Best in Show, Uncategorized

Friendship and Empathy: Helping A Friend Who Has Experienced Trauma

Have you ever wondered how some authors take heavy topics and show their story in a way that helps others be more mindful of others’ feelings? Joanna Rowland is very experienced in this area and in her newest picture book, Big Bear Was Not The Same, she accomplishes just this! Beautifully illustrated by John Ledda, Joanna and John show readers how to be more empathetic and supportive to a friend who has experienced a traumatic event. I’m so glad Joanna could stop by to talk about her book today!

TS: Hi Joanna! Your book is such a good reminder of how to be there for someone. Whether drafting or revising, how do you know when it is necessary to show action, scene and sensory elements?

JR: One of the things I love about picture books is that illustrators can show so much through their illustrations that I don’t need to tell. I have one line, “Little Bear tried all sorts of things to cheer up Big Bear. But nothing worked.” It was so fun to see the ways illustrator John Ledda used to show Little Bear trying to cheer up Big Bear. I don’t need to tell the reader in words what was happening because they can see it in the pictures. Because the story I wrote is about trauma and responses to trauma, it was important for me to sometimes say the action. One example: “Oh, no! said Big Bear, and he ran away.” I felt it was important to say the action when it was a response to trauma to help kids better understand how someone might act when they are traumatized. In Big Bear Was Not The Same, Big Bear has been traumatized by a forest fire. When things remind Big Bear of the forest fire, he responds with fight, flight, or freeze. It was important to show Big Bear having that action when things reminded him of the fire. I think learning about how people who have PTSD respond to things, helped me know I needed to have more action scenes when Big Bear was triggered.

When I was writing the story, my critique partners were great for letting me know if it felt like something was missing. My books are always better by seeing how they respond to what I write and their feedback. 

TS: You made great decisions in those scenes especially because young kids are just learning about life and some of the difficulties they may experience. Are there specific strategies, tools or resources you use to incorporate more showing/descriptive language?  

JR: Reading picture books is a great way to learn about language and craft. I read different picture books every day. One of the fabulous perks of teaching five-year-olds. I love reading lyrical books. Cynthia Rylant does a beautiful job of using descriptive language in her books.

When I’m trying to make a word list, I like Word Hippo   https://www.wordhippo.com/

I also like looking up idioms here https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/ I find idioms can be a fun way to help me think more creatively on how I want to use words.

TS: These are terrific resources. Thank you for sharing! 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?

 JR: Sure, this is an Early draft of Big Bear text example with too much telling:

It was only a matter of time before something set off Big Bear to think and feel

like the day in the woods was happening all over.

Sometimes, a smell set off Big Bear.

And Big Bear ran away.

It was only campers having dinner. But Big Bear relived that scary moment in the woods anyway.

Final version of Big Bear text example:

Some days, Little Bear and Big Bear had good days that almost felt normal.

But one smell could change it all.

SNIFF

Big Bear froze. 

“Don’t worry, Big Bear. It’s just kids making s’mores. You’re so big and brave. Nothing can scare you. Right?”

But Big Bear shivered.

Little Bear worried. “Do you want a hug?”

But Big Bear didn’t answer.

TS: I love the difference between the two versions. Much more emotion and heart in your final version! 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?

JR: I do learn from rejections. Pre agent, I used to send things out too soon occasionally, and if they didn’t connect emotionally, I knew I needed to go back to find the heart. My critique group is great at letting me know when I’ve hit that right emotional chord. So, if you aren’t in a critique group, find one. They are so valuable. Honestly some books can take me years to get right, and some weeks. Explore different structures with how to write your book, try writing it in different points of view, and revise. Big Bear took quite a few drafts because I wrote it in 3rd person and most of my other published books have been written in 1st person, so it was a learning curve for me to think about dialogue and how to write the action scenes in the book. Sometimes it’s okay to tell. I felt it was important to say the words, “Big Bear froze,” because freezing is one of the responses people have when they have been through a traumatic event. But I think leaving more room for the illustrator whenever possible, makes for a stronger book.  See how other authors show the balance in published books. You will learn so much from reading. What showed the action? Was it dialogue, text, or the illustration? Have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment. Copy your manuscript and practice deleting chunks to see if it’s better with or without. Sometimes less words, is more powerful. But most importantly, keep trying

TS: Critique partners are those objective eyes and ears. Reading other books is such a great habit to develop, I agree. Wishing you continued success with Big Bear, Little Bear and future books. Thank you for stopping by!

