Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rejection Stings

“Rejection stings a bit,” they say.
But I don’t even care.
I’ll go on writing for myself
pretending they’re not there.

I’ll read their marks and grow and change;
And thank them all the while.
Won’t even feel rejection’s sting
cause’ I’ve got too much style.

“Rejection smarts a mite” they say.
But I won’t even mind.
I’ll keep on writing every day,
And leave their words behind.

I’ll learn my craft and make my mark.
My time is drawing near.
And when I’m at my book signing,
I’ll grin from ear-to-ear.

*If you're feeling a little saucy, you could change the ending to:
And when my book is out at last,
"Cha-ching" is all I'll hear.
* I have an even saucier ending on file, but you'll have to email me for that one. It's not PG at all.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

How To Write A Picture Book That Shines, CBI Clubhouse

Want to write a picture book and don't know the basics? Check out this video from the folks over at CBI Clubhouse. It clearly defines the basics of PB's in a 4 minute long video.

Enjoy & Happy Writing!

Monday, January 24, 2011

What Am I Reading?

Ever wonder what other writers are reading when they're not writing? If you answered yes, then you're not alone. Every time I pick up a book and read the back cover, I think ' I wonder what (fill in the name of your fav author) is reading? They are freaking awesome!' SQUEEE!

So that got me thinking. Does anyone ever wonder what I'm reading? Maybe they're curious about what I read when I'm not writing.

And then I thought, 'Probably not. I'm just not that cool.'

Well, this internal debate went on for quite some time, as you can imagine. And in the end, I decided that I'm just gonna tell ya'. And not only am I gonna tell you what I'm reading now, but I'm also gonna tell you every time I start a new book. Because that's just interesting, people.

So here goes. The book that I am currently reading is Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White. So If you've already read the book, feel free to let us know what you thought of it. And if you haven't read the book, please let us know if the trailer persuaded you to read it.

Thanks! And Happy Reading!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Live Chat On Writeoncon

Interested in the latest information on cover letters and queries, be sure to tune into Writeoncon's latest monthly chat(Thanks, ladies!). It takes place Monday, January 24th, 5pm EST. And the guest hosts for the evening will be the lovely ladies of Pippin Properties: Holly McGhee, Elena Mechlin, and Joan Slattery.

The link to the online chat is Be sure to click on the tab that says live events and chat.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

How To Make A Book Trailer

If you want to be a successful writer in today's market, you have to be a little bit savy when it comes to self promotion. And one of the things that seems to be big right now is making book trailers.

Why? you ask. Well, they're simple create. They're cheap to make. And if they're of really good quality, they could help sell your book.

So what is a book trailer anyway?

A book trailer is a lot like the previews that you see at the movies. The only difference that I can see is that movie previews are a lot more expensive to make, and you don't actually see a book trailer during a movie. In a nutshell, a book trailer is like a commercial for your book.

So where do you see book trailers?

Book trailers can be viewed at a lot of different places: your blog, your website, your agent's blog or website, youtube, and pretty much anywhere you want to post it on the internet.

Do I really need to make a book trailer?

Well, that depends. If you're Jane Yolen or Eric Carle, then probably not.(Jane Yolen still makes them) But if you're new to this industry, I'm going to say yes.

There are a lot of books out on the market these days. And when it comes to unknown authors and known authors, who would you pick? I know who I would pick.

Buying a book is kind of like going to your favorite restaurant. If you had a choice between a dish that is absolutely delicious and one that you've never had, you're going to order the one that is delicious. Well, books are the same. And most people are a lot like me. Money is tight these days, and we don't want to throw it away on the unknown. So If I have a choice between Nicholas Sparks and some newbie, I'm going to pick Nicholas Sparks. He churns out book after book, and they're amazing.

So do new authors even have a shot?

Absolutely. If I didn't believe that, then I wouldn't even be writing this post today. I'm an aspiring author.

The trick to being successful in anything, though, is all about two things: knowledge and talent. The knowledge part I can help you with. The talent part is something that we all have to work on ourselves.

Have you ever bought a book based on a book trailer?

Yes. I've seen at least two book trailers that I thought looked awesome, and have purchased the book as a result.

I've also purchased books based on people's blogs or webpages. If I read a person's blog and I think 'They are freakin' hilarious', then I'll definitely take a chance on their book. But that's just me.

Have you ever made a book trailer?

Yes. It was terrible. But yes, I've made one.

