Cover Reveal for ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOOD NIGHT AND Quick-Read Crafty Tips: Keep Your Eye on the True Prize

I have the MOST exciting Friday news! I am thrilled to reveal the cover of ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOOD NIGHT, the sequel to ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES.

Are you ready?

Here it is ….

Go ahead. Squeal with delight. Clap your hands. Dance around the room. I know I am!

Nate Wragg did it again. I love the colors he chose! I love the joy he portrayed! I am so excited to share Rosie and Charlie’s next adventure with you!

ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOOD NIGHT will officially hit shelves on September 1, 2020. But, you can PRE-ORDER your very own copy by clicking here. You can also click “Want to Read” on Goodreads, which is an awesome thing to do for an author!

And (SHAMELESS PLUG) while you’re pre-ordering your very own copy, check out the tremendous deal on ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES! Wow!

(If you want a signed copy of your book, please feel free to email me. I’d love to send you a signed book plate.)

And now for your latest Quick-Read Crafty Tips: Keep Your Eye on the TRUE Prize

This is a tough industry. Moments like thisa cover reveal are the moments we long for, live for, strive for. But…

… these moments are few and far between on this long road to publication.

So, rather than think of these moments as the prize, I challenge all of us to think of time spent writing and illustrating as the TRUE prize. Take a moment to remember why you write or illustrate. Why did you begin this journey in the first place?
Do you love playing with words?
Do you love massaging emotion until it hovers over the page like a living, breathing entity?
Do you love finding the perfect rhyme?
Do you love crafting an arc with a satisfying and stunning surprise ending?
Do you love writing words or crafting illustrations that might soothe, support, or soften someone’s soul?
Do you love creating characters?
Do you love finding just the right word at just the right time? Or just the right color palette for just the right moment?
Do you want to share your story in a way that only you can share it?
Do you want to shed light on topics that have been hiding in the shadows?
Do you want to help children see themselves or see others in new ways?
Think about those moments when your words take flight…
Those moments when you’re in flow…
Those moments when you pour your heart onto the page…

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And remember…

Those moments are the TRUE prize!
Those moments fuel your writer and illustrator soul.
Those moments make this journey richer.

So…

Seize those moments. Be gentle to yourself. Control the things you can control. And if you believe every moment spent writing is the prize, then…

The rest will come.

It will.

I just know it!

In the words of Charlie, “You’ve got this!”

Feel. Write. Risk.
– Lauren

#ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day Prize Winners!

Happy Tuesday to you! I’m happy-dancing my way through this blog post because I can’t wait to announce our #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day prize winners.

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BUT WAIT!
Don’t scroll down yet! Of course, I must offer a few revising tips before the big announcement.

I know you want to scroll.

Don’t do it!

Revision and writing take patience, LOTS and LOTS of patience. So, we are practicing together.

Are you ready to bonk me yet?

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I don’t blame you.

Okay, here are three quick revision tips before you scroll.

  1. This world is FILLED with distractions. It’s like news-cycle whack-a-mole. DO NOT– I repeat DO NOT get sucked into the whack-a-mole rabbit hole. Set a social media timer, or use your sand timer (that you may have purchased after reading some of my other blog posts). Spend a few nail-biting minutes on social media (hopefully doing WRITING tasks) and then shut it down so that you can DIG into your writing and revisions. Protect writing and revising time! 
  2. As you lay out each page spread either on a dummy, your table, in a template, or however paginations work for you, check to be sure the FEELING you’ve elicited on each spread is not only what you want to elicit, but also as strong as you want it to be. Resonance adds magic.
  3. And… KEEP every single version of your manuscript! Save a new version for new revisions. You never know when you’ll want to go back to an old version. Old versions may contain just the gem you need for your new version.

We made it! It’s time to announce the PRIZE winners!
HURRAY!

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The winners of our #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day critiques are:

Joana Pastro’s critique goes to: Mia Geiger

Katie Frawley’s critique goes to: Natalie Cohn 

Lauren Kerstein’s critique goes to: Catherine Friess

Lynne Marie’s critique goes to Hollie Wolverton

Michal Babay’s critique goes to: Sarah Tobias

Shannon Stocker’s critique goes to: Eileen Mayo

Congratulations to all! You will receive an email with further details regarding your critique.

