Are you ready for some great feedback on your PB Pitch? Wonderful! You are in the right place.
A little Housekeeping: If you stumbled onto this post and don't know what's going on, click on the Submission Guidelines link here. That is also where you can ask any questions or make comments. The post you are one is Reserved For PB Pitch Entries.
UPDATE!!! I've created a Revision post to add Revised Pitches to. Want more feedback? Or maybe you just want to show how Critiques have helped. Comment in the Revision Post.
Meet the Team -
I have some great peeps to help me keep this going smooth. PJ Mcilvaine and Rani Iyer are going to be on hand in case I don't catch everything.
And another shout out to Kristin Kinczel for creating our mascot Colonel Cobb.
Without further ado...
PB Pitchers -
Add your link to the list below OR Add your comment with your pitch. Two Pitches Max.
As much as we'd love to help you on all your PBs, we can't. Truth is, agents and editors make you only pick ONE to pitch, so I figure we are being more than fair.
Here's an example of an entry -
AUTHOR: Coach Garrett
PB TITLE: Alien Food
WORD COUNT: 300
PITCH: From mashed potatoes to canned peas, each Earth-grown food looks yuckers to an alien tot, but after stomping his tentacles he discovers each dinner is all out of his world. Then his Uunka serves an Earthly treat that freezes his tastebuds.
PB Critiquers -
Leave feedback on others by replying to comments or adding comments to blogs.
Here's a great example of feedback -
"Alien tots and yucky foods---this sentence pops. We get a clear picture of what the issue is, and "stomping his tentacles" is a fantastic visual clue. However, the second sentence is confusing. "Uunka" must be alien word for Uncle, I guess, and the Earthly treat that "freezes" his tastebuds must be ice cream. But what does the alien tot think of this frozen treat? Does it send him into orbit? Or plummet him into an black hole. Since I'm a sucker for aliens, I'd suggest that adding a little more conflict or resolution to round the pitch and give it some finality would bat it out of this world." -- PJ Mcilvaine
Questions and Troubleshooting -
Comment on the Guidelines post, contact me (or another of the team), or Tweet me @lexicalcreation #PBWorkshop
No Foolin'! April Fools Day will be the day to get feedback on your Picture Book pitches.
So you wrote that perfect picture book and now you've got to pitch it. Your CPs have been great, but they already love the book, and maybe are filling in the gaps without knowing it(Of course Mr. Pig has the rabbit in his black hat, and not Mrs. Horse.) This workshop is to get some feedback from people who have never read your PB (and maybe some who have but can still give you a fresh set of eyes).
Are you in? Great! All you need to know is below (I hope).
Guidelines and Deets:
1. Ways to Participate
There are two ways to participate. You can add your blog post to the link list OR put your pitch in the comments (please don't do both). Please only pitch one or two projects, and put each in its own comment/blog post.
A brief comment or explanation of the workshop is fine, but then please follow this format (Put in the tags, so that we don't get confused) -
AUTHOR: (First Name or pen name is fine)
PB TITLE: (Working Title will work)
WORD COUNT: (Rounded to nearest 10)
PITCH: (Give us your best in 100 words or less!)
2. Where and When
On APRIL 1st this Submission Blog Post link goes live. Click it to add your pitch. Comments are monitored, so I will approve them before you see them. The links to your blog post, however, should show up immediately. (Try refreshing if you don't see them right away.)
Be sure to add the link to your specific post and not to your blog as a whole. In the link title, please put the PB title you are pitching (regardless of the actual blog post heading)
Comments posted to the Submission Blog Post that are NOT picture book pitches will be deleted or denied. If you have questions, please comment in THIS POST below. That way I'll be sure to see them and PB pitches will not get lost in the comments.
3. Critiquing Others
This is the FUN Part! You get to let others know what's working and what could be improved. Pleas give constructive honest critique for at least 5 other pitches. Comment on the author's blog post or reply to a specific pitch in the Submission Blog Post.
PLEASE be kind, constructive and honest. Tell the author whether you would read the PB and then say WHY you would or would not read it. Definitely point out any typos you see, but also let the author know what you like. The best critiques detail both positive and negative aspects of a pitch.
4. Spread the Word
Feel free to tweet or share this workshop. The more we have the better the feedback!
