Monday, January 30, 2017

Midsummer Night's Musical

 
Here are some images from last year's production of my one and only published musical: "A Midsummer Night's Dream" -- a musical adaptation with apologies to Shakespeare. 
 

 
 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Saturday Morning Cartoon: Monsters are Interesting


Whenever I see someone getting a manicure, I instantly think of this scene from one of my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons.


Happy Saturday!

Photograph Friday #2: Sunbathing Turtles


Well, it's that time of the year again. I have received the first batch of essays for spring semester. I'm trying to grade at least ten essays a day. Most teachers would probably do that in less than an hour. But I'm a slow reader in comparison to most professors. This photograph matches the pace of my reading level...


This is my first attempt at taking a "cool" photo with the camera on my iPhone (which I have adopted from my wife). There's a koi pond at our local mall, and these turtles are either enjoying the afternoon sunbathing, or they are desperately trying (and failing) to escape. 


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Thankful Thursdays: Moorpark College Students


Well, I have received my first batch of essays to grade, so we'll soon see if I'll be able to balance my duties as a professor and still find time to pursue creative projects.

But I do want to express my gratitude towards my students -- all the students that have graced my classroom during my 15 years on campus (if you count my adjunct years, which I certainly do). In particular, I am grateful for the current group of students I have. Teaching Creative Writing has been an incredible experience so far, but I am also very impressed with what I've been reading from my English 1A students. I've read about ten narrative essays so far, and I'm so thankful that they are already taking risks and putting themselves into their writing.

But I'm also pleasantly surprised by my Eng 1B students. Often times, the students in this class (which analyzes literature) remain quiet and just expect me to lecture. Yet many of the students this semester seem eager to ask questions and dig into the text.

Now, I better knock on wood to make sure that I haven't jinxed the rest of my semester.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Word-Count Wednesdays


Well, I gave myself a very light goal: write a mere 1000 words every week. Yesterday I thought I accomplished that task... but once I checked the word count I discovered that there's only 503 words so far!


This means I'll be writing throughout the evening to make my deadline.


What am I working on?
It's a new book about 13 year old cousins who live on a run-down golf course in Eastern Washington... a setting near and dear to my heart. It's middle grade, funny yet heart-warming... and there is a bit of fantasy mixed in. Right now, I'm calling it Juniper in July, but that might change.


Total Word Count: 503 words (ugh!)

Word Count Update: 1,054 (woo-hoo!)


How do I feel about the process?
So far, so good... just very brief. I sketched a map of the setting, and that inspired me to think of the various neighbor characters and golf course landmarks that might come into play. So far my written content is all backstory about the setting. (It may or may not make it into the final draft.)


What am I reading now?


Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens


The Breathing Method by Stephen King


and


David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell


(and lots of cool blogs by my Creative Writing students)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Musical Mondays! (Assignment #2: Write a Song)


We had an awesome day in Creative Writing. (At least I did. Hopefully my students enjoyed their time as well.)

Several of the students shared their song lyrics, and one student even brought a guitar. (She rocked!) Another student sent me a link to his soundcloud account, so I was able to listen to two of his songs. (Goof lyrics -- good instrumentation too.) And yet another student collaborated with her boyfriend to record her song in all its glory.

We've got a lot of talented artists in this classroom. I have a feeling the ones that shared today have inspired some of the students who aren't as musically inclined, so I am hoping that we'll hear more song material in the near future.

I highly encourage students to connect with each other throughout the course of the semester. When artists collaborate beautiful works of art can be created. Here's a brief example of one of my favorite collaborations:



If you decided to create song lyrics for Experiment #2, feel free to use the comment section to discuss your experience, share your favorite lyrics, or leave links to websites and Youtube videos that provided assistance and inspiration.


Guide to Poetic Devices


Greetings students (and anyone interested in creative writing),

I just wanted to deliver this quick blog post so that I can include a useful link I discovered today.

I was on the lookout for a handy guide to poetic terms and devices, and it turns out the Chaparral Poets have provide this concise, informative handout in PDF form.

