Monday, February 15, 2016

Is it OCD or CDO (in the proper alphabetical order)? by Kristen Fulton

Shortly after becoming a nonfiction childrens writer, I discovered two things:

1.     I want to have two books published a year.
2.     Verla Kay was crazy.
I knew #2 to be truthful because the first time I had ever heard Verla Kay speak at a conference, she stated that she works on five to six stories at a time.

Are you kidding me? How could anyone keep that many ideas balanced? She writes nonfiction, like me. We are talking facts, research, vetting, more research, and then revising.

I quickly discovered that she wasnt crazy, and she has an extensive list of titles that bear her name to prove it.  Balancing several stories at one time is a necessity. Especially if I was ever going to achieve goal #1. Today, I live by the rule of five stories always in progress. In January of 2015, my five stories in progress landed me a multi-book contract with Simon & Schuster. When asked, "what else are you working on?" my reply was quick and my description for each story precise. It won them over.

So, how do I keep so many ideas balanced and going? I call it my Fab 5; these are my fabulous five ideas that are always in progress. Each story is in a different place of readiness.

Story 5- Finding a new story. Research. I am looking on-line, finding a topic, reading about it, seeing if the topic would make a great childrens book. Is this topic viable- will editors find it appealing? Does it fit into the classroom curriculum? Will children reach for the topic? Can I find an approach to the topic that would be great for children? Has it has been done a hundred times before, do I have a totally new aspect? If I think this topic will be fabulous, then I go to and find all the resources available and get them ordered.

Story 4- Getting my story facts together. I work through my research material and copy down facts that I want to include in my story. *I use the program Scrivener, so each fact goes on a different index card.

Story 3- This story is in outline form. I have all the facts laid out; I am separating what will go in the beginning, middle, and end of story. Facts not being used go in the back matter.

Story 2- This story idea is in rough draft form. I am still moving things around, changing perspective, even rewriting the entire opening. You get the idea.

Story 1- This is the story that I am polishing. It is close to being sent off to my agent or editor. I may be waiting for a reply back from a Historian to confirm my story accuracy.

Once I send my polished story off, then all of my stories move up one space. Sometimes the #1 spot stays filled the longest, that is okay. I continue working, and my rough draft may slide through polished much quicker.

So, how much time do I devote to each section? This is up to me. When my brain is fried, I can do something mindless like search the internet. Or if I get bored on a particular topic or stuck, I can move to a new subject. Some days I wake and feel like working on a particular story, or I have a breakthrough idea then I work on it. There are no set rules except to keep several stories going.

You can do this, I know you can. It just takes finding your first five stories and then you will be on fire!

Nonfiction picture book author Kristen Fulton is happiest wearing her favorite set of pearls and carrying a notebook into any museum or history center where she could spend hours researching. Wafting through old books or around dusty artifacts, Kristen believes that is where she will find her next story hiding.
Her first two books: Long May She Waves comes out May 2017 from Simon & Schuster and Flight For Freedom is set to release September 2017 from Chronicle Books. Her books, A Royal Ride and When Sparks Fly will hit stores in 2018.

Her biggest fan is her husband Rusty and her biggest critics are her Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Kristen knows to amp up the drama when they fall asleep during her story.
Kristen is represented by Kendra Marcus at BookStop Literary.

Contact Kristen Fulton, Children's Author at

Current Fab 5
Write Rough Draft:_________________________________________
New Thoughts:________________________________________

Fact Gather:______________________________________________

Is it Viable:_______________________________________________

F Squared, LLP©Kristen Fulton

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Swimming and Structure with Lisa Rose

I was a swimmer before I ever was a writer.  It was excellent training for writing.  Writing picture books often feels like swimming as fast as you can always crashing into a cement wall.  Many writers have all that manuscript that is “cute” and “fun” but for some reason just not working.   Writers often discuss structure when writing for older children but a picture book also has a structure.   Here are four common structures:

Cumulative:  The House that Jack Built
Decreasing: Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
Time Line:  The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Full Circle: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

It was not until structured SHMULIK PAINTS THE TOWN around the week day time structure did the story begin to work better.  On Monday, the painter did this…On Tuesday, the painter did that…did it start working…well enough to get a contract.

