Friday, February 24, 2006


The new community for children's writers living in the Central U.S. is LIVE! If you live in or near (or HAVE lived in) Kansas, Missouri, Iowa or Nebraska, check out kidlit_central.

It's a place where we can share ideas, network, and promote the work of other children's book creators living in our region.

If you like what you see, please help spread the word.

(If you saw my earlier attempt at this, I've switched gears. For ease of building a community, I've moved the blog to Live Journal)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Creative Dungeon

Trying to avoid having a mess in every room of the house, I moved my computer to the basement last week. The kids...and the mess...tend to gravitate to whichever room I'm working in. While the basement is a good place to get work done, I don't feel very creative there.

Today, I'm working in the dining room with the sun to my back. It's a warm 45 degrees and surrounded by the sunshine, I'm beginning to feel inspired.

Above, you'll see a picture of the dungeon. The creative mess made by my children was cleaned up at least three different times last week. This is our bar. Unlike most people, there's no alcohol in there. Instead, it's stuffed with art supplies. Today, you'll find: a photo album, hand sanitizer, blo pens, paint sets, three bead kits, photos and school things waiting to be scrapbooked, some spare game parts, a few unfinished "books" the kids wrote, clay, cardstock and foamies.

Anyone want to send a cleaning fairy to help me? The rest of the house isn't looking much better at the moment!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

SCBWI KANSAS writing retreat

SCBWI Kansas has an energizing writing weekend planned April 7-8.

At last, a retreat for children’s book writers that has something for everyone! Choose one of three tracks*—Novel, Picture Book, or Sequester—and work on what you really need. Friday is for group activities and time to write; Saturday, spend time on your track.


Storytelling from the Silver Screen
Discover what every audience is looking for, regardless of genre. See the five elements of story demonstrated in 22 short clips from famous movies. The clips don't just reveal the five elements, they also illustrate how each element was achieved. See them acted out right in front of you. This session, led by award winning author Dan Schwabauer, will include time for discussion.

Exercises to Energize and More Exercises to Energize
These sessions will give you a chance to limber up and stretch your writing skills, get your mind working, and expand your imagination. Put on your mental swim suits and dive right in to find out the writing’s fine.

Group Critiques
Come prepared to read your manuscript aloud to a small group and to listen and make notes when others read. Not only will you get constructive comments on your piece, you’ll learn from the work you hear. We’ll try to put participants into groups by genre.


Isn’t that Novel?
Local children’s novelists, Dan Schwabauer and Sue Ford (writing as Susan Uhlig) team up to help you work on your novel in progress or completed novel draft. Learn more about the process. Pick up tips to improve self-editing. Work on areas where you are struggling. A workbook will be provided. This track will also be helpful for someone in the planning stages of a novel.

Picture It!
Award-winning author Jane Kurtz will help you think about what a picture book is and isn't (how can you tell if you have a magazine story or a picture book manuscript, for instance) and about why so many picture books are rejected...and how yours might avoid that fate. We will look at length, format, language, dialogue, and what it means when an editor says, "leave room for the illustrator." We'll study beginnings and endings. Does "show, don't tell" apply to picture books? What about story arc? Finally, we'll consider ways to steer clear of common reasons for rejection including these familiar phrases: too slight, too gentle, too didactic, not strong enough for today's tough market, and "not for me."

Never have time to write? Or don’t usually have a big enough block of time to make good progress? This track will provide 6+ hours of guaranteed time to do so.

Sequester participants will not be hearing guest speakers on Saturday.

For the full scoop, fees, location and speaker bios, visit the Kansas SCBWI website. The flyer has the details. Submit your registration form by March 1 for the earlybird discount.

If you know children's writers who might enjoy this retreat, please help spread the word!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Bookseller networking

Susan Taylor Brown has a super conversation going on her blog. What are you doing to work with your local, independent bookseller? Is it all me, me, me? OR do you do your part to help increase that bookseller's business? Is it a partnership? A win/win?

See her original post here.

