Saturday, January 22, 2011

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).