Unlocking Imagination One Page at a Time

Timothy Young Gives Us Options

“You’re not really a writer, you’re an illustrator who’s just fooling everyone into thinking that you are a writer too.”

I have 4 books published, a new one coming out this year and this is still what the voice in my head keeps saying. When I was a kid I hated writing. I loved reading and I loved inventing stories in my head about the things I was drawing, but I couldn’t be a writer because I hated writing. I always wanted to make picture books but I figured someone else would come along and write the books and I would draw the pictures. I don’t know what happened to that person, but they never showed up at my door and I had to bite the bullet and figure out how to write my own books.

I don’t know how real writers write, but what usually happens to me is that an idea jumps into my brain that I can’t ignore. It might be a character or it might be a turn of a phrase or it might be a picture. I then start turning the idea around, expanding it and exploring where it might go. Sometimes the idea gets mixed in with a childhood memory or an incident that happened more recently. Sometimes it takes days or weeks of playing with it in my head before I even start writing it down but sometimes the idea is more insistent and I can’t focus on anything else until it’s done. When the idea for I HATE PICTURE BOOKS! popped up I pretty much wrote the whole thing in my head over the course of 2 days. It almost felt like I was observing this thing […]

Roxie Munro Dives Into A Subject

I write mainly nonfiction and concept books (including lift-the-flap), as well as interactive apps.  To engage children and keep them interested, and to impart information in a fun way, much of my work uses a form of “gamification”: mazes, guessing games, search-n-find, ABCs and numbers, puzzles, hidden objects, word/noun object recognition, and so forth. ECO MAZES: 12 EARTH ADVENTURES uses mazes to explore and understand ecosystems, to see the vegetation and geology, and a finding/counting game to learn about which animals live in the habitat. In HATCH! an egg or a clutch of eggs is shown. Children try to guess what kind of bird it is from hints (“The bird that lays these eggs is found on every continent except Antarctica.” “This one never drinks water” “…fastest running two-legged animal on Earth. But it can’t fly.”). In BUSY BUILDERS children check out the unusual kinds of structures certain bugs make. In SLITHERY SNAKES they are encouraged to try to figure out what kind of snake it is from the close-up scaly skin patterns shown, along with tantalizing facts about the critter: “Its common name comes from its skin pattern (like a precious stone) and its unique tail (which sounds like a child’s toy).” Turn the page and the answer appears, visually, with its name, and more fun facts – you see the snake in its home, with other creatures that live in the same habitat.

Prompt #17: Write a brief piece about a subject (it can be a person, an animal, a historical period, or even a fictional character), starting with a question, and noting fun facts that may allow the child to guess who or what you are interested in, before you give the […]

Lori Degman Brings on the Rhythm

I asked Shannon if I could write my post about writing in rhyme, because that’s what I typically write.  She said the topic was fine, but reminded me I was writing for middle grade and YA novelists as well as picture book authors. So, for this post, I will focus on rhythm aspect only – I’ll save the rhyme for another time (sorry, my brain is wired for rhyme).

While I have no formal training in this area – PLEASE DON’T STOP READING – I do have decades of experience writing and critiquing in both rhyme and prose.  So, the tips I’m sharing here are based on my personal experiences and a little research.  Everything you read on the Internet is true – right?

Here we go . . .

When I first began doing critiques, I limited myself to rhyming stories because that’s where I had some expertise and could offer helpful feedback.  When one of my critique partners submitted a story in prose – I froze! (Sorry again!)  I didn’t feel qualified to comment on it, but I had to do it.  To my surprise, I discovered there’s a rhythm to prose!  Who’da thunk?  It’s not a patterned rhythm, as with rhyming, but there is still a rhythm.

Whether you’re writing a picture book, YA novel or chapter book, rhythm is important.  To me, rhythmic writing makes a story interesting and easy to read.  It also creates mood and the rhythm in dialogue helps distinguish one character from another. You don’t want the same rhythm in every sentence, but you do want every sentence to have a rhythm that works.

So, how can you improve the rhythm in your story?  Whether you’re writing in rhyme or in […]

Ame Dyckman Burns Stuff

My writing process usually involves the smoke detector.

I don’t smoke. But when I’m working on a new manuscript, our oven tends to.

You’d think I’d be more careful. I’ve had a slight case of Oven Phobia (especially Toaster Oven Phobia) since I saw the chunk of Evil scene in Time Bandits.

Yet once I enter my Writing Cave, I go into an Oblivious-To-All-Things-Around-Me-Except-The-Kid trance.

