Writing tips

The Anti-Conformist Picture Book

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Mark Loewen is the author of an amazing new picture book, What Does a Princess Really Look Like?  In the book, he breaks gender stereotypes and features a family with two fathers. Please enjoy my Q & A with him:

-You hit a lot of powerful topics in this book. One take-away lesson is that princesses don’t simply “look pretty.” Being a princess also involves using your brain, as well as being courageous and strong. Do you think there is too much emphasis on appearance and playing up to feminine stereotypes in society?

Definitely. And it was always obvious to me. I think this was one of the male privilege aspects that I always saw, especially growing up in South America. But I really noticed how powerful this was when I observed how people related to my daughter. Strangers everywhere tell her how pretty she is – all the time. And I agree with them! But it makes me nervous that most people who talk to her when we are out say something about her looks. As she grows up, I want her to know that her looks are not the best or most important thing about her. It’s just one part of her.

I remember one time we went to the grocery store and she was wearing a superhero mask. A lady smiled at her and said, “I can see your beautiful eyes through that mask!” And I thought… even specifically dressing as someone strong and brave, people are commenting on her eyes. And this is all well-intentioned. But I don’t think boys get this message.

-What about in literature? 

Children’s literature plays into it because it sells. Even books or movies with strong females sometimes show that girls are “ditzy” or “clumsy.” I’m reminded of how Disney princesses like Anna and Moana both trip right at the end of a really big song. But I can’t think of male heroes portrayed in this way.

I’ve noticed that it’s becoming easier to find children’s books with strong female characters. Girl empowerment is big with publishers now, which is one reason why I found interest in my book so quick. What I do still notice is that books with strong female characters are still considered only for girls. But girls read books with strong male characters all the time. This needs to change.  Read the rest of this entry »

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#PBPitch: An Awesome Twitter Pitch Contest for Kidlit Writers!!

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Twitter pitch parties have been gaining in popularity in the last few years.

What is a Twitter pitch party, you may ask?

Well, if you’re a writer and are seeking a literary agent or a publisher, they are amazing opportunities. If you have finished and polished manuscripts, just make an engaging (and short) pitch via Twitter. Add the hashtag #PBPitch, and presto, your pitch will be seen by a select group of literary agents and editors! If the agent or editor in question likes your pitch, then you can send it to them and cross your fingers.

The guidelines can be found in the official website, posted below.

I recently sat down with author and #PBPitch co-founder Pj Mcllvaine for a chat. Hope you enjoy our Q & A: Read the rest of this entry »

How to Stop Procrastinating and Write More this Year!

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So you’re a freelance writer.

Hooray! That means you’re your own boss and you get to create your own schedule.

But, oh no- this can sometimes be more challenging that it appears. Distractions and social media interruptions can be tricky to navigate though as you try to carve out time to dedicate to your craft. It takes an incredible amount of organization and discipline.

What often ends up happening is:

PROCRASTINATION!

We writers are experts at procrastination. We’ve all been there. We have a deadline, but somehow, we can’t get the ball rolling. Next thing we know, we’re pulling an all-nighter to get the job done.

Luckily there are strategies to help. With effort and planning, you can stop your procrastination habits. Here are 5 tips to help you remain aligned with your goals:

Read the rest of this entry »

The Face of Perseverance

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The path of the author is notoriously difficult. It’s filled with heaps of rejection letters and long hours of constant editing, not to mention the “snail pace” rhythm of the publishing industry.

So how does one survive these challenges and still retain an earnest love for writing? I sat down with author Debra Shumaker to get her perspective. After submitting 187 submissions to both agents and editors with 11 different manuscripts since September of 2009, she achieved one of her dreams and landed a literary agent. Here is our Q & A:

How did you remain so perseverant throughout the process?

Sometimes I wonder, myself, why I persevered in all the rejection. But that is the name of the game in Children’s Lit. And I should clarify, though I started subbing in 2009, I probably started subbing too early. I was a beginner. I had three little kids at the time so I just wrote and submitted when I “had time.” My manuscripts probably weren’t ready and my querying was a bit undirected. But, as I worked on my craft, participating in Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo (now StoryStorm) and joining Julie Hedlund’s 12×12, my manuscripts grew stronger and my queries more directed. Then in 2014, I started to get some nibbles: some personal rejections and one agent asked for a revise/resubmit. Though that one didn’t pan out, it gave me a confidence booster. In 2015, I received an R&R from an editor and three agents asking for more of my work. Again, those didn’t lead to offers, but I knew I was getting close. I just kept plugging away at learning craft, studying mentor texts, writing new stuff, and submitting. I am so grateful for having signed with Natascha Morris from BookEnds Literary in July. Read the rest of this entry »

Hard Work DOES Pay Off!

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On a theoretical level, we know that hard work pays off. But sometimes, in our eager rush to succeed, we forget one thing:

PATIENCE!

The truth is that things may not line up the way we want, when we want. (If only life were that easy!) All we can do is a have a dream, work hard at it, continue to persevere and believe, and then release it to the Universe. I guarantee you that the dream will eventually manifest, but it may not be on your preferred time table.

As writers, we have certain frustrations. A few months ago, I found myself working extremely hard one particular day. I slugged out promotional email after promotional email. I painstakingly edited two of my books. I agonized over the right wording for my monthly Newsletter. I researched agents and publishers until two o’clock in the morning. When I finally closed my bleary eyes, this thought jumped into my head:

Yeah, I worked hard today. Really hard. But what do I have to show for it? Read the rest of this entry »

The Editing Merry-go-Round

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Ahh….editing. For many writers, editing is a big challenge, one that is often accompanied by profuse sweating and anxiety. I, like many other writers, find it much easier to write than to edit. However, if you’re serious about your work and you don’t have an unlimited budget for a professional editor for each manuscript, you’ll need to pick up some trusted revising skills.
Here are some tricks that have helped me:

1. Walk away!
Believe me, I’ve been stumped in my writing many a time. I have literally bumped my head against the computer screen because I couldn’t find the right word or the best ending. But it’s remarkable what can happen when you simply walk away and allow the manuscript to breathe for a while. When you come back to it, I guarantee you’ll see your manuscript through fresh eyes, and you’ll pick up on things you didn’t see before. Suddenly, you have new inspiration.

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2. Read it out loud!
This one seems obvious, but I admit I never used to do this. I would just read my book in my head, without ever listening to how the words rolled off the page. But that’s not giving it a fair trial. You won’t know how your manuscript sounds to others until you read the manuscript out loud yourself. You’ll have a clearer view of what works and what doesn’t. Read the rest of this entry »

Top 10 Tips on How to Get Published!

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Many emerging writers often ask me what the trick to getting published is. But the trick is that there is no “trick.” It goes without saying that writing professionally is a labour of love and takes incredible amounts of dedication, patience and perseverance. Here are my top 10 tips that can help:

1. Write, write, write!
The trick to writing well is to KEEP WRITING! You need to spend time writing every single day. You may put in more hours on some days than on others, but the idea is to keep going. The gems emerge here and there, so the more pages you write, the more gems you’ll find.

2. Edit, edit, edit!
So you managed to get the first draft out, great. Now what? Time to edit! Editing is actually very difficult. You need to be able to look at your work objectively and ruthlessly chop what’s not working. I heard a great quote at a writing conference I attended: that you usually end up scrapping the first few chapters of your book entirely! Those pages are really just for you to situate yourself with your story. Read the rest of this entry »