Best in Show

April Is National Poetry Month

Happy National Poetry Month Everyone!

There is no better way to honor this month and continue our journey of showing versus telling than through the eyes of wonderful poets. Here to share her personal experiences and expertise is Amy Losak. I am so excited to feature her unique and special publishing journey.

 

 

H IS FOR HAIKU

I’ve learned that with picture books, the best creative approach is to “show” more than “tell,” and to leave enough “white space” for the illustrator to complete the story.

In many ways, it’s the same with haiku poetry.

Haiku is the briefest form of poetry, yet arguably the most expansive. It’s delightfully challenging to write, and it takes study, practice, and revision. A lot has to be “packed” into few words, to allow the reader to enter the poem as creative collaborators, and “complete” it. Each word matters.

Sydell Rosenberg’s haiku for children do just this. I view them as stories in miniature –“word-pictures” – so young readers can fill in the ideas and images presented in the words with their own imaginations. And Sawsan Chalabi, the illustrator for H IS FOR HAIKU, also had plenty of room to “play” with these piquant poetic texts. Take note of her approach, which complements the words with visual wit, energy, and joy!

Take this award-winning haiku for example (it was first published in 1968, I believe!):

So pale – it hardly sat

    on the outstretched branch

      of the winter night.

Over the years, “So pale” has become one of my favorites. It’s tranquil and mysterious – maybe even majestic. This haiku conjures not just a picture of almost other-worldly repose, but a feeling, I hope, of serenity.

What is “it,” exactly? Ah ha – that’s the whole point. Sawsan’s sweet illustration depicts a friendly-faced moon, which is perfect. But “it” could be anything the reader wants to place on that “outstretched” (arm-like?) branch. Could “it” be an owl or another bird – or a squirrel? A cat? Snow? Raindrops? A child? “It” could be any or all these things – and more. There are no limits. There are no wrong answers!

Another old haiku I’ve loved for a long time is:

Adventures over

     the cat sits in the fur ring

        of his tail, and dreams.

This poem captures a moment in time and place. What has happened earlier to tucker out this sleeping kitty? What “adventures” did he have? Was he gallivanting around outdoors? Or was he inside, observing life through a window from a comfy couch cushion (like our amber-eyed, new young cat, Winnie)? Is he dreaming about his busy day’s antics? What will he do when he awakes? Will his adventures continue? What will they be like?

And is he content? He must be, tucked within the safety of his tail. Indeed, note that “fur ring” rhymes with “purring” – this is a deliberate word choice.

There’s a complete story in this poetic “snapshot” … and it’s one in which readers can have fun figuring out what comes before – and also after. They can make this small moment big!

Syd was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America in 1968 in New York City, and also a teacher. I think she determined pretty early in her haiku writing career that some of her poems would appeal to kids. The language she used is simple but striking (a hallmark of haiku). Her poems are designed to build small worlds for kids to revel in, and they build vocabulary, as well.

My journey to publish mom’s old manuscript (some of which I edited) has been a long and nonlinear one, marked by delays, deviations (some delightful, but others painful), and distractions. She died suddenly in 1996. Her writings had been well-anthologized, and she had a number of accomplishments to be proud of. But her dream to publish a kids’ book – despite several submission attempts – went unfulfilled.

But once I got my act in gear, around 2015, the path to publication was relatively quick! I signed with Penny Candy Books in the latter half of 2016, and H IS FOR HAIKU was released on April 10, 2018 (National Poetry Month).

Along the way, I started to better understand Syd’s restless, and at the same time mindful, approach to life and its daily, sometimes unpredictable, small adventures. When my mom was alive, sadly, I took a lot of her mindset for granted. But I and her loved ones always knew how much her literary life meant to her.

I now write and publish my own short poems – mom’s legacy (and other poets, as well), has conferred this gift. This makes me happy, of course, but it’s the process that is most important. I consider myself an eternal beginner. I always seem to be in a rush, and I’m continually distracted. I am still learning to slow down and linger over little slices of life, so I can enjoy and celebrate them. Each “life-slice” is evanescent and unique. Too quickly, it’s gone forever. There can be magic in those moments, if only we take the time and discipline to notice.

