Sunday, January 30, 2011

How to Post a Comment

Hi there!  If you’re having trouble posting a comment, please read through this entire explanation first, before doing any of it.

If you would like to comment on the blog, you will need to create an account, or use one that you already have (google accepts google, livejournal, wordpress, typepad, aim, and openid, so if you have an account with any of those others you can use that).

The good news is, a google account is free, and it's easy to set up.

To do so, go to google (, and click on "sign in" in the upper right corner.

Alternatively, to get to the same page, copy the following link and paste it into your browser window (or just click on it if it will let you do that). If you're copying it, make sure you get all of it, as it's a pretty long link.

On the right hand side of the page at the bottom is a blue box that says "create a google account." Click on the link. To create an account you will need an email address, a password of your own choosing that must be at least 8 characters long, your location, and your birthdate (which they use to determine if you are actually an adult).
You will also need to type in the letters that you see under "word verification" - if you can't read them and type them in wrong, it usually gives you a new choice to try again.

Once you have an account set up, when you want to comment on a blog entry, just go to that entry ("introduce yourself", for example) click on the tiny little "comments" link below it (or the header, which will also get you there) then scroll to the bottom of the comments that have already been posted. You can type your comment in the "post a comment" box, select google as your profile, sign in (if you aren't already signed in) and post your comment. Voila!
Good luck!

If the problem you’re experiencing is that when you hit “comment” all you see is “post a comment” with no accompanying box for typing your comment or no buttons for “Post Comment” or “preview,” then the problem is your browser.  Try logging into another one (ie. Internet Explorer instead of Mozilla Firefox.)  

If you still are experiencing problems, shoot us an email at
Fingers crossed,

Recap of Training Tips, Week 2

Okay, time to pull out the calendar. Take a look at February and block time out for the marathon when you can.

Also take note of where the "trouble" spots will be, and plan how to deal with them. Remember, you have two "rest" days. Ration them wisely!
Each evening over the next several days, think about when you would have written that day if you were already marathoning. What will you need to do differently to fit it in? 
Or better yet, over the next several days, sit down at some point during the day and spend twenty minutes writing - not a picture book, just anything. Flex those writing muscles...
If you haven't seen the logo that author/illustrator Nathan Hale designed for the marathon, check it out at

Now's the time to solicit support for your marathon.  Let family and friends know what you'll be doing and ask for their help.
"Help" might be:
A (short) call to see how your writing went:  “You did write today, didn't you?”
Or a box of chocolates with 26 pieces you don’t have to share.  (Hint, hint!)
Or giving you the space you need to get some writing done.
I ordered a Picture Book Marathon t-shirt to wear while I write, and my family has agreed to not interrupt me when I wear it.  We decided that’s considerably friendlier than a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign.  Besides, it’s the only marathon t-shirt I’ll ever earn in this lifetime!
T-shirts, mugs, and tote bags (sporting the PB marathon logo created by Nathan Hale) are available at
(BTW, the marathon nor individuals associated with it don’t benefit from the sale of these items.)
So make a list of ways your friends and family can support you during the marathon and give them a phone call today.

Today’s training tip is about putting yourself in your co-creator’s shoes.  
If you’re a writer, check out some books on the illustrator’s craft. Something like Molly Bang’s “Picture this: How Pictures Work,” or “Illustrating Children’s Books: Creating Pictures for Publication,” by Martin Salisbury. 
If you’re an illustrator, you might take a look at a writing guide like Barbara Seulin’s “How to Write a Children’s Book and Get It Published”. 
And if you write and illustrate? Ha! You have to look at both... or maybe just check out Uri Shulevitz’s “Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books.”
Have a favorite book on the craft of writing or illustrating that you’d like to share? Post it in the comments section of today’s entry on the blog.
We’re almost gettin’ to the marathon start day.  Yikes!  When I’m feeling confused, panicked, or overwhelmed, my motto is, “Make a list!” 

Choose one (or all) of these topics for some playful, yummy, and productive list-making:
Words that you really like and that would be fun to include in a picture book. (Post it near your writing area as a potential source of story starters.)
Kids’ videos to check out from the library this weekend.  Classics or hot new ones.
Chores that can wait until apr├Ęs marathon.  (Make this a LONG list!)
Different “spots” you’ll use for writing.  (park bench, coffee shop, pet store, bathtub, etc.)
Yummy foods.
Other list ideas?

