Category Archives: KidLit

Poem in Your Pocket Day


by Jim Hill

Of all the noises I can make
the one that always takes the cake,
surprises some, and spooks a few,
is the mating call of the Groo.

Now don’t look shocked it’s not obscene,
The Groo is chaste and most serene.
When he finds he’s in the mood
He strikes a pose and cops a ‘tude.

The music starts, a string quartet,
don’t blush now, they’re almost set.
He clears his throat and with a start
lets loose a ripping, roaring fart.

The Query Contest Continues…

The query contest at Adventure’s in Children’s Publishing is still going on. They’re an amazing crew for taking on the challenge of a contest over several weeks with fifty writers. Hats off to some serious left brain organizational skills!

This week they’re looking at our log lines, the one sentence description of your book. It’s a tough thing to do, but it makes you really focus on the most essential elements of your protagonist and the plot. Here’s mine with a link to their site, in case you want to comment there (of course, you’re welcome to comment here too).

The clock is ticking on sixth-grader Marshall who must face the bully, survive gym and outwit his evil sister to get to his favorite class with his skin, his pride and his clarinet intact.

I’ve already had some great comments from Nikki Katz (the mentor for my cohorts in this contest), Slushpile Slut, and Jess but as real glutton for attention I want more.

Adventures in Children’s Pubishing Query Contest

Last week I entered a fun contest over at the Adventure’s in Children’s Publishing blog. They drafted an agent and a handful of writers to review fifty queries, help polish them up, and then take the query down to a log line. Here are the details:

Our new contest/workshop started on Thursday 8/19. We accepted the first 50 short synopsis (pitch) entries up to 175-words. Starting 8/26, those entries will be open for critiques from our panel of fantastic mentoring authors and you, our generous visitors. We hope you will participate. Next stop after that? On 9/2, we’ll get the loglines from our contestants, critique those for two weeks, then the writers will put everything they’ve learned together into a query letter. The query letter competition will be judged by Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown.

It’s a great contest idea and has a lot people involved giving good critiques of the queries. Here’s mine in case you want to comment.

Last week, as part of the Cape Cod Writers Conference, I had the chance to read from that story, The Case Against My Sister: Sixth Grade, and was blown away by the positive comments. People seem to love the voice, relate to the hero and worship the villain. I smell a sequel.

I’ll keep you posted as this contest continues.

Poster for NESCBWI

Change, change, change
Click to see a slideshow of the process. Then come back and comment, right?

Here’s my entry for the poster showcase for NESCBWI 2010. The theme for the conference is “Moments of Change” and I bounced through several serious approaches before deciding to go with my silly, silly gut. I’m chagrined I didn’t start earlier, but happy I can do this in one busy frantic day of focused activity.

Really looking forward to seeing all the posters on display. I’m usually blown away and rocked with feelings of inadequacy, but it’s great to see how other poeple interpret a theme.

Congratulations, You Did It! Now What?

I just finished a hectic, and productive, week of NaPiBoWriWee and I’m gearing up for the NESCBWI conference this coming weekend. I’m cranking out some work for the conference, and trying to catch up on Day Job. Which means not a lot of time for blogging. However, I remembered that I had a perfect post in the drawer for this week.

Originally published in 2005 as a Goals Gone Wild newsletter, the message is still appropriate for anyone living deadline to deadline. That’s you right?

Living the Project Based Life

I totally rock. In the last couple of weeks I’ve been in a musical revue, run the Falmouth Road Race and completed a major life goal. I’m living the dream and things couldn’t be better.

How’d I get so lucky?

I realized a long time ago that I have lived most of my life in the middle of one “goal based objective” or another. In both personal and professional areas it’s the type of activity that attracts me. Give me a project, a deadline and a goal and stand back. Web site development, marathon training, and theatrical productions all have one thing in common – the deadline. The show goes up, the gun goes off and the launch date arrives. Woo-hoo! I love it! I love the training, the rehearsing and the planning. I love the adrenaline rush of crunch time and the awesome feeling of success when the goal is achieved. Baby, there ain’t nothing better.

And that’s the problem.


So what do you do when the race is run, and the show closed? Take a break. Relax. Heck, you’ve just worked your butt off for weeks and need some downtime to recharge. Right?

Wrong. At least for me, and I bet for many of you too.

The first day or two it is nice to kick back. But then, suddenly it’s a week. Maybe two. You’ve got time to kill. You’ve got that itch and nothing to fill it. Sometimes it gets nasty. Post “show/race/project” Depression. The blues. Maybe there are other things you should be on top of but they just don’t have that urgency.

