Uncategorized

Welcome to Debut Author Jolene Gutiérrez

Hello Everyone,

We hope this blog post finds you all safe and healthy during this very uncertain time. Recently, I had the opportunity and privilege to speak with Jolene Gutiérrez about her two debut books. I first met Jolene in the Children’s Book Academy where we both took Mira Reisberg’s amazing picture book course. For both for us, this class has changed our lives. Jolene’s first release is the adorable picture book entitled Mac and Cheese and the Personal Space Invader, releasing on August 11, 2020, with Clear Fork Publishing. Her second is Bionic Beasts, a middle-grade nonfiction book releasing October 6, 2020, with Lerner/Millbrook Press. What an exciting time for this very hardworking mother and full-time librarian who, by the way, is also remotely teaching at this time.

TS: Welcome Jolene! Thank you for taking the time to share some of your writing strategies. Whether drafting or revising, how do you know when it is necessary to show action, scene and sensory elements?

JG: What a great question! When I’m revising my story, if I can’t visualize a scene or if the story is “sagging” in some way, I look at these elements. Action, scene, and sensory elements might show up in my writing when I’m drafting, but I try to focus on them during my various rounds of revision. With middle-grade fiction where I have the luxury of using more words, I work to make sure scenes are very sensory in order to connect readers to the story—so that students who might struggle to visualize things have some sensory connection that will draw them in. With picture books, though, I think some of the scene and sensory elements can be left to the illustrator.

And action is so important! I’m the school librarian at a school for diverse learners and have a large ADHD population. When I’m writing, I think of the action-packed, information-filled, or funny books that hook my students as readers and try to emulate that style. When I’m revising, I tend to set my manuscript aside a bit and work on other projects. When I come back to my manuscript with fresh eyes, I read chapters aloud to myself and try to ensure that there is a purpose to every character, every setting, and every scene—that they are all working together to move the story forward.

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

JG: I try to put myself in my character’s shoes even if the story isn’t first-person, I try to involve the senses as much as possible, and I like to use dialogue to put the reader (and myself) in the scene. I also use passive verbs a lot in early drafts and try to catch that in revision and switch to active verbs.

TS: Could you 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?

JG: Sure! Our words are so limited and the story is so dependent on illustrations in picture books, so finding an example was a little challenging, but here’s a scene we can compare:

Early draft of Mac and Cheese and the Personal Space Invader:

During snack time, I sit next to Nina. When I lean close to see what she’s eating, she moves away.

Published version of Mac and Cheese and the Personal Space Invader:

At snack time, I sit next to Nina, squeezing in close, just like Mac and Cheese do. Nina frowns and leans away.

We’re in first person for both of the scenes, but I think the published version is more powerful because language like “squeezing in close” puts the reader in the scene. We’re also reminded that Oliver, our main character, gets close to Nina because squeezing in next to a friend is something classroom guinea pigs Mac and Cheese would do. Also, in the old version, Nina “moves away,” but in the published version, she “frowns and leans away,” which is more descriptive and hints at her emotions.

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?

JG: I’d say show us as much as possible—put us in that scene so we feel like we’re experiencing the story! But there are some things you just have to tell us or your book will be unnecessarily long. We don’t need to experience every hour of every day with characters, for example, or showing would become tedious. Telling is a great way to quickly impart information to the reader, and sometimes that immediacy is needed to keep the momentum going in a story.

TS: Thank you so much Jolene for sharing your tips and strategies. I love how writers have such a variety of different techniques to convey their stories.

Below is Jolene’s contact information, bio, and links to preorder her terrific new books! Congratulations Jolene!

Bio: Jolene grew up on a farm in northeastern Colorado and now lives in a suburb of Denver, where she’s been a school librarian for 25 years. She spends her days sharing children’s books and her nights writing them. She’s a wife of 21 years and a mama to two teenage humans and three preteen dogs. Jolene is an active member of SCBWI and The Author’s Guild, a We Need Diverse Books mentorship finalist and a Writing with the Stars mentee. She is the author of Mac and Cheese and the Personal Space Invader (Clear Fork, 2020) and Bionic Beasts: Saving Lives with Artificial Flippers, Legs, and Beaks (Lerner, 2020). Learn more at www.jolenegutierrez.com.

Facebook: facebook.com/writerjolene

Twitter: twitter.com/writerjolene

Instagram: instagram.com/writerjolene

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/writerjolene

Pinterest: pinterest.com/writerjolene

 

Preorder Links:

Mac and Cheese and the Personal Space Invader:

https://www.clearforkpublishing.com/store/p149/personalspaceinvader.html# 

Bionic Beasts:

https://www.amazon.com/Bionic-Beasts-Saving-Artificial-Flippers/dp/1541589408/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=bionic+beasts+jolene&qid=1587390720&sr=8-2

Best in Show

Showing With A Main Character Interview

Hello Everyone! For this blog post, I interviewed a very special person. This time the individual was not another author, but the actual character of my debut picture book, WALKOUT. Many times we discuss how showing in writing can be done through our word choices, to carefully show how a scene unfolds, reveal the emotions a character experiences. Another way to accomplish this is to just have a conversation with the character of the book itself, and that is just what I did. I would like to introduce you to a very determined young girl who wishes to make a difference. Please join me in my conversation with Maddie.

