Let’s Have a Blog Party!

My e-friend Carrie Charley Brown invited me to a Blog Hop (via an email chain letter). I’m supposed to talk about writing, so I will.

Writing. Why do I write? It would be a bit hubristic to say because I’m good at it, but I think I am. But I’m not that good at it yet. Maybe someday. I write rhyming children’s picture book manuscripts. I have to say manuscripts because I’m not published yet. Some might say I’m pre-published. But my many children are also pre-published and they may have no aspirations to become published. So I prefer to use the term PIMD (Published In My Dreams) – the implication that I dream to someday be published. But that’s not the question. The question is: why do I write? Or more specifically (and a completely different question): why do I write what I write? I write in rhythm and rhyme. I write for children. I write what should ultimately be illustrated (not by me as I can’t illustrate – or at least I haven’t tried and have no formal training and haven’t picked up a crayon to draw something  other than with a child since I was 8 myself).

Why rhyming in rhythm? Because I can. Not everyone can. Not everyone should. Why for children? Because I read at a child’s level. I can’t write for young adults or new adults or adults or old adults because I can’t read as well as them.

Although I can’t draw, some of my favorite authors are also illustrators. Two of my tops are Mo Willems and Peter Brown. I’m also a big Dan Santat fan, but he mostly illustrates. Amy Krouse Rosenthal is incredibly prolific and talented. I admire Tara Lazar and Ame Dyckman‘s ability to use social media to their advantage. And who doesn’t like Michael Ian Black? I guess I admire people who push the boundaries and make books that are different. It’s hard to do when you’re PIMD, as you sort of have to toe-the-line of what’s acceptable and standard in the children’s writing world. Everyone says they like to see things that are different, and it’s not like I’ve been rejected all that many times, but it feels like when I submit my ‘different’ things, the responses I get are “your type of different isn’t marketable.” So while I want to be different some day (and tow-the-line), for now I have to be outstandingly normal.

Ooh, I think that just answered another question from this blog hop list of questions: how does my writing differ from other works in its genre – the answer: It doesn’t … yet.

For some reason, one of the questions on this hop is ‘what scares you?’ So I’m going to be honest here – Poison. I really don’t like heavy metal music. Especially waking up to it. I can deal with some alt-rock. Black Hole Sun is great as an alarm, as it starts off slow and smooth, crescendos, and then leads into Spoon Man. If you’re not up by the end of Black Hole Sun, Spoon Man will certainly send you to the shower.

I guess I really fear The Unknown (and I’m not referring to the tv show starring Dominic Monaghan). But I’m not going to tell you why (is that irony? I never really was fully able to define that word. The best I could get is that the word ironic couldn’t be defined. And maybe that fact is also ironic).

The hardest part about writing for me, is getting disappointing feedback from a critique group. I’m too new to writing to have ever had writer’s block (at least for more than a couple of hours). But when you bring something to a crit group and people just don’t get it, that can be truly heartbreaking. Even if everyone’s totally nice about it and follows all the proper critiquing rules to the letter. Once I wrote something and people thought that the main character was a girl when it was supposed to be a boy. Once I had been told that I should probably not work on this piece any more (in the context that the rest of my manuscripts were so much better). Once I was told that this might make a good magazine article, but not a picture book. Several times I’ve been given great advice that would totally make my story so much better and deeper and move to a whole new level – and it would require a total re-write to achieve that. And once you step back and away from the crit, you’ll realize that some (if not all) of the advice is true, even if it hurts to hear. And sometimes you just need to go with your gut and ignore it (I did keep working on that piece and lots of people love it … not the right people, but lots of the wrong ones).

So, back to writing for me. The people below are the ones who I sent this blog hop chain letter to. If there are no links below, you’ll know I have no friends.

Heather’s Post for this Blog Hop!

The Writers’ Loft Experience

So, my first trip to the writers’ loft was pretty successful and fun. I got to hang out with adults who also like writing for kids. Plus, I got to have one of my manuscripts critiqued by two talented new critiquerers (one lady & one dude). It’s always fun to have new people read and critique my work, because the new perspective often gives me new ideas of what direction to take my manuscripts.

See, I have this problem where I sometimes write picture books that have a bunch of (I think) funny things that happen, that would crack me up with the right (or any) illustrator. But I occasionally (very rarely, of course)  have trouble fitting that funny stuff into a plot (I know, I know, story and plot come first … but sometimes funny images get in the way). Dude critiquer gave me an idea (that still needs fleshing out), but may frame a plot around this funny stuff.

Lady critiquer wasn’t a total Papa J Funk newbie (she’d heard me read one of my manuscripts). Dude critiquer also brought along his own manuscript which was pretty awesome. I had a hard time find things wrong with it that needed to be fixed. Dude read it aloud to us (no paper copies) and I got shivers down my spine at the end (probably 6 intervertebral discs – there are 23, in case you were wondering). Unfortunately, it was ~600 words, so it’ll never be published. That’s waaaaaaaaaay too long.

And there was free pizza.