Friday, December 31, 2010

An Author’s New Year Message



An Author’s New Year Message
By Gayle C. Krause

A new year is upon us.
May our hopes and dreams come true.
Be that contracts or agent reps
or a new book or two.

May the novels that we wrote this year,
the picture books and poems,
impress a famous editor
so that they each find homes.

May your work be recognized
with honors and awards.
And may discussions of your stories
fill the buzzing author boards.

So don’t give up your dream, this year,
fight on with pure resistance
through rejections and passes,
you must continue with persistence.

So when next New Year comes around
and the newbies are still dreaming
you’ll be embraced by loving fans
and your smile will be beaming. J

HAPPY NEW YEAR!
MAY WE ALL SEE SUCCESS IN 2011!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Do Your Characters Dictate Your Story?


Some writers outline every detail of their story and follow it religiously. Others write whatever comes into their heads as their fingers hit the keys. I’ve done it both ways, though I must say I prefer the latter.

But my question remains the same. Have you ever experienced a character who insinuates themselves into your story or takes the story in another direction than what you had planned?

I certainly have. And I think it’s a cool phenomenon.

In one of my earlier fantasies I had a villain cornered in a cave. Soldiers, with weapons, were advancing on him from one side and wizards, armed with magic, had him covered on the other. He had no escape (as far as I knew). Then lo and behold he moved a rock in the cave, flipped a lever and a rocket type machine rose from the cave floor. He climbed aboard, flicked a switch and roared out of the cave above the good guys’ heads and escaped through the sky.

Nope, that wasn’t planned. It just happened. He wasn’t ready to be captured because he had more mischief to cause and more scenes to be in, only I didn’t know it at the time.

In a more recent contemporary novel my MC had no best friend. But a voice kept insisting she be in the story. She started off texting her, then calling her, then visiting her, until she wormed her way into the story as a full-fledged character. She was her best friend from her old hometown and her powerful voice made an awesome addition to the story.

That wasn’t planned either.

Another thing that characters do behind your back is change their behavior. Do you ever find that the characters you have drawn up don’t like the voice or personality that you have assigned to them?

Twice I have had characters change on me and wasn’t even aware the change was coming until I got to the climax of the story. In one instance, the MC’s best friend’s brother went from being a secondary character to being the actual villain.

And in another, an insignificant secondary character became an undercover agent for a secret organization and his role was all an act. He went from being a total jerk to being one of the good guys.

How that happens I’m not sure, but it even happens to me in picture books. A few months ago, I wrote a Halloween story about a cookie-loving vampire who had four monster friends, one of which was a girl skeleton. She was the least vocal in the original picture book. But that’s because she wanted out of the story and wished to be featured in a story of her own. Two weeks later, my focus went from the vampire to the skeleton and now I have a much stronger Halloween picture book ready to make submission rounds.

So tell me, do you have characters, who dictate their roles in your stories? I’d love to know some of your experiences with your characters.

Please leave your comments below. J

Oh, and here are some books I’d recommend for developing those outspoken characters.

45 Master Characters, Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt

Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood

Breathing Life Into Your Characters by Rachel Ballon

And my favorite….

Bullies, Bastards and Bitches; How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction by Jessica Page Morrell



Friday, December 17, 2010

Interview with Karen Orloff - author of "I Wanna New Room"



Welcome Karen. I’m so happy you’ve stopped by to give my readers the scoop about your new book.

1. Can you tell us your latest news?


My third picture book, “I Wanna New Room,” illustrated by David Catrow, (G.P. Putnam) came out on Dec. 2. This is the companion book to “I Wanna Iguana” and I’m thrilled it’s finally out.

Great. It should be as big as the “Iguana” book

2. If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?


When I was just starting out, before I had anything published or had even made a sale, I met Bobbi Katz, a well-published children’s book author and poet. She was very kind to have me over for lunch and looked at some of my work. I was grateful that someone with her experience in the field was willing to help me out. Over the years, we’ve kept in touch, and have shared good news about our sales and publications. When I think of someone who has been a kind of mentor to me, I think of her.

That’s pretty cool. Not every new author gets invited to lunch with a well-established published author.

3. What was your first published title and what was it about?

My first book was “I Wanna Iguana,” (G.P. Putnam, 2004).  It’s written entirely in letters from Alex who wants a pet iguana, to his mom, who is not too keen on the idea.

