I'm not new to talking, sharing ideas, or stating my opinion, especially stating my opinion! After all, I taught elementary school for 30 years! However, my audience has typically been smaller,just family, the classroom, or just talking to myself!

My blog has two goals: be an outlet for sharing thoughts on writing children's books and the path to publication (got my fingers crossed that I'll get there) and a place to chronicle my journey of losing my sight. Sometimes I imagine these two paths will overlap .

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

                                                        Chautauqua, Part 2.
         This post is about some of the wonderful advice we received from authors and editors in our workshop sessions.

       Patti Lee Gauch, author and editor,  started us with a phrase that echoed throughout the week; go to the well when you write your characters. Dig deep and draw from your internal thoughts and feelings. [Example: The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt- used his middle grade self as a model]

         She said it's crucial to draw the reader into the story. Your characters expressing emotion, or using sensory imagery, that will connect the reader.[Example Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool]. Going to the well allows stories to rise and fall with the lives of the characters  and reach a profound level.

         When writing a picture book, add a little sassiness to your characters. It adds to the humor and kids (and adults) can relate to it. [Example A Baby Sister For Francis by Russell Hoban]

                                               Other books used as examples included:
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Mockingbird by Kathy Erskine
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace lin
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Lily and the Purple, Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

Candy Fleming, author of Muncha,Muncha, Muncha and Our Eleanor, spoke on writing nonfiction picture books. Her main points were:
  • Think like a kid
  • Start with something unexpected, unusual, weird, or the coolest facts about your person.
  • Narrow your topic- don't try to cover the person's entire life
  • Use reliable sources- primary sources if possible. Forget about Wikipedia!!!
  • Try an unusual format- an almanac, a mystery, a play. Be different.
  • Think about including back matter. This allows you to still tell about your person, but it doesn't have to go into the text portion.
An example to read is Sky Boys by Deborah Hopkinson

Next post I'll share words of wisdom from Kathi Appelt, Julie Agnone, and Kim Griswell. So many mentors, not enough time, and tired fingers.



  1. I just bought Speak, from Borders, no less. :(
    I need to remember to "go to the well."

    Great advice!

  2. Two of my favorite Chautauqua folks! So glad you had a good time.

  3. Hooray for the well! I think I will remember Patti's phrase for the rest of my life... every time I sit down to write (I hope).

  4. Thanks for sharing this information. Charlotte's Web is still one of my favorite books.