How do we jump start ourselves? How can we get back in the game and be the goal getter we are inside? Where’s my mojo?

Move Your Own Goal Posts

Here’s my trick. Maybe it’s a method. Whatever you want to call it, here it is: Always be making new goals. Before you finish the current big project look around for the next one. Get excited about it and put it on deck.

So the marathon is coming up in a month? Great! Pick another race a few weeks after that! That big project done at the office? Don’t wait! Look at your own inbox. Elevate one that’s been hanging around and get ready to kick its butt.

This doesn’t mean you don’t take a breather. This doesn’t mean you don’t revel in your achievement. Taking care of yourself is a key component of the THRIVE! lifestyle (and I’m sure we all want to THRIVE!, right?).

It does mean look ahead. Plan your next step. Life keeps moving and we need to move with it.

Here are a couple of sayings that fit this issue:

“Life’s a Journey not a Destination”

“Don’t Rest On Your Laurels”

and I’d like to add a couple of my own:

“Activity is Victory”

“The Next Step Is Now”

OK then. Let’s get moving!

NaPiBoWriWee Bloggers

Lifting this list from Paula’s post with additions from the comments. If I missed you, post your blog in the comments and I will add you to the list.

*UPDATED* I’ve added Nancy Sanders to the list. She’s the author of “Yes! You Can Learn How To Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career” the book I was lucky enough to win for participating.

Thanks, Nancy!

NaPiBoWriWee Participant Blog Links:

#NaPiBoWriWee Days 5, 6, 7 and a Wrap Up

I just flew in from #NaPiBoWriWee, and boy are my arms tired. It was a great exercise in writing every day (a constant goal of mine), and I have a better understanding of why it doesn’t happen. I also have a better idea of how to make it happen more often.

Life balance, juggling, time management, sleep deprivation. Whatever you call it, it’s about choices. Do I want to sit and write or do I want to:

  1. Work my day job
  2. Spend time with my family
  3. Clean the kitchen/the bathroom/myself
  4. Exercise
  5. Watch TV
  6. Read a book
  7. Buy groceries so we’re not eyeing each other like it’s the Donner Party Picnic

Choices and goals. This week gave me a clearer picture of how to make it work, and the value of working even when it’s hard. Thanks, Paula. I owe you a hug, or a high-five at least. Same for all the awesome folks who have chimed in and cheered each other on through the week.

OK, on with the show, I’m veering hard to the maudlin.

Day 5

This idea wasn’t on the original list I had made, but I couldn’t resist the title (which popped into my head while hiking around a local pond with my family). I often lock on to a phrase or title, and tease it until a story pops out. I like this one a lot, but again feel it might be a better chapter book or middle grade story than a picture book. Here’s the title, and opening line:

When Is a Polar Bear Not a Polar Bear?

Willa took the news hard, and she decided to do something about it. It took days to get the whole thing set up, and keep it a secret (well, mostly). Today was the day. She stepped off the bus, went to her locker and put on the Polar Bear costume she had hidden there. Now maybe they’d listen!

This is topical, dealing with climate change issues, but I don’t want to focus on the issue, rather the impact it has on Willa and what she does to raise awareness in her school. It’s a very rough draft at the moment, but this one gets a star next to it, for follow up.

By the way, the answer is, “When there’s no more polar there”.

Day 6

Confession time. Day 6 and 7 got away from me. I have the ideas, a rough outline and sketches for Day 6, but the rough draft eluded me. I’m blaming Day Job again. Where’s the life balance when you need it. What? You mean I need to pay the mortgage too? Bah! Hulk smash puny mortgage! But I digress…

Halloween is NOT for Monsters

Halloween is NOT for Monsters!
I just can't let him go.

Doodles work for me too. This little guy to the right appeared a couple of years ago, and I just can’t get him out of my head. I’ve worked up a series of sketches for him that tells the story of a little monster that wants to go trick or treating. His Mom won’t allow it because the monsters let the regular people own Halloween night. He figures out a way to sneak out and trick or treat without revealing himself as a monster.

I guess it’s an homage to the Charles Addams cartoons that I fell in love with as a young boy. I remember getting odd looks from the librarian checking out a collection when in second grade. Of course now I get odd looks from librarians for checking out children’s books. What’s with all the judgement, librarians?

Day 7

I knew this was going to be a tough one. I’ve had this title in mind since last summer, and just can’t find the story in it. Cute character, interesting situation. No conflict that satisfies. The Unicorn Whistle remains to be written. Someday…

Now it’s time to put these stories away for a bit. I hit the pause button on two projects in order to do #NaPiBoWriWee and I’m chomping at the bit to get back to them. Hope your week was equally refreshing. I’d love to know if any of your rough drafts from this week make it to submission and publication.

