Monday, March 4, 2013

Let the Revisions Begin!

Congratulations on finishing the 2013 Picture Book Marathon!

Now it's time to take a hard look at those drafts you've spent the last month creating. Sort, evaluate, and decide which ones you want to tackle first. Hopefully, you've created enough material to keep you busy for quite some time.

Here's wishing you a happy and productive writing year!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Last Day, Hurray!

Here's hoping that the last day of the 5th Annual Picture Book Marathon finds you appreciating everything that you've accomplished this month. Whether you've done a half marathon, the full 26, or something in between, you should be proud of yourself!
How do you plan to celebrate?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Story Starters: A Few Fun Resources

These story starter sites are designed for kids, but since you're writing for kids they work just fine.

Don't forget to write your story while you play with this one on Scholastic's site. Or, try these ideas from authors such as Katherine Paterson, Mo Willems, and Jon Scieszka -- and get ready to celebrate Children's Book Week in the process. No luck? Check out these ideas for daily writing.

Show Me A Story: 40 Craft Projects and Activities to Spark Children's Storytelling, by Emily Neuburger, might be more involved than you have time for during marathon month, but see if you can find it at your library or bookstore later. I want to make a set of the story rocks for my nephews, and then another set for myself.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Story Starter: Go Wordless

Today's story starter idea is a wordless picture book. I know, if you're not an illustrator, that seems like a weird one. But it forces you to think about the scenes in the book, like a mini movie or play. Sixteen spreads - what's going on? Write the stage directions.

Eleven days to go marathoners!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Few Quick Questions....

Hang in there, marathoners, 10 days down and 18 to go. You're more than a third of the way if you're doing the whole marathon! And some of you half-marathoners will be finishing up this week.

Here's a quick (4 question, multiple choice) survey for you -- if you're doing the marathon, please take a moment to fill it out. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Story Starters: Multiple Choice

Okay, choose one from each of these four categories:

Your character is:

  • a frog
  • a lizard
  • a postman
  • a mayor
  • a duck
Who is also:

  • a magician
  • a toad in disguise
  • a street musician
  • a juggler
  • despondent
And wants:
  • to be famous
  • to avoid bedtime at any cost
  • cinnamon rolls for breakfast
  • a new haircut
  • to be an astronaut
  • Aunt Marge is coming to visit
  • the babysitter is mean
  • she can't sing
  • she has a broken leg
  • the store is fresh out of magic wands
Okay, go!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Story Starters: What Do You Hear?

The first of the story starters, for when you're running low on ideas:

Start with a sound. For example, "Crinch." or "Kapow!" or "Shh, shh, shhhh...." 

Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox CoverFor a timely example, take a look at Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox, written by Susan Blackaby with characters and illustration created by Carmen Segovia. I love the little fox's "piff, piff, hoop, hoop," for instance. 

Think of some sounds that are fun to say. What stories do they bring to mind?

Friday, February 1, 2013

February 1! Let's Go!

By the time I post this many of you will have finished your first picture book draft. How's it going? Easy or hard? The sunshine and blue skies in Salt Lake today sure helped me!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ready, Set.....

Some final suggestions before the marathon starts!

The marathon, as originally conceived, is meant to be done at a pace of one picture book per day until you meet your goal (26 for the full marathon, 13 for the half).

(1) If you are doing the full marathon: take a look at your calendar and plan out your two rest days. We suggest saving one for the final week - you'll probably be needing it! It doesn't mean you won't use them for an "emergency" at some other time, but at least it gives you something to shoot for.

(2) If you're doing the Lucky '13 (half marathon): figure out how you're going to do it. Will you do one each day for the first 13 days of February (giving yourself something else to celebrate on Valentine's Day)? Or will you run a pace of one picture book every other day, taking the whole month of February to complete?

(3) Whether you're doing the half or full marathon, plan some "treats" to reward yourself with when you reach key milestones. Baking chocolate cookies? A massage? A walk somewhere wild? Think up something fun that you'll look forward to.

And, get ready to start scribbling....

