Critique groups

I belong to a writing critique group at the local library. I’m the only children’s writer. It’s helpful for my middle grade writing, but not for picture books. Now I’m concentrating on the craft of writing picture books. I’m very happy that through the 12×12 picture books writing forum (write 12 books drafts in 12 months), I have found a picture book critique group. My group consists of non-published writers. The writing is still not at a publishable level. But we’re learning from each other. I have paid for professional critiques. Their comments were helpful, but they are expensive and I can’t afford to get nine paid critiques. Getting nine critiques from my group of ten bring out nuances that even professional editors have missed. Of course, I have to decide which comments can help and which don’t. By commenting on the others’ manuscripts is also a learning experience for me. I’m looking for a year of hard work. It takes five years to get a picture book published.  Learning, writing, getting an agent, getting a publisher, time for the illustrator and production. 5 years! I started writing late in life. It’s a incentive to stay healthy and live a long life!


Beautiful writing

Since I read an advice to write down a beautiful turn of phrase of sentence in books I read, I’ve been doing that since. Sometimes, I don’t have pen and paper with me, then I have to look them later on. A pain. I’ve accumulated pages of such sentences or phrases. Sometimes, I don’t like the book’s story so much, but I keep reading because of the writing.

When I revise a long piece, for example chapters in  novel, I’d look through the pages and see if i can insert  or replace with better, more beautiful words.

Here are some samples:

Her heart was dancing double time.

There was a whirlwind in her chest.

Loitering on the outskirts of life.

Seemed smaller, like a pricked balloon.

Wear and tear of anxiety.

Sam Shepard

Recently, I heard Patti Smith interviewed on NPR about Sam Shepard, her good friend who passed away in July of ALS. That’s when I learned that he wrote either in longhand or by typing on a typewriter. He didn’t use a computer. That’s mind boggling. This playwright, writer and actor wrote without a computer in this day and age.  I also learned that he seldom did extensive revisions. I think that’s why his method worked for him.  It is so difficult to revise without word processing. You have to retype whole passages or pages. You can’t change the sequence of scenes easily.

In his final days, Sam Shepard dictated Spy of the First Person into a tape recorder and his daughters typed the manuscript. A writer to the end of his life!

Middle G and Picture Books

I am supposed to read 100 books of the genre i write before writing one. I’ve written MG and PB before reading 100 each and it shows. Now, I’ve been reading many of those ( not really counting). I’ve selected books recommended by the N.Y. Tims book review, agents and authors. I find that I don’t always like these recommended books. In the future, I’ll blog about why I don’t enjoy or enjoy a certain book, if I have something worth while to say.

I’ve learned a lot from reading the piles of books from the library.I do believe my writing has improved even though I’m still rejected by agents.

I love my library!

SCBWI conference

I attended this years conference for writers and illustrators of children’s books. Of course, it never matched the experience of my  first one in 2012. By this time, there isn’t much I hadn’t heard before from agents and publishers. But there’s always a gem that stays with me from every conference. This year, it was the talk by Gary Schmidt.

He teaches a  creative writing course at a maximum security prison once a week. One prisoner in his late twenties, who was incarcerated for life, wrote a devastating piece. He was a youngster  on 9-11. When he learned that the two towers collapsed , he  wished that the plane would hit his building. His life was so terrible at that age! Gary’s point was that if there was someone for this child at that time, someone who looked over his shoulder, he would be where he was now.

On the publishing front, the panel of publishers said that ebook sales have peaked in adult books and it never took off in children’s books. Th good news is that independent bookstores are doing well. Unfortunately, I don’t have an independent bookstore in my neighborhood or eve a little farther  away.

Harper Lee and child’s point of view

In today’s N.Y .Times, this passage in an article about  Harper Lee  caught my eye: “Some reviewers complained that the perceptions attributed to Scout were far too complex for a girl just starting grade school.”  A great writer like she had the same dilemma as a newbie like me. How do you convince a reader that the child protagonist is capable of such thoughts. Scout is younger than the characters of my novels for children. Nevertheless, I have to find a way to do that. If the thought is appropriate or above average for her age, it has to be expressed within her vocabulary. Not easy.