Spooky Picks for Nerdy Chicks

If you know me, you might know that I am the kind of person who doesn’t like to be scared. I have never seen a horror movie in my life, and I have no plans to change that! I’ve never read a Stephen King novel, and I don’t plan to change that either. I just don’t do scary. Unless…. well, unless the scary something is created by a fellow Nerdy Chick. Then I push myself to read things I might not otherwise read. Out of solidarity, you know.

A recent wave of Spooky Nerdy Chick News (giveaways, deals, new book news, film premiers…) inspired me to share some Spooky Reads (and more) from some fabulous Nerdy Chick authors. I’ve read or am reading all of these books! So I suggest that the next time you want to sit on the edge of your seat, you pick up one of them. And make sure you read to the end, because you’ll have a chance to see a film that is perfect for Halloween right here on the blog.

Young Adult:

fractrFracture by Megan Miranda! Fracture is suspenseful with just the right amount of creepiness. Here’s a brief intro to the novel: “By the time Delaney Maxwell was pulled from a Maine lake’s icy waters by her best friend, Decker Phillips, her heart had stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead.” You can visit Megan’s website to learn more and to read the first two chapters! Also, don’t miss a chance to win a free ARC of Megan’s newest title, The Safest Lies. Click HERE to enter.

ripperRipper by Amy Carol Reeves! I blurbed this book as, “Thrilling, chilling, and beautifully written.” Here’s more about it: Set in London in 1888, Ripper follow’s Arabella Sharp’s eerie account of volunteering at Whitechapel Hospital, helping women and children. “Within days, female patients begin turning up brutally murdered at the hands of Jack the Ripper. Even more horrifying, Abbie starts having strange visions that lead her straight to the Ripper’s next massacres.” Click HERE to read more about Ripper and its sequels.

Middle Grade:

jumbiesThe Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste! I just finished reading this story set in Trinidad and featuring Jumbies, mythical creatures that dwell on that island! And it features a super-brave heroine! Here’s a blurb: Corinne La Mer knows that jumbies aren’t real; they’re just creatures parents make up to frighten their children. But on All Hallows’ Eve, Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden woods. Those shining yellow eyes that follow her to the edge of the trees, they couldn’t belong to a jumbie. Or could they? 

cabinetCabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet: I’m currently reading this page-turner, which is available for a limited time in ebook form (Kindle and Nook among others) for $1.99! It’s about twelve-year-old Maya who is miserable when she has to move from California to Paris. Not speaking French at a school full of snobby French girls is bad enough, but Maya believes there is something sinister going on in her new city. A purple-eyed man follows Maya and her younger brother, James. Statues seem to have Maya’s face. And an eerie cabinet filled with mysterious colored bottles calls to her. 

Picture Books:

Hampire_jacketHampire by Sudipta Bardhan Quallen! When Hampire creeps around the barnyard at night with red oozing from his fangs he terrifies the other animals, especially Duck. Check out this picture book with not only a kid-pleasing twist, but also the best illustrations of terrified barnyard animals every created. And if you have a little pirate running around your house this Halloween (and even if you don’t), you’ll want to check out Sudipta’s Pirate Princess too!

monstore The Monstore by Tara Lazar! What kid doesn’t dream of having his own monster? The Monstore is the place to go to get one. The only problem is…. certain rule and restrictions apply. So getting his own monster doesn’t work out the way exactly like Zack plans….  Check out this book and Tara’s brand spanking new just-released-this-week book Little Red Gliding Hood!

vampirina_ballerinaVampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace! Vampirina wants to take ballet lessons, but what’s a little vampire to do when she can’t step into sunlight or see herself in the dance studio mirrors? Check out this book as well Vampirina Hosts a Sleepover. Vampirina fans will be happy to know that Ann Marie just announced that a third Vampirina book is in the works!

MORE SPOOKY NEWS:

Nerdy Chick Jocelyn Rish is made of steel. She’s not afraid of facing scary subjects in books or on film. HH&H_poster_Jocelyn has recently joined the MTV news staff (Congrats Jocelyn!) and has written these two articles about these spectacularly spooky subjects: Goosebumps and Zombies! And, High Heels and Hoodoo, the short film she produced with her brother is premiering today! Today is the first time the film is available for the public to watch online. Click HERE for details about the creation of this film and to watch it for free! I saw this  film for the first time at the Beaufort Film Festival and it is clever, entertaining, and spooky! What’s not to like about a graveyard and hoodoo film on Halloween?

Here’s a brief synopsis of the film: A greedy party girl is so determined to get what she wants that she employs the dangerous magic of a Gullah root doctor.

Can’t wait to see this amazing film? Go ahead, you can start watching right now! It’s a full story in about seven minutes, so treat yourself to a movie premier this Halloween!

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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.

 

 

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 Top Ten Picture Books Written by Nerdy Chicks Who I’ve Laughed With

Good books aren’t always written by good people. For example, Roald Dahl was rumored to be a terrible racist, and Charles Dickens threw his wife of 22 years out of their house, even though her youngest children were 9 and 6. But in the case of these Ten Nerdy Chicks, we’ve got great books coming from greater people. Here’s a Picture Book 10 for 10 that combines some of my favorite books with some of my favorite people.

boybotAme1. Ame Dyckman, Boy + Bot: One day, a boy and a robot meet in the woods. They play. They have fun. But when Bot gets switched off, Boy thinks he’s sick. The usual remedies—applesauce, reading a story—don’t help, so Boy tucks the sick Bot in, then falls asleep. Bot is worried when he powers on and finds his friend powered off. He takes Boy home with him and tries all his remedies: oil, reading an instruction manual. Nothing revives the malfunctioning Boy! Can the Inventor help fix him?

