Tending Your Story Garden

cornucopia-2

This article originally appeared last year on Operation Awesome as a guest post by me. I thought it was a good time to repost as a reminder to my writer friends to grab those ideas that are floating around in your minds, plant them, and grow them into beautiful stories for children.

Tending Your Story Garden

Before you can harvest your vegetables, you must plant the seeds, water the seedlings, nourish the soil, and have patience. Without tending, your garden will wither and die. Stories are gardens grown from the seeds of ideas, watered with love, and nourished with knowledge. Just like a vegetable garden, your story garden must be tended so that, in time, it will fill up with a cornucopia of plump and tasty tales.

Every story starts with an idea seed that has formed in our minds. When we choose to take that idea and put it down on paper or computer screen, we’ve planted the seed that has the potential to bloom into a beautiful story.

Each story is a garden of its own that began as an idea seed, or more likely, multiple seeds from which tiny seedlings, or idea-lings, have sprung forth. Once the idea-lings have sprouted, it’s time to nurture them. If we don’t, our story will never come to fruition.

Water with love. If you don’t believe in your story, it will show in your writing, which will be flat and lifeless. Most likely, you will abandon it and it will wither away. Always begin with an idea that excites you, then you’ll shower your story with your heart and soul and it will flourish.

Nourish with knowledge. Just as gardeners use hoes, rakes, and fertilizer to tend their gardens, writers should arm themselves with the right tools. I don’t mean paper, pencils, and laptops. No matter what kind of story you write, or what audience you’re writing for, boost your writing skills through education, research, and practice. If you polish your skills, your story will shine.

Weed with purpose. In a garden, weeds can spread quickly. They take over and suffocate the crops. Stories can have weeds too. Too much description, unnecessary words, passive voice, poor pacing, bland dialogue, and a thin plot are weeds that overshadow and choke out your characters, action, and theme, all the things that give life to your story . Once you’ve completed your first draft, go back and edit it. Weed out everything that bogs your story down and keeps it from blossoming.

Self-doubt is the worst weed of all. It’s a force as destructive to your story as a hail storm is to a fragile flower garden. We all hear that negative voice coming from deep inside that tells us our writing is not good enough. Grab hold of it and yank it out by the roots. If you write about things that interest you, practice your writing skills, edit your work, and persevere, your stories will be better than just good enough; they’ll be dazzling, just like that prize-winning giant pumpkin at the county fair.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Why Does My Picture Book Feel Like A Folktale? It Might Be Folktale-ish!

Folktales Inside

Have you written a story that everyone says feels like a folktale but you’re not sure why?

Do you love folktales and want to write a story with a similar feel but you’re not sure where to start?

What exactly is a folktale?

Are picture books with a folktale feel even being published today?

What can you learn by reading traditional folktales that will help you write a folktale-ish picture book for today’s market?

Hop on over to Literally Lynne Marie and My Word Playground where I answer all of these questions in my guest article Folktale-ish!

Read to the end to find out how you can win a picture book from Lynne’s 2016 Cybils stash!

The Writing Room

As a writer with a chronic illness, I spend a lot of time at doctor’s appointments. What that really means is that I spend a lot of time waiting. Anyone who’s ever had to make a trip to the doctor’s office, and I’d guess that’s most of us, has experienced the loss of a huge chunk of time, stolen from the day.

Does this scenario sound familiar? You rush around at home in order to get to your doctor appointment early. You arrive fifteen minutes before your scheduled appointment, your child in tow. You check in, take a seat, and wait.

That momentary feeling of pride because you made it on time is quickly replaced with the thought, how long will we have to wait for the doctor?

You glance at your child playing with the waiting room toys in the corner. You think about all of the sick kids who played there before. You reassure yourself that surely someone must sanitize the toys on a daily basis.

You leaf through a magazine, so boring. You scroll through your phone, check your e-mail, Facebook, Twitter. You wonder if it’s okay to have your phone on in here. You look around and notice that half the other people waiting are on their phones too.

Now it’s five minutes past your appointment time, now ten, now twenty, now thirty. Your child has played with every toy and looked at every book. He/she’s grown restless and so have you. Your mind wanders to all the things you could be doing. Is writing one of them?

