Monday, May 11, 2020

TOP TIP: Here's My Top Critique Comments of the Day! (YOURS for FREE)


1. If the line of text or dialogue doesn't move the story forward, replace it or delete. 
2. Don't stack prepositional phrases, usually they lengthen and weaken the sentence, and often, will be shown in the art. 
3. In general, sentences in picture books should be, on the average four - eight words to match the attention span of the 4-8 year old reader. If there are too many words, the sentence becomes cumbersome and hard for the reader to remember all the details. Write tight and bright :) 
4. Replace all weak verbs like is, are, was, were, has, have, want to, started to, began to, etc. with active verbs, instead, if at all possible. Look at it as a fun challenge. 
5. You can usually delete the word the from in front of a noun and the sentence will read better, with less weaker words. 

Hope these help. Happy Revising!

SPECIAL OFFER: If you read this post and mention CODE: FastPitch and you will get a FREE (Up to 50 - Word) Pitch Critique with your Critique or Critique Package Purchase (One Per Critique). 

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: When Day Is Done by Natalee Creech

When Day Is Done is a soothing bedtime book, perfect for calming down after a busy day.
When Day Is Done began with a line that just popped into my head one day when I sat down to write. The words, “We sleep when day is done” floated into my mind seemingly out of nowhere, so I decided to play with them. Over the next weeks and months, I finished the poem, smoothing out the sounds until each phrase fit the quiet mood I was aiming for. 
Looking back, the seeds of this story (and the desire to write) were probably sown in my childhood with the books my parents read to us each night before we went to bed, so it seems appropriate that my first picture book is also a bedtime book. 
Every evening either my mother or father would faithfully sit down and read whatever books we wanted to hear before tucking us in for the night. At the time we lived in a small town with a population of about 1000. A tiny library kept us well-supplied. (It’s only now that I realize how lucky we were that a community of that size had a library. We could even borrow records!) 

There were four of us children and we each wanted to hear our personal favorites, so that meant a lot of reading. I can remember times my parents drifted off mid-sentence, they were so tired. Fortunately for us, they continued to read to us long after we could read independently, because it wasn’t about the actual reading so much as it was sharing that special time together. I can picture us tucked under Dad’s arm or sprawled across the back of the couch craning to get the best view of the illustrations. There was probably a great deal of fighting and jockeying for position too, but memory is selective! Looking back, I see what a gift my parents gave me: with the stories of my childhood they sowed the seeds of a love of words and language. 

When I wrote When Day Is Done I aimed for a soothing bedtime book that would help children settle before going to sleep – a book that would remind them that all the fun things they wanted to do would still be there the next day. I pictured children snuggling up with parents to hear these words and I imagined them surrounded by love. I hope this book becomes part of a comforting bedtime routine for children. 
What I love about reading is that each time we read a book we may notice or feel something different. The meaning we take away may change because of how we ourselves have changed, because of new life experiences, or our feelings at that particular moment. When I wrote the following stanza, I was thinking about a common experience of my own family; living overseas and saying goodbye/goodnight to friends and family far away.
These days (during the coronavirus pandemic) the words take on new significance. 

Authors may have a particular message in mind when writing, but the readers always bring their own meaning to the words, and this is part of the magic!
For children, familiar words that are part of a routine can be comforting, especially in a world that is uncertain and changing. And sometimes, even in the midst of the familiar, we are surprised with something new. Aren’t stories amazing?
You can purchase a copy of When Day is Done Here.

Natalee Creech is the author of When Day Is Done (Beaming Books, 2019) and Nothing (WorthyKids, Hachette Book Group, 2019) She is equally at home in Canada, (where she grew up) in the U.S., (where she studied education) and in South Korea (where she taught for many years). Regardless of where she lives, she is probably sneaking more children's books into the house, much to the delight of her children and the dismay of her husband. Oreo, the family cat, remains indifferent.

