Interview with Brooke Van Sickle and her debut picture book, Pirates Stuck at ‘C’.

In Brooke Van Sickle’s debut picture book, Pirates Stuck at ‘C’, the pirates are on the hunt for treasure…but they’re not so great at finding any. Instead, Eric’s chasing eels, Killian’s tangled in Kelp, and Marty’s splashing with mermaids. (And that’s just to name a few!)

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I had Brooke talk a little bit more about her kid’s book writing experience and new picture book. Read more about her below.

Congratulations on your upcoming picture book! Tell us a little about Pirates Stuck at ‘C’.

Thank you! Pirates Stuck at ‘C’ is about a crew of pirates that have landed on the perfect island for a treasure hunt — or so they think. Instead, they end up in antics for every letter of the alphabet!

Where did the inspiration come from for this book?

I was reading the jokes in a copy of Highlights and thought that the punch line would make a great title. From there, I began drafting an idea for an alphabet picture book about pirates.

Pirates Stuck at ‘C’ went through about 30 drafts before it was ready to publish. And from the point it was signed with the publisher, it still needed over 10 more rounds of edits. Including a full rework about halfway through the illustration process!

Your book is published by BiblioKid Publishing, which is your own company. Explain to us why you decided to go this route and the mission behind it.

Yes – I decided to create a publishing company, actually after having a coaching session with best-selling author, Ruth Soukup. We were talking about Journey to KidLit, my blog where I help other aspiring kid’s book authors, but it turned to my own books and my passion to want to start a company. To which she simply asked, “why not now?”

And that’s how we got here. I wanted a way to give back to education, particularly through reading initiatives, and this was the best way to do that. With a traditional publisher, my royalties would be too minuscule to have that opportunity. 

That’s an interesting approach. What makes you passionate about education and reading?

I’ve always been a proponent of education because I believe it’s the axis that leads us to chase our dreams and become successful. However, it wasn’t until I was substitute teaching for inner-city schools that I realized the great need for kids to have access to books and feel empowered to want to read.

And with education being the first thing that tends to be cut from government budgets, it takes people giving to these places to help keep them funded. BiblioKid Publishing will start by donating 50% of its profits to 2 major charities, Pencils of Promise https://pencilsofpromise.org/  and First Book https://firstbook.org/ but will eventually venture into more local and individual school fundraising opportunities.

Does BiblioKid Publishing accept submissions from other authors?

BiblioKid will open up to other authors in 2021. You can find our submission guidelines when that happens on our website. And the best place to stay informed on when they open up is to join the email list. You can do that here: https://my.journeytokidlit.com/how-to-write-a-childrens-book-template and I’ll give you a free copy of my Children’s Book Template just for signing up.

If you had one tip for anyone wanting to publish their own kid’s book, what would you tell them?

You need to study the industry! The best place to start is by reading books that have been published recently and to be writing consistently in the genre you hope to write. Without being disciplined and having continual practice, it’s impossible to get better. (And you can read the other article I wrote here to get even more tips!)

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If you would like to learn more about Brooke Van Sickle, visit her website at brookevansickle.com. Pirates Stuck at ‘C’ sets sail February 25th, but you can pre-order your copy here. (And 50% of the profits will be donated back to low-income schools!)

Brooke Van Sickle is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) and  Regional Webmaster for the Iowa-SCBWI region. She’s also a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MiPa).

PIRATES STUCK AT “C”, published by BiblioKid Publishing, is Brooke Van Sickle’s debut picture book. She also has 2 more books expected in 2020. When not writing her own books, Brooke teaches other aspiring writers how to write and publish kids’ books at www.journeytokidlit.com

Learn more about her on her website www.brookevansickle.com and connect with her on social @authorbrookevs.

Brooke has also agreed to give away one signed copy to a lucky reader! Leave a comment below and share this post to enter. A winner will be chosen at random and announced on this blog. Good luck!

Darlene’s Review of PIRATES STUCK AT “C”:

Hop aboard Captain Scallywag’s ship for a fun-filled adventure in this pirate-themed alphabet book. Young readers will learn about life in the sea, and the life of a pirate with whimsical and colorful illustrations to add to the fun.

Brooke Van Sickle Presents: Her 6 Simple Steps to Write a Successful Kid’s Book.

Today it is my pleasure to share the blog with fellow children’s book author BROOKE VAN SICKLE who recently published a PB titled PIRATES STUCK AT “C”.  She is here to share her own process for writing picture books. She has tons of free material and some great links to get you started in writing for children.