The real winners will be those who put their pitch out there and get good feedback. But OK, one week after the Workshop, I'll pick a winner and critique the full manuscript that was pitched.
Think of me as a Ninja CP.
6. Grab a Badge!
Many thanks to Kristin Kinczel for creating our Official PB Pitch Workshop mascot. Meet Colonel Cobb!
Feel Free to grab him for your websites so we know you're participating. And link back to this page.
7. Questions & Troubleshooting
If you have questions, comments or difficulties, this is the post to tell me. Chances are, you are not the only one. The only stupid question is the one that you have but won't ask. So, please, ask!
Comment below or Contact me.
A Modern version of an old Parable
Once upon a time, a celebrity was coming to town. He was going to make an appearance at a Mega Fan party, but if you had your smartphone you could get into the private preview concert. The celeb's manager was going to send out a broadcast text. Show your text to the bouncer, and you're in.
Ten teenagers huddled in a circle, a group of friends who'd been waiting for this day. Each followed the manager's Twitter feed:
"On the interstate. Who's ready to #MegaFan party?"
(87 faves, 23 RTs)
"Getting Closer... @AwesomeCeleb's warming his voice. #MegaFan."
(46 faves, 14 RTs)
Reply: "@CelebManager, @AwesomeCeleb And I'm warming my scream."
And so the night wore on, the tweets and anticipation piling. But some of the ten teens were having problems. Five of them hadn't charged their phones before the event. A few LOW BATTERY lights were already coming on.
Two of them decided to turn off their phones to preserve battery power. Another stopped following the feed, hoping she'd have enough power when the time came. The others figured their phones would last. After all they had 12-hour battery life, right?
Finally, the moment arrived: "Check Your Messages! @AwesomeCeleb is in the house! #MegaFan"
(215 faves, 5 RTs)
A squeal rang through the room as phones sounded everywhere. The ten teens gripped their own smartphones, trying to be the first to retrieve the text.
But, you guessed it, five of those teens didn't have a working phone. Three of them had preserved just enough power to get the text, but not enough to show it to the bouncer. And turning phones back on took FOREVER, anyway.
So, the teens who had charged their phones made it in. A few tried to get their friends in, but the bouncer said, "One phone, one entry."
Now, today we wait for a King much greater than any celeb. He's coming, and his managers are beckoning us to be ready. So I have just one question:
Is your Spiritual Smartphone Fully Charged?
By the way, Perhaps you recognize this tale? But oil lamps are so First Century.
Read the original version here.
(This post is migrated from my old blog and edited with new insights)
Now, for those who don't know, MG is Middle Grade and YA is Young Adult.
Got that out of the way? Good. Now the problem.
MG and YA overlap. Yep. You can have a 13-year-old protagonist in both MG and YA. Take Harry Potter (yeah, yeah, I know not Harry Potter anything but that! Bear with me...)
Harry Potter starts the series out at 11 years old. Well, that's clearly an MG, right? Nope. Harry Potter, as a series, is YA. Some call it a cross-over from MG to YA, and there's a valid reason for that.
How about Dan Gutman's book, The Genius Files? The twins are turning 13 during their trip across the United States (and two books), so it must be YA, right? Nope. That one's MG.
So age doesn't determine YA or MG. Nope. OK, SO WHAT DOES?
Here's my Aha moment. And I want to link back to Laura Backes of the Children's Book Insider Club. The difference between MG and YA is simple: MG is about kids who are still kids at the end of the book. YA is about kids who deal with adult-sized conflicts on an adult-sized level and never go back to just being kids.
That's it. That's the secret. Artemes Fowl = YA. The Wizard of Oz = MG. I could do this all day.
OK, a word of caution: The publisher is always right. If you think your work is YA and your publisher is going to market it as MG, I really hope you don't let that be the deal breaker. All I'm trying to say is that I've finally figured out why my work is MG and why my friend's work is YA.
Now back to Harry Potter. The reason this series is now looked at as a cross over from MG to YA is because of how the first one ends. Harry is still a kid in the first one. He still goes back to school next term. He hasn't really dealt with adult-sized problems yet (although those problems become adult-sized later in the series). Harry spends the first book solving puzzles, gaining friends, and obtaining a safer home. These are all middle grade themes. But by the end of third book, there's no turning back. No longer is Harry able to just be a kid. No longer can he just go back to school next term.