This is the lesson I’ve learned from my mom, and I hope it shines through in H IS FOR HAIKU.

pastel pond …

    the iris of her eyes

       staring back at me

If you would like to get in touch with Amy:

FB:  https://www.facebook.com/amy.losak?epa=SEARCH_BOX

Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amy-losak-836b686

 

By Amy Losak; Publication Credits: Read, Learn and be Happy blog, April 17, 2017; They Gave Us Life: Celebrating Mothers, Fathers & Others in Haiku, anthology edited by Robert Epstein, 2017

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Uncategorized

Book Review – The Diamond and the Boy by Hannah Holt

Welcome back to the book review section of The Wonder of Words. For those who don’t know me, I trained as a chemical engineer before I started writing. I also have a science-obsessed daughter who had us read The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs to her when she was four, and who was receiving adult books on astronomy, science and nature for her birthdays from an early age. My favourite of her birthday books is The Elements by Theodore Gray. It is visually spectacular and the text is very readable, challenging and, at times, funny. The page on carbon is fascinating.

Which brings me to the non-fiction picture book, The Diamond and the Boy by Hannah Holt (who, incidentally, is also an engineer). The Diamond and the Boy is a remarkable book about graphite (aka carbon), diamond (aka carbon) and Tracy Hall (the man who created the first diamond-making machine). The book is popular in review circles and Hannah has also discussed her process on a number of blogs, so I will try to bring something new to the discussion.

Creating non-fiction picture books that engage the child is no easy task. There are facts you can’t fudge for the sake of a story and in the past, those facts have been presented in a relatively dry manner – facts must be boring, right? Thanks to the wonderful selection of non-fiction children’s books on the market this has changed and we are seeing books that stay true to the facts and also present an engaging text for children. I could have chosen any number of remarkable non-fiction books to review, so why The Diamond and the Boy?

The Diamond and the Boy appeals to the engineer and the parent in me. It’s a book that humanises science. It’s a book I wish I’d had for my science obsessed daughter so I didn’t have to wade through dry facts each night. The lyricism creates evocative reading. The parallel narratives set up a metaphor for Tracy Hall being as tough as diamonds without being clichéd. But it also shows that you don’t have to be tough to succeed. It demonstrates key attributes parents would like for their children: curiosity, determination, patience, perseverance and resilience.

The Diamond and the Boy is also a book about grandparents. Tracy Hall is Hannah’s grandfather. This isn’t apparent in the main text, however, the back matter on Tracy’s life shows the relationship they had and the relationship Hannah wanted. In fact, all the back matter in this book is excellent reading. Hannah doesn’t shy away from the issue of blood diamonds and she presents the history of diamonds and Tracy Hall’s legacy in a timeline.

The incorporation of science, engineering, biography, history and human relationships and traits in one short picture book is a marvel. To present it in a way that feels authentic and natural is what makes this book remarkable.

Pitch It to Me

~ THE PITCH IT TO ME CHALLENGE ~

Hello again! Welcome to the third PITCH IT TO ME CHALLENGE! For those of you who missed the second challenge, our special guest pitcher, editor Alayne Kay Christian of Blue Whale Press, captured the most votes to take top honors. It was a close competition, and I want to thank everyone who dropped by to participate.

For this round, Marcia Berneger, author of BUSTER THE LITTLE GARBAGE TRUCK, has sent in a pitch for her picture book manuscript, TASHA AND THE NEW YEAR TREE. What a great story, let me tell you! Or rather, let me pitch it to you, along with fabulous author, Erin LeClerc, whose debut picture book, I’VE GOT A COW CALLED MAUREEN, came out earlier this month. These two ladies are super-talented so prepare to be wowed by their pitching prowess. You can learn more about each of them below.

Here’s a recap of how it works ~ Take a look at the three pitches in the voting box. They are in no particular order so you’ll never know whose is whose (the author’s, mine, or our special guest pitcher). Vote for your favorite, and if you are so inclined, leave a comment, too. We love hearing from readers/voters!

You have until April 1, 2019, to cast your vote. No joke! Please vote only once, but feel free to tell your friends about us and get them in on the action.