BandVaudrey2. Audrey Vernick, Bogart and Vinnie:  When Vinnie, a crazy-happy dog, gets lost while visiting a nature preserve with his family, he finds comfort in the company of Bogart, a big, lazy rhinoceros. Vinnie loves his new friend, but Bogart would rather just take a nap. A friendship soon blossoms-even if Vinnie’s definition of “friendship” is very different from Bogart’s-and when word of their unique situation spreads, Bogart and Vinnie are a worldwide sensation! But as soon as their fifteen seconds of fame ends, what’s left is a bond even Bogart can’t ignore.

monstoreSAMSUNG CSC3. Tara Lazar, The Monstore: The Monstore is the place to go for all of your monsterly needs. Which is perfect, since Zack definitely has a monsterly need. The problem? His pesky little sister, Gracie, who never pays attention to that “Keep Out” sign on Zack’s door—the one he has made especially for her.

beesaaf4. Alison Ashley Formento, These Bees Count: How do bees count? The bees at the Busy Bee Farm buzz through the sky as one big swarm, fly over two waving dandelions, find three wild strawberries bursting with sweetness . . . As the children in Mr. Tate’s class listen, they learn how bees work to produce honey and make food and flowers grow. Bees count–they’re important to us all.

cpmmaya5. Courtney Pippin-Mathur, Maya Was Grumpy: Maya wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, tangled in her blanket, and in a crispy, cranky, grumpy, grouchy mood. She doesn’t want to color or wear her favorite shorts or go outside to play. What’s worse, she’s determined to share her grumpiness with everyone as she glumps, clumps, and thumps around the house. But when Maya growls at her grandmother, she graciously takes Maya’s mood in stride, and even has a solution: Gramma suggests a series of unusual activities that Maya will probably not want to do since she’s feeling grumpy—and then dismisses her own silly suggestions before Maya can reject them.

joyce cupcake6. Joyce Wan, You are My Cupcake:  A scrumptious board book, filled with sweet terms of endearment. This bite-sized board book is an ode to all the names we call our children: cutie pie, sweet pea, peanut, pumpkin. With a candy-colored palette and irresistible art with glitter and embossing, this is the perfect baby shower gift!

Magic-Brush-Yeh-Kat-9780802721792 297310_10150320631406460_1375238351_n7. Kat Yeh, The Magic Brush: Combining a heartwarming family story, a magical adventure, and a multilingual primer on Chinese language, The Magic Brush tells the story of Jasmine, a young girl who learns Chinese calligraphy from her Agong, or grandfather. As Jasmine learns how to paint the characters for dragon, fish, horse, friend, and more, she and Agong are magically transported to the wondrous world they are creating. But when Agong passes away, Jasmine must find a way for their special paintings to live on. Could her baby brother Tai-Tai be the key?

anne mariesleepover8. Anne Marie Pace, Vamipirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover: Before Vampirina can host her very first sleepover there are a few things she must keep in mind: be polite and offer her guests food (like blood pudding); plan some games like scavenger hunt (but keep the clues simple so no one gets lost); and don’t forget to dance! Vampirina may be a little nervous at first, but by following a few simple rules she will host the Best Sleepover Ever.

onster tiff9. Tiffany Mayro Strelitz, The Monster Who Lost His Mean: Everyone knows that the M in “monster” stands for MEAN. But what happens when a monster can’t be mean any more? Is he still a monster at all? One young monster’s attempts to live up to his name go hilariously awry as he discovers—with a little help from new friends—that it’s not what you’re called but who you are that counts.

dog gone leeza10. Leeza Hernandez,Dog Gone: When a playful pooch goes a little overboard with a stuffed animal and gets in trouble, he decides it’s time to run away. But being a “dog gone” isn’t as easy (or fun!) as it looks, and soon the pup misses his owner and home. Luckily, even though he’s made a mistake, his human best friend is always waiting with open arms.

The Quotable Nerdy NJSCBWI

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the New Jersey Society of Children’s Book Writers and illustrators conference in Princeton, NJ. I will be posting more from the weekend, but here are some quotes that really inspired me from (mostly) chicks at the conference:

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“Listen—we writers are one. We all share a common goal—to tell the best story we possibly can. I strive to do that every day, and so do you. There is no divide.” Tara Lazar, author of The Monstore

“I get my ideas from living.” Peter Brown, creator of The Curious GardenChildren Make Terrible Pets and You Will Be My Friend!

“Reading books is fantastic homework.” Ame Dyckman, author of Boy + Bot SAMSUNG CSC

“Writing every day helps you build up a tolerance for it. Kind of like drinking every day.” Lauren Oliver, author of Before I Fall and the Delirium series

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“Like moving deck chairs on the Titanic.” Simone Kaplan of Picture Book People, on trying to change only words in a flawed manuscript

SAMSUNG CSC“If you want to be big, think big.” Joyce Wan, creator of You are my Cupcake and We Belong Together

“We are in the golden age of children’s non-fiction.” Betsy Bird, librarian and blogger extraordinaire

“I’m on muscle relaxants.” ANONYMOUS

Do you have any quotes from the conference that inspired you?