Here's the link: http://www.chaparralpoets.org/devices.pdf

I suggest printing it up, studying it, try out some of the forms mentioned. If you feel good about something you create (whether it's poetry or prose), share it on your blog and tell the rest of the class about it.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saturday Cartoon: Spongebob and Patrick and Seaweed Mustaches

Whoa, did you see that last post I just did with all those statistics? It's almost like I've become an actual adult. Now I just need a seaweed-stache and I can sing along with the rest of these men.


Keeping Track of the National Report Card

I am going to use this information as a Score Card to try to understand where we are as a nation and to serve as a benchmark to help evaluate the new administration.



Every year that goes by, I just might send a Report Card to the White House.

United States Population: 

318.9 Million (2016)

National Debt: 

$13.62 trillion (January 2016)


Health:

Life Expectancy: 78.74 years (2012)

Percentage of Americans without Health Insurance: 11.0% (2016)

Cancer Deaths: 564,800 (2015)

Heart Disease Deaths: 610,000 (2015)

Auto Accident Deaths: 32,000 (2013)

Reported legal abortions: 664,435 (2013)

Number of births: 3,988,076 (2014)

Number of Americans with Alzheimer's: 5.4 Million



Employment and Economics:

Unemployment rate: 4.9% (August 2016)

Median household income: $55,775

Average Price of a Home: $188,900

Average Gas Price: 2.32 per gallon (Jan 2017)

Percent of people who fell below the poverty line—$24,250 for a family of four: 13.5%
(43.1 Million people.)

Percent of upper middle-class citizens -- making between $100,000 and $350,000 a year: 29.4%
(2014)  

Number of U.S. millionaires: 10.4 Million 

Number of U.S. billionaires: 540

Number of people who used homeless shelters: 1.49 million (2014)

Number of people sleeping on the streets: 578,424 (2014)

Average Tax Rate: 21%

Dow Jones: 18,161.19 (Oct 30th, 2016) 


Military during Obama's Administration: 

End of 2016: There are currently 5,000 troops in Iraq and 10,000 troops in Afghanistan. 

2,499 military personnel lost their lives during Obama's Administration.

Approximately 30,000 terrorists (jihadist militants) were killed during Obama's Administration.

117 civilians were killed by drone strikes.



Crime and Punishment:  

There were 15,696 murders in the USA during 2015. 

There were an estimated 90,185 rapes in 2015. 

There were 327,374 robberies in 2015.

Property crimes resulted in losses estimated at $14.3 billion in 2015. 

963 people were killed by Police Officers in 2016.

140 Officers died in the line of duty in 2016. (63 died from gunfire.) 

Current prison population: Federal Prisons: 211,000  /  State Prisons: 1,351,000

There were 28 executions in 2015 and 20 executions in 2016. 


Marriage and Divorce: 

Number of marriages: 2,140, 272 (49 reporting States and D.C) (2014)

Marriage rate: 6.9 per 1,000 total population (49 reporting States and D.C) (2014)

Divorce rate: 3.2 per 1,000 population (45 reporting States and D.C.) (2014)



Immigration: 

Legal Immigrant Population: 42.4 Million

Unauthorized Immigrant Population: 10.9 Million

Deportations during the Obama Administration: 2 million


Education: 

High School Graduation Rate: 82.3% (2014)

Average yearly cost for state college: $9,650 (2016)

Average yearly cost for private college: $33,480 (2016)

2010 US Worldwide School Ranking for USA: 14th in Reading / 25th in Math / 17th in Science

2015 Worldwide School Ranking for USA:  29th in Math and Science

Number students earning associate and bachelor’s degrees: 2,804,133 (2015)


Friday, January 20, 2017

Writing Experiment #1: Write a Picture Book

All righty, we've had three creative writing classes and so far many of us have conducted Experiment #1 -- which is to try to write a picture book.

First, I walked the students through my Tips on Writing Picture Books...