ABOUT MARCIA:

Marcia is a retired teacher who lives with her husband and three crazy dogs. She enjoys helping in a classroom and reading with children at libraries, bookstores, and fundraisers. She wrote her picture book, Buster the Little Garbage Truck, to help children overcome their fears. She also has a new chapter book coming in September called A Dreidel in Time: A New Spin on an Old Tale

You can connect with Marcia through the following:

Website: www.marciaberneger.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/marcia.berneger

ABOUT ERIN:

Erin grew up with seven siblings, three ghosts, two eccentric parents, and a multitude of farm animals in a crumbling abandoned hospital in the suburbs. This vastly informed her imagination! She spends her “9 to 5” as a psychologist, and her “5 to 9” writing adventurous tales. Her debut picture book was released by Clear Fork Publishing in March 2019!

You can connect with Erin at:

Website: www.erinleclerc.com.au.

Twitter: www.twitter.com/erinleclerc

Insta: www.instagram.com/erinleclercauthor

Facebook: www.facebook.com/erinleclercauthor

Find I’VE GOT A COW CALLED MAUREEN for purchase at:

USA: Clear Fork Publishing or Amazon

AU:  Amazon

UK:  Amazon

Concluding Remarks:

I think it was Candice who teased me after the first Pitch it To Me Challenge for having a section called “Concluding Remarks,” noting that I just can’t shake the attorney off even if I stopped practicing over two years ago. She would be right (she usually is!), but I kind of like it so it stays. It’s also a great space to thank our lovely authors for joining me in the challenge. Hooray for Marcia Berneger and Erin Le Clerc for lending their WONDERFUL words for you to enjoy and vote on. And thank you all for stopping by. Until next time . . .

Finding Creativity, Uncategorized

Picture Book Debut & How ‘What Ifs’ Inspire Creativity

Hi y’all! We have a special guest on the Wonder of Words blog today—one I’m excited to introduce (though needs no introduction), debut author AND fellow critique group partner, Sandra Sutter. Welcome, Sandra!

Thank you, Candice, for asking me to share a little about my debut picture book and my overall creative process. I love working with you and our other critique partners on this blog, but I have to admit it is a lot of fun to drop by as a featured guest, too.

Where did you find the inspiration for your story?

Like many authors I know, my child gave me that initial spark of inspiration for THE REAL FARMER IN THE DELL. He is one of those kids who will ask a million questions about anything you can possibly imagine. That can be inspiring and, well… exhausting, all at the same time. With this story, I was walking by as he looked up from his iPad to ask, “Did you know the farmer took a wife?” When I explained that yes, that was how the song went, he replied, “Well, I did not know that!” Then I thought… it doesn’t have to go that way, does it? What if the farmer didn’t take a wife? What if the farmer didn’t live in a dell? I ran off to write down answers to these and other questions, and out of this, my story was born. Cover The Real Farmer in the Dell

I have a couple of those Million-Question-Kids, too! Love that your son’s question led to the What-If game in a sense. What is your favorite part of the creative process?

I am an ideas person; my head is filled with them. I like to look at things from different angles, brainstorm, then get it out on “paper” and see a story come to life. This is also one reason I like to do critiques. To see the way someone else tackles a subject or comes up with a completely unique storyline. It is fascinating to think of all the stories already out there and yet to be written.

Do you have other creative outlets or hobbies? How do they cross into your writing?

The short answer is yes, I do. I just wish I had more time to do them. I am not an illustrator, but I love to draw and paint for inspiration. It might be a picture of an animal or the main character in one of my stories, or just colorful lines on a paper. I also like photography and used to do more of it when my kids were babies. It was just for fun, but it was a creative outlet for me when I was working as an attorney before going full into writing as a career. My “hobbies” would be mountain biking, hiking, cooking, yoga, and traveling.

I love yoga too. A few minutes in usually leads to me running for paper and pen. Do you have any tips you’d like to share about finding creativity?

I had to be “open” to creativity before it really took hold in my life. Before I started writing, I was a counselor for four years and then an attorney for ten. With the exception of being able to think outside-the-box and help people re-write their own narratives, I didn’t see myself as creative. I wasn’t very “artsy”, or so I thought. But then these stories started to pop into my mind and I couldn’t shake them. I just HAD to get them on paper even if it scared me to have anyone read them. When I allowed myself to do this, it was like someone opened the flood-gates in my mind and a river of ideas poured into my life. So here I am.

