Welcome to Inkygirl: Reading, Writing and Illustrating Children's Books (archive list here) which includes my Creating Picture Books series, Advice For Young Writers and IllustratorsWriter's and Illustrator's Guide To Twitter, interviews, my poetry for young readers, #BookADay, writing/publishing industry surveys, and 250, 500, 1000 Words/Day Writing Challenge. Also see my Inkygirl archives,  and comics for writers (including Keiko and Will Write For Chocolate). Also check out my Print-Ready Archives for Teachers, Librarians, Booksellers and Young Readers.

I tweet about the craft and business of writing and illustrating at @inkyelbows. If you're interested in my art or other projects, please do visit DebbieOhi.com. Thanks for visiting! -- Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Entries in robsanders (2)

Tuesday
Jan272015

Three Questions For Rob Sanders, Children's Book Author: Advice For Young Writers, Desk Shrines & OUTER SPACE, BEDTIME RACE

Continued from Part 1 of my celebration of today's OUTER SPACE, BEDTIME RACE launch...

Happy book birthday to OUTER SPACE, BEDTIME RACE, a new picture book written by my friends Rob Sanders and Brian Won, launched today from Random House Children's!

Thanks to both Brian and Rob for answering three questions for me today. In my previous post, OUTER SPACE illustrator Brian Won answered Three Questions. Now it's Rob's turn. :-) I first encountered Rob online through his great Picture This! blog for children's book writers. I've since met Rob in person at a SCBWI-LA conference and am also illustrating his new RUBY ROSE picture book series. Super-nice guy and I love his enthusiasm for children's books.

You can find out more about Rob at his website, blog, Twitter and Facebook.

Question #1: Could you please send me a photo of a random object in your office and tell me about it?

Since I’m bad at following instructions, and since one is never enough—my picture is not of one thing in my office, but my Shrine of the Weird and Wonderful.

This cubby on my desk (just above my computer) houses mementos, well wishes, inspiration, and things that just make me smile. There are religious icons given by friends, a skeleton that reminds me to stick to the basics, a vintage light bulb that reminds me that new ideas are everywhere, a Mickey Mouse magnet—since Mickey was the first iconic American character for kids (in my opinion), fortunes, a frog with a golden crown (just like you have to kiss a lot frogs to find your prince, you have to write a lot of manuscripts to find a story), a small mug of marbles from my childhood (because children are at the center of what I do as a writer), a cowboy Christmas ornament in honor of my first picture book, and more.

Nothing comes out of the Shrine, things can only be added. This little cubby has become my shrine to creativity, to writing, to hopes and dreams.

Q: What advice do you have for young writers?

1. Write. I think most of us spend a lot more time talking, blogging, social media-ing, and thinking about writing than we actually spend writing. Flip that around and you’ll find success. Writing is hard, lonely work—but it can also be fun and invigorating.

2. Explore. Try different styles, genres, and voices. Find what works for you. It’s the old throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks kind of thing. And what ends up working for you might be more than one thing. Don’t limit your writing style or your writing opportunities.

3. Read. Know what picture books are out there, which are winning awards, which are breaking new ground. Read classics to know our history. Read current books to know what kids are reading today.

4. Enlarge your circle. Stay in touch with your writing buddies, make new writing friends, meet editors and agents at conferences, friend fellow writing tribe members on Facebook. Get to know people and let them get to know you.

Q: What are you excited about these days?

I am a picture book writer through and through, but I’m really excited these days about a middle grade novel I’m working on. I am working with twenty-three fourth grade students who are critiquing my manuscript chapter-by-chapter—one chapter a day. These insightful kids are exploring character development, pointing out what’s not working in the plot, asking tough questions about motives and logic, pointing out word choices that work and ones that don’t, and spinning the plot in new directions I never imagined.

Many nights I come home from school, revise the chapter we just critiqued, and type up a new chapter. These kids are inspiring me (“I never thought that was going to happen!”), humbling me (“That doesn’t sound like what a kid would say.”), and encouraging me to keep writing (“You only brought one chapter today?”). I’m excited to write for this small group of kids, my own focus group, my own critique group in residence.

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

Sunday
Oct142012

Interview with Rob Sanders (Picture This!) about COWBOY CHRISTMAS

Rob Sanders does not work as a telephone sales rep, loading dock worker, trophy engraver, photo stylist, or editor. But he used to. Rob Sanders is not a cowboy, ballerina, chicken, twin, or rockabilly star. But he writes about them. Rob Sanders is a picture book author, a writing teacher, a blogger, a great uncle, a dog owner. And he loves it all.

