Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Expect the Unexpected



I embarked upon a writing career when I had a toddler and an infant at home. What was I thinking? How was a mother of two little ones going to find time to write?

Here's the trick: you don't find the time, you make it.

One of the things that is helpful is to have a plan, but to be flexible enough to expect the unexpected. Whether it is a sick child, a new project, or a shortened deadline, when you're trained to expect the unexpected, you can take it in stride and still accomplish your goals.

  • Sit down and look at your to-do list. Anything that isn’t a priority should be assigned a new due date immediately. Don’t take these tasks off your list or you’ll find reasons to keep pushing them aside.
  • Review each item that is a priority and see if you can still meet your original deadlines. If you know it will be impossible, contact your client(s) immediately and request an extension. Professionals don’t wait until the due date to inform clients they can’t hand in an assignment. Hopefully your clients are fine with a short extension so you'll have wiggle room to deal with your unexpected issues. 
  • Track your time. This will keep you focused on the task at hand. It also identifies areas in your schedule where time is being wasted. If you’ve just been dealt an unexpected project, now isn’t when you squander the moments you have.
  • Consider timed sessions as a way to get to the end. Agree to work in 15 minute intervals. Set a timer, begin, and stop when the buzzer goes off. Breaking your task down into smaller chunks will make it easier to handle, allow you to judge your progress, and keep you focused.

Once the unexpected wrinkle in your carefully planned schedule is over, take a few moments to think about it. Was it truly unexpected? Is there a way it could have been avoided? Sometimes procrastination or allowing ourselves to get pulled away by distractions creates those unexpected moments that cause stress.

How do you handle the unexpected? Any tips you can share to make it easier?



Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Little Shepherd, A Christmas Kindness, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving and the recently released, Amos Faces His Bully. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Writing, Submissions, and Working With Editors

By Karen Cioffi

Every writer, at least hopefully, will work with an editor from time to time. While we’d all like it to be on a regular basis, time to time is better than nothing.

When in the joyous situation (you’ve gotten something accepted for publication), there are some tips that will help you in your working relationship with an editor.

The first thing, even before you think of submitting your work, is to have your manuscript or article in the best shape possible.

Getting to the Point of Submissions

1. Be part of a critique group. Every writer needs the extra eyes of writers working in the same genre. Their insights and critiques will prove to be invaluable to you.

2. Revise and self-edit . . .  repeat and repeat . . .

3. When you think your manuscript is in perfect shape, send it to a freelance editor. You may think this isn’t necessary, but it is. Ask around for one that comes with recommendations.

Now you’re set; off you go on your submissions fishing trip. But don’t just drop the line randomly; be sure you do research and find the best spot – one where you know the fish are biting.
What this means is to look for publishing houses that are best suited to your manuscript, and ones that are accepting submissions.

After you’ve found a few publishing houses suitable. Read their submission guidelines CAREFULLY, and follow them just as carefully. Now it’s time for the infamous query letter. If you’re unfamiliar with queries, do some research.

Okay, you’ve done everything you needed to, and now you cast off. AND, you get a bite.

Working with Editors

Once you’re accepted by a publishing house, you will be assigned an editor. And don’t be alarmed, but that manuscript you meticulously slaved over, and even paid an editor to go over, will end up with revisions. This is just the nature of the beast—each publishing house has their own way of doing things. They will want your manuscript to fit their standards.

Note: the purpose of those long hours of writing work and hiring an editor is to give your manuscript the best shot of making it past the acquisition editor’s trash pile, and actually getting accepted.
Now on to 4 tips that will help make your editor/author experience a pleasant one:

1. Always be professional.

2. Don’t get insulted when the editor requests revisions. They are not trying to hurt your feelings; they are hired by the publishing house to get your manuscript in the best possible saleable state. They want your book to sell as much as you do.

3. Keep the lines of communication open. If you have a question, ask. If you disagree with an edit, respectfully discuss it. Editors are not infallible. Sometimes your gut feeling is right.

4. Take note of deadlines and be on time. This is your career, and in some cases your livelihood.

Hope these tips are helpful!


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move.

For more on writing, stop by Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.
While there, be sure to sign up for her newsletter and check out the DIY Page.

And, get your copy of WALKING THROUGH WALLS, a middle-grade fantasy adventure.



Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Favorite Books for Writers

Writing takes skill. It requires dedication and perseverance. It's about emotion and creativity. It's about finding inspiration in the mundane. It rarely comes easy. Sometimes you simply want to unplug the computer and chuck it out the window. For those moments, I'm sharing some of my favorite books for writers. I don't know about you, but I'm known to read about writing when the words simply won't come.




















What are some favorites? How have they helped when the story seems elusive? 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Strengthening Writing with Power Verbs: Letters H-R

          Four weeks ago, I shared some strong action verbs which create action voice, showing. Where do we find those power verbs? I covered the first part of the 195 verbs last issue: A - G . This issue, I will add action verbs beginning with letters H – R. Use these verbs wisely, though. Writing still needs clarity and coherence; verbs need to "fit" the meaning of the clause.





