And the #ReVISIONweek Prize Winners Are…

Hi! Thank you SO much to everyone who participated in #ReVISIONweek! WHAT A FABULOUS WEEK! Thank you again to our guest bloggers.

We are thrilled to announce the #ReVISIONweek Prize Winners.

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!

SAVE THE DATE: Next year’s #ReVISIONweek will be in OCTOBER, not September.

We will also do a couple of Twitter Takeovers throughout 2023. Stay tuned…

And finally, if you’d like to WIN a special tote bag and signed copy of Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Make Waves from Lauren, please share the 2023 date graphic on Twitter or Instagram and tag @LaurenKerstein. We will select a winner from your posts on or around November 1st.

Feel. Write. Risk.

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

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#ReVISIONweek Day Seven: Small But Mighty Revision Tip: Lauren is Saying Goodbye to Stale Words (And Hello to Juicy Replacements)

We all have our favorite darlings. Those words that creep into our writing over and over again.

In my work as a developmental and a line editor, I hone in on those words in other people’s work right away. But in my work… well, that’s a different story entirely.

I actually thought I had a decent handle on my stale words, and then I attended a brilliant workshop by Ariane Peveto at the amazing Rocky Mountain Chapter- SCBWI Letters and Lines conference last weekend.

Let me tell you, Ariane opened my eyes and then some! (I can’t wait to dive into her online content.) Long, amazing presentation short, she said there is an overabundance of the word “look” in our writing. I had NO idea. So, out of curiosity, I did a “find” of the word “look” on my current WIP (which I must add is a YA not a PB). Guess how many times I had some variation of the word look in my manuscript?

YUP! In 60,000 words, I repeated a variation of the word “look” 160 times.

Wow! It is a good thing I’m revising right now.

Today, I challenge you to look for stale words in your manuscript. Find them and then replace them with:

  • juicy words
  • synonyms that better/best capture the meaning
  • terms that DON’T feel like stage directions
  • shiny-new sentences or phrases that use wonderful literary tools
  • sensory images
  • action

Here is a list of “stale” words to spur you forward. (Note: I said “spur you forward” instead “help you get started” which has too many stale words.)

Feel free to comment below with your stale (and favorite) darlings to whom you are bidding adieu and replacing anew. We will all benefit from sharing with each other!

PRIZE ALERT: I am offering two 30-minute Zoom critique consultations to two different winners (one consult each.)

Feel. Write. Risk.

Lauren

Lauren H. Kerstein is an author and psychotherapist. She is a Jersey girl at heart who currently lives in Colorado with her husband, their two dragons…er, daughters, and their rescue dogs. Lauren is the author of the Rosie the dragon and Charlie picture book series (Illustrated by Nate Wragg/Two Lions) and HOME FOR A WHILE (Illustrated by Natalia Moore/Magination Press). REMEMBERING SUNDAYS WITH GRANDPA (Illustrated by Nanette Regan/Beaming Books) is expected Fall 2023. Lauren also writes books in her field. Lauren’s books include themes of courage, flexible thinking, friendship, social emotional learning, foster care, seeing your strengths, sensory issues, and emotion regulation. She is represented by Deborah Warren with East/West Literary Agency. Her writing goals are simple. Read voraciously. Embrace feedback. Grow each day. Work hard. Be passionate. Write courageously. Touch children’s hearts. You can visit her at www.LaurenKerstein.net.

#ReVISIONweek 2022 Day Six: TWITTER TAKEOVER!

Our guest bloggers have been AMAZING!!!!!!! WOW! Thank you, Brittany, Ellen, Norene, and Jocelyn!

Today is a bit different. We are taking over Twitter. Meet Lynne, Katie, Joana, Michal, Shannon, and me at 12:30 PM (EST) for more tricks, tips, support, and FUN! We can’t wait to see you there! Follow the hashtag #ReVISIONweek2022.

Feel. Write. Risk.

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

#ReVISIONweek Day Five: Small But Mighty Revision Tip: Jocelyn is holding her words

I must confess, I’m a “grass is always greener” writer. 

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While I’m drafting, I constantly whine that I wish the words were already there so I could be revising them. While I’m revising, I always moan that I’d rather be writing something new than fixing my mess.

Clearly, I’m a delight to be around when I’m writing!

As much as I grumble during each stage, there is a special thrill that comes with each part: the rush of creating a story out of nothing and then the delight of molding it into something better. 

