Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Summer of Learning

This summer, I spent a lot of time improving my writing knowledge, meaning the craft of writing. I am a Literacy Coach and Reading Specialist and have written creatively for years. While I am definitely capable of communicating effectively, that doesn't mean I have a lot of knowledge about the craft, the art, of writing. I need to learn more. I think most writers realize they need to learn more to hone their skills. Since I am interested in writing for children, I sought resources specific to that niche.

One of the best sources of information for writing for children is the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. In addition to a slew of resources, they also have amazing discussion boards where you can ask almost anything and get very helpful answers from the authors who also belong to SCBWI. I got great tips and suggestions (and more resources!) for writing picture books from the fab folks on the discussion boards.

I also participated in Kami Kinard and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen's Kid Lit Summer School (part of the Nerdy Chicks Write blog) focusing on character. It was fabulous! There were great webinars, #30mdares and daily blog posts by guest authors designed to deepen our character knowledge.  And it was free! Yep. F.R.E.E. I found the exercises and daily focus on character really helpful. You missed it? Don't worry - they are going to do it again next year! And you can also sign up for their blog Nerdy Chicks Rule.

I've also found a few great books (they were recommended to me and are spot on):

The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig - for writers of any genre
Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul - specifically for picture book writers, but useful by any children's book writer
The Plot Whisperer, Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master (also has a workbook) by Martha Alderson - for writers of any genre

And of huge import - I reached out to my friend Alison DeLuca, author of The Crown Phoenix Series, for help revising and editing my picture book manuscript. No matter what other resources you seek out, it's vital to take that scary leap and have others read your manuscript. The key is they must be people who will give you honest feedback. Wherever the manuscript sucks, I want to know it so I can make it better. Thank you for that, Alison. And now it is ready (Well, you know. You can only tinker so much. After you've tinkered for months.) to submit to Lee & Low's New Voices Award. Scaaaarrryyy!

Happy writing, photographing and end-of-summer, everyone!