FYI--Lora’s already made an impressive grocery list that’s worth copying:
“Stocking Up” Grocery List

-espresso (for those early mornings - and/or late nights?)
-carrots (for when you’re feeling healthy) 
-really good chocolate (for when you’re not)
-pasta and some ready-made sauce (haven’t you read that marathoners should 
   carbo-load? and, it’s a quick meal to boot)
-dog treats (to bribe the dogs for five more writing minutes)
-ice cream (to bribe the kids)
-oranges (peel off a section, stick it in front of your teeth and go look in the mirror when  your picture book has you down -    hey, we are children’s writers, we’re allowed!)
-tea (so you can warm your fingers around the mug while you ponder the next twist)
-soup (because it makes a good February writer’s lunch)
-olives (to eat off your fingertips - stolen from Jean’s forthcoming book, How to Babysit a Grandpa)
-pretzels (because they’re healthier than a lot of that other junk food)
-whatever your favorite brain food is - you’re going to need lots of it!

Whichever list you choose--be bold, silly, extravagant, indulgent!
There's a new entry on the blog for introductions. If you have a moment in the next day or so, introduce yourself to your fellow marathoners. For instance, where (geographically) do you write? is this your first pb marathon? if you "ran" last year, did you finish (you don't have to answer that!).
There's another blog entry (also dated today) on how the marathon works, for those who have questions.
Starting Tuesday, February 1 (approaching quickly!) the only emails you'll get from us will be the weekly tally surveys. Our daily entries will move to the blog.
Last weekend before the marathon! If you have off this weekend, we recommend clearing the deck. Get as much out of the way as you can this weekend (clutter, chores, time commitments), and make way for a productive February.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Introduce Yourself...

Take a moment over the next day or so to introduce yourself to your fellow marathoners, if you'd like. Where (geographically) do you write? is this your first pb marathon? if you "ran" last year, did you finish (you don't have to answer that!). 

How the Marathon Works

During February 2011, over 400 children's writers worldwide will be "writing" a picture book marathon. A marathon goes approximately 26 miles. We’ll be writing 26 picture books.
There is no cost to join, we won’t release your email to anyone, and you don’t need to publicly post your work. The marathon is designed as a motivational tool to jumpstart your writing. 
How it works:
Write one picture book each day, starting February 1.
Continue for 26 days. 
However, since February has 28 days, this leaves you two rest days. We suggest you save at least one of those days to "treat" yourself during the last week.
Some days, all you'll be able to scrape together is five writing minutes - so make them five productive ones. And, if they're not, well, some days are like that.

A picture book is here defined as (1) a story or narrative, (2) with a beginning, middle, and end, (3) for children, and (4) intended to be illustrated. Remember, these are likely to be rough, rough drafts. (Very rough!)
You need to get enough down each day to capture the plot, characters, and feeling you're trying for, so that when you come back to it in March, you have a good basis for rewriting.

Rather than the emails we used last year, we’ll be tallying picture books with a survey this year. Each Saturday evening, we will email you a survey link. Click on the link (or paste it into a browser window), and enter your weekly total and your total for the marathon. 
You’ll need to respond by Sunday night for your number to be included in the week’s tally. If you miss a week, no worries - just submit it as part of your running total the following week. 
There’s now a link on the website to a marathon calendar. You can print this out for your own record keeping if you’d like (choose landscape - you might have to shrink it to 90% to get it on one page).
You can connect with and encourage others through the marathon blog. You'll also find story starters on the website during February. We’ll evaluate the formation of online critique groups later in the month.
The deadline for signup is January 30.
And that's it. Plain and simple, hopefully without much to distract you from writing!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What's Your Favorite Book About Writing or Illustrating Kid's Books?

Have a favorite book on the craft of writing or illustrating that you’d like to share? Post it in the comments section here!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Unveiling the 2011 Picture Book Marathon Logo!

In the evaluations that we got back from last year’s marathon, many of you requested marathon t-shirts. Author/illustrator Nathan Hale volunteered to create a logo for this year’s marathon, which we’re unveiling on the site today (drumroll, please). 