4. What inspired you to write your first book?
My kids, who were young at the time, wanted a pet and we had some issues with getting a dog or cat because of my husband’s allergies. So, we decided to get two baby iguanas. Even though I wasn’t all that excited about this idea, my kids never tried to convince me with letters. That part was pure fiction.

5. How long did your journey take to publication and what were some significant events along the way?

     In 1987, I left my full-time editing job to stay home with my first child. When I read picture books to him, I started thinking seriously about writing for children myself. I wasn’t an illustrator, however, therefore never thought I could write picture books. So I wrote a middle grade novel! I sent it to a couple of places and got rejected, then put it away, discouraged. A little later, I discovered that lo and behold I could write picture books without illustrating them! I started writing and submitting stories. It took a good ten years before I finally got a “yes!”

Yes. It’s harder than most people know. Some think it’s easy to write a picture book. They have no idea how much hard work goes into each word of a picture book manuscript.

6. Who/what were your sources of inspiration along the way? How did it/ he/she/they help you the most?

 I would say that my writing buddies have been the best source of help and inspiration for me. They are the only ones who understand the hard work involved, the long journey, and are also the only ones who will be brutally honest with me when something isn’t working. They have made me become a better writer and have also kept me going when I felt like I wanted to give up.

7. What was the best thing about getting your first book published?

 Having a professional validate that my work was actually worthy of publication. Walking into a bookstore and seeing my book on the shelves for the first time. And, of course, hearing kids laugh in the right places when I read the book out loud to them!

That is a great feeling so many new writers only dream about. J

8. What was the hardest thing?

Assuming that it would be easy from that point on to sell another book.

Nothing in this business is easy. You must work for everything you get!

9. What is your most recently released book about?

In “I Wanna New Room,” there’s a new baby girl in the house and Alex is annoyed that he is forced to share a bedroom with his obnoxious brother, Ethan, who “sticks crayons up his nose and barks like a walrus.” All he wants is some peace and quiet and a place of his own! Is that too much for a growing boy to ask?

10. How have you changed from your first published book to now?

On good days I am more confident about my writing ability, and on bad days I’m completely frustrated and think I will never sell another story. But mostly I’ve come to learn that publishing is a business, it’s not personal when you get rejected, you have to have a thick skin, and you’ve got to be in it to win it!

How true. That in itself is a valuable lesson for a new writer.

11. What are your current projects?


My fourth picture book, “Talk, Oscar, Please!” comes out in March 2011 from Sterling Publishing. It’s written in rhyme and is about a boy who wishes his dog could truly communicate with him. I’ve also written another in the series of “I Wanna…” books and am keeping my fingers crossed that this one will get picked up.

Great. Sounds like you’ve spent your creative time wisely. J Congratulations on two new books.

12. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I love when kids write to me or come up to me at school visits to tell me they like my books. It’s great when they ask when I’ll have another one out! Kids (and their parents, too) are the greatest fans and I am so very appreciative and grateful that I get to write for them. Thank you for reading my books!

13. Bit of wisdom to share:

If you really want to become a published writer, KEEP WRITING, KEEP SUBMITTING, AND DON’T EVER GIVE UP! Even when the years go by and you have a stack of rejection letters, like I have. Keep those letters as a reminder of where you’ve been and where you’re going.

14. And for fun, something that not a lot of people know about you: 

I was so shy as a child that I was afraid to raise my hand, even if I knew the answer.

Thank you for sharing your writing and publishing experiences with us, Karen. Good luck with "I Wanna New Room" and your other picture books. :)




Wednesday, December 15, 2010

WINNER of ROCK STAR SANTA Giveaway!

Well the day has come when an autographed copy of ROCK STAR SANTA will be flying through the sky to the winner. I’d like to thank all of you who participated with sharing your special Christmas moments.

I so wanted everyone to win. Luckily, random.org chose the winner. I counted up the number of entries and plugged them into the randomizer and it selected #11 as the winner.

Congratulations ***KELLY***. What a lucky break for Kelly. She is my newest follower and if she wasn’t the last to enter she wouldn’t have won. So it only goes to show that “the early bird doesn’t always catch the worm, especially if he’s a wiggily sort.”

Kelly, please e-mail me: krausehousebooks (at) yahoo (dot)com with your full name and address so I can send the autographed book your way. Please include any name(s) you would like the book made out to.

