Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ask the Education Consultant: A Picture Book Month Blog Hop (with giveaway!)

Its almost November!  And therefore, its almost Picture Book Month!!!

Have you registered to be an Ambassador yet?  All set to celebrate?  Visit www.picturebookmonth.com to get started.

This year I am super excited because I have joined the Picture Book Month Team as the Education Consultant. 

I am also extremely proud to introduce you all to the Teacher's Guide I created for the intitiative called "Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms". 

This comprehensive Teacher's Guide aims to validate and inspire teachers to include picture books in their curriculum, while also providing evidence that picture books do, in fact, fulfill the learning standards of the Common Core.  You are going to want to download it here.

So, in celebration of Picture Book Month and "Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms", I will be embarking on a blog hop!

How does it work?

1)  Email me at marciecolleen@gmail.com , letting me know you want to host me on the blog hop.

2)  Together we will pick a date for your post to publish.

3)  At least 3 days before your date, you  need to send me 5 questions that you want to "Ask the Education Consultant".  These questions can be about the Common Core, picture books, Teacher's Guide, marketing for school visits, classroom practice, etc. Its up to you!

4)  I will send my answers asap.

5)  Publish our interview on the date selected.

One lucky host will win...

 a One hour One-on-One Education Consultation on the Phone, in which you will be able to get advice on your own classroom practice, school visits, or manuscripts (published or unpublished). Maybe you just want to know how you fit into all of this Common Core stuff.  Whatever it is, be you a writer, a teacher or a librarian, this phone consultation will be chock full of advice and tips.

Ready?  Let's get hopping...

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Value of "Fresh Eyes"

You only get one chance to make a first impression, right?

It's true for dating.  It's true for job interviews.  And its true for...

wait for it...


Recently, during a phone conversation with my agent, I asked when in the process is it best for me to send work to her.  I found her answer brilliant. 

She said, "It's up to you.  But just remember that you only get my fresh eyes once."


I hadn't thought of it that way. 

Writers need critiquers because we need eyes that are not so "close" to the story.  We need "unbiased" readers. However, each time a critiquer reads a piece they become closer and closer to it, whether they realize it or not.  And THEN if they actually contribute to some of the revision, you are dealing with a VERY close critiquer.

I might go as far as saying that having someone look at your piece more than twice is dangerous.

So, what are my tips for keeping my critiquers "fresh"?

1)  Belong to more than one critique group.  Of course, these are time consuming, however maybe belong to one in-person group and one online group.  And remember, critiquing other's work will informs your's, too.

2)  Have a few critiquers who are better than you.  That sounds weird, but I have a few published friends who I admire so much.  And once in awhile, when a piece gets to a certain level, I ask one of them if they can read it.  But remember, always respect other people's time.  Do not abuse this relationship.

3)  Pay for critiques.  There are people who do this sort of thing.  Find them online.  Find them at conferences and workshops.  Splurge. 

4)  Use Rate Your Story.  It's a free service.  And although you can't be guaranteed a thorough critique, it's a start.

5)  Don't rush to submit.  Do the work.  Do the heavy lifting first.  Don't abuse your submitting power.  It's better to delay giving your manuscript to ANYONE and wait til its ready. Put your best work out there ALWAYS!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Children's Author Blog Hop!

Wow.  I haven't been posting a lot lately.  Things seem to be happening at super speed and I just haven't had time to make sense of it all for myself, let alone blog about it.
Rosanne Kurstedt

But, I have been asked by friend and fellow author, Rosanne Kurstedt, to participate in a Children's Author Blog Hop and I thought it would be a perfect way to fill you all in to what I have been busy doing.

First, I want to thank Rosanne for bringing me along for the Hop.  Rosanne and I met at a New Jersey SCBWI event last November and have become friends.  I have had the honor of reading some of her writing and it is always a joy.  Rosanne also has her PhD in Education and is an Adjunct Professor, Fordham University, co-author of Teaching Writing with Picture Books as Models (Scholastic, 2000) and former upper elementary school teacher.  Quite a cool lady.  You can read her Blog Hop post at http://rlkurstedt.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/childrens-author-blog-hop-2/.

