Thursday, April 17, 2014

Researching background for books

Here are a few thoughts about researching for both fiction and nonfiction:

There's nothing like actually going where your subject lived to observe the setting and walking in your subject's shoes.  I always do it.  
 (or to follow your living subject around at a convention she is running.)

While there I discover fascinating tidbits that help extend my knowledge of the people and the place.  Plus I take photographs to help me with describing the setting later.  (when books had black and white photos, I would put those photos into the books.)

Also, just talking about your research adventures on the internet pulls out lurkers who know somebody who know somebody.
--The man who was the paperboy of the Wright Brothers.  (he never saw them -- just the housekeeper)
--The man whose uncle saw the first flight.  (he didn't actually see it. He attempted to spy on the one that crashed several days before the first flight actually happened.  He and a group of boys climbed a sand dune to spy on the crazy men, but when the motor began to rumble and pop, they slid down the dune and ran like h*ll away from the devil sound.)  


I couldn't use either of these tales, but they certainly were fascinating, don't you agree?

That's the first thing I ask people who ask me to look over their nonfiction or fiction manuscript.  Have you ever been there?  What is the landscape like?  (one guy never mentioned how hilly Pittsburgh is -- and that's a vital part of the landscape there.  That and the juncture of the two rivers.)

Once you are on the hilltop where Jefferson built his dream house, it hits you -- there is  no access to water.  The closest spring is halfway down the hill. Someone had to go get and carry water there.  They had to collect rainwater -- so Jefferson made his whole rooftop a water collector and directed the water into huge storage tanks beside the house and built a porch or deck over it for the family to use.  The water tank was right beside the kitchen, so the cooks had ready access to water for cooking and heating for bringing up to the family to bathe.
-- The stables were down the hill, too.  Someone had to run down the hill and bring whatever horses the family needed for the day -- or the workhorses or mules for the garden.

Besides -- Research field trips are Fun!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Writing Picture Books?

When you write a picture book, should you "play it safe"with your plot, or should you go wild?

Editor Emma Dryden, who now runs an editorial service,  explains why Playing it safe may be the most dangerous game of all.  Click on over and read and think about how it may apply to your current manuscript.  (The same may be true of your middle grade or young adult manuscript.)

Lots of good information in the comments as well.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

How to write a query letter

Agent Jill Corcoran has posted a complete list of what an agent (and probably an editor) wants to see in a query letter.  Click on over to see.

Her blog is chock full of great help for writers.

One of her  more recent blog posts is all about how to write first chapter books -- you know, like Clementine, Mercy Watson, Marty McGuire, Captain Underpants, etc.  Those step-up books longer than easy readers but shorter than middle readers.

Edited and added:
Yet another post about writing a query letter, this time from Jane Friedman.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Where's the Delete Key?

We went to Florida to visit my parents in the early 1990s -- without computers. (We didn't have laptops at that time. Were they even invented, yet?)

My computerized husband was in withdrawal.  I finally gave him a pad of paper and a pencil.
He moaned, "but where is the delete key?"

I pointed at the eraser.

Friday, March 14, 2014

It's PI Day !!!

Yum!
3.14
(PI rounded up.)

And -- If you'd like to see some PI in the Sky, jump on over to Sandra Boynton's page on Facebook.

Yes, I'm also thinking of making a pie today. Pumpkin would be nice and easy and delicious.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

2014 Golden Kite Awards

The Golden Kite award is for the best of the best, as awarded by members of the Children's Book Writers community.  Not librarians.  Not booksellers. Not publishers, but chosen by other writers in this field.  Given out by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and honored at their International Convention in August in Los Angeles, CA.

Take a look at the winners here, and go read them. They're wonderful.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Your first book -- does it predict success or failure?

Janni Lee Simner brings up an interesting thought -- Someone once said to her:
“If you look at careers that crash and burn you can often trace it to a first book that failed to do well.”
And Janni was all, "what? Umm, no."

She continues with examples of well-known, successful writers whose first novels you've never heard of.  Check our her Desert Dispatches blog entry about Unknown first novels and the myth of the big debut.

So, go ahead and get that first novel out there. Then write your next. and your next. and your next. Some will be hits and some will have small sells, but just keep writing to keep your writing career going.