Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Sublime and the Romantic

William Wordsworth

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lord Byron

Percy Shelley

(John Keats -- holding his chin)

Christine Rossetti

Saturday, January 27, 2018

What Am I Working On?

I meant to post a new Word Count Wednesday, but as it is Saturday and Hump Day has come and gone, I'll have to try again next week.

But I did want to touch base about my creative endeavors, or lack thereof....

My big project that I am currently working on is a middle grade comedy-sci-fi novel about a time travel field trip that goes horribly wrong. Unfortunately, I haven't touched it in a week.

We are three weeks into the semester, and this means that I am hunkering down into my work, as I usually do this time of year. Eeking out a page a day shouldn't be an impossible task... but it seems that every day I come home from teaching class, my creative energies are depleted. This is all just the same old excuse, I know. Lots of ideas, not enough time/energy. It boils down to laziness. So hopefully admitting to it will make me unlazy.

I have been productive in the realm of picture book revisions. I tinkered with one of my favorites from last summer's big project. I was brave enough to send one of the manuscripts to my agent... and she LOVED IT! (*whew*)

She will be pairing my work with one of her artists and hopefully it will be sent out to editors in early spring. It's always nice to have a submission in the near future.

Speaking of submissions, we haven't heard much back from the Dragon picture book. Not sure if that's a good sign, or a bad one... Probably not great. The books of mine that have sold usually get a rather quick response (about two or three weeks). But you never know. Papa Bear's Page Fright was at Peter Pauper for almost a year before they said yes.

Keeping my fingers crossed, as always. And what about you, folks? Are you working on anything? Send me a comment -- or feel free to get in touch with me through other means of social media...

My Facebook Author Page

My Tumblr Page


My Twitter Count That No One Ever Visits

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

17th Century Japanese Literature

examples of the kanazōshi genre

kanazōshi included a wide-variety of forms, many of which were non-fictional (travel journals, memoirs) but also included poetry and stories. (The emphasis seems to be self-expression and education, rather than for fame or profit.)

It also included translations of other works,
such as this Japanese version of Aesop's Fables: Isoho Monogatari

examples of the ukiyo-zōshi genre

And, if you have an hour-and-a-half to spare, you might enjoy watching Akira Kurosawa's Dreams. 


Finally, if you want to watch a very rapid and amusing take on Japanese History, check out this video... 

Monday, January 22, 2018

World Literature Resources - Week #3

We are getting just a glimpse of several much larger works. One of them happens to be the opening chapter of an enormously lengthy novel called The Story of the Stone, more commonly known as Dream of the Red Chamber. Over the decades, chinese film makers have attempted to bring this romantic-supernatural-drama to life, but this trailer seems to be the most ambitious of the adaptations:

We are also exploring another Chinese novel, Journey to the West (AKA Monkey). It details the adventures (and misadventures) of a young priest who is traveling to India in search of Buddhist texts. Along the way he is joined by a powerful Monkey, a greedy Pig, and a dragon.

As films often do, this popular Chinese movie takes liberties with the source material:

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

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.

Word Count Wednesday - January 17th, 2018

Well, it's been a couple months. But now that Creative Writing class is starting up again, it's time to begin Word Count Wednesday, yet again. (For those of you who are new to WCW, this is simply a way of keeping yourself accountable as a writer, and it's a fun way to vent and share your ideas as they develop.)

Let's get to it...

What Have I Been Working On? 

Over winter break I wrote four chapters of a middle grade novel (a project that I had abandoned during the summer -- but now it's back to life!) But I haven't worked on it much during this first week of school. However, I did complete a picture book draft of a new project. (This ones about bugs.)

Word Count: 1700 words (Not much, but at least it's something.)

How Do I feel About the Process?

The beginning of the semester generates a very familiar feeling. I start off with these lofty ambitions of balancing work, homelife, and my writing... but very soon I'm going to have a big batch of essays to grade, and then all my creative ambitions will deflate like a forgotten pool toy.

Hopefully, in between the busy demands of my teaching gig, I will be able to finish most if not all of my middle grade novel. I've already completed about 1/4th of the project. I've got until June 1st to meet my personal deadline. I will triumph. And then I won't be a sad, pathetic, deflated shark. I will be this magnificent beast:

Do you want to participate in Word Count Wednesday? Leave a comment and tell us what your working on. Or better yet, if I don't have you on my Blog List already, gimme a link to your own Word Count Wednesday Blog Post.

Friday, January 12, 2018

"A Celebration of Local Authors"

Tomorrow I will be participating in a Local Author Book Fair at the Oldtown Newhall Library in Santa Clarita. (I'll be hanging out between 10am and 3pm, if you are around town and want to stop by.)

I will also be participating in a panel of children's book authors. I'll be chatting about my book...

And I will be hanging out with a lot of other authors... including...

Laura Holton

Janet Squires

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Cover Reveal: Papa Bear's Page Fright

Here it is! Heartfelt thanks to my publishers at Peter Pauper Press, and -- of course -- the brilliant and talented illustrator, Mary Ann Fraser.

Papa Bear's Page Fright is coming to a book store near you... April 30th, 2018!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Stalling Jags

I should be working on my novel. But here I am, writing in my blog.

Journaling / blogging is one of my many stalling techniques that prevent me from experiencing a zen-like level of productivity. Sometimes, I get lost in my own fiction, and writing isn't a chore at all. There's no stalling. No procrastination. I have to find out what happens to my characters!

