The KWEST contest is now open! I am happy to introduce this new feature on my blog for elementary school students in grades 3-5 that will run periodically (no set schedule for now). This is a nationwide competition for creative writing with a theme, a twist and , of course, PRIZES!
Teachers and librarians will have 30 days from the contest opening date to submit the best entries that they select to send me (see rules for the stories below). Please use the contact form at the bottom of this post and include the following with your submission:
--The student's first name & last name initial
--What grade they are in
--The name of your school
--The city and state
Prizes awarded will be for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. Speaking of prizes . . .
Third place will get one of my books of their choice (valued between $10.99-$16.99). Second place prize is a boy or girl Lego set (valued between $15-$20). First prize is a $25 Amazon or Toys R Us gift card (winner's choice)! The three winning stories will be posted on my blog and bragging rights awarded with a special certificate :)
Are you excited yet? Here are the story crafting rules:
1. Write a short story of no more than 160 words with a title, a beginning, middle and end. (Title not included in the word count.)
2. The story MUST have a twist of some kind (like a surprising ending).
3. The story must be related to the theme announced for each competition.
It's time to announce the theme for this installment . . . and it is . . . PETS! Any type of pet -- real or imaginary. You can make your story funny, sweet, scary, clever, gross etc. Just remember to have a twist at the end.
Judging will be handled by our panel of professional writers and educators (TBA). Stories will be evaluated based on craft, execution, originality, use of literary devices, and how clever and surprising the twist is.
If you have any questions, please ask me in the comments. There's a PDF file attached with the contest rules for you to print and distribute to your students.
I can't wait to read your submissions. Good luck!
Now, ready? Set! Go!
*By submitting, you agree to allow me to post the winning story on my website and use excerpts for promotional purposes.
Last week, I suddenly felt in such a giving mood that I started something I call #MissionJoyGiveaway. I'll explain in a moment, but let me first say this. This idea has been circling in my mind for quite a while now – every time I think about my calling, my purpose, my mark in the world and the ripple effect I want to create through what I love doing most, which is writing and creating books for children. But I haven't been able to fully grasp the "how" in executing it.
How can I speak the right words at the right time to the kids who desperately need them? How will I find my audience? How will I deliver my message?
When I was little, I was very sensitive to words spoken to me. I often longed to hear words of encouragement, understanding, validation . . . from the people closest to me. But I never did.
So when I became an author, I knew that I wanted to make an impact. I knew that words were free while they were priceless, and that the right words could be powerful enough to affect a life. At the same time, I felt stuck and bummed by not reaching enough people or not reaching the right people, because I was somehow restricted by outside circumstances (or so I believed) or personal limitations: lack of marketing skills, not enough time, not enough resources etc.
How can I have my message heard if it's not reaching people?
And then came divine intervention. It all clicked. Words are free. They're priceless. Asking gives you the answers you need. I got it! I can spread joy through my words without worrying about resources or marketing skills or overwhelming tasks.
Sooo . . . #MissionJoyGiveaway was born! Forget about the fancy-schmancy gadgets as gifts. Let's go back to "the sticks and the stones" (they're still around, even after all this technology that surrounds us). So are the words and the handwritten letters. I can send those gifts out – personal, meaningful, inspiring. And I know who to ask in helping me find the recipients.
I reached out to a group of elementary school librarians and asked them to message me if they could think of any needy student or one who wishes for a book, but might not get one, or a child going through a tough time who could use a personalized card/letter of encouragement from a children's author. Or perhaps a whole class that might need to get excited about reading, books or writing. Anything that I can do to make a difference with a note, a kind word, or a book.
Soon after I posted, I got my first message. It was about a first grader who had just lost her mom to cancer, lives in poverty and will be moving in with her grandma. Heartbreaking.
I have just the right book for her, Sarah's Song, to accompany my letter and I hope those give her some small joy or a bit of peace as she's going through this painful time.
When I shared my idea for #MissionJoyGiveaway with a writer friend, she told me about another family in need – a single mom of four who recently lost their house and all their belongings in a fire and are now living in a hotel. My friend said, "The kids can sure use a book to read as they are getting bored in that hotel room."
They will be getting some books from me, as well.
Books are also going to Inova Life with Cancer in Virginia and I will keep writing notes and letters throughout this month.
'Tis the season and it makes me jolly to be able to help in some small way.
I'd like to extend an invitation to anyone who'd love to be a part of this, especially my fellow authors: Please join me in #MissionJoyGiveaway and reach out to your communities and beyond to seek kids in need and send them notes, letters or books.
Brighten a child's holiday this season!