Strengthening Writing with Power Verbs: Letters H-R



         We want our readers to be drawn into and enveloped by our short story or novel, by anything we write. Boredom loses their attention quickly. Showing, using active voice, creates reading excitement. To avoid passive voice and to have active voice, writers use power verbs. To help know some power verbs, I discovered a list, author unknown, and added to it. Now, I will share the list I have to date, from H through R this article.

         Let's begin this part of the power verbs with some verbs beginning with the letter H:
• Hail
• Head
• Hem
• Heighten
• Hike
• Hit
• Hum
• Hurry
An example of using such verbs to show rather than tell would be to use the verb heighten, when the verb “fits”: The burglar heightened the sensitivity of his touch by rubbing sandpaper over his fingertips.

         Next, let’s look at a few verbs that begin with the letter I:
• Ignite
• Illuminate
• Inspect
• Instruct
• Intensify
• Intertwine
• Impart
An example of using an I verb is as follows: Violent riots ignite a tumult of damaged stores and vehicles.

         Next, we will look at J verbs:
• Jab
• Jam
• Jar
• Jig
• Jot
• Journey
• Jut
Rather than using an verb such as stick out or stuck out, use a more powerful verb. The ledge jutted over the canyon.

         Since I don’t have any strong verbs beginning with the letter K, we will go to the letter L:
• Lag
• Lap
• Lash
• Lead
• Leap
• Lob
• Locate
• Log
Let’s look at a sentence that have a powerful L verb in place of the verb list: The pupil logged all the exercises the teacher assigned.

         Next come strong verbs beginning with M:
• Magnify
• Moan
• Modify
• Multiply
• Mushroom
• Mystify
Now for an example: The combinations of numbers and letters in high level math problems mystify me.

         Some strong verbs start with the letter N:
• Nab
• Nag
• Nip
• Nod
• Notice
• Notify
The verb grab is often overused, so we can use nab in some sentences and add variety and more power in active voice: The police nabbed the criminals as they exited the bank.

         Next, we will look at verbs beginning with O:
• Obtain
• Offer
• Oppress
• Order
• Outlay
Get, another overused verb, can be replaced with “offer” sometimes: May I offer you a cold drink?

         Powerful “P” verbs include the following:
• Paint
• Park
• Peck
• Peek
• Peer
• Perceive
• Picture
• Pilot
• Pinpoint
• Place
• Plant
• Plop
• Poison
• Pop
• Position
• Power
• Prickle
• Probe
• Prime
Example: Rather than use see, we could use peek or peer, depending on what we want to convey: I peeked through the slit in the door; I peered at the fish swimming in circles.

         Our final list of verbs this issue is of those which begin with R:
• Realize
• Recite
• Recoil
• Refashion
• Refine
• Remove
• Report
• Retreat
• Reveal
• Revolutionize
• Revolve
• Rip
• Rise
• Ruin
• Rush
Example: Rather than use the verb know, we could use realize. I realized I didn’t understand what the teacher meant.

         I keep the full list handy when I write because the thesaurus found with MS Word often doesn't have the best list of synonyms, and it doesn't have any suggestions if I can't express what I need in one word. I will add power verbs from the final letters in four weeks.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

My 4RV Favorites

When searching for a publisher for your work, it's important to get to know them; see what they publish, read some of their books, figure out how your work might fit. I followed 4RV Publishing for years before I sent them my manuscript that became A Christmas Kindness. This gave me a chance to review several of  their titles. Here are a few of my favorites.


Eighth grade starts out the same as every other year for Breeze Brannigan. Then she meets Cam, the new boy in school whospeaks with an accent and must be from another planet, for none of the earthling boys she knows are so polite. He also has a secret, a secret that could mean life or death for Cam and his mother and that Breeze must help him keep.


For months, Breeze Brannigan has heard nothing from Cam, the prince she met at school and who disappeared one night without telling her goodbye. The night she graduates from middle school, however, he contacts her and invites her to visit Isla del Fuego, his home. Who could refuse such an invitation?

Breeze, along with her whole family and best friends, Amy and Allison, soon sail to the island, where she and Cam renew their friendship. But, danger lurks; a legend comes to life; and Breeze finds herself in the middle of a battle that can have only one winner.


Which has the better chance of helping, a wish or a prayer?


Joseph and his wife, Mary, expect a baby. With all that is happening, including the government requiring a census, Joseph feels a little overwhelmed and a bit left out of the preparations for the baby. Is there something he can do?



Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Little Shepherd, A Christmas Kindness, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving and the recently released, Amos Faces His Bully. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com

Monday, July 9, 2018

New Release - Why Does That Star Follow Me?


     4RV Publishing released a new children's book Why Does That Star Follow Me? written by Wayne Harris-Wyrick and illustrated by Andrea Grey.

      Many stars brighten the sky at night, so does every person have one? One child finds his own
stellar companion that follows him everywhere. Thus, a story is born.


     After 40 years as the director and staff of a planetarium, Wayne Harris-Wyrick retired to become a full-time children’s book author, and later joined the staff of 4RV Publishing as the Non-Fiction and Tweens and Teens Imprints editor.