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Find A Buddy

When you're running a marathon it helps to have people there to cheer you on, and it's no different if you're writing (or illustrating) a marathon. Let your friends and family know about your plans for the marathon. Find at least one buddy to help you through, whether that's a quick phone call to see how your picture book went that day, a pot of soup simmering on the stove when you get home from work, or someone who will take your dog out for a walk while you write. 

Some feel that only someone who's participating can really understand; if that's you, consider recruiting another writer or illustrator to do the marathon with you, or connect with others who have already committed to the marathon on the PBM facebook page.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Last Weekend to Prepare!

If you work Monday through Friday, this is your last weekend before the marathon to prepare. Time to do the laundry and stock up on groceries -- here's a list you can modify:

“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 (marathoners should carbo-load. And, it’s a quick meal.)-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 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!)

Sometime during the weekend, set aside a half hour or 45 minutes to think and write about what you want to accomplish during the marathon.  Is it to generate ideas? Stretch yourself in your writing? In what ways?

To get yourself in a picture-book-frame-of-mind, stop by a library or bookstore and read at least ten recently published picture books. Take a look at some of the 2012 "notable" lists, for example, the NY Times, American Library Association, or Publishers Weekly lists. Spend some time appreciating great examples of what you plan to create!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Collecting Ideas

If you haven't already started collecting ideas for the marathon, it's time. Use your phone, carry a small notebook, or collect scraps of paper in a box or file. If you're into organizational systems, create 26 files, one for each day, and work on getting at least one idea into each before February 1. You might not use them all, but it's helpful to have something to go on when your brain's fuzz factor is high.

How the Marathon Works

If you're wondering how the marathon works, here's a rundown for 2013:

During February 2013, children's writers and illustrators worldwide will be striving to complete a picture book marathon. A marathon goes approximately 26 miles. We’ll be writing 26 picture book drafts, or illustrating 26 covers/spreads.
There is no cost to join, and you don’t need to publicly post your work (though the illustrators have sometimes found it useful to do so). The marathon is designed as a motivational tool to jumpstart your writing and/or illustrating. 
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.

Set up a tracking system that works for you - a calendar that you can cross off (and tally each week) works well. 
You can connect with and encourage others through comments on the marathon blog and facebook page. Share your tips for getting ready for the marathon, for instance, or encourage others who may be dragging that day. 
And that's it. Plain and simple, hopefully without much to distract you from your picture books!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Clearing Space

Okay, February is fast approaching, and it's time to get ready for the Picture Book Marathon. 

Step 1: Decide whether you are ready to make the commitment. This is a commitment to yourself and your work. The Picture Book Marathon is designed to jumpstart your writing and your creativity -- but you need to be prepared to do it. It's not something to start half-heartedly.

Choose either the full marathon (26 picture book drafts in 28 days) or the half marathon (13 picture book drafts in 28 days). For illustrators, that translates to 13 or 26 rough picture book covers or inside spreads. The marathon is set up so that you complete one draft per day until you reach 26, allowing two rest days during the month.

Step 2: Prepare. Today's post, the first of our training tips, is about clearing space. It's really a three-pronged effort. 

First, clear the physical space where you work. Clean up the piles, put away the stuff that doesn't belong there anyway, shred those documents you've been meaning to get rid of. Good thing I do the Picture Book Marathon every year, or I might never see the top of my desk.

Second, start clearing your February calendar (or keeping it clear) of unnecessary engagements.  Figure out how you're going to make the time to write or illustrate each day, considering that you still do need to do things like sleep, eat, and work. Will you get up an hour earlier each day? Use your lunch hour? 

Third, open up mental space. Clear your thoughts so that you can be receptive to the ideas that come your way. Start turning your mind to the month ahead, and what you want to accomplish. What are the ways that help you to do that? Do you meditate, journal, run? Figure out what works for you.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Picture Book Marathon 2013

It's coming in February -- the 5th Annual Picture Book Marathon! Join writers and illustrators around the world who will be striving for the marathon goal of 26 picture book drafts in 28 days.

In honor of 2013, there's a half marathon option. You decide. Are you committing to the full marathon? Or are you going to go for the Lucky '13?

You don't have to dive in unprepared. I'll be posting the first training tips this weekend. You can find them here on the blog, and on our facebook page.