Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Summer Reading, Writing, and Beyond

"Stories rarely jump onto your computer screen in finished form. They evolve, evolve, and evolve again. That's one of the pains and one of the pleasures, of writing." --Ann Whitford Paul

What are you reading at the moment? For me, it's not YA, and not even middle grade, tho the book I'm now querying is targeted for that age. Nope, I'm reading picture books. Might that have something to do with the company I kept this summer? The trips to our library's children's hour, the books I read to those little ones? Not to speak of the times that three-year old Angelica picked up a book and "read" to me herself--a special experience in and of itself!

But thanks to Carla over at Carla's Writing World, I was reminded of a book on writing I have that got shelved and nearly forgotten: Writing Picture Books, by Ann Whitford Paul (2009). Carla's post prompted me to not only start reading Paul's book, but to pull some of my long-forgotten picture book drafts out of the file to review, reconsider, and maybe--just maybe-- revise and submit.

And so I confess I've been immersing myself in the child's eye view of the world found in picture books, and--happy to say--reworked a picture book manuscript of my own, had it critiqued by my writer's group this week, and now have it ready to go out in tomorrow's mail.

Am I spreading myself too thin, what with querying my MG mss, plotting a second book, and exploring ideas for other things? I don't think so. After all, we writers merely need to look at one example--Jane Yolen, author of over 300 children's books. On her website recently, she wrote:  "This is what I usually have out making the rounds at any one time: single poems to anthologies or journals or magazines, maybe as many as half a dozen. Short stories if I've been asked for them...Picture book manuscripts (as many as 20) going to particular editors who's editing style I admire and who's lists appeal to me. Usually between 3-8 novel proposals...While those take their long winding paths through the thorny publishing woods, I am at work on the books under contract. So I don't have to worry if what I have making the rounds takes its usual snailing way. I always know what my next day's work will be."

"And most important," she adds, "by spreading out the variety of things I can do, I am fad-proof. Yeah--I may not be the latest flavor of YA or kids's books, but at 72 I don't expect to be."

I'm breathless just reading about her accomplishments, her workload, her goals. Makes me want to explore all those subjects and ideas that have held my attention all these years. No excuses now. Age shouldn't stop us, if our creative fires are continually stoked!

So may we continue to play with words, create, open our minds to possibilities, expand our horizons--and write.

How many projects do you have going at the moment?

(p.s. My favorite Jane Yolen books? Take Joy, A Writer's Guide to Loving the Craft, and Dimity Duck, which is a darling picture book!)


  1. Continuely learning and starting new projects is the secret to a long satisfying life! Jane Yolen certainly is inspiring and I liked her comment about being fad-proof!

  2. I'm enjoying A Drowned Maiden's Tale right now. It's a middle grade novel, and I love the main character!


  3. Wow! Jane Yolen has some serious project effort going on! This really inspires me to get motivated for my revision and WIP. Thanks Kenda!

  4. I have Yolen's book too, and thoroughly enjoyed it. But Writing Picture Books sounds like a good read too. Good luck with your new picture book. Keep us posted. Meanwhile, I usually have more than one thing out, too. At present, several kid poems, two picture books, and two MG's. Cross fingers.

  5. Haven't read that particular Jane Yolen book, but she is a favorite of mine. I am currently reading an old series of books by Katherine Kerr - fantasy, of course, around the 11th century.

    My projects are far too many. Not counting WORK, I am rewriting two novels, thinking about a picture book I'd like to do, getting started with a critique group, and doing some marketing stuff for the book I self published a couple of months ago. Oh, yes, and waiting for the results of my son and daughter-in-law's "project" - a new grandson due any day now!

  6. Hi, all--glad you dropped in :-)

    Yes, Margo! You are so right--continual learning and stretching ourselves in new adventures is key to a satisfying life. May we continue to press on and not give up :-)

    Debbie--I'm making note of A Drowned Maiden's Tale. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Jess, Jane Yolen is my inspiration in lots of ways, too!

    Elizabeth, thanks for your encouragement--and good luck to you, too. Hoping to hear your submissions find homes :-)

    Peggy--you'll love "Take Joy," I know you will! And Katherine Kerr? Another author I need to check out. Thanks for the mention. Continued good luck, too, to you on your writing projects--and a new baby in the family? You know I think that's just wonderful!!

  7. Hi Kenda--I've dropped in late, but I'm so glad I did! I've been asking myself this exact question. Right now I'm balancing a nonfiction picture book for middle grade readers, a mg novel-in-progress, and research for a nonfiction book proposal, probably also for middle grade readers, and I've been wondering if I'm spread too thin. (Yeah, that burnout quiz had its source in real life....) My heart pulls me to work on several types of projects, so thanks for the encouragement to keep going!

  8. Wow, you do have a lot going on! We can always chat about children's authors :) And I like that about's encouraging me as I try to pursue (with what time?!?!) a study of Polish....:) but anyway, good luck with it all and Angelica LOVES to be read to by grandma. Love the pic!

  9. BTW, which picture book did are you sending out???

  10. Projects! I have several articles and queries out right now, but I'm especially eager to hear from my book proposal to New Hope Publishing.

    And then there are my projects that are people! Last night after we had one "project" for dinner and I was going to pray with another one after taking the first one home, Steve said, "So--will I see you sometime next week?" A good reminder to keep all our projects in balance!