Here’s Brooke:

Millions of people say they want to write a kid’s book, but not everyone does. There’s a lot of work and patience that goes into writing, and tons of rejection, after you’ve created your story, which causes many people to give up. But if you can make it through all that, it’s so worth it!

To help prepare you, here are 6 easy steps you can start today, in order to have a completed kid’s book to share with others this year.

How to Write a Kid’s Book that Attracts Readers:

 I firmly believe that every book deserves a place on a child’s bookshelf if you can write it well enough. And the writing part may not be as hard as you think! You don’t have to be a master writer or someone with a big degree in creative writing. (Let out that breath you’ve been holding!) You simply have to be willing to put in the work. This is what you need to do to write a book that sells:

 

Six Steps to Write a Kid’s Book Well:

1 – Decide what kind of book you’re going to write.

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All picture books are children’s books, but not all kid’s books are picture books. In fact, there are 6 main categories of children’s books! (If you’re unsure of what those are, here’s a helpful article with the full list to help you.)

 

The best way to decide on the type of book you intend to write is to think about the age of your reader. Who is going to read your book? About how old are they?

2 – Once you have an idea, make sure it’s saleable.

 An important step for writing a kid’s book is to make sure it’s going to sell. (No one wants to spend over a year on something only to get stuck trying to publish it!) There are a few things I do on this step:

  • Search your topic idea to see what already exists
  • Read books that are similar to your idea
  • Research and read top-selling books in your genre that have been published in the last 3-5 years.

Doing this research will help you find comp books to use later in a query letter, let you know if your idea already exists to know if you should change it or find a new idea, and help you understand what’s been selling or is popular already with readers and publishers. All of which are important when you decide to sell your manuscript!

3 – Join SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) and find a writing group.

I would never have been able to publish a kid’s book without the help of all my writing friends and SCBWI. You need other writers not just to read your work and offer critiques, but to also encourage you as you begin your journey. It can be a long and hard process, but with others who are going through it, it will also be some of the most fun you’ll ever have. Plus, you’ll have a group of supporters to celebrate with you when you finally get to hold your published book!

4 – Outline your story.

There are a lot of pantsers out there that would disagree with me on this step, but I think outlining is VITAL to writing any book. (You can’t find your destination without the direction for where you want to go!) Even if you change your mind later, or decide that you want to go in a different direction, it’s better to have a plan going in. At least outline who your characters are, what’s going to happen, and how you expect it to end before you begin writing.

5 – Write your first draft.

This is the exciting part! You know what kind of story you want to write and you’ve done your research. You’re ready. So start writing!!

6 – Edit your draft and write again and again until you get it right.

 Sorry, the first draft you write won’t be the only draft. In fact, it may take you 30 or 50 versions to get it right! And then your agent or editor may have even more edits!!

I’ve mentored some writers that get discouraged with editing or don’t think they need to edit their stories at all, but I would caution against that. No one gets it right on their first time. So don’t be afraid to listen to good critiques and to try again.

Your goal should always be to write the best story you can!

If you want to get started writing a kid’s book, get my “How to Write a Kid’s Book” guide here. It’s free and has everything you need to start writing your book idea today! And if you want to dive deeper, visit journeytokidlit.com for more articles to writing and publishing tips for children’s book writers.

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Brooke Van Sickle is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) and  Regional Webmaster for the Iowa-SCBWI region. She’s also a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MiPa).

PIRATES STUCK AT “C”, published by BiblioKid Publishing, is Brooke Van Sickle’s debut picture book. She also has 2 more books expected in 2020. When not writing her own books, Brooke teaches other aspiring writers how to write and publish kids’ books at www.journeytokidlit.com.

Learn more about her on her website www.brookevansickle.com and connect with her on social @journeytokidlit.

Brooke will return next month with a post about PIRATES STUCK AT “C”  and a give-away.

 

 

Kid Lit Author Theresa Julian Walks Into a Bar…and Tells Us How to Write Humor. There will be a give-away!

The Joke Machine: A Creative Writing Tool That’s Disguised as a Joke Book by Theresa Julian

So, two guys walk into a bar…

Wait, that’s not how I meant to start. I meant to start by telling you that I’m the author of The Joke Machine, a new non-fiction book that teaches middle graders how to create their own jokes and become funnier. I’m nervous because my spellcheck mysteriously switched into Hungarian and I can’t tell if words are misspelled.

