Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rhyme Time Tuesday - New Children's Magazine

Spreading the news about a new poetry magazine for children.

Gisele Le Blanc, the former publisher of Dragonfly Spirit Magazine, has launched a new magazine devoted to haiku.

Berry Blue Haiku, a new online publication for kids, is now open to submissions. Her first issue is slated for June 2010.

For details, check her blog:


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Writer Wednesdays - Braided Stories

You’ve all heard of braided breads and French braided hair, but did you know stories need to be braided, too?

Braided stories should have three storylines, as each section of tresses in a plait. Writers who plod along on one story throughout the entire manuscript run the risk of writing a boring story. Readers need some unexpected happenings and this can be done a little at a time by incorporating three minor storylines into one larger manuscript.

You fold in layer by layer as the story progresses telling three smaller stories to keep the reader from losing interest. The reader likes to figure out plotlines before they actually get to the words that reveal them. What makes that practice interesting is the twist that overlaps storylines to surprise the reader.

How to braid your stories:

· Divide your story into threes

· Write each one separately

· Incorporate in story.

Some writers do this instinctively. Braiding makes your stories come alive. It connects the reader to your characters.

Let’s look at some examples of braiding.

#1 Harry Potter

Braid A – orphan boy neglected by his aunt and uncle. (family relationships)

Braid B – attends a secret wizard school (school relationships)

Braid C - discovers he is the nemesis if a most evil wizard (good vs. evil)

#2 Twilight

Braid A – teen-age girl is the mediator between divorced parents and moves in with her father on the other side of the country (family relationships)

Braid B – attends a new school, where she becomes mesmerized by a strange boy (school relationships)

Braid C – makes friends with the son of her father’s friend, complicating her relationship in Braid B

#3 Rock Star Santa

Braid A – Santa and his rowdy reindeer band play a Christmas Eve concert

Braid B – Boy wakes and thinks he was dreaming

Braid C – Boy finds clues that he really was a Santa’s Rock Concert

So get your story threads separated, start at the top and overlap until you come to the end. Secure with a climax and satisfying end.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Interview with Realm Lovejoy

Today, on Writer Wednesday, I am happy to announce that I have been interviewed on fellow author Realm Lovejoy's blog. Realm is a fantastic artist/illustrator. Her book CLAN will be coming out shortly.

She so graciously took the time to draw my picture to accompany the interview. I have the great honor of being the 1st picture book writer to appear on her blog.

You can read my interview about ROCK STAR SANTA at:



Friday, November 13, 2009

Rock Star Santa's Elizabethville Library Visit

It's Photo Friday!

Last Sunday Rock Star Santa and I participated in a special "Arts" series for children at the Elizabethville Library. Everyone had a rockin' time. The pictures say it all.

Thank you for a very extraordinary performance. My own children couldn't stop talking about it. We received positive feedback from everyone who attended the program.
--Bobbie Jo Trowbridge, Program Event Coordinator

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Interview with Gisele LeBlanc

Good morning Gisele. I'd like to thank you for stopping by for an interview.

Hi Gayle! I'd like to start by saying thank you for inviting me to your blog, and I'm honored that you wanted to share my poem with your readers!

1. What got you started in writing for children?

As far as how I got started in writing for children, it all started with the fact that as a child I loved reading. I remember spending countless hours in my room, totally immersed in books. My love for writing naturally developed as a result of that.

I remember one day in English class (I think I was in eight or ninth grade), we had to write a descriptive paragraph and then read it aloud. After I read mine, I remember everyone staring at me. Even my teacher was quietly gawking at me. I was so relieved to find out that everyone's reaction had been due to the fact that they had been captivated by my description of a babbling brook.

That was the moment I realized how powerful writing could be, how it can transport the reader to another moment in time and place--and how I loved being able to use that power. That same teacher a few years later encouraged me to keep writing.

I never forgot that.

Of course, life happened, and I only started writing seriously once I was in my late 20's, after I had my son and was lucky enough to become a stay-at-home mom. The first novel I worked on (which to this day remains unfinished, lol!) had not been intended for children, but my College English professor read it and said she thought it would make a wonderful story for children.

A light bulb went off and I've been writing for children ever since.

2. How long have you been writing for children?

I've been writing off and on for children for about 10 years now--wow, didn't realize until this moment that it's been that long.

3. Tell us a little bit about your path to publication.

I started participating in online critique groups and writing communities--where I learned a lot! Eventually, I started my own little critique group and began submitting to magazines. My first ever acceptance was from Wee Ones, for a poem about a spider.