SHMULIK PAINTS THE TOWN just released from Kar-Ben Publishing is about a painter who has to create a mural for Israeli Independence Day.  He can’t decide what to paint and gets a little help from a very unexpected source—his dog!  

So my suggestion is to look at the structure of all those “not working” picture books.   These structures have endured because they work and always can be used as a foundation to create fresh new and exciting picture books.

Random Lisa Facts:
Favorite color is Blue. 
Hates ketchup
Taught first grade and my students often lived in homeless shelters
Once had pet turtles named Broccoli and Peapod
Also, had pet Guinea Pigs.  Loves them more than turtles, but not as much as dogs.
Climbed Mt. Washington! And was really bummed when she got to the top and found out she could have driven up.
Lucky number is 2.
Practices yoga but hates Indian food and anything spicy or garlicy.  Please feed her frosting and ice cream.
Likes to wake up early---like before 5 am early.
Prefers Law & Order reruns over any Reality T.V.

More info about Lisa Rose:  www.

Monday, February 8, 2016

CONTEST ENTRY for Susanna Hill's 1st Ever, Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest

TITLE: Little Red’s Heart Skips a Beat (214 Words)
AUTHOR: Lynne Marie 

          Little Red concealed the frilly card and home-made chocolate hearts in her basket with a doily. Now, if she could only sneak past that wily wolf. She couldn’t use the excuse about not talking to strangers, but would figure something out. She had to race to Grandmother’s house now or it’d be too late.
          Red skipped along the path, only to encounter the wolf!
          Wolf smiled. “Come with me to pick a rose bouquet?”
          Now what was he up to? Red wondered. She pretended to be grumpy. “Absolutely not. I’m allergic to wildflowers.”   

          Wolf pleaded. “But they're roses – for Granny.” 

          Red moaned. “Okay.” She adjusted the cover on the basket and kept her eye on the wolf.

          Quickly, Red picked a bouquet. “Fun's over – gotta run,” she said, trudging off. She dropped candy hearts along the way to throw him off course. But she knew eventually, he’d show up at Grandma’s house hungry as a wolf.

          Red smirked. He’ll surely be surprised when he sneaks through 
the door!  She thought of Grandma, Woodsman, and all the others who would be waiting when he arrived. 

          Wolf quietly slid the door open and peeked in.
          “Surprise!” everyone shouted.

          Red beamed as she handed over the basket. “Would you please be my Valentine, dear birthday boy?” 

Art (C) 2016 Kayla Michelle

Asking Yourself the "Big Picture" Book Question by Stacy McAnulty

Would That Make a Good Picture Book?
I’m always asking myself this question. While I watch TV or movies. While I read books for adults. While I listen to music. What do I love about this show/book/song and how can I use that in a story for kids? It may sound like stealing. But it’s not. It’s mining.

Take a look at a non-kid movie like Rocky. It’s an underdog story about a character who works hard and goes the distance… almost. Can you “rewrite” Rocky as a kid, or a cat, or a dust bunny? Your character doesn’t need to go into the boxing ring. He/she may go against the champ in a pageant or at a lemonade stand or in an epic battle of under-the-bed dominance.

What would Love Actually look like as a picture book? Or Galaxy Quest? Take a look at TV shows like LostQuantum Leap, or Sherlock. Can you mine a story from a song? Can Adele’s Hello have a kid-friendly take? I’m currently obsessed with the musical Hamilton. There are dozens of stories to be mined from it. #AndPeggy (which will only make sense to other Ham fanatics).

The hard work for me isn’t in finding a nugget of an idea. It’s writing a short, snappy manuscript that has a kid-relatable problem, room for illustrations, and an emotional core.

Admittedly, the answer to the question “Would that make a good picture book?” is often a resounding no. Try as you will, How to Get Away with Murder will not translate to a children’s book even if you set it on a farm with the cutest piglets ever.  Still, every bad idea gets you closer to a winner. And even though How to Get Away with Murder wouldn’t make a good picture book, it would make a pretty good YA.

ABOUT: The Dino Files - A Mysterious Egg

What if a fossil in your backyard . . . came to life?!
Frank’s grandma is a famous paleontologist (that’s a dinosaur scientist). But she’s also an adult who makes up rules. Rules like: no digging for dinosaur bones when you have a sunburn. That means Frank is stuck playing inside with his annoying cousin, Samantha. But then Grandma finds a fossil of an egg! And when Frank and Sam sneak into the dino lab late at night, they find something even more amazing. . . .