Often, part of making our words better is deleting them. But it can be so hard! After all the time and energy that went into putting them on paper in the first place, how can we just … erase them?!?

Many deletions are easy because so much of rough drafts suck. But some deletions are tough because the words really are good – they just don’t belong in that story.

A hilarious bit of dialog that the character would never say in that moment. A gorgeous description that slows down the pace of the story. A fun character that contributes nothing to the plot. Entire chapters that no longer fit the twist you added at the start of act two. 

These are the cuts we agonize over. Our fingers hover over the delete key. In our gut, we know it’s the right call to take them out. But we love them so much!

A small but mighty tip that has helped me is something I heard about years ago. For each book I write, I have a “Holding” document. As I revise and need to edit out chunks, instead of hitting the delete key, I cut and paste them into the Holding document. That way I’m not killing my darlings, I’m just relocating them. The relocation might be temporary (although usually it’s not) so it helps me get past the feeling of destroying my words and get on with the business of improving my manuscript. 

Moving these words rather than deleting them can ease the tough “stay or go” decisions. And if down the road it turns out these chapters or sentences are really needed, they are simple to retrieve. Or maybe you can use them in a different story. Or if you have the type of audience that enjoys extras about your writing process, you can always share these deleted scenes. 

So don’t despair when it comes to your darlings – you can be a mover rather than a murderer!

PRIZE ALERT: Jocelyn is offering a picture book critique (less than 1000 words) for one lucky winner!

When Jocelyn was small but MIGHTY!
Jocelyn now… STILL MIGHTY!

Jocelyn Rish is a writer and filmmaker who loves researching weird and wonderful animals and sharing what she learns. Her first book was BATTLE OF THE BUTTS, about ten animals that do weird things with their butts. Her next book is BATTLE OF THE BRAINS and will release this November. When she’s not writing, she tutors kids to help them discover the magic of reading. Jocelyn has won numerous awards for her short stories, screenplays, short films, and novels and lives in South Carolina with her dogs. Learn more at jocelynrish.com.

#ReVISIONweek Day Four: Small But Mighty Revision Tip: Ellen is Playing with Point of View

Happy #ReVISIONweek! 

When Lauren asked who would like to write a “Small but Mighty” revision tip, I immediately answered, “ME, ME!” I am one of those strange creatures who enjoys revision. 

But then I kind of panicked.

Not because revision scares me, but because I didn’t know if I could choose just one tip. I am a bit of a serial reviser. (Which gives a different spin to Stephen King’s advice to kill your darlings! EEK!)  

How to zero in on one? Could I do this? 

And then….DOUBT came calling. 

And refused to leave. 

So, I took a break, ate some chocolate, and checked out vacation pictures. There were SO many pictures of mountains! 

And then this one popped up. 

I remembered wondering what those kayakers saw. I knew their close-up view was different than my view from across the lake. 

And…

EUREKA! I knew what my tip would be! 

So, my SMALL BUT MIGHTY tip today is to try changing up the POINT OF VIEW. 

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If something is not grabbing you, or your critique partners sense something isn’t right but can’t put their fingers on it, it could be the Point of View. 

Is first person POV the best way to write a picture book? After all, it brings you close to the character. 

Maybe. 

And maybe not. 

How about third person POV? Is that the best?

Sorry…same answer. Maybe.

And maybe not. 

What about second person with a little meta thrown in there? 

Yep…maybe and maybe not. 

Think of my view of the mountain as opposed to the kayakers’ view. Is one better than the other? Not necessarily. It depends on the experience. If I could see cracks and crevices in the stone from across the lake, it would be weird. If they, who were up close, could only see the vista I saw, that would be strange. 

It’s all about perspective. 

I wrote my first several drafts of A FLOOD OF KINDNESS in third person. It was okay, and nobody had a real problem with it. But something was bugging me. This particular story begged me to write it in first person. There was nothing that told me except my gut. I realized that I wanted Charlotte to tell her story, not the story. Everything in the book comes from Charlotte’s eyes, ears, nose, and most importantly, heart. 

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For me, third person put too much distance between Charlotte and the reader…for this particular manuscript. 

But for other manuscripts I’ve worked on, first person POV did not work. There were some where it actually made my characters annoying…. Always talking about themselves. Blah, blah, blah. If you want the readers to see the world themselves, not just through the eyes of your main character, first person is limiting. 