Twitter: @nataleecreech
Facebook: nataleecreechauthor

Monday, May 4, 2020

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: A Doll for Grandma - A Story about Alzheimer's Disease by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey

The Story Behind the Story of A Doll for Grandma:
A Story about Alzheimer’s Disease
by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
The seed for my debut picture book, A DOLL FOR GRANDMA, was planted at a
a pizza party, when a musician friend mentioned visiting his grandmother in her memory-
care home. She’d told him, “I had fried mosquitoes and a cup of hot tea for lunch.”
That would be a good line in a picture book, I thought.
I've been writing for children since the 1980s -- games and puzzles and short non-
fiction articles for magazines like Highlights, Cricket, Ladybug, and Hopscotch. But my
long-term goal was always to write a picture book, a genre I’ve loved since my daughter
was little and we read tall stacks of them every bedtime.
I'm also a pianist. After retiring from my job as a reference librarian about 15 years
ago, I started working as a volunteer pianist in assisted-living centers and memory-care
homes in my community. My volunteering led to a blog. Writing muscles limbered up,
I revisited by goal of writing a picture book. Now I had a topic: Alzheimer’s disease.
And I had that great “fried mosquitoes” line! In 2017, I joined SCBWI and signed up for
a Writer’s Digest University picture book course. I finished the class with a solid draft of
The story went through several rounds with my critique group. I revised, paid for professional critiques, revised again.
Then I queried that manuscript hard. Mostly I got no response or a form rejection. Occasionally someone labeled the story “too quiet.” (Editor Frances Gilbert says “too quiet” can sometimes be code for “I don’t like your book” but can also mean it’s a gentle story. My story is gentle. I intended it that way.) There were a few encouraging comments, too, including this one: “There is a deep sense of love that pervades these pages.”
Along with querying, I entered A DOLL FOR GRANDMA into all the writing contests I could find, including one held by Beaming Books. Although I didn’t win, editor Naomi Krueger offered to take by entry through their general acquisitions process. They soon passed. Several months later, I heard from Naomi again: There was renewed interest in my manuscript. Could she take it through acquisitions a second time? Yes, please! A month later, while I was in Alaska awaiting the birth of my first grandchild, I received an offer letter.

A DOLL FOR GRANDMA: A STORY ABOUT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE (illustrated by Samantha Woo, Beaming Books, 2020) is about a little girl named  Kiera who is very close to her grandmother. When Grandma develops Alzheimer’s, the old ways they played together no longer work and Kiera needs to figure out new ways to connect.
She gives Grandma a doll and together Kiera and Grandma care for their “babies.

"Kiera models the best way to interact with people living with dementia: by accepting their version of reality, rather than trying to bring them back into ours
     It’s a story about kindness and empathy, about the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren, and about loving and accepting people as they are, even when they change.
     To create the character of Grandma, I drew on my experiences in memory-care homes. For example, Grandma can still sing familiar songs because musical memories are held in a part of the brain often left undamaged by Alzheimer’s disease. I’ve seen this a lot. Even people who can no longer speak can sometimes still sing when I play a song from their younger years.
     I also used experiences I had caring for my mother, who had dementia. In the hospice facility where she spent her last week, she had a lovely moment with a therapy dog. I put that into the book. And that “fried mosquitoes” line as well! 
     After writing A DOLL FOR GRANDMA, I discovered Pearl’s Memory Babies, a beautiful example of embracing the altered sense of reality that Alzheimer’s disease causes. This nonprofit organization delivers baby dolls to people living in memory-care settings. The dolls soothe and comfort the residents, give them something to care for, and help them feel needed again. Alzheimer’s disease takes away memories, but it doesn’t take away the ability to love. 
     According to the Alzheimer’s Association, someone in the U.S. develops the disease every 65 seconds. I am fortunate to be able to donate all my author proceeds from A DOLL FOR GRANDMA to support Alzheimer’s research. We must find a cure. Your purchase helps! 

GIVEAWAY: Paulette has kindly offered to give away a copy of the book! Please comment below for your chance to win:
1. 2 Extra Chances for Tweeting and tagging @Literally_Lynne @PBSharkey and @BeamingBooksMN (please share link in comment)
2. An extra chance for Sharing this Post on Facebook or other
    Social Media (please share link in the comment) 
3. An extra chance for ordering the book into your library online
    (please mention this on comments). 
4. An extra chance for gifting a copy of the book (forward receipt to 
5. A chance for leaving a comment! 
GOOD LUCK! A winner will be chosen on May 30, 2020. 

Author Bio: Paulette Bochnig Sharkey worked for many years as a librarian, first in
her home state of Michigan, and later in Australia, Nevada, and Wisconsin. She has
also been a proofreader, ghostwriter, developmental editor, recipe indexer, and transcriber
of children’s books from print into braille. Her writing has appeared in magazines
including Parents, Hopscotch, Highlights, and Cricket.

picture book.

twitter: @PBSharkey