For this Blog Hop participating authors answer four identical questions and then invite three more kidlit authors to join in the “Hop.”

And now...my responses....

What are you working on right now?

Well, I recently went out on submission for the first time!  I know, right?  Super cool!  Shout out to my amazing agent, Susan Hawk of The Bent Agency.  So...my job right now is to not think about the fact that I am out of submission.  Not sure I am succeeding.  But I try.

I am working on revising a few other manuscripts and gearing up to mine for more ideas during PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) in November.  If you have never participated, you will want to this year!  Check it out at www.taralazar.com/piboidmo

How does it differ from other works in the genre?

My stories are usually pretty quirky...yet on the sweet side.  One of my WIPs (works-in-progress), however, is quietly sweet.  No jokes, really.  So, I am not sure it is very different from other works in the genre, but it feels good to branch out and try something new for myself.  It is also based loosely on a true event that happened in my neighborhood in Brooklyn.  So that is new for me, as well.

Why do you write what you do?

I have always been drawn to picture books.  In fact, even when I taught High School English, I created an elective class on Children's Literature in which we studied the themes and issues in picture books. 

I also love that picture books are little packages.  I don't have commitment issues, but they seem more accessible to me than sitting down to write a 75,000 word novel.

AND, I love being incredibly silly and acting like I am 5 years old.  So, why not  be 5 and get paid for it!?

What is the hardest part about writing?

Taking my incredibly active and silly imagination and making it translate on to paper.  In words.  Sometimes I have such amazing ideas, but the words fail me. 

Its important to have patience.  Let the idea simmer and sautee for a bit.  Play with some words.  Jot down ideas.  Don't force them.  Trust your personal process.  That's when the magic happens.

Alright!  Now I get to introduce you to three very special ladies who I am tagging on this Blog Hop!

Joanna Marple

Joanna Marple has been telling stories ever since she learnt to speak - long and short stories, true and not-so-true stories, stories to entertain friends and children. Now she is busy writing these stories into books - picture books and YA, almost always with a strong element of adventure and multicultural locations and characters. She is now living on her third continent, studying for an MFA in Creative Writing at Stony Brook University, New York. Follow Joanna's blog, Miss Marple's Musings at www.joannamarple.com and on twitter @joannamarple.

Jen Hill

Jen Hill is the illustrator of THE BOY WITH PINK HAIR by Perez Hilton, and the author and PERCY AND TUMTUM: A TALE OF TWO DOGS.
Jen's award-winning career as an animator, illustrator, and writer of children's books undoubtedly informs her jovial fine art paintings. In her gouache compositions, Jen uses folkloric characters to drive playful narratives rife with mischief, humor and mystery. Her work is a pictorial encapsulation of the creepy charm that ghost stories, tall tales, folklore, and fairy tales make us nostalgic for.
Jen is also an animator. Her children’s television credits include Time Warp Trio (Discovery Kids Channel), Home Movies (Cartoon Network), and Sesame Street.
Jen is a graduate from the Rhode Island School of Design, where she studied children's book illustration with David Macaulay and Judy Sue Goodwin-Sturges. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her at

Amber Alvarez

Amber Alvarez is a Hawaiian-girl gone Brooklyn. A graduate of New York's Pratt Institute, she has had the good fortune to slip behind the wizard's curtain and give life to heart-warming characters everywhere from Scholastic Entertainment to Sesame Workshop.  A passion for K-3 education lead her to a development position at BrainPOP Jr. There she helped create award winning animated content currently seen in classrooms across the world. She now lends her creativity to the role of senior games designer at BrainPOP's GameUp. Amber is currently channeling more than a decade of experience in award winning children's content into the dream role of picture book author/illustrator. Find her on twitter @SheSureis.

Alright, these ladies are super fabulous!  Follow their blogs and to see their answers!  Blog Hop away!