WRITERLY WISDOM: Russ Cox

 

kids.jpg

 
Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Five years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week’s post is from another friend…children’s author and illustrator, Russ Cox, whose whimsical artwork inspires me every day…

 

Generating ideas: Thinking like a child
By Russ Cox

 

“If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree, I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up! Not me!” ― J.M. Barrie

When Donna contacted me about writing an article on thinking like a child, I was excited to tackle this subject matter. Having reached the mid-century mark, it has been a long time since I was an actual kid in the physical sense. But if you ask my wife she will tell you I never grew up. She reminds me of this almost every day.

So what is it to be an adult and still think like a child? I believe to work in the children’s market, especially books, not only do you have to think like a child, but in many ways you need to act like one. No, not in the “I did not get my way so I would throw a tantrum or hold my breath until I pass out” way, although I have tried that with my wife and she will just step over me. To be child-like, one must still enjoy doing kid things.

Here are some things that I try to do to keep that inner kid active:

 

Don’t be perfect or afraid to fail –

 

A child does not worry about being perfect. Not every circle or square is exactly right. To exaggerate things is to see them in a new perspective. A different viewpoint can lead you down an undiscovered road, full of new ideas. Try to see things that are not there or do not make sense in the adult world. Look at drawings done by children. They show an eclectic mix of characters and scenarios that would make even Freud scratch his head, in a good way. Where would Picasso be if he created his paintings in a more traditional style?

 

Pretend –

 

The only time adults really let loose and pretend seems to be on Halloween or at a costume party. Why not dig out a mask or tennis racket and pretend you are a monster playing the guitar in a rock band. I would make a banjo reference but not many of us would imagine playing the banjo with a mask on. Reenact the “worm” scene from Animal House. The alcohol is optional.

 

Be silly, let loose –

 

Okay with this one, it is confession time. I have different voices for our four cats. Yes, I have become that crazy cat person. My wife is as well by proxy. Doing silly voices for the cats has lead to story and illustration ideas. Just stepping outside of adulthood for a brief moment and letting loose, feels good and gives you a good belly laugh. My daughter and I came up with this silly dance that we do whenever we are in bad moods. You cannot help but laugh at us. It is pure silliness. I can show you sometime if we ever run into each other.

 

Try something new –

 

I think as adults we get so stuck in our ways and routines it is hard to break out of that rut. Kids are always up to doing something they haven’t done before. It is the freshness of a new discovery that keeps them exploring new adventures. So do something different. Go into a music store, pick up an instrument that you have no idea how to play, and attempt to play it. Strum, blow, bang, crash, etc.! Yes, you could clear the store and create a ruckus but you could be an undiscovered Mozart or Jimi Hendrix.

 

Play –

 

As adults, especially creative ones, we must keep the want to “play” alive and healthy. We need to loose the self-control restraint that ones with age. I still enjoy going to toy stores and playing with the toys, watching cartoons, running amok at amusement parks and playgrounds, flying kites, and chasing my wife around with a water pistol. And yes, I do squirt her!

 

Practice –

 

Practice? How does one practice being a kid? If you apply or try a few the ideas above, your inner kid will come flooding back. Maybe to the chagrin of your partner or family but the payoff in the end will be worth it.
As we become adults, we tend to loose that creative free spirit. With jobs, families, and various responsibilities, a seriousness enters our lives, pushing out the inner child. Keeping that child alive is the key to not only success, but to lots of laughs and a happy, creative life.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

 

Russ

 
Russ Cox was raised by a pack of crazed hillbillies in the back woods of Tennessee. Without much in the way of modern conveniences, like a television set or running water, he spent his time drawing and whittling away the hours. After dismantling his grandfather’s lawn mower engine, and without a clue on how to get it back together, he soon realized that he did not have an automotive bone in his body so he kept drawing. After graduating from art school, with a portfolio in his hand, he ventured into the world of design and illustration. He opened his own studio, Smiling Otis Studio, where he presently specializes in illustration for children. When not drawing, running amok in the snow, or training their four cats to sing Bohemian Rhapsody, Russ enjoys some quiet time, working on his picture book stories. He also enjoys playing the banjo but his wife would prefer him to play the triangle or build a sound proof room.