Joanna Rowland grew up in Sacramento, California, where she still lives today with her husband and three children. She teaches kindergarten by day and writes picture books at night. In the summer you’ll find her by water or cozying up with a book. She is the author of The Memory Box: A Book about Grief; The Memory Book: A Grief Journal for Children and Families; Stay Through The Storm; When Things are Hard, Remember; and Always Mom, Forever Dad.

You can find Joanna online at:

Website: https://www.writerrowland.com/

Twitter: @WriterRowland  

Instagram:  @writerrowland 

Facebook: Joanna Rowland

Pitch It to Me

~ THE PITCH IT TO ME CHALLENGE ~

It’s been one of those summers. The kind where it feels like the kids just finished school yesterday, but then all of a sudden school has started once again. It is no wonder this next Pitch it to Me Challenge fell to the bottom of my “things to plan for” list. The result? A modified challenge I hope all you WONDERful readers will enjoy!

But first, let’s close out our last challenge where author Kourtney LaFavre dropped by to put up her pitch for the story, OLENA AND THE PEAR TREES, against my own pitch and that of super star author Jenna Grodzicki. Thank you to both ladies for participating! I am happy to report that Jenna dazzled our readers with her winning pitch as folllows:

“The people of Olena’s village are hungry. The pear trees, once carefully tended by her grandmother, are no longer bearing fruit. When Olena finds a lone pear hidden in the forest, it may be the key to saving the orchard. Guided by this mysterious pear and memories of her grandmother, Olena embarks on a journey to bring the orchard back to life and feed her village.”

Now, if you are looking for your own pitching challenge, this round I am inviting you to pitch one (and only one) of your own stories to me here in the comments section below. My favorite pitch will win a complimentary critique! It just so happens that my Little Gnome imprint at Gnome Road Publishing is open to submissions in September, so this would be a great opportunity to let me see what you’ve got. Bring on the pitches and let this fun twist of a challenge begin! You have until SEPTEMBER 15, 2021 to post – good luck!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

This isn’t me (as you can see), but I’m crossing my fingers for a fabulous challenge!

As for my very brief closing remarks, let me thank you all again for your votes in these challenges and for supporting our blog and featured authors! Until next time …

Pitch It to Me

~THE PITCH IT TO ME CHALLENGE~

I may have let the June “Pitch it to Me Challenge” slide into July but we are back for another round at last. First, let’s give a shout-out to the winner of our last challenge. That would be . . . me! Many thanks to authors Carey Welch and Candice Marley Conner for participating! And because the new WordPress polling results format has changed, I’m posting the winning pitch here:

“When Hope brings home a polydactyl kitten, she finds it harder than hard to select a name for a cat with an extra toe. Luckily, she knows just where to look for inspiration. Even YOU might be able to lend a helping hand as Hope searches for a pawsitively purrfect name.”

Now for the next round! Author Kourtney LaFavre pitches her story OLENA AND THE PEAR TREES. Kourtney is the author of IF SUN COULD SPEAK (Spork, 2020), an educator and the mom of four fabulous nature-loving kids. Welcome, Kourtney!

Author Jenna Grodzicki throws in her own pitch of Kourtney’s story as our guest star pitcher. In case you didn’t know, Jenna’s book I SEE SEA FOOD: SEA CREATURES THAT LOOK LIKE FOOD (Millbrook, 2019) won the 2020 Connecticut Book Award in the Young Readers Nonfiction category. She has been busy with the release of another fabulous nonfiction book in 2020 and preparing for the release of two more books later this year. Oh, and she carries all this success with grace and kindness!

And now for the challenge. 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-star pitcher). Vote for your favorite, and if you are so inclined, leave a comment, too. We love hearing from our readers!

You have until August 15, 2021, to cast your vote. Please vote only once, but feel free to tell your friends about us and get them in on the action.

ABOUT KOURNTEY:

Kourtney is an author and educator, who lives in New Hampshire on the remnant of an old volcano. She can often be found wandering through nature with her children, or staring out windows indulging in daydreams. Kourtney has 20 years experience teaching and working with families in elementary classrooms, preschools, head start, and other community programs. Her debut picture book IF SUN COULD SPEAK was released last year through ClearFork Publishing. She writes to inform and inspire.

