Monday, December 30, 2013

The Kid Lit Writer's Alphabet

By Kris Kahrs

The Pen and Inkers are all busy writing our New Years Resolutions. This is a repost from New Years 2013. Happy 2014 to all of us.

By the same people who brought you The Pirate's Alphabet, Ms. K. felt inspired to share her version of the Kidlit Writer's Alphabet.  Please feel free to join in and share your own version in the comments below.

A is for Associate Social Media Editor, the job you take while working on your manuscript nights.

B is for 'But first coffee..', the first thing your brain says in the morning as you stagger to your writing table after another late night.

C is for Conference, where you spend the trillions of dollars you make at your day job to flog your latest YA, geek-cum-vampire masterpiece.

D is for Desk Cat, because (say it with me now), no writer should be without one.

E is for Earnest, as in the tone of the Query Letter you write to the editor you met at the conference.

F is for the thing that you said when you received your twelfth rejection letter.

G is for Great which is the chocolate you ate after the twelfth rejection letter.

H is for Hungover, which is how you feel after you drank the martinis after you ate the chocolate after the twelfth rejection letter.

I is for Instant Acceptance, which is how the newly published author you went to listen to at the bookstore described how her book got picked up after she got out of her Master's program.

J is for 'just', the word you did a search and replace on and found 54 times in your manuscript.

K is for Knight, the new character you add to your YA manuscript on the advice of your online critique.

L is for the Love letter you write to the agent who calls to request the whole manuscript after reading your ten page submission.

 M is for the Mantra (please buy my book) you chant the whole time the agent has your manuscript.

N is for the Non-stop fun you are having doing the revisions requested by said agent.

O is for the Opera you sang when the agent offered to take you on as a client.

P is for the Publishers your agent shops your manuscript to.

Q is for yet another Quick and dirty revision you do for each of them.

R is for the Riot you started at Staples when you couldn't find the right ink cartridge for your printer.

S is for the Salmon filet you cooked for desk cat (you had the champagne) when the publisher called to say they wanted your book.

T is for the cup of Tea you had (to keep your hands from shaking) when you went in to the Publisher's offices to sign the contract.

U is for the pair of Uggs you bought that you wore to Starbucks because you are a writer in L.A. after all.

V is for Very ecstatic because your agent says your book is on The New York Times bestseller list.


W is for Writing the sequel because your agent has created a bidding war for your next manuscript.

 X is for the Xtra large cup of Pinkberry you buy because you figure you can afford the big bucks.

Y is for the YES you screech when your agent tells you that a producer is interested in making a movie of your book.

Z is for zealous, which is how you feel about you and desk cat religiously getting your couples' massage on Tuesdays.

Best of luck to all of us in 2014!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Twelve Days of Writing for 2013

We posted this last year, but history repeats.

by Lupe Fernandez

On the Twelfth day of Christmas,
My true love gave to me:

Twelve Movie Options

Eleven Newbery Awards

Ten White House Invitations

Nine Weeks as Best Seller

Eight City Tours

Seven Keynote Speeches

Six Figure Advances

Five Book Contracts

Four Publishers Bidding

Three Books Covers

Two Editors Editing

and an Agent in a pear tree.

Have a cookie. You'll feel better.
If you're feeling a bit down this season, check out this 2.0 version of the The Twelve Days of Writing.

Until next year devoted readers, hasta la luego.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Spilling Ink. How to get kids (and you) to write


by Hilde Garcia

Spilling Ink.

Seems easy. To simply let ink flow out on to paper as their ideas evolve. Not easy at all. But if you think it is hard for us, try teaching kids to do it?

Well, two amazing ladies created a fabulous handbook that makes this task extremely accessible- and forget the kids- I use the book too!

Their book titled Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook by Ellen Potter and Anne Mazer is fabulously written and kid friendly. I used it two years ago when I taught 6th grade how to write a novel and the project was a hit thanks to the handbook. Now, I am introducing it to my 4th and 5th grade class and now the rest of the upper grade staff wants to join in on the fun.

What’s the fun?

Let’s write a novel, kids. Yep, and then publish it.

A bit crazy to undertake the way today’s schools are set up, but I’m that kind of nut. I like the road bumpy all the way around.

I remember listening to Gordon Korman deliver a key note a few years ago at an SCBWI conference here in LA and he spoke of how he got his book published at the ripe old age of 12.

He had all twelve hundred of us dying when he said, “I simply sent it in with the Scholastic book order since I was the rep and had collected the money.” It was something he’d written during those long hours in English class when the “coach” teaching his class was simply “not” teaching.

And they called him to publish it. Yep.

My students went nuts.

“He was only 12?”

“That’s so cool?”