Next time, grab a notebook and pen on your way out the door. Here’s why you’ll want to bring these valuable tools to all of your appointments:

1. To pass the time. You’ll be surprised at how much writing you can get done while waiting for your appointment. If you write picture books, as I do, you may even get a whole draft written.
2. To record observations. Watch people, especially children, and write down character traits or bits of dialogue you overhear. They might come in handy for current or future writing projects.
3. To practice writing. Study the paintings on the waiting room walls or look at pictures in magazines and use what you see as writing prompts to exercise your writing muscles. Jot down words or feelings that come to mind, or write a short story.
4. To brainstorm ideas. Use your waiting time to think about a work in progress or a new story you’ve been wanting to start. Brainstorm words, characters, names, revisions, dialogue, setting, etc.
5. To practice drawing. If you’re an illustrator, use your wait time to sketch new characters and scenes or just to practice your skills. Sketch objects or people you see in the waiting room. Make notes on colors that have caught your eye. Copy pictures from magazines.
6. To support your budding author or artist. Bring an extra notebook and pen for your child so that he/she can practice writing or drawing too.
7. To keep your mind off of unpleasant things. I don’t know anyone who would say they enjoy going to doctor’s appointments. If you have to go, it’s usually because you, or your child, are sick or suffering from a medical condition of some kind. Writing or drawing will allow your mind to drift away from a potentially unpleasant experience and focus on something fun instead.

So, the next time you’re rushing out the door to get to an appointment, don’t forget to bring along a notebook and pen. When your wait time seems to fly by because you’ve written three new paragraphs for your middle grade novel, or you’ve come up with an idea for a brand-new picture book story, or you’ve outlined your entire YA contemporary, you’ll be glad you turned the waiting room into a Writing Room.

“5 Tips for Writing Fact-Based Picture Book Fiction” by Pamela Love

Frog_on_a_blog[1]

Frog On A Blog Certified Guest Post

 5 Tips for Writing Fact-Based Picture Book Fiction

by Pamela Love

What do I mean by fact-based fiction? While obviously it’s not a “Once upon a time” fairy tale, I’m referring to something more specific. Unlike non-fiction, fact-based fiction uses story as the basis for relating information. It opens a window onto a different time or place. It allows a child to see an animal or person living his or her life. While staying true to the facts, it may include some invented incidents or characters. More than non-fiction, the emphasis is on showing, not telling. 

Here are five tips for writing this type of picture book:

  1. Find a topic.  Search the non-fiction shelves, adult and children’s, at the local library. Fascinating information about the past and nature is available. While reading a book about lighthouses, I learned that on one barren, weather-beaten rock off the coast of Maine, lighthouse keepers’ families planted a garden. This led to my picture book, Lighthouse Seeds.  (Which was published by Down East Books, along with all of my other picture books listed below.) Picture of Lighthouse Seeds
  1. Limit your topic.  It might be a day in the life, as in my book A Cub Explores, about a black bear cub. Or, it might be about one child participating in a specific activity, as in Lighthouse SeedsPicture of A Cub Explores
  1. Remember, it’s a picture book.  Try to find a story with multiple good illustration possibilities. In my book A Moose’s Morning, moose are shown pushing down a tree, splashing in puddles, being startled by a grouse, and fleeing coyotes. Picture of A Moose's Morning
  1. Stick to the facts as far as possible.  In this type of picture book, animals do not talk. In Lighthouse Seeds, I did invent a character who figured out how to grow flowers in a seemingly impossible location, but I used the method the keepers’ families, including children, did in real life. For any invented details or characters, see tip #5. Picture of A Loon Alone
  1. Send additional material to the publisher.  For animal stories, provide a list of “fun facts”. For example, in A Loon Alone, I noted that loons can fly and swim, but can’t walk. You may wish to suggest recent age-appropriate non-fiction books about your topic for interested children. Publishers often want to provide this type of information as end material. Furthermore, be sure to include your bibliography, along with a cover letter explaining where non-fiction leaves off and any invented details come in.

Additional examples of this type of book:  

Little Burro, by Jim Arnofsky

That Book Woman, by Heather Henson

Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys, by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard

New Shoes, by Susan Meyer

Naming Liberty, by Jane Yolen


Pamela Love worked as a teacher and in marketing before becoming an author. You can see her Amazon page with her picture books and other writings by using this link: 

http://www.amazon.com/Pamela-Love/e/B001HMMF1W