Connect with Kourtney on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/kourtneylafavre.writer
And Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/kourtneylafavre/

Find Kourtney’s book on Amazon by clicking on the image below.

Or order it through Bookshop here: https://bookshop.org/shop/klafavre

Illustrated by Saki Tanaka

ABOUT JENNA:

Jenna Grodzicki is the author of multiple fiction and nonfiction books for children. Her book, I SEE SEA FOOD: SEA CREATURES THAT LOOK LIKE FOOD (Millbrook Press, 2019), was the winner of the 2020 Connecticut Book Award in the Young Readers Nonfiction category. Her newest books, HARMONY HUMBOLT: THE PERFECT PETS QUEEN (Clear Fork Publishing) and THE STORY OF PRINCESS DIANA: A BIOGRAPHY BOOK FOR YOUNG READERS (Rockridge Press) will be available in August. Jenna is represented by Victoria Selvaggio of Storm Literary Agency.

Connect with Jenna on her website at: https://www.jennagrodzicki.com

Click on the titles below to link to ordering information for Jenna’s available books and to pre-order one of her upcoming works!

I SEE SEA FOOD: SEA CREATURES THAT LOOK LIKE FOOD

HARMONY HUMBOLT, THE PERFECT PETS QUEEN

THE STORY OF PRINCESS DIANA

CLOSING REMARKS:

Many thanks to all our challengers both this round and last. We appreciate your WONDERful contributions and support of the Kidlit community! Until next time . . .

Uncategorized

The Wonder of Words Update Part 2

This is part two of “Goodness me – where did those three years go?” As I mentioned in my previous post a few months ago, Candice, Gabrielle, Sandra, Tina, Yvona and I met through Julie Hedland’s 12 Days of Christmas and started a picture book critique group in 2017. Nine months later we started The Wonder of Words blog. I asked everyone to reflect on how far they’d come in their writing and reading since we started the blog. Candice, Yvona and Gabrielle’s answers are in my previous post and Sandra’s, Tina’s and mine are in this post. I hope you enjoy our reflections.

I asked everyone these questions:

  1. Compared to where you were two and a half years ago, how has your writing evolved?
  2. Compared to where you were two and a half years ago, how has your reading evolved?
  3. What is the biggest thing you have learned over the past two and a half years?
  4. Do you have any advice for readers and/or writers of children’s literature?

SANDRA

So much has changed in two and a half years – both personally and professionally – that I feel like a completely different writer at this point. This is partly due to an evolution in my writing style and experiences as a published author. However, it is also from the changes 2020 brought to my life and the new adventure I embarked on when opening Gnome Road Publishing earlier this year. I am a more efficient writer now (by necessity), more clearly tuned-in to the development of characters and story arc, and more patient with the publishing process. This critique group, and the support of other fabulous critique partners, were huge confidence boosts when I needed it most and a driving force behind improvements in my written work. 

I still read a lot of different stories, but now these are not only books from the library or my children’s bookshelves, but also in the form of hundreds of manuscripts submissions at Gnome Road Publishing. I also provide picture book critique services as time allows, which is to say, not very often at this point. And then, of course, there are the books sitting on my nightstand that cover non “work-related” subjects that have always interested me such as psychology, neuroscience, biological or natural disasters, and historical mysteries/treasures. Every once in a while, I might pile on something to do with law and ethics.

I don’t know that there is a single “biggest” thing I’ve learned during this time. But patience has certainly become my friend, in a love-hate sort of way. Although I still struggle with patience, it is definitely something I have learned to use (embrace?) more wisely now. 

My advice to other writers (and illustrators!) is to be open. Open to possibilities. Open to changes. Open to other people with other ways of seeing things. This will give you the greatest opportunity to grow.” 

TINA

During the last two and a half years, I have taken several writing courses, read many books, critiqued many manuscripts, and written more of my own. All of these activities have helped take my writing to a new levels. I have really dug deeper into a few genres that I would like to create more stories for. Picture books, chapter books and nonfiction are all very different yet have unlimited opportunities to share unique stories. Looking at story structures, reading other author blog posts, participating in professional writing groups continue to help me develop my skills. This past year, I became an agented writer which has introduced me to another community of writers within the industry and I am learning so much.