Thank you to EVERYONE for participating in our #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day with The Cuddlefish Gang! We look forward to another day of revising together on March 4, 2020.

In the words of Charlie, “You’ve got this.”

Feel. Write. Risk.
Lauren, Joana, Katie, Lynne, Michal, and Shannon

#ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day Wrap Up and Prizes

Greetings, #ReVISIONweek-ers!

We hope you had an enriching and productive Tune-Up Day. Whether you revised for a moment, or spent the entire day immersed in revision tasks, CONGRATULATIONS! Revision is hard and you accepted the challenge!

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Thank you again to The Cuddlefish Gang for your words of wisdom.

Joana Pastro, Katie Frawley, Lynne Marie, Michal Babay, Shannon Stocker, and I are offering critiques to six lucky winners. Please make sure you commented on yesterday’s blog post, and worked on revisions. Then you can enter our Rafflecopter giveaway. The Rafflecopter will be open until 1/26/2020 at 12:00 am (EST).

Finally, please remember:

There is no recipe for the perfect manuscript.

Image result for printable editable printable recipe card template

But if you add:

Grit

Determination

Hard Work

Unique Voice

Heart

Visual Language

Passion

and

Resonance

You just might cook up a delicious story!

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In the words of Charlie, “You’ve got this!”

We’ll see you on March 4, 2020 for our next #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day.

Until then…

Feel. Write. Risk.
– Lauren, Joana, Shannon, Michal, Lynne, and Katie

 

#ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day #1: REVISING WITH THE ILLUSTRATOR IN MIND

One lovely September day toward the end of #ReVISIONweek 2019, Heather Brockman Lee and I were chatting at Lily William’s book launch party for IF ELEPHANTS DISAPPEARED. As an aside, if you haven’t read Lily Williams’ unbelievable books, stop what you’re doing and order them from the library or purchase them right now! Anyway, one thing led to another and Heather and I were excited about the prospect of a #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up post focused on revising with the illustrator in mind. 

So… here we go! The below tips are from a few of the members of the incredibly talented, Colorado-based group, The Cuddlefish Gang. I hope you find their thoughts as helpful as I did! 

Kaz Windness
http://www.windnessbooks.com
Follow on Twitter- @KWindness
Instagram- @kazwindnessart

nessy-windness-social-media (1)

  1. Don’t edit out flowery visual language in your first drafts, but in editing, leave room for the illustrations to do their job. There may be reasons to use descriptions and adjectives, but those are typically easy word count cuts, given that the illustrator is going to describe the characters and environments visually. A picture book is ideally around 500 words, but no more than 1000.
  2. Split up the text into approximately 28 pages. (Picture books are typically 32 pages, but you’ll need room for front matter.) Is there a page that has way more or way less text than the others? Unless you’re using this difference in text weight as a gag or for emphasis, even out your text.
  3. Make a dummy even if you aren’t an illustrator. Stick figures are fine. No one else needs to see this. Are the page turns compelling? Are there spots where the text is just mirroring what the illustrations would already be communicating? Edit!
  4. Don’t crush your illustrator with illustration notes. If your visual cannot be inferred from the text, include that note. Everything else will stifle your illustrator’s creativity (and most editors will delete those notes anyway). Trust the artist to bring something brilliant to the story that you hadn’t even considered. 


Heather Brockman Lee
HeatherBrockmanLee.com
Follow on Twitter- @Heathertbl
Instagram-@HeatherBrockmanLee 

HeatherBrockmanLeeSeahorse
When I am revising to leave more room for illustrations, I think about writing only about half of what that spread needs to communicate. I generally think about what the image could be, and what that image will communicate. Then I figure out where the text needs to compliment or fill in, and where it doesn’t. And of course, I try to remove as many unnecessary descriptive words as possible. 

Even if a writer is not also an illustrator, they could still visualize what each scene or spread would be and decide only what the text needs to fill in. Even without art notes, that space would allow the illustrator to enrich the story, even if it’s different from the author’s original vision. 


Stan Yan
http://stanyan.me
Follow on Twitter- @stan_yan
Instagram- @zombicatures 

Stan-member-fish

I actually probably write TOO loosely on purpose to a fault to allow me a bit of wiggle room for my drawings in production. This isn’t really ideal when I’m working with other illustrators, but it allows me to only include what is most pertinent for me. My graphic novel scripts are very loose, which allows me to revise as I draw and redraw. 

