Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

Happy Black Friday!

Okay. Do we all know what we’re thankful for now? Good. That’s a relief.lemming2

Now, about Black Friday. Toward the top of my list of dislikes is mindless crowds. I also don’t go to the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving. If we’re missing an ingredient, we’re missing an ingredient. I guarantee we won’t starve anyway.

Admittedly, I have never been to a Black Friday sale, so I may not know what I’m missing. But I never took LSD either, so the same applies there. I envision the sales as something like the Hunger Games for crazed shoppers. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Maybe I need to turn this into a children’s book. Seems like a vicious topic, but, then again, so did the Hunger Games. And that worked.

Little girl has three dollars to spend at the department store. They are supposed to have two-dollar sweaters and are giving away turkeys to the first 50 customers. She waits in line all through Thanksgiving Day and meets the craziest shoppers in the world. One lady is an ultimate shopper who feeds her family of six with coupons. One is a homeless mother, waiting with her two toddlers because she heard about the free turkeys. One is a young man who just likes to beat the system. Etc.

Not bad, but still not a picture book.

Snappy is a lemming whose lives alone in a burrow near the sea. He’s heard rumors that his family plans to jump off a nearby cliff when they migrate. He doesn’t believe it, but, oh, the rewards that await him if he survives! A warmer burrow and plenty of food. Do lemmings really commit suicide? Let’s hope not.

Did I mention I’m doing Picture Book Idea Month and that it’s hard to turn off the idea machine? When life hands you lemons (or is that lemmings), make lemming-ade.

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Thankful for November

Robbie415087Thank goodness I’ve surrounded myself with wonderful and inspiring people. Writing really is such lonely business that we often forget there are thousands (millions?) of other people going through the same struggles we are.

Once again, I’m participating in Picture Book Idea Month, the brain child of Tara Lazar ( I know for a fact that Tara had no idea (get it?) what she was getting into when she decided to challenge her fellow writers to come up with at least thirty picture book ideas during the month of November. She regularly mentions how surprised she is at the number of responses to various posts on her blog. Face it, Tara. This is a GOOD idea. You have fans!

So, I’m off with a bang. Four ideas in my notebook so far and I’ve barely scratched the surface. Meantime, I’m still working on that middle grade novel and that nonfiction project too. Yay!

Last Saturday, I attended the annual conference of the Mid-Atlantic region of the SCBWI. Many thanks to Ellen Braaf and the other wonderful Virginians and Washingtonians.

I attend an awful lot of conferences and they often blur together in my mind, but there were several things about this conference that made it memorable. This conference regularly sells out, so there was no surprise that the room was packed. There were three main “talks.”

Editor Frances Gilbert from Doubleday reminded everyone that you have to tell your story. And remember that the current trend does little for the author whose book won’t be in print for at least several months. But I learned from her that Doubleday is currently revitalizing its children’s market. Very, very good news.

Author and all-around good pirate Mary Quattlebaum talked about character and how it affects story arc, motivation, and scenes. Her exercises involving motivation gave me some insight into a character I’ve been working with for years. One finds inspiration in the strangest places and at the strangest times. Latch onto it when it hits!

Keynoter, author Cynthia Lord, talked about how her award-winning book, Rules, got published.  I’ve heard some of this before, but it was well-worth hearing her current take on it. Like a fourth grader, my favorite part was where she passed around her Newbury Honors plaque for all to make a wish on. See, her wish was to BE a Newbury author. Now she can share the magic with others. Thanks, Cindy!

The editors and agents were also great. Good job, Mid-Atlantic!

So, on to the task of writing good literature and stuff.  🙂

P.S. Why post the picture of my cairn terrier, Robbie? Just because I can.


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PiBoIdMo Is Back!

piboidmo2013-participant-214x131I debated long and hard about whether to do the Picture Book Idea Month challenge again this year. Granted, it is not nearly as all-consuming as the infamous NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but coming up with thirty picture book ideas is nowhere near as easy as it sounds to the uninitiated. But it is (1) inspiring, (2) a wonderful community, (3) a great impetus, and (4) something I can do for myself.

Inspiring has turned into quite a cliché in my world, but it’s true. Without a challenge now and then, I would not be able to function in creativity land. I see the struggles and triumphs of my fellow writers and it sparks new ideas in my head. My ability to look at ordinary objects and situations and see extraordinary views is re-born.

As in most writing pursuits, I am constantly amazed at the magnificent writers and illustrators I’m surrounded by. Generous to a fault, each and every one willing to share and to help others. I am honored to call many of the challengers my friends and wish them all great success.

Picture books are not my only love, but working on a challenge such as this helps keep the writing bug alive. Right now, I’m working on two other major projects, neither of which is a picture book, but I bore easily. With a daily reminder that I need to come up with something, I think this will move the other projects along too.

Very few of the things I do any more are NOT related to my writing, but it seems I neglect my own creativity in favor of my many other pursuits. As Co-Regional Advisor for the MD/DE/WV region of the SCBWI, there are not many days where I don’t have something come up. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. Also, I have a suite of websites under, which post reviews of books by everyone else. Again, loving it. Just not my own writing. So this is an excuse to put my writing at the top of the list, where it should be anyway.

Since the pros outweigh the cons, I will be pulling those ideas to the surface again. Stay tuned for the highlights.

Check out the PiBoIdMo blog at You don’t have to join to read about it. The guest bloggers are a who’s who of picture books.

Tomorrow, I’m off to Virginia to see how the MidAtlantic region runs a conference. The keynote is by Cynthia Lord, author of Rules and Hot Rod Hamster, a fine person and brilliant writer. Can’t wait.