Let's spread the word and the joy with #MissionJoyGiveaway
Callie Metler-Smith is my publisher and the owner of Clear Fork Media Group, Stamford American, and Clear Fork Publishing. She also owns a bookstore, she's a busy mom, author, illustrator, and a business lady. Callie wears many hats, I don't know how she does it all, but it's amazing to know her!
It's always fun talking to Callie, so it's a pleasure to interview her on my blog for people to get to know her -- she's up to something new and exciting every time! And today, she'll share details about a special project in the works -- you're getting the scoop directly from the source.
Q: Welcome Callie! I'm so happy to have you over and chat about the upcoming anthology, A Hug for the World, which is an amazing collaboration of so many talented creatives, including you, not only as the publisher, but as a contributor as well. So let's dive in and talk about the idea for the anthology? How was the concept born? What prompted the creation of the book?
A: The anthology actually came about in several stages. A few months ago before Hurricane Harvey had happened, I got a submission of a short story for kids from one of my authors, Sascha Terry. Sascha's story was amazing, but it was too long to really be a picture book and too short to be a chapter book. I told him I thought it would be best as a short story in a bigger book.
The same week, one of my son's friends died suddenly. She was only a week away from her 12th birthday and the circumstances were very sad. It made a huge impression on my son and I voiced my concern to several of the authors about kids being forced to grow up too fast with bullying and other factors in the world.
After some discussion several mentioned having stories or art that matched the theme . . . A Hug Felt around the World. We kicked it around and then Hurricane Harvey happened. It deeply impacted several of our own authors and illustrators and it seemed like a natural fit to continue with the idea. The project was renamed "A Hug for the World". We felt the world was fitting because the contributors are from not only all over the United States, but all over the world such as Poland, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
Q: Tell us more about what's included in the anthology? What can readers expect? What's the most awesome thing about it and how is it different than anything else you've done/published so far?
A: Readers can expect a little bit of everything. There are many poems for children, short stories, and many pieces of art from the Clear Fork Publishing family. Not only did our authors and illustrators contribute but some of our in office staff did. The best part is that each person's contribution is true to their personal style. The most amazing thing is to see all of that talent combined in one place.
Q: How many contributors are there? Can you mention some names?
A: We have around 60 contributors. It is hard to single out my favorites because I love all of them so much, but Poet Johnny Moore kicks us off with his poem "A Hug for the World" with an illustration by Vanessa Newton, Carina Povarchik provided our breathtaking cover and Cindy Vattathil provided a beautiful illustration for our title page of the Houston skyline.
The whole anthology is basically a who's who of the Clear Fork Publishing Family. There is also a wonderful poem by Rosie J. Pova!
Q: What is your goal and hope for A Hug for the World? What do you what to say to the readers and your customers?
A: My main goal for A Hug for the World is to add beauty and hope to the destruction that was Hurricane Harvey. It is Clear Fork Publishing's way of doing our part to help in the best we way we know how to. I also want it to say to readers that there is so much good that can come out of bad things, and I think the common theme of Hope, Love, Peace, and a hug carry through the whole book.
Q: Where can people order the book?
A: The book will be available through the Clear Fork Publishing website here or on Amazon and Barnes and Noble's websites.
A Hug for the World
Q: What else are you working on that your can share with us at this time? An exciting project or two?
A: We have so many great books that have just come out and several slated to come out before the end of the year. I'm personally very excited about the release of my first Picture book called "Ben's West Texas Snow" which is set to be released in November. We also have a fantastic poetry book called "Shimmer" that will release on October 17th.
Q: What is your vision for CFP for the next five years? What do you hope to accomplish going forward? What do you work toward that is important for the house?
A: CFP's main goal over the next 5 years is to continue to produce books we believe in and add diversity and creativity into the marketplace. I've mainly been busy building a focus as we move forward of defining more what our voice is in the world as an independent publisher. I would love to see Clear Fork grow into some of the smaller houses that I love and carry in my bookstore such as Sleeping Bear Press. We have been so blessed to have some wonderful editors join our team in the last year.
Q: Any advice to writers and illustrators who might want to submit to you in the future?
I'm always looking for unique work and love seeing people's creativity. While we are currently closed to picture books, I'm hoping we will be able to open at some point around the first of next year.
Thank you, Callie, for taking the time to do this interview. I hope readers all over the globe get to read A Hug for the World and feel the love, peace, and hope.
Callie Metler-Smith is the owner of Clear Fork Media Group in Stamford, Texas. She has owned the Stamford American (a small community newspaper) since 2009 and Clear Fork Publishing since 2014. When not working at her corner of the Stamford Square, she spends time with her husband, Philip, her sons Logan and Ben, and her niece Sadey.