4. Tell us about one of your most heart-breaking rejections and about one of your best.

You know, honestly, I can't say that I have ever been heart-broken by a rejection. I didn't take me long to get over the unrealistic expectation that getting published is easy. And from being around other writers that I met online, I learned that rejections shouldn't be taken personally.

I mean, sure, if I get a rejection, there is that moment of disappointment, but it slips off my back pretty quickly. Then, I turn around and send the submission off to the next publisher. That's about it.

And after being on both sides of the publishing coin, I know that rejections don't automatically mean your writing is awful. Neither does it necessarily mean that your poem/story is not publishable. It's possible that it simply didn't resonate enough with the editor, or there was another piece that grabbed them more. Editors are different. They don't all like the same things. Thank goodness!

All writers get rejected--it goes with the territory, but persevering is essential. At one point, I remember thinking maybe I was wasting my time--not with the writing, but with the submitting part--I was feeling sad, but nothing I would categorize as heart-broken. My first acceptance came in not long after that, so I'm glad I didn't give up!

The best acceptance was that first one, definitely. It was even more special because my son was beside me at the time the acceptance email came in. He gave me a big hug and we both starting jumping up and down like idiots. LOL! Sharing that moment with my son was the best, and knowing that he is proud of my writing successes means everything to me.

After that, the magazine acceptances started coming in fairly regularly--although most of them have been for online publications, so when I got my first acceptance from a print magazine (Our Little Friend) that was another exciting moment!

5. What made you choose to start your own children’s magazine?

I started Dragonfly Spirit because I loved writing and editing, and I also wanted to help showcase new writers. It was a wonderful learning experience, and I was delighted to see the magazine attracting seasoned writers as well! I had not expected that.

6. Tell us about your current job as assistant poetry editor.

Unfortunately, due to the economy, and needing to cut back on operational costs, I'm not with SFC Magazine anymore, but the time I was there made me realize how much I miss working as an editor.

And, I had actually been thinking about starting a little magazine of my own, dedicated to haiku for kids. Now I have more time to devote to developing this idea. So, I guess it's like they say, and everything truly happens for a reason.

7. Describe a typical day in your writing life. Are you a morning writer? An afternoon writer? A late night writer?

I tend to write mostly in the afternoons--mornings are usually reserved for my house work. I get distracted very easily and can't concentrate when the house isn't tidy! You could say it's become part of my writing ritual. I try to focus on critiques, catch up on blogs, and other writing-related things in the mornings as well.

I know that writing every day is important, but that is one thing I still struggle with. I often can't sit down to write unless I force myself into my chair and set my timer for 10 or 15 minutes. Then I take a break for a few minutes, then set the timer again, and so on.

After a few sessions, I'll often hit that zone and I can forget the timer for the rest of the afternoon. But some days, I need the timer throughout the whole writing session.

I might write a lot for a week, but then not write anything for several days. My brain needs time to recharge and process things. The ideas have to simmer. I also learned that this is a natural part of the creative process. I'll usually read a lot during those days.

I don't work on my writing at night because by that time, my brain has turned to mush. *wink*

8. Any advice for aspiring authors?

I would say write for the enjoyment of it. Be fully present when you are writing, and don't worry about finding a publisher. Make your story, or poem, or whatever it is you're working on the best it can be--and stay true to it. Always keep perfecting your craft, and believe in your writing and in yourself. Publication will be much more likely to follow.

9. Are there any writing books you recommend? Workshops? Conferences?

For writing poetry, I recommend Myra Cohn Livingston's Poem-Making: Ways To Begin Writing Poetry. This one is a must read, especially for beginning and intermediate poets. It's intended for children aged 9-13 but is packed with information and inspiration for all poetry writers--definitely one to add to your writing books. I give it a huge two thumbs up.

I also highly recommend Stephen King's On Writing because it's very inspirational, and for new writers, Nancy Kress's Beginning, Middles, and Ends. Both these books aren't specifically focused on writing for kids, but the overall information is good for most writers.

Another book that I've started and am really enjoying is Picture Writing, by Anastasia Suen. I've also heard many wonderful things about it, and about Anastasia's classes.

Besides that, I think it's important for writers to read a lot in their genres, and analyze what they read. Look at how things are put together. Writers should also read widely in other genres, read nonfiction, classics--read, read, and read some more. I believe if a writer doesn't make time to read, chances are they'll never make time to write either.

As far as conferences go, I've never been to one. There aren't that many around my neck of the woods, unfortunately.