It’s like my brain’s on fire.

Only once the electronic wailing starts do I realize that food is on fire, too.
ME: “This meatloaf doesn’t look like meatloaf.”

THE KID: “It looks like Han Solo in carbonite.”

ME: “Agreed. You get the crackers. I’ll get the peanut butter.”
So, many of our meals don’t go as planned.

But often, those are the most fun of all. ‘Cause once you’ve:

ignited (“Whoa! It’s like a fossil!”)
incited (“Would you dogs please stop howling?!”)
contrite-ed (“Sorry, neighbors! False alarm. Yeah, again.”)
any remaining mealtime formality is pretty much tossed out the open-so-everyone-can-breathe window.

And sometimes, an extra helping of frivolity is just you need to get inspired.

So, who’s up for a simultaneous peanut butter cracker eating and karaoke contest?

Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.

And I hope you do.

Prompt #15: Put a favorite character in an unexpected/awkward/disastrous/funny mealtime situation. (Bonus points if you incorporate, “Han Solo.” But that didn’t even need to be said, did it?) How does your character react?

A Bit About Ame
Ame is probably reading or writing while burning a meal right now. She’s the author of:

BOY + BOT, ill. by Dan Yaccarino (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012).
TEA PARTY RULES, ill. by K. G. Campbell (Viking Children’s, 2013).
WOLFIE THE BUNNY, ill. by Zachariah OHora (Little, Brown; Spring, 2015).
HORRIBLE BEAR, ill. by Zachariah OHora (Little, Brown; Spring, 2016).

You can follow Ame on Twitter (@AmeDyckman), where she […]

Kristen Fulton’s Express Pass

I began her writing career exactly 1 year ago. So, how does a “newbie” offer advice or education to the seasoned writer?  Submersion!

That’s right totally submerging yourself in to this career. In December of 2012, I left my career and began my new journey as a children’s writer. In January I attended the SCBWI Florida Winter Conference, in February I began the Picture Book Academy and a course with Anastasia Suen, March was the Georgia Southern Breeze conference plus another Anastasia class and Making Picture Book Magic with Susanna Hill. April I went to the Sacramento, CA SCBWI, and more classes. I continued this entire education submersion for the entire year of 2013 traveling wherever I could to learn. My results? In July, I signed with Kendra Marcus at Book Stop Literary, Spider magazine offered a contract for a series of stories about a little girl who visits the National Parks and two nonfiction picture books coming out in 2015 and 2016.

I didn’t take any shortcuts or skip any steps, I just entered the express lane.

Here is your express pass to 26 brilliant ideas.

Prompt # 14: Write the alphabet on a piece of paper and next to each letter write something that comes to mind. Try not to over analyze your choices.  Go with what comes to mind first.  If you write nonfiction like me, think of nonfiction words like A – Astronauts, B – Baghdad, C – Chernobyl. If you write fiction, think of trigger words like A – acrobat, B – birthday bonanza, C – chocolate.  Now, look at your list, you have 26 prompts that may lead you to your next story.  Pick 1 letter/word from your list and write […]

Get Out There With Adam Rubin

Writing, for me, is an opportunity to share my imagination. The easiest way for me to get started is to think of some funny or interesting idea that sparks some creative momentum; “Hey, THAT’S fun! Let’s see where it goes…” I work in a “creative’ profession (advertising) and am often required to generate ideas on demand. That can be a challenging proposition but I have developed a trick that often helps me get started: I take a walk.

Now, I live in New York City so walking even a few blocks means I’m guaranteed to see something unusual/amazing/disgusting/inspiring. However, the outside stimulus is less important than the mental shift from “work mode” to “daydream mode.” As I walk, I let my mind wander. Not to other things I have to do, or with any sort of purpose, I just ponder aimlessly with no goal in mind. When I come back to the page, I feel refreshed and refocused—ready to write.

PROMPT #13: Go take a walk. Take time to observe the world around you.  Take mental notes.  When you come back, see what comes out. Maybe you’ll feel motivated to pick up a piece you’ve worked on previously or maybe you’ll be inspired to start something new. The idea is to get away from your work and the responsibility you feel to come up with anything. See if that mental break refreshes your creative energy and provides some new perspective when you sit back down to work. Who knows, maybe some genius idea will float into your brain as you amble along. Don’t run an errand and don’t let weather keep you cooped up. Go take a walk!

A Bit About Adam
Adam Rubin may the only writer […]