I continue to learn that writing is a journey that takes time. In the beginning, I wrote stories and truly improved them to the point that I felt I was ready to begin querying. Like so many others, I now look back and realize I was not as ready as I thought. I needed to develop and define my skills more. This all takes practice, patience, persistence, and passion. We all lead very busy lives and adding the desire to write for children is no small task. I continue to learn writing is one piece of a much broader picture as you also need to learn marketing, participate in writing groups, which all take time. Using a separate planner just for writing tasks to organize my weeks separate from my family or teaching planner has helped so much!

As you start your writing journey always remember your “why”. The road is filled with ups and downs, and believe it or not this is a great thing. It is through these that you learn so much about yourself. Be patient. Everything will fall into place over time. Become a part of some wonderful online writing groups and meet other authors. It truly takes a village to become a writer. So many others, in classes and in critique groups, have helped me when I did not know which way to turn. I enjoy doing the same for others because it is awesome to see others reach their dreams. There are so many incredibly talented people in this community to learn from.

KATHY

And now I get to answer the questions I posed to the others. My writing is continually evolving as I discover more about my own voice and read the great variety of voices from other writers. In fact voice has become a prime consideration not only in my own writing but also in my clients’ writing and in the writing of those who submit to my publishing house, Pavlova Press. Which brings me to two major new writing directions for me: not only have I become a publisher, but I have also left my teaching role at the local polytechnic where I taught creative writing and now work with clients from all around the world helping them write their own novels with a strong focus on voice.

When I’m not reading submissions for Pavlova Press or the work of my clients, I am reading middle grade novels and non-fiction, primarily around psychology. There has been one diversion from this: Uprooted by Naomi Novik which is a glorious and original fantasy novel with a strong voice.

It will come as no surprise that the biggest thing I have learned over the past two and a half years is all around voice. I have been working with this concept for a long time and it is only in the last couple of years that it has all clicked into place. I have also discovered a concept that I call The Itch which is at the very heart of every story and the very reason a particular story has to be written. It goes beyond theme and idea, although it could be one or other of those, and goes to the very heart of the writer. I am not the first person to realise this I’m sure, but it has been a very exciting discovery.

In general, I am working to become someone who gives less advice and who listens more, so the fact that I asked the question about what advice we can offer is intriguing. Let me answer my advice question with a thought rather than advice: at some point you will have far more tools than you actually need to write your story, to the point that learning just one more thing becomes a wonderful distraction to writing. STOP! Stop collecting tools and just start writing. If you find there’s something else you genuinely need to learn, you can come back to it later once you know what it is.

Pitch It to Me

~ The Pitch it to Me Challenge ~

Welcome back, everyone! The next Pitch It to Me Challenge is here! We took a detour last time to devote some attention to the opening of my small press, Gnome Road Publishing, and to allow you, our WONDERful readers, a chance to pitch some of your own work. Thank you to all who participated or dropped by to say hello and offer words of encouragement.

For this next round of the challenge, we have author Carey Welch here to pitch her work-in-progress, THE HANDS AND PAWS HOPE KNOWS. Carey is also a talented artist, a mom, and well . . . an all-around cool person. Welcome, Carey!

Stepping up to the plate as our guest star pitcher is our very own Candice Marley Conner who has both her debut novel and debut picture book coming out in June! I couldn’t resist this opportunity to showcase these achievements and support this part of her journey. I just know she will knock it out of the park!

And now for the challenge. 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-star pitcher). Vote for your favorite, and if you are so inclined, leave a comment, too. We love hearing from our readers!

You have until April 1, 2021, 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 CAREY:

Be it Folklore or an embarrassing story her father liked to tell; Carey was “made” in Ireland the day her parents kissed the Blarney Stone. Thus, a penchant for storytelling was her destiny. She creates art at the intersection of humor and imagination and believes in the mantra “Kindness Rules!”. She is currently illustrating a book of children’s poems. Her art has previously been featured on a book cover, album cover, on skateboards and in a workbook based on Women in Non-Traditional Careers. Carey resides in Western New York, where a 6-year-old Leprechaun calls her “Mom”, but she’s not telling that story.

