a lonely boy, and a warm girl. Each person tells about the same encounter in an entirely different way, coloured by their thoughts and feelings.

The artwork complements the text very well. When the mother is scared for her son, the trees start to howl. When it’s the warm girl’s turn to talk, the artwork is bright and vivid.

The characters also have their feelings reflected by different seasons. For example, the sad father’s scene takes place in winter, whereas the lonely boy, who turns out to be hopeful, has his scene set in spring, a time of new beginning.

This book is also a great mentor text for budding children’s book authors to study.

An Honourable Mention in a Writing Contest

I was excited to learn the day before yesterday that I have been awarded an honourable mention in the Institute of Children’s Literature Speedy Santa Holiday Writing Contest.

The rules were that Santa had to be in a hurry somewhere, and that the story had to be 150 words or less.

I chose as my topic Santa dashing to save a reindeer who had fallen through the ice.

No prize, but it is nice to be acknowledged for my writing. And it does give me motivation to continue.

Now onwards. I have two more contests I would like to enter this month: the Highlights fiction contest (last day to enter January 31) and Rate Your Story’s story writing contest (January 15-February 3).

Are you entering any contests this year? Which ones?


Three January Writing Challenges: Writing Challenge #3


My third free writing challenge is “Start the Year off Write”.

Hosted by Shannon Abercrombie, this challenge is open to picture book writers, middle grade writers and young adult writers. For 21 days, starting January 5, there will be daily prompts and writing insights. Every day you complete the writing prompt, you earn a chance to enter into the draw for a grand prize.

To read about it and (hopefully) join, click here.

Because it’s the beginning of a new year, there is a lot of creative energy buzzing around. I intend to seize some and shake up my writing career. These three challenges are a great way to start.

What will you do in 2014?