Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Mentor Text Talk with Vivian Kirkfield PLUS GIVEAWAY!


Vivian Kirkfield is one of the most genuine and supportive picture book authors that I know.  She's participated in ReFoReMo for years and now her books are flooding the shelves! Her newest release is Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe, illustrated by Alleanna Harris.  We're excited to learn about how she uses mentor texts to write her beautiful books!

Do you utilize picture books as mentor texts?  If so, how? 
One of the first things I do when I set out to write a picture book story is to read similar books. I think you need to be aware of what the current marketplace is looking for. And it’s also helpful to see how other authors approach the topic. This is especially important if you are writing a nonfiction pb bio…you need to make sure that your story is going to have a different focus from anything else that is already out there.

This year, I utilized mentor texts in a new way and I want to share what I did because I think it might be helpful for other writers. We had submitted a nonfiction pb manuscript to an editor who loved it but she asked for a revise and resubmit…an R&R. I revised and we sent it back to her but it still wasn’t where it needed to be. The editor asked if I was willing to do more revision. I’m sure you know what my answer was. 😊 However, I wondered how I would figure out exactly what I needed to do…what was she really looking for? I googled the editor and read several interviews she had done – in each interview she mentioned picture books she was currently working on. Then I went to the library and took out those books. And read them. Cover to cover. Several times. I studied how each author opened the story – developed the characters – formatted the narrative – created a satisfying ending. I went back to my own story and revised using the knowledge I had gained from studying those other books. And guess what? The editor loved it – and acquired it!!! Stay tuned for more details as soon as that contract is signed. 😊



Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD?

There were several mentor texts that inspired me and helped me as I created MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD. I originally wrote it in 2014, soon after I took a class in writing nonfiction pbs. These are the books I used in the beginning:
Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Munoz Ryan (1999)
When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan (2002)
Me, Jane by Patrick McDonnell (2011)

The first editor who loved VOICES could not get her publisher to acquire it. That was in 2015. In 2016, the same thing happened with a different editor. And then early in 2018, the Little Bee editor received the manuscript. By then I had revised it many times…and still, even though she fell in love with the manuscript, more revision was required. I used the following books to help me:
Martin and Mahalia by Andrea Davis Pickney (2011)
Sit-in by Andrea Davis Pickney (2013)
Brave Girl by Michelle Markel (2013)
Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh (2014)

How has reading Picture Books helped you discover who you are as a writer?

What a great question! When I first started writing, I hadn’t yet found my voice…in fact, I didn’t really understand what editors meant when they commented that they ‘didn’t like the voice’. What is voice? It’s how you craft the words to create the mood or tone of the writing. And the more picture books I read (studying how those authors crafted their stories) and the more I wrote, the more I learned how to use words and various picture book writing techniques to establish the ‘voice’ in my manuscripts. Many of my critique buddies will tell you that they can pick out my manuscripts from a pile…I use the element of three, often have a refrain of some sort, try to use an ending that echoes the opening lines, and utilize lyrical language whenever I can.

Here’s a link to an article that talks a bit about voice in picture books https://www.darcypattison.com/writing/picture-books/voice-for-picture-books/

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

There are many ways to utilize picture books as mentor texts and I think the best way is the way that works for you. Here are a few ways I’ve tried:
·      Type out the entire story and observe where the page turns are, how the story is paced, how the author used language to enrich and flavor the text.
·      Read the story aloud and record yourself and listen back – observe the pacing, rhythm, flow of the words – do the opening lines hook you? Does the pacing keep you engaged? Does the ending satisfy? And WHY?
·      Create post-its for every page of your own manuscript and then place each post-it on the corresponding page of a favorite picture book that is the same genre as your story. See if your manuscript aligns with the opening/pacing/climax/ending. One of my critique buddies and kid-lit friends, Judy Cooper, shared this tip with me and I think it can be very helpful.

Kirsti, thank you so much for inviting me to share my thoughts about mentor texts! Using mentor texts has been an immense help to me throughout my writing journey and I’m grateful to you and Carrie Charley Brown for creating the ReFoReMo Challenge.

Thank you, Vivian!  I loved learning more about how you use mentor texts in your writing life! To win a critique from Vivivian or a copy of her book, comment on this post, specifying which prize you would like. If you share on facebook or twitter, you get another entry. Giveaway closes in one week.

Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing, banana-boat riding, and traveling around the world to hug kid-lit friends. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at national writers’ conferences. She blogs at Picture Books Help Kids Soar where she hosts the #50PreciousWords Writing Contest every March and the #50PreciousWordsforKids Writing Challenge every May. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found

103 comments:

  1. Way to go, Vivian! Thanks for showing how mentor texts helped you sell your ms!

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    1. And thank you, Tina, for all the help you and our critique group gave me in polishing up this manuscript all those years ago!

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  2. Appreciate the thoughts, Vivian - and have a wonderful publishing year!

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    1. Thank you so much, Robin...I'm so glad my thoughts will be helpful.

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  3. OO I forgot - would love a critique!

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  4. Wonderful advice, Vivian! Thank you. This post reminded me that my pre-ordered copy of Making Their Voices Heard is arriving today! I would love to win a critique.

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    1. You are a sweetheart, Rose. Although I'm not sure if any copies of MTVH are shipping today...the actual official pub date is January 28...Amazon had it wrong...but never fear...the book will arrive soon!

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  5. Rebecca Gardyn LevingtonJanuary 14, 2020 at 7:56 AM

    Vivian! Thank you so much for all these wonderful insights and tips! Congrats on all your success! I would love a critique from you if I’m lucky enough to win.

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    1. I appreciate your kind words, Rebecca...and your confidence in my critiquing abilities. Good luck in the giveaway!

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  6. So many useful ideas here. Thank you for your continued inspiration, Vivian.

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    1. Hello David! Thanks for stopping by with your wonderful comment! Hope all is well.

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  7. Hi, Vivian! Always a huge fan of you and your helpful ideas. I'd love a critique!

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    1. We all need cheerleaders, Laurie...and I'm so lucky to have all of you!

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  8. Wow, Vivian, I relay love that post-it idea. Great post and you know I'm in your cheer squad.

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    1. Yup...you are definitely in my cheer squad, Kathy...and I'm in yours!

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  9. So excited about this book :) I would love a critique :). One can never get too many critiques LOL

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    1. I'm excited, too, my friend! And you are right, Lynne Marie...one can never have too many critiques!

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  10. Love the Post-It pacing technique! Hats off to Judy for developing it and to you for sharing it! So thrilled to have another stellar Kirkfield title for my bookshelf.

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    1. Hats off to Judy, for sure. And thank you so much, Cathy...I got a flash of an image of a shelf with my books...it made me smile!

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  11. Thanks for sharing these mentor text tips, Vivian. I had never see the post-it pacing technique. Can't wait to try it myself.

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    1. Judy's idea was new to me also...and it's so clever...I was thrilled she said I could share it!

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  12. Well done, Vivian! This post is very helpful. I like how you outlined the different stages of revision (and the use of mentor texts). And I believe today is Happy Book Birthday! Yay! I'm planning on popping your book on my blog again. I've learned so much watching your excitement and adventures in the lead up to the arrival of Making Their Voices Heard! Congratulations!

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    1. VOICES snuck in a bit early to get an extra piece of birthday cake, I'm afraid. Amazon had the wrong pub date...it's really January 28...so please save some of those birthday wishes for the end of the month, Angie. :)

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  13. Vivian, congratulations on your newest book and for sharing Judy Cooper's post-it aligning technique. What a great way to check pacing, page turns, and flow! Wishing you the best in 2020!

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    1. Thank you so much, my friend. Right back at you with those good wishes!

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  14. What a helpful post with concrete techniques to try! Thank you, Vivian! Congratulations on all your success! I’d love a critique. Happy writing.

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    1. Thank you so much, Candace...glad you found concrete techniques to try!

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  15. Great interview! Congrats again on the book, Vivian. I would love a critique from you. Thanks for sharing about your books journey and your process. I posted on Twitter, too.

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the Q&A, Kim! And I appreciate you sharing the post!

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  16. Congratulations on your book, Vivian. I'm looking forward to reading it.

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    1. Thank you for the good wishes, Debra. I hope you enjoy the book!