Second, I suggested that they follow certain guidelines so that their story will fit into a 31-32 page book. (They don't need to do any illustrations... but they should make the text illustrator-friendly.)

Third, I mentioned that picture books are usually for children, but that there are some hilarious picture books just for grown-ups. 

And finally, I told them to have fun.

Some of the students' Writing Experiments have been posted on their blogs. Here are some of the ones that I have discovered. Check them out and leave these folks an encouraging comment!

"The Dog Who Pooped Like a Cat" -- How can you resist a title like that?

"Where Are My Toys?" offers a very imaginative explanation as to where our favorite items disappear to... (The answer might have something to do with small purple elephants.)

"Penelope Jones - On The Case" -- a lively main character who solves mysteries around the house. But my favorite part is that she has a turtle named lightning.

"Deep Within the Forest" is beautiful and hypnotic... I could see this being developed into a lovely book to read at bedtime.


If you have a blog that features a picture book text that you'd like to share, leave a link in the comments section.

* * *

What's Next???

Writing Experiment #2: Write an original song... OR.... a parody of an existing song. (Get in touch with your inner Weird Al.)

Photo Friday





Playing with the camera on this strange newfangled gadget.



My wife should have never given me her iPhone.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Days of Camp Bradford

Before my wife and I had kids, we had nieces and nephews. Sometimes during the summer, they would visit us for a week or two. Cheri and I were in our 20s, and so these visits from these little relatives provided a glimpse into a future family life.

In some ways, they were our practice children. Sort of like in Home Economics when they give you a bag of flour to take care of...




Fortunately, the human kids were more durable.

Because of these visits, Cheri and I got to test the waters of parenthood before we decided to take the plunge into pregnancy. (I apologize for those cheesy metaphors, but I am trying to teach my creative writing students that blogs don't need to be perfect.)

Camp Bradford became the nickname for our house during the summer. And Cheri embraced that title by making every day filled with a series of wonderful misadventures.


Megan and Matthew were the first dynamic niece/nephew duo to experience Camp Bradford... followed by our Canadian God-Son Corey (but Corey's exploits will be saved for another blog).

Lucky for us, and our eventual offspring, Megan and Matthew were very friendly, well-behaved youngsters. Life was easy-going whenever these "little angels" joined Camp Bradford. When I was in my early 20s, I didn't think I wanted to be a father. It seemed too serious. Too monumental. Too much of a milestone of my mortality. Yet Megan and Matthew made parenting seem like fun... which meant deep down they were devious little devils because it wasn't long after the first Camp Bradford summer when I finally told Cheri, "Sure, honey, let's have a baby. It'll be a piece o' cake."

I've been exhausted ever since.

I was reminiscing about the days of Camp Bradford, and decided to look for some photographic evidence of the events... but there weren't as many pictures as I had hoped. Still, I did find some highlights which give a hint at just how much fun it was to show these young Washingtonians the joys of southern California.


They were obsessed with swimming pools. They wanted to stay in the water 24/7. Cheri and I didn't have a pool, but our friends in Orange County did, which meant that these kids expected us to drive beyond the Orange Curtain every day. Matthew loved to dive for quarters and Megan loved to splash me in the face and call me Dopey. (That was our thing.) One time, when we were in the car and Matthew kept asking "are we there yet" every three minutes, I said, "You know Matt, there's no water in this pool we're going too."

"There's not?"

"Nope. There was a big crack at the bottom and the water drained to the center of the earth."

"How did it get cracked, Uncle Wade?"

"We're not sure, but it may have been one of your quarters when it sank to the bottom."


It's hard to tell in this photograph, but my good friend John and Nephew Matthew are playing with Star Wars figures. John -- and many of my fellow arch-geeks -- still loved to buy action figures, but did we grown men ever hang around the apartment battling them against each other. No way! (No matter how much we secretly wanted to...)

But then I realized, if you have a kid visiting you, you can full-on play with your toys the same way you did when you were 8 years old, and people say, "Aw... you're so good with kids." When really, it's just an excuse to reconnect with G.I. Joe and Cobra Commander. 