I’m currently changing a first person draft into third person just to try it out. Will it work? I don’t know yet, but as Ernest Hemingway said, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.” So here we are. 

So, my tip on Point of View is to try different ones and see what fits. There is no magic bullet, but I think when you try a few different ways of telling your story, you’ll know what the right one is. For me, it’s a feeling, not a rule. 

Looking for other Point of View tricks that may bring some spark to a story you feel is well…sparkless? 

Fireworks in night sky

Maybe tell the story from the POV of an inanimate object. (That’s tricky, but it can be done!) 

How about from the antagonist’s POV? 

Maybe tell it from more than one character’s POV.

To me, revision is a game. Playing with Point of View will help you find what makes YOUR story shine! 

HAPPY REVISING! 

PRIZE ALERT: Ellen is offering a virtual school visit to one lucky winner!

When Ellen was small but MIGHTY!
Ellen now… STILL MIGHTY!

Ellen Leventhal is an educator and writer in Houston, TX. She is the author of Lola Can’t Leap (Clear Fork Publishing 2018) A Flood of Kindness, ( WorthyKids/Hachette Book Group 2021) and the upcoming Debbie’s Song: The Story of Debbie Friedman ( Kar-Ben Publishing/ Lerner Publishing Group 2023). Ellen is also the co-author of Don’t Eat the Bluebonnets, (Clear Fork publishing 2017)   Her work has appeared in various poetry and short story anthologies. Ellen frequently presents at schools and has been featured on both TV and radio. When visiting schools, she coordinates with and supports literacy programs as well as diversity and anti-bullying programs. Ellen’s best days are when she can interact directly with students and spread her love of literacy, compassion, and  kindness. To find out more about Ellen’s books and writing projects, please go to www.Ellenleventhal.com  Twitter: @EllenLWrites Instagram: @EllenL411 

#ReVISIONweek Day Three: Small But Mighty Revision Tip: Norene Paulson is Thinking About Critique Feedback

Critique feedback is vital to revision. I don’t know about you, but I too easily fall in love with my words. I adore them. I think they’re perfect UNTIL I send them off to my critique partners and find out… maybe they aren’t. That’s when revision becomes confusing and complicated.  Differing and often conflicting comments and suggestions barreling at me from multiple sources makes my head spin particularly when one person suggests one change and another suggests the opposite. How do I know what to leave in? What to leave out? What’s best to do? Well, I’ve discovered an easy way to process critique feedback.  Check out the following #ReVISIONweek 2022 tip: 

As you read through a critique, be aware of your first reaction to each comment and immediately tag that comment with a star for WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?,  a question mark for  SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT, or an X for DON’T THINK SO. 

If you are a visual person, exchange the symbols for highlighting: Green = WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT? Yellow = SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT,  Red or Pink = DON’T THINK SO

A “Why Didn’t I Think Of That?” comment rings so true that you smack yourself on the forehead and feel a little embarrassed – a definite YES-this-absolutely-works reaction.

A “Something To Think About” comment makes you stop for a moment and consider IF it works and HOW to make it happen – not a sure thing but a maybe-with-some-tweaking-this-might-work reaction.

A “Don’t Think So” comment is a suggestion that doesn’t click – not a definite “no”, but an I-don’t-see-this-working-right-now reaction.

If you have more than one critique of the same manuscript, repeat the process for each. Once you’ve read all the critiques, go back and compare. Are there similar suggestions?  Is there more than one person suggesting the same change?  If so, no matter your initial reaction, take another look and rethink your reaction tag. Once you’ve analyzed all the critique feedback using this method, you’re ready to start revising. Start with the star tags and work your way through the question marks. 

Hope this tip gives you something to THINK about this #ReVISIONweek. Good Luck and Happy Revising!

PRIZE ALERT: Norene is offering a non-rhyming picture book critique to one lucky winner!

When Norene was small but MIGHTY!
Norene now… STILL MIGHTY!

Norene Paulson is a word-loving, book-reading, story-writing kid lit author. Growing up in South Dakota, Norene spent long hours exploring the frontier with Laura Ingalls Wilder and solving mysteries with Nancy Drew. Now grown up and living in Iowa, Norene writes picture books that celebrate friendship, acceptance, and inclusion. She is the author of BENNY’S TRUE COLORS, WHAT’S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR? and her third picture book, NILA’S PERFECT COAT, releases on Feb. 7, 2023. Norene lives on an acreage with her husband and rescue pup, Ellie. When she isn’t reading or writing, you will find her playing—you guessed it! —word games.