 
Website: http://smilingotis.com
Blog: https://www.smilingotis.com/blog-1
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/SmilingOtisStudio

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY: My Thanksgiving Wish

 

Thanksgiving.jpg

 

 

MY THANKSGIVING WISH
by Donna L Martin

 

To loved ones near or far,
And those dear to my heart.
For family staying at home,
And friends living miles apart.
From my house to yours,
My heartfelt wish for you,
Is lots of love and laughter,
Now and the whole year through.

 

🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃🦃

BOOK NOOK REVIEWS: Mara Rockliff

 

mara

 

Title: Chick Chak Shabbat
Author: Mara Rockliff
Illustrator: Kyrsten Brooker
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Ages: 4-8

 

Synopsis:

 

Every Saturday at the apartment building, a delicious smell crept from 5-A. One Saturday, however, something wasn’t right.

 

Why you should read it:

 

I like culturally challenging books and this is certainly one. There are many nationalities living in that apartment building but every Saturday they gather together in 5-A to celebrate fun, friendships, and Shabbat. But what will those neighbors do one Saturday when the delicious smells stop drifting up from apartment 5-A? I found this story of friendship very endearing but was slightly put off by how the illustrations were done. All in all, worth taking the time to read it.

 

Like-o-meter Rating scale**: 4 out of 5…think about it.

**Rating scale**

5 out of 5…grab it!

4 out of 5…think about it.

3 out of 5…take or leave it.

2 out of 5…maybe not for you.

1 out of 5…forget about it!

FLASH FICTION TUESDAY: A New York State of Mind

 

NYC.jpg

 
Now on Tuesdays…at least for the foreseeable future…welcome to Flash Fiction Tuesday. In case you don’t know what flash fiction is, it is an extremely short story (sometimes created in 100 words or less) with a beginning, middle, and an ending,

But in my case, I write flash fiction with an open ending. I allow my readers to draw their own conclusion as to what happens. This week’s story leaves us wondering if we should give LIFE a second chance…

*****************

 

The old man cautiously looked at the people jamming the streets in front of him. How was he ever going to get through that crowd? Martha needed him. She had always needed him, ever since that day the Bufford boys pushed her down in the mud and stole her newspaper money. Times were hard back then and the editor had a soft heart. Martha convinced him to let her sell leftover editions to the butcher on the corner. Fish couldn’t read anyway so what did it matter to them if it was yesterday’s news?

Pulling threadbare lapels higher on his neck, the old man shuffled slowly through the lines of people. He remembered the first time Martha held out that coat for him to try on. Their first Christmas together and her fingers were still covered in bandages from all the extra sewing she’d done for the money. You would have thought he was the Crown Prince and that second-hand trench coat was made of the finest leather the way her face split in two with a silly grin when he finally tore open the package. She kissed him there, right under the small sprig of mistletoe he had snuck from the corner florist, and told him how much she needed him. Funny thing is, Martha never realized just how much he needed her. His day couldn’t begin until she smiled that pretty smile of hers. Old man McCraney’s complaints about him being lazy meant nothing once Martha hugged him as he walked in the door after pulling a double shift down at the docks. Why, she even kept the bottle from getting the better of him when they got that war department letter back in the winter of ’43. Lordy, what would he do without his Martha?

Mumbling his pardons along the way, the old man continued to make his way through the crowds until he finally made it to the corner and opened the door of the same florist he snatched mistletoe from all those years ago. Shuffling up to the counter, he waited for the young clerk to notice him before asking, “Would you have some white lilies, please? They’re for my Martha”….