But most of the time, my writing isn't that fervent. It is way more sporadic than I care to admit. I've got a rather busy life (though not as busy as others), and so I have a long list of excuses. Kids, marriage, family stuff. Housework, work-work, piles of essays to grade. Dogs who stare at me until I take them for a walk. A bunny cage that always needs cleaning.

Yet no matter how busy I am, there is still down time. For example, last night I watched the excellent film DARKEST HOUR. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I watched it... But part of my brain (the judgmental corner) wonders if I deserved to watch it. After all, I didn't meet my goal of one hour of writing.

I get why I stall on my novel when I am feeling lazy. (And I feel like binge watching "The Good Place" whilst eating ice cream). But what's the deal with putting off my writing to do something that takes way more energy?

Hmm... I could write for an hour or organize my messy office for three hours. Or." Let's see, should I write for an hour or walk the digs for an hour? And how many times have I suddenly had the urge to do the dishes instead of sitting with my iPad, giving another hour to my novel.

I think for me, there is the fear of mediocrity. I want my book to be excellent. And sometimes, as I am working on a chapter, I know that the writing, the humor, the characters could be a lot better. So, that part of my brain, the one that gives into the fear of mediocrity -- the one that would rather I create nothing rather than risk failure and disappointment -- that measly little part of my mind says, "Go do something else, Wade. Don't work on this book until you feel completely inspired. Until you have more free time to devote all of your attention to this masterpiece. Until you have cleared your schedule of all other concerns and responsibilities."

Sometimes I listen to that voice. I am more prone to obey this insecure voice when I am in the middle of a busy semester -- which is probably why I'm thinking about this right now. Spring semester begins on Monday, and I have a heavy workload for the next four months.

Fortunately, I don't let that voice win most of the battles. I know of too many potential artists who have given into that fear of mediocrity. Or worse, the fear of failure. (There's also a group of people who are afraid of success -- which I find even more mysterious than my little phobias.)

I don't know that there's a one size fits all solution that will forever rid me of these stalling jags... each day presents it's own variation on the same battle, and each day seems to require a new strategy. I am, however, thankful that most days I win.

Will I win today? Will I stop stalling and write another hour's worth of my book?

Tell ya what... if I win, I'll post a victory cartoon on my next blog entry. If the stalling jag delays me from getting down to business, I'll post a cartoon that represents the agony of defeat.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2017 Resolution Wrap-Up

All righty, it's time to process the last 365 days. All things considered, they have been very good on a personal and professional level. 2016 was a bummer. 2017 was much brighter. This is mainly because our family was healthier this year, and hopefully 2018 will continue that trend.

So, let's look back at my score card and see how I did.

1) Take More Photos (at least two each week) 


Here are a few of my favorites:

Adventures at Vid Con! 

Alpaca Neighbors!

The Forests of the Pacific Northwest!

Ooooh! Animated!

2) Write / Sell a Picture Book

I got lucky with this one! Papa Bear's Page Fright will be in bookstores this May!!!


3) Generate New Idea for Next Big Project (Complete at least 25%) 

It turned out my "Big Project" was 31 little ones. I was able to complete 31 picture books during the summer. Woo-hoo!


4) Work on a Creative Project with My Daughters

This one turned out to be the most difficult to complete, simply because we couldn't decided what project to work on... and it was a challenge to find a project that we were all interested in. 

But during the final month, we were able to put on a show, an improv benefit for a family in need. Mackenzie helped us during the rehearsals -- and was able to attend, right after she finished with her last final at college. Emily, Cheri, and many others from the CTG did an excellent job, and we raise almost 1000 bucks for Perry Roberts. 

We called ourselves the... 


5) Show My Appreciation More Often / Strengthen Relationships and Communication

This one isn't as easy to quantify. I made a list at the beginning of the year with over 200 folks on Facebook (and in real life). I did contact more people, more often... did I become better at communication? Did I strengthen relationships? I'm not sure. But I certainly made an effort... so for that I'm going to call that: 


6) Lose Ten Pounds 

Despite eating way too much over the holidays, I have managed this one as well. And, in the new year I am planning to (*cringe*) exercise more!


Well, that wraps up the year. I'm so grateful for all the good, and I think I've already forgotten all the bad! Onward to 2018!

December Reflections

Happy New Year! I haven't blogged much in December so let me do a little catching up... And what better way to catch up than by posting some grainy photos taken with my iPhone 4?

My eldest child passed all of her college classes during her first quarter away from home!

So, we took a moment to honor the somber occasion of packing up and heading home for Winter Break.

Actually, the occasion wasn't that somber!

Throughout the month of December, Cheri and I enjoyed walking the dogs around various parts of our neighborhood, soaking in dazzling holiday lights. Here's one of my favorite decorations, a couple blocks down the street from us. You know me, I'm partial to ducks.

We did some of our own decorating. You'll notice on our Christmas tree, I adorned a pair of googly eyes I won at a White Elephant gift exchange. I was quite happy with this Yankee Swap.

Oh, and inspired by the movie Downsizing, here's a tiny Christmas village.

The girls celebrated California Christmas early...

... and then we went to visit family in Washington...

We spent ten days in Washington state, visiting our families for Christmas. It was a lovely time. All of the nieces and nephews are grown up... so it's a little strange that we don't stay up until 3am helping Santa fill all of the stockings. But I do have to admit, it's much more relaxing now that we're older! Oh, and the most beautiful moment is when it started to snow on Christmas Eve...

We had a White Christmas! Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby would be so happy!