Lucky second chance! If I don't hear from Kelly within 5 days, a new winner will be picked and ROCK STAR SANTA will arrive before Christmas! 

Sneak Preview: Stop back on Friday for an interview with a fabulous picture book author. Her new book, the second in a series, has finally arrived in the bookstores. You going to “WANNA” learn all about her!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Vote for The Dreamweaver at Storybird

Hi folks:

Just found a cool website that allows you to write your own picture books by using an illustrator's artwork as the prompts.

Storybird

Weekly competitions and prizes. This week my picture book, The Dreamweaver, is a semi finalist. I'd appreciate your votes.

Thanks,
Gayle

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

ROCK STAR SANTA "Give Away" Just in Time for Christmas!


Well, here it is December 1st already and my 100th post has arrived with a special treat. Christmas is right around the corner and I’m giving away a signed copy of ROCK STAR SANTA on The Storyteller’s Scroll. Many fans have contacted me about how to get a copy and this “GIVE AWAY” is one sure way to get it for your favorite child or for yourself.....



All you have to do is to be eligible is:

  1. post a comment about “what you love most” about the Christmas holiday.

  1. become a follower of The Storyteller’s Scroll

It’s that simple. Then random.org will select a winner. You have two weeks to post a comment and the drawing will take place on December 15th, so I can send the book to the winner in time for Christmas.

If you haven’t already read the book, here is a tease –

It’s Christmas Eve. The tree is lit and children await Santa’s arrival, only they’re not tucked snuggly in their beds dreaming of sugarplums. They’re stomping and clapping at a Christmas rock concert where Santa is the “star.” Santa’s snow-white hair is in a ponytail and he’s ready to rock. The rowdy reindeer band includes Donner on electric bass, eerily resembling Keith Richard. Blitzen has a Paul Stanley-like star painted on his eye as he plays the drums, and you can’t help but notice the resemblance of Comet to Slash, as he shoots across the stage.

But Santa is “THE MAN.” He takes the stage, ready to sing and the lights suddenly go out. The child wakes to find himself in bed. He thinks he dreamt the awesome concert until Christmas morning when he finds a torn concert ticket in his jeans.  Confused, he stares at a silver snowflake, like the kind that covered the concert stage, flittering outside of his bedroom window. A note from Santa thanking the boy for being his biggest fan hangs on his window and green sequins from Santa’s vest glimmers on the boy’s floor. ROCK STAR SANTA is an original, modern day retelling of a Christmas classic, but what happens on this night before Christmas is rockin’.


I’ll start the Christmas ball rolling. What I love most about Christmas is –

The smells of the season!

·      The balsam tree that sends off a fragrance when the lights are on.
·       The molasses crinkle cookies and spice breads baking in the oven.
·      The cinnamon candles burning on the mantle and dining room table.
·      The logs burning in the fireplace.
·      And of course, the Christmas dinner.

If you'd like to get ROCK STAR SANTA as a Christmas present, you can email me for more information at krausehousebooks@yahoo.com.


“ROCK ON!” blog readers! Rock Star Santa loves you <3



Saturday, November 20, 2010

School Visits – A Ton of Fun!




I love to teach kids. For over thirty years I taught Early Childhood Education at a Career and Technical School to students who wished to become dynamic teachers. Then, I wrote about what I taught. Now, as a children’s author, I teach about what I write. 

Just this week, I had the pleasure of working with a great group of sixth graders at JT Lambert Middle School in Pennsylvania. What a blast! Thank you, Mrs. Symonies. Your kids were wonderful.

Introduction to Picture Books
Placement of rhyming lines
I taught three groups about poetry and one group the basics of writing their own picture books. I used my picture book, ROCK STAR SANTA, as an example of a rhyming picture book. 
Halloween Poetry Collection
And AN EYEBALL IN MY GARDEN as an example of a middle grade poetry anthology.

The poetry classes are making a sixth grade anthology for their class and the picture book group are getting their stories bound into hard cover books to be donated to a children’s hospital. What a great lesson in paying it forward!

Demonstrating "slant" rhyme
Rock Star Santa's rhyme & meter













I'd like to thank Mrs. Symonies's class for a wonderful day. 
This little poem seems to sum up my day with them It was great!


