Voice p.2: World-building

Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

I previously discussed “Voice” as it applies to different age groups. Voice is the sum of your word choice, word order, beat, rhythm, and structure (see here for my favorite definition of voice).

Voice also creates your characters’ personalities, the mood, the setting, and your world. For this post, I’ll focus on the last one–world building. You can put the reader smack in the world of your story by using the right words for the right time, setting, and mood that your world resides in. 

For example, synonyms can create a different tone, even though, technically, they mean the same thing. Pa, Dad, Da, Pops, Papa, Father, all names for the male parent, but they each create a different world in the mind of the reader. 

Let’s apply this to various texts:

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Graphic Novel Pitch Event

Yes, it’s been a while. Yes, I’ve been busy. We’re winding down the move-in part after another overseas move. A much more difficult transition in the days of Covid. However, I’ve also been hopping with other good things too, like helping to organize the event pictured above. We’ve got less than a week away and I’m beyond excited to participate.

So, if you’ve got a graphic novel ready to submit, plan on joining this event. And check out the event info on the website at: https://kidlitgn.blogspot.com

If you’re interested in creating graphic novels for middle grade and younger, join the group at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/KidLitGN

And to be notified of other pitch events, join the Twitter page at: https://twitter.com/KidLitGN

Happy writing!

Voice: “Your picture book sounds too old.”


In writing, you will hear about “voice,” but you won’t often get a clear answer as to what that means. That’s because it’s one name for many different things. It’s like saying “smurf” in the old Smurf cartoons—it means a different thing depending on how you use it.

I could address “voice” in a dozen different ways. I could talk about how each author is encouraged to find their own “voice”–how you can tell a poem by Emily Dickinson apart from Langston Hughes, for example. In singing, it’s the equivalent of knowing when Pavarotti is singing as opposed to Stevie Nicks. Each singer has a unique, recognizable style—you know their voice when you hear it.

I could also talk about your character’s voice, how we should be able to see as much of your character from what words they choose to use, what details they talk about (and what details they don’t). Does your villain speak in short phrases or long flowery ones? Does your main character repeat a specific word or phrase? Is your cowboy supposed to sound like Benedict Cumberbatch? This type of “voice” is a whole post all itself.

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Openings in The Prose Shop

ProseShop_Ad2

The Prose Shop is an online critique forum for writers of picture books and magazine stories in prose for children up to 12 years of age. It’s an established online critique group (created in 2005) and has a mix of both published and unpublished writers. The Shop’s goal is to help members improve their techniques, become more confident and capable writers, discuss and share information, and become traditionally published.

The Prose Shop is organized via a message board forum. There are a few rules pertinent to the group:

First, members critique at least one or two stories for each manuscript they post.

Second, members must critique at least one story every 30 days, whether or not they post a story.

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Interview with Agent Natascha Morris Part 2

NMorris320x400IMG_20161127_103045-240x300Natascha is a former editor turned agent for BookEnds Literary. I first interviewed Natascha just over a year ago when she was getting started in her new career. With a year-plus behind her, I’ve been dying for an update. Luckily, she agreed to a second interview. 

Thank you, Natascha!

 

You recently hit your year-mark as an agent. What has been the biggest surprise for you from the agenting side of the industry?

There have been two really big surprises. The first is the amazing talent I have found, and the connections I have made. I had some idea when going in, but it is just amazing how far I have come. The second was how much grit it takes to be on this side of the desk. Agents take those punches alongside their clients, and we do it for everyone. Being an agent teaches you about yourself.  

 I imagine you’ve built up a solid client list by now. Are you still seeking clients?

Always seeking new clients, but out of necessity, I am getting pickier. When I first started, I had loads of time to pour into a client. Now, I have to weigh that against the time for 24 other talented people. It’s not just one book per author, it’s multiple books per author.

What would you say is the split between the categories you represent? How many are PB writers, MG, illustrators, etc.? Continue reading

Story Mapping with Arree Chung

Arree=HeadshotArree Chung is the author-illustrator of Ninja!, Ninja! Attack of the ClanNinja Claus!, and Out!. He’s also the founder and host of the Storyteller Academy, a class for aspiring writers and illustrators. He left his production scheduling job at Pixar to enroll at the Art Center College of Design. Arree graciously agreed to share his thoughts on a technique he teaches in his class. Thank you, Arree!

What is a story map?

A story map is kind of like mind mapping, where you write down all your ideas then group or organize them into a sequence, keeping in mind the logical flow from the beginning, to the inciting event, to the end. Here’s an example: 

StoryMap

I can see how this would be valuable for longer works, but how does it help with picture books?

Story mapping is helpful in many ways. First, it can help you capture ideas and quickly connect them. Story mapping also helps you plot several variations of a story. The hardest part in making up a story are the endless possibilities so using a story mapping strategy helps you nail down the story more quickly. Continue reading

Free Mentorship Contest for Unagented and Unpublished Writers and Illustrators

@Jami Gigot

The news is out. Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie have posted the list of mentors for this year’s Writing With the Stars mentorship contest. The line-up is stellar.

