Leaving Room

When writing picture book texts have you ever heard the following advice?  

‘You must leave room for the illustrations.’
I know I have.  As a largely intuitive person, I have soaked in the knowledge from classes, conferences, workshops, and reading slowly over time. I can compare my picture book texts from two years ago to texts from today and see a difference — more room.
So how can you achieve this in your own writing? Here’s a few things that have worked for me.
1) Reading at least 30-40+ classic & new picture books.
     I don’t just mean flip through the pages, get the general gist of the story, and the add it to your ‘read’ pile.  I mean really read the story.  Put yourselves in a child’s shoes.  Read each page aloud, and then stop to enjoy the illustrations on each page.  How are those illustrations adding to the story? Do they make you feel happy or sad? Do they make you laugh?  Do they make you want to turn the page and find out what happens next?  
2)  Break your picture book text up into scenes, and create a storyboard.
     I am not an Author//Illustrator, but I do like to break the story up into scenes and make a storyboard.  Granted, these are things the Author may not have much control of during the publishing process, but at this point that is not really what it’s meant for.  This process gives you the ability to know if what you have written works as a picture book. Are there at least 12-16 distinctly different scenes?  Another added bonus is that it might help you envision changes in the text you may not have seen before.  Perhaps you’ve written something that is too wordy or has too many descriptions.  Or perhaps there may be an added emotional layer you didn’t see before.

So Long Summer…Hello September!

So long Summer! This will go down in my books as the first summer I spent seriously devoted to writing! If I were an apple farmer I would say I had an abundant harvest this summer.  Here is just a partial list of things I accomplished.

❦ I attended my first SCBWI Summer Conference.
❦ I joined a Peer Critique Group!
❦ I connected with another Children’s Writer in my neighborhood!
❦ I read 30+ picture books.
❦ I took 2 online writing courses.
❦ I wrote 4 new short stories and made progress on my Middle Grade WIP.
❦ I learned how to use a “twitter hashtag.”
❦ I received my first acceptance…more news to come soon on that front!
It was a beautiful summer.  It felt so right to surround myself with writing, reading, and learning about children’s literature.
Hello September! I’m back to work. I’m ready!  Just like a great harvest leads to delicious apple pie, I’m hoping my summer will lead to a fruitful fall!

Super SCBWI Summer Conference 2011

I gotta admit. This is a weird feeling.
Why doesn’t the CVS cashier know I’m a Children’s Writer?
How come the people in the fresh juice line don’t want to talk to me…about writing…and illustrating…and publishing children’s books?
Oh yea…I’m not at the SCBWI Summer Conference anymore, that’s why!

This year I attended the summer conference for the first time. On my first day I quietly sat in the lobby, trying to muster up courage to talk to people. That’s when I saw them…sunflowers! In the lobby of the hotel! As I have mentioned in a previous post, sunflowers tend to show up during significant times in my life. I think this experience certainly qualified as significant.

I don’t know yet what will come of my conference experience. What I do know is that at times I felt inspired, moved, excited, anxious, nervous, and encouraged. I met postive, like-minded, quirky people. I witnessed the diversity in writing, speaking, and art.  I was also reminded to believe in myself, my voice, and my vision.  I am so excited to write this week!

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the conference:

“Everything we do moves outward, like ripples in a pond.”  – Bruce Coville

“I write what I need to write.”   – Donna Jo Napoli.

“Writing not only changed my life, it saved my life.”  -Judy Blume

Storytelling with Pictures

 Hello Blogging World! I have missed you. I have been busy writing, revising, reading, doing homework, catching up on life….and writing some more. Phew!

Needless to say I’ve been busy. Today I took a break and did a little video-editing. Thanks to a helpful training session at the apple store, I am using iMovie to make a video of our family trip to Tahiti last year.

Other than the blog writing I’m doing right now I did not do any writing for this project. I did however “tell a story through pictures,” which felt equally fulfilling.  I tried uploading a video short of what I’ve been working on, but it seems I need to do a little more techie research before I will be proficient at that.  For now please enjoy some still photos of the majestically beautiful Tahiti!

Bora Bora
Moorea – Cook’s Bay
Moorea – As seen from a hilltop

The Sunflower Scribe

I hope everyone is having a bright, sunshiney week! I have been trying to think of the perfect blog title for my children’s writing blog for quite some time now. So far nothing had stuck. It’s like having a nickname. I couldn’t just use any old name — it had to stick. And more importantly, I had to like it. Unlike a nickname, I actually got to choose this name.
I have finally decided upon, “The Sunflower Scribe.” I have always loved sunflowers and they hold a special significance for me and my family. My grandmother-in-law loved them and they always seem to be around on special family occasions. For instance, at a family party in 2008 my husband surprised me and proposed that day! I had made sunflower cupcakes to celebrate and placed a sunflower centerpiece on the table. I had no idea I would be getting engaged that day!! But it seems my grandmother-in-law was smiling at us from heaven that day! My mom and sisters happy-go-lucky english bull terriers have even been photographed with sunflowers.  Whenever I look at a sunflower I feel warm, happy, loved, and encouraged. All things that have helped shape me into the writer I am today. 

Writer’s Day in L.A.

Yesterday I attended the SCBWI-LA’s 30th Annual Writer’s Day. It was my second official writing conference since taking up writing seriously again.