Mrs. Symonies Sixth Graders Rock!
by Gayle C. Krause

Thank you for having me at your school.
To work with you was really cool.

I loved the way you paid attention
to the poems I read and the books I’d mention.

Impressed with your participation,
our webbing and collaboration,

I must say I enjoyed the time
I spent with you, while teaching rhyme.

I won’t forget your Steeler tees
or crazy abominable talking trees.

Good luck with all your picture books.
Just don’t forget you need great hooks!

And for those of you writing rhyme
what kind of poem did I write this time?




Friday, November 19, 2010

Big Boys Don't Spy




Today, I have a special treat for you. The author of "Big Boys Don't Spy" has stopped by to answer a few questions about her work.

I first met Karen at an SCBWI conference eight years ago when we were both placed in a peer critique group. We clicked and shared manuscripts for over two years. During that time I was privileged to read the first versions of "Big Boys Don't Spy." I loved the main character then and he remains with me still. I hope you enjoy him, too.

So, Karen, can you tell us your latest news?


Absolutely. I’m very excited to share the news that my second middle grade novel, BIG BOYS DON’T SPY, a humorous story about a twelve-year-old boy obsessed with spying, has just hit the shelves. Although this is my second book published, it was the first children’s book I actually wrote—with the help of my three boys. And I must add my eldest, Thomas—a huge spy fan at the time, worked with me every step of the way (Thanks, Thomas!!).  It is available at most major bookstores and online at Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobel.com and also in the UK—Amazon.co.uk (as I am British, for me this is particularly cool. Finally, my mum’s pals can get to buy my book!).

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Easy answer. Timothy Roland, the author of the Comic Guy series (Scholastic, Inc). As well as being a great writer, Tim is hardworking, dedicated, a very supportive friend and an inspiration. I met Timothy at a SCBWI retreat where we participated in a Red Eye critique—you never know whom you will meet at these conferences and who will help you on your road to publication.

What was your first published title and what was it about?
If we’re talking about novel length, then that would be my middle grade humorous Civil War ghost mystery: THE WITNESS TREE AND THE SHADOW OF THE NOOSE, about a sixth grade boy, Jake Salmon, who believes there’s a murderer prowling about in his basement. But, Jake soon discovers the crazy guy is in fact the ghost of Thomas Garnet, a Confederate soldier hanged as a Union spy on the oak in Jake’s front yard, and in the hope of reaching his next birthday, Jake has to find out what the ghost wants, and why now.


4. What inspired you to write your first book?

An old gnarly tree in the Manassas National Battlefield Park. I was there with my sons who had begged me to let them have time away from their Xbox in favor of some fresh air and a dose of history (we can all dream). And while we were there, I got chatting with the curator. Actually, I was trying to divert his attention from my boys who were reenacting the battle of Second Manassas over who could spit the furthest. We were standing under this wizened oak and the curator mentioned that any tree that has been around for a long time is called a witness tree because of all the battles it had witnessed. This struck a chord with me. So, I had a dilemma. Story about two brothers who break the world record for spitting, or a Civil War ghost story. I went with the ghost story.

 How long did your journey take to publication and what were some significant events along the way?
Wow, these are great questions. THE WITNESS TREE AND THE SHADOW OF THE NOOSE took me around nine months to write, three months, to edit and another six months to gain the interest of a publisher. Significant events would be the reams of rejections that to my surprise didn’t agree with me that Jake Salmon, my protagonist, was the next Harry Potter without the wand, the weird scar, oh, and the magical abilities. But, Jake had his own Civil War ghost as a roommate—and that’s pretty cool, right?

Another significant moment, at least for me, was that while I was reading the unpublished manuscript, one chapter a week, to my son’s then fifth grade class at Poplar Tree Elementary, I got the call from the publisher that they wanted to publish the book. This was so exciting, as I got to announce the news to the children, and it was wonderful to see they were almost as excited as I was. I acknowledge the whole class in the front of the book, so the kids all got to see their first names in print.

Who/what were your sources of inspiration along the way? How did it/ he/she/they help you the most?

I’d have to say my boys. They believed in me, all the way. Plus they were, and are, a bottomless pit of funny, gross, heartwarming, and at times fantastical stories.

 What was the best thing about getting your first book published?
Getting to give author presentations to school. I love, love, love talking to the kids, answering their questions and listening to their youthful creativity.