And the follow up with an excellent book marketing tip here.

In case you missed them, MJ Rose ran 10 Book Tour Tool Kits--book tour advice from touring authors. Go to her site and start scrolling down!

Friday, February 17, 2006

My little writers

We attended the awards ceremony tonight for a youth writing contest sponsored by our county library system and one of our indie booksellers. To describe the evening, I need only use two words: incredible talent!

The contest was open to children ages 5-12. (A did not win, but we enjoyed the winning stories and the illustrations by the local illustrators). I thought A would not have a chance because all the awards would go to the older kids. I was wrong. The younger kids cleaned up!

We are in for some steep competition if we want to publish our own stories when these kids get older! They were awesome! The judges chose stories that would have made good picture books.

There was this sweet boy who was about 5 or 6. When they called his name, he jumped for joy. As the illustrator read his story, he looked like the Energizer Bunny, doing quick, tiny bunny hops next to the podium. Each time the illustrator turned the page, he jumped faster and sucked his breath in anticipation. The librarian sitting next to me said it brought tears to her eyes. This excited little guy had a cute story about a duck and stole the show with his enthusiasm.

There was also a story about a purple turkey who outsmarted some hunters (our favorite!), a beautiful poem that most adults would be hard-pressed to write, an Abbott and Costello-type story about some guys whose boat is swallowed by a whale, a "chapter book" about a family that never went into their basement and discovered a genie when the crept down the stairs, and an adorable story about a flea who joined some sort of Flying Flea Fleet (the last line: flea end!) The only winning story by an older kid was this incredible fantasy story that the illustrator said would make a fantastic movie (he only read us part of it because it was so long.).

A took tons of pictures (and lots of Brad Sneed, who will be doing a presentation for our school district soon). Both A and S enjoyed the stories and the art (two of the artists did fabric collages.)

AND... proud mama moment--they both came home and went to work on new stories. S will be old enough next year and says she's entering too!

Random Thoughts

This is what my girls were playing with today. For some of us, these are the toys of our childhood. You younger bloggers might call these antiques! Notice the old Barbie with the wire in the hair to make it "curl." She lost a leg and my dad fixed her by placing a huge screw in her hip! There's also the Skipper whose breasts grow when you twist her arm (is that gross to anyone but me?), Holly Hobbie and friends, a few members of the Sunshine Family, and some disco girls whose names I can't recall.

This is a picture of the city A's class built. Really, it's only about 1/3 of the project. They made a very, very large city, filling up half of the school entryway. Isn't it cute?

Arthur A Levine's Blog and Speech

Chris Barton linked to a post from Bravebethany who linked to a speech given by Arthur A. Levine in Miami. (This has been posted by Mr. Levine on his own blog.)

A very worthwhile read. I'm pulling out just one quote here because it's meaningful to ME:

"Write about this situation as if you were right in the middle of it yourself. Use all the information you’d have at your disposal if you were writing about YOU."

I think this is what made yesterday's quirk meme so much fun--a great exercise for writers. How can you create a believable, detailed world if you aren't even aware of the quirks that make you an individual and not some carbon-copy of someone else?

Go forth. Be quirky. Be proud. Noticing this stuff is what makes you a writer!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Sweet Dreams

Yesterday, I promised a picture of my clay sheep in honor of Lisa's book, BABY CAN'T SLEEP.

Don't laugh. I never claimed to be an artist :-)

We're putting the finishing touches on the pool tonight for the community buildings project. I'll try to take a picture to share.

Have a Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Baby Can't Sleep

My "official" review of BABY CAN'T SLEEP will be one of the featured picture books at YA Books Central tomorrow.

But, you can have a sneak peek today.

I really enjoyed this book! I can picture all the fun activities parents and teachers can do to tie-in with this book: acting out the sheeps' actions, making sheep hats with ears, addition and subtraction fun, talking about bedtime rituals, making up new things for the sheep to do, talking about how they relax, having pajama day, making sheep puppets or bean bags (that would look like Baby's special toy).