 

***Okay, where is Martha? And why is he buying flowers for her? Add a line or a paragraph in the comments below and join the fun!***

 

 

***WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT!***
***WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT!***

 

I’m happy to announce the winner of week eight of my TWELVE WEEKS OF LUNADAR free giveaway! Laurie Kutscera has won the Yankee Candle fragrance locket. Thanks for following me on Twitter! Congratulations! Look for my email on how to get your prize…

 
Week Nine


***DON’T FORGET! It’s week nine of THE TWELVE WEEKS OF LUNADAR giveaway and this week you get a chance to accessorize your desk or nightstand with the cute doggie bookstand shown above! Just click on the pile of presents to the right of this post and choose how you would like to enter the FREE giveaway. Winners will be announced every Monday in my INDIE AUTHOR’S JOURNEY post!

***Also, both ebook and paperback versions of LUNADAR: Homeward Bound are on sale through the holidays! You can grab the ebook copy for just $1.99 and the paperback for $12.49 through Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Nook, Books A Million or dozens of other online retailers. Books make great Christmas gifts!

 
LUNADAR cover jpg

 
Ruler by day, a reluctant pirate by night, 18-year-old Princess Ariana fights for her subjects in the waterfall city of LUNADAR. In a kingdom surrounded by fairies and mermaids, and ravaged by deadly Drundles, only a chosen few are trusted to guard her daughter, Candra, as the secret heir to the throne.

But it only takes one ill-fated meeting for Ariana to suddenly be plunged into an escalating web of secrets found in her father’s journal, a deadly kidnapping, and an ever-weakening resolve to turn her back on the call of the merman’s song.

With Ariana’s world falling apart and the future of LUNADAR at stake, how will she bring her father’s murderer to justice and fulfill a deathbed promise to protect Lunadar’s legacy?

 
donna

 
International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in ebook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

AN INDIE AUTHOR’S JOURNEY: Breaking The Chains

chains

 

I’m delving into the world of indie publishing. Some authors go the quicker route and use a source like Kindle Direct to immediately get their books out there.

There’s nothing wrong going that route but I’ve decided to take a different path.

*******************

 

A writer ‘s life comes with so many challenges, it’s a wonder anyone makes it to becoming a published author. But I think most writers are well suited for the solitary life of putting words together to create something never heard of before. 

These past two weeks have been hard. There’s no denying the struggle which comes from having multiple writing deadlines but no way to meet them. My computer died two weekends ago and I’ve spent the past fourteen days fighting with different customer service departments. No one wanted to take responsibility for the fact I bought a brand new computer with two different warranties on it and now it crashed because of a defective hard drive. 

I know there were opportunities I missed because of a crashed computer…

  1. NANOWRIMO…I’ve been writing in a notebook but it’s not the same  and I have fallen horribly behind with my word count on LUNADAR: Candra’s Revenge. I probably won’t hit the 50,000 winning words, but any I write this month is more than I started the month with, so I’m okay with that.
  2. Critique group…My critique partners are expecting their November critiques by tomorrow but I couldn’t access their submissions to work on them. I finally have access again so that is one deadline I will only miss by a few days and I hope they will understand…
  3. Blog posts…I had to be REALLY creative to get last week’s posts done and lined up to drop every day when I had no access to my computer. Today I’ve spent most of the day working on all of next week’s posts so I can roll into my Thanksgiving weekend without the stress of creating those posts.

Fingers crossed, I’m setting up my new computer now and will be fully functional within the next few days. Then it’s full steam on book three and my critiques. I will also begin my search of an illustrator for my historical fiction chapter book series. Know any good illustrators? Send them my way…;)

 

**************

***WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT!***
***WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT!***

 

I’m happy to announce the winner of week eight of my TWELVE WEEKS OF LUNADAR free giveaway! Laurie Kutscera has won the Yankee Candle fragrance locket. Thanks for following me on Twitter! Congratulations! Look for my email on how to get your prize…

Week Nine

 

***DON’T FORGET! It’s week nine of THE TWELVE WEEKS OF LUNADAR giveaway and this week you get a chance to accessorize your desk or nightstand with the cute doggie bookstand shown above! Just click on the pile of presents to the right of this post and choose how you would like to enter the FREE giveaway. Winners will be announced every Monday in my INDIE AUTHOR’S JOURNEY post!