#ReVISIONweek Day Two: Small But Mighty Revision Tip: Brittany J. Thurman is “Keeping it Simple”

There was a girl whose face held the remnants of her name. 

I wrote the first draft of Fly sitting on a park bench outside of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. It was an oddly hot, not too hazy, Pittsburgh day and I remember the words flowing from my pencil to the page. That first draft of Fly felt exactly like the title. I flew to hear from others if they thought my one-page poem was picture book worthy. 

With copies in hand, I sat at an editor round table and read Fly, then called, You Girl, aloud. I was ready and willing to hear from the editor and authors around the table. But as the critiques and feedback flowed, I scrambled to write them all down. My mind felt a little scrambled, too. Too much noise! Too many words! Gah! I went back to my hotel room, threw the manuscript in a folder, and wondered, where the heck do I even start? 

I reflect on the past a lot. Probably a little too much. But I started to think about ways I handled feedback prior to becoming a picture book author. I wondered how I jumped into revision in the past, when I didn’t know where to start. As a Dramatic Writing student at Carnegie Mellon University, there were many days and months, heck – the whole two years, where my mind felt scrambled. But what never failed to help me sort through the beginning stages of revision was to stay organized. In particular- the organization of those critique notes. It’s easy to feel we must dive into a manuscript, delete paragraphs, and insert suggestions asap. But I always begin with a breath, then take my time to sort through the comments I’ve received. 

After you’ve received feedback on your manuscript, my small, but mighty, tip is to make a list of the suggestions. If the suggestions are scattered, get a clean piece of paper and write them down. If the suggestions are in an email, pull from that email so that the suggestions become a list. Then, order them from the easiest to accomplish, to the hardest, starting with the number one. Read your list. Any suggestion that does not resonate with you and the vision you have for your manuscript, toss. Readjust your numbering accordingly! 

There are several benefits to making organization the first step of my revision process. 

  1. It helps my mind not feel overwhelmed by a million comments on one manuscript. 
  2. I can see all the notes in one place. 
  3. There is a sense of accomplishment when I strike off a note. 
  4. Achieving the easiest items to revise first creates a ‘yellow brick road’ for those harder items. I do not have to go back and make tedious adjustments. 

My first comments on the poetic version of Fly went a little something like this: “Love it, but where’s the narrative?” “We need a clear protagonist, what does she want?” “What does ‘birthmark in the shape of her name even mean?” Of course, there were more than these three, but once I got home, I pulled out my folder and began to pull out the criticism that resonated with me most. I made my list, tossed what I didn’t need, and started to revise. Easiest to hardest. Now, the first line of Fly reads, “Africa has a birthmark in the shape of her name.” Makes more sense, right?! 

Revision is one of my favorite aspects of the writing process. I want to ‘resee’ the words, concept, and ideas I had for my story. But when we make the process harder than what it should be, that takes out the enjoyment of writing. Keep it simple. 

Happy revising! 

PRIZE ALERT: Brittany is offering two prizes: a virtual school visit to one lucky winner AND a signed Fly postcard to another lucky winner. 

When Brittany was small but MIGHTY!
Brittany now… STILL MIGHTY!

Brittany J. Thurman is author of Fly from Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/ Simon & Schuster. Illustrated by Anna Cunha, Fly follows five-year-old Africa who dreams of competing in double Dutch. 

Brittany is a former children’s specialist and museum educator, where she focused on early literacy, representation and art across Pittsburgh, PA and in her hometown of Louisville, KY. Brittany has read hundreds of stories to babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. She is dedicated to ensuring children’s literature truthfully reflects the world in which we live. Brittany is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University where she studied Dramatic Writing, and Kingston University (London, England) where she studied theater.

Her additional and forthcoming title includes Fearless: Boulevard of Dreams, by Mandy Gonzalez, co-written by Brittany J. Thurman, FOREVER AND ALWAYS, illustrated by Shamar Knight-Justice (Winter, 2024; Greenwillow/Harpercollins), THE FIRST LIBRARY: THE STORY OF THE FIRST LIBRARY BY AND FOR BLACK AMERICA, illustrated by Cozbi Cabrera (2024, Clarion/HarperCollins) and COME CATCH A DREAM, Greenwillow/Harpercollins

Connect with Brittany: 

@janeebrittany (Twitter)

@britjanee (Instagram) 

Welcome to #ReVISIONweek 2022! SMALL BUT MIGHTY TIP #1: “YOU MUST PAINT THE WALL BEFORE YOU CAN TEXTURE IT.”

