Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Review: Joy and Mary Save Christmas by Wayne Harris-Wyrick


Joy and Mary Save Christmas
by Wayne Harris-Wyrick, illustrated by Carrie Salazar
Review by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

 

Joy and her friend, Mary, are taken on a magical adventure to help Santa and the elves when stolen presents and electrical problems hit the North Pole in Joy and Mary Save Christmas by Wayne Harris-Wyrick. 

While playing in Joy’s backyard and lamenting the lack of snow in Oklahoma City at Christmastime, the two girls find themselves transported to the North Pole, where an upset Santa Claus begs for their help. Thanks to Joy’s photographic memory and Mary’s eagerness to help, Christmas might just be saved. 

What a fun, magical adventure. Harris-Wyrick has created a seasonal story filled with Christmas magic that will have everyone believing in Santa Claus. Inspired by a dream, this delightful story will charm tweens and teens with inventions only the North Pole might have.

Artist Carrie Salazar provided the cover art and interior illustrations for Joy and Mary Save Christmas. The snowy scenes and glimpses into Santa’s world are so sweet and relay such emotion the reader will feel like they are right there alongside Joy and Mary as they work to save Christmas.

If you enjoy seasonal stories filled with special magic, you need to pick up a copy of Joy and Mary Save Christmas.

Joy and Mary Save Christmas and other books by Wayne Harris-Wyrick are available at www.4rvpublishing.com and other online retailers. 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Writing Fiction vs. Writing Nonfiction


  

By Karen Cioffi
 
Writing fiction and writing nonfiction have some distinct similarities and differences.

But, before we get into that, let’s find out the definitions of fiction and nonfiction:

Fiction: According to Merriam-Webster.com, fiction is “something invented by the imagination or feigned, specifically an invented story; the action of feigning or of creating with the imagination.”

Nonfiction: Merriam-Webster’s definition of nonfiction is “literature or cinema that is not fictional.” According to Allwords.com, nonfiction is “written works intended to give facts, or true accounts of real things and events.”

Now on to the similarities and differences.

Writing Fiction and Writing Nonfiction Similarities:

1. You need to start with an idea.
2. You can write about almost anything.
3. You need ‘good’ writing skills (at least you should have good writing skills).
4. You need to have a beginning, middle, and end to the story.
5. You need to have an engaging, entertaining, informative, or interesting story.
6. You can work from an outline or you can seat-of-the-pants it.
7. You may need to do research.
8. You need to revise, proof, and edit your work.

Writing Fiction and Writing Nonfiction: Two Significant Differences

1. If you are writing nonfiction, you must stick to truths and facts, a nickel is a nickel, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, two plus two equals four, and 10 times 10 equals 100. While there may be some grey areas, such as perspective, circumstances, or circumstantial evidence leading up to a fact based story, the fact is always the fact.

As an example: According to “The World’s Easiest Astronomy Book” (9/15/2009) by Hiroshi Nakagawa, “The speed of light is 300,000 km (186,000 miles) per second, meaning that light could circle the Earth seven and a half times in a single second. Even at this incredible speed it still takes light from the Sun eight minutes to reach the Earth. That means that when we see the Sun, what we actually see is the Sun from 8 minutes ago” (p. 13).

These are facts. 

If you’re writing a nonfiction story about astronomy, these facts can’t change. Your story is limited to truths and facts. This is not to say the story can’t be amazingly interesting and engaging. The children’s middle-grade nonfiction book “The World’s Easiest Astronomy Book” can certainly spark a child’s imagination and interest in astronomy.

On the other hand, if you’re writing fiction, your imagination is your only limit. You don’t have to stay within the confines of what is known, what is truth. This offers a certain freedom.

If you want the sun to be ‘blood red,’ then it’s blood red. If you want to be able to travel to the moon in the blink of the eye, then it’s so. If you say a character can ‘walk through walls’ or is invisible, then he can and is. You can create new worlds, new beings . . . again, your imagination is your only limit.

2. In writing nonfiction you will most likely need to provide reference sources and add quotes to your story. This is to establish the reliability and credibility of your story.

In this case, you will need to reference the source of the quote.

If you notice above, in regard to the facts about the speed of light, I included the name of the book and the author along with the page number. These references substantiate the facts within your article. This makes your nonfiction story credible.

This is not the case with writing fiction. 

With fiction, you will NOT need information references for credibility. Although, it’s important to realize that your fiction story will become its own truth and you will need to stay within the confines of the particular story and realm you create.