However, when I first wrote this blog post in 2014, I hadn't heard the label "cross-over series." As far as I knew, a series was taken in its entirety as MG or YA. And looking at the plot arc of the Harry Potter series, it is more YA than MG.
UPDATE: A new Aha moment - the difference between YA and NA
Like I said, YA is for Teens all the way through high school, with a little overlap in Jr. High or Middle School (which overlaps in ages anyway). If a teen is handling adult problems on an adult level, then it's definitely YA (rather than MG).
NA is for college-aged readers (about 19-30). But if you get graphic with the sex, go super harsh with the language, and are really explicit with the violence, then NA is a good choice even if your protagonist starts younger.
That's my Aha moment and Update Aha moment. Thanks for reading.
If you liked this, you might enjoy my Aha Moment: Character-Driven Stories vrs. Plot-Driven Stories
Need a Fresh Critique on your PB Pitch?
I'm putting together a workshop for strengthening your Picture Book pitch. Rules and Guidelines to come, but here's what you need to get ready:
1. Get a Blog
Don't worry if you don't like to blog. Don't sweat if you don't want to spend money on a site. Some free sites:
1. Weebly.com (of course)
1a. (You don't have to Get a Blog)
I will have the option of adding your pitch in the comments, but I have to approve all comments, so it may take longer to post your entry in the workshop.
2. Prep that Pitch!
Make those pitches as good as you can. Keep them under 100 words, because that's going to be the limit.
3. Follow this Blog
This is not just a shameless plug. I don't want you to miss the Workshop! (OK, maybe a little shameless plug.) I tried to make it easy to follow via email. If you can't find the "follow me by email" please let me know.
4. Spread the Word
You can tweet/Like this post, or mention it in your own posts. The more that know about it, the more critiques, the better the workshop, right?
5. Look for More...
I know! Waiting is hard, but I'm still working on the other posts. So sit tight, OK?
Need a recommendation to fill the nonfiction section of your classroom library? Consider COME SEE THE WORLD TURN by Lori Mortenson.
This book relays how Léon Foucault used a pendulum to show the Earth's rotation.
I recommend this book especially for teachers and homeschoolers, because of how easily the book can be extended into the classroom studies.
What books have you used to extend classroom studies? Leave a comment below, or let me know on social media.
This is the third blog post about this topic. If you are interested in my other ideas on the subject, click here and here. OK, let's talk about dreams.
Have you ever had Deja Vu?
I used to have deja vu a lot. But I didn't usually have the feeling that I'd been here before. It was more of a feeling that I dreamed this before.
For example, in high school I was working on a piñata with my class. Just before the project was due, I dreamed about the day that I would turn it in. That's doesn't seem unusual, but what was unusual was the details. On the day I actually did turn it in, everything was a repeated from the dream, down to the words spoken by my friends and the view in my peripheral vision. Deja vu.
Another example was when I dreamed about visiting my aunt's house in Utah. A few months later when I actually did visit my aunt's new house, it was EXACTLY as I had dreamed it from the layout to the fixtures, to the color of the carpet. Deja vu.
The high school deja vu was interesting, but pretty explainable. I knew what my high school looked like, and I could probably guess what my friends would say about the project. Even what I saw out of the corner of my eye was not unusual.
But I had never been to my aunt's house. So how did my brain know what it was like inside?
The Brain is a wonderful thing.
Later, I remembered that just before the dream about my aunt, my mom had described the new house. I think from that description, my Dream part created an image. Could it do it so well, that even the carpet (which my mom did not mention) was the right color? That seems a little farfetched.
I've heard that the brain actually recreates memories every time you remember something. So when I actually visited my aunt's house, my brain recreated the memory of the dream to fit the reality and heighten my sense of deja vu. So maybe I hadn't ACTUALLY dreamed the blue carpet, but I remembered that I had.
My theory is that deja vu is my brain's way of letting me know a certain moment/event/setting in my waking reality is what it was "talking about" in my dreams.
Trying to Create Deja Vu for Readers
As writers, our job is to describe things vividly enough that our readers can imagine them. We want to create something so "real" that if the readers were to actually experience it, they would feel a sense of deja vu.