As far as a practical tip, I find it helpful to use time-blocking strategies. Schedule an appointment with yourself to be creative in whatever way you like as if it were a doctor’s appointment or a parent-teacher conference. You can accomplish absolutely nothing during that time, but at least do something you love. For example, I aim for at least one day each month that I draw or paint something. No writing!

Wonderful how you phrased that, being open to creativity, because that’s exactly how one needs to be. Creativity usually seems to inspire more creativity. Do you have another book project you’re working on that you could give us a hint about?

I am one of those writers who tends to juggle a dozen or so projects at a time. I like the variety, and sometimes one project bleeds into another which can also lend itself to unexpected, but beautiful outcomes. One of my newer projects is a picture book about possibilities and probabilities. Again, my son may have something to do with that! I have also started a second middle-grade novel about a boy who has to navigate changing peer relationships and an absentee mother who reappears after his single-parent dad wins the lotto. Don’t ask me where that came from, because I have no clue. The idea just appeared one day and now I have to write the story.

Of course, there have been other wonderful creatives that helped bring THE REAL FARMER IN THE DELL to life. My publisher, Callie Metler-Smith, at Clear Fork Publishing and Dr. Mira Resiberg, my editor and art director, were instrumental in bringing it all together. They found the incredibly talented illustration team, Chantelle and Burgen Thorne, to put the right pictures with my words. I couldn’t have done it without this exceptional group of people!

Thank you so much for having me on the blog, Candice. It has been a pleasure!

Enjoyed our interview, Sandra, and always your insightful critiques. Congrats again on your debut!

Connect with Sandra at:

www.sdsutter.com
https://twitter.com/sandradsutter
https://www.facebook.com/sandrasutterauthor/

THE REAL FARMER AND THE DELL officially releases March 19th but if you’re like me and can’t wait ‘til then, you can ask your favorite indie bookstore to pre-order it, or purchase it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble:

https://www.amazon.com/Real-Farmer-Dell-Sandra-Sutter/dp/1946101885/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1550347017&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Real+Farmer+in+the+Dell

And: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-real-farmer-in-the-dell-sandra-sutter/1130070330?ean=9781946101884

For y’all’s creativity challenge inspired by this interview, play the What-If game to encourage brainstorming. If you have or are around children, listen for prompts they may inadvertently send your way. Let me know in the comments and I’ll randomly choose a winner for a picture book critique by me!

Finding Creativity

SYNERGY!

When Janean, a friend and fellow writer, asked me to collaborate on a story I was hesitant. For 30 years, I have written solo: articles, books, poems, stories.

Yes, I have critique partners. I know that picture books are a marriage of two great minds – the writer and illustrator –further refined by the editor. That’s part of their unique magic!

Still, I found it difficult to grasp why two writers would work together on a story. Research revealed that collaboration between authors is not uncommon, so I asked a few authors to describe how they worked together.

The prolific author of 376 children’s books Jane Yolen has worked with other writers often, including her son and daughter. She partnered with others because she admired their work, needed their expertise, or ’to give a foot up’ into publication. “Two authors share their talents, their research, and provide a critical eye,” she said. “It’s important to set ego aside, decide whose name goes first, and share the royalties and advance equally.”

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Amy Gugliemo, a member of my northern NY Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, has had several partnerships. She was first approached by a parent to work jointly on a book about her art-based curriculum which taught all subjects, including math and science. She enthusiastically agreed. The result was the Touch the Art series of books with Julie Appel. Later, Amy partnered with Jacqueline Tourville, another critique group friend. ”Jacqueline and I have similar sense of humor and we spent a lot of time swapping work, so we just started writing together,” she said.

 

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While Julie and Amy would meet in person or chat on the phone, Jacqueline and Amy work through email, sending drafts to one another for edits. “We will go back and forth until we’re both happy,” says Amy. “I’ve been very lucky with my collaborations and I would be open to working with other authors in the future. Publishing is a difficult sport and the best thing about collaboration is having someone to share the ups and downs of the business. It’s always great to celebrate with a friend!”