The reason for this: every story needs structure and intent; it needs to move forward to a satisfying ending. If you move off in too many directions, you’ll lose your intent and most probably your reader. To ensure the structure and your intent remains intact, you’ll need to stay within the confines of the story you create.

While the similarities between writing fiction and writing nonfiction seem to outweigh the differences, the differences are significant enough for most writers to prefer one genre over the other.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, a successful children’s ghostwriter with 300+ satisfied clients worldwide, and an online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For children’s writing tips, or if you need help with your children’s story, visit: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com

You can check out Karen’s books at: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/



Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Review: A Baby Doll from Santy Claus by Vivian Zabel

 


A Baby Doll from Santy Claus
by Vivian Zabel, illustrated by Diane Brown
Review by Cheryl C. Malandrinos



A Baby Doll from Santy Claus by Vivian Zabel is wonderful story, set after World War II, about a young girl’s Christmas wish.

The war is over, and factories are making toys again. Ellouise’s parents take her to a store in San Antonio to tell Santa what she wants for Christmas. That’s when she spies a beautiful doll. But, how will Santy Claus bring her that baby doll if she is visiting her grandparents instead of staying home for the holidays?

Oh, my goodness, what a sweet, sweet story. Here is this young girl getting to visit Santa after the war is over. Can’t you just imagine how joyful a time that was for her? The author portrays such a time of excitement, which is further relayed by the colorful artwork from Diane Brown. Then, suddenly, all that excitement turns to worry as she wonders how it is possible Santy Claus will find her at her grandparents’ house. Zabel captures the true emotions of a child so well in this story.

If you are looking for a story about the wonder and excitement of Christmas, you will want to pick up A Baby Doll from Santy Claus. You will also find information about World War II, and readers will learn the inspiration behind the story. Truly a seasonal treasure.


A Baby Doll from Santy Claus and other books by Vivian Zabel can be found at http://www.4rvpublishing.com/vivian-zabel.html and other online retailers. 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Edit! Revise! Edit! Revise!



 
         For the past fifteen years I read and heard, “Don’t do any revising or editing until you have finished writing the whole story or book.”

         What! That goes against common sense and everything I’ve learned in all the years I studied, wrote, taught, and read. The reasons I disagree are several, but a main one (and I have seen examples of this too many times) is if an author waits until after he finishes and then changes something toward the start, he often forgets a later part of the story affected by the change but not adjusted. A story develops from the beginning to end, and once written, any change at the beginning makes differences later in the piece, changes that are easy to miss. Thus cohesion and coherence become weak and faulty.

         I know some “writers” who think any major editing should be done by an editor. Let me share something I found in the August issue of The Writer. According to Sam McCarver, the author of six John Darnell mystery novels,

                   In the time-intensive world of publishing, you may have only one
                   opportunity to intrigue an editor with your writing, your main
                   character and your story. And you must often do than within pages
                   – or the first few sentences – of your manuscript.

                   Editors are pressed for time and very perceptive in identifying good writing,
                   interesting characters and gripping stories, so they move fast through
                   your pages.

         McCarver goes on to say that an author must write the best story or novel possible: edit it, polish it, enhance it. Then he should read and make final changes – all before ever allowing anyone else to read it. Yes, before allowing anyone else to read an manuscript, the author should have spent hours improving a rough draft.

         Writing a story or novel is only half the job: Revising is the other half, a most important half, of writing. Ernest Hemingway, E.B. White, F. Scott Fitzgerald all admitted the need to revise and rewrite. Hemingway admitted he cut as he wrote, yet, he would take weeks to revise a book.

         McCarver’s article “How to revise your FICTION” gives eight steps for editing a person’s work. I happen to agree with his points, especially the one which states that delaying all editing until the manuscript is finished is a mistake.

         However, let’s examine this author’s ideas, as well as those expounded in many composition text books and believed by me:

1. Accept revising as the other half of writing. E.B. White stated that the best writing is rewriting.

2. Adopt good editing procedures. To produce a better first draft, one should begin revising with the first word written, making improvements as he goes. As a writer completes a day’s production, he should study what’s on the screen, if using a computer. If he sees a need for any changes, he should make them while they are fresh in his mind.. Then he should print what is finished.

         According to Chang-rae Lee, winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, he tries to polish as he goes because what leads him to the next sentence is the sentence before. "I find that it's hard to move on unless I've really understood what's happening, what comes before and where it's heading."