If the classic picture book structure is your favorite and you want to stick with it, make sure you hit all the important points when drafting your story. Here's an easy model to follow – apply it to your manuscript spread by spread, find what's missing or where your pace is disturbed, then modify, mold, and master!
[For a 32-page picture book, you'll have fourteen spreads in which to fit your story.]
1. Introduce your main character (MC) and show us something interesting or special about him/her: skills, quirks, relationships etc. This is also where you set the expectation of tone, type of story, and voice.
2. Establish the MC's normal world. What's the setting? Does the setting play a special role in your story?
3. Develop MC even further. What does he/she want? You might introduce a secondary character.
4. Inciting incident: something happens that disturbs the "normal" and prompts the MC to take action. The MC needs to do something about it, either to restore the balance or to take a step toward their goal/desire that they've had at the beginning.
5. First try: MC fails and the situation gets worse. This failure also brings a little change in him/her. It helps the MC learn more about the world or himself.
6. Second try: MC fails again. Tension escalates. MC has a bit of a different perspective. He learns something from this failure, too.
7. Third try: MC fails once again. This time it seems like all is lost and there's no way out of the mess.
8. MC reflects on the situation and contemplates his next move. MC gets past the defeat, finds hope, and the motivation to try again.
9. MC gathers his/her strength and skills learned from previous experience and makes a decision to solve his/her problem in a different way.
10. The preparation: does the MC need to gather supplies, resources or dig deeper to ensure success this time?
11. Final battle. The MC makes the biggest effort here, using all of his/her previous lessons learned and new resources.
12. MC wins! He/she solves the problem. You can use a twist, a surprise, or a clever solution here. The most important thing is that no one else solves the problem for your MC. It should not feel like a coincidence, either. The more original this part is, the more of the "golden factor" your book will have. Don't use the first idea that comes to mind. Search further and think outside-the-box.
13. A satisfying ending. MC might not get exactly what he/she wanted, but what they need. Tie it back to the beginning.
14. MC is changed as a result of his journey. Show the "new normal" for your MC with a hint of what the future might look like for them. Finish on a positive, hopeful or humorous note, depending on the tone and type of story. Make sure it matches what you've established for the story's world from the get-go.
That's it! There's some wiggle room here and there, but overall this model should give you some guidance on how to develop your classic structured picture book.
This is only the frame to get you started with your draft. As for the rest of the elements that make for a great picture book, like an original idea, vocabulary, voice, literary devices, imagery, page turns, illustration potential etc., those are subject to future posts.
Leave a comment and share your biggest challenges, advice or thoughts on crafting your classic structured picture book.
You can't wait any longer? Are you this excited? I know I am and so, as promised, it's time for Sarah's Song cover reveal . . .
I know I'm partial, but I give it two thumbs up! Thank you, Emma Allen, for the beautiful art! It's a great honor to have you as a partner for this book and I can't wait for us to share it with the world (releases 9/05/17, will be available for pre-order soon).
I believe kids will give it two thumbs up, too.
If you ever get stuck and need some inspiration to come up with new picture book ideas, here are five ways to help ignite your creativity:
1. Think back to your childhood experiences.
Try to remember times when you were surprised, scared, excited, hurt or disappointed. What was the reason in each of those situations? How did you react? Did you learn anything? Did you confide in your best friend? Looking back, what do you wish was different?
Turn one of those experiences into an adventure. Or a silly tale. Re-imagine one of the above scenarios as a funny story. Or perhaps a sweet story.
You can also mix and match. For each experience you remember, write the main components -- feeling, reason, outcome -- on a separate piece of paper. Fold your little notes and put them in three different jars. Draw one note from each jar and write that story. Even if you think it won't make sense, find a way to make it work. I'm sure that the more absurd the "plot" you have to work with, the more it'll spark your imagination and the result can be fresh and original.
2. Read a variety of picture book.
I often find my ideas that way. Not by copying, but by turning the story on its head. Sometimes, I imagine the plot as the opposite of what I read. I also change the emotional landscape.
Other times, it might be helpful to just take the theme of the story and consider it from a different angle. (Always research to make sure this hasn't been done already.)
3. Talk to kids.
Friends, neighbors, your own . . . Ask them about their day. Can they share something funny that happened recently or something that made them mad?
And if you just ask them for story ideas, they are very willing and excited to help and they come up with the craziest, most unexpected suggestions!