Her art can be found at careyannwelch.com

ABOUT CANDICE:

Growing up between swamps, a river, and the Gulf Coast, Candice Marley Conner’s stories emerge from gnarled cypress knees, muddy water, and salty air. She is the kidlit haint at a haunted indie bookstore (but not haunted how you’re thinking), and a Local Liaison for SCBWI. Her short stories and poems are in various anthologies and magazines including Highlights Hello, Cabinet of Curiosities, Babybug, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and more. Her picture book, SASSAFRAS AND HER TEENY TINY TAIL releases June 8th, 2021 and her YA Southern mystery, THE EXISTENCE OF BEA PEARL, debuts June 15th, 2021. She lives in Alabama with her husband and two children (one of whom is possibly feral).

Candice is represented by Katelyn Detweiler of Jill Grinberg Literary Management. Visit her website at http://www.candicemarleyconner.com, Twitter @candice_marleyc, Instagram @candice_marleyconner, and Facebook @cmarleyconnerauthor.

To pre-order THE EXISTENCE OF BEA PEARL and support Candice’s local independent bookstore, The Haunted Book Shop, click HERE.

CLOSING REMARKS:

The Pitch it to Me Challenge is always a WONDERful experience with the help of all you readers who take a moment to support authors like Carey and Candice by voting for your favorite pitch and leaving comments. Thank you all for being here! And, thank you to Carey and Candice for making this another tough round. Until next time . . .

Pitch It to Me, Uncategorized

~ A Pitch Challenge to Remember ~

Thank you to all the authors and author/illustrators who stopped by the Wonder of Words Blog and left your delightful pitches in the latest round of the Pitch it to Me Challenge. It has been great fun reading about your stories! If there is one thing I’ve (re)learned after narrowing down my choices and asking for the input of my lovely critique partners, it is that the task of picking manuscripts that fit an editor’s needs is HIGHLY subjective. We all had different favorites depending on our interests.

But now I’m getting off topic and into left field, so let’s get back to the point. The winner! Actually, there is more than one winner. I made the rules so I can change them. I would love to see manuscripts (and sample art, if you are an illustrator) from:

  • Dedra Davis
  • Sarah Rebecca Hovorka
  • Merrill Woodriff
  • Anita Crawford Clark
  • Abbi Lee

Check out the submissions guidelines at: https://www.gnomeroadpublishing.com/submissions and then send me your work! Easy-peasy!

The Little Gnome imprint will be opening to submissions January 1, 2021. If I didn’t pick your manuscript, or if there is another manuscript you think would be a good fit, please feel free to send it in after that time. And if you haven’t already, sign up for the Gnome Road Publishing newsletter to learn more about the people working behind the scenes and to stay informed of our happenings and wish list changes.

Many thanks to you all. Wishing our WONDERful readers a happy New Year ahead!

Pitch It to Me

Introducing . . .

Yes, technically, it’s time for the next Pitch It to Me Challenge. But this is 2020, and if there is anything we’ve learned this year, it is to expect the unexpected. So this time around I have some big news to share with you and decided to skip the last challenge of the year. I hope you will be as excited as I am when you find out why!

But first, let’s name the winner of our last challenge, where Natalie Cohn put her pitch for the story GRAND DUCHESS TANGLED GALORE up against guest star Lisa Rogers and me. It turns out Natalie scored a home run and ran away with the competition. What a lovely way to end the year and prepare that query for submission! Congratulations Natalie! And thank you both for participating in The Pitch It To Me Challenge.

And now for the exciting news . . .

For over a year now, I’ve been working towards a long-time goal of opening a children’s book publishing company. Moving across states (twice!), remote learning with a kindergartner and second grader, and this pesky thing called a global pandemic have thwarted my attempts to finalize those plans. Until now. Beginning in January 2021, GNOME ROAD PUBLISHING will be open for business and accepting submissions.

Head on over to www.gnomeroadpublishing.com to get a sneak peek at what’s to come (and to view the beautiful artwork by phenomenal illustrator, Wendy Leach). If you are a picture book or early chapter book writer, make sure to look at the Little Gnome imprint and submissions “wish list”. And, of course, check out all of the Gnome Road and Gnome Wild! information, too.

Coming Soon!

