PiBoIdMo Wrap Up: Let it Be

Duck Duck Moose by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

My upcoming picture book!

Now that Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month is over, I thought it would be nice to reflect a little bit on what we’ve accomplished in the past few weeks. If you participated in PiBoIdMo, first off, CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve made great progress on your writing journey. Publishing is an art where creativity and magic come together to make great books. But publishing is also a numbers game – the more manuscripts you create, the more likely it is that some of them will get published. And how do you create manuscripts? Well, it starts with ideas. And now you have lots of ideas – at least 30 if you got through the month! (More if you followed my PiBoIdMo advice.) So you’re all set!

Except…

I’ve got some bad news. Well, potentially bad news. More like bad reality, actually. Except that reality is never bad.

Here’s the reality of the situation: not all of the ideas you have so carefully thought up during PiBoIdMo are picture book ideas.

I know you want them to be. I know that’s what you intended and planned for. I know you have great dreams for these ideas, dreams that are so good that you want to will them into existence.

But for some of your ideas, those dreams will never come true.

I’m not saying these things to upset you, or to de-motivate you. You shouldn’t lose your momentum. I just want you to focus your energy on the best paths to maximize your ability to succeed and get published.

Here’s the thing: your story ideas are like your children. You give birth to them, you nurture them, you guide them toward the goals you have carefully set for them. You know what’s best and you will make that happen.

For those of you who have children, you’re probably already guessing where this is going to go.

With our children, no matter what we have dreamed for them when they were helpless babes in our arms, those kids who once needed us for their very survival somehow end up being the people they choose to be. Not necessarily the people we intended them to be.

This is the kid who was supposed to grow up to be a doctor…

My parents wanted me to be a doctor. They even bought me a $100K science education from Caltech. And in the end, I write books about talking pigs.

With our characters, our story ideas, they will also be who they are, regardless of what we want them to be.

Early on, I said that not all of the ideas you have so carefully thought up during PiBoIdMo are picture book ideas. That is reality. Some of those ideas will turn out to be chapter books, or middle grades, no matter how hard we push them to be something else. (Just like some of our children will become kidlit authors, no matter how hard we push them to be doctors.) That’s ok.

Some of those ideas will turn out to flounder and struggle, will find it difficult to ever realize their full potential. That’s ok, too.

Because the reality is that some of the ideas you have are picture book ideas. They need you to cultivate and develop them, but with your help, they will grow to be wonderful picture books.

The key here is to let your characters be who they are. Let your stories be what they are. If they grow into something different than you thought, follow them on their path instead of forcing them onto your own. The end result will be truer, will have more heart, and will be better written.

Good luck to everyone and see you next PiBoIdMo!

(In case you missed it, here is some more PiBoIdMo advice from Kami and from me from earlier this month.)

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen Has Nothing to Write About

This post was originally published on November 29, 2010 at Tara Lazar’s blog in honor of PiBoIdMo. We thought those of you participating in this year’s picture book idea month might find it useful.

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen Has Nothing to Write About

by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

pirate princessIf you’re like me, writing is work. By this I mean it is my job, my primary source of income (therefore, work) but also that it is just plain HARD. There is nothing so depressing as trying to come up with something new and fresh to write about—and coming up with nothing.

That happens to me a lot.

So what do you do?

Well, I really don’t know the answer. But here are some tricks I use to muddle through those times when I have nothing to write about.

1) Start with character. I truly believe that the most important aspect of a picture book, what drives its popularity the most, is a charismatic main character. The premise, the setting, the cutesy word play and rhyme—all of these are secondary to character. So if you need to brainstorm only one thing, work on that viable character list.

The trick to creating a truly charismatic main character is to blend flaws with flair. Don’t just come up with fifty cute character traits. Give your main character some faults, some defects—he will be infinitely more interesting.

