The Big SECRET!
by Susie Kralovansky
Often at a writer’s conference, “What’s the secret to getting published?” comes up. Here is my advice, simple and sweet:
Early in my writing career, I was one of those writers. I couldn’t wait to submit even when I knew a phrase fell flat or the ending was weak. My inner voice would say, “I don’t think it’s ready.” Did I listen? Absolutely not! Was it ready to be sent out? Absolutely not! But I was convinced (every single time, because I am a slow learner) that the editor or agent would recognize my genius and happily replace the word, phrase, or whatever my piece was missing. Did that process work? Never! Ever!
Again, the big secret – STUDY THOSE GUIDELINES!
You can do this. Good luck!
Thump the Summer Slump
By Stephanie Bearce
Sunshine, swimming pools, hammocks under the trees; the lazy hazy days of summer are almost here. I'm all for basking in the warmth of the sun and taking some time to recharge your batteries. Just as long as you don't use summer as an excuse to neglect your writing!
Take a look at some of the amazing opportunities available to help you recharge, learn, and revise this summer!
Out of the Box Nonfiction- Traci Sorrell
WriteOnCon - online kidlit conference
Writing Science and Nature for Kids and Teens - Highlights Foundation
Nonfiction Kidlit Confab - Writing Barn
Summer Camp in Nonfiction - Highlights Foundation
Getting into Graphic Nonfiction - Writing Barn
How to Engage Readers with Activity Writing - Dana Rau - Writing Barn
Creative Connections Panel: Working with Agents and Editors - Writing Barn
Writing Leveled Readers for Education - Sonny Regelman - Writing Barn
Writing Nonfiction for Kids - Kidlit Creatives
Take a class and beat the summer slump!!
Timelines as Research Tools
by Christine Liu-Perkins
I had underestimated the usefulness of a timeline until I was stuck in a confusing muddle of historical research. In desperation, I created a double timeline—one recording major events in the lives of the family I was writing about, and one recording major events in the early Chinese empire. At last, clarity! I gained many insights that had eluded me before, and what I learned enriched multiple sections of the book. That timeline was definitely worth the effort I invested in constructing it.
Timelines not only condense a lot of information, they also help us see connections and patterns, such as:
Interested in giving timelines a try? You can make your own using Microsoft Word or Powerpoint:
You might also include timelines in your manuscripts, activity guides, and presentations. Teachers often look for timelines and encourage students to make them. Here's some sources for creative examples:
How do you use timelines? Have any tips to share?
By Linda Skeers
One of the most important things a writer can do is to read, study and analyze books in their chosen genre – especially recently published, award-winning, and starred reviewed books. In the past, I would sit down to really study a book – to figure out what makes it tick and to somehow absorb some secret that would improve my own writing. Alas, I read and enjoyed a lot of books, but I wasn’t sure I was really learning anything from my own solitary study.
That changed when I became a part of a Picture Book Study Group. You know the saying “Two heads are better than one?” Well, imagine how much better six heads could be!
Reading the same books and sharing my thoughts and opinions with others and listening to their thoughts and opinions gave me a whole new perspective on HOW to learn from a mentor text.
My group formed from a casual conversation about wanting to dive deep into picture books with the hope that analyzing great books would help improve our own writing. We’ve been going strong for over five years, so I guess it’s working.
First, we agreed on some ground rules:
We also select books in the same genre or category so we can compare and contrast and see how different authors handled similar topics. Any subject works – how about TREES? Here’s a list of titles we could read and explore:
BE A TREE! – Maria Gianferrari
SURVIVOR TREE – Marcie Colleen
THIS VERY TREE – Sean Rubin
TREES – Tony Johnston
THE SECOND LIFE OF TREES – Aimee Bisonette
BEFORE WE STOOD TALL – Jessica Kulekjian
THE WISDOM OF TREES: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom – Lita Judge
THANK YOU, TREE – Fiona Lee
LISTEN TO THE LANGUAGE OF TREES: a story of how forests communicate underground – Tera Kelley
Again, five titles work well but this gives you an idea of what’s “out there” and worth studying! Topics can range from food to frogs and space to scientists.
Possible discussion questions:
Did one book stand out among the group? Why? (it’s interesting that we almost always have a different favorite and it’s enlightening to discover why certain books resonate with different people)
What was the writing style? Conversational? Humorous? Lyrical? Straight-forward? What other styles would work with this topic?
What was included in the Back Matter? Did it enhance the text?
What did the author do to keep readers engaged and turning pages? Was there something unique or surprising about this book?
Was a technique used that you could attempt with your own writing?
Would this book appeal more to adults than children? Why?
Other questions and comments will spring up during the discussion. Remember, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and you can learn a lot from someone else’s perspective – especially when it’s different than your own!
This also works for Middle Grade and YA – you just might want to limit the list to 2-3 titles each month.
Gather a group of writers interested in analyzing books in your favorite genre and start studying together – it’s a fun way to learn and share and it might just help you look at your own manuscripts in a new way!
We are nonfiction authors who support readers and writers through our writing, author visits, and workshops.
Disclaimer: The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas . The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.