My Alternative PB Titles for #NaPiBoWriWee*

Inspired by my two-year old, these are the books I could have written this week.

  1. An Encyclopedia of Tantrums
  2. The Apple Cinnamon Song
  3. Yes, That Is a Trapezoid
  4. The Toddler That Woke Up at 5 am and Ruined Daddy’s Writing Time
  5. It’s Too Late For the Potty If You’ve Already Pooped
  6. Daddy Can Only Count To Three
  7. Time Out!

Back to writing. Must finish Day 5 and start Day 6.

*NaPiBoWriWee is National Picture Book Writing Week. More info here and here if you’re curious.

NaPiBoWriWee, Days 3 & 4.

Day three and four were a little rougher, mostly due to increased time constraints (day job). I also went off the rails a bit with my simple outline plan. Day three’s story started simple and took off on me. I think it would be a better chapter book or middle grade novel. At least this rough draft is done and I can always go back and edit it down (or up) for its next incarnation.

Day four’s idea came out of the April 19/20 #pblitchat about characterization. I added a comment about setting being an important component of characterization:

“On the moon” changes the characterization sharply from “in Mom’s kitchen”.

and the title “In My Mom’s Kitchen on the Moon” got stuck in my head. A little noodling later, and I had a concept to go with it. Ta-da!

The story is told through twelve spreads. The spreads are designed as one long illustration of Mom’s kitchen on the Moon. Mom flips a pancake. We follow Bobby and the flipping pancake across the spreads. Each one includes a simple chore for Bobby (Oil the robo-dog! Put on your space boots! Help your alien neighbor!) and a flap with moon and space trivia hidden underneath.

Very different from anything I’ve tried before, but I look forward to drawing the extra-long setting. I think I needed a little break from the heavy story I started on day 3. I recruited my math-whiz nephew, his mother and a friend to solve the question of how long a flipped pancake would take to travel across the a room on the moon (nephew said, “So we’re talking simple parabolic ballistics.” I said, “Um, sure.”). We’re still struggling with the initial velocity of a flipped pancake. Yup, kid’s books are easy!

Here, for your reading pleasure, are the first lines from each. Be nice, remember they’re rough drafts.

Day 3

Eubie the World’s Smallest Elephant

The sign had promised, among other things, the World’s Smallest Elephant and it was right. Tickets for Prof. Fantabulo’s Epic Cavalcade of Mysteries and Marvels cost a month’s allowance, but it was worth it. Still, as they crept out between the tent flaps with a backpack full of wriggling elephant they wondered if they had made a terrible mistake.

Day 4

My Mom’s Kitchen on the Moon

It’s breakfast on the Moon, and Bobby can’t wait for his Mom’s famous Mooncakes. He has a few chores to do before they reach his plate. Rocket shoes ready? Let’s go! 5-4-3-2-1, Blast off!

So here we are in Day 5, and I’m starting from another title. Ready for it? “When is a Polar Bear Not a Polar Bear?” If you want to know more you’ll just have to come back again. (How’s that for a tease?)

NaPiBoWriWee, Days 1 & 2.

Two days into NaPiBoWriWee and I’m clicking on all cylinders. Using my favorites from the ideas hatched during NaPiBoIdMo is an enormous help. For one, I have seven ideas that I like on tap. For two, these ideas have been kicking around my noodle for a long time so I can site down with some sense of direction and just write.

My approach has been very simple and that’s helped too. I make a quick outline; beginning, middle and end. I then write for the three acts. This isn’t necessarily artful prose, this is a rough first draft. Beauty, simplicity, character and themes can all be drawn out of it later. This week is about capturing that “shitty first draft” as Ann Lamont calls it.

Just for fun, and maybe a nice comment or two ( hey I can fish for feedback), here are the openings to the two stories written so far this week.

Day 1:

Spenser’s Pencil

“You have ONE hour to do you homework. No computer, no games, no phone calls. Do you understand me, mister?”

The door slammed and Spenser was left alone in his room, cut off from the outside world, just a boy and his homework. He looked at the worksheets on his desk and reached for his pencil. It rolled away.

Day 2:

The Adventures of Li’l Mister Monkey and Sailor Boy

It started as a joke, as so many things do.

“Let’s sail to the moon!” said Sailor Boy.

Li’l Mister Monkey thought it was a terrific idea, and soon they were plotting a course using sea charts and star maps.

Five days to go, five stories to write. It’s a fun ride, and I hope you’re finding success with your work too.