I feel like getting too detailed with the illustration notes in the scripting process stifles me creatively. It also takes me longer in the illustration process when I try to fit my story to the strict illustration notes instead of letting it visually evolve as I draw it. 

Illustration notes should be used only where necessary: the illustration needs to be something not clearly stated in the text (irony, etc), or a visual refrain of some sort that is important to the story pops up. 

Lily Williams
https://lilywilliamsart.com
Follow on Twitter- @lwbean
Instagram- @lwbean 

CuddlefishPortrait_lilywilliams_badge
Trust your illustrator, they have been trained to know what they are doing and they are also being art directed. 

_____________________________________________________________________________

Thank you Cuddlefish Gang! 

I just know these terrific tips will help everyone as they revise! Here are a few additional tips from me to ponder:

1. Since picture books are a 50/50 project (unless you are the author/illustrator on that project), think about using text that conjures clear visuals for the illustrator.

For example, in Rosie and Charlie, I wrote: “I didn’t plan to adopt a dragon, but Rosie found me irresistible. I think she liked my skunk hat. And now we’re best friends. We do everything together.”

Then, the uber-talented Nate Wragg filled in the “everything” with his own ideas. It turned out even better than I’d imagined it would!Wragg_06_07_c (5)
2. Let your text breathe! Choose only the most important words to get your point across.

3. In addition to TRUSTING your illustrator, TRUST the process. If you write visually, hone in on the heart, and write the most outstanding manuscript possible, your book will be beautiful!

In the words of Charlie, “You’ve got this!”

Feel. Write. Risk.
– Lauren, Joana, Katie, Lynne, Michal, and Shannon

PS: Let’s thank The Cuddlefish Gang for their fabulous tips, by following them on social media, checking out their books (upcoming and already released) and visiting them on their individual websites or at https://www.cuddlefishgang.com/

Get Ready for the First #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day— January 22, 2020

Hello KidLit Community! We hope you enjoyed September’s #ReVISIONweek Challenge as much as we did!

Start your revision engines…

It’s time for our first #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day on Wednesday, January 22, 2020.

Everyone is welcome!

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* If you’re looking for support from our outstanding KidLit community as you tackle your 2020 revisions, this day is for you!

* If you’re a StoryStorm-er with Tara Lazar or a 12×12-er with Julie Hedlund, this day is definitely for you.

* If you have manuscripts begging for revision, this day is designed for you!

The challenge is simple.

  1. Sign your first and last name below so we know you’re joining us.
  2. Sign up for my blog (if you haven’t done so already) so that you will receive posts.
  3. Pick a manuscript you’d like to revise.
  4. Read the blog post for revision ideas and inspiration. It will be posted the morning of the 22nd, and will include tips from a Colorado-based group of outstanding illustrators and author/illustrators called the Cuddlefish Gang. They will help us think about revising with visuals in mind. If you want to learn more about this amazing group, you can follow them on Twitter at: @CuddlefishGang.
  5. Revise your heart out on January 22nd!
  6. Enter the Rafflecopter on January 23rd to win prizes.

We look forward to an enriching day of revising, community support, and writing magic!

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In the words of Charlie, “You’ve got this!”

Feel. Write. Risk.

Lauren, Joana, Katie, Lynne, Michal, and Shannon

 

 

 

Quick-Read Crafty Tips: Holding onto Creativity During the Holidays PLUS Special Announcements

So… you want to write during the holidays, but time is slipping through your fingers faster than the holiday cookies are disappearing from your pantry.

I have five tips that will help you hold onto your creativity during this frenetic time.

loop success GIF by Matthew Butler

Tip #1: Any writing is productive writing. Five minutes, twenty minutes, an hour. Every single second of writing counts. Don’t set time requirements that are unrealistic. With that in mind, let’s move on to Tip #2.

Tip #2Plan ahead. I know, I know, planning ahead isn’t easy over the holidays. But, it isn’t impossible. Block out a few periods of time for exercising your creativity and stick to it! This will give you time to try Tip #3.