2) Something old into something new. There are so many examples of authors who take an old idea and make it into something modern and fresh. The entire genre of fractured fairy tales is built on the premise that recognizable is always a benefit for marketing, but recognizable AND fresh is money in the bank. Now I’m not at all recommending that all you do is read a collection of Grimm’s fairy tales and add a hippopotamus to each story (don’t do that, because it was my idea first). But if you can take inspiration from something your audience will recognize and then take it to a brand new place, where is the downside?

quackensteinSome examples of this in my own work:
THE HOG PRINCE – we know it’s a frog prince, not a hog prince, but Eldon does not.
QUACKENSTEIN – isn’t every monster story better with a duck?
THE TWELVE WORST DAYS OF CHRISTMAS – believe it or not, in addition to a Christmas song, this is a sibling story

3) Look at your own life. And I mean this as way to eliminate bad ideas. When you’re having a hard time with inspiration, there is the temptation to use your own children or grandchildren as your muses. Trust me, this is a bad idea. Because as cute as their latest antics are to you, they very rarely make for good picture books. Save yourself. Don’t do it.

4) Exercise. Well, do a writing exercise at least. When you’re really stuck you could reinforce your writing ability by taking a book that is perhaps not one of your favorites and then rewriting it the way it should be. Obviously, you can’t then try to publish your version of Dora the Explorer (because Nora the Explorer or even Eleanora the Explorer is simply not going to be fresh enough to merit a whole new franchise!). But the exercise will show you that you are not only able to create a new story but one that is better than something that was actually published (which means there is hope for you yet) and, again, you never know where that road will lead.

Hampire_jacket5) When all else fails, take a breath. Sorry, guys, sometimes the ideas are not going to come. No matter how much you force it. When you are really and truly stuck, stop trying so hard. Instead, work on revising older manuscripts—maybe you can whip one of those into shape. Or perhaps the something old that you will turn into something new will come from your own pile of older ideas.

Inspiration Permission

In the last two weeks, I practically made myself at home over at Tara Lazar’s blog. I revealed two new covers for two new picture books and held a caption contest, and then I gave a math lesson for PiBoIdMo. I don’t want all my Nerdy Chicks (and Nerdy-Chicks-Supporters) to think I’ve forgotten about them, though. So I’ve been trying to think of something to share here in honor of PiBoIdMo.

Sometimes, inspirations come from from seemingly disparate places. That’s what happened here. I’ve managed to mash up the caption contest with a PiBoIdMo lesson.

There were a lot of great caption ideas for both ORANGUTANGLED and SNORING BEAUTY. I had to pick one winner, though, and that was Dawn Young with her very versatile entry, “Is this as awkward for you as it is for me?” (Works so well for both covers, no?)

BeFunky_snor beauty cover winner BeFunky_orangutangled winner.jpg

But like I said, there were so many wonderful ideas. Here are some more that stood out to me:

BeFunky_orangutangled cover collage

 

What was very cool was how so many different people looked the same pictures but came up with such different ideas for what the characters were saying, thinking, or feeling — and often, their ideas did not resemble my books AT ALL. And I realized that here was something that could help all the PiBoIdMo participants and writers in general.

I give you my permission to take inspiration from other books.

All the people who participated in the caption contest looked at a picture and, without any other information, allowed themselves to imagine who the characters were. But what each of them came up with was his or her own idea, not mine. And many of them are ideas that can be built on.

To be very clear, I’m not advocating stealing other authors’ ideas! (Please don’t go write a book about three orangutans tangled up instead of two!) But I can see the beginning of new, original ideas in the captions that I read. For example, “Is this as awkward for you as it is for me?” — could that be a starting point to brainstorm other awkward situations? Could one of those situations be the basis of a new book? I think so.

I’ve actually used a version of this exercise in schools when I’ve conducted writing workshops. When you look at a spread of a picture book, there is only so much dialogue in the actual text that accompanies a picture. But if you ask a classroom of kids to fill in what that extended conversation might sound like…it’s actually amazing how far they can take it. They can start with one image and a few lines of text and they can write an entire scene around it. (Teachers, what do you think? Have you ever tried something similar with your students?)

So, writers, PiBoIdMo participants, Nerdy Chicks: when you get stuck on your next idea, I hope you’ll think of this suggestion, and I hope it will get some of you un-stuck. But even if it doesn’t, I guarantee you’ll have fun — and sometimes that’s all we need to get us going again.