 

Matt Forrest Esenwine teamed up with Deb Bruss on the story Don’t Ask a Dinosaur. Matt and Deb are in the same SCBWI writers group. According to Matt, Deb gave Matt a general concept and a few lines, but no plot or ending. This sat by his computer for a few months, until he figured out where to go with it. They revised it about 20 times, sharing the versions with one another using Google docs and receiving feedback from their critique group. “One good thing about working together is the back-and-forth of ideas. You have to be able to compromise, and let go of the idea that this is your baby. Co-authored projects are a joy to complete, knowing two people have put so much time, talent, and effort into one little book,” said Matt.

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David Harrison and Sandy Asher co-authored the play, Jesse and Grace: A Best Friend’s Story. Sandy would write a poem from Grace’s point of view, send it to David, and he would respond from Jesse’s POV. Since neither knew in advance what the other would say, “the telling was spontaneous and personal and related to the interior thinking of each character,” said David.

Trisha Speed Shaskan and Stephen Shaskan teamed up on their graphic novel series Q & RAY and picture book PUNK SKUNKS. They like to formulate ideas together, then brainstorm the conflict. “You need to allow ample space for everyone’s ideas and keep things positive,” they wrote in a Storystorm blog post. They believe finding someone you fully trust and maintaining mutual respect is essential.

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I began to see that working together is synergistic – the effect is greater than the sum of its parts, resulting in a better story than when each writer works alone. I have high hopes for the story Janean and I are creating together.

A to Z

My second confession…

In my last post, I confessed “my fascination with words qualifies as a first-rate fetish”. This time I confess I love picture books that “break the fourth wall” (some know it as metafiction), where the reader is invited into the story as an active participant or the reader becomes the narrator. In my research, I read a myriad of books that came under this category. Some worked wonderfully. While it was hard to choose, I absolutely came away with some favorites.

I can’t get enough of that crazy cat in the Here comes the (cat) series by Deborah Underwood. Each story is conversation between the reader and Cat on a variety of escapades, each with a delightful surprise or sweet ending.
The series started with Here Comes the Easter Cat, followed by Here Comes Santa Cat in 2014. Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat and Here Comes Valentine Cat came out in 2015, while Here Comes Teacher Cat was published in 2017. I admit, Here Comes Santa Cat is still my favorite!

Press Here written by Hervé Tullet is by far my favorite (of all the ones I read to research the topic). As I read, I found myself doing what was instructed and enjoying guessing what was to follow with every page turn.

 

 

OPEN VERY CAREFULLY: A BOOK WITH BITE written by Nicola O’Byrne follows a crocodile who has accidentally fallen into the picture book and is eating all the words. The main character enlists the help of the reader to rock the book side to side to make the crocodile fall asleep. All too soon the crocodile wakes up and is unhappy to discover he’s been drawn on! Chaos ensues until…Yup! You guessed it. I won’t give the ending away! Time to check it out of the library!

What’s Next Door? by Nicola O’Byrne includes pages of the book the crocodile has taken a bite out of to get to the next page. Does he ever find his way home? You’ll just have to check the book out of the library to find out!

This Book is Full of Monsters was written by Guido Van Genechten. Time and again the reader is asked “Are you brave enough? Are you sure?” This is well worth checking out of your local library especially if you have brave little monster lovers of your own!

 

 

Thanks again for stopping by. Please follow us on our Writers Journey.  Feel free to share our blog with all your friends!  We appreciate your support in our writing endeavors.

Best in Show

Vivian Kirkfield on Showing versus Telling Strategies

Happy New Year Everyone! So excited to have Vivian Kirkfield here with us today! She has quite an exciting 2019 lined up with 3 new picture book releases as well as a trip to SCBWI’s Australia conference in February as a guest speaker. She is such an inspiration to us all and I am honored to have her share her strategies for Showing versus Telling in story writing.

TS: Whether drafting or revising, how do you know when it is necessary to show action, scene and sensory elements?