Visiting our relatives at the zoo. 


The Obligatory Pilgrimage to the Giant Rat of Anaheim. 


You pay your own way when you stay at Camp Bradford. These kids shoveled coal into a steam locomotive 14 hours a day. 


And then they slept in a cave, without blankets! At least that's how I remember it... I could be wrong. They seem happy, though, right? These were good days. 

Nowadays, Matthew has been traveling the world. He's grown into a man, but I still recognize that little boy. Can you tell which one he is? 



Megan is in her late 20s... and she's been known to go misadventuring with my daughters from time to time. Here she is (the one with the pink strap), on a volcano island with her fiance, her sister, and her cousins... probably trying to lead my girls near the lava as payback for Camp Bradford. 











Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Word-Count Wednesdays

So, with this new schedule, I'm going to use Wednesdays to post updates about my writing progress. Here goes:

This week, I revised a picture book three times, and in the process my agent went from "I really like this" to "I love this!" So, that's on the right track.

My goal for next Wednesday... +1000 words of new material.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Sensitive Side of Stephen King

Horrible, horrible things happen in the stories of Stephen King. His penchant for terror is renown. Whether within a tale of the supernatural...


(The Shining

...or a more realistic psychological thriller...


 (Misery)  

Stephen King knows how to scare us. That's the fun part about his work. But there's something more meaningful to be discovered below the surface. Despite the pain and gore that permeates much of his plot-lines, Stephen King has a very moral center in almost all of his stories. You can tell he wants good to triumph over evil, even if that's not always what happens at the end. 

Lots of casual readers might not know that beyond the horror novels, and their hit-and-miss movie adaptations, Stephen King has created several works which are deeply personal and surprisingly inspirational. I wouldn't say they are exactly heart-warming or kid-friendly... but they are remarkably different from the horror stories which have made King a household name since the late 1970s. Here are a few examples of King's softer side:

Stand By Me (Based on King's novella The Body)



It's the quintessential coming-of-age story (or a Bildungsroman if you wanna get all German about it.) Four friends in a backwoods town go on a quest to find a dead body. Along the way, our protagonist, Gordy, contemplates his past (the loss of his brother), his present (emotionally detached parents), and his future (aspirations of becoming a writer mixed with fears of losing his best friend). 

The kids are often rude and crude, but they can also be sensitive, wise, and philosophical. This was released in the late 80s and my high school teacher complained that "12-year old boys aren't that emotionally complex." But my feeling is that 12-year old boys often do their best to hide their emotional complexity, and King taps into this beautifully. 

Now the film and the short novel have significant differences, and some aspects of the book offer more depth. However, I think this is one of those rare cases in which the film is equal in artistic merit. (To explain why, I would have to devote a whole post...) Both the book and the film have exquisite moments, including one of my favorite scenes: 

 



The Eyes of the Dragon:

This is a good old fashioned fantasy novel. Even though there are a few mature moments as well as some violent deaths, it's something that you could read to most kids, and they probably wouldn't have nightmares. In fact, I think the Stand By Me gang would be all over this book.



It seems that Stephen King was sending this book out into the world to see if his readers would appreciate books that didn't fall under the horror category. According to the internet, fans were disappointed. This was at the height of his popular when his readers were greedy for the next scare-fest novel, and many grumbled when they snatched up this delightful book.



Faithful (co-authored by Stewart O'Nan):

Stephen King is a die-hard Boston Red Sox Fan. Lots of his characters seem to share that sentiment.
The most apparent example of this is his novel The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon -- in which a young girl gets lost in the woods and tries to survive, all the while channeling her favorite Red Sox pitcher. But this story still fits in the typical world of thrills and chills. There's also a baseball novella called Blockade Billy. It's a good old fashioned yarn... but things get dark, so I'm not putting on this list either.  Here's the book I wanna talk about... 




Not a single zombie cat, serial killer, or clown-demon to be found.  Faithful falls into the non-fiction category as it is mainly comprised of King and O'Nan corresponding as their dream comes true and the Red Sox win the 2004 World Series, thus ending the long standing Curse of the Bambino.  




11/22/63

This is an epic time-travel drama, really one of his most vivid and satisfying novels. It's about a guy from the 2010s who is shown a portal into the past (which of course is in the pantry of a burger joint) and travels into the late 1950s. He journeys into the past with an enormous task: to stop the assassination of JFK.


Now, as the they plot suggests, there are splashes of violence in this book, but at its core is not a Doctor Who styled rescue mission. It's a love story. And out main character falls in love while he's in the middle of his five year mission. Will he choose love over duty?  Can he stop a national tragedy and get the girl? 

Oh, and there's lots of swing dancing. What's not to love about swing dancing? 





The Shawshank Redemption:


This is a prison drama, so there are plenty of grizzly details that almost prevent me from placing this in this blog post. However, the original novella is short and sweet and the terrible events (specifically Andy Dufresne being raped by fellow inmates) is mercifully vague. King doesn't usually go with vague, so ultimately I think Shawshank falls in this category of his more sensitive / dramatic works. 

The film is EVEN BETTER than the book -- a rare thing indeed! Screenwriter / director Frank Darabont masterfully takes the best aspects of the novella and expands on them in wonderful ways. The characters are more developed, the multiple wardens are condensed into a single villainous warden, and the subplot of Brooks leaving his prison home is both heartbreaking and beautiful. Also, the film solidifies Morgan Freeman's place in history as the best narrator of the 20th Century. 


Just watch this scene as a reminder of humanity's capacity for hope and transcendence. 




On Writing -- A Memoir of the Craft:

This is part autobiographical reflection and part masterclass on the art of telling stories. It's concise, profound, funny, and perhaps best of all inspiring to anyone who dreams of becoming an author of any genre.



I remember this book was released not long after King had been severely injured. He got hit by a van while walking down a country road. In the painful aftermath, he wondered if he would ever be able to write again. Thank the Gods of Fiction, it wasn't long until King worked through his injuries and his writer's block and began creating some of his most ambitious works of his career -- not the least of which was the conclusion of the Dark Tower series.

The finale of On Writing gives us a first person account of the accident, as well as the road back to recover, and the return to creativity. If you want to learn from someone who loves & lives the art of storytelling, read this book.








Monday, January 16, 2017

Theme Days for My Social Media


Inspired by my recent blog post about the Mickey Mouse Club, I've decided to incorporate themes for each day of the week. Cuz, you know... for fun!


Musical / Monologue Mondays -- A day to celebrate theatrical monologues, scenes, and musical numbers.

Teacher Tuesday -- This is when I'll post educational stuff as well as my reflections about my experiences during the semester.

Word-Count Wednesday -- During the middle of the week I will touch base with my progress as an author. I'm aiming for at least 1000 words per week (which is very low, by the way -- but I'll take things up to 4000 words per day during the summer). Word-Count Wednesdays will keep me accountable and help me maintain my creative goals.

Thankful Thursdsay -- Can you tell I love alliteration? This day will focus on gratitude. Be on the look-out for feel-good posts about admirable people who have influenced me in positive ways.

and

Thursday Movie Question -- This is something I've been doing on my Facebook page since 2012 or so. It started out as trivia (which now seems points in the Age of Google) and became a forum for my online friends to share opinions about film.

Photography Friday -- One of my New Year's Resolution is to take more pictures... So far I really suck at taking photos... But if I keep it up I might advance to mediocre.

Saturday Morning Cartoons -- This is where I plan to get nostalgic about the pop-culture world of Children's television programming. They say write what you know, and sadly since my ten-year-old self I rotted my brain with countless hours of cartoons, this seems like something I know how to write about. (Or, I might just decide to post YouTube videos of my favorite Bugs Bunny shorts.)

Sunday Funnies -- My favorite part of the Sunday newspaper has always been the funny papers. I'm trying to channel my inner-Charles Schulz with my ongoing comic strip: Duck Town. 