3. Review printed pages. Writers should print out the pages finished and set them aside to “cool.” Then they should read the printout with a pen in hand, noting corrections or revisions that will improve the writing. After making changes on the computer, writers should reprint the pages, adding to the pile of finished pages. Each day’s, or period’s, work should be the same: writing, rereading, editing, and making changes as one goes.

4. Identify errors and correct them. According to McCarver, three procedures are critical in the revision process: correcting mistakes, improving content, and enhancing the story.

         The first attention needs to go to spelling and punctuation errors, typos, grammatical mistakes, and inconsistencies in tense or point of view. Although such mistakes may seem minor to the author, editors expect manuscripts to be virtually free of any errors.

5. Improve content. “What you say and how you say it also must be polished to the best of your ability,” states McCarver. “Improving content also includes considering the structure and sharpening your word choice,” as well as re-examining characters for consistency, making sure the plot hangs together, that scenes are compelling and dialogue natural, and that all loose ends are tied up.

         Word choice is a topic for another editorial, but it is a vital part of good writing.

6. Concentrate on enhancement. Enhancement goes beyond making corrections and improving content and style: It means increasing the quality and impact of the writing. A techniques given by McCarver are as follows:

         * Inserting foreshadowing for greater event impact later.
         * Increasing the emotion in dialogue and thoughts in scenes.
         * Adding or strengthening subplots.
         * Intensifying the consequences of actions and events.
         * Adding twists to the plot.
         * Shortening flashbacks, if used, and including action in them.
         * Making characters seem more real, depicting their actions, dialogue and thoughts more naturally and powerfully.

7. Do that final revision. After finishing the whole manuscript, revise again.

8. Take one last look. After revising the complete manuscript again, the author should reread the printed pages before mailing them or sending a query letter. All errors and last minute changes should be made.

         All authors want to impress editors by providing a story that the editors cannot put down. Each author, through a manuscript, has only one chance to make a great first impression.


Note: “How to revise your FICTION” by Sam McCarver in The Writer, August, 2005, provided research material for this editorial as did several composition text books and notes from my files. 

 


 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Review: Where Did Panther Go? by Vivian Zabel

 


Where Did Panther Go?
by Vivian Zabel, illustrated by Carrie Salazar
Review by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Join along with Katie and Panther as that curious black kitty gets into all sorts of mischief.

One day, Uncle Chris brings Katie a new friend. Panther is a black kitten with mint-green eyes and a white spot on his tummy. They like to play games together, and Katie makes up a song when they play hide-and-seek that makes Panther jump out. But, one day, Panther is lost, and Katie fears he won’t be found. 

What a cute story! Where Did Panther Go? by Vivian Zabel is perfect for cat lovers of all ages. The first of Panther’s adventures, this series is sure to delight young readers. 

Artist Carrie Salazar provides the adorable artwork for Where Did Panther Go? That mint-green cover, the inside of Katie’s room, and Panther stretched out on the grass are some of my favorite images.

Zabel includes Panther’s Song lyrics, cat facts, and more! If you like cats or sweet stories, Where Did Panther Go? is the perfect choice.


Where Did Panther Go? and other books by Vivian Zabel can be found at http://www.4rvpublishing.com/vivian-zabel.html and other online retailers. 

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Building a Writing Career Takes Practice and Focus


 

Several years ago, my grandson, 10 at the time, was trying out for the All County Band in his area. He told me the piece he had to play was difficult. I told him that practice is a powerful tool. Just 10-15 minutes a day will help tremendously.

Obviously, the more practice the better, but my grandson, like so many kids today, has ADHD. Reducing the amount of time on practicing doesn’t make it seem overwhelming – it’s doable.

This philosophy will work for anything, including writing.

What does it take to have a flourishing writing career?

1. Learn the craft and practice it.

To be a ‘good’ writer, an effective writer, a working writer, you need to know your craft. The only way to do this is to study it.

If you’re starting out, take some courses online or offline or both. You should also read a lot of books on the craft of writing. Get a strong grasp of the basics.

We’re all familiar with “practice makes perfect.”

There’s a reason that saying has lasted. It’s true.

Writing coach Suzanne Lieurance says, “Writing is a lot like gardening because it takes constant pruning and weeding.”
 
You need to keep up with your craft. Even as your get better at it, keep honing your craft. Keep learning more and more and practice, practice, practice

So, what does it mean to practice?

