Saturday, December 3, 2016


     Hi there! Just wanted to let you know I'm still around, and still writing. My kids are currently acting in the Christmas production: Rollin' N Dough in Mistletoe. So fun!
     This play has inspired me to write a play for our local theater. I'll likely post it for sale online when I get it finished. So, if you need a children's play, let me know. I'm thinking about a mystery/comedy theme.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Problem Grows Bleak, Light-bulb Change (a basic pb outline)

So ya wanna way to remember the basic steps in a story, huh? Here it is: Problem Grows Bleak, Light-bulb Change. That's right. If you've been writing picture books for a long time, you probably know where I'm going with this:

Problem = At the beginning of your story there is a problem for your main character. (Introduce your main character first, by the way.)

Grows = The problem gets bigger, there are obstacles (usually in a group of three) to achieving your main character's goal.

Bleak = The problem escalates until it is the "darkest hour", the "point of no return". This is the place where we are wondering..."WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN?!" and possibly saying "NO! No,no,no,no,no!"

Light bulb = Ding! The main character has a plan and puts it into action. Whew, we're going to be okay. Things may or may not turn out as hoped/planned, but we're going to survive. Probably.

Change = This is the way in which your main character has changed/grown over the duration of the story.

Any Questions?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

How to Write a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Story

     I have written exactly two CYOA magazine stories for ages 8-12, so far. Both of them  have sold. I thought you might be interested in how to write one.
     Starting the story is fun! Let's make up something...say, an avalanche. OK. Start at a peak of action. I usually like to yell. So our beginning might go something like this:

     "Look out!" You yell and duck into a cave on the side of Avalanche Mountain, as snow plummets from an overhead cliff.

     Remember, this is just an example. Were it my real story, I'd come back later and play with the wording. I suggest reading it aloud while trying to think from a kid's viewpoint. If you have kids near this age, you might ask them to read it back to you. Make sure you use as few words as possible to give your readers all the information they need to imagine and understand what's happening. And, make sure it is easy to read aloud.
     Now, you have to split the story into two or three directions (yes, this soon), and give your readers a choice:
     You are trapped in the cave. "Sam! Sam!" You call when you can't find your brother. You wonder if Sam is safe or if he is burried in snow. To your way out, go to #7. To look for another tunnel leading out of the cave, go to #12.
     I don't actually assign numbers until after I finish the story, but when I do go back and add numbers, I try to vary them, so the reader feels like it's a bit more active, like a scavenger hunt. Next, you continue the story, but now you are writing two entirely different stories with the same beginning. Let's say the reader turned to the paragraph numbered 7. It might read like this:
     You start digging through the snow covering the cave entrance. You yell for Sam and think you may hear a weak voice, but after five minutes you are sure you must have imagined the voice. Your hands are so cold they start to burn. Just then, you remember the battery operated lamp stored in your backpack. To keep digging, go to #5. To search for another way out with your lamp, go to #2.
     Do you see how this works? I like to print my story and tape it on a poster board or wall to see how it flows. You can draw connection lines on poster board.
     Both of my stories were from 1700-1800 words with about 20 choice numbers. Each story had four endings: one super end, one pretty good end, one OK but not great end, and one tragic end.
     For a super-steller story that an editor REALLY wants, write the story around factual, historical events or objects so the reader learns something. The publisher will likely include the historical info somewhere after the story.
     Any questions?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Author Attitude

     Here's what I've been thinking lately: The talent/determination to keep writing, to keep trying, when most people would've given up, is a REAL talent and just as important as the talent of writing in the first place.
     So, keep writing, writing, and rewriting! And, don't forget to submit. Get your work out there. Mine tends to linger on my computer hiding in the shadows.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pig Writes a Book, An Author's Evolution

A HUGE "Thank You" to theartofpuro for the artwork sketch!

