Saturday, January 7, 2012

Story Starter #3

Imagine that you are in 1st grade. You are waay bigger than the Kindergarteners. You can reach the drinking fountain without having to get lifted up by a teacher and without a step stool. You walk into class and there are posters of Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin (all famous inventors) on the wall. Your teacher announces that your class is going to have in Invention Fair. You are to invent something that will somehow make life easier for other kids. What will you invent?

Now ask some "What if" questions:

What if I invent something that actually works? What if it doesn't?
What if the other kids at my table all all busily drawing their ideas and I can't think of anything?
What if I have a brilliant idea and the other kids are making silly things like toothbrush holders and long straws?

Now write...

Friday, January 6, 2012

Story Starter #2

Imagine that you are in Kindergarten. Breathe in the smell of Crayons and Play-doh. Hang your coat on your hook and stick your lunch box in the pile with everyone else’s. Join your class for circle time. After singing the welcome song, your teacher takes attendance and assigns everyone’s jobs for the week. Are you the line leader? Are you in charge of caring for the class pet? What kind of pet is it? Do you get to pass out the pencils during A B C time? Do you get to write the letter of the week on the board? Do you get to show how to make the daily number out of coins? What is your job? Are you excited about it? Did you want one of the other jobs instead of the one you were given?

Now ask some “what if” questions…
What if you are the line leader and the kid behind you keeps poking you while you walk? How will you handle the bully?

What if you are in charge of the class pet and on your way to recess you realize that you left the cage open? What will you do?

You are the leader for A B C time and the letter of the week is “G” but you don’t remember how to make a lower case “g”? What will you do when your teacher calls your name?

What if you were given the worst job in the world? What is it and what will you do about it?

Now write… and don’t worry about it. Just see where it goes.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Story Starter #1

A story starter is often called a writing prompt or something similar. It is created to help you write. Some scenarios are focused around memories or something you may see everyday but not think about. When you write with emotion, it makes a story stronger - the reader can feel it. You have thousands of stories in your mind - I know you do. During PiBoIdMo (thank you Tara Lazar), I came up with more than 50 picture book concepts. They are there, you just have to get used to drawing them out and putting them on paper.

Now here is the first one to play with:
Think about your favorite after school activities (or your kids or your neighbor's kids). If you played sports, think about that. If you were in the band, think about that. Chess club, art club, drama, etc... Now, describe how that activity made you feel. Why was it important to you at the time?

Now to turn it into a picture book or chapter book think about these questions: How old were you? What are or were other kids that age doing for after school activities. How often did you practice or go to this activity? What if you were injured and unable to do that activity anymore? What if one of your friends didn't like that it was taking you away from him or her? Were you talented at this activity? If you were, how did that feel? If you weren't, how did that feel?

How to use a story starter:
Think of it as a springboard for your creative mind. It may lead you running down a path that doesn't lead back to this starter and that doesn't matter. Go with it. Let the hand write or the fingers type and don't over think about a story being perfect. Many of the great kidlit authors of today post on their sites that the first draft is terrible. Just like an artist doodles the first sketches - fix it later. For now, let the words get to the paper.

You could write in first person:
"I raced into the house and tossed my backpack on the floor. I took the stairs two at a time as I sped up to my room. Coach is going to choose which girls get to be in the competition next Saturday at today's practice so I can't be late..."

You could write it in third-person:
"Samantha tripped over Dylan's pacifier as she took the stairs two at at time. She couldn't be late for practice, not again..."

Now write.

Leave a comment and let me know if this starter helped you get anywhere. I will post a new one each day.

Comment Challenge 2012!

Just a few minutes ago, I learned about (and signed up for) the Comment Challenge 2012 created by Mother Reader. The idea is 21 days of kidlit community building through blogging and blog comments. Really, 21 days is less than a month - just three weeks of posting a comment on five blogs a day. Don't overthink it, read blogs by fellow authors and illustrators and leave a comment - you are already thinking of a response to the writing, just post a word, sentence, opinion, your support, ...whatever. We could all use more readership on our blogs and this is a way to connect to other blogs as well as getting others to connect to yours. If you need suggestions, I will be adding a list links of author blogs to the this blog and the MotherReader page has a many listed blogs to check out. Don't forget to follow the blogs you love.

Now - go sign up! You have nothing to lose and might learn something.
Comment Challenge 2012 - sign up

Check back to my blog for daily story starters!
(you can use them as a springboard for the 12 x 12 in 2012 Challenge, too)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Looking Toward the Future

The first picture book that I both wrote and illustrated (well, that was picked up by a publisher) is set to release in June 2012. As I begin this new year full of hope, wonder, and excitement, I realize that I have a lot of work to do. My website and business cards need to get re-designed in preparation for FLAP! to release. On the writing side of my life, I am signed up to write 12 picture books in 12 months (see the amazing 12 x 12 in 2012 logo on the right side of the screen) and will participate in NaPiBoWriWee in May followed by PiBoIdMo in November. In addition to all of this, I plan to finish my mid-grade novel (that I am soo excited about) and add pieces to my illustration portfolio.

Now, this is all great - lots of artwork, tons of writing. Unfortunately, the part that's missing is submitting queries and manuscripts to publishers, editors, and agents. Yikes! That takes a LOT of research and research takes time. Will I need to cut down on the writing, promoting of FLAP!, illustrating, and marketing of myself as an author/illustrator? Possibly. The challenge that I (along with a zillion other authors who are dedicated members of SCBWI) am faced with is to balance it all. Can we do this?

Yes, we can. Whether you use The Little Engine That Could or some other encouraging story, look to the future and admit that this can be accomplished. I am not guaranteeing a sale but no books will get sold if the stories never get put in the hands or on the screens of publishers, editors, and agents. Think baby steps - one day at a time. Make a calendar and divide up the tasks in pieces. The 12 x 12 in 2012 is a challenge to write a draft each month. We can do that. What I am reading and hearing everywhere is that one must write every day. Make a goal of 500 words a day (that is only about 2 typed pages). For a picture book - that is an entire book. For a mid grade novel, that might be half a chapter.

I recommend signing up for challenges like the 12 x 12 in 2012 and joining SCBWI critique groups because they help create that schedule and divide the task of writing an entire book into smaller achievable pieces. Stay confident. Rembember that the great children's writers of our time received rejection letters before getting published. Improve your stories and send them out again. After all, that is what I plan to do.