Simple. Write. Write. Write.

An excellent way to improve your writing skills is to copy (type and/or handwrite) content of a master in the niche you want to specialize in.

This is a copywriting trick. You actually write the master’s words and how to write professionally mentally sinks in.

Now, we all know that this is just a practice tool. We should never ever use someone else’s content as our own.

A second way to improve your writing skills is to read, read, and read some more. Read books in the genre you want to write in particular. Study the books.

2. Focus in on a niche.

Have you heard the adage: A jack of all trades and master of none?

This is the reason you need to specialize.

You don’t want to be known as simply okay or good in a number of different niches. You want to be known as an expert in one or two niches.

This way, when someone is looking for a writer who specializes in, say, memoirs and autobiographies, you’re at the top of the list.

I would recommend that your niches are related, like memoirs and autobiographies or being an author and book marketing.

Along with this, focus produces results.

According to an article in Psychology Today on focus and results, Dan Goleman Ph.D. says, “The more focused we are, the more successful we can be at whatever we do. And, conversely, the more distracted, the less well we do. This applies across the board: sports, school, career.”

So, practice and focus your way to a successful writing career.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. Check out her middle-grade book, Walking Through Walls, and her new picture book series, The Adventures of Planetman.

You can connect with Karen at:
LinkedIn  https://www.linkedin.com/in/karencioffiventrice
Twitter  https://twitter.com/KarenCV
Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/writingforchildrenwithkarencioffi/

 

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Writing a Story or Storytelling?


 

A children’s publisher (4RV’s Vivian Zabel) commented on the difference between storytelling and writing. She explained that storytelling involves visual aids, whereas writing does not.

Granted, children’s picture books do provide illustrations in the form of
visual aids, they're not the same as storytelling’s visual aids.

I had never thought of this before, but once it was said I could see it clearly.

Storytelling

Storytelling allows for the use of visual aids, which includes facial expressions. There is also voice tone, word pronunciation, along with word or phrase stressing that help aid in conveying sadness, anger, fear, and an array of other emotional sediments. This is also known as voice inflection.

Along with facial expressions and voice inflection, the storyteller can also take advantage of movement.

Imagine telling a group of children a spooky story that has the protagonist tiptoeing around a corner to see what’s there. As a storyteller you can actually tiptoe, hunched over; and exaggerating the movement enhances the suspense. Visual aids are easy to use and are powerhouses of expressions.

Another example might be if you are telling a pirate story to a young boy. You can use toy props, such as a toy sword or pirate’s hat, while limping with a pretend wooden leg. These visuals enhance the story experience for the child without the storyteller having to create the imagery with words.

Writing a Story

Writing on the other hand depends solely on the writer’s interpretation of what the facial expressions, voice, mannerisms, image, and body movement of the characters might be. And, that interpretation must be conveyed through words that preferably ‘show’ rather than ‘tell.’

If you think about it, storytelling is much easier than writing a story. But, most of us authors are writers, not storytellers, and as writers we need to convey emotions and activity through showing.

In the storytelling examples above, how might you write the scene as an author?

For the first scenario of a spooky story, one example might be:

Lucas grabbed his little brother’s hand and pulled him close. “Shhh. Don’t make any noise. It might hear us.” They crept along the wall, barely breathing, until they reached the . . .

While this passage doesn’t have the advantage of the storyteller’s visual aids, it does convey a feeling of suspense and fear.

In regard to a pirate story, as an author you might write:

Captain Sebastian grabbed his sword and heaved it above his head. “Take the ship, men.”

The pirates seized the ropes and swung onto the ship. Swords and knives clanking, they overtook their enemy.

This short passage clearly conveys a pirate scene with Captain Sebastian leading his men into a battle aboard another ship. No visual aids, but it does get its message across.

You might also note that while trying to write your story through showing, you need to watch for weak verbs, adjectives, and a host of other no-nos. In the sentence above, the words, “barely breathing” might need to be changed if it reached a publisher’s hands. Why? Because “ly” and “ing” words are also frowned upon.

So, knowing the difference, if you had your choice, which would you prefer to be, a storyteller or a writer?

I'd be a writer!

This post was first published at: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2017/06/25/storytelling-vs-writing-a-story/
 

About the Author:
 
Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. Check out her middle-grade book, Walking Through Walls, and her new picture book series, The Adventures of Planetman.