Thursday, July 28, 2011

When Writing a Dummy Book...

For those of you who may not know, a dummy book is not a book for those
who could be compared to crayons who are not the brightest in the box,
but rather a layout of your picture book text. You make your own little
book out of construction paper (for example) to be certain it fits within 
the 32 page format required for children's picture books. It's a great way
to figure out the page turning points in your story and whether your 
story flows well. 

I've mentioned before that I've been reading Ann Whitford Paul's Writing 
Picture Books, the dummy book is covered in chapter 17. I spent the 
majority of the day yesterday making dummy books for my first three stories.
I'll share what I learned, but first let me tell you what not to do when making
a dummy book.

When making a dummy book, wait and buy "lift off" magic tape if you 
don't have it in the house. I didn't, so I used a glue stick instead. Twice 
on story #1, I realized that I had skipped lines that needed to be pasted in,
necessitating pulling some off and glueing them back in later. Don't try to
work on your dummy book if your children (especially if they are toddlers/
preschool age) are not incapacitated by sleep. Wait until nap time or bed

I thought having my daughter help me would be a good idea. Not really.
Figuring out page turning points requires concentration, and my Sweat Pea
is quite the conversationalist. Whatever you do, don't try to work on your
dummy book on your family room couch! What was I thinking? Granted I 
was using safety scissors, but my toddler thought grabbing things from me,
like it was some type of fabulous game. That didn't last long. Lastly, don't 
become so obsessed by your project that your spouse has to say, "Hey, 
Honey, yeah you, remember me?" It's hard for me to stop a project once 
I've started. 

Through the process of making my dummy books (I did get all three done),
I caught a typo or two and rearranged some wording to make the flow of
one of the stories better. It's a great way to get a fresh look at your manuscript,
and to see whether it will actually work well in book form. If you write picture
books, I highly recommend this process. 

I was also able to finish the fourth story in my book series on Tuesday night
and am so excited with how it turned out. I don't know if it's ready to go into
dummy book form yet. I'll need to reread and revise a few times first. :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Wayward Lamb

On a steamy summer's evening, I rummaged through our family van, searching
for a dearly loved stuffed lamb. It had been days since I'd seen my daughter's
favorite stuffy. The van was the last clear memory I had of the wayward lamb. I 
had called the various stores we had visited that week, but none of them had 
seen it. Now, I carefully combed the only possible place it could be. I had 
checked everywhere in the house, the laundry room, the kid's rooms, 
my room, the playroom, under couches and chairs, inside backpacks and 
pretend purses. 

The latest search of the van left me with the same results - nothing. Devastated,
I returned inside and asked my husband for help. We prayed, and he reassured 
me that the lamb would turn up. His nonchalant attitude irritated me. Didn't he 
understand that this was a big deal? Avalon had slept with this lamb since she
was one; we had to find it! 

Seeing my distress worsen (as evidenced by my tears), Jason went to work as 
well, going through things I already had. Then, he bolted up the stairs. What 
had he thought of? He emerged from the kid's bathroom with the little stuffed
lamb. My daughter had placed it in the step stool compartment. Relief rushed
over me like a wave. This time tears of joy rushed down my cheeks. All I could
think was, Thank you, Lord, thank you, Lord

I crept into my daughter's room and placed the lamb beside her in the bed.
She had almost been asleep. Her sleepy eyes took in the sight of her long
lost lamb (a few days is forever to a three year old) and the sweetest smile
I'd ever seen appeared on her lovely little face. 

I thought of the parable Jesus told about the woman who searched her whole
house for a lost coin and the one sheep the shepherd sought after, leaving 
ninety-nine to find the one. I related to the overwhelming joy of finding 
something considered to be precious and irreplaceable. This is how God
feels when we return to and surrender our lives to Him, overwhelmed
with joy and thanksgiving. I am grateful that God loves us so much, that
He not only gave His only Son to save us from eternal separation from Him,
but He also cares enough to help us find our lost stuffed lambs. 

Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a 
lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she 
has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with 
me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy 
before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.   Luke 15: 8 - 10, ESV 
(English Standard Version)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Over the last couple months I finally felt like I had a good handle on this 
craft of writing, finally felt like the overwhelming sea of knowledge necessary
for me to learn was dwindling. My stories were perfect (though I couldn't 
help but tweak a few words here and there), I was developing my online 
presence as a children's writer, networking as best I could with the crazy
schedule I keep, and then I started reading, Writing Picture Books by Ann
Whitford Paul. Anyone aspiring to publish a children's book definitely needs
to read it. 

While I knew I still had much to learn, I didn't fully realize just how much
that was. One of the biggest lessons I have learned from the book so far is if 
a phrase, sentence or paragraph doesn't move your story forward, CUT IT! 
While this is probably not true of adult fiction, picture book writing requires 
"tight" writing. Ann Whitford Paul stressed repeatedly that every word has to 

With this new knowledge, I couldn't wait to revise my original story, the one
that started out at 1500 words (before I knew better). Last year I cut it down
to 800, after consulting with a freelance editor. Yesterday I probably reduced
it to 600 words. I didn't realize how many repetitive concepts were in my 
first story. I am happy with my revising so far and believe that the writing is
even stronger than before. 

It's amazing to read my first (unrevised) story and then to read my latest ones 
and see my growth as a writer. I can't wait to carve out some more time to 
revise my latest stories as well. It's so exciting. 

My next project (as recommended in chapter 17 of the book) is to make 
"dummy books" to figure out good page turning points. I'll probably let my 
3 year old help me with the pasting. She'd love it. 

I have to mention as a side note that while I have found this book a necessary
invaluable resource, I do disagree with the author on one point. She did 
emphasize not to attach morals or lessons one's stories, but that children's
books are to entertain. She said to leave the moral lessons to the educators
(paraphrase). I strongly believe in passing down morals through children's 
books. For ages, children's stories have been used to teach valuable life 
lessons, why would we stop that now? I have good friends who are teachers 
in our city schools and they are not allowed to teach any type of character
education except if a book they are reading opens a conversation. 
We are all entitled to our own opinions on the matter. That's one thing that
makes our nation great, but I'll agree to disagree with the author on this 

While cutting out some of my favorite phrases and descriptions felt like
taking a surgical blade to a part of my soul (dramatic, I know), I am so 
glad I took the author's advice despite the heartache. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My Life: A Prayer List being Answered, Part 4

God has fulfilled so many of my dreams and prayers throughout my life. I am 
so blessed with all that He has given me. But as the childhood and young 
adulthood prayers come to pass, new ones emerge. Growing up, I never 
saw myself as a writer and never imagined I'd be venturing out into the 
unknown world of children's literature. 

In the spring of 2010, when I first felt a tug on my heart to write a children's 
book, I could also never have known just what having a children's book 
published would entail. I have learned so much in the last year, not only 
about writing, but about myself. When faced with the reality of the 
publication process, I had to ask myself, How much do I really want this?
What it came down to is this - if God gave me this desire to write for children, 
then there must be a reason, and I must see it through. 

My prayer for this new endeavor is that I following God's leading and 
direction beyond publication. He is the One who gave me this desire to write 
for children, and I want to be sure to honor Him in all that I do now and in the 
future. I pray for my characters to be relatable, funny, quirky, and adventurous, 
like most children I know. I pray that I keep God first, not only in this area of 
my life, but in all areas. God should be first and foremost, then family, and then 
work. I believe keeping these priorities straight will help me maintain some 
sort of balance as I strive to serve Christ, be a great wife and mother, work 
part time outside the home, keep up with the house, and write. 

Where am I in this process? I'm in the middle of some research involving
how best to revise your stories. I am reading Writing Picture Books by Ann
Whitford Paul, which has so far been packed full of great information on 
forming and revising picture book stories. For those of you who don't know,
a picture book is not a book with just pictures, but it is a classification
of a book that is for young children, roughly ages 2 - 8. I am about half
way through it, and given the opportunity, I should have it done by the 
end of the week. Much of what I am reading is affirming concepts I am 
already implementing in my work, but I do see some areas I can adjust
a bit. After I am finished reading, I'll scrutinize the three and a half stories
I have written in my children's book series to be sure they are the absolute
best they can be. I will then be pretty close to resubmitting to a literary agent
I'd love to work with. Until then, I'm trusting God to lead me and guide me
in all that I do. 

