Make a Picture Book Draft

I’ve been trying to make a picture book draft once a month, every month, this year. I’m a member of Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 and the focus on productivity and creativity – the art of creating – has been really useful. I know I can come up with an idea once a month and it doesn’t take long to make a picture book draft. These drafts are typically less than 1000 words so it doesn’t take more than an hour to sketch out the first version.

The drafts that seem to work, that could possibly morph into a story for a children’s magazine or perhaps something to bring to critique group and then later to a writer’s intensive at a conference get revised.

As part of the revision process and to test the strength of the story I’ll make a dummy. A dummy is a more detailed draft of the picture book story, laid out with illustrations. Dummies help you see if there are page turning moments, if each set of words can be illustrated, if your story is droning on or getting repetitive.

I’ll also bring my drafts to children to read and critique. My kids are used to being honest about what they like and what they don’t. My kids are also used to seeing picture book drafts that don’t have pictures. But other children aren’t. That’s another good reason to make a dummy.

Make a Picture Book Draft

When you make a picture book draft or dummy, you are working on storyboarding. I have experimented with three different ways of making picture book dummies and storyboarding my tales.

The first is very visual, a traditional storyboard approach. I used this format a lot when planning out the text and illustrations for Dinosaur Boogie.

make a picture book draft

Just needs a story.

 

The second way is a bit more traditional. The instructions come from Ann Whitford Paul’s book Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication. She advises you take four pieces of paper and cut them into quarters. Staple them together and you have the pages you need to lay the text and illustrations for a traditional 32 page picture book.

Make a picture book draft

Long and short stories.

Following Whitford Paul’s advice I created books of different sizes and orientations to accommodate different amounts of text. But I innovated a little with this method and used scrap paper. Yes, that means I can’t write directly on these pages, but I can write text on post-it notes and move them around inside the book pages easily. I can also scribble something on a post-it regarding illustration and move that around, too, and experiment with a little bit of graphic design. Do I want the text above the art? Below? Around the side?

Which leads me to my third method that I use to make a picture book draft or dummy: InDesign. I’m no expert, but I can get around in InDesign. So I will create a document with lots of pages, put my text in and then search on Google for free images. I’m not going to use these images for a profit so I could probably use images that aren’t free, but I like to keep things honest. Then I print out a simple version of an illustrated dummy. These are the versions I take into my favorite test classrooms and try out on kids that aren’t mine.

picture book draft

Ready to read.

Not too shabby! And I find bringing illustrated dummies to classrooms helps me get a sense of the kids’ real reaction to story instead of them being confused about where the pictures are. And they love learning the phrase “picture book dummy.”

So how do you go about making a picture book draft or dummy? Do you have a favorite method? Are you hi-tech or old school?

New articles published

I am excited to announce a few new articles are now published and ready to be read!

In August, my article “Make Your Open House a Hit” went live on PTOToday.com.

In September, my article “Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in School” went live on SchoolFamily.com.

And in October, my article “What to Do With Poo” came out in the November 2014 issue of Odyssey Magazine.

Odyssey magazine

Attention grabber!

More Advice on Writers Conferences

This year I’m heading to my first writers conference. I’m gathering tips and advice from people who have been to writers conferences before. So I asked one of my good friends Beth Skwarecki about her most recent writers conference. She’s also really analytical and never takes things at face value, which makes her a great science writer. We met last year when she agreed without ever having met me, to be my writing mentor for National Novel Writing Month. Since our first meetings, which were quiet and focused on writing, we’ve had some interesting shared adventures like hiking with our kids and spotting an owl as well as visiting gun and archery ranges. Yep, we’re exciting people.

Beth recently attended a science writers conference called…ScienceWriters hosted by the National Association of Science Writers. Pretty much it was science writers heaven to judge by her enthusiastic – almost giddy – tweets and emails!


Writers Conference Tips

Before Beth jetted off to London for SpotOn, another science conference, I asked her to share with me some advice for a great writers conference experience.

From Beth:

I suspect ScienceWriters is a different beast than other writing conferences. Not sure how much of this applies elsewhere. That said, I jotted down a few thoughts.

To know about writing conferences like ScienceWriters:

Editors want to meet writers. Writers want to hear cool stuff from PIOs. Freelancers want to compare notes with other freelancers. Introduce yourself to anyone and everyone; you won’t regret it.

Don’t skip the parties. Your conversation starters are:

So where are you based?
Are you a freelancer / who do you work for?
What sessions have you gone to? How was that one? Which ones are you doing tomorrow?
Have you been to these conferences before?
We’ve emailed / I follow you on twitter / etc / and I just wanted to say hi in person.

If you’re just starting out as a freelancer and don’t have tons of clips you’re proud of, and somebody asks you who you write for? DO NOT PANIC. It’s OK to say you’re new. Mention a thing or two you’ve done. Or just evade the question and tell them about the latest topic you wrote about, or something you’re interested in. They’re not fact-checking your resume, they just want to start a conversation.

When there are food tables, skip the first one you see. The ones at the back of the room have shorter lines.