I want to thank my WONDERful critique partners for agreeing to let me make the first official announcement about Gnome Road Publishing here on this blog. And as a special pitching challenge for you, dear readers, I am giving the first “above-the-slush-pile” submission opportunity to whomever writes my favorite pitch in the comments. Just leave your name, genre of the book you are pitching (PB, CB, MG, or YA), and a brief but enticing pitch of your story after this post. You have until Saturday, December 26th to leave a comment, at which time I will make my choice (probably with a little help from the fabulous ladies here on the Wonder of Words Blog). Good luck!

Until next time . . .

Pitch It to Me, Uncategorized

~THE PITCH IT TO ME CHALLENGE~

pitch-it-to-me-challenge-9.12.20Welcome back, everyone! The next Pitch It to Me Challenge is here! It’s incredible how fast time flies when you are having fun (or … when you have two kids at home doing remote instruction, which isn’t fun, but it does leave me wondering what happened to the hours in a day).

Before moving on to our new challenge, let’s revisit the results of the last challenge where author Laura Roettiger pitched her work against guest pitcher Tina Shepardson (yes, our very own Tina, who is now a published author with her debut picture book, WALKOUT), and me. I am proud to say that my pitch hit a home run and took first place. But the real winner here is Laura, who now has three wonderful pitches to choose from. Thank you to Laura and Tina for participating!

For this round, we have author Natalie Cohn pitching her imaginative work-in-progress, GRAND DUCHESS TANGLED GALORE. I just learned that Natalie lives fairly close to me, so I am excited to have a fellow Kentuckian featured here on our blog. Welcome, Natalie!

As if Natalie hadn’t made it hard enough, up at bat as our guest star pitcher is Lisa Rogers, author of two awesome picture books you don’t want to miss out on. Her debut, 16 WORDS: WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS AND “THE RED WHEELBARROW” is a Junior Library Guild selection and won a Bank Street Best Book of the Year 2020. So you know what that means … Lisa knows a thing or two about pitches!

And now for the challenge! 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-star pitcher). Vote for your favorite, and if you are so inclined, leave a comment, too. We love hearing from our readers!

You have until October 31, 2020, to cast your vote. Please vote only once, but feel free to tell your friends about us and get them in on the action.

About Natalie:

Natalie Cohn attended the University of Louisville, majored in Art History and Humanities. Natalie is a 2nd year member of the SCBWI, joined Story Storm 2019, two years in 12×12, a recurring graduate of Children’s Book Academy, and is taking a Writing Barn class. She’s a part of the KidLit community, SubClub, and several other social writing groups on Facebook and Twitter. Natalie attended the MidSouth SCBWI conference in 2019, and she is part of five critique groups. Natalie loves being creative, crafty, and getting messy, and her goals are to inspire kids to read. She reads a lot of children’s books and enjoys bringing imagination to life through her stories. Fiction books have always been her favorite, and now she enjoys reading with her three minions.

Connect with Natalie on Twitter @CohnNatalie, and on her website: https://mady1230.wixsite.com/natabook

About Lisa: 

Lisa is a children’s author, elementary school librarian and former reporter and editor. Her debut picture book, 16 WORDS: WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS AND “THE RED WHEELBARROW” (Schwartz & Wade, 2019), received starred reviews from Kirkus & Publishers Weekly, is a Junior Library Guild selection, a Bank Street Best Book of the Year, and an SCBWI Crystal Kite Award Finalist. Her second picture book, HOUND WON’T GO (Albert Whitman & Company, 4/2020), is also available through the link provided below.

A native of the New Jersey shore, Lisa lives outside Boston with her family and is a four-time runner of the Boston Marathon. She loves to garden, kayak, paint, and have adventures with her trailblazing coonhound, Tucker.

Connect with Lisa on her website at: lisarogerswrites.com

Or follow her on Twitter @LisaLJRogers

Support Lisa by ordering her books! Just click on the image to go directly to the publisher’s website!

 

 

 

 

 

CLOSING REMARKS:

Thanks once again to all of our Pitch it To Me participants! You keep bringing your best to the plate and make us all winners. Until next time . . .

Best in Show

Writing Is Mining- featuring Beth Anderson

Hello Everyone!

I hope this blog post finds you all having a great summer in our new normal. Today I am thrilled to have Beth Anderson as our featured guest. As you know, she is an accomplished writer focusing on narrative nonfiction and historical fiction picture books. Her quote “Writing is Mining” holds such truth. She describes writing in these genres as digging for those special memories, emotions, and meaning. Beth has wonderful strategies for showing in these areas.