Tip #3: Have fun with small (yet meaningful) tasks. Exercise your creative brain for a few minutes. Perhaps your latest manuscript is about aliens. Create a quick word bank about aliens and outer space. This might include any and every word associated with the world you’re creating. Or write down three expressions your character might use. Stealing creative moments will fuel your writer’s soul.

party dancing GIF

Tip #4: Collect character traits: Holiday gatherings, family events, and work parties provide fodder for character development. Use your creative brain as you interact with others. Create a mental list of character traits you want to use in future writing.

Tip #5: Study emotions: The holidays are filled with emotions. Use this to your advantage. Pay attention to words, tone of voice, body language, and internal sensations. Then, in a quiet moment, jot down information that will help you SHOW emotion in your writing.

Bonus Tip: STOP BEING SO HARD ON YOURSELF! The holidays are busy. You won’t be able to write as much as you want, but this is only temporary.

In the words of Charlie, “You’ve got this!”

ftw win GIF

And now…

Exciting #ReVISIONweek News!

The first #ReVISIONweek Tune-Up Day is quickly approaching. Mark your calendars for January 22, 2020! Joana, Katie, Lynne, Michal, Shannon, and I are excited to begin the year with a revision challenge!

And finally!

schitts creek comedy GIF by CBC

Rosie, Charlie, and I want to visit your classroom! Check out this exciting opportunity for #NationalDragonDay.

https://laurenkerstein.net/%23nationaldragonday.


May your holiday season be filled with light, love, and laughter!

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I look forward to making waves with you in 2020!

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Feel. Write. Risk.
Lauren

Lauren’s Quick-Read Crafty Tips: Shiny New Ideas

I had that moment yesterday. The moment when ZING, ZAP an idea flies into your head.

I almost moved on.

I almost ignored the spark.

But, the spark became a full-blown fire and I knew I should listen.

inspire on fire GIF by Motion Addicts

As Elana K. Arnold said last weekend at Letters and Lines (Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference): “You must follow the gift of an idea. It is a gift from the back of your brain. Your idea may lead you somewhere very interesting.”

So I followed the gift.

I opened a fresh page and typed characters, character traits, spread possibilities, visual images, thoughts about narrative arc, voice-y language ideas, ways to increase the tension. I wrote out a “to do” list of topics to research, word banks to create, character sketches to sketch, and the market research/reading I needed to do.

It was exhilarating, unexpected, and inspiring.

This idea, this nugget, this shiny new gift made me think about how to determine whether or not an idea has potential. Here is the list of characteristics that I created in order to help me determine whether this idea had potential. (Spoiler Alert: My idea passed with flying colors!)

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Layers: Does this idea have layers? Are the layers engaging, inspiring, and multi-faceted.

Unique/Fresh: Is this idea unique– or a unique spin on an evergreen topic? Can I think of or find other books that tackle this topic in this way?

Wide Audience Appeal: Will children and adults enjoy this book? Does this book have a place in homes, libraries, and schools?

Visual Images: Can I imagine the action? Can I picture the spreads?

Humor/Resonance: Can I see places where I might incorporate humor in a satisfying way? Can I hone in on the emotional arc in my mind as I imagine the narrative arc?

Agent/Editor Test: Can I think of an editor who might be interested in acquiring this manuscript? Does it fit someone’s wish-list? Do I think my agent will like this concept?

Hurray! YES! My idea has potential.

dance dancing GIF by The Dude Perfect Show

I then took a long walk and realized my debut, ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES, fit all of these criteria as well. It made my heart sing!

Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Make Waves Cover

Layers: Courage, real swimming lessons/skills, friendship, adopting a pet, patience, and flexible thinking.

Unique/Fresh: It isn’t every day you try to teach a dragon to swim.

Wide Audience Appeal: Yes! Precociousness, mischievousness, sweetness, perseverance, patience, heart, friendship, real-life swimming skills, and living courageously are appealing to all!

Visual Images: Nate Wragg’s illustrations far exceeded my wildest imagination. He told me (when he flew out for the launch) that one of the reasons he accepted this project was because of my visual writing. HURRAY! I worked so hard on writing visually and it paid off!

Humor/Resonance: As Cate Berry (outstanding author and humor expert extraordinaire) might say, I truly let my inner clown go when I wrote this book. I saw the potential for humor and emotional resonance from the beginning.