10. Finally, where do you get your ideas?

I get ideas from reading, from things that happen in my daily life, from hearing other people talk about things. Brainstorming is lots of fun, too! Asking "what if" can lead you to a lot of ideas as well.

What if a certain theory you heard came true? What might result of it? What if all the bees in the world disappeared? What if it started raining Jello? What if whatever you touched turned into chocolate?

Look at the world around you with a curious eye. Ideas are everywhere.

To see what Gisele is up to these days, visit her blog Reflective Ink at: http://grleblanc.blogspot.com/

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Query Contest at Kidlit

Only a few hours left to enter Mary Kole's Query contest. I've entered with a YA query.

Good luck everyone.

Here is the link -

Spooktacular Rhyme Time Winner Announced


Today's the day when goblins prowl
vampires bite, and werewolves howl.

We've waited for this special time
to declare the winner
of Spooktacular rhyme.

"I vould like to announce zat after much deliberation on such vonderful Halloween rhymes ze vinner is--"

Gisele Le Blanc

Her winning entry is titled - BEWARE!

Creeping mist swirls through air.
Night transforms into its lair.
Creatures howl in pure delight--
Do you dare go out tonight?

Congratulations, Gisele.

Look for an interview with Gisele next week.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Tis the ghostly season...
A spooktacular reason
for a contest of rhyme
about Halloween time!

Come join the rhyming contest about Halloween. Take a look a the spooky prompt and create a Halloween poem suitable for children. Winner gets a free "Red Eye" critique from "First Peek Critique" services for a rhyming picture book on any topic.

Contest runs from October 13 - October 27.

Winner will be announced on H-A-L-L-O-W-E-E-N!

Monday, October 5, 2009


ROCK STAR SANTA is available again. I received the Scholastic "Winter Gift Books" Catalog last Thursday. It's on the bottom right hand corner of the first page as part of a Holiday Picture Book Pack.

This year it will also be sold in the December "See Saw" (Pre-K to 1st grade) flyer and the "Lucky" (2nd -3rd grade) flyer and teachers and librarians can order it directly from the Education & Library Division of Scholastic.

We're moving up. Maybe next year it will go to the trade division.

If you couldn't find it last year, now's your chance. Just contact a Pre-K or elementary teacher who runs a Scholastic Book Club.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Rock the house with Rock Star Santa! If you want him to visit your school or library just contact me here at the Storyteller's Scroll. I'll pass the message on by the Christmas courier. (Me)

Thanks for your support.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Photo Fridays

Coming soon to s school or library near you!!!

and his "Rowdy Reindeer Band"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Internal Rhyme

Internal rhyme is a rhyme that happens in a single line of verse.

It is also called middle rhyme.

Here is an example from two of my poems which exemplify internal rhyme.

The road was windy and cluttered with stones,

and the bright moonlight made the stones look like bones.

With broken shutters and a creaky floor

the house moaned “hello” when I entered the door.


On a dark and dreary night

as I read by candlelight

and the autumn winds howled through the rain.

A chilling, cryptic breeze

made me weak in the knees

and I thought I was going insane.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Writing Children's Poems - End Rhyme

What is rhyme?

So many people think they can write a rhyme, especially for children. They read Dr. Seuss and Mother Goose and think it’s easy.

Trust me. It’s not.

Rhyme is the agreement in sound between words or syllables. But each of those words must count in describing the story arc you are trying to convey. None can be added as filler to make the meter sound right and sometimes writers reverse the word order to make the lines rhyme. This is known as “forcing” the rhyme.

Since it’s Rhyme Time Tuesday I thought I’d start a short series titled, RHYME PATTERNS.

Today’s discussion will focus on End Rhyme, the most common.

It’s exactly what it says. The words at the end of the lines rhyme. The lines may be consecutive or alternate. Here are a few excerpts from my poems.

Alternate lines—

The red-veiled lady in the sky A

cures every ache and ill. B

A mentor to the butterfly, A

she takes away man’s chill. B

Consecutive lines—

Oatmeal cookies, chocolate drops, A

Coffee cakes with streusel tops, A

Crullers with a sugar glaze, B

Sprinkled cupcakes line the trays. B

Next week— Internal Rhyme

Friday, September 11, 2009

Monday Musings - Color Coded Critiques

Color-Coded Critiques

Revision is a daunting task. Some writers love it. Others hate it. I’d like to share with you how I revise my manuscripts. Maybe some of you do this, already, but when I met with my editor and editorial director, they were fascinated by what I described as my revision process. The editorial director asked if she could use it in her writing class to help her students. Of course I said, “Yes.”