 

Character Interview:

Author Tina Shepardson’s Interview with Main Character, Maddie, From WALKOUT, a picture book

Tina: Hi Maddie. Thank you for stopping by today. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Maddie: Oh sure. I go to Walker Elementary School and I am the oldest in my family. The best part about school is I am in the same class as my best friend Stella. I see her every day, all day long.

Tina: What do you like to do when you are not at school?

Maddie: That’s simple. I love to draw with my crayons and markers and play with my friends.

Tina: I heard you were part of a school walkout recently? Can you tell us a little about it?

Maddie: Yea, I was. Our school was having one but it was only for the big kids and I really wanted to walk out with them.

Tina: How did you become a part of it then?

Maddie: Well, it was School Safety Week and I just thought everyone should be included, not just the big kids.

Tina: That makes perfect sense. Did you walk out with the big kids by yourself?

Maddie: Oh no… I asked my friends for some help and everyone got together during lunch to make signs about safe schools. Even our teacher helped us. Only Stella didn’t.

Tina: I am sure she was just busy.

Maddie: Actually, she was scared. Our principal told us it was for the big kids only. He even said so during announcements. She just didn’t want to get into trouble.

Tina: I understand how she felt. Didn’t you?

Maddie: Yes, I did. But I also didn’t want her to feel left out. I really wanted all my friends to help the big kids stand up for safe schools so I kept asking her to see if she would change her mind. 

Tina: And did she?

Maddie: That was a really busy week at school, plus I had homework every night too. If you want to find out if Stella changed her mind and even how you can help schools stay safe, you have to read WALKOUT. Looks like late Spring 2020 you can read it!

Tina: That is a good idea Maddie, and thank you for telling us about your experience.

Maddie: Bye, see you later!

Finding Creativity, Uncategorized

It’s A Blog & Book Birthday!

Happy birthday to the Wonder of Words blog! Today marks our one year anniversary and we couldn’t have done it without our readers and our awesome guests. So, thank you all! Happy birthday Wonder of Words!

Speaking of awesome guests, today’s blog post is about a story I first read on a twitter pitch event. As soon as I read Amanda Jackson’s query and first lines, I knew this would be a real-live book one day.
wowAJ1
Welcome to the Wonder of Words, Amanda! I’m so glad we connected during Study Hall and in the debut group, New in Nineteen. I’m excited about your beautiful and important book coming out. When and where did you get the inspiration for your square-who-wants-to-roll-like-a-circle story?

It was late 2016, during the one year my husband and I lived in Northern California. We moved there for his job, and the circumstances were such that I didn’t work. That gave me the time and brain-space to discover my love of writing for kids. So, that’s actually when I started writing picture book stories altogether. That’s one reason I will always be thankful for that crazy year.

I have a deep hope for a more inclusive and understanding society. That hope was what inspired this story. Sam is for anyone who feels they don’t fit, in whatever way.

wowaj4

Such a beautiful hope and your book captures that sentiment perfectly. I love it. And it’s amazing what we can accomplish when we have the brain-space! What is your favorite part of the creative process?

I have two favorites:
– Inspiration. Who doesn’t love being inspired?? There’s nothing like discovering a new idea for a new story. It feels like falling in love.
– Revision. After the initial excitement of inspiration, drafting the story can feel like slogging through mud. But once I get it on the page, and it has every element it needs, I love all the little challenges that come with smoothing it out and making it shine.

Falling in inspiration is the best. Do you have other creative outlets or hobbies? Do they ever cross into your writing?

I do! I enjoy cooking, crocheting, and crafting. I haven’t seen them cross into my writing yet, but they do play an important role. Sometimes my writing muscles need a break, and they offer other creative options.

Love the alliteration, Amanda 😉 Do you have any tips about finding creativity?

My best tip would be to try to pay attention. Because I really think creative inspiration is all around us, and it’s more a matter of recognizing it. I do my best to be aware of the moments I feel that creative spark—moments that makes me laugh, curious, explore, cry, ask questions, get angry. Those are usually the moments that hold that starts to stories.

The act of paying attention is so important. 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?

Sure! When I began writing, I naturally gravitated toward more serious stories. Lately I’ve been playing with punchier, sillier stories that make me laugh as I write them. Such a fun change of pace!

I love silly stories, can’t wait to read ‘em! Thanks so much for being here, Amanda. I have My Shape is Sam preordered and am looking forward to Sam rolling in! wowaj2

Blurb: “In this debut picture book, Sam is a square who lives in a world where everyone has a job to do, depending on their shape. But Sam doesn’t want to stack like the other squares…

He wants to roll like a circle!”

Published by Page Street Kids, wonderful illustrations by Lydia Nichols

Here’s the link to her author website where you can preorder My Shape is Sam, out September 17th: www.AmandaJacksonBooks.com

What is a hope you harbor that could inspire others? Comment by Sept 13th with yours, or mention your latest picture book work-in-progress, and as a special birthday gift to our readers, one lucky random comment will be chosen to get a critique not just from me, but from the whole Wonder of Words team!

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!