Tag: scbwi

Prepping for #LA11SCBWI

Since the Reluctant Dragon wound down I’ve been busy prepping for my first national SCBWI conference in Los Angeles. Mostly that’s meant working on manuscripts, trying to lose weight (fail), shopping for presentable grown man fashions and readying a new self-promotional business card. Oh, there was a bit of homework for the Monday Writer Intensives with Bonnie Bader and Lisa Yee too.

Here’s a quick peek at the card design. (I’ll update this post tomorrow when FedEx hands them over). FedEx came through like a champ – check’em out.

I chose to make a fold over business card with contact info and “flavor” on the outside with a complete illustration on the inside. I worked up a version of one of my characters, Roz Wellington; Girl Believer. This version is actually a little older and farther along in her saga which is why she’s joined by a pirate space-monkey and Robot Number 5 (ah, backstory…. maybe someday this whole thing see the light of day).

Here’s the process between pencils and beginning painting.

process from pencils to painting
process from pencils to painting, but not finished...


Here’s the finished piece.

Roz Wellington & Co.
Roz Wellington & Co.


And here’s the outside, front and back, of the card. I have a history of loving monkeys and a home-made catchphrase, “Put the monkey on it!”, so I couldn’t resist putting the monkey on the front right next to my name.

New promo card.
Put the monkey on it!



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!

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.

So You Want To Be a Children’s Book Writer?

I’m often asked how to get started with children’s book writing and what resources are available. Here’s the list I send out. It covers the basics and will guide you to more resources.

I find my status as “expert” pretty laughable, but expertise is relative. I might not be Jon Sciekza, but I have picked up a few things. I’m also very clear that I’m just starting out, and I know what I don’t know. Best of all, I’m not afraid to ask.


  1. Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and…
  2. Lean on your regional chapter for writing groups, local events and conferences. Here’s mine, New England SCBWI


I picked up several books to help me learn the ropes and understand the basics of the business and the craft.

  1. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books, 3rd Edition by Harold D. Underdown
  2. Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books by Uri Shulevitz
  3. The Encyclopedia of Writing and Illustrating Children’s Books by Desdemona McCannon, Sue Thornton, Yadzia Williams
  4. 2009 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market by Alice Pope

There’s Always More

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are a good start. I’ll be back with more, especially online resources, soon.

It Pays To Be Lucky

My grandmother won things. Never anything life-changing, like Powerball, just contests held by local grocery stores, or school raffles. Enough so that you’d say she was lucky. Fun fact – she could walk into a a clover patch, bend down and effortlessly pick out a four-leaf clover. That was always cool when I was kid. Heck, I think it’s pretty cool now.

I think some of that luck has been passed down to me. I win the little things too. Door prizes, “Guess the number of gumballs”, things like that. The little things.

Last week I got lucky again. By posting a comment on her blog I won a Synopsis Critique from Kathleen Ortiz of Lowenstein Associates. This sure feels like a big thing to me.

I’m new to writing. Well, new to writing with the intent of being published. A couple of summers ago I decided to take a “Creative Vacation” at the end of August and attended a local writer’s conference. They had week long classes on writing a picture book led by Judith Moffatt, and Writing Comic Books with Peter David (blog | wikipedia). That was a life-changing week for me (I’ll tell you why in a future post).

Since then I’ve been baby-stepping towards publication, writing more and surprising myself that the well of ideas seems to be a lot deeper than I ever thought. As anyone starting out knows, though, writing is only one part of the equation. Somehow you have to get noticed.

Maybe my grandmother’s luck has given me that chance. I don’t expect any miracles, just the little things. At worst, I’m going to get professional feedback on a story that I love. At best? Well, miracles do happen. Come to think of it, that’s not such a little thing after all.

Off to the clover patch. Wish me luck!