The Joke Machine: Create Your Own Jokes and Become Instantly Funny! by [Julian, Theresa]

Spelling words wrong is something I do knot want to do. I know the importance of proper spelling, it’s something my feather taught me. If I mix up even two letters, this whole post is urined.

Now you’re probably wondering, is she kidding about the spellchecker? The urined post? And most importantly, what happened to the guys who walked into a bar? Well, the answers are yes, yes, and two guys walked into a bar – the third one ducked.

Apologies for a long introduction, I just wanted to make you laugh.

Making someone laugh is one of the best feelings in the world. Growing up as a shy child, I always wished I was funny. As an adult, I started wondering if being funny is something you’re born with, or if it’s something you can learn. I started doing research and concluded it’s something you can learn, and I was going to learn it!

I figured out that the basis of humor is surprise. It’s leading a thought one way, and then turning it in an unexpected direction. It’s the quick twist that surprises us and makes us laugh.

I worked with that concept and came up with a few lines that – remarkably – were funny! Encouraged, I started studying humorous lines. I tried to figure out what made each one funny, and being a word-loving nerd, I put the quotes into categories such as ones that use contrast, comparison, exaggeration, etc. I started seeing patterns and my book, The Joke Machine, was born!

One of the things I’m proudest of is that the book teaches a difficult, almost mysterious subject using basic tenets of English, such as contrast, comparison, literalness, etc. It teaches in a fun, funny, kid-friendly way, that keeps kids laughing and turning the pages.

Now I’m going to tell you a secret. Lean in, because I’m going to whisper this so kids don’t hear. Though The Joke Machine explains how kids can become funnier, it’s also a book that teaches them how to express themselves more creatively and how to become better, more confident writers.

The Joke Machine teaches basics, such as using similes, metaphors, homonyms, homophones, etc., to punch up sentences, but the real message is deeper. The real message is reaching past the plain “vanilla” and expressing yourself more creatively, confidently, and humorously.

For example, The Joke Machine teaches middle graders to create humor by comparing two things that don’t ordinarily go together, by using irony to call out an unusual situation, and by using literalness to respond to someone’s actual words instead of their meaning.

The book explains how to fancy-schmancy it up by using specific details, too. It shows how to change “my shoes smell bad” into “my shoes that smell like they’ve been in my gym locker since second grade”. The book encourages kids to play with words, punch up puns, twist common catchphrases, exaggerate and understate facts, and even invent words that their friends will understand just by their sound.

Finally, The Joke Machine teaches middle graders to be more confident writers because being funny is about teasing out your message, having the courage to say something and then pull it back. It’s presenting a thought, then twisting, bending and reversing it. It’s like starting with “two guys walk into a bar” and then admitting that’s not what you want to talk about – but now that I have your attention, stick with me. It’s about thinking outside of the box, playing with a message, and holding your reader’s attention, all the way down to the very last line.

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Theresa Julian writes humorous children’s fiction, nonfiction, screenplays and teleplays. In addition to The Joke Machine, Theresa has sold dozens of humorous stories to Amazon Rapids which have been consistently listed on the Popular and Funny rows on the Amazon app. She is also the author of a humorous ‘tween TV pilot and two screenplays that have all won or placed in multiple national writing competitions. Theresa is a graduate of Boston College and has a Master of Arts in Corporate Communications. When she’s not writing, Theresa likes to run, eat chocolate, and lip sync to her favorite songs even though she never knows the lyrics. She always wished she had a superpower, but makes a really mean eggplant parmigiana so…maybe that counts?

 

Theresa will give a signed copy of her book to one lucky winner. Share your favorite one- liner joke and Darlene will put your name in a hat for the drawing. Share this post on Twitter, or FB and receive a second entry. The winner will be announced on this blog. Good Luck!

Barbara Messinger Asks Questions.

Asking Effective Questions in Life As Well As Writing.

                                              by Barbara Messinger

Most of my life I was interested in science and became an RN. I had no real desire to write but that changed when I took a job in pediatric home care and saw firsthand the joy books brought to my patient’s limited world. I was taken in by children’s literature in a big way and gained a strong desire to write picture books (and eventually chapter books), I began learning the craft of writing. And for the first few years I experienced all the frustrations that can go along with the writing process.

One of the key things writers learn along the way is interviewing your main character even if you don’t use the information in your book. It speaks to the importance of questioning. So if we are the main character in our own lives how do we question ourselves. I looked back at the first part of my writing journey and the questions I asked myself. I realized plenty of them were more disempowering than empowering. For example, Why aren’t I further along in this process? Why am I not getting this?

