Friday, March 16, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 12

Oh, look. I've been keeping up with Reading for Research Month for several days in a row now. Look at me!

Today agent Jenna Pocius wrote about picture books offering readers an opportunity to see things through a different perspective. "...the realization that the world looks different through everyone's eyes."

The two books I read that supported her statement did do a good job of illustrating her point.


Today's Picture Books

Double Take! A New Look at Opposites by Susan Hood with illustrations by Jay Fleck does, indeed, do something different with a traditional opposite book. It starts with the usual In/Out, Asleep/Awake business but moves on to point out that you can only really understand big, if you also know about small. And when does near become far? The different perspective we're talking about here is the relationship between concepts, not just simply noting that they're opposite to one another.

They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel does something very neat with the idea of different perspective. One cat is seen by multiple sets of eyes. This book definitely gives readers an opportunity to see things through a different perspective.

Can I somehow give readers an opportunity to see things through a different perspective in my picture book manuscript? Well, not in an overt way the way these two books do. But like any writer, I think I've done something different with my characters, giving readers a different way to look at someone.

ReFoReMo Books Read To Date: 29 The total is going up very slowly because I can find so few of the ReFoReMo books.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 11

Today at Reading For Research Month we have another post on theme, this one by Janie Reinart. Earlier Baptiste Paul called theme "the big ideas" in a story. Reinart writes about universal themes.

I was able to get only one of today's books.

Today's Picture Books

My Beautiful Birds by Susanne Del Rizzo is a very good story set within the world of Syrian refugees. Thematically, I think it's about endurance and the passage of time making it possible to move on. Ah, yuh. That's pretty universal.

Can I use a universal theme in my picture book manuscript? Why, it's interesting I should ask myself that this evening. I was just thinking this morning that I've been working with the same theme for more than ten years now..."Can we control our lives?" Hey, how universal is that? Seriously universal, that's what it is. And, yes, it's the theme of my picture book.

Unfortunately, while I was engulfed in thinking about my work themes, I was driving on a highway and missed my exit. Didn't even notice until I realized I was almost home.

ReFoReMo Books Read To Date: 27

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 10

Andrea J. Loney discusses picture book biographies on Day 10 of Reading For Research Month. She says that a great biography doesn't just tell a great story, it creates an immersive experience for readers. She asks participants to look for "poetry, visual metaphors, and dramatic tension." 

Once again, I wasn't able to find all the books suggested.

Today's Picture Books

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Amazing Bear by Lindsay Mattick with illustrations by Sophie Blackall No poetry here. The dramatic tension here is caused by the war setting, I think. I'm kind of lost with the visual metaphor part. I am a word person.

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D'Agnese with illustrations by John O'Brien. Once again, no poetry. The dramatic tension is created because of the newness of what Fibonnaci is doing. The visual metaphor...there are spirals hidden in many of the pictures here. Fibonacci numbers have some scientific (or perhaps mystical) connection to nature and appear in spirals. I've read this before. I still don't get it. Evidently, you have to make a grid of squares and plot these numbers on it and Eureka! you have a spiral. But who came up with the grid idea? Oh, yeah. Fibonacci.

I'm bad with numbers. Bad with visuals. This is not a good ReFoReMo day for me.

Can I use any of the picture book bio suggestions in my picture book manuscript? Well, it's not a bio, but dramatic tension is always good.

ReFoReMo Books Read To Date: 26

From Personal Experience To Fiction With "The Big Sick"

Emily V. Gordon, one of the screenwriters for the movie The Big Sick, which I haven't seen, wrote an excellent article on bringing her and her husband's personal experience into her writing. It's not unusual to see fiction writers being advised to study books on film writing, and I think her essay is a fine piece for fiction writers also. Personal essay writers might want to take a look at it, too.

Two points:

  • How do you make a personal experience universal? 
  • A personal experience expresses something in real life that it may not express on the page.

KidlitCon Coming To Providence In 2019

Kidlitcon, a conference of children's lit bloggers, is planning its 2019 event, and it's going to be in Providence, R.I. Some bloggers I've "known" for years have already signed on. I have commitment issues, but I'm hoping to get there as an attendee. Have already discussed it in-house.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 9

I'm about to catch up on my ReFoReMo project...I'm about to catch up...I'm about to catch up...for a few hours.

So today author Ariel Bernstein writes about using dialogue to create voice in picture books. Dialogue probably is the way to go, because picture books are so short. There's not a lot of space and time for introspection.

This is another one of those days when I was only able to read one of the suggested books.

Today's Picture Book

I loved Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman with illustrations by Zachariah OHora when I read it a few years ago, and time has changed nothing. It's still a very funny and clever book. And Bernstein's right. Voice is part of it. Dot's voice when she speaks. This is a third-person book. No first-person depressed or snarky ruminating like you find in YA. What Dot says is what makes Dot Dot.

Can I pay more attention to the dialogue in my picture book manuscript in order to create voice? Yes, indeed, I can.

ReFoReMo Books Read To Date: 25

Reading For Research Month, Day 8

Yes, I am a day off again with my Reading For Research Month material. We're in the midst of another snowstorm here in the northeast, and I spent half of yesterday cooking what was in my fridge in case the power goes out again today. Then there was writers' group last night, which is when I usually blog. Please, April, please come soon so I'll be done with this project. Waily, waily.

So yesterday's post by Matthew Winner was on strong beginnings and endings. Personally, I love parallel construction, and I like endings that mirror beginnings in some way or loop back to them somehow. That, to me, is a strong ending. Or, if we're talking about a story where the character experiences a change (and I know some people would say that that should happen in all stories), I like to see that expressed in some strong yet still subtle way at the end.