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  17. Vivian, you continue to AMAZE me! Your writing wisdom and heartfelt support for all authors are welcome gifts. Since last year, I've recorded and listened to each story revision. That sage you gave me is truly is helping to fine-tune my text into the "magical" language of storytelling. Also, this week I reread your Critique Commentary of one of my stories and dug in! Suddenly the lights popped on. Thanks to your insight and encouragement, I'm in my GROOVE again!
    After reading this post, I better understand how mentor texts help stretch and develop a writer's voice. Thanks to you, mentor texts are now on my "To-Do List" when I travel to the library every Wednesday. Vivian, I truly admire your welcoming spirit and talented storytelling. Thank you for being such a spark in the Kidlit Community. Sending you motivation and blessings as you continue your writing journey...

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    1. Marsha...can I tell you how much I love your comments? Truly, they light up my life...whether you comment on my blog or elsewhere, your generous spirit shines through each sentence. It's a thrill to know I've really helped you move forward with your writing!

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  18. Love the idea of getting books the editor was involved in! A critique from the legendary Vivian Kirkfield would be an honor.

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    1. Ah...the legendary...oh my goodness. You are too kind, Cheryl...but it totally warms my heart. Thank you so much!

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  19. Great post, thank you Vivian! I am loving the suggestion about mapping a manuscript to a mentor text with post-its. Can’t wait to read more of your work, congratulations on your well-deserved success. If my name were to be drawn, I’d be thrilled to get a critique.

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    1. Yes, mapping the manuscript to a mentor text...I love the way you describe this technique...well done, Helen. And thank you for your good wishes!

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  20. Terrific specific guidelines on using mentor texts. Thank you, Vivian. Would love to win the critique!

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    1. So happy that what I wrote has resonated so well with everyone, Marty...always glad to be helpful!

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  22. What a wonderful and helpful interview. Congratulations, Vivian. You are such an inspiration. I would love a critique from Vivian if I am the winner. Thank you!!

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    1. I appreciate your glowing words, Lisa! And I'm so glad the interview will be helpful. :)

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  23. I loved this post re: voice and ways to use\research mentor texts. Good idea about reading interviews and finding books that are mentioned. Thank you for your time! Also....Blogger is confusing my email address - the one listed is incorrect: crystallamblit {{at}} gmail {dot} com

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    1. So happy you found so much meat in this post, Crystal...I love sharing what I've learned!

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  24. Vivian, you always have the best advice! Cheers to using your noggin to figure out a way to get inside the editor's noggin.

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    1. Hehehe...well, a lightbulb went off and I thought...aha...maybe I can get in the back door to discover what she is looking for...and it worked, Jilanne. :)

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  25. This is a great post. I've written bios of famous people and love to do the research. This post has great tips on how to do it. Thanks so very much.

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    1. I love that you are writing bios, Christy...and I love that my tips will help you write more!

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  26. What a wonderful post! So much inspiration and information! Thank you for sharing so many details of your road to publication. You are truly an inspiration! A critique would be wonderful.

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    1. And what I've discovered is that each road to publication is different, Mia. For each book with each different publisher and each different illustrator, it was a whole different journey.

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  27. Dear Vivian, I love your process and steadfast passion for each of your books. Thank you for your valuable tips on mentor books. :)

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    1. I love the way you put that, Gayle...steadfast passion for each of my books..yes, that is exactly it...I never ever give up until I've got the right story right where it needs to be. )

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  28. I'm going to try the post it exercise to help with pacing alongside a mentor text. Great post and I'd love a critique by Vivian!

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    1. Glad you will give the post it technique a try, Lisa!

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  29. Thank you for showing us many ways to dig into mentor texts in strategic ways to improve our own craft. It is always a pleasure to learn from you!

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    1. Awww...thanks, Carmela! I'm glad I could provide something of value for everyone!

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  30. Very insightful and greatly appreciated. Would love to win a critique

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Marietta...all good wishes in the critique giveaway!

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  31. Great interview and tips! Would love to win a critique.

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    1. So happy you enjoyed the interview, Sarah...and I love to share anything that has helped me.

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  32. Thanks for sharing your best practices for figuring out your editor. I'd love a critique.

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    1. It works best when the editor has been around for a while and has done lots of interviews, Rinda. But always worth trying, right?

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  33. Vivian, thank you so much for these great ideas on how to make the most of mentor texts. The post-it note idea is one I've never heard.

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    1. Happy to share...and thanks to Judy Cooper, I was able to share the post it note one.

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  34. Thanks for your wonderful insights. I take out as many new picture books that I can carry from the library. I read them and take notes. I've also typed them up to see how the manuscript looks without illustrations. If I'm chosen, I'd love a critique from you.