Hello #ReVISIONweek-ers! We are THRILLED you’re here!

OOOOOOH-WEEEEEE, do we have a fun, productive, and inspiring week planned for you!

But before we share the schedule of events, here’s your first “Small But Mighty Tip” to rev up your revision engines!

YOU MUST PAINT THE WALL BEFORE YOU CAN TEXTURE IT

As I worked on my latest WIP, there were a few strategies I used that helped me push through.

These strategies turned out to be beautiful gems. I wrote nearly 60,000 words in five weeks (I was working on a novel), so I thought I’d share them.

Gem #1: Listen to Your Manuscript (It has an opinion about…well…everything!)

This particular manuscript had a few very specific opinions and requests. Yup, you heard me right. My manuscript would not let me write it unless the following conditions were met.

First: It wanted to be written in the kitchen. Okay, that’s weird since I have a perfectly lovely office, but I listened.

Second: This manuscript longed to be written in 12-point Fira Sans. Michal Babay has talked about the beauty of writing in a different font. Well, here it was. This manuscript refused to be written in anything else. Of course, Times New Roman is my (and every agent/editor’s) font of choice, but I listened.

Lastly: This manuscript needed me to talk into my phone as I drove, talk out loud as I walked, debate with myself (out loud) as I emptied the dishwasher, etc.. This manuscript needed a lot of time away from the computer in order to break free. Talking out loud in public or in the middle of my house (and actually arguing with myself) isn’t necessarily my style, but I listened.

Gem #2: Follow the Wisdom of Anne Lamott and her One-Inch Picture Frame

The following quote from Anne Lamott became a mantra for me.

It reminds me that all I have to do is to write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bite off for the time being.”

These words became my guide, my touchstone, my EVERYTHING!

Gem #3: You Must First Paint the Wall Before You Can Texture It

About halfway through the manuscript, I realized writing a first draft is like painting a wall. It is only during revision, that we create the texture.

Thinking of drafting as the INITIAL coat of paint helped me ignore all the little niggling little issues that arose. It stopped me from going back and re-reading what I’d already written a thousand times. And it kept my momentum going. I simply just created a “comment” in the margin or wrote a note in the notebook in which I was jotting notes and moved on.

This #ReVISIONweek, we challenge you to listen to your manuscript’s needs, heed Anne Lamott’s brilliant wisdom, and texture, texture, texture.

And our fabulous guest contributors have amazing tips to guide you along the way.

Comment below and share one gem you’ve learned in your writing journey so far. Imagine the treasure chest of writing gems we can create together.

Feel. Write. Risk.

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

Twas the Night Before #ReVISIONweek 2022: Small But Mighty Preparation Tips

If you’re anything like me, the anticipation of a transition can interrupt time EVEN when you’ve set time aside. I know #ReVISIONweek begins TOMORROW, and I’m already anticipating times I can’t write instead of planning for the times I CAN write!

But…

So we must roll with them as best as we can while NOT letting them derail us completely.

I know…

Especially because our LIZARD brain usually takes over the minute we anticipate the transition.

Those darn LIZARD thoughts don’t help us. AT ALL!

They interrupt our writing. Prevent us from getting started. Build barriers. Discourage us. Shatter our confidence. And generally act as KRYPTONITE!

When I provide author visits or professional presentations, I want my audience (no matter their age) to walk away knowing they have the POWER! Over their thoughts. Over their fears. Over their choices.

Cue 90’s Dance Music:

I want YOU to believe you have the power too!

You have the power to fight against those WICKED lizard thoughts. (Important clarification: the lizard isn’t wicked, he’s adorable, just the thoughts are wicked!)

“You’ve got the POWER!”

As Stacia Deutsch, one of my favorite authors (NYT bestselling!), friend, and writing partners says, “I like a plan.”

ME TOO! Get ready, #ReVISIONweek-ers, we are going to make a plan to combat those lizard thoughts and reclaim our creative POWER for #ReVISIONweek and BEYOND!

Are you planning? Have you pulled out your calendar? Do you have lots of potatoes and easy toppings for dinners? Okay, awesome!

Now sweet dreams because tomorrow, the REVISIONS begin!

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

Feel. Write. Risk.

Lauren

Joana, Katie, Lynne, Michal, and Shannon Too!