Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday Tip #20: Research

Oh, this topic sounds terribly exciting, doesn't it? No? Well, hang with me anyway.

I recently wrote a picture book with sailors and pirate characters. As I wrote my draft, I did a little online research for some of the sailing terms and such. Found some cool sites, like the Talk Like a Pirate Day site and this pirate glossary. They were both helpful, but even more helpful was a night of sitting on the couch watching Pirates of the Caribbean! More than reading about the lingo, I really needed to hear pirates talk. The movie made that possible for me.

A lot of my "research" is done just by being observant of ordinary things and people. Not long ago, Corey and I were working on a story written with the voice of a 6-year-old boy. One line we considered was, "My tent had a big, huge rip." Should we use that line, even though it's not very poetic? I got my answer a few days later as I was working with a kindergarten boy and the words "big, huge" escaped his lips! AHA! Kids really do say that still.

That's not to say that line might not change eventually. But the point is, a lot of my (and your) research can be done by simply being aware of what's going on around you. For me, watching and listening as kids interact with each other is a valuable part of the writing process.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuesday Tip #19: A Change of Scenery

I like to write at the computer. To let my fingers fly over the keys and see the words instantly appear on the screen. To be able to change something by simply hitting that backspace key. But sometimes the most uninspiring view is the computer screen!

When that happens, it's time for a change of scenery. I curl up someplace cozy with my 50-cent "composition notebook" and write the old-fashioned way. There is something about putting an actual pen to paper that slows me down, lets me take it easy. I can almost always ease back into my writing groove that way. Plus, there's something truly satisfying about being able to scratch over the wrong word (or awful paragraph) or doodle in the margins as I contemplate the next line. 

Try it the next time you feel stuck!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tuesday Tip #18: Knowing Your Markets

A recurring thing you may notice when browsing publishers' guidelines: they all say something like "know what we publish" or "read several back-issues" or "be familiar with our magazine," blah blah blah.

Okay, it's not really blah blah blah. It really IS important to know the markets. But you can't subscribe to every magazine or read 80 issues of every magazine at the library. There are so many markets out there to "get to know" and it can be overwhelming!

So what do you do? 

1) Whenever possible, really do look at an actual copy of a magazine you hope to submit to. Most libraries have a decent selection. 

2) Study the websites. If you dig around a publication's website long enough, you are bound to find writers' guidelines (try links that say "about us" or "contact us" or "FAQ"), sample articles, sometimes even theme lists.

3) Use resources such as the Children's Writers and Illustrator's Market (or Writer's Market for those who don't write for kids) and online resources. Some good online resources are: KidMagWriters (lots of goodies for children's writers, including publishers' guidelines and special reports) and Write4Kids

4) Take your time. You won't get to know all the dozens of potential markets for your work overnight. But the good news is that once you get to know them, it's pretty easy to stay up-to-date.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tuesday Tip #17: Play Days

Some times the best thing you can do during the day is NOTHING. Nothing except goof off and play with your kids, that is. 

This week is spring break, and we are taking full advantage of it. No, we haven't gone out of town to some vacation get-a-way or to visit family. We're not spending our days biking at the lake (though that would be fun). Yesterday the kids and I spent the whole day just playing. We started out with Mario Kart and then moved on to building a hotel out of Legos! We had so much fun and we laughed A LOT! Dinner, dishes, and any other sort of housekeeping had to wait until 4:00. It's been a while since I've just sat on the floor and played with my kids for such a long time.

Days like that are good for the soul!

Here's a picture of the hotel: