Monday, October 27, 2014

Brave Little Monster Returns

Over the past few years a lot of people have asked me where they could get a hold of my bedtime picture book Brave Little Monster. I would tell them that sometimes Scholastic makes it available through their book club in October, but that was hit and miss. Now I'm happy to say that you can purchase the paperback version of Brave Little Monster on Amazon. Yay!!!!

 To top it off, an ebook version should be available in a few days as well. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Writing Tip: Raising Plot Tension

Writing Instruction Video

Sometimes beginning writers struggle to engage and maintain the reader's interest in their stories. Sometimes this happens because the protagonist solves plot conflicts too easily or too early in the story. Sometimes it happens because the opposite occurs, that it seems to take forever for the hero to solve the problem. This video demonstrates a writing technique that helps writers strike just the right balance in order to raise plot tension, thereby engaging and maintaining the reader's interest.



For teachers interested in using this video as part of creative writing lessons, the instruction video along with slide handouts that can be used to review the raising tension technique can be found at www.kenbakerbooks.com/raising-plot-tension.html.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Why Plot Focus is Important in Picture Books and Short Stories

Writing Instruction Video

As I have worked with various beginning picture book authors, a common problem that a lot of them run into is difficulty in conveying what their story is really about or going off in to many directions. Creative writing instructors in school may run into a similar problem when they assign students to write short stories. This writing instruction video on picture book plot addresses this issue.

If you enjoyed or found this writing instruction video useful, please share it with others. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Can Non-Artists Write Picture Books?

Picture Book Writing Tip

Wanting to write picture books, but you  can't even draw a straight line? Don't despair. This video writing tip tells why.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

How to Write a Great Picture Book

You have a great idea for a picture book. That’s wonderful! Having a great idea is a good start. Having some writing experience is a big plus too. But writing a great picture book takes more than just having a great idea and some writing experience. Writing a great picture book requires work. If you’re serious about writing a great picture book, it pays to do the following:

  1. Read a lot of current picture books. Believe me, picture books have changed since you were little. You have to familiarize yourself with the type, style and personality of picture books that children are reading today. Read as many picture books as you can that have been written in the past year or two.
  2. Do your research. Read different books on the ins and outs of writing a great picture book.  The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books by Harold Underdown is a great resource. There are also a lot of web sites and blogs with good information too, such as www.underdown.org, www.verlakay.com and www.taralazar.com.
  3. Attend writing conferences. Local and national children's writing conferences can be excellent resources for gaining much needed insights on how to improve your writing skills and understanding what makes a great a picture book great.  Conferences are also great places to make contacts with other authors as well as editors and agents. You can find out about various conferences at www.scbwi.org/Regional-Events.aspx.
  4. Join a critique group. A critique group can give you objective advice on your stories. Once again, SCBWI is a good resource for finding out about local critique groups. Even if you’re not a member of SCBWI, the regional coordinator for your area would likely be happy to tell you about critique groups in your area (Visit www.scbwi.org).
  5. Write a lot. Don’t stop with one story. The more you write, the better your writing skills will become. Improve your writing skills even further by taking writing classes or attending writing workshops. Keep on writing.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

State of the Children's Book Market

Kathy Temean posted on her blog an insightful look at the number and type of children's book contracts that the top 15 children's book publishers signed between June 2013 and June 2014 vs June 2012 and June 2013. The following are a few key takeaways that interested me most.

  • Overall, Harper Collins and Scholastic held the number 1 and 2 spot for signing the most contracts (58 & 45)
  • Sky Pony Press, a fairly new imprint not only rose to the number 6 overall position, but also signed the most picture book contracts (26) of the other publishers.
  • Scholastic signed the most middle grade contracts (26)
  • The report doesn't show who holds the top YA spot, which means that spot must be held by a publisher not in the top 15.

The full reports can be found on Kathy's site by visiting these links: Part 1,  Part 2 and Part 3.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

What Makes a Great Picture Book - Tip 4

Pull Readers in Early


Too often beginning writers delay the introduction of their story’s plot or conflict. Delaying that introduction can cause readers to quickly lose interest and not bother reading any further. A great picture book pulls the reader quickly into the story by introducing early on the problem faced by the main character – typically on the first spread and preferably on the very first line.

I WANT MY HAT BACK by Jon Klassen is a perfect example of this. In the very first sentence we learn the bear’s problem. His hat is gone. The second sentence builds on the conflict telling us the bear wants it back. This immediate introduction to the story’s plot pulls readers in quickly and has them turning page after page until they know how the problem ultimately gets resolved.

Of course, even worse than not introducing the conflict of the story early, is not introducing it at all. A great picture book needs an engaging plot and it needs to be introduced as early as possible.

Time is running out to register for the Picture Book writing workshop I'll be teaching at the WIFYR conference June 16-20.