What is the best way to learn to make a video trailer?

Well, watching this first youtube video couldn't hurt. And then I'd suggest watching a lot of video trailers. That's the only way you'll really be able to see what looks good and what doesn't.

I have posted a really cute picture book video trailer below. Let me know what you think of it. I'd also love to hear anything you have to say about making a video trailer. Or you could tell everyone where we could find your video trailer. If you are an author, I would love to post your video trailer on my site-provided that it's pg. It doesn't have to be a picture book video trailer either.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Submitting To Publishers by CBI Clubhouse

In addition to all the wonderful tips from CBI Clubhouse, I would like to add a few.

1. Do look for the literary agent or publisher's specific guidelines. Do not just go by the basics listed on this video. They may not apply to that particular literary agent or publisher's specific guidelines.
2. Do look for sample query or cover letters, before you draft your own.
3. Do submit via email (if it's an option). It will save you paper, money, and time.

Do Not
1. Do not write 'Dear Editor or Dear Agent' on your query or cover letter. It is frowned upon. Todays agents want to know that you've researched their houses and know their names. (I'm guilty of this one. Not on purpose, of course. I merely forgot to change the master letter that I created, and sent it out. I knew who I was writing. I'd done my homework, etc. But once I hit send, it was too late. I nearly died when I'd read the sent email. So my advice, have someone else look at your letters before you send them. That extra effort could make all the difference.)
2. Do not reply to a rejection letter, call, or email. If an agent or house rejects you, take it like a man or woman. Replying will only make you look desperate and crazy. And it WILL ruin your chances of working with that person in the future.
3. Do not try to make your query or cover letter SUPER fancy to get attention. This will not work, and people will laugh. In fact, I just listened to a really funny audio query online the other day. The guy just kept saying " I am the Batman." And while I laughed til' I nearly peed-which did get my attention-it did not earn positive attention. In the end, I just kind of felt bad for the guy. He went out on a figurative limb, only to fall off and break his 'writing' neck. So don't be like him.
4. Do not send your query or cover letters via the blackberry. They will know, people. And they will blog about it. And tweet about it. So just don't do it. It makes you look as if you don't care about your writing career.

Let me know what you think about the tips. Do I need to add some? What has worked for you? Any advice?

Writing Picture Books CBI Clubhouse

Books #11, 12, &13

Books 11, 12, and 13 are all written by one of the greatest-if not the greatest-biography picture book authors of our time, David Adler. Mr. Adler weaves a tale from childhood to adulthood beautifully, and makes sure to portray historical facts in a way that is not frightening to children.

For some children, the story of Martin Luther King Jr. is scary. In fact, I've received questions like, " Why did that man kill Mr. King?" and "Why don't those people like us, Mrs. Stanford?" But the way that Mr. Adler tells the story of Dr. King's life focuses more on the peaceful side of the civil rights movement, rather than his assassination and the violence. Children seem to connect with Adler's biographies. And because of Mr. Adler, elementary teachers are able to explain to younger children the basics of the civil rights movement and other historical events.

I give all three books high fives. Because without books like these, my job would a whole lot more difficult. So thanks, Mr. Adler!

I Have A Dream

While I spend my day at home, relaxing and writing, I am mindful of why that is possible. Although I am not African American, I am still thankful for Dr. King and his work to make our country great. Because of him, my son, who is Guatemalan, is able to go to schools with children of all races. Because of him, the idea of adopting a child outside of one's own race is not taboo. And because of him, my child will have many more chances in his life. So for that, I am grateful.

So today, I honor Dr. King by posting one of his epic speeches, and by reviewing a great picturebook biography about his life. I hope you all will take the time to watch the video and read the review that follows.


“History informs us of past mistakes from which we can learn without repeating them. It also inspires us and gives confidence and hope bred of victories already won.”
William Hastie

Sunday, January 16, 2011

You Must Read This Article About The Nerd Cycle

For months, I've been complaining about the creeping weight-gain that is slowly accumulating on my thighs and butt, as I focus more and more on my writing career. I've tweeted things like, "We shoud create a deskercise video. I want to create a treadmill that has a monitor and keyboard. " And "I want to buy a bike that has a monitor on it, so I can write and not fall of in the process."

Well, apparently I'm not the only weight-conscious, geek out there. Because, Martin, a reader of 'Life Hacker', is in the process of designing his very own 'Nerd Cycle' as we speak. And so to Martin, I tip my hat. The second that he markets that baby on late night television, I'll promptly be dialing the 1-800 number that I see on the screen.

