Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books, Writing Life

The Beatryce Prophecy

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

The Beatryce Prophecy (Candlewick Press, 2021) by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Sophie Blackall is an unusual but appealing story.

It starts with a prophecy about a girl who will “unseat a king.” Next we meet Answelica, the goat, whom the monks fear. One day Brother Edik finds a child in the pen with the demon goat. Beatryce doesn’t remember anything but her name. And king’s soldiers are searching for her.

Kate is a two-time Newbery medalist and Sophie is a two-time Caldecott medalist.

Read about Kate’s many novels here, her picture books here, and her early chapter books here.

Check out all of Sophie’s children’s books here.

Posted in Writing Life

A Little More Beautiful

Perfect Picture Book Friday

A Little More Beautiful (Waxwing Books, 2023) by Sarah Mackenzie and illustrated by Breezy Brookshire is a sweet book not just for kids. Gardeners would enjoy it too.

An old lady named Lou Alice, who is as “sly as a fox and swift as a bird” decides “to leave each day more beautiful than she found it.” When she offers to plant a garden at the town hall, she’s told it’s too much work for her. So Lou Alice plants at night under the light of the moon. When the garden grows the town hall workers don’t know why but they feel happier than before. Then Lou Alice moves away. No one really notices, except for one little girl, who takes on Lou Alice’s mission of making the world more beautiful.

Author Sarah has created The Read-Aloud Revival encouraging homeschooling parents to read to their kids. There’s a bonus of a very popular bi-weekly podcast. See her other books here.

Read about illustrator Breezy here and check out her portfolio too. She also has an Etsy shop.

Posted in The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, Writing Life

Comparison, the Enemy of Creation?

Comparison can be great when looking to purchase a product, but how does it affect the creative life?

“Comparison can kill your spirit. The success of others does not equal your failure. When you’re making art that makes you happy, only you can declare your success or failure.” It’s the conclusion Michael Terracciano, an independent comic creator, has reached, and oh, do I love that middle sentence.

Why is it so easy to compare? I wish I knew. We do it all the time in so many areas of our life—especially those where we’re unhappy or not completely satisfied.

But how does comparison help us? There’s always someone “better” or “worse,” so we may feel either depressed or good about ourselves. Neither position changes our work or our worth. Wait. Depression can change our work because we might give up.  Christy O’Shoney said, “Comparison is a terrible measuring stick.”

Fanny Flagg said, “Being a successful person is not necessarily defined by what you have achieved, but by what you have overcome.” Or the progress you’ve made, I’d like to add.

Comparison of our previous work with our current work may be encouraging. I know I’ve looked back at older writing and thought, wow, I’ve learned a lot since then. Or, that needs editing, when before I thought it was “perfect.” As long as we don’t harp on “failures” of our past, but use them as touchstones to see how we are progressing, self-comparison can be helpful. David Schlosser agreed, “The only writer to whom you should compare yourself is the writer you were yesterday.”

William Blake said, “I will not reason and compare; my business is to create.” Maya Angelou said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” I see this so much in my writing life—the more I write, the more I want to write. And the more I compare, the less I want to write, so yes, I’d say comparison is the enemy of creation.

What do you think?

Posted in Business Side of Writing, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, Writing Life

Prepping Your Website Content

Prepare Content

  • Write your content into a document(s)and save. Revise, proof, get feedback, or at least run a grammar or editor checker. These files will make pasting into your new website easy. And if you’re hiring someone, they’ll need this information.
  • Gather book information. It’s perfectly acceptable to use the blurb about your book from your publisher. It’s easy to copy this information from the publisher’s website. Reviews could come from the same place or booksellers or fan or thank you letters you’ve received. Paste the gathered info into a document. You may want to add the backstory—what prompted you to write the book. Or titles of books for further reading on your topic.
  • Gather urls. Think about what you’ll link to. A review on Kirkus, a buy link, your publisher, your agent, your favorite writing organizations, your favorite blogs, a class, other author or illustrator websites, etc. I like saving them as a hyperlink in the actual text, but you can also paste them in at the end of your document.
  • For picture books… make sure you include information about your illustrator. You may want to link to their site as well.
  • Create or modify activities… to be shared on your site, if you desire. They could be in a blog post–which you link to from your Book page—a pdf, a separate page, a video.