There will be times you have to choose between sessions. Don’t sweat it too much; just ask other attendees later about how that session was. Sometimes I’ll skip a session if I know it’s likely to be blogged or videotaped, and instead choose something where the in-the-moment experience will be the best.

You don’t HAVE to do anything. If you want to skip a session to write, go ahead. If you’re partied out, feel free to hole up in your hotel room. Just not all the time.

NASW has lots of field trips and opportunities to meet researchers. Even if what they’re doing seems boring, put on your interviewer hat and start asking questions. Imagine an editor has told you “This person does super cool stuff, but you’ll have to dig to find out what it is.” Ask dumb questions, smart questions, anything that comes to mind. Stumped? Try “What is the worst part of your job?” and “What’s the most exciting thing in your field?”. Those two questions, if propelled with just a little bit of “so tell me more about that,” can cover anywhere from minutes to hours.

We did a “Power Pitch” session which was like speed dating with editors. It was AWESOME. Here’s my approach, which seemed to work well for me.

Find out how it works. Wake up early to sign up (they did a lottery in the morning)
Know, ahead of time, who your first (second, etc) choice of editor is. Have a list of pitch topics.
Don’t worry about fleshed out pitches; there isn’t time. Think in terms of headlines and hooks.
Here’s what I would usually say:
I’m [name] from [city] covering [beat].
(Business card swap)
I ask: Where does your pub fit in the news cycle? What counts as a good news peg for you?
Maybe another quick question or two to narrow down where their needs intersect with the kind of stuff I can write (topic areas, word counts, etc)
Rapid fire pitches: a headline, a few sentences of explanation if needed. Get a yes/no and move quickly to the next. Time will be up before you know it.
They won’t assign stories on the spot; it’s more of a rapid fire “Do you want a pitch on this?”
If they give a yes, or a strong maybe, I star that pitch in my notebook.

To check out Beth’s science writing, a good place to start is her Pinterest board. But I’d highly recommend following her on Twitter, too.

 

Gardens: Great Idea for Picky Eaters

Planting the seeds of healthy eating

Planting the seeds of healthy eating

Growing a Good Eater

Growing a Good Eater

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even if you live in an apartment with no yard at all, you can grow food in containers and help your picky eater learn to try new foods.

I loved reading about a study from Australia that showed school children who participated in gardening and cooking classes were willing to try new foods and make healthier choices.

When I conducted a Lunch and Learn for Farm to Table, I shared this information and talked about the importance of helping our children grow food, choose food at the grocery store (and by that I mean fresh produce, not their favorite sugary boxed cereal) and prepare food at home. Each of these opportunities to encounter healthy whole foods turns something unknown into something familiar and increases the willingness of the child to try it. And as your child tries new food, don’t forget to help them keep track in My Food Notebook. Kids love sharing their opinions knowing their  input matters!

Here are the details of the study:

A group of investigators from the University of Melbourne and Deakin University recruited a total of 764 children in grades 3 to 6 and 562 parents participating in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. The program model is embedded in the school curriculum and includes 45 minutes per week in a garden class with a garden specialist and 90 minutes per week in the kitchen with a cooking specialist. The program is designed to give children knowledge and skills in environmentally sustainable gardening along with the skills to prepare and cook 3- or 4-course meals based on available fresh produce from the garden. Different dishes prepared each week included handmade pastry, bread and pasta, salads, curries, and desserts.

According to Lisa Gibbs, PhD, principle investigator, one of the major themes that emerged from the study was children eating and appreciating new foods. She said, “The program introduced children to new ingredients and tastes, and within a short time almost all children were prepared to at least try a new dish. Teachers at several schools also reported that they had seen a noticeable improvement in the nutritional quality of the food that children had been bringing to school for snacks and lunches since the program had been introduced.”

Petra Staiger, PhD, co-investigator from Deakin University added, “Data and class observations also suggested that the social environment of the class increased children’s willingness to try new foods. This included sitting down together to share and enjoy the meal that they had prepared, with encouragement to taste but no pressure to eat.”

From the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

Recipe for Success: Self-Publishing

Jennifer Bright Reich is the author of six books – all self-published- including the very popular Mommy MD Guides and owner of Momosa Publishing Company. Here she offers her recipe for success and reminds us that it takes time to bring any big project to life.

Is self-publishing right for you?

Why did you choose to self-publish? My coauthor, Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH, and I decided to start our own publishing company so we would have creative control over our books and so that we could create a team of talented writers, editors, designers, and indexers and help to support their businesses as well.

How long did you work on this project from idea conception to print reality? It took us nine months to create The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth from start to receiving printed books—just like a “real” baby.” We stretched our schedule to 11 months for The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby’s First Year, The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years, and The Mommy MD Guide to Losing Weight and Feeling Great, which is “due” September 2013, to give us a bit more wriggle room.

Was there a mistake you made/almost made that taught you something significant about self-publishing?  Our nine-month schedule for The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth was achievable, but challenging. So that’s why we gave ourselves more time for our other books.