***Also, both ebook and paperback versions of LUNADAR: Homeward Bound are on sale through the holidays! You can grab the ebook copy for just $1.99 and the paperback for $12.49 through Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Nook, Books A Million or dozens of other online retailers. Books make great Christmas gifts!

 

LUNADAR cover jpg

 

Ruler by day, a reluctant pirate by night, 18-year-old Princess Ariana fights for her subjects in the waterfall city of LUNADAR. In a kingdom surrounded by fairies and mermaids, and ravaged by deadly Drundles, only a chosen few are trusted to guard her daughter, Candra, as the secret heir to the throne.

But it only takes one ill-fated meeting for Ariana to suddenly be plunged into an escalating web of secrets found in her father’s journal, a deadly kidnapping, and an ever-weakening resolve to turn her back on the call of the merman’s song.

With Ariana’s world falling apart and the future of LUNADAR at stake, how will she bring her father’s murderer to justice and fulfill a deathbed promise to protect Lunadar’s legacy?

 

donna

 

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in ebook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

 

 

WRITERLY WISDOM: Vivian Kirkfield

 

pov.jpg

 

 

Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Five years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week’s post is from my good friend and children’s author, Vivian Kirkfield, as she talks about points of view…

 

 

Picture Books: A Child’s POV

By Vivian Kirkfield

 

 

“Read me one more story, please?”

Just about every parent has heard this plaintive cry. Young children love to listen to picture book stories. They enjoy cuddling close to daddy on a comfy couch or leaning back on mommy’s lap as they help to turn the dog-eared pages of a beloved book.

 

Why should we read picture books to young children?

 

  •         We read with them for entertainment and enjoyment. Their messages can help young children deal with many of the challenges they encounter. Reading with young children engages them in the world between the pages. Children are able to relate the events in the book to their own experiences. Studies show that children who are read to at an early age are more successful in school.

 

Which books should a parent read? A parent can:

 

  •        Consult children’s librarians
  •        Check out reviews on Amazon and other book review sites
  •       Ask for recommendations from teachers and friends
  •       Encourage the child to make some choices.

 

What makes great picture book? Whether it is a quiet bedtime book or a rollicking pirate adventure…a great picture book should have:

 

  •        Captivating illustrations
  •        Simple text
  •        Story that a child can relate to
  •        Emotional response

As picture book writers, we need to keep those four factors in mind. But picture books are not the only types of books for young kids. Here is a list of the different types of book formats and what you can expect to find in each.

  •       Board books – for infants to toddlers, hard board pages usually plasticized for sturdiness, simple pictures, minimal text, these days many popular picture books have been redone as board books, but they used to be mostly concept books (numbers, colors, ABC’s).
  •        Picture books – for preschoolers to 4th grade…although ages 3-5 is considered the ‘sweet spot’, designed to be read to/with the child, 32 pages, balance between text and pictures, but recently more pictures than text,1000 word max…but recently 500 words or less are preferred, art tells much of the story, child or child-like hero is at center of story, fiction or non-fiction or concept book, example: Where The Wild Things Are.
  •        Easy-reader or level reader – 6-8 year old, illustrations on every page, usually broken into chapters, shorter sentences and repetition, 2-5 sentences per page, aim is for the child to read it himself, example: Amelia Bedelia
  •        Early Chapter Books – 7-11 year old, 45-60 pages, broken into chapters, each chapter is broken into 3-4 pages, illustrations are small, usually black and white and only on every few pages, 2-4 sentences per paragraph, each chapter ends so they want to turn the page, example: Ramona.
  •        Middle Grade Novels (MG) – 8-12 year old, 100-150 pages, minimal illustrations, invites the child to bring his own imagination to the story, example: series books such as Chronicles of Narnia.
  •       Young Adult Novels (YA) – 12 years old and up, 100-400 pages, complex plots, themes relevant to problems of teenagers today, sophisticated topics, mature vocabulary, example: Twilight Series, Hunger Games.

