Sunday, April 17, 2011

Reading to your kids, is the book for you or them?

If you haven't read this article:

It was brought back into my mind after this:
Which you can go ahead and read.

Picture Books. Who are they for? Are they for the kids or for the parents?

Well, the obvious answer is the kids, right?
But it's not 100% true.

The real answer, drum roll please...................................


Of course I'm going to digress a moment here. Someone was looking at a book and said, "I don't get it." It was a board book with babies holding books. My answer, "It's not for you, it's for the babies." Which is true. The book is something any 0 - 2 year old would drool over, live pictures of babies holding books, short, quick and sweet text, durable thick pages, bright and colorful. But it's not a book that a mom would want to read over and over. It's a quick read, and then you hand it to your child to open/close and chew on. Or it's one you can point to the pictures and talk about what is going on, to build vocabulary. There is not much to "get." It is, in one word, simple. And that is why it is perfect!

But that is a board book.

I'm referring to PICTURE BOOKS.
I LOVE to read picture books too. I love the pictures, I love the text. A good book is fun to read and fun to find things in the picture. An even better picture book lets the pictures tell a hidden story! Watch for it.

But as a parent, it is I reading the books to my kids (well, now they can read, insert sad face), and I have to be drawn to the book too. Otherwise, I read it really, really fast, without much expression and try to get the experience over with as fast as I can..... And that does absolutely nothing for my child, the picture book, our bonding time, or my sense of being a good mom.

Pictures books need to draw both the child and the parent in.

So what's with parents turning to chapter books? One mom said in her quote, which made me want to vomit:

       We both need to enjoy the book, well, especially me.

Wow. What a selfish mom.... Or is she?

If she is buying some of those crap PB's out there (and believe me there are a ton, I won't mention any particular houses...), but yeah, I don't want to read those either.

And reading above your child's reading level is good. But there is a certain interaction in picture book your child is leaving behind if you jump to chapter books without leaving room for PB's too. Do both!

What are my favorite picture books? Oh, I'm so glad you asked!

"It's Almost Time" by Debbie LaCroix, because it's too fun to make all the sounds of the clock!
Anything by Jez Alborough (visit for some of his books)
The Big Hungry Mouse
Bear Snores On
Bobbie Dazzler
Boom Bah
How Big is a Million (it's a very fun series,
Amelia Bedelia (they are sort of a chapter/picture book)
Gingerbread Man, the Usborne Books version rocks
No, That's Wrong
One Night at the Zoo
The Story of Growl
Unique Monique
Any classics are good in fact!
Anything by Eric Carle or Sandra Boyton
I was just introduced to CAPS FOR SALE; A TALE OF A PEDDLER, SOME MONKEYS AND THEIR MONKEY BUSINESS by Slobodkina, Esphyr (very neat!)
Clever Jack Takes the Cake by Candace Fleming, a brand new fairy tale!
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Click, Clack Moo
Dinosaur Who Lost his Roar
Any Froggy Book!
Harry the Dirty Dog
How Does a Dinosaur Say Goodnight
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
Jacob's Got an Overcoat
No David

This is in no way a complete list. These are just ones that I want to read over and over and over.
Billy would add Curious George to the list too, and Dr. Seuss, who I do enjoy, but no more then 3 times each. :-) And there are many others that I love to read, once here, and once there, and I'll pick them up in a few months. But the ones I listed I could read every day for a month and still have fun with them!

I will know when I have succeeded as a writer when a child tells me, "Mommy/Daddy and I read your book every night. It is my favorite."

What is your favorite picture book and why?

Friday, April 15, 2011

My addiction!

Some people are addicted to shoes. Others to purses. I know a few who can't live without a different piece of jewelry for each day. Are you one of those shop-a-holics, where you find any excuse to shop and spend money? Maybe you love to see movies on their release, or attend every play.

Can you guess my addiction? If you come over to my house, you'll notice it right away....
It is none of the above.

But a new one entered my home today!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Book

One of the cool things about Blogger, is I can look at my stats and see if I'm being googled. :-)
I've noticed Debbie LaCroix Book has been a popular search term. I'm creating BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

So let's talk about MY BOOK!!!!!!!!!

