The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Loretta Lynch

If you’ve been keeping up with American news, you know there have been some troubling and scary things happening in the USA. As a nation, we are dealing with serious questions about safety, about privacy, about violence, about justice, about rights and responsibilities. This is not a political blog, and I will not use it as such. But I wanted to spend today’s post quoting a woman who I’d admired before and is now impressing me with her wisdom and good sense.

Loretta Lynch is Loretta_Lynch,_official_portraitthe current Attorney General, only the second woman overall and the first African-American woman in our history to serve as such. She’s a Harvard graduate and a former US Attorney, and as I see her on the news, I’m of the opinion that she’s fairly smart (and that might be an understatement). Here are some quotes that spoke to me.

Loretta Lynch Quotes:

  • Others will always seek to define you based on what they think you represent or who they think you are. But you have to be the one to control what you do and what you say and how you present yourself.
  • The power to arrest – to deprive a citizen of liberty – must be used fairly, responsibly, and without bias.
  • When suspicion and hostility is allowed to fester it can erupt into unrest.
  • Let us not act out of fear and misunderstanding, but out of the values of inclusion and diversity and regard for all that make our country great.
  • It’s the choices that you make and the things that you’re willing to accept and not accept that define who you are.

You can find a more complete biography of Loretta Lynch here

Where’s the Heart?

badge final for blogIn honor of Kidlit Summer School 2016 and it’s theme of Heart & Humor, I wanted to share some old thoughts I had about heart and writing picture books…

Where’s the Heart?

There are many different things that are necessary to craft a good picture book – theme, action, tension, to name a few. Arguably, the most important component in a successful picture book is heart. A manuscript without heart is like a slice of cheese pizza – fairly common to come across, but utterly uninspiring when you do. Sure, it serves some basic purpose, but it’s never anyone’s first choice. And when your picture book manuscript is not the first choice, editors have a huge pile of other potential pizzas to choose from.

What is heart? It is a bit hard to define, in that heart combines several other ingredients. A good theme contributes to the heart of a picture book, as does a strong main character. Humor or emotional depth also play a part. But overall, if I had to give you the 30-second elevator pitch of what heart means, I’d say that heart gives the reader a reason to care about the character and the story.

snor beauty coverAt the very beginning of the picture book, when the main character begins his or her journey toward the eventual goal, you have to make sure that there is something more than a whim that is driving the journey. Furthermore, there has to be a reason that the character is beginning that particular journey at that particular time – there has to be something real and big at stake. Your character can’t just be sleepy, he must require sleep on that particular night because tomorrow is his big day (perhaps his wedding day). He can’t just be hungry, he must be super-hungry because he has just woken up from hibernation and hasn’t eaten in months. He can’t just be lonely, he must be devastated by the knowledge that everyone around him is finding romance while he is left all alone.

moose1Throughout the story, the heart shines through in various ways – the main character’s resolve and pluckiness when faced with adversity, the way each attempt to solve the problem makes the reader root for the character even more (oh, he was so close that time! Maybe he’ll get it this time.). And when the main character finally reaches his goal, it is the heart of the story that touches the heart of the reader.

Earlier I said that the 30-second elevator pitch of the meaning of heart is the reader a reason should care about the character and the story. But creating heart is hardly a 30-second process. Even each of the general points I’ve made above are actually very nuanced and can be handled in many different ways, depending on the writer. One of the reasons I’m looking forward to Kidlit Summer School 2016 is that our bloggers are going to be teaching concrete ways for writers to add heart (and humor!) to their work. This is something I struggle with whenever I start a new manuscript, and I know that I’m going to be a better writer for going to Summer School this year! We hope to see you in class, too!

Do you want to learn a whole lot more about adding Heart to your work?

Register for Kidlit Summer School! Click here to register.

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Emus and Intellectual Curiosity

There are many different things we write about on this blog. Parenting, writing, books, relationships – there are many topics we turn our nerdy eyes on. Today’s post, however, is about something we don’t always mention: the unexpected value of intellectual curiosity.

I’m the proud mother of three very, very nerdy chicks. The piece you’re about to read was co-written by one of my little nerds and me. It’s topic I would never have thought to research, and yet I’m eternally grateful that she did. This post is entirely accurate – all the historical events described are real and documented. It may not change your life – but I’ll bet my bottom dollar it will brighten your day.

So without further ado, I give you…

The Great Emu War

In Which Some Emus Beat the Whole Australian Army

(Alternatively Titled:

The Great Emu War

Where A Bunch of Large, Flightless Birds Outsmarted the Entire Australian Population)

By William Warby (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By William Warby (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Can you imagine a real life situation in which an actual army waged a war against a bunch of flightless birds and lost? It happened. It was glorious. It was the Great Emu War.