The hilarious Dino Files chapter book series follows a nine-year-old dinosaur expert, his paleontologist grandparents, a cat named Saurus, and fossils that might not be so extinct!

STACY McANULTY does not have a dinosaur. She does have three kids, two dogs, and one husband. She has been on a dinosaur dig in Wyoming, where she found a small fossil. It wasn’t an egg. Stacy grew up in upstate New York but now calls North Carolina home. (She still really wants a dinosaur—preferably a Spinosaurus.) Visit her online at

Friday, February 5, 2016

Tip du Jour: You Are the #1 Pitch Person for Your Book by Robin Newman

Nobody else knows your book as well as you do, and nobody else will be as passionate about your book as you are. Even if you’re the most introverted person in the world, and that’s why you chose to become a writer, once your book is out, you become the #1 pitch person for your book. You need to talk up your book to EVERYONE and ANYONE! I’m not just talking librarians, booksellers, teachers, colleagues, and friends. Don’t forget journalists, pediatricians, pediatric dentists, politicians, babysitters, ex-boyfriends, frenemies, and what the heck, might as well include your favorite funeral director and the recently deceased to the list. (Let’s face it. Of all people, these folks could benefit from a funny picture book!)

So, what does one have to do? Good question.

-         Think outside of the box. What’s the craziest way you can market your book?
-         Be one with your character and enjoy being silly. If you write about bunnies, you’d better enjoy wearing bunny ears! 
-         What kind of cheap cool swag can you come up with to help market the book?
-         Make a book trailer. It’ll cost you, but it’s money well spent. (You can use it at school and bookstore visits, conferences, etc.)
-         Prepare a teacher’s guide for your book. Make it easy for teachers to figure out how to incorporate your book into their curriculum.
-         Don’t be a stranger at your local bookstore.
-         Be sure to support your fellow authors and illustrators. (It’s not just about you.)
-         Don’t be afraid to fail. If you don’t try, you’ll regret it more than your fear of failure.

It took me eight years from start to finish before I finally held a copy of The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake. That translates to:  

96 months
or 417 weeks 3 days
or 2,922 days
or 70,128 hours
or 4,207,680 minutes
or 252,460,800 seconds

But who’s counting?

All that effort deserves that you put your best foot forward in pitching your book. In the end, remember to also have fun and enjoy the moment.

My books:
The Case of the MissingCarrot Cake, illustrated by Deborah Zemke (Creston Books 2015), is an early chapter book mystery about two hardboiled mouse detectives working their beat from a shoebox on Ed’s farm. They are MFIs, Missing Food Investigators, and on their seminal case they’re on the hunt for Miss Rabbit’s missing carrot cake. (Note the names of the animals have been changed to protect the good guys.) For ages 5-9.

The teacher’s guide and book trailer are located on my website:

The Case of the MissingCarrot Cake is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at your favorite local indie.

Click here to watch the Trailer on You Tube:

HildieBitterpickles Needs Her Sleep, illustrated by Chris Ewald (Creston Books 2016), is a fractured fairy tale picture book about a witch whose quiet neighborhood has been turned upside down by the sudden noisy arrival of the big bad wolf, the old lady living in a shoe, and other fairy tale characters. What will poor Hildie have to do to get a good night’s sleep? For ages 4-8.

The teacher’s guide and book trailer are located on my website:

Hildie BitterpicklesNeeds Her Sleep flies onto bookshelves April 12, 2016.

Hildie BitterpicklesNeeds Her Sleep is currently available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at your local indie.

Click here to watch the Trailer on You Tube: 

A bit about Robin:

Robin Newman was a practicing attorney and legal editor, but she now prefers to write about witches, mice, pigs, and peacocks. She lives in New York, among many noisy neighbors.

Please come by and say hello!

Twitter: @robinnewmanbook

And please e-mail me at, if you’re interested in having me do a school visit.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Authenticity in Historical Fiction – by Darlene Beck Jacobson AND a Give-Away!

