So I want to write a kids book.

I’ve decided to write a book for children, what should it be about, I mean, what kind story and how many swear words can I get away with?

As for the swear words, best not have any unless it’s a parody of a kids book. But anyway, the general question when turned to Picture Books is not easy to answer.

Should it have a message? Maybe.

Can it just be funny? Sure, if it’s really funny.

Can I write a fairytale? Not if you want to sell any books.

Speaking of selling books, how many books do I have to sell to be considered successful? Not an easy question to answer except to say ‘lots’ nor as many as possible. But how many is ‘lots’ depends on issues like the advances involved and expectations. Another example of how keeping expectations low benefits one in life…

But how many is ‘a lot’? Pick a number.

I’m an actual Doctor so I should sell more books than Dr. Seuss. I doubt it.

No, really, I have a great message about kids place in a changing world and technology and the value of a pet in a lonely kids life. Isn’t that a good book? Maybe. But don’t forget to make it entertaining first and foremost.

I loved the Picture Books I grew up reading. Can I write one like that?

It would be better to write something new. Try and figure out what it is you enjoyed about those books when you were a child and find a new way to approach it. Be aware that nostalgia may be driving your love of a book you had when you were 8. Not that the book was actually that affecting. I can say from experience that several books I ‘loved’ as a kid are better forgotten. Not that I didn’t LOVE them at the time. But my love for them is tied to my life at that time. The book had become a surrogate for the innocence and naiveté of being 8.

Times change. People want new books for a reason. Try watching only 1950’s television. Some of it is entertaining and you can appreciate the directing/acting/writing or see it as a cultural museum tour but culture keeps moving and you need to make some effort to define yourself and your interests in current terms. That doesn’t mean we can’t be inspired and appreciate what came before us, but trying to repeat it for superficial reasons doesn’t work. Think of it this way, the big themes in literature haven’t changed tremendously since 500BC. It’s how we talk about them that changes. For me, relevance is a difficult to define term that is of top importance when it comes to having a successful Picture Book. And it comes from the author and/or illustrator finding a way to talk about issues in a way that feels refreshed and informed by our current world.

Speaking of the current world I have deadlines. I wish writing a good book was as fast as talking about them!

Posted in Blatherings, picture books, Work in progress, writing fiction | 3 Comments

Yeah!? Well, listen to this!

I’m in the mood to vent today. Between the silliness of having a charter school in West Linn ( where I live, because you know public schools are so bad here…)  or the national political slow motion car accident that is the presidential election, man-oh-man it’s hard to just get to work drawing funny puppies and slightly awkward monsters.

Of course the thing one must realize is that 99% of this is simply about people finding a way to make a living. Whether it’s a conservative pundit whose obvious goal is to entertain and sell books (not to have an actual exchange of political ideas and policies) or people in the charter school system who scare parents into thinking that their kids can’t excel in a public school, most issues boil down to people who need to make a living. Taking advantage of fear is what advertisers and some politicians do best.

BTW if you haven’t heard, people who buy my books are 30 times smarter and happier and their children tend to grow up to run highly profitable pharmaceutical companies… I’m just saying…

Posted in Blatherings, Oregon, writing fiction | 4 Comments

Chickens!

Chicken Story Time. It’s a book. It’s a lifestyle. It’s not just for KFC anymore.

Wait…that’s a horrible thing to say.

CST_8_

The book Chicken Story Time is out in December, which is National Poultry Month AND National Bring a Chicken to the Library Month so that makes sense.

cst_cvr

Go buy the 6 copies I always implore you to get. It’s perfect for that story time age group. And you know how rough they are on books. That’s why you need a few extra.

Here’s what Kirkus said about it: “It’s the scariest story yet in Stephen King’s history of short stories…” Wait. Wrong review. Here: “This book may make free-range storytimes de rigueur. (Picture book. 3-7)”

Order it locally now!

Or at Barnes and Noble.

Or that one online place I can never remember it’s name…

 

 

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Whacha watching?

When I draw and paint I often have my trusty iPad on and stream movies and TV shows. Depending on how focused I need to be effects what I watch. If I’m writing I usually just have music on if anything. But if I’m painting a book I like to have shows on.

I’ve become a devotee of British and/or European police shows. We cut cable years ago and get by with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO sometimes, but even with Hulu I haven’t watched American Prime Time TV is years. I know about what’s on american TV from reading Deadline Hollywood and some trades. But I have seen little to none of it. My dislike of the sitcom format started my turn away from prime time American TV and I’ve had little desire to return

But I’ve become an expert on the dozens of BBC detective shows. They are appealing not just as drama but little insights into a culture that is different but not wholly foreign. Broadchurch, River, Happy Valley…the list is long. I’ve taken to calling them ‘my stories’ which is how soap operas were referred to in my house growing up. And they play a similar part in my life. I look forward to visiting this alternate world each day that is compelling but not overwhelming.

It’s fascinating that we are flooded with entertainment options from around the world now. There are so many shows, there’s no way to watch them all. As a kid we were lucky to get reception on 3 TV stations. I’m old enough to remember the Wizard of Oz being broadcast on Thanksgiving and it was an event.  Talk about must-see-TV. So yeah, that’s a thing…

TV now has the same problem that publishing has been dealing with – there’s just so much of it. How many picture books can anyone read in a given year?

I pick and choose what to watch in a very unconventional way, it’s like shopping when you don;;t NEED anything, but like to look. I have no idea if what I’m seeing is considered good, if it was a success in the market place originally or was so bad it ended after 8 episodes because no one watched it. Or are there only 7 episodes because of the weird ‘seasons’ on British TV?  I’m sure I am often not the target demographic of what I watch, but it’s all here. A smorgasbord of media that I watch while creating more media. Something seems scary about that.

 

Posted in Blatherings, writing fiction | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The Truth about writing kids lit.

While many Americans have taken time off from work just to watch Fox News and enjoy this election I think we are missing the most important aspect: conspiracy theories going mainstream!

It’s an exciting time to be a creative writer!

So here’s some news like things that I’ve learned about working in Kid’s Lit. Don’t quote me on them, I’m just saying I heard this or read it or it came to me in a dream. Who knows, right?

Winnie the Pooh wasn’t originally about a bear.

The real Willy Wonka was arrested 3 times. He never ran a chocolate factory.

The New York Times best sellers list is chosen by  whichever editor has the most interns named Jen on staff that month.

Picture books stopped being made in 1968.

Dr. Seuss was no Doctor!

Barnes and Noble was considering offering a deal where you get two middle grade fiction books for every Brownie Bar you buy at their cafe. But customers kept declining the books.

Harry Potter was a movie first.

Picture books with dogs on the cover sell 400% better than picture books with cadavers on the cover.

In the 1950’s kids had to read 600 books during an average 5th grade class year. Now they mainly play Minecraft and chew gum.

Book stores used to carry more books than toys.

Posted in Blatherings, Borders Books | 7 Comments

another day on the internet

intrnet

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Working hard or hardly working…

I received a few really funny emails about my previous post, but of course what this really shows is – all of us are busy reading the internet instead of doing work. So…yeah, there’s that.

 

Posted in Blatherings, Internet, writing fiction | 2 Comments