Ok, I'm so totally off my chair jumping and bouncing excited about it that I wish I could talk about it 22 hours a day and dream about it the other 2. However, it STILL doesn't come out until the "Fall" which should be July, but could be August, though the Fall is more September....

SO WHERE IS IT? My amazing editor (she is really wonderful) told me they saw the final proofs a few weeks ago! That means even if I wanted to make a change (which it was out of my hands many, many, many months ago) I can't.

I do know that it will be on a boat coming across the ocean in June, which is when Usborne Books & More convention is. Why is that important? Kane Miller publishing was bought by Usborne Books CEO Randall White. What is Usborne Books?
(Skip this paragraph if you have no desire to learn more)
You don't know? They are like the most amazing children's books out there! Usborne Books offers books from 0 to 16 in every subject imaginable. The books are "edible" in that a child really WANTS to read, touch, hug, chew, and love them. They are the front runners in making books FUN! Usborne Books & More are sold through bookstores and consultants (No Amazon.) Consultants host in home parties (like Pampered Chef, but way cooler), work with schools, lead reading incentive programs, offer grant programs, work with libraries... It's a pretty cool sales force of 10,000 women and men. If you are interested in learning how to make money selling books, visit My Site and drop me a line, or contact your friendly Usborne Consultant. if they were nice enough to send you here. It's pretty fun and a great way to study literature while getting paid.;-)

So back to Convention. That is where the Usborne sales force meets to look at the new titles that come out in July, celebrate, learn sales tips, meet authors (Jane Hampton Cook is visiting this year--we published her cool President book!) and literacy tips, and have a great time. I was hoping to do a big book signing.  But it does look like we will have preview copies, so everyone can SEE it. And I'm not sure I can compete with Jane Hampton Cook. The book is really good, and a great addition to any grade school classroom curriculum.

What is my book? That doesn't matter, does it? wink, wink.
It is a picture book!

What's it about? Wow, you ask a lot of hard questions!
I have been trying to figure out an easy way to tell you what it's about since I got the email that made me silent for a good whole minute saying they wanted to make an offer. That was last May. (Yeah, they had a hole and turned it around really quickly).

"It's Almost Time" is a hear (literally) HEAR and now book which is about the beauty and anticipation of clocks getting ready to strike at the hour.

Most people smile and say "Great!" and I know they are thinking, "What?" 

Let's try the long explanation. The problem is, it's quicker to read the book then to explain it.  But it's a really cool book, one of a kind, something that children will really enjoy, so make sure you buy it.

There is no "main character". Well sort of, now that an illustrator got a hold of it. You have a cute little horse and an adorable bird. But really, the main character is YOU. You are in my home, listening. You have really, really good ears because you can hear the tick-tock of the clocks... kind of like what I'm hearing now. Listen closely.... Can you hear it...

It's :59 on the hour... the countdown is beginning... the anticipation is starting... it's about to happen

and all the clocks go off at once!

The end, or is it?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Your "adult" voice vs your "child" voice

Someone told me I sound like a child. Considering I was working on Children's Lit, I took that as a compliment! But she makes a good point.

My cousin sometimes tells me "I don't like your serious face." She means my adult voice. Yes, it comes out when it has to. I don't enjoy it as much either, but as a mom and avid volunteer, I often do have to be an adult. The scary part is when I can't find my child, and that happens.

Now if you were to call me on the phone, I can promise you will think I'm a 12 year old little girl. I have this perfect high squeaky voice. It's much lower then it used to be, but that, and the fact I have yet to make 5 feet in height makes me appear as a child.

But to write for a child, I have to know what a child would want, think, feel, do....

What do you do when you prepare to write? How do you get in your "child" voice?


Poetry Slam

Last night I went to a Poetry Slam, expecting to be wowed with poets in the mood, movement, sound and the powerful use of silence. They were all great. All poems were written from the heart, and all the poets deserved a round of applause. I wanted to see more Performance! You could see who had confidence and who owned their poem. And it made them stand out. 