VK: When I read a book, I want to care about the characters. That’s what keeps me turning the pages. And I think it is no different for kids. We need to make our readers feel something, right? That’s how we know they are connecting to our characters and our stories. So that when they turn to the last page, they utter an AHHH…or an AWWW…or a HAHAHA.

And to get your readers to connect with your character and your story, you need to have action, each scene in which your character is doing something or reacting to something that was done to her…this action moves the story forward. Plus, your story needs to be alive with details, so the reader can visualize what is happening.  Those are the sensory elements…the descriptive words and strong verbs that put the reader in the setting and in the scene.

pippa's passoverIn PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE, there is action galore. The story begins with Pippa Mouse getting ready for the holiday. I’ll put the verbs in bold.

“Hurry, scurry, Pippa Mouse,

Washing, scrubbing, cleaning house.”

Even the rhythmic beat of the rhyming text gives us the sense of her movement. And I don’t just say she is busy…the words show very specific actions on her part.

“Hustle, bustle, lots to do.

Pippa stirs a chicken stew.

Sets the table – all looks great.

Where’s the special Seder plate?”

“Pippa searches in a bin,

finds her missing rolling pin.

Pippa opens up a box,

filled with eighteen holey socks.”

And the words provide drama as well:

“Pippa climbs upon a chair,

stretches up – the cupboard’s bare!

Teeter-totter – hold on tight!

Weeble-wobble – what a fright!”

Throughout the rest of the story, Pippa is on the move…searching for her plate and interacting with the other animals.

But in addition to action, we get sensory details to help the readers feel they are in the scene.  Like the refrain, which occurs each time she questions one of the other animals:

“Quiver, quaver, shiver, shake!

Owls make Pippa cringe and quake.”

And when she approaches the Cat, we understand how frightened she is, but she knows she needs to become the Cat’s friend in order to get information:

“Pippa, though afraid to stir,

gently strokes the velvet fur.”

She also questions the Snake who is slither-sliding by the lake. Oooh…slither-sliding…poor Pippa Mouse. And she approaches Owl who sits in leafy shade in a quiet woodland glade…sounds a bit ominous, right? With those small details, the reader gets a sense of the danger that Pippa must face. With those small details, the reader connects with Pippa and cheers her on…and that is what keeps the reader turning the pages.

TS: Are there specific strategies, tools or resources you use to incorporate more   showing/descriptive language?

VK: Whether I am writing my first rough draft or polishing an old manuscript, I keep Thesaurus.com at the ready. We have a gazillion words in the English language, but sometimes, we get stuck on using the same words, over and over. To punch up your story and give it more depth and get away from simply TELLING what is happening, it’s important to use descriptive language and fresh vocabulary.

There are also books that specifically address the Show vs. Tell issue:

The Emotion Thesaurus

Show Don’t Tell

Show Don’t Tell: How to Describe Your Character’s Emotions

There are also books available that contains many examples of simile (comparing two things and using the words like or as) and metaphor (comparing two things WITHOUT using the words like or as) which are two devices that enrich the language of your story:

I Never Metaphor I Didn’t Like

Metaphors Be With You

If you don’t like accumulating books or your bookshelves cannot take one more addition, I think many of these are available in eBook versions.

I also use mentor texts quite a lot. I’ve read hundreds, if not thousands of picture books. But I still go to the library to find ones that use strong descriptive language….and metaphor…and simile.

four otters cover amazonWhen I was writing FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK, I wanted to help children connect with the animals and the setting of that pristine mountain river. I wanted to help children identify with the endangered creatures to hopefully create a bond so that they would appreciate the need to preserve and protect them. But a dragonfly? How could I do that?

The book opens with one willow flycatcher whistling as dawn breaks…and then:

“TWO dragonflies dance,

ballerinas above a liquid stage”

Yes, the dragonflies are ballerinas…dancing above the water. (and this was a metaphor because I don’t use the words like or as…similes and metaphor help create pictures in a child’s mind because you are comparing something to something else that they know) Children have a familiarity with ballerinas…many little girls and boys take ballet lessons.

And later when the day is almost over (and check out the verbs that I’ve put in bold – this story also benefits from strong action words)

“A brisk wind pushes the storm clouds,

revealing the setting sun.