by Amber Hamilton

     One day Pig declared, “I’m going to write a book for children!”
     “That’s ambitious,” quacked Duck. “You’re going to need some magic words.”
     “And paper and a magic pencil,” said Rooster.
     “And some magic coffee beans,” said Lamb.
     But Pig said, “That’s silly. Writing for children is easy. I can do it all by myself.” And he went home and wrote a story about a sailboat.
     This is good, thought Pig. He showed his book to Duck, Rooster, and Lamb.
     “Wonderful!” said Duck.
     “Fantastic!” said Rooster.    
     “This is the best story I’ve ever read,” said Lamb.
     “You really think so?” Pig asked. He blushed. “I’ll take my book to Cow, the editor, and he will make it into a book.”
     Cow read Pig’s book. “This is bad,” said Cow.
     “Why?” asked Pig. “My friends think it’s wonderful.”
     Cow shook his head and sighed. “Sorry,” said Cow. "We’re closed. Try us again another time, but not with that book!” Then he slammed the window.
     Pig walked home very slowly. When he got home, he e-mailed his favorite book author, Horse. “Dear Ms. Horse, where can I buy magic beans and words and paper and a magic pen?” Pig waited and waited, but he did not get an e-mail from Horse.
     “I will go looking for magic things,” said Pig. He filled his backpack and set off.
     Pig went to the grocery market, but they didn’t sell any magic coffee beans. Pig bought some regular coffee beans. Next, Pig went to the office supply store.
     “I’m sorry, we don’t carry magic paper or pencils,” said the clerk. “Do you want some regular paper and a regular pencil?”
     “No thanks,” said Pig. “I already have those at home.” When Pig got home, he checked his e-mail again.
     “You’ve got mail!”
     There was an e-mail from Ms. Horse. “Dear Mr. Pig, thank you for your letter. To write a book, you don’t need magic. You need a beginning, middle, end, a plot, story-arc, detailed characters, distinct voice, and interesting settings. If you read lots of good children’s books and buy my book about writing, you will learn how to write books for children.”
     Pig ordered Horse’s book right away and waited for it to come in the mail. When it finally arrived, he read it from front to back. This is helpful, thought Pig, but I need to know more. Pig ordered more books about writing. It took him a year to read all the books about writing that he had ordered. It took him another year to read lots of good children’s books.
     Finally, Pig took out his sailboat story and worked on it. Then he wrote Horse another e-mail. “Dear Ms. Horse, I’ve been working on my story. Will you please read it?”
     Ms. Horse answered. “Dear Mr. Pig, I’m afraid I’m too busy visiting schools and reading my books to children. I suggest you join a writer’s group and revise, revise, revise!”
     Pig started a writing group and read his story to his writer friends. They didn’t say “Wonderful!”, “Fantastic!” or that it was the best story they’d ever read. Instead, they told Pig how he could make his story better. After another year of rewriting his story, Pig finally had a manuscript ready for Cow.
     Pig took his story back to the editor’s office. This time, Cow didn’t slam the window. “I see you’ve learned a bit about writing,” said Cow. “But this sounds too adultish. Fix it and bring it back to me when you’re done.”
     Pig took his story back home and worked on it. When Pig finished revising, he said, “Aha! I’ve finally done it!” And Cow agreed.
     Pig signed Cow’s book contract and spent the next few months working with Cow on final editing changes. Then, it was time for Cow to hire an illustrator who drew pictures for Pig’s story. Finally, it was time for Pig’s story to become a book.
     Now, Pig spends all his time visiting schools, reading his book to children, and working on his next book. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Bringing Funny

But I AM Funny!...Why are you laughing?

Have you seen the book John Vorhaus wrote for me? The Comic Toolbox: How to Be Funny Even If You're Not (I wonder if he knows where I live, too. Spooky.) But, ya know the great thing about being a writer? I can be funny even when I'm not. As a writer, I have these fantastic tools called "delete" and "time". When I use them correctly, even I seem funny. I love being a writer!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How I Became a Published Author

     I remember beginning to write a first-romance novel in third grade, as if I knew anything about romance. I persuaded two of my friends to start a writer's group, although I'm pretty sure they didn't care anything about writing. It wasn't until decades later that I got the serious bug to publish my writing.
     Like the complete novice I was, I began calling New York publishing houses that I found listed in picture books. Yikes! But, actually, it turned out to be a good move. One operator told me, "We don't accept any manuscripts unless you are a member of the SCBWI." Revelation! The SCBWI? What in the world was that?! I had to know, and I had to join! So, I did. I found them online at
     I gathered the time and money to attend my first conference. I got some good comments on my picture book from an editor during a critique session, but was disappointed my pb ms (picture book manuscript) wasn't snapped up. Lol! We did a session called "First Pages" where editors read the first page of a story you've written and comment on it. After the session, I mentioned my first page to the same editor who did my pb critique, and he asked me to send him that middle grade manuscript when I finished it, which--to my shame--I never did. I didn't realize that little bit of success from a first conference was rare.
     At another conference (in 2003, I think), an editor at Clubhouse magazine made the statement that he'd never ever turned down a particular type of story. I decided right then and there, THAT'S WHAT I'LL WRITE! I talked to him later, and he graciously sent three example stories to me via e-mail. I studied them. I cut them apart and taped them all over the living room wall to figure out the flow of the stories. My husband probably thought I was nuts!
     After three weeks, I had completed an 1800-word story. I sent it in and waited. My stomach was in knots thinking mine would be the first ever story of that kind to be rejected by that editor. Miraculously, it came back with one revision request. When I'd made the change, it was accepted! They mailed me a contract. I rushed it back. Eventually, I received a check, and it appeared in the March 2006 issue as the feature. The whole issue revolved around my story concept--castles!
     I'm extremely humbled and thankful to God for the experience. It was SO awesome to see illustrations bringing to life my imagination! March happens to be my birthday month, and it was a grand present! (Since then, I've sold three other stories to Clubhouse: a similar fictional feature and two shorter non-fiction pieces.)
     I've been waiting for my kids to be a little more independent, and we're finally here! Full speed ahead, & Slush, here I come!