 

 

Kathy Temean: Author, Illustrator, Consultant

Today’s interview is a bit of a collaboration…SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) is doing new “Author Spotlight” pieces to highlight authors and illustrators everyone should know about. The Regional Advisor of the New Jersey SCBWI chapterLeeza Hernandez (an author/illustrator extraordinaire and a Nerdy Chick herself! If you missed Leeza’s interview one this site, click HERE to check it out) featured the wonderful, energetic, fabulously nerdy Kathy Temean, and to go with that profile, we’ve got an interview of Kathy here at Nerdy Chicks Rule!

kathyTemean_headshot1Kathy is an author/illustrator and retired New Jersey SCBWI Regional Advisor. She is the author/ illustrator of Horseplay and many magazine articles and artwork. Individuals, major corporations, and businesses have commissioned her artwork. Kathy is the owner of Temean Consulting, www.temeanconsulting.com, a company that creates websites and helps writers and illustrators market themselves.  She publishes a daily blog WRITING AND ILLUSTRATING www.kathytemean.wordpress.com, which offers valuable tips on everything you need to know about writing for children. She also conducts interviews with agents, editors, authors, and illustrators in the field. Kathy writes MG and YA novels and illustrates children’s books. Yogi Berra written by Tina Overman and illustrated by Kathy came out in September. Welcome, Kathy!

So, Kathy, you’ve been involved in children’s publishing for a very long time. How do you see the books that are being published today as helping to empower girls to be smart (or, as we like to call it, nerdy)?
Girls are very lucky today. The books written today for them are excellent and there are so many good choices for teens. I think they are reading more because of the great books and writing that reflects their world and the type of strong girls they want to become.

Very, very true. Tell us about a fictitious nerdy chick you admire and why you admire her.

I have a lot of nerdy real life chicks I admire, but I guess for a fictitious one, I would chose Lily Hancock from “Lies Beneath” written by Ann Greenwood Brown. Lily never gives up, even when she falls in love with a murderous merman who is planning to kill her father to revenge the death of his mother. She works through all of it to find a way to make things work.

51uKvEvPtmL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_We agree — more people should understand how important creativity is to success. Now, in addition to being an author and illustrator, you are also an art educator. How do you see arts education as being important for today’s kids?

I feel any kind art builds creativity. Creativity helps in everything you want to do in life and spurs new ideas to get you where you want to go. Most people don’t give that any thought, but I have used all the creative things I learned in art with every job I’ve had to be successful, so “Yes,” I think the arts are just as important as the rest of the curriculum in school and is especially important to children who may not excel in other subjects.

What’s something you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?

I collect cows. Yes, cows, but not real ones. Ever since I was in Chicago and saw ‘Cows on Parade,’ I have been into cows. I would like to buy a big concrete cow for my front lawn and decorate it each month, but I know my neighbors will go crazy and torment me about it. Is that nerdy enough? Perhaps someday, I will do it in my backyard.

What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a Nerdy Chick?
Years ago when I worked for Kraft Foods, they were giving away a Lincoln Continental as a prize, so I talked a car dealer into letting me take one of their cars into an Acme Food Store and building a big display of Kraft Food around it. There was a lot of coordinating to pull that off. We even had to take the front windows out of the storefront to get it inside the store. I won a big award for that accomplishment.

Thank you, Kathy, for being with us here today, and for sharing your thoughts. To learn more about Kathy, visit her website (www.kathytemean.com), her blog (www.kathytemean.wordpress.com) or follow her on Twitter: @kathytemean. And to read Kathy’s interview with SCBWI, click HERE, and to learn more about SCBWI, click HERE.

More Authors Give Back-to-School Advice

Break-These-Rules-CoverLast week, we posted some advice from authors for kids heading back to school. Not only did we get a lot of great feedback on that post, one of our brilliant authors, Kathy Erskine, tipped us off to a great new book (which she has contributed to) called Break These Rules: 35 YA Authors on Speaking Up, Standing Out, and Being Yourself, edited by Luke Reynolds. If you haven’t discovered this book yet, we highly recommend it. It is Nerdy Chick-Approved!


Since last week’s post was so well-received, we decided to run a follow-up this week. So, without further ado, take a minute to listen to what these five fabulous authors have to say.

If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be?

leeza dog goneLeeza Hernandez, author of DOG GONE!: “Middle school: DUCK! High school: You might not be good at that and that’s okay. It in no way means you are a failure, simply do your best!”