Agent/Editor Test: I wrote and revised this manuscript with agents and editors in mind. I wanted to stretch the funny as far as possible. I wanted to explore friendship. I ended up revising with Deborah Warren in mind because I knew she liked puns, strong characters, humor, and heartfelt manuscripts. It worked! Deborah loved it!

So, catch those ideas.

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Write them down. Explore them fully. Give them a moment to be shiny, new, and wonderful! And then, evaluate them. Do they have potential?

You never know where an idea will take you so…

… enjoy the ride!

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“You’ve got this.” – Charlie
Feel. Write. Risk.

Lauren

 

#ReVISIONweek 2019: Wrap Up and Prizes

Hello! Hello! Hello! We hope you had a wonderful week and that you were able to harness the #ReVISIONweek energy to continue writing and revising.

Before I reveal the prize winners, I wanted to announce the 2020 #ReVISIONweek dates, and offer a sneak peek into my revision journey with Rosie and Charlie.

2020 #ReVISIONweek DATES

2020 Dates

We hope to see you at all of these revision events!

Spoiler Alert: We plan to have guest posts by illustrators and author/illustrators in 2020 in order to help us think visually as we revise!

A SNEAK PEEK AT REVISIONS

I thought about posting examples of revisions during #ReVISIONweek and then the week got away from me. A few people asked for examples in the comments, so here you go!

Instead of sharing the revision work I did last week, I thought it might be helpful to share a sample of the evolution of ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES.

Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Make Waves Cover

I originally wrote the manuscript that would ultimately become Rosie and Charlie during Paula Yoo’s National Picture Book Writing Week (NAPIWRIWEE) in 2016. I wanted to challenge myself to write a “how to” book. If you want to read more about the evolution of my book, you can visit Lynne Marie’s blog where she features Rosie and Charlie on “The Story Behind the Story.”

The following is an excerpt of the original “how to” text (entitled: How to Put Your Mommy to Bed) that ultimately morphed into both ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES (June 2019) and the sequel, ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOOD NIGHT (Fall 2020).

Original Text (Excerpt):ORIGINAL ROSIE (2)
Four Million Revisions Later:
Here are the first two spreads that my not-quite-yet agent liked enough to ask for an R&R:ROSIE AND CHARLIE TEXT DEBORAH ASKED FOR AN R&RI revised again and again for the R&R and my agent, the lovely and wonderful, Deborah Warren, said, “YES” to my book How to Teach Your Dragon to Swim.

Then How to Teach Your Dragon to Swim sold to the amazing Marilyn Brigham at Two Lions. (It is more complicated than that because Marilyn asked for a complete revision that was more character-driven before she acquired it, but that is the gist.)

Four Million Revisions and a New Title Later:

Here are the FINAL first two spreads of ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES
FINAL ROSIE MAKE WAVES (1)

Then… I Revised the Bedtime Book Over and Over Again and…

Here are the (nearly final) first two spreads of ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOOD NIGHT (Fall 2020).NEW ROSIE GOOD NIGHT
So, as you can see. The revisions were EXTENSIVE, spread out over a few years, and kept shifting due to input from: critique groups, paid critiques, my agent, my editor, Nate Wragg (amazing illustrator), and the art director. The revisions included switching to a more character-driven story, cutting words, adding onomatopoeia, showing instead of telling, offering real skills/activities that children/parents could try, leaving room for the illustrator, incorporating visual language, and choosing “just write” words that not only moved the story forward, but also added voice and humor. I also tried to make each story as unique as possible. Phew!

I hope it’s helpful to see this drastic evolution. I also hope you noticed that through it all, the original voice and heart remained the same. I did not lose sight of my goal and what I wanted readers to walk away with after they read the manuscript. I just changed the way I accomplished that goal.

And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for:


PRIZES! PRIZES! PRIZES!

Here are the winners of the 2019 #ReVISIONweek prizes.2019 Prize Winners (4)Sharon Giltrow won the Rosie and Charlie Prize Pack!

Congratulations all!

One of us will be in touch with you via email in order to discuss details regarding your prize!

And finally…

ONE MORE EXCITING OPPORTUNITY!

Don’t despair if you didn’t win a prize! The revisions you did last week, the tips you acquired, and the tools you tried will last forever!

And…

WE HAVE GREAT NEWS!