     Wayne has been writing a monthly astronomy column for the Oklahoman since 1984, and has published a dozen astronomy and science fiction articles or short stories in various national publications. Wayne uses his astronomy and science background in his children's books, several which have been released by 4RV.

     Andrea Gray grew up sketching and painting and later earned a graphic design degree at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. She draws inspiration from other cultures, music, and folklore. When she’s not illustrating, Andrea can be found behind a camera lens or finding tranquility in the Oklahoma wilderness.  Andrea lives in Broken Arrow with her loving husband Brandon, son Benjamin, and two dogs.

     Why Does That Star Follow Me? is the first book she has so far
illustrated for 4RV. But, hopefully, it won't be the last.

      
    This children's book can be found and purchased from the 4RV Online Bookstore, through brink and mortar stores, and other online stores.



Sunday, July 1, 2018

Point of View and Children’s Storytelling

By Karen Cioffi

Point-of-view (POV) is the narrator's view of what's going on. The POV is who's telling the story. This will determine what the reader 'hears' and 'sees' in regard to the story. And, it determines the ‘personal pronouns’ that will be used.

Having this element of the story consistent throughout is essential.

There are three main POVs in young children’s storytelling: first person, second person, and third person (limited). And, in each of these POVs, the protagonist (main character) must be in each scene – the story is told through his five-senses. If he doesn’t see, hear, smell, taste, or touch it, it doesn’t exist in the story.

1. First person.

This POV has the protagonist personally telling the story. Pronouns, such as “I,” “my,” “me,” “I’m,” are used.

Example from “Because of Winn-Dixie:”

That summer I found Winn-Dixie was also the summer me and the preacher moved to Naomi, Florida, so he could be the new preacher . . .  (The protagonist, Opal, is talking to the reader – italics are mine for clarity.)

Notice the above isn’t in quotation marks for dialog. Dialog would be used if the protagonist talks to another character in the story or another character talks. See examples below:

“But you know what?” I told Winn-Dixie. (Opal is talking to her dog.)

“Well, I don’t know,” said Miss Franny. “Dogs are not allowed in the Herman W. Block Memorial Library.” (The librarian in the story is talking to Opal.)

Children’s books in first person POV:

“Because of Winn-Dixie (Kate DiCamillo)
“Green Eggs and Ham” (Dr. Suess)
“The Polar Express” (Chris Van Allsburg)
“Fly Away Home” (Eve Bunting)

2. Second person.

This POV uses “you” as the pronoun, referring to the reader and isn’t used that often in young children’s writing. But, there are some authors who pull it off very well.

An example of this POV from “How to Babysit Grandpa:”

Babysitting a grandpa is fun. If you know how. (The protagonist is talking to the reader, involving him. Italics are mine.)

Children’s books in second person POV:

"How to Babysit Grandpa" (Jean Reagan)
"Secret Pizza Party" (Adam Rubin)
"The Book That Eats People" (John Perry)

3. Third person (limited).

This POV is probably the most popular in young children’s writing. Pronouns, such as “he,” “she,” “its,” “they,” and “their” are used.

While this is similar to the other two POVs, in that they’re all told from the protagonist’s point-of-view, in third party, the narrator, is telling the story. He’s privy to all the senses and emotions of the protagonist.

Here’s an example from “Walking Through Walls:”

"You will practice by walking through this brick wall. You must repeat the magic formula over and over as you go through it.”

Wang looked at the wall. He tightened his fists, clenched his jaw, and wrinkled his forehead. This is sure to hurt.

“Uh,” he paused, “Master, what will happen if I do say the words to the magic formula out loud?”

“Wang, you are trying to delay your task. It is a good question though. Your tongue will cease its movement if you speak the words to the formula.”

Wang's eyes opened wide and he flung his hands on top of his head. Never to talk again! I am sorry I asked for the formula. What if I slip?

The narrator is telling the reader what’s going on. Again, he’s privy to the protagonist’s thoughts, senses, and feelings.

Children’s books in third person POV:

“Walking Through Walls” (Karen Cioffi)
"Owen" (Kevin Henkes)
"Tops and Bottoms" (Janet Stevens)
“Stephanie’s Ponytail” (Robert Munsch)

Be consistent.


When writing for young children, it’s the author’s job to make sure the story is engaging and CLEAR (easy to understand). One quick way to lose the reader is to mix and match point-of-views within the story. Even if you slip just once, you may very well throw the reader off.

One easy error is to slip in a second person POV within a third person story. How this might happen:

The third-party narrator is explaining what the protagonist did then throws in something like, Can you believe it?

That one little sentence has switched POVs and can cause confusion.

Remember to choose one POV and stick with it throughout your story.

There you have it, the three main points-of-view in young children’s storytelling. Which do you prefer?

Sources:

http://literarydevices.net/point-of-view/
http://www.childrensbookacademy.com/mondays-with-mandy-or-mira/second-person-point-of-view-in-picture-books

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For must-know writing and marketing tips, get free access to The Writing World.