The Great Emu War of 1932 began in Western Australia. Farmers who were struggling to harvest their wheat were suddenly beset upon by as many as 20,000 emus. These merciless creatures ate or spoiled the crops and the farmers’ very way of life was threatened. The government needed to do something.

Instead of engaging the emus diplomatically and pleading for a cessation in dining, Australia’s then Minister of Defense, Sir George Pearce, deployed the Royal Australian Artillery to deal with the emus. With this act, the Great Emu War had officially started.

The first of many unsuccessful attempts by the Australians to dispatch the emus came on November 2, 1932. Approximately 50 of these winged yet flightless villains were sighted. Armed with machine guns, the Australians began to shoot. However, only about a dozen birds were killed because the Australians began their military strike while the emus were completely out of range. The rest of the emus were able to escape to attack another day. Thus, the first battle was, at best, a draw.

On November 4, Major G.P.W. Meredith established an ambush near a dam. When around 1,000 emus got into range, the gunners opened fire. Only twelve birds were killed, as the gun jammed. The emus got their revenge for November 2 that day. They all but delivered themselves on a silver platter to the army, and they still evaded capture or death.

Over the next four days, the armed Australians continued to engage the emus. One such attempt occurred when Major Meredith mounted guns on a truck to chase the emus. The truck, however, couldn’t move fast enough. Yet again, the emus outsmarted the army.

All the disastrous attempts by the armed Australians to counter the emu offensive between November 2 and November 8 resulted in 2,500 rounds of ammunition being fired and yet only about 50 birds eliminated.  The one saving grace was that no Australians died in any of these military actions.

On November 8, the guns were withdrawn. The emus appeared to have won due to their guerilla tactics: splitting into small units so that the machine gun usage would be uneconomic.

The Australians, however, were pure at heart and strong in spirit, and resolved to meet the foe again on the battlefield. Since the emus continued to “attack” crops, the Premier of Western Australia, James Mitchell, supported renewed military assistance to deal with them. By November 12, Sir Pearce approved even more military efforts. The soldiers were necessary to combat the incredibly serious agricultural threat of the large emu population.

On November 13, the military attacked once more. The tide seemed to have turned in the humans’ favor – 40 emus were killed that day. Yet the very next day, the soldiers were less successful, if you can imagine that. By December 2, the Army was eliminating 100 emus per week – and yet fewer than one thousand of the emus had been killed for the 9,860 rounds that had been expended. It took approximately 10 bullets to bring down each emu, which was pretty pathetic for a professional army. The soldiers were recalled on December 10 – the day the Great Emu War had come to an end.

The farmers called for more war on the poor, flightless emus. There was a pervading fear that the emus might mutate or evolve to have opposable thumbs – and then the dastardly birds would be unstoppable. (SBQ: Ok, this last sentence is totally untrue, but given everything else, it doesn’t sound too far-fetched, does it?)

To show the great respect the emus had earned, the Australian government honored the species on a stamp.

To show the great respect the emus had earned, the Australian government honored the species on a stamp.

The government, however, had had enough of being embarrassed by the mighty emus.

The emu victory was clear. They had managed to outwit the Australian army over the course of only 45 days. Using their extraordinarily inferior intellect, they evaded the Australians’ attempt to stop their pillaging of crops. The lesson to be learned from the shortest war against a flightless non-mammal in world history is to NEVER underestimate the emu. They always win.

Always.

Kidlit Summer School 2015 – Open for Registration!

Are you looking for a way to keep writing through the dog days of summer?

Do you want to be inspired by some of the best writers in children’s literature?

Do you hope to create compelling plots?

badgeThen YOU should join a fun and fabulous community of people here at Summer School who are as passionate about kidlit as you are!

What is Summer School?

Not long after authors Kami Kinard and Sudipta Bardhan- Quallen started blogging together at kami and snerdychicksrule.com they decided they wanted to create a blog-centric event that focused on craft. They spent a long time brainstorming (a favorite activity of both) and came up with #KidlitSummerSchool. Kami and Sudipta both enjoy writing, and teaching writing, so their idea was to create a program that offers in-depth writing advice on a particular topic each summer, hosted at their sister site, nerdychickswrite.com. The 2014 focus was on character development. The 2015 focus will be on plotting in children’s literature.

Daily blog posts by authors and writing professionals will offer inspiration and help you hone your craft. Our “faculty” includes award-winning PB, MG and YA authors!

Kidlit Summer School is for anyone one who loves to write children’s literature, from accomplished writers, to those just starting out.

