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Writing Picture Books: Not as Easy as it Looks (PART 1)

Since the beginning of this writing journey, I have wanted to write a picture book. And, like many authors, I have more than one abandoned picture book manuscript to my name. I sometimes imagine them huddling together in a drawer somewhere, trying to keep warm. Out of sight, but not necessarily out of mind. I still love the ideas for those stories deeply, but I just could not figure out how to make them work.

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While writing novels is not particularly easy, I found myself better able to figure out the structure of the longer format. I still had to study my craft, and learn to edit with an iron fisted pen, but it has always felt more natural to me than the shorter, “easier” children’s picture book format.

Plotting, Not Plodding!

Plotting Clip Art

Plot points, crisis, and climax, oh my! I have been reading up on plotting, taking a deep dive into process and techniques, attempting to distill the information that others have provided in books like The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson, Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell, Building Better Plots by Robert Kernen, and The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman into something that I can easily absorb and make part of my ingrained writing process and inform my teaching process, as well.

This is not the first time I have delved into plot at this level. A couple of years ago, I published an essay about plot called “Plot Isn’t Just a Four-Letter Word,” You can find it on line here for free.

Home Project: Tiling My Office Window Sill

Over the past few years, we have been replacing our older, less efficient windows with newer, double paned, triple EEE rated, energy efficient ones. It took time because, well, window replacement is not cheap. (BTW-quick plug: if you are in the Phoenix area, Affordable Windows offers a great product and has the best installers on the planet. And, no, I don’t get anything for referring them, but we used another company for the first batch of windows and I can verify that I know great window installers from not-so-great.)

As you can see, my office has a great window with a view of the back yard and our amazing, prolific lemon tree. (Please, ignore the rest of the back yard, which is a still work in progress.)

My Office Window Ready for Tiling

My Office Window

Setting: Emotional Depth Through Character Perspective

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Kira, Vaith and Kelmir. Characters in setting.

When writing, I start from character, not simply because I think it’s a great place to start—although, for me, it’s mostly character engagement that keeps me reading (or writing) a book or story—but more so because that’s just the way my brain works.

So, when describing the landscape/creating the setting for the book, everything I see is filtered through the eyes of my characters. This is a huge plus in developing voice and for showing the character’s emotional journey, because the world the reader sees is from the perspective of the characters living in and experiencing it.

US Naval Station Great Lakes: Petty Officer Tennis Shoe

US Navy Insignia Mod

In 1977, despite the best efforts of some, the US Navy was not an Equal Opportunity Employer. Sexism was a huge issue. Mid-level Petty Officers expected lower ranking females to sit in their laps and stand under the mistletoe at the holiday party. Some even obliged. It was a difficult environment to navigate through.

Add to that a misuse of authority that cropped up in many places and you have the perfect recipe for a hostile work environment.

Here and There, This and That

I have been here and there, doing this and that. So here’s a quick update on what’s been going on in my world.

RenFest

Me in my glorious RenFaire duds.

A huge shout out and thank you to Book Shoppe proprietor extraordinaire, Lady Ann Chamberlain. (She’s also an international bestselling author. Check out her website here🙂 This year’s Arizona Renaissance Faire appearance was another resounding success. Not only did I meet and speak with a huge number of new readers, as well as some fine aspiring authors, but I also received the Prince’s favor (and some lovely flattery). Huzzah! And I would be remiss if I did not thank my incredible assistant, Jen LaBuzz. Jen, I’m so glad your arms did not fall off!

Love of Learning Has Taught Me Well

Love of learning is one of my key personality traits. My thirst for knowledge was given to me by my mother who was always well-read, especially in the sciences. Non-fiction, informational books were her mainstay. Autobiographies and biographies were also acceptable fare, as were historical novels (preferably with plenty of historical and very little novel).

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Love of Learning