What was the hardest thing?
Letting Jake go out into the world by himself. To be judged and devoured without me by his side.  But, I’m sure he’ll be fine. He does have his little brother Danny by his side despite the fact that Jake thinks Danny’s obsession with the Civil War is kind of disturbing.

What is your most recently released book or upcoming book? What is it about?

Remember the injustice of being twelve, when five-year-old monsters were considered cute, no one cared about your opinion, and teenagers, like aliens from another planet, scared the pants off you? Welcome to Will Wand’s world.

Set in the Washington DC suburbs, with the CIA Headquarters around the corner, Will has his first assignment—to save the world, or at least to uncover the mole in his mother’s advertising company. Will strongly suspects his bossy, annoying cousin, Penelope, visiting from the UK, is a double agent, and when he finds her diary written in code, he knows he’s onto something. The story is full of suspense, cool codes, and lots of humor…but if I tell you any more, he’ll have to kill you.


How have you changed from your first published book to now?
Well, I’m older. Not sure if I’m any wiser (jk). I have to think twice about dying my hair different shades according to the weather since my bio picture is plastered all over my book.  Seriously, I don’t feel that different. I was a writer before I was published and I’m still a writer.

What are your current projects?

I’m trying my hand at Young Adult. With three teenage boys and a golden doodle named Portia who just turned two--which in dog years makes her fourteen--my house is overflowing with teen drama, so I kind of had to go there. I finished my first YA novel a couple of months ago and the manuscript is currently with my agent. I am now working on a follow up YA and have a zillion middle grade plot ideas fighting for my time.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Buy my new book. Hahah. In all seriousness, I would like to say thank you. Thank you for allowing me to share in your free time with my stories.

 Bit of wisdom to share:
Winston Churchill said: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” And to that I would add: keep your sense of humor, your sense of priorities, and enjoy the ride.

 And for fun, something that not a lot of people know about you:
I LOVE to scooter. Not the electric powered ones, but the manual kick-your-foot-along as you go kind. True, I’ve fallen a few times—the last time I smashed my forehead on the curb—not a good look, trust me. But I was wearing a helmet—despite the fact it gives you terrible hat-hair, just terrible. But I don’t think anyone saw me, so I think I got away with it. Phew. 

Thanks for the info. Karen. Hope "Big Boys Don't Spy" is a huge success!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Falling Leaves Writers' Retreat


I just spent a fabulous weekend at the Eastern NYSCBWI’s Falling Leaves Writer’s Retreat at Lake George, NY. 






Five outstanding editors in children’s publishing offered wonderful insight to the industry. All members of our peer critique groups were well suited to each other. My particular group had four published authors in various genres. The other three were well established in the field. We gained valuable insight to our manuscripts from everyone’s area of expertise. 



Of course, we each spent twenty minutes with an individual editor.

My editor critique was with Noa Wheeler of Holt. I’d sent in the first 20 pages of a YA historical fiction manuscript. I’d written it several years ago, and both editors and agents had seen it at other conferences. Still, I knew it needed a large dose of advice. It was completed, but too long and I didn’t know where to start cutting since the character was a real person.

Noa gave me the most excellent advice I could have hoped for. She incorporated my background as a teacher in her suggestion to revise, and suddenly my revision path became clear. I’ll be overhauling that manuscript as soon as I finish my current WIP.

Each editor shared their own perspective in presentations to the group of 35 YA and MG writers. Noa shared a writing exercise using only three words. It was an excellent creative writing technique.

Kendra Levin, a newly promoted editor of Viking, led us on a guided visualization of our manuscript. Then she offered another writing exercise where me had to write about the first time our MC heard her favorite song. Both of these exercises were beneficial to me. What I came up with will easily be incorporated somewhere in my current manuscript.

Most of us struggle when writing our synopsis, but Julie Tibbot, senior editor at Houghton Mifflin /Harcourt taught us how you can use your synopsis as a selling tool as well as a revision technique. We each had to prepare a 250-word synopsis before the workshop. Try it. It opens your eyes.

Wendy Loggia, executive editor with Delacorte Press/Random House shared actual editorial letters on three books, which are coming out this year. Through her eyes and experiences we learned how the editor and writer form their special bond.