4. Flip through kids magazines.
Read the article titles. They're usually catchy and straight to the point. How can you turn that into a story? Some magazines include funny or clever kids' quotes, as well as parent letters. See if any of those could make a great story.
5. Look at illustrator portfolios online.
You might stumble upon a character that speaks to you, begging you to tell his/her story. Or you might discover a scene that evokes an emotion behind which lies an untold story. Your story.
If you see something that you like, ask yourself questions. Why is this stork frowning at the birthday cake? What made that frog laugh? What would make this little boy jump with excitement? Why are all the animals staring at the green goat? Why is it green?
Whatever the scene is that the illustrator captured, try to come up with a few possibilities about what happened right before that moment and what is about to happen next. Write them down. Mix and match again if you must.
And there you are! Off you go creating, no need to wait for the muse.
I hope this list will be of some help to you next time you brainstorm story ideas.
If you would, leave me a comment and let me know which of the above you'll try next or what are some other ways or tricks you use to come up with new ideas.
It. Was. Wonderful!
I recently had a story time and book signing at one of the Barnes & Noble stores in my area. I was both nervous and excited and wasn't sure what to expect or if people would even show up, despite my various promotional efforts.
Happy to report that people did show up and the crowd was fabulous! There was energy in the room, I didn't stumble, I didn't fall (thank God!) and all went well. I signed a lot of books--at one point, when I looked up, there was a little line up.
A big thank you to the store's event manager, Suzanne, and the staff who made this possible. Thank you to my family and friends for the support, and thank you, God, for your grace!
7 Things to Do for Your Book Signing
1. Invite everyone you know plus random people you barely know. Or strangers.
2. Run a Facebook ad. It doesn't have to be expensive. I had mine up for 25 days prior to the event and targeted a 20-mile radius area around the store for $36.
3. Create a Facebook event on your Author Page--assuming you have one (you should!)--and boost it.
4. Have swag ready for your event--bookmarks, buttons, stickers etc. Bring small treats for the kids, but make sure you get the store's approval. I also brought a paper plate bear craft and coloring pages that the kids enjoyed doing after story time.
5. Show up early to help set up. Be nice and thank the staff for their work on your event.
6. Assign a friend to take pictures.
7. Be present in the moment. Talk to your guests and enjoy!
How about you? Have you hosted your bookstore author event yet or planning one? Please add any other suggestions or questions in the comments. Thank you!
I am delighted to have my friend, Jackie Kruzie--a picture book writer and also our SCBWI Regional Adviser--guest post on my blog today.
Jackie shares her experience on building a platform as a pre-published author and gives us advice on how to treat writing as a business. For some of you, putting yourself out there might come easily, but for most of us, introverts, it's quite a stretch. Read on to find out how Jackie did it.
Please let us know what you think in the comments and I invite you to share your own experience getting out of your comfort zone as well.
Here's Jackie . . .
Put On Your Beyoncé
By Jackie Kruzie
I am so excited for my friend Rosie and the release of her picture book “If I Weren’t With You” Rosie has been a mentor to me and I am thrilled she has asked me to write a post for her blog.
Chances are if you are a writer you are an introvert. I certainly am. I cower at the thought of public speaking, self-promotion, pretty much anything that requires me to actually talk to people.
Yet, here I am putting myself out there. Why? Because I want to be a successful writer. To achieve that goal, I have to be active in my writing business. That’s right, writing is a business. I wish that all I had to do was furiously clickity clack away on my computer, but the deeper I dive into the writing world the more I find myself doing things like this:
Yep, there I am standing in front of a group of 5th graders worrying if my hair looks good, if my shirt makes me look pregnant, if I smell like sweat and fear. Over the past couple of years, I have found myself the center of attention more and more. I’ve conducted writing workshops for children and adults, hosted conferences, and been a guest blogger. And guess what? I’m not even published yet! You may be wondering how this all came to be for an admitted introvert with social anxiety and a fear of public speaking. I’ll tell you in one word…Beyoncé.
Beyoncé has an alter ego she named Sasha Fierce. When she goes on stage she becomes Sasha Fierce, and Sasha is fierce. She has the courage to do things Beyoncé wouldn’t dream of doing. So, I took Queen B’s advice and created an alter ego of my own. I call her Beyoncé. Yes, I know that isn’t the most imaginative name, but who wouldn’t want to be a mega star with beauty, poise, and confidence?
With my alter ego securely fastened, I did something I never thought I would do. I volunteered. I attended an SCBWI meeting where the Regional Advisor asked if anyone would be willing to write a blog post for our chapter’s website. My hand went up (Beyoncé did it). I rocked that post. I rocked it so hard, I was asked to be the Social Media Captain for my SCBWI chapter. Now, I know that my writing didn’t blow anyone’s mind. I am pretty sure the reason I was asked was because I showed willingness to contribute, but nevertheless I was asked and I accepted.