This might be overly ambitious. It's not easy for me to blog everyday, and if I get really involved in writing a new novel or play, I might throw this list out the window. But for now this looks like a fun way to kick-off a creative 2017.

What are you blogging about?






Sunday Funnies - Jan 15th, 2016


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Mickey Mouse Club - Theme Days

As I gear up to begin marketing my upcoming children's book (Around the World in a Bathtub #shamelessplug), I have been going through my office, looking at old notes and journals.

I have noticed something that I've been doing since 2012. At the beginning of each year, I write a list of the days of the week, and give each day a special theme or topic. I never really do anything with that list... I just daydream about writing in my blog so much that I create different themes. The most I have ever done to fulfill this goal has been on Facebook. That's where I have been annoying / entertaining my online friends with "Thursday Movie Question" for the past five years. And I think I have always wanted to expand that list so that my social media presence has some sort of structure.

Why? Why would I want to have a post about "Teaching" every Tuesday? Why would I want to blog about "Musicals" on Monday? It finally dawned on me. It's because of the Mickey Mouse Club.

This old show (that was old even when I was a kid) entertained children five days a week, and each day of the week had its own theme.

MONDAY:

Monday was "Fun with Music Day." I just watched this three minute video and I don't know how much fun it was for me...


It reminds me of a very boring version of the Hairspray kids (admittedly they were probably inspired by Mickey's minions as well as dance programs of the 50s and 60s).



It's also reminiscent of Disney's ride, It's a Small World... and that's always terrifying.



TUESDAY: 

Tuesday was "Gues Star Day." You might call me fickle, but I rather like the production value of this musical routine... But here's the thing, I can't for the life of me remember who they had on as a special guest. I was five years old when I watched re-runs of this show, and there's a good chance that I switched channels in search for cartoons. Humans weren't my thing when I was five. It was cartoons, puppets, or nothing. So I probably watched this segment until they open the door, and when Donald Duck failed to appear I lost interest.



I did a quick Google Search, by the way, and found that some of the guests were familiar faces. But here are a few unfamiliar ones... (at least to me... I bet some of you can guess these stars of the 50s)







For comedians in the 1950s, the bigger the eyes the bigger the laughs. 

WEDNESDAY: 

During the middle of the week, the Mickey Mouse Club decided that Wednesday was "Anything Can Happen Day" or as I like to call it: "No One Knows What the Hell's Going On Day." 




THURSDAY: 

Nearly the end of the week is "Circus Day." You would think this theme would be lively enough to keep my attention...



...but I've always thought the circus was rather creepy. Hmmm... I wonder why. (I'm looking at you, Pink Elephants from Dumbo.)  


FRIDAY:

Of all the Theme Days I have revisited on Youtube today, the "Talent Round Up Day," with its Western dancing and makeshift horses, is hands down my favorite. 


Everything is all going hunky-dory until the eldest member of the Club, +50 year old Roy Williams shows up with guns a'blazing. 

I believe the Friday theme invited non-mouseketeer children onto the show, after winning the talent portion earlier in the week.  Unsurprisingly, most of these guest kids were white, just like the Mouseketeers. But I was pleased to discover a bit of diversity; according to the definitive website on all things Mickey Mouse Club, there were a few African-American children who performed on the show. (Again, it reminds me of Hairspray!) 

Anyway, this has been a long rambling blog post, but back to my original point -- I am thinking of adjusting my blog so that each day has it's own theme. I'll try to finalize my theme list tonight. 

In the words of Jimmie Dodd: "See you real soon!"

  





Friday, January 13, 2017

Picture Books for Grown-Ups


On Wednesday, I gave my creative writing students an overview of writing picture books for children. That's when a couple things dawned on me.

1) Many students may have absolutely no interest in writing a book for young children.

and

2) That's perfectly okay, because there are actually a few wildly successful picture books that are aimed at adults.

* * * 

The most notable one that I'm aware of is written by Adam Mansbach (author of some rather serious looking novels such as Rage is Back and Angry Black White Boy).