IMG_2566bear-snores-on_256Karma Wilson, author of BEAR SNORES ON: “Value yourself. You’re not trash, even if you make mistakes. The best way to stop making mistakes is to value yourself enough to stop making stupid mistakes.”

Magic-Brush-Yeh-Kat-9780802721792 297310_10150320631406460_1375238351_nKat Yeh, author of THE MAGIC BRUSH: “I actually think I received the perfect piece of advice already at that age (though I was not really able to figure out how to use it till much later). A dear and wise-beyond-her-years friend gave me a little card with a tiny painting and the quote: ‘Being myself includes taking risks with myself, taking risks with my behavior so that I can see how it is I want to be.’ I think we were 13 or 14 at the time. She knew I was struggling and feeling stuck so she made the card for me. I still have it.”

monstoretara lazarTara Lazar, author of THE MONSTORE: “Baggy pants and permed hair is not a good look.”

burining emerald jaime_pic_4x7Jaime Reed, author of BURNING EMERALD: “Stop worrying what everyone thinks about you. You’ll barely see any of these kids again in six years anyway. It’s not worth stressing out over. Seriously. Just do you.”

The Quotable Nerdy Character

A few weeks ago, I did a workshop on creating believable contemporary characters, and in the research process, I found a lot of inspirational quotes for writers — and readers. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Picture2

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”

― Ernest Hemingway

“Your source material is the people you know, not those you don’t know, but every character is an extension of the author’s own personality.”

― Edward Albee

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

― Mark Twain

“Characterization is an accident that flows out of action and dialogue.”

― Jack Woodford

Picture1“When you’re with your wife, you don’t say I love you to your wife every day but the ways you look at her and your actions are another way to communicate. Don’t focus on dialogue, only focus on what you’re expressing.”

― Michel Hazanavicius

“I tend to relate to a character in terms of the arc: what’s interesting is where he starts versus where he ends up .”

― Edward Norton

“If you’re writing about a character, if he’s a powerful character, unless you give him vulnerability I don’t think he’ll be as interesting to the reader.”

—Stan Lee

What do you think? Are you ready to pick up your pencil (or open up your laptop) and get creating?

 

REMINDER

If you haven’t already, please remember to check out The Busy Librarian’s podcast featuring ME and enter the newest Nerdy Chicks GIVEAWAY!

 

Another KidLit Giveaway!

So, I’ve been AWOL for a while — too many things going on in my life, both good and bad. But in honor of The Busy Librarian’s new podcast (which just happens to feature me!), I’ve decided to come back with a new GIVEAWAY!

BL LGB

So, most importantly,

what can you win?

To accommodate our vast range of readers, I want to make sure you can win something you really want. Therefore, the winner will be given a choice of these things:

  • either a free 45-minute Virtual Classroom Visit, where I would be happy to tell your chosen class all about how my books come together, from the initial inspiration to the totally terrific art. (Don’t worry if you’re not a teacher — you can donate the Virtual Visit to any class you choose!)

  • or, a signed copy of PIRATE PRINCESS, personalized to whomever you’d like. PiratePrincess c

I will accept entries until July 30, 2013 and I will draw the winner’s name and announce it on August 1.

Here are the rules for this giveaway:

Required. Fill out the entry form below with your name, your choice of prize, either the school you would like to give the visit to or the name for the personalized book, and your email address (so I can reach you!).

BUT WAIT! You can be entered to win multiple times. You will get an extra entry for doing any of the following:

(1) leave me a comment here with your thoughts on the podcast.

(2) follow me on Twitter – mention that in a comment below.

(3) tweet this post to your own twitter followers and tag me @sudiptabq and the Busy Librarian @MatthewWinner in the tweet.

(4) tweet the podcast to your own twitter followers and tag me @sudiptabq and the Busy Librarian @MatthewWinner in the tweet.

(5) like my author page on Facebook – mention that in a comment below.

(6) follow this blog (right sidebar) and The Busy Librarian’s blog — mention that in a comment below.

or (7) like fellow blogger Kami Kinard’s Facebook author page – mention that in a comment below.

That’s EIGHT ways to enter and win, folks!

GOOD LUCK!