As writers of children’s books, it will be helpful to remember these parameters.

I think that writing for children is the best job in the world! As Jorge Luis Borges said, “I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.” We hold in our hands the ability to create beautiful stories that will entertain, educate and elevate the young children of tomorrow.

 

Vivian Kirkfield is a mom, an educator and an author who is passionate about picture books, enjoys hiking and fly-fishing with her husband, loves reading, crafting and cooking with kids during school and library programs and shares tips and tactics for building self-esteem and literacy in her parenting workshops. To learn more about her mission to help every child become a reader and a lover of books.

VIVIAN’S  BOOKS:

PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, February 12, 2019) illus by Jill Weber

FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK (PomegranateKids, March 15, 2019) illus by Mirka Hokkanen

SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, May 1, 2019) illus by Chris Ewald

MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020) illus by Alleanna Harris

FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020) illus by Gilbert Ford

 

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAYS: Aren’t We All Lucky Ducks?

ducks

 

It has been almost 30 years since I was responsible for my own son’s potty training. Not that it was an award winning event, still, in the Martin household it was cause for great celebration. No more diapers and no more pull ups. My son had crossed the threshold from toddler to young boy and all he needed at the time was my unconditional support to complete the transition.

 
Fast forward 20 plus years and I had the honor of watching my best friend’s daughter cross that same threshold my son did all those years ago. I sometimes tend to underestimate my calming, supportive influence on people at times, and Hailey’s first venture into doing what big girls do was no exception.  While others in her family wondered if she would understand what was expected of her, I simply showed my unconditional support when the time came and the rest as they say, was history. We celebrated like there was no tomorrow, and I presumed my small part in the whole process would soon be forgotten.
 
I was wrong.
 
One Saturday evening came along and I was sitting in my recliner, doing research on a nonfiction manuscript, when I got a phone call from Hailey’s grandmother.  Hailey visited them most weekends so Mom and Dad could have some grownup time so I was curious as to why in the world my best friend’s mom would be calling me?  I didn’t have long to wonder.  Answering the phone, I was surprised to hear a tiny voice on the other end…”Ma’am, I have to go potty!” Okay, Hailey, I had no idea you needed my permission to answer the call of Mother Nature, but go right ahead…we’ll celebrate later!
 
What does all this have to do with the writing life, you might ask? Everything actually.

We writers are lucky enough to find unconditional support in this writing community as we cheer on those baby steps into this new world we so badly want to be a part of.  We need to  encourage and celebrate each person’s step across the threshold from novice to professional writer even if it means answering late night phone calls asking for reassurance that everything will turn out okay. Because it will.  Maybe not today or next week, but in the not too distant future our dreams WILL become our reality…all it takes is the belief we can do this.
 
I believe in Hailey and I believe in YOU!
 
 
***************

LUNADAR cover jpg

 

Ruler by day, a reluctant pirate by night, 18-year-old Princess Ariana fights for her subjects in the waterfall city of LUNADAR. In a kingdom surrounded by fairies and mermaids, and ravaged by deadly Drundles, only a chosen few are trusted to guard her daughter, Candra, as the secret heir to the throne.

But it only takes one ill-fated meeting for Ariana to suddenly be plunged into an escalating web of secrets found in her father’s journal, a deadly kidnapping, and an ever-weakening resolve to turn her back on the call of the merman’s song.

With Ariana’s world falling apart and the future of LUNADAR at stake, how will she bring her father’s murderer to justice and fulfill a deathbed promise to protect Lunadar’s legacy?

 

donna

 

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in ebook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retaile