Sunday, July 25, 2010

From Rachel Cohn

Writer Rachel Cohn (Nick & Nora, Gingerbread, and so many more fun reads!) says:

My favorite adage I often offer fellow writers is the very thing I most have to remind myself: Tell your inner critic to STFU. (Put more nicely, tell that devil on your shoulder to bugger off.) Get out of your own way and trust your characters. While you're writing a draft, don't agonize over what others may think of it. More importantly, don't second guess your ability to bring your characters to life. Of course you can do it -- that's why you had the idea in the first place! Take a breath -- and give that breathing space to your story.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

From Stephanie Hemphill

Award winning poet Stephanie Hemphill sends this message:

If the blank page or blinking cursor is giving you bitter blues and blurry trepidation, try to step back, smell the ink cartridge and remember what luck it is to be creating children's books or on your pathway there. Fear not, there is ample space on the road to children's literature for everyone, with a virtual book shelf for as many great books as can be dreamed, then penned, into existence. Stories are familiar; there are only so many plots when you strip off the wallpaper and paint and sledge hammer the drywall away. But volices are fingerprints, unique expressions of heart, mind and soul. Happy sentences and metaphors! Happy summer! Keep writing.

Monday, July 19, 2010

From Patricia Lee Gauch

Extraordinarily talented editor and writer Patricia Lee Gauch shares this:

I am always trying to get writers to get out of middle ground, this year, playing around with the word "transcend!": as a verb for writers. Understand your own capability to take a scene, like the last chapter of Wringer by Jerry Spinelli. There is a rhythm to it, but getting there takes what might be an ordinary scene, and brings it into the light. Middle ground is too close to mediocrity. Transcending in character or idea or moment gets the reader's heart beating.

Friday, July 16, 2010

From Emma Dryden

Editor, children's book industry consultant, blogger ( ), and founder of drydenbks ( ) gives this luscious tidbit:

I'll begin with a quotation from Boris Pasternak that I have hanging over my desk: "When a great moment knocks on the door of your life, it is often no louder than the beating of your heart, and it is very easy to miss it." My hope for writers, for illustrators, and for artists of any kind -- indeed, my hope for all of us who are trying to maneuver with sensitivity through this world -- is that we can stay flexible enough to listen, feel, remember, and not be afraid to reach for the possibilitites that the world offers us at the most unexpected of times.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

From Alexis O'Neill

Witty writer Alexis O'Neill sends this:

My Purely Practical Tip: Stretch your creative writing muscles by penning your own bio in various world counts -- increments of 10 words, 25 words, 50 words, and 100 words (also 250 words, but only if you have a particularly exciting and book-filled life). This will not only help when querying agtents and editors, but you won't be in a panic when you hav to craft your website's "About" page, your jacket cover and your introduction to hand to your host at a fancy-schmantzy literary banquet.

Friday, July 9, 2010

From Melanie Cecka

Bloomsbury's Extraordinary Publishing Director (EPD) Melanie Cecka writes:

I was recently chatting with an author who was having difficulty trying to distinguish the voices of his three main characterrs (two guys and one girl). I told him they all sounded like the same person to me, so I gave him my "be the stew" advice.

Me: Be the stew.
Author: Huh?
Me: You know, think of htis novel like a lamb stew.
Author: (silence, perceived by me as deep contemplation)
Me: Now think of the way a spoonful of the stew would taste.
Author: (more silence)
Me: Now describe each of the different flavors and ingredients to me.
Author: I don't think I can.
Me: Why not?
Author: I'm a vegetarian.

Okay, I made that last part up, the the (arguably, bad!) analogy I was trying to make is that a novel is a sum of its parts, just like the flavor of a stew is the sum of its ingredients. There's the voice of the author (or the tone of the book), and then there's the impression each of the characters makes, and the big or little ways they sound or express themselves. The author's voice keeps them all bound together, but each character's voice should still be identifiable as unique to them. This author's stew was "meat, meat, meat" rather than "meat, vegetables, broth"... Or, for the vegetarians of the world, "potatoes, broccoli, carrots..."

Friday, July 2, 2010

From Susan Patron

Stunning Newbery author Susan Patron writes:

Remember the paradox of the muse: she's not available to you until you've put in so much work that you no longer need her; then she'll fall in love with you.