Just like my mom didn't describe the carpet, writers do not need to describe every detail of the experience. We just need to say enough and let our readers' imagination do the rest.
I promise I don't keep a dream journal, but I do think about my dreams and how they can help me write when I'm awake.
I heard once, that everything in your dreams is something or someone that you have seen in real life. Your subconscious takes bits and pieces of real life and smashes them up into a dream sequence that makes sense, in a dreamy kind of way.
Usually, I can't tell you exactly where each of the pieces of my dreams come from, but in one recent I was pretty sure I could pinpoint the parts in waking reality.
In this dream, I was standing on the front porch of a house, probably mine, or maybe soon to be mine. My son was nearby pounding a garden ornament with a pickax. I had to yell his name three times before he would stop.
Now, the pickax came from Minecraft - this was evident by the pixally look of the ax and also the fact it was flat. The porch looked jus like a porch that I stood on years ago when I was a girl, and the lawn ornament was a figure I'd been drooling over at one of those outdoorsy stores. And the yelling three times - that came from a very real incident when I needed to get my son to come. He wouldn't stop bickering with his brother until the third time. It was frustrating.
"Write What You Know"
Like this vivid dream scene, we can take bits and pieces of our life and put them together in a new interesting way. The pieces don't even have to be "real" (the Minecraft Pickax), they don't have to "true" (the porch wasn't mine in reality, and my son has never stood on it), but the resulting scene should be charged with emotion (the experience of taking three times to get a kid to stop). This is what we are creating when we write fiction.
Because it's believable.
Last night, the Dream part of my brain asked me a question: "What if you found out your BFF was a Lesbian?"
Now, what's interesting about this is that my Subconscious didn't just say, "Hey, Conscious, how do you feel about this?" No, it Showed me a story.
In the first part of the dream, I was doing something with a girl my age (yes I use this term loosely, because I'm a thirty-something), I don't really remember what I was doing, but the conversation and emotion was something that I experience with my sister in waking life, so the relationship with this girl (whom I didn't recognize in real life) as my BFF was established and I knew what my subconscious was talking about.
The dream goes on, and another girl enters the picture. I and this new character have the kind of conversation you might have when you bump into someone you know from church. So, my subconscious was showing the relationship I had with her (even though I didn't recognize this person from real life either). In the conversation, the girl tells me, "I like Emily." and immediately I know that "Emily" is the name of my bestie (from earlier in the dream), and that this girl has a crush on my friend.
In the next scene of this dream (at least the next scene my conscious mind remembers), Emily tells me that she's been going out with the other girl for awhile now. "Why didn't you tell me?" I asked her in the dream. Emily gives me a series of answers, like the scene is being repeated with several different endings. (Think Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray):
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I thought you'd think I was cheating on our friendship."
So, Emily thought I would be jealous, I think in my dream.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't want you to think I had a crush on you."
Maybe our best friend relationship would have been tainted, because I'd wonder if Emily wanted something more from it.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I thought you'd disown me."
In real life, and deep down, I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. However, I do respect those who disagree with my beliefs and believe that all should have equal rights to choose, as long as it doesn't infringe on others' rights to choose not. (For example, a clergy should not be forced to marry a gay couple - because it is legally recognized in his state - if the clergy's religion teaches against it. Likewise, a Family Services firm should not be required to consider lesbian couples for foster care, if those services are funded by a charity that doesn't agree with the practice. That is why I think domestic partnerships and marriage should be separately defined.) BUT would I disown a friendship if I suddenly found out she was a lesbian?
The awesome part about this dream is that I woke up without an answer. The Dream part of my brain left the Awake part to ponder the question: What would I do in that situation? And more importantly, how would I feel?
What does my Subconscious murmurings have to do with writing?
When we write, we try to ask questions of our readers in a way that hits a deep emotional level. We don't just ask a question, we present a situation. As writers, we place characters in settings and dialogues that SHOW our readers what kind of relationship they have with each other. We present inner thoughts and body language to emphasize the emotion.
Then we move on to other scenes that present conflict or tension, again through situation and dialogue.
And (hopefully) we do all this in such a vivid way that the characters and emotions and themes stick with our readers long after they put our book down.
I write about, with, for, and around kids all day. (Well, maybe I do the dishes too. Sometimes.)