NINE yellow mud turtles stretch out their necks,

sunbathers soaking up the last rays

before leaving their log.”

That’s right! The turtles are sunbathers (another metaphor), stretching out their necks to soak up the sun. Kids know what it is like to go to the beach or sit out in the hot sun. They can imagine that scene so much more clearly…so much more personally, I think, just because of the language I used. I also employed alliteration, a favorite technique in picture book writing where the starting sound of the words in a phrase are the same:

Stretch out their necks, sunbathers soaking up the last rays before leaving the log

TS:  Would you like to share an example of a before and after where you needed to show more and found the right words to paint the image for the reader?

sweet dreams cover template revisedVK: In SWEET DREAMS, SARAH, Sarah Goode builds one of the first cabinet beds, a precursor to the Murphy beds that became so popular more than 30 years later. But, when she tries to patent it, her application is denied. Sarah doesn’t give up. I could have said: Sarah filled out a new application and hurried down to the post office to mail it away. But I wanted the reader to understand how important this was to Sarah. Every day that went by meant someone else could steal her idea. And so, I wrote:

“Carefully she changed a word here and a sentence there, explaining more about her unique mechanism, the idea that had come to her so long ago. Slipping the paperwork and a bit of her heart into the envelope, Sarah sealed her fate and sent it off. “

A bit of her heart went into the envelope, right? And she didn’t only seal the envelope…she sealed her fate. Just a few words that create more than a picture in the reader’s mind…they create a feeling and a connection with Sarah. And I think that is what happens when you show vs. tell.

TS: Writing is about balance. How do you know you’ve got it just right? What tips or suggestions do you have for writers in terms of striving for that balance of showing versus telling?

VK: How do I know when I’ve got the balance between show and tell just right? Honestly, I don’t. I work on the story about it sounds and feels right. And I give it to critique buddies and then revise as per their feedback. And then give it to another set of critique buddies. But these are a few of the things that I do in my process of writing.

  • So What? Years ago, at a conference, I listened to a presentation that made a big impression on me. The speaker said that we have to ask one important question – so what? Why is this a story that children will want to read? In fact, why is it a story that children should read?  Are the stakes high enough that it deserves to be read? That it matters? And, are there universal truths that will strike a chord with the reader? So, I read my story and ask the question: so what? Why should a kid care about my story?
  • Another thing that I do is refine the opening line. For me, the opening line is the key to my manuscript. Like a house key, it opens the door for the readers to walk into the story. I work very hard at capturing the reader’s attention with my opening line.
  • I also enjoy creating a satisfying ending that almost always circles around and echoes the beginning.
  • I read my story aloud. Many times. If possible, I have someone else read it aloud and I listen.  I record myself on my phone or computer and listen. If I can listen to my story dozens of times and still enjoy hearing it, I think I have found a good balance. If I can listen to my story and feel a connection to the characters, I think I have found a good balance. And if I can read my story and get to the end and say AHHH or AWWW or HAHAHA, I am absolutely positively sure I have found a good balance.

And so will you all.

ABOUT VIVIAN:

Writer for children – reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. She’s got a bucket list that contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she is not looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books that she hopes will encourage young kids to become lovers of books and reading. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House, Feb 2019); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (PomegranateKids, March 2019); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books, May 2019); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020); From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). She lives in the quaint New Hampshire town of Amherst where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. You can visit Vivian on her website, Picture books Help Kids Soar, where she hosts the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge every March. Or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, and just about any place people are playing with picture books.

You can connect with Vivian through the following: 

Vivian’s Website: Picture Book Help Kids Soar

Vivian’s Facebook Page: Facebook.com/vivian.kirkfield

Vivian’s Twitter Page: Twitter/viviankirkfield

Vivian’s Pinterest Page: Pinterest/viviankirkfield

Vivian’s Instagram Page: Instagram/viviankirkfield

Vivian’s Linkedin Page:  Linkedin/viviankirkfield

Vivian’s Books and Writing Challenges:

Closing Remarks:

Thank you again Vivian for spending time with us today. We greatly appreciate your knowledge and wish you a fantastic journey this year!

See you all on our next blog post February 2nd !!