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
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.
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.