“Is it the same Gordan Korman from The 39 Clues and Ungifted?”

“You heard him speak?”

“He’s just a kid like me?”

Yes, I tell them, he was and still is, if you read his characters, full of warmth, quirkiness, honesty and yes, they still sound their age.

Now that I have hooked the class, I start reading from Ellen Potter and Anne Mazer’s amazing book Spilling Ink. I have the kids at hello. Right there, on page 1. Some of it I act out. Some of it they read out loud. Most of it they identified and laughed at, but most of them feel the same way. “Not me, I’m just a kid.”

And I am here to tell them that size matters not and neither does age. A story can be told by anyone, at any time, although it usually helps if you can write or talk.

Then I do the next coolest thing in this awesome book- I take my character to dinner. My students were like, “What?” I said, “Sure just ask them questions. And to warm you guys up, let’s see how well you know your pals.”

I assigned my students the 15 questions from the book, which I have included here, and told them, ok interview your pal.

1. What is your happiest memory?
2. What makes you laugh so hard soda shoots out of your nose?
3. What don’t you want anyone to find out about you?
4. What is the best part of your personality?
5. What shoes do you usually wear?
6. Name some things that you are not very good at.
7. How would your best friend describe how you look?
8. What irritates you (i. e., noises, bad habits, personality traits)?
9. What are you afraid of?
10. Tell me about your family.
11. What does your bedroom look like?
12. What do you think of yourself when you look in the mirror?
13. What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?
14. Do you have a crush on anyone?
15. What do you really, REALLY want more than anything else in the world?

Now pay attention. Here is the number one most important question you can ask your character. Ready? (page turn)

What’s your heart’s desire?

Turns out they didn’t know their pals as well as they thought they did. They were truly aghast when friend A couldn’t tell friend B her favorite color and Friend C guessed the wrong team Friend D loved to watch play football.

And they have been in the same class for 4 years.

Over the winter break, their job will be to think of a character, real or imagined, they would like to tell a story about and then take them to dinner, using the 15 questions from Spilling Ink.

And that will be our jumping board for starting our novel.

I love reading what they write and seeing how it evolves. There’s one more component of this amazing project. I put the students into critique groups. Yep, peer groups. They print their new pages. Then share them with each group member.

I tell my students when critiquing to use the compliment sandwich:

TOP BUN: “Hey, I like how much you wrote.” (something nice)

THE FILLING: “Maybe add a line to explain the joke.” (something to add)

BOTTOM BUN “But it certainly is funny. “ (something nice #2)

There you have it. A compliment sandwich. Works with adults too, I hear.

But of course, we still have to publish it don’t we?

There’s a great website that let’s you create book that you can then buy called Tikatok. It puts your students in the driver’s seat.

Of course, there is constant reading and editing to help the kids mold a story when many of them can’t write a successful paragraph.

But when the stakes are high and it’s something that matters like their idea, the kids really go the distance.

And subsequently, their writing improves by leaps and bounds.

It’s that easy. Stuck on starting a new project? Well….

Think of a character you’d like to write about.

Take your character to dinner.

You never know what they might order.

Thanks Ellen and Anne for such an amazing tool that parents, teachers and writers can use to continue writing stories that Scholastic and others might want to publish from the Scholastic Book order envelope. (I know! That still just cracks me up!)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Interview with Author/Illustrator
K.C. Snider and a Giveaway


By Susan J. Berger
Meet K.C. Snider author/illustrator of the wordless picture book Silence

I met K.C.  in July of 2009. I drove to Santa Maria to meet K.C. and fellow Guardian Angel Publishing author Marilee Crow at their book event at the Santa Barbara County Fair.  I fell in love with KC’s energy and enthusiasm and her book covers. I own several of the forty odd books K.C. illustrated for Guardian Angel Publishing.

We became friends and she introduced me to the wordless picture book, Chalk. It was obvious KC adored the book. Once I read it, so did I. We got into a discussion about the beauty of a story told only in pictures. While at a book signing in St Louis I showed K.C. another wordless picture book (neither of us can remember the title) and said, “You could do that. I bet it would be wonderful.  Why don’t you write one?”
KC turned to her friend and publisher, Lynda Burch and said "If I wrote one, would you publish it?" Lynda replied, "In a red hot minute. It’s taken three years because KC had lots of contracts for illustrations and she had to sandwich this book in. was published last month and WOW!
I instantly fell in love with the breathtaking artwork and the story possibilities on each page. I can’t wait to grab a child and let them tell me the story.
I asked KC if I could interview her for the blog. (You will find K.C. on Amazon as both KC and K.C. Snider so I thought I would use both spellings.)

