To celebrate October and to whip our writing efforts into a productive fourth quarter frenzy, we are inviting everyone to join us on our Facebook page for a 24 Carrot Trick AND Treat Party.
You don’t need a costume, but you do be a part of our 24 Carrot Facebook group. If you haven't joined yet, what are you waiting for? You'll get a weekly Facebook update every time we post a new blog or book pick! To join, just click the green "Join Our Facebook Group" button on your right. Or you can find us on Facebook at 24 Carrot Writing.
Once you're a member of the 24 Carrot Writing Facebook group you can join the Trick AND Treat Party by sharing your favorite writing trick or tip, or your favorite October inspired children’s book. When you share, we will enter you in our October 31 drawing for one of 4 wonderful treats: a signed copy of Fish In a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, a signed copy of Power Down, Little Robot by Anna Staniszewski, a signed copy of A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass, and a signed copy of The Sleepover, by Jen Malone.
Come join our Trick AND Treat Party and let’s get ready to hit our writing goals for the year and earn our carrots.
Soup Up Your Plot
~by Amanda Smith
On our way to school one morning, my son noticed the particularly enormous, jacked up Ford F150 in front of us. Honestly, one couldn’t miss it. The sun danced on its shimmering black body, with shiny silver decals, and its upgraded suspension revealed a dazzling chrome plated differential.
“Why do people do that?” my sensible son asked.
“Why do you think people do that?” I stalled while reaching for my sunglasses.
“Maybe to go off road?” Mr. Practical said.
“Because it looks cool,” the young idealist in the back seat chimed in. In silence we considered the brilliant black beast. As it veered to our right we pondered the larger-than-life wheels, their chrome rims happily casting sun stars in our eyes.
“Well,” said Mr. Practical, “it certainly adds interest.”
And with that he got me thinking. A pick-up truck is the ultimate utility vehicle. America’s workhorse. Full-on functionality. The contractors’ reliable staple. Like plot.
Plot is the writer’s Ford F150. It steadily carries all our tools, our characters, our story, and our devices. But just like pick-up trucks, plots can do with a little bling. So how can we add a lift-kit, decals, or some chrome plating to our writing?
A Mother's Advice for Writers
by Francine Puckly
Two weeks ago I dropped my daughter off at NYU. Going from a small high school in Massachusetts to a university with a worldwide enrollment of 57,000 and a freshman class just shy of 6,000 students, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this is a huge adjustment. But it’s not the size of the school that’s disconcerting. It’s the feeling that she’s not quite sure she belongs. As I wrote her a letter this morning, I realized her journey into a film career mirrors mine as a writer. And I believe it’s important advice for me to remember everyday, as well as anyone else in a creative field. It ain’t easy, people. But there are two fundamental pieces of advice I gave my daughter that I believe we all should follow.
First, in the big, bad world of anonymity, when you’re lost in the sea of humanity, when you find yourself in a business that feels large and impersonal, it’s very important we seek out mentors, friends and supporters who will validate our creativity, help us feel welcome, help us to trust our instincts, help us make good choices personally and professionally. The ironic piece of this is that we must step out of our comfort zone in order to step into our comfort zone. We have to knock on doors, attend workshops and socials where we know no one, introduce ourselves over and over until we find those three or five or fifty people who will be our professional family going forward.
When I first set off into the publishing world, it was big and scary and I didn't know where to begin. I didn't know how to meet people, how to get started, where to find a critique group, or how to write a synopsis or a cover letter. I began this journey of building a community by attending an awards presentation and schmooze. After getting lost four or five times and circling on one-way streets, I arrived quite late. A bit frazzled and nervous, I dove into the swarm of strangers and proceeded to ask Lois Lowry if she had ever been published. (She had, in case you were wondering.) Having gotten the worst, most humiliating network experience out of the way, things took a turn for the better after that first night. I persisted meeting new people and, consequently, I turned the big, bad world of publishing into a smaller, family community through workshops, socials, SCBWI conferences, author signings and local bookstore events. I've met great people, made lifelong friends, and have found out that most people are just as scared as I am and are looking for friends and community too. As I told my daughter, we’re all looking for community. That’s the human experience, right? We’re all looking for reasons to get up in the morning and go to work. And the people I assumed would be the least approachable are the ones who were most approachable, and they have turned out to be trusted friends and mentors.
The second piece of advice I gave her was to trust her instincts. It’s often the hardest thing to do. We must trust our instincts and never look back. We shouldn’t wish to be more like "X" unless we truly believe being a little more like "X" will make us better writers, better people. Just as she may think she’s supposed to be like another student in class who receives an abundance of praise for a film style that’s not comfortable to her, we writers are often guilty of the same second-guessing. The biggest mistake writers make (and I made it early on) is trying to follow the market or trying to be someone we're not. We hear what publishers are buying and what they're sinking huge marketing dollars in, and we think, "Crap. I don't write that." And then the next logical thought is, "Maybe I should write that instead." And we try to do that, and we fail. We fail because we don't follow our own voices. Not one publisher out there is publishing what I’m currently writing. Not one. And I'm pretty sure if you were to say to them, "Hey, how about a YA novel about XXX?” they'd spit their coffee out all over their desks. But I've never been prouder of something I've written (and I’m sure they just don’t know they’re looking for it yet!). I believe in this manuscript. I believe in the story. I believe in the characters. I believe in my voice. And I will ride this book to the end of my days, until I find the agent, the editor, the publisher who believes in it, too.
My last piece of advice that went along with that is don't ever apologize for being different. Don't ever think that your voice isn't good enough, isn't polished enough, isn’t incorporating fancy words. Your voice, your vision, your perspective on a story (and life) is one of the most important things to trust. Hone it. Listen to it. Never, I repeat NEVER, apologize for it! Let other people do those other things that you think are more glamorous or sophisticated or whatever. You're not that person. You're something different. You're something better.
Good advice, right? Now we have to follow it ourselves. If you haven’t found your community, the people who make your world feel smaller and more tangible, get out there and shake some hands and kiss some babies...you'll find your small comfort zone one hello at a time. And if you’re still questioning your worth, your voice, your instinct, to that I say, STOP. Believe in your voice and don’t look back.
One of my favorite quotes is by Rabbi Zusya and his concern about his first conversation with God after he died. “When I die,” the Rabbi said, “I know God's not going to ask me 'Why weren't you more like Moses?' or 'Why weren't you more like King David?' But I'm afraid that God will ask 'Why weren't you more like Zusya?' And then what will I say?”
Don’t let that be you.
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