Here is a link to the article, in case you're interested, too. Let's all let Martin know how important this bike is to the writers across the world.

Book #10 I Love You Because You're You

I Love You Because You're You, by Liza Baker, is just that-a book about loving your child no matter what. Its rhymes are simple-if there is such a thing as simple with rhyme and meter. Its words will melt your heart. And your child will walk away from this story KNOWING that you will love them no matter-even when they're cranky, and yell and scream and shout.

If you want to read a book that REALLY shows the love that parents feel for their children, this is it. In the words of Liza Baker, "I Love you any way you feel, no matter what you do. I Love you any way you are. I love you because you're you!"

And in the words of Jessica Stanford, "I love this book. It is a gem. And I would read it all again. " See, I told you that simple rhymes were hard. Haha. Well, I guess near rhymes are hard, too.

Book # 9 The Going To Bed Book

In a sea of bedtime books (he-he), The Going To Bed Book, by Sandra Boytnon, stands out as one to learn from. It's simple rhyming text and unusual bed-time routine, make this book a hit with both children and parents alike. And the twist of rocking to sleep (in a boat), is just plain brilliant.

I give this book a double high five. Because not only will I read it again and again with my children, but I'll also reference this book as one to use when learning about what makes a great picturebook.

Book # 8 Over The Moon

Over The Moon, by Karen Katz, is a beautifully illustrated and written story about international adoption. As an adoptive parent, myself, I really felt the words of this book ringing true in my heart. Because as my husband, Brian, and I embarked on our own journey, we too wondered how we would explain our son's wonderful story to him one day. And luckily, we were able to read this beautiful book by Karen Katz.

I give Over The Moon, by Karen Katz, a high five. It is beautiful and brilliant; and it stands out as exceptional, in a field of only so-so adoption books. This book will be a staple in our house for quite some time.

Book # 7 Class Picture Day

Class Picture Day, by Andrea Buckless, is the hilarious, yet simple story of a girl who is tricked into sticking her tongue out during a class photo. When she gets her class photo back and sees that she is the only one sticking out her tongue, she feels silly. So the whole story, she is trying to get rid of the photo. But it always seems to find its way back to her. In the end, though, she finds a simple and funny solution to her problem. I don't want to spoil it for you, but it's really cute.

I give Class Picture Day a thumbs up for having a really cool ending. Andrea Buckless channels her inner child brilliantly in this story.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Waaaasup Followers

For those of you who don't know me, I am a complete and total scatterbrain. One would think that an educator would be impeccably organized and remember things at all times, but one would be wrong. I'm actually more of a go-with-the-flow type of gal. And as such, I've totally neglected to keep you guys posted on what's going on with me.

So in nutshell-even though it's not Wednesday-I'm going to do my 'Waaaaasup Wednesday' on Thursday. Especially, since I haven't done a Waaaasup Wednesday in ages.

So here's waaaasup:1. I'm still working my day job.And I probably will until the end of time. Or at least until I win the lottery. Seriously, my job as an educator is way too fun to quit. Even if I sold a best seller and made millions, I'd probably still volunteer or something in a school. It's great market research! 2. I finally sent a story out to literary agents. Wasn't sure that I was ever gonna' do that. 3. I received my first rejection the very next day. Boo hoo! But it was actually pretty cool. At least, I can say that I'm a writer now. And the rejection wasn't even that bad. I was basically rejected because they don't accept debut picture book authors. They even suggested that I contact them if I decide to write for an older crowd. So I wasn't actually too sad about that rejection. It's not like they said, "You stink! Please do humanity a favor and stop writing!" 4. I'm on twitter now, so I'd love to hear from you in very short sentences. I love their instant message of " Not clever enough. You'll have to do better than that." I think that it's even helped me to be more succint in my writing. And in pb's, that's huge. 5. Right now, I'm in the middle of doing a 100 picture books in 100 weeks challenge. And as you've probably noticed, I'm lagging a bit on the reviews part. Rest assured, though, that the reading is going off as planned. So stay stuned for more book reviews. And hopefully, I'll catch up during this 3 day weekend. Feel free to join in. I'd love to hear your feedback.

