Tuesday, August 23, 2016

THINK QUICK with Author Lori Degman

Hi Lori! Congrats on the release of NORBERT’S BIG DREAM.  I love how this story encourages children to break out of preconceived roles and dream big. All of the THINK QUICK themes below appear in your book. Let’s see which way you lean.  Remember, THINK QUICK!

 Thanks for having me here, Carrie!  I loved all the questions!

On Pigs:
Preferred pets or farm friends?   

Farm friends.  Unfortunately, my town has an ordinance against pet pigs.

On Dreams:
Wish on a star or make them happen?    

Wish first – then make them happen.  As Katherine Paterson said: “A dream without a plan is just a wish.”

On Swimming:
Splash around or swim for life?    

Splash for my life.

On Goals:

Set them high or start small? 

Set them high.  As Norman Vincent Peale said: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.”

On Mud:
Embrace the goo or wash it off?

Definitely embrace the goo!  It may be messy but it’s fun!

On Conflict:
Press through or take a break?

I’m a classic procrastinator, so I’m apt to take a break!

On Friends:
Roll with one pack or splatter some muddy love to many?

I’m a people person, so I love having a lot of friends – but I also have a pack of very close friends. 

On Staying Motivated:
Reward your achievements or seek support?

I’d be nowhere without the support of my writer friends, and together we celebrate our achievements – big and small!  Whether it’s completing a story, submitting a manuscript or signing a contract!

On Training:
Push hard & fast or take baby steps?

I have short legs, so I’m forced to take baby steps J   Seriously, I tend to jump into things with both feet.

On Books:
Norbert’s Big Dream or Norbert’s Big Dream?

Norbert’s Big Dream!

Of course! And I agree!

Review (By Carrie Charley Brown):

Breaking out of the rhyming mold and into prose, Lori Degman shines in this character-driven story about a motivated pig with big dreams. Children will fall in love with Norbert's spirit. He's not afraid to follow his dreams and be different. As a bonus, the young reader will learn (without even realizing) that it's a pretty good idea to think things through when planning for a big goal. With winks at additional themes of friendship, staying motivated, and facing conflict, this story scores big on the teaching scale. (It's a great one for the beginning of any school year!) Illustrator Marco Bucci renders bright, colorful illustrations that make Norbert feel like a favorite cartoon television show. From cover to cover, Norbert's Big Dream is a work of art that children will adore.

Lori Degman is the award-winning author of three picture books. 1 Zany Zoo (Simon & Schuster, 2010) won the Cheerios New Author Contest and a small paperback version was including inside 2.2 million boxes of Cheerios.  1 Zany Zoo was on the inaugural Illinois Reads List and was nominated for the South Carolina School Picture book Award.  Cock-a-Doodle Oops! (Creston Books, 2014) was an International Literacy Association Honor Book.  Norbert’s Big Dream (Sleeping Bear Press, 2016) was released August 1, 2016.  She lives in a northern suburb of Chicago.  Learn more about her at Loridegman.com.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

August Mentor Text Check in and Challenge: Emotion

By Kirsti Call

What do your favorite picture books have in common?  Do they make you laugh?  Do you they make you cry? Chances are, your favorite picture books evoke some sort of feeling. Without emotion in stories, we don't want to re-read or even finish a book.  We revisit stories that resonate us and help us feel.

Here's the August Mentor Text Challenge:  Read at least 3 picture books that evoke emotion for you and ask these questions.

1. Why do I feel this emotion?
2. What words or events in the story evoke this emotion?
3. What amps up the emotion in this story?

Now read your manuscripts and ask yourself the same questions:

1. Why do I feel this emotion?
2. What words or events in the story evoke this emotion?
3. What amps up the emotion in this story?

There are so many books that use emotion to speak to our hearts.  Let's use them as mentor texts so our stories evoke emotion!

What books do you recommend as stellar mentor texts for emotion?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Author Josh Funk Talks Mentor Texts

By Kirsti Call

I first met Josh when he joined my on-line critique group 3 years ago.  His stories are playful, witty and fun for everyone to read. He's a great author to discuss mentor texts with!  And this month Josh celebrates the release of his newest book, Pirasaurs! 

Do you utilize picture books as mentor texts?  If so, how? 

​I read a lot of picture books. Whenever I go to the library, I grab every picture book in the 'new' section that I haven't read. Sometimes I'll spend an hour at a book store reading all the face out books (or anything with an interesting spine). Every once in a while, I'll walk up and down the stacks and pick a book or two at random with my eyes closed (take that, 'judge a book by it's cover' cliche!).

However, I don't consciously use any books specifically as mentor texts. It's more the accumulation of all the books I read that inform my writing.

How has reading picture books helped you discover who you are as a writer?  

Sometimes I read picture books with my children. Other times I read them alone. I'll often come across a book I like a lot and I'll read it with everyone in my family (including my cats) to see what they think. Sometimes I find a book I really don't like and also ask my whole family to read it to see if I'm crazy and wrong (the answers are usually and sometimes, respectively). In that case, I try to understand what it is that didn't click for me - and I'll try to avoid writing stories with those features.

