Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Story Starter #11 - Retelling a Classic

This post is inspired by one of the many contests posted on Figment*. If you need a little inspiration for a new picture book manuscript or just want to try out a really fun writing exercise, this is for you.

First, select a fairy tale or a classic children’s story.

Here are some examples:       
                       The Old Woman Who Lived in the Shoe
                        Little Red Riding Hood
                        The Three Little Pigs
                        Hansel and Gretel
                        The Three Bears
                        The Little Red Hen
                        The Princess and the Pea
                        The Tortoise and the Hare
If you don’t like these choices, look up Mother Goose or Hans Christian Anderson and select another classic.

Think about the POV this story is usually told from and retell the story through the eyes of one of the other characters. Don't forget to use "What if" questions to drive the plot.

Example:         The Old Woman Who Lived in the Shoe

This is told from 3rd person. Try telling it in 1st person from the Old Lady with all the children. Even better for a pb is to tell it from one of the children’s POV or in 3rd person sharing the story of one of those children who has to share a shoe with soo many brothers and sisters.

Example:         The Three Little Pigs

This story is told from 3rd person and makes the “Big Bad Wolf” out to be a really bad guy. Take his POV. Maybe he has a reason for blowing down their houses (other than eating them). Time for a “What if” question – What if he isn’t blowing down the houses but is sneezing instead?

You get the idea. Now write…

* If you are a student in HS or College, consider entering your story into the contest on

Thursday, February 23, 2012

FLAP! Book Trailer

My debut picture book, FLAP!,is coming this June (2012) so I have been taking steps to promote myself as an author/illustrator as well as promote the release of FLAP!. The story takes place on a beautiful autumn day with colorful leaves in the background of many of the illustrations so I filmed a little girl who looks just like my main character running and flapping on top of a mountain in October.

Here it is:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Researching the Genre You Want to Write

Changing Gears

I have tons of ideas for picture books for children ages one to six. So many, in fact, that I posted 10 Story Starters on my blog to share ideas with other kidlit writers and illustrators. The Starters are open ended so it isn’t like I am giving away lots of specific ideas that I will use.

While I love writing picture books, I have a few ideas rolling around for books that are a little longer.  Jumping from picture books to chapter books or mid grade novels required me to do a little research. I had read a ton of books from this genre; I just had not studied them. There is a difference.

I went to the library and pulled the first books from three different mid grade series books for girls. I knew my target was a girl between ages 7-9 so I looked specifically at early mid grade books/older chapter books. I pulled from Junie B Jones by: Barbara Park, Clementine by: Sara Pennypacker, and Katie Kazoo by: Nancy Krulik.

I took my book choices to a quiet table with an outlet and plugged in my laptop. I opened each book and typed in the following information:

Series Name

Book Name



Agent (if mentioned in the Dedication or the About the Author section)

Number of Chapters

Number of Pages in the Whole Book

Average Number of Pages per Chapter

Then I propped up the book next to my computer and typed (yes, typed*) the entire first chapter, then the second. I did not include page breaks – I typed it as it would look in manuscript form so I could see it that way. I used Word Count to get a tally for the number of words in each of these first two chapters, added them together, and divided in two to get an average number of words per chapter. I also divided the number of words per chapter by the number of pages to get an average number of words per page. I typed this into my list of info about that book.

After typing (and thereby reading) the chapters, I added the point of view and the age of the mc.

Next, I set the View on my screen so that I could see 1 whole page on the screen. I looked at it for a few minutes, noting the length of the paragraphs, the amount of dialogue versus description, the tag lines, and the amount of italics and bold letters. I scrolled page my page just looking and taking mental notes (not typing in anything).

I gathered this list of information and typed in the first two chapters of all three books. Then I compared the data from all three. I highly suggest doing this research. I learn by doing so the act of typing in the words of another author helped me to feel the lengths of the sentences, the amount of dialogue, and the amount of description.

*Important Note: Do not use this typed in data and chapters for anything but research. It is plagiarism to copy someone else’s work and claim is as your own. This exercise was only to gather information about successful books in the genre in which I have chosen to write.

With that said, here's just a bit of what I learned from 2 of the books:

Katie Kazoo Switcheroo:

Book: 76 pages

10 chapters

All chapters 6-7 pages long.