I was a little anxious about attending at first. I kinda felt like that little five year old girl I once was. I was always nervous about having to move for the 3rd time in two years and then go to a new school and make new friends all over again.  Well I’ve come a long way since then and I am happy to report – I loved every minute of it!
The camaraderie with fellow writers was excellent. I also felt very inspired by the speakers of the day which included: Susan Patron- Author, Margaret Miller-Editor at Bloomsbury, Toni Johnston-Author, Bruce Coville- Author, and Rachel Cohn- Author.

The conference took place at Clairbourn School in San Gabriel ~ a truly beautiful campus with white picket fences, pristine playhouses and equipment, quaint buildings and bright green lawns.  I kept trying to envision children on this campus ~ and inadvertently may have created a character for a new story.

The day was jam-packed full of precious, eye-opening information for any aspiring children’s writer. I walked away with a bag full of freebies, a page full of notes, and a head full of ideas. If you have a chance to attend this event next year- you are in for a treat!

A story reborn…

Out of the ashes rose a phoenix…wait scratch that, a raven.

When I was thirteen years old I began my love affair with dark, paranormal fiction (back then I think the whole section of the bookstore I was drawn to was simply called “Horror.” One of my favorites was Of Saints and Shadows by Christopher Golden. Some of the vampires in the story could transform into animals. This inspired me to write a novel about a young shape-shifter on a quest. I called it Ravyn’s Quest. I began typing the story on my tiny Mac Classic. I actually made 3/4 of the way through the manuscript before I realized I didn’t know how the story would end. I sent my character on this treacherous journey only to realize I didn’t know what she was going to do when she got to where she was going. I always thought in the back of my mind, some day I’ll finish it.

It has taken me seventeen years but I have finally resurrected my story. The original version is still trapped on that little mac, but I didn’t need it anymore ~ I started from scratch. The story comes to me in waves, and I feel I have a solid idea for the whole novel. So far I have completed a preface, and 2 chapters. I am very excited about this project. Wish me luck as I dive into writing my first full length young adult novel.

My Year 30 Epiphany- I want to be a Writer.

I had a milestone birthday recently. I am now 30 years old. You know it feels less weird to say that out loud than I thought it would. I’m genuinely surprised. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I feel settled into my life or maybe that I am moving in a new direction in my life? It is likely a combination of both of these things and more. I finally feel like I’m on a new path.

You know how they say a career has  an average lifespan of approximately seven years and then you starting feeling the itch to pursue a new one? Well a few years back I had that itch. I have been in my current job for nine years. I love working with children and have been blessed by the many years I have spent in the Child Care Field. It’s not so much a change I was in for but a growth or evolution into something new.

In looking into my prospects I ran into the same problem I had after graduating from college that kept me from pursuing a Master’s Degree right away. I knew I wanted more education but nothing sounded right. Masters in Psychology, if so what type? What about a teaching credential or career as a Guidance Counselor? I had no idea and furthermore I needed a career stat! I couldn’t see myself investing more time and money into something I wasn’t even sure I wanted.  So here I was faced with the same problem and even less focus this time around. I had no idea.
Becoming a Writer was something I had always dreamed of doing. Around 1988 I wrote my first book in elementary school as part of a class project. It was about a young girl who had a time machine and traveled to the future and back. I even credited my young self with having come up with the idea for the discman, which wouldn’t come out in stores for a few more years. At the time, I hadn’t considered that the next logical incarnation of the walkman would be the discman.
It would be several years later before I started writing again. This time it be around 1993 and would be on my tiny Mac Classic. My memory is very fuzzy and unfortunately I no longer have this computer, but I know my first manuscript for a Young Adult Chapter book is stored on that computer. I made it ¾ of the way through the book entitled “Ravyn’s Quest” before I got Writer’s Block and couldn’t figure out how to end the story. I never completed it. The experience taught me a valuable lesson. Always outline your whole story first ~ start to finish (well for me at tleast I need to have a rough idea what I plan to do with the story at the end, but I know this is debatable amongst writers.)
In my junior year of college in the year 2000, I was able to peak my interest in writing again by taking a class called, “Writing Books for Children.” It was great. We got to write everyday and learn all the in and outs of the publishing process. I felt like this class gave me all the tools I needed to become a Writer some day. I put the idea on the backburner for quite some time.
In 2008, I remembered my aspirations for writing and desire to write a children’s book and tried to come up with an idea. My stories have always been largely built upon my characters. My inspiration for stories comes from them. I have to have a character first and then I can build the world up around them.  So I tried to find that character. I was a little obsessed (ok a lot obsessed) with Meerkats at the time due to the program Meerkat Manor on Animal Planet. I tried to build a character, “Molly Meerkat” and story around it. It just did not come together. There was no inspiration there.
I continued my search for a new career, not really seriously thinking that Writing was going to be a contender, however it would soon be apparent that I was premature to make that judgment.
My husband has always been trying to find ways that we could connect better, and one of the ways he considered was to bring me into his world a bit more. My husband is an Internet Entrepreneur, a Renaissance Man or Internet Guru of sorts. He has built a career on the Internet and has been a force to reckon with for over 13 years now. In  February 2010 he introduced me to wordpress so I could build a “blog.”
I took to blogging like a duck to water. If ever there was a way to get my juices flowing this was it! I just loved blogging. I loved designing my blog, visiting other blogs, writing blog posts, and promoting my blog. And the added bonus was that my desire for creative writing was rekindled.
In June 2010, inspiration struck. My first children’s book main character, Iris the Colorful Spider was born. The manuscript is written and now I am learning more about the editing and publishing process. The journey has just begun and I have finally found my focus. I want to be a Writer. I have come to terms with the fact that this may be a process that is years in the making but, I am up for it! Carpe Diem! I hope you enjoy the ride! I know I will.