Nathan says, “I’m into picture books and have run seven real marathons, so this is a perfect match.” For the 2010 marathon, Nathan created a picture book cover illustration each day, which he posted on his blog (he also took writers into the “Land of Doom,” aka, the world of children’s publishing). 

Nathan has written and illustrated the picture books Twelve Bots of Christmas, Yellowbelly and Plum Go to School, and The Devil You Know. He’s the illustrator of Rapunzel’s Revenge, and Calamity Jack, both YALSA “Great Graphic Novels for Teens," as well as a number of other books, such as Dinosaur’s Night Before Christmas.

For the 2011 marathon, Nathan plans to reprise his cover-a-day feat on his blog, Whenever you need a bit of inspiration, pop on over. Daily!

In the meantime, head to if you’d like to peruse the t-shirt options. The marathon nor individuals associated with it don’t benefit from the sale of these items. 
Many thanks Nathan, for a wonderful logo!

Recap of This Week's Training Tips

Nine days and counting til the start of the marathon. For those of you who signed up late, or just need a reminder, here's a recap of the week's training tips....

Today, clean off your desk or writing area - get the housekeeping out of the way right off the bat and start February with a clean slate. 
If you don’t have one, now’s a good time to start a “tickler file.” Use your phone or a small notebook. Keep it with you and write down ideas for: interesting characters, settings, phrases, full-blown story ideas, and any other details you think could be useful or fun. The more you use it the more you’ll find the ideas strike you.
If you already have a PB ideas file, take the time to peruse it.  Don’t judge the ideas; just savor them like you do when you peruse photographs in gourmet cooking magazines. 
Over the next few days, take some time to go to a library or bookstore and read at least 10 picture books, to get in a picture book frame of mind...
While you might include a few favorites from your childhood, make sure that most of them have been published within the last two or three years. Some of our favorites from the last year: Bunny Days, by Tao Nyeu, The Quiet Book, by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska, City Dog, Country Frog, by Mo Willems and Jon to mention just a few?

Sometime in the next few days, find a place where you can unobtrusively watch and listen to kids for 15 minutes.  Take notes.  Try it again with a different age group. 
What made them laugh?  Interrupt each other?  Grow quiet?  Jot down descriptive words for each kid.  Each action.  Each emotion. 
To switch it up a bit, take notes as if you were an eight-year old observing the other kids. 
Don’t forget to have fun!!
When high school seniors apply to colleges, they’re encouraged to include a few “stretch” or “reach” schools on their list.  In the same spirit, with the PB marathon, why don’t we each include a few “stretch” picture books?   Get out of our comfort zone. 

If you generally write stories in prose, try a rhyming one.
If everything you write is contemporary, try historical fiction or fantasy.
If non-fiction seems impossible, give it a try.

So, today make a list of what isn’t in your typical repertoire and commit to attempting two or three during the marathon.
Here’s a list of a few types of picture books, just to get you started:

Fairy tales and folktales.
Concept books (alphabet, numbers, colors, etc.).
Historical fiction.
Wordless books (For non-illustrators like me, this is a real stretch!  Whoa!  Even my stick figures look doubtful.)
Humorous stories.
Pink frilly stories.
Quiet stories, !!LOUD!! stories.
Issue books that tackle tough subjects.
Stories set in a culture different than your own.
Rhyming stories (another stretch for me).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Where Do I Find Lists of Newly Published Picture Books?

In response to today's training tip to "read at least 10 picture books," including a number of newly published ones, a marathon participant asked where to find lists of newly published books.
  There are thousands of picture books published each year. There are many places to find lists, but here are a few. The Children's Book Council has a "hot off the press" feature on their site that lists new books by publishers who are members. While not all publishers are members, many are (you can find a list of members on the site as well).
  You can also look at fall and spring announcements from Publishers Weekly.
  The American Library Association lists the year's award winning and notable books.
  There's also the New York Times Review of Books.
  Also, ask a children's librarian! Our library's website has a monthly feature that lists new arrivals in the picture book area.
  Your local independent bookstore is another good source. They probably carry the free Indie Bound newsletter "Kids Next," which has recommendations from booksellers across the country.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Next Picture Book Marathon Starting Soon!

Run, run, as fast as you can.....the third annual picture book marathon starts February 1, 2011! Deadline for sign up is January 30 - email writers(at)