I love poetry. I spent my highschool years with a half sized notebook filled with writings, essays, and mostly poetry. During my highschool years I had that teenage angst, negativism (though it was always done in a positive way with me.) I had my heartaches, and my dabble/infatuation with witchcraft that lasted probably 3 months. I swear a spell I cast came to haunt me about 3 years later. (I had a crystal ball, a genie lamp given to me as a gift... still have yet to meet the genie, spell books, Ouija Board...) OK, I digress. This isn't about my dark age.

I love poetry, yes, that was what I was saying. Poetry can say so much without ever saying what you mean. It can be dark, funny, political (I heard some great political poetry last night), religious (we heard Jesus cry out from the cross), teeny bopper, fun, truthful, heart breaking...

I went with the intent to read, but found myself not ready. I didn't want to show off, you see. When I read, I use the whole body. To me, that is what a Poetry Slam is. No, I needed 3 poems but only took one (See I'm assuming I would have made it through all 3 rounds).

So I judged. It was hard! I so badly didn't want to stiffen a poets creativity. There were a few good ones- who were really into the meaing of a Poetry Slam, but most of them just read.

One poet, who won the lot, stood out to me because of his emotion, his word choice to paint a picture, how much he had seen. I was shocked to learn he was only 23. That guy is good.

Another was 17, sweet as can be who had a great range of poetry topics, though her style remained the same throughout the whole thing. She just started writing and I hope she continues. She was just adorable, and brought me back to high school with her poetry and voice.

Not one person used silence to further their poem.

I slowly wandered up the path, the path, the one that takes me forward.
Yet, I couldn't move faster. I found myself stuck, as the wind swirled around me, stealing my breath.
I closed my eyes, I was moving back, back down the path.
Falling. Falling. Falling until........................................

Use silence to create anticipation


more silence

until I met you.

(I just made that up on the spot. How would you use silence?)

Some used noise. We had the thump-thump of the beating child who went through life without anyone helping him.

We had a chomp of the Zombie biting off someone's head --- OK, that was good, but way too detailed for me.

We did have some foot steps.

Take your story, and read it like you are at a Poetry Slam. Use your voice. Use noise. Use beat. Use your body. If you can't find a place for them, look at your story.

When I read to my boys, I read a book looking for places to stop and be silent. I look for voices and dialects I can use. I look for beat and rhythm I can tap too. I look for opportunities to shout, opportunities to whisper, I look for the chance to jump up, or freeze.

Here is to your Poetry Slam. And if your family thinks you are crazy, just tell them you met Debbie, it's not your fault. :-)

Friday, April 8, 2011

What I learned from my Dad's trip to the hospital

This isn't about writing, but it is a motivation for future stories. In fact, I have one shaping around my dad as the main character... actually he could make a ton of wonderful stories. He is the ideal adult in a kids tale, a Mr. McGee or a Willy Wonka of sorts in that he is whimsical, full of life and just makes you feel good to be around him. He's not afraid to be a little crazy, and his grandkids are his life.

When we were in Disney World he had a TIA (mini-warning stroke). He ended up in the hospital. I changed my plans to stay back, it was at the end of the trip. Flying home was the calmest I think we'd ever been. Normally my family sort of enjoys the drama, the worrying, the hurry up and wait montage of getting there. We seem to live off the fuel. We are one of the strongest families I know, from Grandpa to grandson and everything in between. But certain things are stressful

It seems like we've had a mind switch. We are no longer in such a hurry. We are enjoying each other even more, and thankful to God that we do have each other. Every moment together is a blessing, something not to ever be forgotten. It is cherished.

Please hug those you love, slow down, and cherish each moment. Then you have something to write. Be it the smell of their shirt, the laughter in their voice, the craziness of hair dancing on their head like a curly cloud...The deep lines of maturity, each one earned by years of generosity and worry, or maybe a simple memory of their arms holding you safely as your cheek feels the sandpaper of his cheek.

Each moment is a gift. Don't take it for granted.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sunday at SCBWI

Early, early, early!

Such great things were happening all around. Relationships and friendships being built, connections, networking, internal searching, excitement...