I'm a big fan of Rob's Picture This! blog, a wonderful resource for picture book writers, and I'm thrilled to be illustrating his new RUBY ROSE series, which is coming out from HarperCollins in 2014. Rob's COWBOY CHRISTMAS picture book (written by Rob, illustrated by John Manders) came out from Golden Books in September.

Rob was kind enough to answer a few questions about his recently released book:

How did Cowboy Christmas begin?

The idea that became Cowboy Christmas came to me when I was driving home from a picture book boot camp with Lisa Wheeler. As I drove along I-75, random thoughts flooded my mind, including memories of the GALA Choruses Festival I’d attended a couple of months earlier. (NOTE: Let your mind wander. Some of the best story ideas come when you’re not trying to think of story ideas.) In particular, I remembered a song entitled “Hannukah Hoedown” which was performed by an ensemble of “Orthodox cowboys.” I thought, “I’ll write a story called Hanakkuah Hoedown!” Of course, I don’t know much at all about Hannukah, so the story quickly morphed into Cowboy Christmas.

I worked drafts through my critique groups and, truthfully, it stunk. But after a few critique group cycles (and a couple of paid critiques), the plot firmed up and the story got better.

Diane Muldrow, Golden Books

I sent the manuscript for a consultation at SCBWI, LA, and I was assigned to Diane Muldrow, of Golden Books/Random House. Diane began our consultation by saying, “My dad and granddad were cowboys.” What a serendipitous connection! Diane gave her critique. I listened, learned, and asked questions. Then I hauled out my latest revision of the piece which we went over it. Diane gave me pointers about making the story more “cinematic” and said, “Send it to me after you’ve revised—no promises.”

Two weeks later, I mailed off the revised manuscript, and two months later we had a signed contract!

What was the editorial process like? How did the manuscript change from when you first submitted it?

Most of the revisions Diane wanted were already in my “second” manuscript (the one I whipped out during our consultation). The Golden Books/Random House team wanted me to “up the cowboy” even more with lingo, expressions, and dialogue. I also revised the verbs over and over.

Diane and I had a couple of phone-call editing/revision sessions. One of them came after she had finished sketches in hand. At that point, we were able to tweak some lines, simplify a passage or two, and we even cut out one whole block of text because the illustration on the two-page spread showed what the words said, so the words were no longer necessary.

When Diane snail-mailed or emailed me the latest version of Cowboy Christmas, I poured over every word, every line, every scene. I charted out words (especially my verbs and dialogue tags) to make sure I wasn’t being redundant and that I had the just-right word every time. Then I collected up my ideas and saved them for the next time Diane asked for input, or we had a scheduled conversation. There are many times to revise during the process leading up to publishing and a wise writer seizes every opportunity.

Working with Diane was a blast. She’s funny, talented, and knowledgeable. She not only valued my input, but went out of her way to ask my opinions.

Have you met the illustrator, John Manders, in person yet?

A family photo from Christmas 1959. I'm the little one on the end. From left is my older brother, Butch; sister Pat; and my cousin Kem. Could these cowboy outfits planted the seed for Cowboy Christmas?I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting John Manders in person. When Diane Muldrow told me John would be the illustrator, my first response was, “The spine will say Sanders/Manders! I love the rhyme!” Diane replied, “It rhymes? We hadn’t even thought of that.” LOL!

When I received Diane’s email about John I had just used a book he had illustrated with some of my student writers. I sent him a fan email immediately, and told him how excited I was that he was going to illustrate Cowboy Christmas. We also passed emails back and forth a few times at the end of the process and after the book was published.

Some people ask if the illustrations look as I had imagined them. That is so-o-o-o difficult to answer. Diane likes her writers to give lots of art notes. (It’s like art directing a movie.) And John did follow the intent of most of the notes—HOWEVER, I could never have imagined the characters and settings and hilarious scenes he created. The book really is a collaboration between story and art, and the illustrations definitely tell the other half of the story.

Picture This! is such a wonderful resource for picture book writers. When did you create it? How did it begin?

Debbie Ohi, you are precious to mention my blog! Picture This! (http:// www.robsanderswrites.blogspot.com/) is my blog for picture book writers. The blog launched January 2011. The whole reason I started the blog was to make myself study and learn more about picture books and Picture This! gave me structure and a schedule to do that. I blogged daily for a year and a half and nearly wiped myself out. (I tend to overindulge in things I love.)

Now I post less frequently, and only when I really have something important to share or say. I’m trying to work smarter, not harder these days, so I’ve created an archive (or directory) for Picture This! so folks can easily find writing craft topics, interviews, inspiration, creative challenges, and so on. I’ll update the directory every six months or so. You can find the directory for Picture This! at: http://robsanderswrites.com/Writers_files/ PICTURE%20THIS%20DIRECTORY.pdf.

