Posted in Business Side of 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.

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

The Kingdom of Back

The Kingdom of Back (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2020) by Marie Lu is such an unexpected story–history and fantasy–about the other Mozart. The sister.

It’s 1759 and Nannerl Mozart wants to be recognized as a musical prodigy. She doesn’t want to be forgotten. Her younger brother Wolfgang is getting more and more attention. While she helps him with his compositions, she is secretly composing herself. But when a stranger from a dream promises she’ll be remembered, things go oddly wrong.

This is Marie’s first historical novel. And is a standalone book. Most of her other books are series. Read about all her titles here. Read about The New York Times bestselling author here. I’m really looking forward to her newest title coming next April: Stars and Smoke.

Posted in Writing Life

Watercress

Perfect Picture Book Friday

Watercress (Holiday House/Neal Porter Books, 2021) by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Jason Chin is such an emotional story.

In Ohio, a little girl’s family stops on their drive and the parents make the girl and her brother help harvest watercress growing in the ditch. She’s embarrassed and doesn’t want anyone to see her. At dinner that night her parents press her to eat it. It’s fresh and free. But she thinks free is bad. “Free is hand-me-down clothes and roadside trash-heap furniture…” When her mom talks about the great famine in China, the girls is ashamed of being ashamed of her family. She tries the watercress and together they make a new memory.

This book is for everyone who hasn’t had enough, and for everyone else who needs to understand what that’s like. The award-winning book received a Caldecott Medal (for illustrations), a Newbery Honor, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, a New England Book Award, and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor.

Read about the author here and see Andrea’s other books here.

The spread about the great famine in China made me tear up. So much shown in the illustrations.

Jason is not only the illustrator, but he’s an author too. On this page you can read about him and see his titles scroll by on the bottom.

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

Quitter or Go Getter?

Which label would you prefer to chose for yourself? Quitter or Go Getter? Most of us would probably prefer to be listed in the latter category. But quitter isn’t always negative. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first.

            Quitter – this person quits writing when…

…writing is hard
…he receives negative feedback
…marketing is work
…she doesn’t follow the guidelines and everything is rejected
…life is too busy

            Go Getter – this person persists in writing, but…

…she thinks feedback doesn’t apply to her
…is unwilling to make changes
…doesn’t keep adding to knowledge of the craft of writing
…he doesn’t read material for children
…may rush into submitting before ready

Neither camp is a win. But the positive side of each is.

            Positive Quitters – know when…

…a short story, article, picture book, novel just isn’t working and are willing to start over or set it aside
…the story they are working is not one for them to write. (E.g. cultural appropriation)
…they’ve queried/submitted a story with no takers and it’s time to move on
…it’s time to take a break from a project

            Positive Go Getters – know…

…to take feedback and revise
…to try a new genre or audience or category
…to be willing to rework and revise to make a story better, again and again
…to keep learning more about the craft of writing in various ways
…to read material written for children, especially in areas where they write
…when it’s time to submit or resubmit and will do so appropriately
…not to give up too easily

Being positive quitters and positive go getters will help writers continue forward on their paths.

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

Work to be Done

Except for writing quotes, this blog has been on hold the last two and a half months. Getting a manufactured home set up—which entails much more than I ever knew—moving out of two storage units, and an apartment, and moving into the house has taken so much time and energy. And there’s still more to do.

I likened our unpacking boxes of items that have been in storage for twenty months to Christmas. Oh, there’s that wonderful ______. Aww, I’d forgotten about ______. Yea, I have my _____ back. Other times I was reminded of a garage sale. Why’d I pack that? Or, some of it’s great stuff, but I don’t have a place for it. The result has been a lot of culling.

Which is similar to revising a piece I haven’t looked at in a while. Wow, did I write that? It’s good. Oh, yeah, I remember this part—it works. Why did I think this was important? Nice, but doesn’t fit here. Cut, cut, cut. Reorganize, rethink, rewrite.

One recent task was sorting boxes of papers from over 20 years ago. Notes and cards from friends and family, newspaper clippings, documents from and to my children in their teen years, travel itineraries, play programs, photographs, etc. What I didn’t expect was how much emotion these would create.

  • Some brought up sweet memories.
  • Others made me laugh or smile.
  • Some brought pain as the dear person is now gone from this life.
  • I was puzzled when I couldn’t remember a person in a note or photograph. Who was this person? I wasn’t even sure of context. From church? A husband’s coworker? A class? A fellow writer?
  • Others made me think fondly of those I’ve lost contact with.
  • Some I shared with those involved. Which was quite fun, by the way.

However, I didn’t expect to be exhausted during and afterward.

Writing can be mentally as well as emotionally exhausting as well. I’m reminded of my critique partner and a scene she recently glossed over—”I just wanted to get it over with,” she said when we all needed more. It was going to take further energy and emotion to get the scene right. But, when she took the time to dive deeper, the chapter was so much stronger. R.R. Martin said, “Fiction is about emotional resonance, about making us feel things on a primal and visceral level.” If we’re not feeling anything but impatience when we write, will our readers also be impatient?

I could moan about how much time I’ve lost during this physical move.  Or I can move on. I’m choosing the latter. By September I plan to be back into a regular writing routine, but I’m starting now with this blog. I love this quote from Eric Maisel in Fearless Creating: “What are any of us to do? Abandon the work or complete it, learn from the experience, cry, forgive ourselves, and move on…Now dry your eyes. There’s work to be done.”