The book is called Go the F*** to Sleep. It's currently the #1 Parody book selling on Amazon, and I believe it's been in that spot for over five years now.

Keeping in mind there's profanity on every page, you might find this YouTube video amusing. It's narrated by the one and only Samuel L. Jackson...



Other successful picture books for grown-ups include: 


and


Jory John is one of the co-authors of both books, and it is interesting to note that after his success with these parodies he went on to write other books that are actually for children. 

So, grown-up picture books offer plenty of satire. Sometimes it's political... 


Sometimes it's catering to recent pop-culture trends, such as the zombie craze when Walking Dead was first popular. 


But there are many sophisticated picture books that are more sincere, and that aren't exactly written for adults or children, but for readers of any age. 

Take for example this beautifully illustrated biographic picture book about the life of John Lennon. 


First graders might enjoy reading about everyone's favorite bespectacled Beatle... but I have a feeling that this book targets readers my age, maybe even older (yes, I have a copy on this book). 


And although you could read this book to toddlers, it's really a metaphor about the history of religion and all of the conflicts created by the different interpretations of truth and/or god. (Unless I misread the text and it's just about a turtle and a meteorite that breaks apart in the earth's atmosphere.)

* * * 

Have you discovered a picture book that is marketed to adults? What did you think? Disturbing? Funny? Sophisticated? All of the above?  

  


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

10 Tips for Writing Picture Books


So, you want to write a picture book? The good news: they are short. The typical word count of a modern picture book is about 500 words. It's quite rare to go above 1000. And some picture books are wordless, or if not wordless, rely on very few words.



Here's a book called Hug. My family loves this book. It's about a monkey named Bobo who wants a hug from his mama. The only three words used are "hug," "Bobo" and "Mama."

If you are a professional quality artist then it might be possible for you to become both the author and illustrator (just like Jez Alborough). However, if you can draw only stick figures using RoseArt Crayons then you'll need to write a really clever and/or heartwarming and/or original picture book manuscript if you want to gain the interest of agents and editors.

So, if the end goal is to write a brilliant manuscript, how do we accomplish that task. Well, one way is to just sit down and write something and maybe it will be awesome. If that doesn't work, here are some tips to consider....

1) Explore the Past

Become at least a little bit familiar with the history of Children's Literature. This will not only reveal what's been done before, but also what's been overdone. More importantly, you'll notice shifts throughout the centuries, revealing society's expectations of children.


This illustration is from the earliest known children's book. That kid looks terrified of the adult.





(Hey, do you know who gets the royalties to Goodnight Moon?)



2) Explore new titles at your local book store....


...or visit your local library... 



3) Write stories with characters you care about. If you love your characters, there's a good chance your reader will fall in love with them too.




4) Your characters shouldn't be perfect. They should have flaws. In fact, some of the best characters make mistakes.




"Excuse me, monkey, would you help me deliver these newspapers?"




"Yeah, I'll get right on that."



4a) If you are writing non-fiction... your book should still have a sense of fun and imagination, and it might also have character. Use elements of fiction to make the non-fiction come to life.


This is a book about the life and work of Jane Goodall.

5) Don't talk down to your reader. Respect the imagination and intelligence of your audience.



6) Don't rhyme unless you are skilled with rhythm and meter. Don't let rhymes dictate the story. That's why many editors say they don't want to read anymore rhyming picture books.

 Here's a terrific article that gets into more detail about the curse of verse and the crime of rhyme.  (See what I did there?)


7) Write scenes that illustrators crave.

"Billy Twitters and the Whale"

"Mr. Tiger Goes Wild"


"Children Make Terrible Pets"








Most picture books have text on 31 pages. Learning how to create stories that fit perfectly into this format, as well as creating narratives with potential surprises ("page-turnability") is essential to success.


9) Don't be Dr. Seuss. We already have a Dr. Seuss. Be you.



10) Read your work out loud. Read it aloud too. Picture books are meant to be seen and heard.



Here's a video by author Mem Fox, discussing her passion for writing children's books and the importance of reading to children.