Quick note to share Rachelle Burk’s site, which lists dozens of great resources for writers: http://resourcesforchildrenswriters.blogspot.ca/?t=1&cn=ZmxleGlibGVfcmVjc18y&refsrc=email&iid=8e4bd1cfa7144bc99c12963e6150a55e&uid=2411360882&nid=244+272699400
Arree Chung is the author-illustrator of Ninja!, Ninja! Attack of the Clan, Ninja 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:
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
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.
“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Applicants must be unagented and unpublished–self published or magazine articles do not count.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!
After a case of mistaken identity (Tara Luebbe’s post got credited to Tara Lazar), I asked Tara Lazar if she would answer some questions about ‘concept.’ Tara is the author of The Monstore, Normal Norman, Little Red Gliding Hood, I Thought This Was A Bear Book, 7 Ate 9, and Way Past Bedtime. She’s a regular speaker at SCBWI events, a co-chair of the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature Conference, and founder of Storystorm. She’s well-equipped to tackle this confusing topic. Thank you, Tara!
Define concept. How is it different from an idea? How is it different from a plot? For example, what’s the concept, idea, and plot of say Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus? What is ‘high concept?’
An idea is something quick and a bit vague. Non-specific. It lacks details. Before I wrote 7 Ate 9, I had the idea to write about a ‘popular schoolyard joke.’ Once I had that initial idea, I fleshed it out to a concept, to write about the riddle ‘Why is six afraid of seven?.’ Finally, the story’s premise or plot is the backstory of the joke itself—can Private ‘I’ help 6 figure out if his days are numbered?
7 Ate 9‘s premise is ‘high concept,’ meaning you can boil the essence of the story down to a sentence or two–but not just any sentence. Many stories can be explained that quickly. To be ‘high concept’, the premise has to be unique and make immediate, head-smacking sense. You’ve never seen the concept before but it seems like you should have! People can instantly envision how things might play out. They may even say, ‘That’s genius! Why didn’t I think of that?!’
An idea for Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus might be to write a story from an unusual, uncommon point of view. (But honestly, I have no idea what Mo WIllems was thinking, LOL, other than he was thinking genius.) The concept might be to have the book character ask the child reader permission to do something outrageous, with the child getting to act like an adult and say ‘no,’ turning the tables on the usual child role. The plot is to have the pigeon ask the reader permission to drive a bus.
So, if I got this right, let’s say the concept for They All Saw a Cat is something like, “A cat is viewed in a different way depending on which creature sees him.” Would that be high concept? And is it safe to say that the concept is the bones and plot is the flesh? Continue reading
I met Tara two years ago in our critique group while she was still polishing manuscripts. Shortly after, she had three picture book contracts and an agent. She’d been seriously writing for children for 18 months, but she’d been absorbing the craft of picture books for years. She’s sharing her story with us and announcing a few details about the upcoming WWTS mentorship contest. Thank you, Tara!
Tara, your debut picture book, I Am Famous, published by Albert Whitman & Co., will be released March 1, 2018, followed by Shark Nate-O (little bee*, April 3, 2018). You have a sequel for I Am Famous under contract with Albert Whitman (spring 2019), you also have a fourth picture book that went to a multi-house auction, and two more picture books under contract, none of which we can talk about yet. What did you do to get to this point?
Well, I put in a lot of time reading picture books before I ever started writing them. I owned my own toy and book store. I specialized ages 0-6, so the only books I sold were picture books. I loved them, and I had to learn what made them work in order to be a successful retailer. I would get ideas from the store, and I told myself that someday, I would try to write them. But with three little kids, a traveling husband, and a store, there was no time for that. Then my family relocated to the Charlotte area for my husband’s job, and I no longer had the store. Even though I had no writing experience (but tons of reading experience), I decided to bring out all those ideas and try my hand at it. I sent my first manuscript to my sister to review. She sent it back half changed, so we became co-authors. I joined SCBWI. I found the online kidlit community. I met critique partners. I studied craft. I joined 12 x 12. I attended SCBWI conferences. I kept up my knowledge of the industry by reading voraciously.
During this process, I became obsessed with the musical Hamilton. If you already have Hamalaria, you know how amazing Hamilton is. If you are not familiar with it, you need to be. There is a reason editors, agents, writers and creative types in general are obsessed with it. Lin-Manuel Miranda is a lyrical genius. And Alexander Hamilton was a bit obsessive in his learning and writing because he was “young, scrappy and hungry” and clawing his way up to the top. He did not rest on his laurels and never “threw away his shot.”
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.
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