To create authenticity or believability in historical fiction is just like setting a scene in any kind of writing.  The writer needs to pay attention to details. As a reader, I’m more likely to immerse myself in a story universe that is believable and accurate.  If I want readers of WHEELS OF CHANGE to follow Emily Soper’s adventures, they have to be grounded in the reality of 1908 Washington DC.

            What was life like in the Nation’s Capital 100 years ago?

            It was very rural for one thing.  With the exception of Pennsylvania Avenue, the area around the train station, and a few streets bordering 7th Street – the main street of commerce - there was only gas lighting and no electricity.  Indoor plumbing was still a novelty.  Many roads were unpaved or had cobblestones. There were farms and wooded areas surrounding the government buildings. Most people still rode in horse-drawn wagons, carriages, or buggies.  Many goods were still made by hand.  Incorporating these details into the story grounds it and fixes the time and place.

Character is another way to create an authentic story.  When a story takes place in another era, the writer has to be sure to use language and sentence structure that rings true.  In 1908, children spoke in a more formal style, like their parents.  Very little slang was used.  Children addressed other adults as Mr. or Mrs. and often used “sir” or ‘ma’am” when speaking to their parents.

A character’s actions and behavior was different than it is today.  Expectations for males and females were much more divided and specific.  Boys had more freedom to explore and be adventurous.  They were expected to roughhouse and get into trouble now and then.  Girls on the other hand, were expected to be lady-like and exhibit proper behavior at all times.  They were encouraged to excel at the “domestic arts” such as sewing, cooking, housekeeping, and child rearing.
Here are some of the “Rules of Etiquette” young people were expected to follow at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

General Rules of Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen

13 Mannerisms to be avoided by all: 
1.     Whispering or pointing in company.
2.    Giving attention to only one person when more are present.
3.    Contradicting parents, friends, or strangers.
4.   Laughing loudly.
5.    Making noise with hands and feet.
6.   Leaning on the shoulder or chair of another.
7.    Throwing things instead of handing them.
8.    Crowding or bumping elbows.
9.   Contempt in looks, words, or actions.
10.  Drawing attention to self with dress.
11.   Lending a borrowed book.
12.  Reading when there is company, or when others are speaking.
13.  Laughing at the mistakes of others.
Manners appropriate for all:
1.     To be gentle and patient with others.
2.    To remember that while speech is wonderful, it is sometimes better to be silent.
3.    Speak with a gentle tone and never in anger.
4.   Learn to deny yourself and put others first.
5.    Give applause only by clapping hands – not by kicking or stamping feet.
6.   Rise to one’s feet when an older person or dignitary enters the room.

All this makes me wonder: How many of these rules do any of us consider important today?

Darlene Beck Jacobson has loved writing since she was a girl.  Although she never wrote to a president, she sent many letters to pop stars of the day asking for photos and autographs.  She loves bringing the past to life in stories such as WHEELS OF CHANGE, her debut novel.   If you’d like to see a trailer for this book click here:       

WHEELS OF CHANGE by Darlene Beck Jacobson is published by Creston Books, Berkley, CA.       ISBN: 978-1-939547-13-2

BOOK BLURB:  Racial intolerance, social change, sweeping progress. It is a turbulent time growing up in 1908. For twelve year old EMILY SOPER, life in Papa’s carriage barn is magic. Emily is more at home hearing the symphony of the blacksmith’s hammer, than trying to conform to the proper expectations of females. Many prominent people own Papa’s carriages. He receives an order to make one for President Theodore Roosevelt. Papa’s livelihood becomes threatened by racist neighbors, and horsepower of a different sort.  Emily is determined to save Papa’s business even if she has to go all the way to the President.

WHEELSOF CHANGE was also chosen as one of 2014 Mighty Girl Books. Here is the link to view all:
The book has also received a 2015 Grateful American Book Prize Honorable Mention. 

Darlene’s blog features recipes, activities, crafts and interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators. She still loves writing and getting letters.  Check out her website at:   or on Twitter@dustbunnymaven

EXCITING NEWS: Darlene has agreed to give away a copy of her Book, WHEELS OF CHANGE to one LUCKY winner. To be entered in this drawing, please leave a note in the comments telling us your favorite period and history. Drawing will be held on March 4, 2016. Good luck to all who enter! 