But, what I really want to do right now is make a little sheep out of clay, artistq -style. Since we're off to the store to buy clay to finish up a school project, we might just do that! (A is supposed to be making a community pool for the model city they are making at school. We've decided to use clay to make some of the exterior details--the life preservers, chairs, etc.)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Virtual Writing Assistant

How would you like your own Virtual Writing Assistant? If you get stuck while writing, a charming assistant pops onto your desktop. "Hello, Kim! I see you're having difficulty today. May I suggest some possible plot points? Would you like to brainstorm? Could I suggest a few publishers? I am here to help with all your writing needs."

Last night, I had a dream that I had a Virtual Writing Assistant. Guess who it was? Cynthia Leitich Smith popped onto my screen right where that little paper clip guy comes up in Word. She spoke in this calm, futeristic voice and sat cross-legged like Jeanie in I Dream of Genie. Maybe that's what we need when our muse takes a vacation. Just turn the little switch to ON and our own personal muse appears!

If you haven't already checked out Cynthia's newly-designed site, go now! Between the blog and the site, she is a true Virtual Writing Assistant. She may not pop onto your screen and talk to you, but if you read the site, you get a pretty good idea of what she'd have to say!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Happy Buzzday!

Happy Buzzday, everyone!

First--Thanks to susanwrites for telling me about the rich text editor at LJ. I've been struggling with LJ all this time because I can never remember HTML!

Second-- Stop by laurenbarnholdt's LJ to hear her read an excerpt from her new book, REALITY CHICK. It's super!

Third--laurenbarnholdt is doing an online chat for the Institute of Children's Literature on Thursday, February 16th, at 8 o'clock EST. And, there's a contest involved. Visit Lauren's blog for contest details.

Fourth-- (Susan Taylor Brown) has a new book coming out. You can download an excerpt from the book on her website. I can't wait to read more! I predict this book will be huge!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

It's Conference Time!

The links in my original post have been deleted because it has been brought to my attention that posting conference notes may be a copyright infringement and may interfere with the author's ability to make a living from their speaking.

Out of respect for those who believe this, I've taken down my notes. I meant no harm. In fact, I believe reading conference notes online actually promotes the speaker and makes people want to go to a conference to see him or her.

Hey...I'm even on the "wrong" side of the Google Print issue. I see it all as a way to promotion--pique their interest and they'll want the real thing.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

It's School Auction Time Again!

It's that time again: planning time for the school auctions. Do they do this where you live?

Here, all the elementary schools (even many of the preschools) do auctions to help raise funds for school extras. At my 8 year old's school, the money is kept by the PTO to fund things like: extra field trips, buy book collections, provide extra playground equipment/extra items for the gym, and start the second grade Spanish Club. At our preschool, the money usually goes toward toys and playground equipment.

I really HATE fundraisers. (Just like Laura who says today, "Fundraisers are not fun.")

To make matters worse, each family is asked to come up with a special item to donate for the auction. Many items come from donations from health clubs, summer camps, restaurants, spas. But, then there are the big ticket items--vacations at people's time shares, autographed sports items (we have a few players' children at our school), cool stuff from mommy and daddy's business. You get the idea.

It's hard when you don't have local connections. If we lived near our families, we could come up with some really cool packages to give away. But, we don't.

For you author and illustrators out there, here are some potential solutions:

1) Team up with other authors and illustrators to create a state collection of books. For example, a KANSAS COLLECTION would be books written and/or illustrated by people in Kansas.

2) Offer the school a writer's workshop (illustrator/author visit). Offer this as an individual or work with others to create a literacy or book creation or creativity workshop event at the school. For a hot item like this, parents at our school would go in together to buy the package for a whole grade level (as they did with the sixth grade pool party last year).

3) Offer a summer camp for young writers or illustrators and give the school a few free camps to give away.

Even if you don't have kids in school, this could be an effective marketing idea for someone looking for an opportunity to get into the schools with their workshops.

Happy Auction Season!