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In nurse’s training there was a brief session on Therapeutic Communication. We learned not to ask the patient ‘why’ questions. Why questions put people on the defensive. When we ask ourselves those kind of questions we keep ourselves stuck where we are.

So I became more conscious and deliberate about asking myself empowering questions. (Which usually begin with how or what) My all time favorite question:

How can I let go of my limited thinking? (about anything really)

How can I let go of my limited thinking about my writing?

How can I let go of my limited thinking about the publication industry?

Or instead of why can’t I seem to get this, I started asking myself:

What is the nature of showing rather than telling?

What is the nature of an emotionally engaging character? A compelling character?

There are an infinite number of possible answers and information that can come to you when you inquire in a way that leaves your subconscious mind wide open to answers.

We live in a fast pace culture that expects answers immediately and I’m not promising you’ll get published any faster if you practice asking empowering questions. I’m still working toward publication. But I can promise it will be a more enriching experience that expands your mind rather than contracts it. Try making up your own empowering questions. Maybe you’ll be surprised by some of the answers you get. IMG_0686

Barbara Messinger transitioned from a nursing career to children’s writing after moving into pediatric nursing care. She saw firsthand the positive effects reading books aloud had on her patients. She enjoys her membership and camaraderie of the SCBWI-NJ. A lifelong shore resident you’ll most likely find her swimming, scuba diving, biking, practicing yoga and, yes, writing somewhere near a beach.

                                   

 

Authenticity in Historical Fiction: The Final Chapter.

To conclude this year’s series of posts on writing authentically in historical fiction, I am posting this entry that ran on the blog tour I did in 2014 for the launch of my first book WHEELS OF CHANGE. To celebrate the FIFTH ANNIVERSARY of the book’s debut, I am giving away a signed copy of the book, and – if a teacher wins – a free classroom SKYPE visit for the 2019-2020 school year. Leave a comment at the end of the post and let me know what grade you teach.  Curriculum guides and other goodies will be included with the book.

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Authenticity in Historical Fiction

To create authenticity or believability in historical fiction is just like setting a scene in any kind of writing.  The writer needs to pay attention to details. As a reader, I’m more likely to immerse myself in a story universe that is believable and accurate.  If I want readers of WHEELS OF CHANGE to follow Emily Soper’s adventures, they have to be grounded in the reality of 1908 Washington DC.

            What was life like in the Nation’s Capital 100 years ago?

It was very rural for one thing.  With the exception of Pennsylvania Avenue, the area around the train station, and a few streets bordering 7th Street – the main street of commerce – there was only gas lighting and no electricity. Indoor plumbing was still a novelty. Many roads were unpaved or had cobblestones. There were farms and wooded areas surrounding the government buildings. Most people still rode in horse-drawn wagons, carriages, or buggies.  Many goods were still made by hand. Incorporating these details into the story grounds it and fixes the time and place.

Character is another way to create an authentic story. When a story takes place in another era, the writer has to be sure to use language and sentence structure that rings true. In 1908, children spoke in a more formal style, like their parents. Very little slang was used. Children addressed other adults as Mr. or Mrs. and often used “sir” or ‘ma’am” when speaking to their parents.

A character’s actions and behavior was different than it is today. Expectations for males and females were much more divided and specific. Boys had more freedom to explore and be adventurous. They were expected to roughhouse and get into trouble now and then. Girls on the other hand, were expected to be lady-like and exhibit proper behavior at all times. They were encouraged to excel at the “domestic arts” such as sewing, cooking, housekeeping, and child rearing.

Here are some of the “Rules of Etiquette” young people were expected to follow at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

General Rules of Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen

13 Mannerisms to be avoided by all: 

  1. Whispering or pointing in company.
  2. Giving attention to only one person when more are present.
  3. Contradicting parents, friends, or strangers.
  4. Laughing loudly.
  5. Making noise with hands and feet.
  6. Leaning on the shoulder or chair of another.
  7. Throwing things instead of handing them.
  8. Crowding or bumping elbows.
  9. Contempt in looks, words, or actions.
  10. Drawing attention to self with dress.
  11. Lending a borrowed book.
  12. Reading when there is company, or when others are speaking.
  13. Laughing at the mistakes of others.