If you were hoping to win a critique, GUESS WHAT!? Lauren, Katie, Lynne, and Shannon are offering 10% off all critique services for #ReVISIONweek-ers in the month of October! YAY!

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We loved revising with you and look forward to next year!

Feel. Write. Risk.

Lauren, Joana, Katie, Lynne, Michal, and Shannon

 

 

 

#ReVISIONweek Day 7: YOU MADE IT! ENTER TO WIN A PRIZE TODAY!

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WAHOO!
YOU’RE A ROCK STAR!
YOU DID IT!
YOU OWNED IT!
YOU KNOW IT!

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Whether you revised one word, wrote down possible revision ideas, revised one or more manuscripts, or simply read the posts, take a moment to give yourself a high five.

I mean it.

Actually give yourself a high five!

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And maybe, a massage. A professional one! Self care is AWESOME!

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(Excuse me for a moment, I’m still laughing uncontrollably at this gif.
*WIPES EYES*
Okay, I’m back.)

Now that #ReVISIONweek is over, what’s next?

Well, besides pursuing the well-plotted, uniquely voiced, emotionally resonant, engaging manuscripts you revised this week…

you have two more opportunities.

1. COMMENTS

Comment below to tell us how you did this week. What did you accomplish? Where will you go from here? What suggestions do you have for us for next year? What would you like to see less of? What would you like to see more of? What was just right?

2. PRIZES! PRIZES! PRIZES!

Please enter the Rafflecopter below to win one of our 19 prizes! You must have enrolled in the challenge by initially commenting on the sign-up post. We also hope you’ve commented on the posts each day. This is an honor-system giveaway.  The Rafflecopter will be open until midnight on September 25th so don’t delay! We will announce the winners in a blog post on Friday, September 27th.

#ReVISIONweek Prizes
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now, for our final exciting announcement:

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WE ARE ADDING AN ADDITIONAL PRIZE!

A ROSIE AND CHARLIE PRIZE-PACK GIVEAWAY. If you’re interested in winning a signed book, fun swag, and other Rosie and Charlie goodies, please enter below!

hudson with book

ROSIE AND CHARLIE PRIZE PACK (Note: Hudson the Dog Not Included)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you so much for spending your week with us! We can’t wait to see you on social media, at conferences, and next year for #ReVISIONweek 2020.

Feel. Write. Risk.

– Joana, Katie, Lauren, Lynne, Michal, and Shannon

#ReVISIONweek Day 6: MAKE YOUR MANUSCRIPT SING

One day more…

west end live one day more GIF by Official London Theatre

Wow! I have truly enjoyed this week. The enthusiasm, ideas, and energy have been more than I could have hoped for. You are all amazing!

Today’s post is by writer, singer/songwriter, generally outstanding person, Shannon Stocker. Shannon’s debut picture book, CAN U SAVE THE DAY (Sleeping Bear Press), released on August 15, 2019. It is an outstanding must-have! Her next picture book, LISTEN, a biography about deaf percussionist, Evelyn Glennie (Dial/Random House) was just announced in PW this week! 

Now get ready to make your manuscript sing…

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By Shannon Stocker

Let’s start by debunking a common misperception:

Lyrical does NOT necessarily equal rhyming.

Rhyming does NOT necessarily equal lyrical.

Nope GIF

But just because you might not rhyme doesn’t mean you can’t write lyrically. Some of my most lyrical critique partners do not rhyme. They DO NOT have to go hand in hand.

But they CAN.

So what makes a picture book lyrical? And how can you use these tools to make your manuscript sing during the revision process? Let’s dive right into five of my favorite poetic devices, and how you can use these to improve upon a first (or second, or twentieth) draft.

  1. Repetition – think of your favorite song. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Hear it in your head before reading further.

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Did you start from the beginning of the song? Or did you start from the chorus? People will often remember the chorus more easily than the verses because of repetition. Repetition of the words, the melody, the harmonies, the chords. When it’s done right, repetition makes things memorable. Whether a book rhymes, as with CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM, or is written in prose, as with LOVE YOU FOREVER, repetition can endear a picture book to us for a lifetime. Does your book have a recurring theme, sentence, or phrase? Could it?