And our last editor was Mary Kate Castellani, an associate editor at Walker Books. Her exercise proved invaluable, as we actually had to develop the information sheet for our current novel. This included a handle, which can be likened to a single sentence pitch, a description, or short summary of the novel, pertinent author information, and strong selling points. We also learned how they use this information to compare our work with other like, successful novels.

And of course, between the valuable information, the individual writing time, and the cookies and s’mores at the bonfire, we forged new friends and new goals for ourselves, and our characters. I highly recommend the experience. Next year, it will be for picture book writers.






Friday, November 12, 2010

COMMON MISUSES OF WORDS




Today, I thought I’d share some words and/or phrases that writers tend to mix up when writing. Sometimes the story they have in their head is so compelling they write away and don't pay attention to word choice. Now I'm not talking about strong or weak verbs here, or even a more descriptive word. I'm talking about words that some of us get mixed up.

Hope these examples help you. 

1.     Based on vs. on the basis of
a.     based on – is properly used when referring to a published source.
ie. The lecture was based on his memoir.

2.     On the basis of
a.     is the preferred choice in other constructions
ie. Her conclusion was finalized on the basis of her research.

3.     Between
a.     implies two persons or things
ie. She chose between chocolate cake and a hot fudge sundae.

4.     Among
a.     implies more than two
ie. The oral report was divided among four students.

**however, if a reciprocal relationship is being expressed between one thing and several others, as in planning an event, between is the acceptable usage.

The agreement for the bridal shower was reached between the five attendants.

5.     Effect
a.     a noun meaning, an outward sign or result
ie. The poisonous plant had a numbing effect on the victim.

6.     Effected
a.     a verb meaning to accomplish
ie. Progress can be effected by hard work.

7.     Affect
a.     almost always used as a verb meaning to influence
ie. The rain did not affect the game.


Source* - The Keys to Effective Editing – Jackie Landis

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

EXPOSITION: Hints for Weaving in Back Story



This past weekend I served as part of the faculty for EPA SCBWI in Lancaster, Pa. I learned a lot about my own writing by reading and critiquing that of total strangers, Immediately, I was placed in an editor or agent’s seat, seeing the most polished manuscripts the writers had to offer. And while I sat in that seat I also recognized some of the basic flaws in writing. Each hopeful writer sent in five pages and a synopsis.

It was so easy to see how editors and agents can reject a manuscript in five minutes.

Of the eight novels I previewed, one was excellent, IMO, and ready for publication that very day. Speaking with the author, my assumption was confirmed, as it currently is in the hands of an editor with a major house in NYC.

One was close to being ready. I suggested the writer rearrange her first chapter to start with action rather than detailed exposition, which was lovely, but way too detailed.

One had a good storyline, but the setting wasn’t clear. I thought it took place in ancient times, turns out it was a futuristic dystopian novel.

We have to get the back story in somewhere and when you start out writing your story, whether you outline or not, some how the back story wants to be front and center. Don’t let that happen. How can writers fix these elements of their writing?

I’ve compiled a suggestion list. Hopefully, it may help you compose your first five pages.

First of all, you must understand what exposition is. When introducing a character, setting or event in a novel, you are compelled to write background to give the reader a proper frame of reference. This background information is called exposition or back story.

  1. This information should advance the rest of the story.
  1. Reveal your characters’ histories through dialogue or action.
    1. Dialogue should always have a point
1.     a conversation about old keys among boys sitting in a boat tells us nothing about those keys. The fact is they were key to the plotline (no pun intended). They belonged to a haunted house, but the writer took a whole chapter of wasted words to get to that plot point.

2.     Make your characters’ conversations advance the story.

3.     Not only can dialogue organically provide background information, it is a wonderful technique to break up the pace.
4.     Read your dialogue aloud. Does it sound realistic? Think of how you talk to your best friend or your sibling. You don’t say your sister’s name every time you talk to her. Neither should your characters. Find a better way to introduce the new character coming into the scene.

5.     Make sure it is clear to the reader who is speaking. Without appropriate tags or obvious clues, the reader will get lost in your words, and that’s just what they become, WORDS.

  1. Ask yourself if lengthy back story is truly necessary for the plot.
  1. Reveal background information gradually, at different points in the manuscript.
So that’s what I learned this weekend, as I wore the hat of a professional critiquer.

Now, novels were not the only things in my pile of fifteen manuscripts. I also read poem collections and picture books, both rhyming and prose. I’ll give you my suggestions on those later this week.