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Watching Food Race through a Fridge Landscape with Josh Funk

I'm no expert in writing. In fact, when Lynne Marie approached me about offering up a writing prompt, I almost declined because I felt I wasn't really qualified (especially after all of the amazing guests she's had in the past).

But like Kwame Alexander said (and probably many before him), always say yes.

So my prompt is this: What do you want to see illustrated? Who do you want to see illustrated? What settings have you never seen before? Think of something so impossible, it could never be a book - then make it work.

Obviously I'm coming at this from the angle of a picture book writer, but illustrations don't have to be physical. If you write novels, you're creating a picture in every reader’s mind. Give me that mental image with your words.

I wanted to see foods race through a fridge landscape. So I wrote LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST (Sterling, available now). I wanted to see dinosaurs who were also pirates. So I wrote PIRASAURS! (Scholastic, available 8.30.16). I wanted to personally argue with a fairy tale character. So I wrote IT’S NOT JACK AND THE BEANSTALK (Two Lions, 2017).

So write what you want to see pictured on the page (or in your readers’ minds) - even if it seems impossible - your imagination may surprise you.

A thoroughly delicious picture book about the funniest "food fight" ever! Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast have a beautiful friendship—until they discover that there's ONLY ONE DROP of maple syrup left. Off they go, racing past the Orange Juice Fountain, skiing through Sauerkraut Peak, and reeling down the linguini. But who will enjoy the sweet taste of victory? And could working together be better than tearing each other apart? The action-packed rhyme makes for an adrenaline-filled breakfast . . . even without a drop of coffee! (Published by Sterling Children's)

Josh Funk is the author of LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST (Sterling), as well as the forthcoming picture books PIRASAURS! (Scholastic 8.30.16), DEAR DRAGON (Viking/Penguin 9.6.16), IT’S NOT JACK AND THE BEANSTALK (Two Lions, 2017), and more.

Josh is a board member of The Writers' Loft in Sherborn, MA and the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences.

Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes picture book manuscripts. Find out more about Josh at and on twitter @joshfunkbooks.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

REVIEWSDAY TUESDAY: It's Groundhog Day, with an Extra Special Twist!

(c) Kayla Michele 2016
Today is Groundhog's Day, but for us, it's not just ANY Groundhog's Day. Today is unique because it is ALSO "Take Your Child to Work Day!" So instead of just bringing a review, we are going to do a little review/reading list/writing tip mash-up.

Working with my daughter today gives the day a special twist and also adds an extra element of fun.

This especially relates to writing about Groundhogs and/or any other topic, because to get your book published, you must have an extra special twist to make it stand out from the books  that have come before. If it's a fun topic, you need to make it even more FUN!  The topic can be approached differently with a change in location, a change in time period, a change in character, a chance in circumstances, etc.

For example, in  PUNXSUTAWNEY PHYLLIS, written by Susanna Hill and illustrated by Jeffrey Ebberler, the male job of playing Punxsutawney Phil is eventually passed down to a girl, who is actually better qualified for the job.

In GROUNDHOG WEATHER SCHOOL, written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Kristin Sorra, a rabbit realizes that one groundhog cannot accurately predict the weather for a large area. As a result, the resident groundhog recruits trainees. This leads to lots of fun facts and even some science.

In APRIL FOOL, PHYLLIS, written by Susanna Leonard Hill and illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler, Susanna shakes things up by having her groundhog character Phyllis predict the weather, not on Groundhog's Day, but April Fool's Day!

If writing about Groundhogs like we are, here are some more fun titles to check out:


Our post today accents the importance of the need for authors and aspiring writers to use Mentor Texts. Check out Carrie Charley Brown's website for more info (  Read everything published on your topic, new and old, to make sure that YOUR manuscript stands out from the rest and offers a unique view of a previously covered topic. And enjoy the early Spring!

Lynne Marie is the author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten (Scholastic, 2011) and a forthcoming related title. She is currently knee-deep in dinosaur research and couldn't be happier. You can learn more about Lynne Marie and Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten by visiting

Kayla Michele is the unpublished author/illustrator of the Squirrel stories which she has written since she was two, and has several 4 inch binders filled with them! Notably, she won the Earth Day Poster Contest for Mills Pond Elementary School at the age of 5, published a Book Mark for the Smithtown Library in June, 2011 and was a finalist in the Broward County Everglades Art Contest in 2015.