Basic info:

“The contest is open to picture book writers and illustrators. The purpose of this mentorship is to help writers on their path to publication. The mentors are offering their knowledge and are NOT offering access to their agents or any editors. Contestants may pick three mentors out of the group to apply to. The mentors will evaluate each application and pick one mentee to work with. Once selected, each mentor/mentee team will work out their own methods of working together, frequency etc. Mentorship dates are February 1-April 30 2018.”

Applicants must be unagented and unpublished–self published or magazine articles do not count. You have from January 8, 2018 until midnight January 13, 2018 EST to get your applications in.

For more information and to see the list of mentors, visit Tara and Becky’s site. Start working on your applications!

The full list of rules: http://beckytarabooks.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Writing-with-the-Stars-official-rules-2018-2.0.pdf

 

 

 

Creativity: What To Do When the To-dos Take Over

To Do list pixabay

The internet is full of info on how to stoke your creativity and get over writer’s block. But what if life is your block? One of my friends shared an article recently about how our busy lives are stifling creativity. I agree.

There’s the daily grind busy-ness, then there’s the soul-sucking kind of busy-ness that makes you feel like the crusty leftovers on the casserole dish at the end of the day.

We move every two to three years. Each move has its challenges, but the moves back to the States are the hardest because we’re on our own for almost everything.

We just finished one of those moves. During all the house hunting, paperwork, and pre-packing, my brain was so mired in minutiae that the to-dos just took over and exiled my creativity to a deep, dark place. Nothing I tried could coax it out.

dark place pixabay
Pixabay.com

I finally had to give myself permission to do what I could do instead of beating myself up for what I couldn’t do. Such as: Continue reading

Interview with Agent Natascha Morris

NMorris320x400IMG_20161127_103045-240x300Natascha is a new agent at Bookends Literary and a former editorial assistant for Simon & Schuster. She is open to submissions for picture books, middle grade, and young adult across multiple genres: contemporary, mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, historical fiction, and narrative non-fiction. She is looking for authors, illustrators, and author-illustrators. 

Thank you, Natascha, for your insightful answers.

What was your favorite role during your days as an editorial assistant at Simon & Schuster? 

There were two things I loved about working at Simon & Schuster: reading the submissions to find that standout project, and working with the design team to come up with great covers. As an agent, I can still find that diamond in the rough, but I will miss coming up with cover concepts. 

Were there any manuscripts you helped acquire that you’re particularly proud of? 

Kit Frick’s See All the Stars (Summer 2018) is one I’m particularly proud of. Read it on submission and fell in love with it. I also had the opportunity to offer editorial notes. Kit is an amazingly talented writer who changed the whole manuscript with a few smart line changes. I’d love to find an author like her.

Could you walk us through the acquisitions process—what stars had to align in order for S&S to select a manuscript for publication?

Every book is different and sometimes, editors don’t follow the process. But in general, once an editor has a project they want to pursue, they take it to the editorial meeting. If the other editors agree (and sometimes they don’t), the editor takes it to acquisitions. I worked at two literary imprints, so quality of writing was a big factor. After that it came down to a host of factors: editorial taste, vision for the project, and market saturation. Publishing is subjective, and sometimes timing plays a part of that. 

If you could name one skill you honed as an editorial assistant that has helped you transition to agenting, what would it be? 

Mmmm, tough question to answer. Different aspects of being an editorial assistant helped. The number one factor that helped is probably my ability to read a manuscript and see its potential. As an editor, you have to have a vision for a project to edit it, and it’s my firm belief that an agent should also have a vision. If I don’t have a vision for your manuscript, I can’t be the best agent for you. And you deserve the best agent and the agent who gets it.
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Interview With New Author Tara Cattie Luebbe and Mentor Contest Announced

profile-picTara Cattie Luebbe ran her own picture book store before becoming an author. She’s read thousands of pictures books and has a solid grasp of what it takes to write for a picture book crowd. I’ve had the pleasure of reading her manuscripts in our critique group and can safely say you’ll be seeing a lot of her name soon. In gratitude to her own mentor, Tara will host a mentorship contest early next year where authors and illustrators can apply to be mentored by an established author or illustrator. The details are below. Thank you, Tara, for the candid interview from a retailer’s perspective. 

Tara, you had a baptism by fire in searching out good children’s lit with your oldest son who’d finished all the Harry Potter books by first grade. It sounds like keeping up with his book appetite is what prompted you to open your toy and bookstore. 

I think I got into picture books like a lot of writers, I had kids. My first born was a voracious reader and so I spent a lot of time looking for new books to keep him satisfied. He did not like to read one book over and over, he always wanted a new one. He went on to read all the Harry Potters by the end of first grade. I was blessed to have two more sons after that, and they are all equally avid readers, which makes me so happy.

Because my background was in retail buying, I followed a dream and opened a toy and book store. My store catered to children 0-6, so the only books I sold were picture books. My selection was very different than the chain store down the way. I spent hours at market buying new books and searching out the best picture books from smaller pubs, foreign pubs and the wonderful backlist. As an indie, I had no requirements to carry anything from a corporate office. If I didn’t like the book, I didn’t carry it, even if it was a huge seller elsewhere. It was a highly curated collection reflective of my taste.

Where did you go to find your books? Tell me about the backlist (backlist books are older book still available from a publisher).   Continue reading