  1. Alliteration – Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

How old were you when you first learned this tongue-twister? Have you taught it to your children? Why is it so fun to say? Because of alliteration! All those wonderful consonants match at the beginning of each adjacent (or closely-connected) word in the sentence, making it a pleasure to pronounce! Super to say! Delightful to declare!

You get the picture.

The point is, one of the coolest parts of revising, in my opinion, is going back over a manuscript to find other ways to say the exact same thing, but in a more musical manner (see what I did there?).  Check this out:

“It was hot outside.”

Meh. That sentence is meh. I don’t FEEL anything at all from that sentence. So let’s make it a little better by showing, rather than telling. 

“The hot sun saddened her.”

OK, so now we get a sense that our character is uncomfortable. We’ve even added some alliteration to make it sing a little. But how about this…

“The sweltering sun singed her spirit.”

See? Alliteration can make a sentence sing.

  1. Assonance: I served the bird a gherkin.

Assonance is defined as the repetition of a sound of a vowel (or diphthong) in non-rhyming syllables that are close to one another within a sentence. As with alliteration, assonance can easily be worked into your manuscript after it’s been written. When revising, think of other ways to say the same thing. Use your thesaurus to look for words with the same meaning that might allow for alliteration or assonance. Play with the words and see how they feel to you! For example:

“The girl spun around in circles.”

You get a visual with this sentence, but it doesn’t sing. What if we used words that capitalized on the “er” sound in “girl” and “circle?”

“The girl’s skirt whirled as she twirled in circles.”

Doesn’t that sentence sing?

  1. Onomatopoeia:

BOOM!

Shush.

hummmmm…

WHACK!

Onomatopoeia is a fabulous way to make the reader feel like she’s physically and emotionally inside the story. We naturally connect to sounds and kids love to say them. It’s also a super easy way to show something, rather than telling. And it’s a simple tool to use when revising.

  1. Rhyme:

Last, but certainly not least, we have rhyme. Rhyme is definitely not required to write lyrically, but when it’s done correctly, it can be a beautiful thing. But—to be done correctly, you really need to understand more than just what makes two (or more) words rhyme. If you’re interested in writing in verse or using rhyme to make your manuscript sing, be sure you understand some basic language before drafting:

  • Meter – do you know what an anapest is? Iamb? Do you understand what tetrameter means? Pentameter? If not, do more homework before trying to write in verse. You wouldn’t tackle a book about deserts if you’d never stepped foot out of the rainforest before. OK, so that analogy is mediocre at best…but you know what I mean.
  • Forced/lazy rhyme – are you restructuring your sentence to make a rhyme work? Switching things around to make them rhyme, you are? You’re not Yoda. Don’t do it.
  • Near rhymes – “About” and “cloud” do not rhyme. Neither do “you” and “shoes.” There are so many words in the English language…don’t settle. Find the perfect ones. 

The revision process can be grueling, without a doubt. We find ourselves needing to kill darlings, change plotlines, increase stakes, add heart…it’s daunting. But revising to make your manuscript sing can truly be fun! Play with synonyms, metaphors, and similes. Rearrange sentences, strengthen verbs, and delete adverbs. Little touches like these can make a huge difference in taking your manuscript from lifeless to lyrical. 

Mundane to musical. 

Routine to rhythmic.

You get the picture. 😉

excited shimmy GIF by Sing Movie

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Shannon Stocker is an award-winning author and proud word nerd who lives in Louisville, KY, with her husband, Greg, and their children, Cassidy and Tye. Her debut picture book, CAN U SAVE THE DAY (Sleeping Bear Press), released on August 15, 2019. Her next picture book, LISTEN, will be a biography about deaf percussionist, Evelyn Glennie (Dial/Random House), and several of her nonfiction essays have been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Shannon currently serves as SCBWI social co-director for Louisville, a judge for Rate Your Story, and she created the blog series, Pivotal Moments: inHERview, highlighting transitional life stories of female picture book authors. Cool facts: Currently writing her memoir, Shannon is a medical school graduate, a coma survivor, an RSD/CRPS patient and advocate, and a singer/songwriter who once performed two songs, including one original, as part of an opening act for Blake Shelton. To subscribe to her blog, visit her website, http://www.shannonstocker.com/blog/. She can also be found tweeting positive quotes and mantras @iwriteforkidz. Shannon is represented by Allison Remcheck of Stimola Literary Studio.