Every once in a while I'll find a book I *love* so much that I have to share it with everyone. Immediately. I'll interrupt whatever you're doing to share it with you (this becomes a problem when people are using bathrooms).

This happened three times last year with ONE DAY, THE END by Rebecca Kai-Dotlich and illustrated by Fred Koehler, UNDER A PIG TREE by Margie Palatini and illustrated by Chuck Groenink, and BOATS FOR PAPA by Jessixa Bagley. In all three cases, I don't think I've gone and written any stories emulating those three styles, but they've all helped develop my attitude as a writer.

Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, Pir​asaurs!​, and Dear Dragon (or any other upcoming books)?

Of course, there's IGGY PECK, ARCHITECT by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts - a fabulously illustrated and gloriously clever rhyming picture book. It showed me that I could use advanced language in a book for children - like trestle, clods, Romanesque. That certainly encouraged me to get words like rappelled, legumes, and slathered into LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST.

Another all-time favorite picture book of mine is THE GARDENER by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small. I don't think I consciously thought about the fact that one of my favorites was written in epistolary format as I drafted DEAR DRAGON (which is also written in letter form), but it wouldn't surprise me if it played a part.

And while the final version of PIRASAURS! is very different, early drafts had more of a concept-driven feel in the vein of SHARK VS. TRAIN by Chris Barton and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.​

What do you feel is the BEST way for picture book writers to utilize mentor texts?

Mentor texts come in very handy when I'm feeling stuck. When I've drafted a story and sent it through critique groups, but something isn't quite clicking - that's when I search for mentor texts. Often times critique partners mention comparable titles when giving feedback. If someone says 'this story feels a bit like HAMPIRE! - I'll go find that book and see how Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen made that story work.​ Or maybe someone says it reminds them of SEAVER THE WEAVER and I realize that it's a little too close to Paul Czajak's text - so I need to change the direction up a bit.

And sometimes I find a book that I love so much that I wish I thought of the idea. It doesn't mean that I'll necessarily go out and try to write a story just like it. But every picture book I read informs and inspires the next manuscript I write.   

Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as picture books - such as the Award-Winning LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST (Sterling), PIRASAURS! (Scholastic), DEAR DRAGON (Viking/Penguin), LP&SFT: THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH (Sterling, 2017), IT'S NOT JACK AND THE BEANSTALK (Two Lions, 2017), and more.
Josh is a board member of The Writers' Loft in Sherborn, MA and the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences.
Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes picture book manuscripts.

Josh is terrible at writing bios, so please help fill in the blanks. Josh enjoys _______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played ____________ since age __ and his biggest fear in life is being eaten by a __________.

Find out more information about Josh at www.joshfunkbooks.com and on twitter at @joshfunkbooks.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Revealing ReFoReMo: Just the Right Inspiration, Liberally Applied with Lori Gravley

Lori Gravley was an active participant in ReFoRemo 2016 and we're happy to have her share her experience with us!  Welcome, Lori!

Guest post by Lori Gravley

My ReFoReMo journey began with promises I made to myself.  I committed to writing a poem a day in 2016.  I committed to writing a picture book a month.  Then, I committed to reading 1,000 picture books in the year.  That led me to ReFoReMo.

I joined ReFoReMo in March because it seemed like a great way to access a reading list beyond the new shelf and best book lists. And, I’d gotten a little tired.  By the end of February, I had run out of the driving inspiration to write poems that wakes me in the middle of the night or makes me pull over on the side of the road to write a line down. I needed something to inspire new ways of seeing my work and the world.

The wonderful list that Carrie and Kirsti sent out was just the inspiration I needed.  With list in hand at the end of February, I ordered books I’d never heard of.  Using the mentor text worksheet that I adapted from Romelle Broas, I started reading and taking notes on the books.

When Tammi Sauer talked about different structures on Day 5, it inspired a daily poem that became a picture book draft, a “How To” book draft. A draft I would not have written without  ReFoReMo and my practice of writing a poem a day.  ReFoReMo gave me the inspiration.  My poem-a-day promise gave me the motivation.  On day five, I checked off each item from my list.  Poem, done. Picture book, complete. Picture books, ten more books read.

Sure, I would have written a picture book draft in March, even without the reading challenges, but the picture book draft I produced has the potential to become a beautiful, highly marketable book.  It was a way to tell about something I’m passionate about in a new way.  Without the ReFoReMo and the exploration of new forms of picture book story telling, I would not have written it.

Some friends tell me that they could never be a writers.  For them, writing is a challenge not a joy.  Because I give myself appropriate challenges, writing becomes a joy.  It isn’t easy, but it is wonderful when the reading and writing worlds collide to make something new.  In my case, picture books full of possibility and (hopefully) responsive to the market’s current needs.

Challenge yourself to read and challenge yourself to write, then see how those worlds collide to form something wonderful.

Lori Gravley writes poems for adults and books for children.  You can find out more about her and her work at www.lorigravley.com.