Then I thought maybe I should share it with you, too. It was born out of my obsessive need for clarity, thus color identification for each critiquer's suggestion.

I write the whole manuscript, not stopping to correct or change. Then I let it sit for 3-5 months, while I work on something else, of course. Then, when I take it out to revise it, it’s like someone else’s work and I can see it more objectively.

I make the first round of changes in red. A second read through might alter a word or phrase in blue. Then it’s ready to be sent to my critique group.

Each of my writing partners is assigned a color (although they are unaware of it). Their comments and suggestions are added to the manuscript in green, purple, orange, and turquoise.

When I’m finished my manuscript looks like a rainbow, but it’s tighter, stronger and hopefully, more saleable.

I change everything back to black and begin my submissions. In fact, I’m off to submit a new picture book, this morning.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Children's Author Thursday

Well here it is September already and as I promised you last week we have an interview with Kevin McNamee, the winner of the "Fractured Fairy Tale" Rhyme Contest."

We can all learn from his experiences.

1. What got you started in writing for children?

My wife is a reading teacher and frequently brought home books she was using for her lessons. I started reading these books and thought that I should start writing them myself. One day, I was watching my nieces fight and it gave me an idea for a sibling rivalry story. That idea is currently under contract and is titled, The Sister Exchange.

2. How long have you been writing for children?

I’ve been writing since I’ve learned the alphabet but I think that I started writing for children in earnest around 2002. It was a long learning curve. I originally thought that I was a pretty good writer. But as I gained knowledge and experience, I found out that I had a long way to go. Some of my earlier work I’ve since realized is completely unfixable. I’ve come a long way since then.

3. It’s wonderful you have so many picture books coming out. When you first received your offer, what happened?

I was elated. It was finally validation that I didn’t stink and that I wasn’t wasting my time. So much of writing is spent working in a vacuum and usually the only feedback you receive is negative. So when somebody hands you a contract and says that they want to publish your book, it makes the struggle worthwhile.

4. So now that you have a contract, what’s it like to be on the other side of publication?

After I received my first contract, I started learning about the business side of writing, and about the amount of work that I still had ahead of me. Now I had to start thinking about things like websites, blogs, book signings, school visits, business cards, bookmarks, press releases, and all the other little miscellaneous stuff you need to do to inform people about your book, and to make them interested in it. To me, it was a little like climbing a mountain only to discover that you have an entire mountain range ahead of you. But after I stopped hyperventilating and uncurled from the fetal position, I was able to look at things a little more objectively. It’s like any other undertaking. It may appear daunting at first, but it’s manageable once you break it down into smaller pieces. It needs to be done though. I’ve worked too hard to watch my books go nowhere. So I plan to do my best to prevent that.

5. Tell us a little bit about your path to publication.

See other sections.

6. Tell us about one of your most heart-breaking rejections and about one of your best.

I met an editor from a major publishing house at one of the SCBWI critique sessions during an annual conference. He gave me his email address and told me to send him my story. After a couple of months, I followed up and although he couldn’t publish the story, he said some very complimentary things about my work. He also gave me his phone number and told me to call him to discuss ideas. We talked about what he was looking for and he even gave me the titles of books that he liked as a reference. He also agreed to take a look at another story I had ready. I proceeded to write a new story based on his suggestions and it was one of the toughest things I have ever written. I must have twenty pages of written notes for a six hundred word picture book. I changed direction two or three times, revised plot, edited characters, and polished the rhyme till it shone. Then, I found out he left the publishing house he was at. He was still involved in publishing and I managed to track him down at his new job. I told him that the story we spoke of was complete and even pitched some other work I had available. Without even asking to see it, he told me that it didn’t sound right for him and he wished me well. I was scratching my head here trying to figure out what was going on. I felt like this guy was grooming me as his next great discovery, and then I was unceremoniously dumped. I was disgusted and I felt like a jerk for all the time I spent on that manuscript. If I didn’t already have books under contract, I might have quit writing altogether. Although a writer friend of mine vowed to come up to NY and kick my butt if I did. I got over it though, but I did learn a sobering lesson. This is a business and what matters most is the contract. Everything else is just talk.

Ironically, the rejection of the first manuscript this editor looked at was also the best one. He had nothing but praise for my writing ability and told me if we could find an appropriate project, he would publish it. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Also ironically, that first manuscript that he rejected is also the first of my books to be released. It’s titled, If I Could Be Anything, and will be coming out this fall.

And that story that I wrote for him is really, really good.