Do you have any advice for those who are considering attending their very first children's book writer/illustrator conference?

Stop considering it, and do it! I suggest going to a conference in your SCBWI Region first—that will be more manageable and not quite as overwhelming. Take full advantage of everything—every session, breakout, informal critique time, cocktail hour, paid critiques, etc. After you have a regional event under your belt, go to LA or NYC for a national conference. There is one word for one of those events—AMAZING!

Some folks say they can’t afford to go to conferences. Believe me, I understand. I work as a teacher for my full-time job. I know all about money constraints. But if you’re serious about writing and/or illustrating, you simply cannot not go to conferences. Start saving your money. Find roommates. Share a ride. Ask if there are scholarships or reduced rates in your region. As my Granny always said, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way!”

Rob with friends at the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA 2012

What advice do you have for writers when it comes to handling rejection?

Develop tough skin. Rejection is part of the process (and part of life). In our fantasy worlds editors open our manuscripts and fall in love with us and print our books without a single alteration. But in the real world, there are thousands of rejections for every one published book.

Can I tell you the truth about what I do when one of my writing projects is rejected? I revert to seven-year-old Rob and I say to myself, “I’ll show them. They’ll be sorry. When I sell a million books they’ll wish they’d bought this one from me.”

Then I set out to prove them wrong.

Some of my best writing has been I’ll-show-them writing. Turn your rejections into motivation. Learn from your mistakes. Listen to what people are telling you. And try, try, try not to take rejection too personally. Remember, they rejected a particular manuscript . . . they didn’t reject your writing as a whole, and they certainly didn’t reject you as a person!

What's next for you? What are you working on now?

I have two picture books coming from HarperCollins in 2014. The books are based on my character, Ruby Rose, who dances her way through life and in and out of trouble. (By the way, Ruby Rose grew out of a big-time rejection.)

The first book is entitled Ruby Rose on Her Toes. The other Ruby Rose book is still in the works. Oh, guess who the illustrator is? None other than the world-famous Debbie Ohi!

(Note from Debbie: WOOHOOOOOO!!!!!!!!)

I have several picture book projects out with my agent right now and he’s shopping those around. I’m working to promote Cowboy Christmas and have book signings, readings, and other appearances coming up in the next few months. I’m beginning to be asked to speak at conferences in various locales. And (believe it or not) I am working on an edgy middle grade novel—a real departure for me—but very, exciting, too. What can I say? I just can’t stop writing!

Any advice for aspiring picture book writers?

Advice-R-Us! I always have advice, ask anyone who knows me. Let me give you a quick list.

1. Write more than one story. As you write more and more, and experiment and learn, the practice of doing so will make you a better writer. It takes many stories to find one that is publishable.

2. Join a critique group AND participate by submitting your work for critique and by critiquing others.

3. Join SCBWI and attend regional and national meetings. Almost every book is sold through a personal contact, a link, a connection.

4. Pay for professional critiques from other authors and professionals. Choose the people you use for critiques from those you meet at conferences, or people whose work you respect and admire.

5. Learn your craft. Good writing doesn’t just happen.

6. Don’t try to find short cuts or take the easy way out.

7. Don’t give up! I know many writers who have stopped because they received some rejections, or life got too busy, or they thought another genre might be easier. Keep at it! Success will come!

8. Visit my web site and have some fun looking around.

9. Buy a copy of Cowboy Christmas and support my retirement fund!

10.Look me up on Facebook, through my blog or website, Twitter, via email, or at conferences. I’d love to meet you!

 

Rob’s Events and Appearances

October 19-21, 2012

Florida Writers Association

Orlando, FL

Speaker and Critiquing

 

November 3, 2012

2:00-4:00 p.m.

Inkwood Books

Tampa, FL

Book Launch Party and Signing

 

November 4, 2012

Horn Museum of Art

University of Florida

Gainesville, FL

Reading and Book Signing

 

November 9, 2012

6:00-8:00 p.m.

Mintz Elementary Night at Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble, Brandon, FL

Reading and Book Signing

 

November 17, 2012

10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Parnassus Books

Nashville, TN 

Reading and Book Signing

 

December 1, 2012

1:00-3:00 p.m.

Barnes & Noble, Dale Mabry

Tampa, FL (Near Kennedy Blvd.)

Book Signing

 

December 15, 2012

1:00-3:00 p.m.

Barnes & Noble

Springfield, MO

Reading and Book Signing

 

January 18-20, 2013

Florida SCBWI Winter Meeting

Miami, FL

First Books Panel and Critiquing