Pen and Ink: When did you become an illustrator? 
K.C.:  I started doing it professionally in 2007.  I studied to become an illustrator at the Eugene School of Arts.

Pen and Ink: How did you learn your craft? 
K.C.:  I took 2 years in commercial art school.  After graduating, I taught Fine Arts for Lane and Linn-Benton Community colleges for 17 years.   I was a Western Fine Artist because illustrating was, and still is, a very difficult field to enter.  I won many fine arts awards and made a good living from selling my work.

Pen and Ink: Who discovered you? 
K.C.:  Mary Kelso, one of Guardian Angel Publishing’s authors, asked me to illustrate a children’s book for her.  We planned to self-publish that first book, The Christmas Angel, when Mary found out about Guardian Angel Publishing and submitted the book.  We were very pleased when it was accepted!  Guardian Angel Publishing was starting out, too, and liked my work.  Lynda Burch began making requests of me to illustrate books from other authors.

Pen and Ink: When you were a child what books influenced you the most? 
K.C.:  I loved the stories my Mom read to me from the Jack and Jill magazines that were written in series format.  There’s no particular book, just the stories from the magazine that caught my attention the most. 

Pen and Ink: You draw fantasy, reality and humor. What kind of things did you like to draw as a child? 
K.C.:  I loved to draw horses and people.  I would spend hours and hours drawing them.


Pen and Ink: The Silence illustrations are in a different style than many of your other illustrations. How do you decide what style you will use to illustrate a book? 
K.C.:  Lynda sends me the manuscript and we discuss it.  It depends on the story.   Some , like Stilts the Stork, would not be the same, would not match the rhythm and rhyme, and would not lend itself to anything other than a over-the-top comic characterization.
Silence, on the other hand, had to be very realistic, almost like a photograph to understand what golden mantels look like and what their real lives are all about.   

Pen and Ink: How long do you work each day? 
K.C.:  I usually spend anywhere from 8-15 hours a day, taking breaks now and then.  I often work until 2am in the morning if a book needs to be back to my publisher, Lynda, by a certain deadline.  I can usually illustrate about 7 children’s books a year at an average of from 10-17 illustrated pages per book.  Silence has 27 illustrations as well as several illustrations within an illustration.

Pen and Ink: What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate? 
K.C.:  I have music playing to soothe my soul, so it’s not rap or rock.

Pen and Ink: What gave you the idea for Silence? 
K.C.:  My publisher, Lynda Burch.  I wanted to do a wordless book and I didn’t have an idea on how to start.  Lynda had just been to Oregon to visit Crater Lake with me.  My daughter, Julie, worked for the National Parks Service for a time.  Among the three of us, we came up with this story.

Pen and Ink: I love the way some of the pages have inset drawings. Whose idea was that? 
K.C.:  That was my idea. I have done this before with other illustrated books and liked the number of ideas that can be accomplished with multiple pictures per page.

Pen and Ink: Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them? 
K.C.:  I am illustrating another book for Guardian Angel Publishing titled Angel Feathers by Carole Bloodworth.  It is another “realistic” style story.  There are 6 others waiting for illustrating in 2014. 

Pen and Ink: Would you share an interesting behind-the-scenes story about one of your illustrations? (Or a school visit?)
K.C.: We have been going into the local elementary schools’ fourth grade classes to give a presentation on how to illustrate and write a story. I usually go in tandem with author Kai Strand, also a Guardian Angel Publishing author, and we work together to help the children get started on their own works to enter into the 4th Grade Children’s Writing Contest in the Spring. This is put on by our local Central Oregon Writer’s Group, High Desert Society of the Arts, Deschutes County Library, and our local Rotary Club.

Pen and Ink: What well known illustrators do you admire most?  
K.C.: Norman Rockwell, I wanted to be as good as Norman Rockwell and I’m still striving for it.  I love his style and storytelling with his pictures.  All my fine arts work also tell a story in one picture.
Pen and Ink: Have you any advice for illustrators starting out. 
K.C.:  Don’t expect to get rich doing this.  Careers in illustrating are very difficult to enter, and the field is small with lots of competition.  If you are determined, grow your talent to be as versatile as possible both in media and styles.  I am an artist and I love what I do, so I don’t care about getting rich.  Fortunately, my husband encourages and agrees with me.

Pen and Ink: Is there anything else you would like to share with us? 
K.C.:  I’m doing an illustration show December 21st through the end of January at the Multnomah County Central Library in Portland, OR.  I will be there to sign books at the Reception on 12/21/2013.  This is a great book launch for Silence.

Thank you KC for doing this interview. You can visit K.C. at
KC has graciously agreed to give us a copy of Silence for a contest. To enter, please leave your email address in the comment. It’s truly a beautiful book.