TS: Beth, thank you so much for being our guest today and congratulations on your October release of “Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses: How James Kelly’s Nose Saved the New York City SubwayWhether drafting or revising, how do you know when it is necessary to show action, scene and sensory elements?

BA: Thank you so much for inviting me to share some thoughts on the essential “show vs. tell.”

I believe in action wherever it makes sense – the more the better. Keeping the characters active keeps the reader turning pages. Actions reveal character so it’s a huge part of the emotional arc. But there also has to be the flow in and out, along with weaving in needed context. Constant action for the sake of action is exhausting! 

Scenes carry the emotional arc of the main character as well as the plot. They move the story forward, stepping-stones in the character’s transformation that build to the story’s end. If a scene doesn’t serve that purpose, then it needs to go or be revised to carry a piece of the emotional arc. Sometimes, even “internal” scenes can be active. Here’s an example from Lizzie Demands a Seat with the additional challenge of required context:

She eyed empty seats. Despite being born a “free black” in a “free state,” she’d never been treated as equal. She’d been rejected, restricted, and refused by schools, restaurants, and theaters. Suddenly late-for-church wasn’t as important as late-for-equality. Lizzie stood firm.

Passengers murmured.

Horses snorted.

Pedestrians gathered.

Finally, the driver held up the reins. “We need to go.”

Scenes play out best with action, and if you can use action to transition between scenes, do that, too. “Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses, releasing Oct. 13, was a huge challenge regarding transitions between scenes. There was so little information on James Kelly’s days in the NYC subway, all I had were anecdotes with the potential to be priceless scenes. I had to find a way to organize them with a special “heart” thread and effectively transition between scenes to avoid an “episodic” feel. Here’s an example of an active transition that lets us pause with the character and progress to the next scene:

“Exhausted, he paused and peered through the crowd gathered at the movie poster. Even superheroes needed help.”

And here’s an example from An Inconvenient Alphabet where I used imagery to actively transition. Instead of saying that Noah Webster wanted to reform American English spelling, it became:

“Armed with the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet everyone knew and loved, Noah launched a spelling revolution—ready to turn “rong” spelling into “rite.””

Sensory elements enrich the reading experience by inviting readers into the moment, immersing them in the setting, and connecting readers to characters on multiple levels. As you will see in “Smelly” Kelly’s story, I use sensory elements liberally!

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

 

I use the online thesaurus a lot. If you can find just the right word, it can make an illustration note or other words unnecessary. For instance, recently I replaced “took” with “claimed.” It made a huge difference—adding attitude.

I can’t resist onomatopoeia. But besides sounds, I also ask myself – What would that look like? In “Smelly” Kelly, there are lots of stinks. Instead of trying to describe the stink in the New Yorker Hotel, it was more fun to show the reaction to the smell.

“Maids pinched their noses. Guests fled. Engineers analyzed and pondered, but they couldn’t figure out where the leak was coming from.”

I also try to “show” emotions, especially what cannot be shown easily by an illustrator. When Kelly realizes he’s not doing enough, I tried to show that feeling of inadequacy:

A broken steam line blasted water pipes.

Kelly shook his head. Someone could’ve been burned. Sniffing wasn’t enough. He needed to listen, to hear sounds no one else heard.

There’s some physical movement there, but mostly I take you inside Kelly’s head. And that’s another powerful way to achieve more showing. Many writers call it psychic distance. Once I learned about it, my writing changed and became more immediate. The example above doesn’t say “he thought” or “he scolded himself” or “he realized.” Cutting the “head verbs” eliminates that filter between the reader and the character. It’s like the difference between indirect speech (He told me to stop.) and direct speech (STOP!). If you go straight to the words or realization or thought, the reader feels it as the character, and it eliminates the “telling.”

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?

BA: Sure! I looked back at an early version of “Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses. Here’s one line that was very “telling”:

“He settled into an apartment and took a job with the subway.”

Because that involved an action (took a job in the subway) that set off the whole story, I needed to show motivation and the emotion behind that decision. It evolved into a scene with “showing” and delightful illustrations:

James set out to find a job, but, as always, his incredible nose proved troublesome.

Fish market—no!

Sanitation—no!

