“Story Breath: Inspiration for Plot and Pace in Picture Books!”
And check out that tender, dreamy, hopeful magazine cover by my friend, Maple Lam!
This piece encapsulates my view of what makes the form so special and how to inspire your particular story’s unique energy and movement. (And the accompanying darling dragon sketch is by illustrator Faith Pray.)
“…picture books are different. Special. Distinct…Just like breath, each [one] has its own flow, rhythms, patterns.”
I offer a rationale for the metaphor of breath for plot and pace as well as six common “breath beats” from inhale to held breath to gasp.
Plus, there are examples of those “breath beats” from all the wonderful picture books in the image below!
Big thanks to SCBWI for the opportunity to have my work in a publication I’ve been reading and enjoying for so many years.
The first “Revise, Receive, Revitalize” workshop series was truly special and such a rewarding experience of empowering other writers, I’m offering another! It’ll start February 27th for a total of four consecutive Saturday mornings from 10 – 12:30 (Pacific). This is a space for camaraderie, discovery, and encouragement as you develop your unique voice, deepen your understanding of the form, and meaningfully revise one picture book manuscript. Please reach out if you’d like more information, to secure a scholarship, or to sign up!
This journal contains 10 creative writing activities aimed at 8 to 12-year-olds that can be used in conjunction with corresponding This Writer’s Life episodes on YouTube or explored on their own. I hope it’s of use to budding writers to explore story, language, and imagination, all things they might need right now.
One of the most meaningful parts of the last school year for me was being part of #kidsneedmentors. The program was started by two teachers and two authors: Kristin Couch and Kristen Picone and Ann Braden and Jarrett Lerner. It pairs authors with one classroom to mentor for one year.
I had the pleasure of being a mentor to a fifth grade classroom a couple of hours away from LA. To start things off, we had an introductory Skype and I sent them some copies of Zinnia and the Bees with goodies. After the teacher and I brainstormed via email and google doc, we figured out some neat ways to collaborate.
I wrote the class letters, which the teacher photocopied for every student. I sent the class two boxes of books. And my favorite thing was using Flipgrid! Students posted videos and I could post video responses—for example, in one they introduced themselves, in another they “booktalked” a book they liked, and in another they asked me a question about writing and I answered it. It was a lot like being in person and such a special way to communicate one-on-one from afar.
The other super neat thing was that I got to visit them twice. The first time was a surprise! The students had been reading and giving feedback on a work in progress of mine, so when I arrived, I read them another chapter. Then I did a writing workshop and as a goodbye, handed out pencils with inspirational sayings about writing. The second time I visited, they knew I was coming and I held one-on-one conferences about a piece of their writing—my absolute favorite thing!
Overall, the experience gave me insight into students and their writing, into what writing curriculums are like, and into the meaningful ways authors can engage with students to promote literacy, reading, writing, and to offer positive encouragement. I highly recommend being part of it. Plus, anything to support teachers is ace!
And because Zinnia is a knitter and yarn bomber, here’s a photo of me holding the crocheted cover(!) made to match by yarn bomber extraordinaire, Jenny Brown. So cool, right?
(click to enlarge)
I started this story close to ten years ago. The seed of it was the idea of bees swarming around and settling on Zinnia’s head, a metaphor for all the stuff that’s out of her control. The heart of it is about finding home, both for the bees and Zinnia. The process of it showed me my own writing home, with young readers as my audience. And the best part of it is that now I get to share it with them and you.
*You can also check it out from your local public library (go libraries!), or request they order it if they don’t have it. (That would be a lovely thing to do and I’d appreciate it immensely.)
And if you do read it and leave a review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Goodreads, I’ll be forever grateful as reader reviews are so helpful to authors.
A giant thanks in particular to my agent, Rick Margolis, and my editor, Ali Deering, both of whom made this book possible, and a whole lot better. Plus, Laura K. Horton who created that beautiful cover and the whole team at Capstone!
If you’re in Los Angeles, my book launch is this Saturday, August 5th at Skylight Books! Or if you’re in Portland, Seattle, or Vancouver BC, I’m coming your way soon! Details here. Hope to see you soon.