 

A Little Magic Helps Picky Eaters

 

Do you adore grocery shopping and cooking?  Who doesn’t love making your way down the same old aisles of thestore, grabbing the few standard ingredients needed to tackle the next chore of cooking and then suffering the whines of our kids as they complain and push their plates away?

Re-discover the magic of choosing and preparing food.

Cooking is like magic – you transform separate ingredients into a complete meal. And we learned that we could transform our picky eaters into willing taste-tests by including them in the grocery shopping and cooking. While it seems like a chore to most adults, to kids it’s brand-new and gives them a chance to experience aspects of food that adults take for granted.

Many times, picky eaters are simply scared of the unknown. We have found that when our kids can choose which bunch of broccoli looks “most delicious” at the store or which “new flavor of cheese” they want to try, they are less intimidated.

It was the Irish Soda bread that opened our eyes. Would our pickiest eater ever touch this? No way – there were 


raisins in the bread! But thanks to his cooking class at our Kindercare, he participated from start to finish and loved the bread so much he had trouble sharing it. He knew what was in it and I believe he felt more comfortable trying it!

At home now, we try to include our kids in as much grocery shopping and cooking as possible. Dylan is now quite skilled at making scrambled eggs from start to finish. It’s one of his favorite foods and I love that he understands how much work goes into preparing food.

We try new recipes together, like the very simple process of making homemade tortillas or family favorites like pizza bagels. Starting with something simple and offering options like pesto or black olives is a great way to encourage tasting new foods, too.

Inspired by this discovery, My Food Notebook has a Notes section that allows kids to record what they would like to buy at the grocery store and paste or write their favorite recipes. My older son likes to use the Notes section to invent menus for different restaurants he would like to open. I’m not sure about some of his ideas, but I promised him I’d at least give his recipes a try!

Recipe for Success: Simple Social Media Growth

 

Social media isn’t rocket science!

Debi Gilboa, MD, of AskDoctorG, is a rising name and national parenting expert and author of “Teach Resilience:Raising Kids Who Can Launch.” Over the past year, her social media engagement has increased significantly and she’s more than doubled her weekly newsletter following. She didn’t hire a massive marketing agency, she found the recipe for success herself.

What were 3 things you did that increased your followers?

  • I followed folks that were on the lists that other people put me on. Convoluted I know, but go to your own profile page, click lists, then switch to member of (from subscribed). This will show all the places you’ve been listed. I switch to “people” from “tweets” and follow other like-minded folks.
  • I follow a little indiscriminately but then use twit cleaner to clean up my follows about once a month – stop following those without good content or real interaction.
  • I never RT or tweet out anything I don’t actually read and agree with.

How much time did you invest?

I invest on average 30 minutes a day to social media, sometimes lots more but often a fair amount less. And I take one day completely off a week.

What’s your favorite channel?

Favorite is Twitter, but Facebook is close behind and learning to love Pinterest!

 

Adults like stories, too

 

The Bumpy, Grumpy Road

Take your readers on a journey!

In 2012 I published my first children’s book, The Bumpy Grumpy Road. It’s a metaphor intended to help children understand that they are in charge of their emotions, actions and reactions.

As parents bought the book for their kids, I heard more than one time “This book helps me, too.”

And when you read the story behind the creation of this book, you’ll understand why I’m not surprised. The metaphor was easy for my preschooler to understand and to remind me when I was driving down my own bumpy, grumpy road.

Adult readers don’t need fancy multisyllabic words to engage them. Adults need a strong message with a compelling storyline that gives them something useful for their daily challenges. Next time you’re writing for your co-workers, your manager, your current customers and your potential customers, make sure you’ve told a good story.

How can knitting improve your writing?

Knitting, yarn

The more you practice, the better you get.

Knitting is an obvious metaphor for writing. Using your own two hands, you hold the needles and weave together a lovely fabric. You choose the yarn, you choose the pattern and you choose the end product.

Along the way, you encounter problems. You miss a stitch. Holes appear. Something goes wrong.

You have choices in knitting – you can back up and correct the problem or you can plow ahead and accept the finished product with all it’s flaws. When you choose to go back the awful feeling that you might never finish the project looms over your shoulder. Plowing ahead means you might feel embarassed to show your imperfect work to others.

Luckily, writing isn’t exactly like knitting. When you write, you can lay words to paper, plow ahead and then go back and make the edits and corrections you need. But even the best of writers needs an experienced editor to look over their work.

Have you recently completed an incredible piece of writing? Do you need a skillful editor to find the holes, the places where you left a stitch unworked? Give me a call and give you work the attention it deserves, so you can be proud to show off your finished product!

Do you have trouble focusing?

In a two-hour delay at LaGuardia, I wrote up a 400-word interview, 2 blog posts for my business and one for my personal blog. I had a little trouble focusing because I was worried about my toddler who was rushed to the hospital earlier that morning due to an asthma flare-up. But if you have trouble focusing on your writing day to day, if you struggle to find the right words, and you just don’t know how to get started, you probably need a professional writer who can focus and deliver under any circumstances. Give me a call, let me see how I can help!