Anywho. That's what I'm up to. So now enough about me. I want to know what you are up to? What are you reading or writing? Any big writing news with you? Any big life news? I'm all ears.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Book # 6 Hiccups For Elephant

Hiccups For Elephant, by James Preller, is a cute really book about an elephant who has hiccups. One-by-one, elephant wakes up different animals in the jungle with his hiccuping. And, one-by one, they try to help him cure them. In the end, though, the cliche' of elephants being afraid of mice ends up being the solution to the problem.

This book is a great book for early and struggling readers. It's predictable text and easy vocabulary make it a favorite in my household of little readers. Not to mention, my little ones think that it's hilarious that the BIG elephant is scared of the tiny mouse.

Overall, I give this book a thumbs up. My kids and I will definitely be reading this book again.

Book # 5 David Goes To School

Before I wrote my review on David Goes To School by author David Shannon, I found myself reading it one more time, just to give it another chance. In all honesty, this book is not one of my favorites-even though plenty of really great writers have highly recommended it. 1. I hate that the teacher is painted as the villain in the story. (Well, duh! I'm a teacher) 2. I didn't think that there was anything really special about the writing in the book. In regards to description, it was pretty matter-of-fact, and it didn't really SHOW me anything. In fact, it looks like something that one of my students could write.

And that's when it hit me like a foul ball. That's it! It does look like something one of my students could write. Therefore, if I use this in my classroom, the students might feel a little less intimidated by writing.(Cue angels playing harps) David Goes to School is actually the perfect model of the kind of writing that is acceptable in my grade-level.

So even though this book is not my favorite, I am giving it a thumbs up. Because 1. Even a mean teacher like myself, can see the educational benefits of using this picture book in my class. This story is perfect to model the basics of writing! And then, we can add to that foundation. 2. The colorful and humorous illustrations would draw children into the story. They are pretty funny! 3. The teacher does-sort of-redeem herself at the end of the story by giving David a star for cleaning up. So, obviously, David isn't trying to TOTALLY vilify educators.

So if you're looking for an easy reader for young children or struggling readers, this book is a great choice. And if you're looking for a book to teach the basics of writing, this is also a great choice. Because even though it's not the most descriptive book on the planet, it's definitely worth another read.

Book # 4 The Paper Bag Princess

When I think of hilarious, easy reads for children, one of my favorite books that springs to mind is Robert Munsch's, The Paper Bag Princess. In this unique fairytale, Princess Elizabeth is set to marry a handsome prince named Ronald. But before their happily-ever-after can take place, Prince Ronald is kidnapped by a fierce dragon, and is set to become dragon chow.

"So what does this unique princess do?" you ask. She sets off in a paperbag dress- as all of her beautiful clothes are ruined-to save the day. And after she outwits the daft dragon, she goes to her beloved prince, Ronald.

The hilarious twist is what happens next. Ronald-who is unlike the dreamy princes in most fairytales-tells Princess Elizabeth that she will have to come back to save him when she is dressed like a REAL princess. To which she replies " Ronald! Your hair is nice. You look like a prince. But you are a BUM." And the story ends with a twist on fairytale endings. "They didn't get married after all."

This book makes the mom and closeted feminist in me cheer (more below). For centuries, women have been told that they must rely on men to take care of them. But this fairytale book has the female main character being the hero. And it also sends the very subtle message that 'if your prince is a bum', then don't get married. For that reason alone, I give this book a high five. And, surprisingly, my three year old son gives it a high five, too. He likes the daft dragon and feisty princess. He doesn't really care about the societal impact. It's one of his favorite bedtime books.

*I must clarify the feminist comment. I simply mean that I like stories that portray females as strong, independent main characters. Most fairy tales do not, and the damsel in distress bit is getting old. Not that I don't like the usual fairytales-because I do. I just applaud books that show a different side to the typical fairytale.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Book # 3 The Hippo-Not-Amus

When Little Hippo decides that he's bored with a life of sitting in the water and munching on brown grass, he makes up his mind to become something else altogether. With great repetition and silly attempts at becoming different creatures, this young Hippo-gir-ele-potamus makes even the most reluctant readers want to turn the pages of this book.

I knew that this book was something special, when I saw one of my most relucant readers dive into it, head first. And one week later, she still hasn't come up for air. She even asked if I would read it to the class because she loved it so much. And 6 months ago, this child would have never asked me to read a book aloud.

I give The Hippo-Not-Amus, by Tony and Jan Payne, a high-five. And thank Tony and Jan Payne, for my making my job as a reading teacher a little easier.

