Read Like a Writer, Picture Books

Read Local OK

Here are a few things I’ve learned about picture books by reading picture books:

Picture books don’t have to rhyme.

Picture books can rhyme.  The rhymes don’t have to be formal, but they do have to sing. Read Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s What Can a Crane Pick Up? and Tammi Sauer’s Mary Had a Little Glam.

Picture books don’t need a whole lot of words, but as in a poem, every word must count.  Here’s an example of what a writer can accomplish with less than 100 words: Extraordinary Jane, Hannah E. Harrison

When you are finally ready to submit a picture book manuscript, don’t include illustrator notes unless some small tidbit is essential to your story. You have to leave things open for the illustrator. See how Tammi says just enough and leaves the rest up to the artist:  Making a Friend, Tammi Sauer

Sometimes, the illustrations tell a completely…

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Frankenstein Lives!

When I was a much younger chick, my daughter and I traveled to Germany to see my husband who was serving in the U.S. Air Force. Four countries in two weeks is exhausting, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat!

One thing we saw was castles. Lots of castles. That entire region of the world was rich in history and nothing like I’d ever seen. When we saw Frankenstein’s Castle, I thought the name was intriguing. Since there was so much else to see, I really didn’t give much thought to Frankenstein’s Castle after that. It was almost like the episode in Chevy Chase’s Vacation where they visited the Grand Canyon. Nod and move on. Many other things to see.

Here I am twenty years later revisiting a memory that was jarred partly because it’s the Halloween season, and partly because I’d heard a snippet on the news.

Two hundred years ago, Mary Shelley’s story of Frankenstein was published. Mary was a mere twenty-one years old and the book was published anonymously. Five years later, the second edition came out with Mary Shelley’s name on the cover.

According to history and some folklore, Mary Shelley and her husband, a poet, loved hearing and telling spooky stories by the fire when they entertained. Their circle of friends challenged one another to write such a story. Only Mary completed the task and  Frankenstein was born! But how did she come up with the idea? As a writer, I know that’s a question that comes up frequently. Did she just “dream” it up or was it sparked another way?

It seems Mary Shelley and her husband had traveled through the region where Frankenstein’s Castle was. She may or may not have seen or visited the actual castle. There were rumors circulating about Conrad Dippel, born at the castle in 1673, a scientist (mad scientist perhaps). Dippel was the inventor of the color Prussian Blue. He had many other interests. It seems he experimented on cadavers attempting to transfer the soul from one to another. As well as playing with dead humans, he experimented on dead animals, and even had been said to have been a grave robber. All of the activities he participated in were done at Frankenstein’s Castle. Sounds somewhat familiar, huh?

Years after the book Frankenstein was published, Mary Shelley denied visiting the castle or hearing rumors of past goings on at Frankenstein’s Castle. Once again, as a writer, I know you have to be very careful about things. Sometimes you see something on television or you read something and it’s like a little seed planted in your brain. You don’t recall any knowledge of it coming from another source. It’s original to your thought process. Where Mary Shelley got the idea of Frankenstein is not relevant to me. What I am impressed with, is after TWO HUNDRED years, the story of Frankenstein is still going strong. It proves that if you have a good story, it will stand the time. As a writer, I’m waiting for my Mary Shelley story. I’m sure the royalty payments are totally different nowadays.

Happy Halloween and Happy Writing!


Write from the Heart

Blog“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”  Louis L’Amour

“Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”                                                                                   William Zinsser