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    1. When I was a little kid, Carol, people probably thought I was a walking stack of books...I'd take out so many from the library...all you'd see was a little pair of legs under a pile of books!

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  35. As always, Vivian, you give the best advice and inspiration! I'd love a critique.

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  36. Fantastic ideas on how to use mentor texts. Thank you for sharing dear Vivian. This was an excellent post

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    1. And thank you for all the help you've given me over the years with all of my manuscripts, dear Diane! Without our critique group, I wouldn't be here.

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  37. I love this post and I'm constantly amazed and inspired by you, Vivian. This is your time to shine! I'd love to win a critique from you. I'll post this on Twitter now :)

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    1. You are a wonderful cheerleader and supporter of so many in the kidlit community, Lydia! Thank you for all that you do!

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  38. Such great tips in this article, I especially like the post it hint, will definitely try that one. I'd love to receive a critique from you, fingers crossed! Best of luck with your new book.

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    1. It seems everyone loves the post it idea...I hope it brings everyone great success!

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  39. I recently learned about Marilyn and Ella on an episode of You Must Remember This (a podcast). It's a fantastic story for a picture book and shows a different side of Marilyn that doesn't get discussed much. I'd love a critique! Vivian thank you for being such an active and helpful member of the kidlit community!

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    1. How interesting...I'd love to listen in to that podcast, Carrie...I'll have to see if I can find it.

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  40. Congrats on your book, Vivian! Thanks for sharing your tried and true tips. I'm finding how important research is when writing picture books. My favorite times are sitting on the floor of the children's section at the library, surrounded by pbs, feeling five again. I would love a critique!

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    1. They say we need to remain child-like...I love the idea of sitting on the floor in the children's library...surrounded by books!

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  41. You always have such great insight to share Vivian! Thanks for giving us a peek at your process. I'm sure a critique from you would be a gold mine!

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    1. You are very kind, Amanda...I love sharing everything I've learned!

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  42. Congratulations on your book, and thank you so much for sharing your process. I would love to win a critique from you.

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    1. Thank you for the good wishes, K. Yin...and all good wishes in the giveaway.

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  43. What a great post. Vivian is always so inspiring and helpful.

    I'd love to win the book.

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    1. Thanks, dear Linda...your feedback has always been so helpful as I move forward with my manuscripts.

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  44. The great part of this interview is that it includes specifics! Many, many specifics. Thank you, Vivian, for again helping to pave the way. Would love a copy of the book. 💜

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    1. I tried to provide concrete examples, Joyce...I know that those are what help me the most.

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  45. thanks for sharing in this article enjoyed what you had to say. I would love to win a critique. thanks for the opportunity.

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment, Kathy...glad you enjoyed the post.

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  46. Love the advice about typing out mentor texts! Thank you!

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    1. If you haven't dont that yet, Julie, give it a try.

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  47. Thank you so much for sharing; I'm inspired! I'm excited to learn as much as I can about the making of picture books and this was a lovely insight into your process of using mentor books. I'm going to go "tweet" now and I would love a critique. Thank you again!

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    1. Hurray for inspiration, Suzanne! And thanks so much for sharing.

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  48. That was some creative sleuthing you did to use mentor texts to discover what your editor was seeking. We often struggle to distill useful information from mentor texts. Thank you, Vivian, for sharing your tools with us. I would be delighted with either your book or your critique.

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    1. I truly love the search and discovery, Robin...hope my thoughts will be helpful to you.

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  49. Thank you for sharing how you discovered just what your editor wanted in revisions. I can't wait for my copy of Making Their Voices Heard arrives!

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  50. Brilliant blog post - thank you! I'd love to win a critique!

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    1. You are very kind, Lenora...and good luck in the giveaway.

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  51. Thank you for defining "voice" a little more clearly for me. I also love the post-it technique. I'd love a copy of your latest book!

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    1. I always wondered what editors were talking about years ago when I'd get a manuscript back with notes about my voice...glad my post helped you understand it a bit more, Rhonda.

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  52. I surfed in looking for mentor texts for a query I am working on and was delighted to find Mentor Text Talk! Very informative! Thanks, Vivian for sharing your journey!

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    1. Glad you found this, Gabrielle! And I feel badly that I haven't checked in with you recently.

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