Meat packing—NO!

He felt a rumble below the sidewalk and peered through the grate. The damp air bristled with mystery.

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?

BA: Generally, I think showing appears in scenes and telling in transitions. Emotion and important action pieces require showing. That’s what keeps your story alive, where you want the reader to connect. Telling can speed up the narrative to get to the good stuff, but too much can bog it down. Showing and telling are intertwined with pacing, characterization, and point of view. It’s truly a complicated dance. When I researched to prepare a presentation on point of view and really examined how it works in a picture book, I found that the “camera” goes in and out—and that in and out is achieved with showing and telling, and also involves “proximity.” Just another reason to read and analyze LOTS of books!

TS: Wow, Beth! You have given so much to think about. Your knowledge and command over the elements are so strong and comes through your writing vividly. Thank you!

 

Beth Anderson, author of Lizzie Demands a Seat, An Inconvenient Alphabet, and “Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses, is drawn to stories that open minds, touch hearts, and inspire questions. A former educator who has always marveled at the power of books, she hopes that voices from the past will help children discover their own. Beth has more historical gems on the way!

Learn more about Beth and her amazing books at:

Website: bethandersonwriter.com 

Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram: @Bandersonwriter

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/beth.anderson.33671748

signed copies of books available from Old Firehouse Books

Pitch It to Me

~THE PITCH IT TO ME CHALLENGE~

Welcome back, everyone! It’s time again for another Pitch It to Me Challenge! Actually, it’s a few days past the time, but if you are like me and just finishing up remote learning with two young kids at home, then getting anything done at all is an accomplishment.

And speaking of accomplishments, let’s revisit the results of the last challenge where author Kaylynn Johnsen pitched her work against guest pitcher Nancy Churnin and me. This is the first challenge with a tie for first place AND the third-place pitch was only one vote behind. I will officially declare Kaylynn the winner since she now has three pitches that are all equally pleasing to our readers. Thank you to Kaylynn and Nancy for participating!

For this round, we have author Laura Roettiger pitching her STEM-loaded work-in-progress, MY SISTER THE SCIENTIST. I met Laura through 12×12, just like my WONDERful critique partners on this blog, and we’ve been supporting one another through the ups and downs of the publishing process ever since. I’m so excited to have her here!

Strolling on up to the plate as our guest star pitcher is our very own Tina Shepardson, who is about to dive onto the picture book scene with her debut, WALKOUT, later this summer. She also has a chapter book on the way that all dog lovers won’t want to miss. It’s sure to be a home run.

And now for the challenge! 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-star pitcher). Vote for your favorite, and if you are so inclined, leave a comment, too. We love hearing from our readers!

You have until August 1, 2020, to cast your vote. Please vote only once, but feel free to tell your friends about us and get them in on the action.

 

About Laura:

Laura Roettiger is the author of ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON and has enjoyed working with children ever since she was no longer considered a child herself. She was a reading specialist and elementary teacher in Chicago, IL before moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where she worked in Environmental Education and as a mentor for new teachers for two years at a STEM school. She is a judge for Rate Your Story, works with third grade classrooms through #KidsNeedMentors, tutors adults in the Boulder Reads Literacy program at the Boulder Public Library, and works with BookstoKids, a Colorado based literacy nonprofit. Her superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and her students, letting them know she believes in them. She has three children of her own whose curiosity and creativity led all of them into STEM related professions.

Find Laura at her website: https://lauraroettigerbooks.com/

Purchase ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON through your local indie bookstore OR:

Eifrig Publishing

Amazon

About Tina: 

Tina is an award-winning teacher and debut picture book author of WALKOUT(2019) and CANINES UNLEASHED(2021), both with Clear Fork Publishing. She is a Debut Picture Book Study Group moderator and an active member of SCBWI and 12×12. Find her in Upstate New York with her family enjoying the latest snowstorm.

Find Tina at: www.tinashepardson.comwww.instagram.com/hank_madeleine/, www.facebook.com/TinaMShepardson/, or twitter.com/ShepardsonTina

Pre-Order WALKOUT through your local indie bookstore
OR at:
CLOSING REMARKS:
Thank you to all our wonderful authors who continue to step up to the plate for these challenges. I couldn’t do it without you! (Literally. I really couldn’t.) Until next time . . .