Manners appropriate for all:

  1. To be gentle and patient with others.
  2. To remember that while speech is wonderful, it is sometimes better to be silent.
  3. Speak with a gentle tone and never in anger.
  4. Learn to deny yourself and put others first.
  5. Give applause only by clapping hands – not by kicking or stamping feet.
  6. Rise to one’s feet when an older person or dignitary enters the room.

 All this makes me wonder: How many of these rules do any of us consider important today?

 

How to Keep on Writing When the Going Gets Tough by Wendy Greenley

Thank you so much, Darlene, for inviting me to chat on your blog!

After publication of my debut picture book, LOLA SHAPES THE SKY people began asking about my writing journey and tips to success. The best tip I know is to keep writing and seeking feedback.

It can be HARD to keep writing. The perfect sentence you wrote? Sometimes no one likes it. The fantastic idea you had? Being published next year, by someone else. In the spirit of keeping everyone writing, I’m sharing a list of ten things I embrace. Perhaps it will help other writers keep going when bad stories turn into bad days, turn into bad months (yup, had those!).

  1. Connecting with like-minded people
  2. Feeling pride in achieving my goals and joy in celebrating other people’s successes
  3. The thrill of finding the perfect image or word
  4. Being an example of bravery to my children in the face of rejection
  5. Finding a way to share my heart with the world
  6. Getting stories out of my head (am I the only one who hears “voices”?!)
  7. Having an excuse to daydream
  8. Learning about myself by embracing vulnerability and peeling back emotions
  9. Creating a vision of better lives, better places
  10. Having a reason to go to writing conferences and meet amazing authors I admire

Actual sales of my materials and publication aren’t on this list. I can’t control that, so while it’s fantastic when it happens, I can’t hang my happiness hat on those items. Publication is my ultimate objective, but thinking about it doesn’t always make me happy!

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“In this lyrical origin story Thor wants all the clouds to make weather, but Lola only makes shapes. LOLA SHAPES THE SKY embraces every child’s magical experience of imagining whimsical shapes in the clouds with the timeless theme of supporting what makes us each unique. Be who you are—who you need to be!”

Kirkus Reviews: “Lola’s attitude inspires confidence in one’s imaginative abilities to pursue life’s aspirations.”

 

The achievable goals that I can take pride in are things like—doing another revision. Finding the heart of a story that went in too many directions. Rewording the opening to a story. It may have to be rewritten ten more times, but the immediate goal is giving it one more try.

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Enjoy the process! Happy writing everyone!

If anyone is in MD area this weekend, I’ll be one of the authors at the Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival in Easton, MD. Stop by and say hi! http://chesapeakechildrensbookfestival.com/

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Bio: Wendy Greenley has been an ice cream scooper, night security guard, microbiologist, attorney, Cub Scout leader, Art Goes to School Volunteer, and public relations for a dog rescue. She enjoys being a critique group leader for the Eastern PA SCBWI. Connect with her at wendy@wendygreenley.com and Twitter @wendygreenley. A current list of events and appearances is on Lola Shapes the Sky’s Facebook page.

NJSCBWI Conference Rocks it Again!

This past weekend I attended my umpteeth conference with the NJ chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (NJSCBWI) at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick, NJ. It was fun and inspiring to spend the weekend with fellow authors and illustrators talking shop and re-igniting the writing spark thanks to workshops and critiques. Keynote addresses by PB Author Laurie Wallmark and MG Author Bruce Coville inspired us to keep on writing and reminded us that our stories have an impact and make a difference.

There were agents and editors looking for projects and plenty of attendees hoping to make a connection. I enjoyed seeing old friends again and making some new ones.

Here are some of the highlights in photos:

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Keynote Address by Award-winning author BRUCE COVILLE.

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With Author/Illustrators Patricia Keeler and Barbara DiLorenzo

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Illustrator Awards

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Enjoying cocktail hour with Marina Cohen, Kathy Temean, Johanna Staton

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Had a copy of WHAT THE NIGHT SINGS by award-winning Author/Illustrator  Vesper Stamper

Many thanks to Kim Pfennigwerth, Trisha Hamilton, Roseanne Kurstedt, Barbara DiLorenzo, Laurie Wallmark, Super agent Liza Flessig, all the other agents and editors who kindly shared their expertise, as well as everyone else who worked behind the scenes to make the weekend memorable.

If you missed the festivities, mark your calendar for next year’s event on June 20-21-2020.

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Fellow attendee Eileen Holden

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Agent Liza Fleissig with some of her NJSCBWI clients. So happy to be part of this distinguished group.