Register for Kidlit Summer School 2015: The Plot Thickens

Last year was a very successful kick-off, but it was a lot of work — too much for two people to continue by themselves! So we are very happy to announce we have a whole team working on Summer School this year. This “Board of Education” is going to make this year even better than last year!

The Board of Education:

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Co-Founder of Kidlit Summer School


Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
 is an award-winning children’s book author whose books include Duck Duck Moose (a CBC Children’s Choice Award Finalist), Tyrannosaurus Wrecks (a Junior Library Guild Selection), Orangutangled, and Chicks Run Wild. She in the founder of Kidlit Writing School and frequently speaks about the craft of writing at schools and conferences all around the world. You can learn more about her and her books on her website www.sudipta.com or at her blog www.NerdyChicksRule.com where she blogs with Kami.

Head Shots from Carpe Diem 008

Co-Founder of Kidlit Summer School

Kami Kinard is the author of The Boy Problem (Scholastic, 2014) and The Boy Project (Scholastic, 2012). Her poetry, stories, articles, and essays have appeared in numerous periodicals for children and adults. A former public educator, Kami remains dedicated to teaching and often leads writing workshops at conferences and in schools. You can visit her at  www.kamikinard.com or at www.NerdyChicksRule.com where she blogs with Sudipta.

BOOKS RULE photo (1)Marcie Colleen is a former classroom teacher turned picture book author. Her forthcoming picture books include The Adventure of the Penguinaut (Scholastic) and Love, Triangle (Balzer+Bray / HarperCollins). She is a frequent presenter at conferences for SCBWI, as well as a faculty member of Kidlit Writing School. Visit her on the web at www.thisismarciecolleen.com.

DawnDawn Young has a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA. After leaving the corporate world to raise her children, Dawn’s creative spirit called her to a career in writing. Dawn also assists Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen with her KidLit Picture Book A-Z courses, and tutors math. You can visit Dawn’s blog at http://pbookcrazy.com/

leeza 2015Leeza Hernandez is a picture book illustrator-author who spends her creative time noodling around with story ideas and printmaking in her studio. She is Regional Advisor for New Jersey SCBWI and her latest illustrated book and third in the Homework series Eat Your U.S. History Homework (Charlesbridge) releases in October. Visit her on the web at leezaworks.com

#NJSCBWI15: A Conference in Pictures

This past weekend, the Nerdy Chicks met up in Princeton, NJ for the 2015 New Jersey SCBWI Conference, and it was wonderful from start to finish. Here are some of the moments we captured:

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Kicking off with lunch in Princeton with Tara Lazar, Kelly Calabrese, Marcie Colleen, and Tammi Sauer.

This was not at the conference itself, but we did stop traffic to take a photo of this mailbox.

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The conference itself was too much fun to do much more than live in the moment. But here are some more memories:

Kami and Sudipta

Kami and Sudipta

Sudipta, Marcie, and Kelly

Sudipta, Marcie, and Kelly

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Tammi Sauer’s fab workshop

Kami, Marie, and NJ RA Leeza

Kami, Marie, and NJ RA Leeza

Marcie and Sudipta's workshop

Marcie and Sudipta’s workshop

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sudipta marcie blake photo

John Cusick's Keynote

John Cusick’s Keynote

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Tara Lazar doing…we don’t know what

Post-conference tapas

Post-conference tapas

If you want to learn how to write children’s literature and hang out with some truly wonderful people, we can’t recommend this conference enough. Hope to see you next year!

 

 

 

Marcie Colleen: How Rejection Leads to Stellar Revision

image (3)Today, we are happy to be hosting Marcie Colleen on Nerdy Chicks Rule. Author and Education Consultant, Marcie Colleen, is an expert on creating highly acclaimed Teacher’s Guides that align picture books and middle grade novels with the Common Core and other state mandated standards.  She is the Education Consultant for Picture Book Month and the the Curriculum Developer for Time Traveler Tours & Tales. Her work with Picture Book Month has been recognized by School Library Journal and the Children’s Book Council.  Visit her at www.thisismarciecolleen.com.

Scroll to the bottom of this post to learn about a great new online picture book class from Marcie and Sudipta!

How Rejection Leads to Stellar Revision

Rejection is inevitable.

Writers face rejection.  Often.

Sure we can try to avoid rejection.  Maybe slavishly follow trends. Maybe self-publish. Maybe give up.

After all, rejection hurts.  It stings.  We should try to avoid it at all costs, right?

Wrong.

In fact, we should welcome rejection. Allow rejection to become part of our journey.  Why?

There is value in rejection. Rejection can make us better writers.

Here are three ways rejection can lead to stellar—publishable—revisions.

Shine a light.