7. How did you find your editor/publisher?

I’m a firm believer in conferences. I attend SCBWI and other conferences whenever I am able. I decided to attend an online conference called the Muse Online Conference. There were many workshops geared to children’s writers and I picked up quite a bit of information there. One of the sessions I attended was with Lynda S. Burch, of Guardian Angel Publishing. She invited conference attendees to submit to her. I sent her a rhyming picture book manuscript that I had been working on. I had researched the markets for this story and I wasn’t quite sure where it would be a good fit. About a week before Christmas, I get an email from her, along with my first contract. I have to say that it was one of the best Christmas presents ever.

8. What are some of the new things you worry about now that you have a contract?

After the contract, the main question seems to be: “What can I do to make people want to read my books?”

9. What was the editorial process with your publisher like? How many revisions did you have to write?

I’ll save this question for another time.

10. Describe a typical day in your writing life. Are you a morning writer? An afternoon writer? A late night writer?

There’s no such thing as a typical day for me. I’m a “whenever” writer, because I write whenever I have the chance. Right now I’ve been focusing on the promotional aspects ahead of my books’ release and have been trying to put together a new website. That poem I wrote for the contest was the first new thing I’ve written in weeks I have a full time day job and a family. So I try to use any free time wisely. I don’t know how many times I’ve worked out some plot problem on the train ride home from work.

11. Any advice for aspiring authors?

Take the time to learn the craft and to sharpen your skills. Join a good critique group. Go to conferences to gain knowledge and contacts. Be objective about your work and refuse to accept anything less than the best from yourself when it comes to your writing. Others will notice. The best thing that I ever heard an editor say is “talent always finds a home.” I believe it does.

12. Are there any writing books you recommend? Workshops? Conferences?

If you are just starting out, I recommend, Harold Underdown’s Complete Idiots Guide to Writing Children’s Books and Writing Children’s Books for Dummies. Regardless of their titles, they hold a wealth of information. I also recommend buying the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market every year to help target submissions.

13. Do you have or are you seeking an agent?

I’ll save this question for another time.

14. Finally, where do you get your ideas?

Someone recently asked me that question and after I gave her the answer, I realized how lame it sounded. I told her, “From everywhere.” It does sound lame but it also happens to be the truth. I’ve gotten ideas while walking through a parking lot, while watching a TV commercial, and from overhearing someone else’s conversation. It’s just these seemingly random things that I observe. Then I think to myself, that would make a good story. Sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m not, but I always carry a little notebook with me to jot down the idea while it’s still fresh.

To see what Kevin is up to these days, visit his website at http://www.kevinmcnamee.com

and his blog at http://www.kevinmcnameechildrensauthor.blogspot.com

Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Musings - The Word Scythe

When I started my writing career the first story I wrote was about a fairy. It quickly grew into a MG novel. Of course, I sent it to my critique group and one of them who shall remain unnamed except for the moniker of “The Slasher” (he knows who he is) had a field day. He cut paragraphs. He crossed out sentences, but what he slashed the most were “useless words.”

Through his thorough and thoughtful critiques I learned NOT to use the word “that.” It ran freely through my pages. Needless to say, it no longer does. In fact, since then I’ve become more conscious of these “useless words.” They still sneak into my writing and I’m sure they are hidden in yours.

This month I’m busy revising my YA novel. On the hunt for “useless words” I’ve cut the count by 1,000, with one half of the novel yet to feel the word scythe.

Try it. It makes your work tighter and your story more engaging. Here are the words I’ve cut so far:

Almost, actually, about, that, suddenly, only and just.

Once I’ve finished my revision I’ll come back with more.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It’s Rhyme Time Tuesday and today is the day we announce

The Fabulous Fractured Fairy Tales Rhyme TimeWinner

With so many clever rhymes to choose from it was a difficult decision. From Pinocchio, the surfboard, to Goldilocks hiding out in Rapunzel’s tower the rhymes were clever, humorous and a nice diversion from whatever other manuscripts we are working on at the moment.

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. The winner of a signed ROCK STAR SANTA picture book and a free full service picture book critique from “First Peek Critique” is “The Date” by Kevin McNamee.

An interview with Kevin will be available on my blog sometime next week.

For the rest of you who entered I’d like you to walk away with something, too. So if you would like I’m offering a general overview critique for free, valued at $25.00, from First Peek Critique for a magazine poem.

You may contact me here.

Thank you for entering the contest. Check back for more coming up soon.


Energized to Write for the New Year

 So happy to be attending the SCBWI National Conference this week. My peer critiques went well two nights ago, and energized me to see the p...