"It's for the kids," is at the top of my notes. I think it was a left over thought from the night before... but not sure. But yet, what a truth. We write for the kids. We write to create connections. I write because I want to open imaginations and share stories. I write to explore the world around me. I write because it is who I am. But I write for my kids, and all the others who I hope will be touched somehow by my books.

So, tips:

Stephen Fraser, secret agent man, previously editor..... downright amazing!

Find your stillness within and begin there... Be still and just let the creativity go to work.
You can't rush a work of art...
Follow your whims
Act professionally...

He is the perfect example, he is a gentleman. He creates relationships and builds on them.

And don't ask your real estate lawyer to go over your contract! They'll screw it up! :-D


Most houses have some sort of marketing, some have more then others.
Spend time getting to know your librarians and bookstore owners. But don't push on them your book. Get to know them first.
Stand in the middle of the room if you are shy. You'll meet more people.
Create an author site or blog, but don't try to do it all. Do what you are good at.
Does your book have a nitche? Follow it.
School visits!
Launch parties don't do much (but I plan to have one anyway!)

Candy & Eric presented again. They really are so cute! They shared their stories. It wasn't easy. They both worked hard. It took time. They felt rejection.

Candy gave a great tip:
Find a book you love, and retype it. It will help you to see what works and why!

All in all, I learned so much. If you haven't read my last 2 entries, please do so for more insight to what great things we learned!

Happy writing!

SCBWI, Day 2

I awoke early, I had so much to learn and couldn't wait to learn it all! So I ran down to be in the front row. I thought more people would want it, but I was wrong. That's OK, I'm short, and it's best for me to be up front. It also helps me focus.

I met Connie Heckart that morning, she is soo sweet, and was asked to help out, which I love to do!

Then I met Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann. Candace is an award winning author, and Eric and award winning illustrator. I later learned they are married, which makes sense. They present so cute with each other!

We learned about the Framework of a Picture Book.

First, you open the book and it reveals itself.... oooohh, I love that imagery of grasping the front cover as you anticipate what is inside this present, what will happen once you slowly open the cover, what will you see.....

Well, you usually se a blank page. But, that page has a color which should tie in the color scheme of the book, creating an openness to delve deeper into your adventure....

A picture book is 32 pages of hopeful bliss!

But the real story doesn't begin until page 5... And this is where the author must begin their job of setting the story. And so on page 5, the story begins...
Page 6 -9 are used for set-up
And no later then page 10, we need ACTION! This is the Day that is Different.

10 - 31 tell the story until page 32, where we have our
AHA, the problem is solved, the story is over... but yet, we must be left wanting more....
No pressure.

After Candy and Eric, we heard what editors want. By attending, we get a free pass to send to them and get out of the slush, or into the door for those who don't allow anything if you don't have an agent. That is why you should ATTEND. :-D Read all you want from those who do, but you really are not a player until you are creating your own journey of knowlege.

I'm into the word Journey this week.

But here are some tips:

  • Read the guidelines. You are not special. Editors will throw your stuff away if they are in a bad mood if you do not respect them. They put guidelines out for a reason. We may not understand it, but that is what they want.
  • Show you're committed.
  • Know the publishing house. DO YOUR RESEARCH
  • Be professional. Don't say how much you love a book they are publishing that isn't being released for 2 months.....
  • Spelling/Grammar
  • Be Unique, but not obnoxious. You are you, you are not JK Rowlings, Dr. Seuss or Stephen King. You are you, you, you. And that's not a bad thing.
  • Have a killer manuscript, as in strength in plot, voice, theme and style.
  • Know who you are writing for.
  • Have the whole package, not a killer first page, and then crap.
  • And read.

This was awesome to hear about the changes Little Golden Books made in the history of reading. They made books accessible to families by offering low-cost books found in everyday places.

SERIES, with Lin Oliver

I will write more on this, but she talked about how to write a killer series.

I want to talk about Lin, who is also the founder of SCBWI. She is amazing! She is warm, sweet, sincere, caring, and took time to help me.

As she talked about her concept, characters, the consistant world needed, multiple points of entry into the story, she mentioned ARC. Two arcs really, the story arc (I got that) and the series arc.