Average words per page = 120 (there are b/w line drawings scattered through this book)


Book: 135 pages

10 chapters

Average length of chapters:  11.5 pages (ranged between 9 -14 pages in each chapter)

Average words per page = 103 (there were b/w line drawings scattered through this book)


A chapter book or early mid grade novel for this target audience should be about 70-150 pages long – by this, I mean book pages which at an average of 120 words per page is roughly half of a double spaced, 12 pt New York Times with a 1 inch margin page. Translation – a book for this target age is about a 35-60 page manuscript and each chapter is only about 3-6 typed pages.

Next Blog Post:

Outlining your Chapter Book or Mid-Grade Novel

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day Writing Contest Entry

I have entered a Valentine's Day writing contest posted by Susanna Leonard Hill. The guidelines are to post a story or poem of unlikely Valentine's (under 200 words) by 5pm Monday, February 13th. The winner gets either Ann Whitford Paul's fabulous book: How to Write Picture Books: A Hands On Guide from Creation to Publication or a manuscript critique from Sussana herself. I already own Ann's book so I would love to win the critique. At 172 words, here it is:

The Forbidden Love of Glassy and Dropper

I slid up close to her ear and whispered, “Classy, will you be my valentine?”

My heart nearly dried out when she said, “It’s Glassy, not Classy. Geez, you can be such a drip.”

“I thought you loved me,” I sighed.

“I did, I do, but,...hey! Stop pouring yourself all over me!” cried Glassy. “I’m trying to explain why we can never be together and there you go filling my heart.”

Then everything changed. I felt surrounded by her love as she held me close.

“Oh Dropper,” she said. “It is just too dangerous for us to be together. Don’t you see?”

“Glassy, you can be soo transparent,” I cried. “Sometimes you seem soo cool and empty inside. I know we’re meant to be together.” I closed my eyes and kissed her silky smooth surface.

“Dropper, my love. Your kisses are so soft and wet that I feel like we’re floating.”

“Glassy! We are lifting. Hold me! Our time is slipping away.”


“Dropper!” yelled Glassy just before her heart shattered.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Liebster Blog Award

Last week, I was awarded the Liebster Blog Award twice! First, by a Jennifer Young. She’s a kidlit author and her blog is Castles in the Sky. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend it. Just a few days after Jennifer gave me the award, (before I finished this post) Beth Stillborn gave me the Liebster Blog Award. Beth is also a kidlit author and I highly recommend that you read her blog, By Word of Beth. Thank you, Beth and Jennifer for this award. I appreciate that you both follow my blog of Story Starters.

This award is designed to celebrate bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers. By telling you about these fantastic blogs, I am hoping that you go check them out. While you’re there, click to Join or Follow their blog if you want to read their future posts.

Jennifer Young and Beth Stillborn learned of my blog through our mutual participation in Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 in 2012 Challenge. We have signed on to write twelve (yes, twelve) picture book drafts in twelve months. There are over 400 authors and illustrators participating in this challenge and I have learned that many of them have very interesting blogs.

There are tons of amazing kidlit bloggers. Many are authors of children’s books and there are others who are illustrators of children’s books. I am passing on this award to five talented people who are both authors and illustrators (and bloggers). As an author/illustrator myself, I am proud to announce that the Liebster Blog Award goes to…

Diandra Mae
Heather Newman Illustrations
Wendy Martin Illustration
Ramona Davey
Suzanne Del Rizzo: Squish

I am only supposed to give the Award to 5 other bloggers but since these author/artists are soo talented, I am handing out a couple of extra awards to...

Kerie Frances Miller
Jennifer Thermes

Now click on those links above and check them out!

When you receive this award you are supposed to write five things about yourself…
  1. I love to go snowshoeing because when the snow is deep, I get to walk along the tree tops.
  2. I have two small, hairy dogs that love to curl up in my office when I create.
  3. I used to perform in an all youth circus.
  4. My favorite fruit is mango.
  5. I find it relaxing to doodle random things everyday.

If you want to learn more about the 12 x 12 in 2012 Challenge (where I discovered all of these talented author/illustrators) go to Julie Hedlund's Blog.