I read four of yesterday's ten books.

Day 8 Picture Books

Of the four books I read, A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman with illustrations by Isabel Greenberg is the one that I think illustrates a strong beginning and ending the best. "Let me tell you a secret" is the first sentence, the only one on the first page. That's a strong beginning. I don't actually want to give away the strong ending. This is also a good example of second-person point-of-view. (See Day 7.)  I am not a number person, so I'm not the best reader for this book. Nonetheless, I very much admire the concept here.

Charlotte The Scientist Is Squished by Camille Andros with illustrations by Brianne Farley is a neat introduction to the scientific method. (I tend to like anthropomorphic rabbits.) The author is walking a tightrope, trying to do a how-to on experiments within a story. So, yes, I guess the ending does hit strong, given that it manages to stick to the story.

Well, now, on second reading I've decided that Shelter by Celine Claire with illustrations by Qin Leng does have a strong beginning and ending. This is what I would call an improving text, something I don't usually care for. But this French import is lovely.

I read Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton with illustrations by Victor Ngai a few weeks ago. I no longer have it, so I can't address the strong beginning and ending issue. The book is a neat example of finding a semi-forgotten historical event and featuring it in a piece of nonfiction, however. We mentioned Dazzle Ships last night at my writers' group.

Can I use a strong beginning and ending with my picture book manuscript? I certainly hope so.

ReFoReMo Books I've Read To Date: 24

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 7

Day 7 of Reading for Research Month is by Sterling editor Christina Pulles and deals with second- person point-of-view. The benefit of second-person point-of-view is that it draws readers into the story. "You're a part of the action." Because you are the you of the story. Additionally, authors can write a variety of stories with it.

I believe this is the first day for which I was able to read all the suggested picture books.

Day 7 Picture Books

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson was used to illustrate how-to books on Day 5, but Pulles describes it as a cause-and-effect book. If you do X, Y will happen. Which is different from how to do something.
Your Alien by Tammi Sauer with illustrations by Goro Fujita  and When a Dragon Moves In by Jodi Moore with illustrations by Howard McWilliam are both stories. The you in the narrative makes readers a character in these stories. 

Pulles calls How to Read a Story by Kate Messner with illustrations by Mark Siegel a how-to book, and, like If You Plant a Seed, it was part of the how-to books post on Day 5. The second-person point-of-view would be good to discuss in relation to how-to books.

Love by Matt de la Pena with illustrations by Loren Long is, indeed,
a message book, as Pulles says. The second-person point-of-view allows the author to bring the message directly to readers. 

Can I use the second-person point-of-view in my picture book manuscript? I don't know. Perhaps it would be a good idea to do a draft in second person as an exercise. Or maybe a second-person narrator is something I should save for another book.

ReFoReMo Books I've Read To Date: 20

I am caught up with this project for a few hours, maybe a day.

Another nor'easter expected here tomorrow or the next day!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Reading For Research Month, Day 6

On Day 6 of Reading for Research Month, author Keila Dawson discussed tough subjects in picture books. She says such books introduce kids to "characters who have figured out how to cope with difficult circumstances or problems." Actually Dawson's brief paragraph on the subject was quite good. She did quick discussions of each of the books she uses, listing the topics involved and giving what sounds like a moral for the story.

Unfortunately, I was only able to get my hands on one of the six books she recommends.

Day 6 Picture Book

The Water Princess by Susan Verde with illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds is a lovely book that could easily have spiraled into an instructive problem story, but it most definitely does not. I think a big part of what makes this book so workable is the main character, who fantasizes about being an African princess. Also, she recognizes the struggle she and the women she knows deal with, making a lengthy round-trip each day to get water, but she doesn't lecture the readers about it. The author trusts us to recognize that this is a tough subject.

This book illustrates several points Dawson makes:
  • It's inspired by a real person and a real situation
  • The situation is going to be unfamiliar to most American child readers, but they can empathize with the main character, in large part because she is introduced as someone with an active fantasy life, much as many readers have.
  • This has the potential to spark conversations, particularly because of the back matter. See Day 3.
What does the subject of tough subjects have to do with my picture book manuscript? Nah, really nothing.

ReFoReMo Books Read To Date: 17

Friday, March 09, 2018

What did you do this week. Gail? March 9 Edition

Not a lot. These last two weeks have been cut into with appointments, shopping for necessities, and coping with winter weather. Oh, and also I broke my mother’s new hearing aid and had to make a couple of runs into a medical office with that. (I’ve got another trip to come on that.)

Nevertheless, over the last two weeks I managed to do some more work for:

Goal 1. Submissions. I have a plan to submit at the beginning of each month, and I managed to do that the end of last week. One submission resulted in some interest. Then yesterday, between power outages, I was able to take part in pitmad.

Goal 3. Generate New Work With Good Women. This has been my big focus with whatever time I could find. I haven't made the kind of progress I'd hoped to these last two weeks, meaning underpainting/blueprinting/outlining new chapters. In order to go on, I had to go back and deal with a secondary character. I did a lot of research and information on her religious background and I'm much happier with her. I also have a better feel for how the next chapter should go. Even how this character should dress.

Goal 3. Generate New Work With Picture Book Study. In addition to actually taking part in Reading For Research Month, I've had to do library searches for the picture books and then get them. I've been to the library four times in the last two weeks. Three different libraries. I'm a couple of days behind with this and hoping to find some time this weekend to catch up.

Goal 4. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding. Got some blog posts done, including the Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar, but have done a weak job of promoting them. Something else I can catch up on some weekend.

UPDATE: If you're on Facebook, you can check out my Northeaster 2018 Album to see how we managed our big 24-hours without power. Hint...I could still read.