I rocked that too. I was so good at being Social Media Captain that I was asked to be Assistant Regional Advisor. Again, it was due more to my willingness to help than actual skill. Not too long after I rocked at being Assistant I took over as Regional Advisor.
Thanks to this new position, I was thrust into the lime light. Suddenly people were looking to me to teach, guide, and even entertain them. I got busy researching. Some of my research required me to ask questions (GULP!) I had to bypass my social anxiety and reach out to other Regional Advisors, SCBWI members, published authors, teachers, and librarians. Turns out I’m a likable person and I made lots of good friends and good connections. Those connections facilitated in earning invitations to speak to children at schools about writing. I created a workshop I call The Young Author’s Workshop that teaches elementary students the fundamentals of writing a creative work of fiction. Teachers and librarians talk y’all, and soon I was receiving emails requesting my workshop.
Now, time for a funny story. I was on an airplane headed to Utah to do one of my Young Writer’s Workshops when I struck up a conversation with the woman next me (thanks again Beyoncé). Turns out she was an elementary teacher and was interested in my program. We exchanged cards (get cards). About a week later she emailed me saying that she had spoken to her principal and they were all set for my visit.
The story isn’t over yet, folks. In the spirit of volunteering, since it worked out for me previously, I decided to volunteer at my local library. I rocked it (really I just kept asking “what can I do to help?) A few weeks after volunteering I was asked to be on the library board. It’s amazing what doors will open when you genuinely wish to help an organization succeed. Now I am able to add books to the library’s collection, plan the summer reading program, and implement adult educational programs.
Don’t forget, I am a pre-published author. However, each experience has not only improved my writing, but has provided some impressive credentials to put in the bio paragraph of my queries.
So, let’s break it down nice and easy for all those who only read the bullet points of blog posts (we’re all guilty of it from time to time).
Tip #1 – Create an alter ego
Tip #2 – Volunteer
Tip #3 – Hone your skills. Not just writing skills, but presentation, planning, and public speaking skills
Tip #4 – Talk to people. Get business cards and pass them out. Make connections, ask for help, and help others (I didn’t cover this in the post, but it is VERY VERY IMPORTANT. The kid lit world is full of generous people. Help others and they will help you).
Tip #5 – Rock at everything you do. I joked about this (at least I hope you know I was joking, I’m not that conceited), but there is a bit of truth in it. Be reliable, trustworthy, and constantly improve.
Thank you to everyone who has helped me. It’s my turn to pay it forward. I hope you have found insight and inspiration in this post and I apologize for my numerous use of the word Beyoncé.
Jackie Kruzie is a picture book author and creator of The Young Author’s Workshop. She is the regional advisor for SCBWI North Texas and serves on the library board for the Gunter Library and Museum. She enjoys country living with her husband, 5 children, 2 cats, and numerous cattle and longhorns. Connect with Jackie through her blog at jaclynkruzie.com and on Facebook and Twitter.
Release day is coming soon! IF I WEREN'T WITH YOU will be out on April 4th, but there's still time to snag a swag pack with your pre-order! The #giveaway ends on 4/3/17, valid for U.S. residents only, while supplies last. A gift bag with pins, a magnet, stickers, signed cards and bookmarks is coming your way. Just send me your snail mail address using the contact form on my site and proof of purchase. One lucky winner will also get this cute huggable bear!
Click on the book image to pre-order your copy of
IF I WEREN'T WITH YOU
Curious? It's Time . . .
To get a swag bag with your preorder (U.S., first 25 only) please use the contact form on this site to send me your mailing address and I will mail you your goodies. Share on social media and tag me. One random lucky winner will also get a huggable stuffed bear!
About the Author
Rosie J. Pova is a prolific children's writer, a wife and a mother of three.
Ever since childhood, Rosie has had a passion for writing and has been fascinated with the power of words. She has written essays, short stories and poetry in Bulgarian and French as a young girl, but as a grown-up, her writing gave way to family, jobs and just life. Until 2004, when she revisited her love for story-making, a few years after becoming a mom.
Rosie is originally from Bulgaria now living in Texas with her husband and three kids. She writes primarily for children of all age groups, as well as poetry.
Rosie dreams of inviting many readers into her make-believe worlds and hopes to touch hearts with her words.
Rosie J. Pova is represented by Marisa Corvisiero of Corvisiero Literary Agency.