Friday, January 7, 2011

How The Waiting Game Is Like The Dating Game

In 1965, ABC aired a new television show, The Dating Game, in which a bachelor asks contestants questions, in the hopes that they might make a love connection by the end of the show. Well, submitting is a lot like The Dating Game. A desperate author (bachelor/bachelorette) submits his or her manuscript (questions) to some litery agents & publishers (contestants). And then-based on his/her answers (ms)-there may be a love connection(deal) made.

Right now, I am in the throws of a slightly different version of the game, The Waiting Game. All the same rules apply as in The Dating Game, of course. But rather than making an instant match, I must wait...And wait....And wait some more. You get the picture.

So it got me thinking. What am I going to do while I am waiting to hear my story's fate?

Below are 3 things that writing experts around the world do, when they are waiting to find out if their current projects are going to be accepted or rejected.

1. Keep Writing. Just like anything else in life, practice makes perfect. If you want to become the best author that you can be, you're going to have to excercise your writing muscles. Great writers aren't just born, to spite what some authors have said interviews. I've never seen a child come out of the womb writing. It is a learned skill. And it takes years and years of practice to be great at it. So if you want to be a great author one day, you need to keep writing.

Now that's not to say that your first story can't become an over-night success. Because you hear of that happening all the time. I'm simply saying that at some point in the successful writer's life, they attended writing classes(even in early childhood), read books, had an active imagination, and made up stories.

Not to mention, writing more stories will keep your mind occupied, and give you something to submit later on.

2. Attend a writing class or conference.This will be helpful for two reasons: 1. It will help you improve your writing skills 2. You will make connections with people who are also interested in writing. And honestly, there's a lot of value in that.

Sometimes even great writers don't get noticed because they haven't made the right connections. Sometimes it's just a matter of getting that one lucky break from someone in the business. And going to these kinds of events, can help get you that break.

3. Blog, Tweet, FB, and join some type of social media for writers. This is another way to practice your writing skills, and make connections with people like you. I know that I've made some lifelong friends since I started blogging and tweeting. And who's to say that they might not mention my name, once they get their own publishing deals in the works.

Stranger things have happened. Why J.K Rowling, herself, may not have gotten her big break, if it hadn't been for a secretary who fell in love with her first story. And the rest-as they say-is publishing history.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Books 1 & 2 of the 100 Books In 100 Days Challenge

The first book that I read for 100 Books In 100 Days Challenge is There's A Wocket In My Pocket, by Dr. Seuss. Surprisingly, I hadn't read it before. And, frankly, I'm so glad that I did.

There's A Wocket In My Pocket has a lot of things that I look for when I'm choosing picture books to use in my classroom. Firstly, I love the rhyme in the book. It's fun, and it's silly. And I adore funny as much as any kid ever did. Secondly, I love the fact that it's a great book for teaching nonsense words. For that reason alone, it makes it a great book for teachers. There are so few good books that contain nonsense words these days. And lastly, I love that it's great tool to use when teaching children to use word families to help decode words. Teaching phonics application is a big half of the reading puzzle, and this book is full of phonetic gold mines.

The teacher in me gives this book a big thumbs up. While it's not the greatest Dr. Seuss book that I've ever read, it's definitely worth a reread. In fact, my five year old is reading it right now. * my heart is smiling at this very moment*

How Do I Love You?, by Marion Dane Bauer, is the second book that I read for the challenge. And this book, I give a high five because it tugs at the heart strings. While I could use it in the classroom to teach rhyme, I mostly read it to my children. Because who doesn't love reading books that tell their children how much they love them? I know that I do. In fact, sometimes I buy books just because that's their message.

How Do I Love You?
is reminiscent of the poem How Do I Love Thee? Sonnet 43, by Elizabeth Barret Browning. But for children. The words are palpable."How do I love you? Let me count the ways. I love you as the sun loves the bright blue days." ....."I love you as the moon loves each shining star. I love all that you will be and everything you are." You can just feel how much the author loves her child. Or, at least that's how I feel when I'm reading this picture book. It's lovely rhymes and wonderful art work, makes this story one of my absolute favorite picture books/board books. And I know that you will love it too.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

An Irish Blessing For My Blog Friends

Wishing you all of you a Happy & Successful Writing New Year!

May all of your writing endeavors succeed.
May your agents be friendly and bursting with speed.
May your books be best sellers and earn accolades;
And good luck and great fortune be yours all your days.

By: Jessica Stanford