Ever receive a rejection and think “well, they clearly didn’t ‘get it’”? It happens. After all, writing (and reading) is subjective. But what happens if you receive rejection after rejection from editors or agents who didn’t seem to “get it”? If you are seeing a pattern, it’s time to revise. In fact, the unwritten rule is if two to three people give you the same feedback, definitely revise.

This happened to me while first subbing The Adventure of the Penguinaut. Several rejections referred to the manuscript as a “flightless bird who wants to fly” story.  Problem was, I never wanted to write a story about a penguin who wants to fly. As those rejections so clearly stated, this concept has been done. . .a lot.

So, what was the issue? Did all of those editors just not understand my story? Or was there something flawed in my plot that led them to believe my theme was different than intended?

Upon closer examination, I realized that I had mentioned flying five times within The Adventure of the Penguinaut. No wonder they all thought flying was important to my protagonist.  I then tightened, stream-lined, and focused my story more on Orville’s need for independence.  And the next time we went out on sub with The Adventure of the Penguinaut not one editor misunderstood it and it triumphantly sold to Scholastic.

“The drawer” is good.

Rejection is upsetting. If you are like me, a rejection can send you under the covers with chocolate, wine, and a box of tissues.

Rejection leaves me not wanting to look at the manuscript for some time. With a sick feeling in my stomach, I cram it into the proverbial drawer and tearfully wonder how long I will toil on this one silly story.

image (2)It took me over two years to write The Adventure of the Penguinaut and, during that period, I think it spent more time in the drawer than on my desktop. What a long and tedious process!

But, with each critique and each rejection, I needed time away. And even though I thought I was taking a break from the story, what I was really doing was allowing my brain, my heart, my inner muse to subconsciously think through the issues so that when I took the manuscript out of the drawer again, I knew what needed to be done. Sometimes it is less about finding your story than it is to let your story come to you.

Rejection slows down the process, for sure. But when I read my original draft of Penguinaut, horribly titled The Glimmering Iceberg in the Sky, I am thankful for those two years of development.  No way was my first draft ready for publication. Thank you to all of the gatekeepers who slowed me down and saved me the embarrassment of anyone reading The Glimmering Iceberg in the Sky.

Eye of the tiger.

Lastly, rejection grows us as writers. As novelist James Michener said, “Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.”

Writers learn so much from rejection—about ourselves, our work, the market, the business. Rejection forces honest assessment. It makes us shine sunlight on our shortcomings so that we can address them. It forces us to read our words the way others see them, not in the perfect form that we as authors imagine them to be. Even authors who choose to self-publish should, from time to time, submit themselves to rejection. Writers who have never experienced rejection are no different than children who get awards for everything they do and are never told “no.”

Rejection pushes. Rejection sharpens. Rejection gives writers something to prove.

It’s time to learn to cherish rejection. It pains at first. It’s ok to grab the chocolate ice cream and a spoon and hide under the covers for a day or two.  But then comes the realization: this story just isn’t up to snuff. That is a powerful and freeing moment—freeing because, making a story better is entirely within our power. We can’t change publishing, but we can change the quality of our work.

Oh, and chocolate is absolutely still appropriate (check out “The Sweet Taste of Rejection”—a past post on this very idea http://writeroutine.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-sweet-taste-of-rejection.html )

(Also, for more advice in this vein, check out this post from Kami: How No Helps You Grow)

revision chickStarting on April 13, 2015, Marcie is going to be teaching a new online course in Picture Book Revision at Kidlit Writing School. This course will be co-taught by Sudipta and by Agent Susan Hawk of the Bent Agency as well.

Successful picture book authors know that the real writing starts after the first draft is written. This course will teach you the fundamentals of revising your manuscripts starting with Action, Beginning, and Character– and then, as with other courses in the A to Z series, literally taking you through the alphabet. Each topic will be explored in depth, both in the lessons and in the discussion forums and webinars. The writing exercises that are a part of the course are designed to help you apply the lessons to your own writing seamlessly and immediately. By the end of the course, you will never look at writing (or RE-writing) a picture book the same way again!

For more information and to register for this awesome course, please visit the registration page. If you sign up by March 27, you will get a FREE 20-minute manuscript review with either Marcie or Sudipta!

 

Happy World Read Aloud Day (Week)!

World Read Aloud Day this year was on March 4, 2015, but like many authors, the Nerdy Chicks have been celebrating by connecting with classrooms all week long. We read to kids in Ohio, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Texas, California, and many, many more! Here are some of the photos from our #WRAD15 celebrations!

skype on computerWRAD15 7 Kami SkypeWRAD15 6 skype3 WRAD15 5WRAD15 4 WRAD15 3 WRAD 15 2 WRAD15 1Skype with KKinard