I hope my insights have helped you with your writing. I know, as I delved into my NaNoWriMo novel this past week, it helped me with mine.

Happy writing!




Sunday, November 7, 2010

Eastern PA SCBWI Critique-a-thon

5 authors
5 agents
5 editors

60 participants
1 happy co-ordinator

The First Annual Critique-a-thon took place in Lancaster, Pa. yesterday. I participated as one of the five published authors. We each critiqued 15 manuscripts. So did the agents and editors.

Sixty hopeful children's writers received wonderful feedback, inspiration and hope. A triumphant success, so much so, it is planned again for next year, September 10, 2011 at the same place, The Mulberry Art Gallery, Lancaster.

See you all there. It was WELL-WORTH the trip.

Happy writing!

Standing - Nancy Viau, Gayle C. Krause
Seated - Lee Harper, Paul Ancompora

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Happy Halloween!



Tonight, I'm happy to announce the winner of the “An Eyeball in My Garden” Halloween poetry contest.

Criteria was to be or become a follower and to create a poem that mentioned an "Eyeball."

And the winner is:
 A Zombie’s Dilemma
by Russ Moyer

Eyeball, eyeball.
Stoppin’ to say hi all.
Rollin’ down the highway
looking for my mate.

Sigh ball. Hi ball.
I found my master’s eyeball.
It’s hiding ‘neath a rose bush
inside the garden gate.

“Why ball, eyeball
do you hide from I ball?”
The master needs a matching pair
to see his ghoulish date.

Lie all. Fie all.
He stoops to find his eyeball
lying among roses,
hidden underneath.

Sigh all, eyeball
He really ought to try all
ways to keep his eyeball,
for now he’s lost his teeth.

Congratulations, Russ! Your complimentary rhyming picture book critique  from "First Peek Critique" is available at your convenience. 
Happy Halloween!









Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Preparing for NaNo Mo

Character Shopping



With NaNoMo fast approaching, those of us who are planning to take the challenge have characters knocking on our brains asking to be included in our stories. While some writers have meticulously outlined their stories anxiously awaiting November first to start, others, known as pansters, go with whatever enters their head when they sit down to type.

Whichever type of writer you are, you still need characters. So where do you get them? 

I’ve been busy critiquing this week and I’ve read about every type of character from a hedgehog to an alien, to an Egyptian princess. 

WARNING: Characters that we make up in our head are usually flat. They’re one dimensional, the way we see them as we write. The trouble with dreaming up characters is that they’re NOT original.

Example. This past spring I was involved in a YA critique group at an SCBWI conference. Seven people made up our group.

Two wrote historical fiction.
One wrote paranormal.
One wrote high fantasy.
One rewrote of a fairy tale in a historical fantasy setting.
And, two wrote contemporary fiction.

I mentioned to the group that as I read their pages I was taken aback at how similar our main characters were, even though our genres were different.

Among our MC’s we had a female pirate, an Irish laundress, an evil Queen, an angel, a high school student, a mysterious girl, and a theater manager. They sound different enough, don’t they?

Well first off, only one was a male.
Six of the seven had red hair.
All of them had a stubborn streak.
And they all welcomed controversy.

And here we thought we all had different stories.

Since then I’ve taken to people watching. I always have a paper or pad with me and whether I’m sitting in the car waiting for my husband to come out of a store, or I’m sitting in a food court waiting for my order to be up, I jot down possibilities, describing them in as much detail as I can discover by watching their actions or hearing their conversations. I strongly suggest using real people as models for your characters.

Sometimes seeing is believing.

Places to find your characters:
  1. In a shopping mall.
  2. In a restaurant
  3. In the movies
  4. In a classroom
  5. On the beach.
  6. On a hike.
  7. In a grocery store.
  8. And lastly, if you live out in the country, where it becomes difficult to get to a mall or a restaurant, check out your mail. Yes, catalog models, retail store coupons, even charity flyers can offer you a picture of a character you might not have thought of on your own.

One thing is for sure. They won’t all have red hair. By the way, an editor at that same conference stated that she is tired of seeing red-headed protagonists. Do you think she read all of our first pages? J

Where do you find your characters?









Interview Your Characters to Gain a Better Understanding of Their Story

As an exercise to strengthen your YA protagonist, interview them as if they are sitting on a late night talk show. Ask them questions about...