Month: March 2015

Vroom Vroom!

I had a fun-filled weekend attending SCBWI’s annual Writer’s Days conference at the beautiful Skirball Cultural Center.

Saturday was filled to the brim with tales of triumph told by authors who persevered in spite of naysayers, rejections, and seemingly endless revisions. They struggled, stumbled, grew, got back up and got their projects published. I feel privileged for having heard their stories and am more motivated than ever to follow in their footsteps.

Sunday’s more intimate intensives were a treasure trove of practical information and insider insight. I joined veteran author/illustrator Mary Ann Fraser’s outstanding picture book-focused lecture called The Write Stuff. Her well organized, comprehensive and interactive presentation left me with much to chew on.

In particular, Mary Ann identified “character-driven” as one of several attributes used to describe successful picture books. It’s a coveted quality that makes agents and editors salivate. I’m more interested than ever in answering this question:

How can I get my main characters into the driver’s seat?

young_driver_in_a_compact_car_cartoon_0071-1006-2115-2550_SMU

 

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned.

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How Can I Read More Picture Books?

Everyone agrees that if you hope to one day craft picture book stories you must start by reading as many stupendous, exciting, and beloved examples of published picture books as you can lay your eager writer hands on.

But averaging $15 a pop for new copies, paying for a pile of PBs might not be the most budget-friendly choice.

Om nom nom

So what’s the next best alternative? When it comes to checking out new and popular releases, I like to spend time in the children’s section of book stores flipping through freshly pressed pages and reacquainting my knees and back with the joys of floors and tiny plastic furniture. Don’t judge!

But those big book stores aren’t as plentiful or as near to home as they were only a few years ago. Making time to visit them regularly can be a challenge.

That’s why libraries are my second favorite haunt. Sure, their books aren’t as shiny and new (some are downright battered), and the titles, particularly the new and popular ones, aren’t always available. But their collections are HUGE and if you haven’t got all day to sit there reading them, you can borrow a stack for quiet and comfy (re: adult-sized furniture) home consumption.

Time spent with borrowed books means more opportunities to analyze what makes a story successful. Ask yourself if your own works in progress have the same ingredients that make the book in your hands so darn juicy and irresistible.

But what if you’re both frugal and a homebody? For you, there may be an even better (re: lazier) library option – web lending. For example, card-carrying members of the Los Angeles County Library have access to free Overdrive software which lets you borrow up to ten titles (including PBs!) from their extensive (and growing) e-collections. Popular titles that are currently “checked out” can be placed on hold and you’ll receive an email once they’re available. You get to keep downloads on your computer or portable reader for up to 14 days, just like physical books. And you never have to leave home to return your selections. Technology rocks!

What are some of your favorite ways to consume loads of picture books on a budget?