My stomach dropped. I didn't have a real ARC in my series! She finished up with the importance of dedication to your craft and said, "I'd love to talk more with all of you, come find me."

She walked from the front of the room, and I jumped up and followed. She spent a good 20 - 30 minutes with me helping me find my story arc and fix my character lack of flaws. I love her.

She probably doesn't even know how many authors she has touched and helped to shape their careers. Even though I still have work to do, I am every thankful for that one on one time and dedication she gave to me, an unknown author, to help me succeed in this world.

The day ended with a bookfair, where I went crazy, hey, who wouldn't want autographed books from award-winning authors, and new authors you just made friends with?

And a great speech from both Lin and Dr. Gary Schmidt, who moved me and brought tears to my eyes when you know that you can touch someone through your stories, and a reminder to observe everything around us.

I hope you learned something to!
PS: I have not edited yet, I probably should go shower. :-) TMI?

SCBWI Conference Rocked! The Character....

(Note, I am breaking this down into smaller posts/chapters, so you don't get lost and can learn from my journey).

Wow! I just spent 3 days in Bettendorf, IA, in a Lodge that reminded me of a cross between The Haunted Mansion and Hogwarts... Complete with pictures where I swear the eyes followed your every move.... The only thing missing was floating candelabras. If your imagination was not opened by the amazing details, the darkened lighting, or repetitive patterns, the companionship of spirits and authors and professionals was enough to throw anyone into overdrive 0 - 120.

The spirits of the lodge were all friendly! There was so much to learn, so much to think about.

We spent an afternoon learning how to develop a character by Molly O'Neil. She then broke down the importance of the first page of any manuscript. We heard her share the importance of voice, hook, fun, friendship, themes... and what makes you want to read more.

See, an editor is a "highly trained reader" (thanks Molly!) and they want to be drawn into a good story. A good story needs to be polished, fun, with wonderful voice and depth. It needs to provide connections. Characters need to come off the page, do something surprising. We need to love them. Think of your favorite book! Why is it your favorite? What makes you want to read it again, and again, and again... that is what an editor looks for.

While developing my character for our exercise, I was introduced in my head to Jayden Schmidt, a 17 year old who lives in a suburb of Chicago. She was raised in California, and forced to the midwest when her mom got remarried. Though she is close to her mom, she detests her step-dad. She is popular, well dressed and loves to shop, but her heart is not in it. She'd rather be in the Science lab or exploring nature. But she doesn't want to be considered a "geek." She can't stand her shallow "best friend" and misses her true friends back in CA. Though she has dated, she thinks guys are true jerks, and has yet to have a real kiss that will bring her to her knees. Her little brother makes her laugh, but her mom always makes her cry. She is still searching for her true hero.

I stalked her for about an hour. :-)

And finally from Molly that Friday, "My job is a business decision." She says. So we can't take it personally. Our stories may (or may not) be wonderful, but an editor needs to buy something that will make them money, reach the readers in multiple points, and fit into who that publisher is.


Also amazing that day was my critique. I was nervous with anticipation. I wanted to meet with Molly or Aly, two amazing publishers... I got my form and it says "Stephen Fraser," I hadn't submitted to him because I read he represents all, but was focusing on chapter books. I didn't have a chapter book to share with him, but I do have a nice little story that is ready to be bought, but wanted great feedback before sending it on after it's initial rejection, with the sweetest rejection letter. Rejections can be bitter-sweet, but it's a business decision.

So I felt a little nervous, wondering what he would tell me, and sad that I wouldn't have a chance to find my book an instant home... I did say CHANCE, not a home run. ;-) I was wrong. Everything happens for a reason.
Anyway, he loved the manuscript. He told me he could feel, taste, anticipate, touch and see the story as it unfolded. His suggestion was to add smell to round it out and gave me a nice list of places to send it. I really like him and we will see where this journey takes us. I have some work to do, but it was a wonderful experience.

He did use the word poet to me, which made my day, and for me validated that I am a writer and I have stories to share.

That evening I went to dinner with an amazing group and had fun making friends. :-)