Prepare Images

  • Choose photos and images. Of course you’ll want a good headshot, book covers, and/or images of your workspace, your view from your home, etc. You might have pictures of objects that are featured in your books. A friend writes historical so she had images of the real people she writes about. You may want some stock photos or illustrations for headers or spot art on the site. (A favorite resource for me is pixabay, where I get most of the images for my blog posts.)
  • Put your photos and images where you’ll find them. Create a folder and copy them into it. If you think you might use it, throw it in.
  • Rename files. Each image should indicate what it is. For example, Sue at age 9, or Sue headshot, My Shadow cover, my cat Luna.
  • Crop. Cut out extraneous background so the focus of the picture is clear.
  • Resize. Depending on the purpose of each image, you’ll probably need to resize. Photos from your phone and/or camera can be huge file sizes (easily 3-6 MB). Using them so large affects SEO and speed of a site loading. This helpful article says: “Optimal file size: Large images or full-screen background images should be no more than 1 MB. Most other small web graphics can be 300 KB or less.” Here’s a post I did on the how-to of resizing pictures.

Again, you can use other sites for inspiration on the kinds of text and images that you might want to use. I did a Website Q&A post over ten years ago, but it still has some good information and links.

Next week, I’ll talk about choosing a platform for your website. (If you missed last week’s post, check it out here.)

Posted in Business Side of Writing, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, Writing Life

Preparing to Build a Brand-New Author or Illustrator Website

Whether you are hiring a website built or are doing-it-yourself, do your prep work first.

Preparing to Setup Your Site

I’ve recently setup a website for a friend, and I asked her questions such as:

  • What pages do you want to include on your site and what do you want them called? Authors often have a number of the following: About Me, Books, Events, School Visits, Blog, Just for Kids, FAQs, Contacts. Or perhaps you want a page called Appearances with Events and School Visits as subpages. Press Kit could be an option on School Visits or Appearances or be on its own page. Illustrators in addition to the above might have a Portfolio and a Sketch page. Some people have a one-page website. Others have pages such as Writer’s Help or Favorite Links. Decide what works for you.
  • What are your favorite colors? Especially ones that work well together. Choose at least one dark and one light.
  • What backgrounds on websites appeal to you? Black, dark, white, tan, or some other color? Or do you like a colored border with a contrast color for the text? Or do you like a texture or image background? (Can be a border with a complementary color.) Do you like white text or black text? (If using a very dark background, white text is usually easiest to read. Black works well on light colors and white.)
  • What are some websites that appeal to you visually? Choose 4 or 5 and think about what you specifically like on each. Make notes.
  • Do you like simple, whimsical, serious, modern, retro, silly, or ? Here’s a great article analyzing 33 author websites.

Think about Content and Images.

  • Your Home page. What do you want to say? And where do you want to say it? Your Home page is your welcome mat—your invitation into your office. Text might include: a brief introduction or bio, why you write for children, a tag line, how to pronounce your name, and an image of you or book cover(s) or both. Other options include: a video, your recent blog posts a subscribe form or button, social media links, Twitter or Instagram or Goodreads feed, awards, etc. Often these are in a sidebar. If you can dream of it, it can probably be done.
  • Book page. Do you want all books on one page or do you want a main page with the covers and brief descriptions and subpages? What will you include: publisher, year published, awards, excerpts, reviews, buy link(s), background info, other photos or images (place, people, etc.), activities, etc.
  • About page. If you want lots of info here, I suggest you have a short bio first with more info following. Plan for at least one headshot of you. You may also want some photos of you as a child.

If you need ideas for your other pages, look at other websites for inspiration.

This is a lot of prework, but thinking about it first will help you as you go through the next steps.

Look for a new post on Prepping Your Website Content next week.