Do you have a prayer list, either written or in your heart? How has God
proven His faithfulness to you over the years?

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Life: A Prayer List being Answered, Part 3

I am so thankful that God directs the steps of those who love and serve Him.

There were several different paths I could have traversed as I came into 
adulthood, various carriers I could have chosen. What I would be when
I grew up changed many times as I grew older, but I was sure to always
include in my prayers for God's will to come to pass in my career choice.

When I was eight or nine, I remember wanting to be an archeologist more
than anything. Discovering artifacts from an ancient civilization seemed
so interesting and adventurous. A few years later, I watched Raiders of the 
Lost Ark, and while I loved the movie, I decided I loved life much more than
risking falling prey to a fatal booby trap. Besides, there are finite number of
objects that are waiting to be discovered, not very good job security, I 
rationalized to myself and moved on. 

I turned to dreams of becoming a marine biologist. Again this was fascinating
and adventurous and certainly would be a good choice. For a brief time, my
sisters shared my dream, and we were to be famous marine biologist sisters
working together to... . I'm not sure what. I can't remember why I decided 
against marine biology, but it could have been something to do with
shark week on the discovery channel. 

I briefly considered being a doctor or a teacher, but the thought of misdiagnosing
someone or grading papers the rest of my life squashed those ideas. I even
thought of being a nurse for a while, but when I realized I'd have to give shots, 
causing pain, I changed my mind. I wanted to help people, not hurt them.

And so, when it was time for me to go away to school, I did so with my major
"undecided." Throughout the school year, I spent hours praying for God's 
direction. "I'll do anything," I prayed, "just tell me what you want me to do."
I didn't feel any strong leading one way or another. Then one day one of the
girls in my dorm asked why I wasn't going into nursing. She pointed out that I 
was always taking care of the girls who were sick on my floor. The more
I thought about it, the more it made sense. "But I don't want to give shots,"
I protested. She countered if that was the only thing holding me back, I 
should talk to one of the other nursing majors on my floor. I took her advise
and was assured that giving shots wasn't a big deal (in that you get over it
quickly) and more importantly it was for the patient's own good. 

I spent about a week praying about pursuing nursing, and afterwards, I felt a 
strong sense of peace. That was it. I was going to be a nurse. This was in
the spring semester of my freshman year. I had wasted some time taking
classes I didn't need and had missed some classes vital to the nursing track.
Then another obstacle occurred. My parents were financially unable to send
me back to ORU (Oral Roberts University). I was devastated. I knew this was
where God wanted me to earn my degree. Why was this happening? 

The next year, I attended a local community college and took the necessary
courses to get on track with the nursing program at ORU. After months of 
prayer, I informed my parents that they didn't have to provide a penny, but
God was going to send me back to ORU. Full of faith, I finished my second
year strong and submitted my paperwork and transcripts to ORU. My 
Grandma Rose unexpectedly paid for that year in full. I was thrilled. 
I returned my third year with a new appreciation and determination 
in my schooling. I was able to secure a private loan for my fourth year,
and for my fifth year (thanks to that first year of being "undecided") I 
joined ROTC for a one year scholarship with a 4 year commitment to
the Air Force upon my graduation. Had I known about the ROTC program
earlier I would have been able to skip the unfortunate private loan. 

I graduated in "03 Summa Cum Laude, passed my nursing boards the next 
month, left for San Antonio the month after that for 6 weeks of Field Training
(boot camp), was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force by the 
end of the summer, and so started my nursing/military career. I served in 
the USAF for four years and learned a ton of valuable lessons, both
professional and personal. Upon completing my obligation, I returned to
civilian life and accepted a job at a local hospital where I eventually 
found myself working on a postpartum ward. Not what I had pictured 
myself doing in nursing school (like cardiac ICU), but I believe God 
has guided me to my current position caring for new moms and babies.
I love it. Giving support to the new mom who isn't sure she has what it
takes to be a mom is so rewarding. 

I am so blessed, loving my job and where God has guided me. I am 
thankful for all the experiences I've had, leading me up to this point,
and forming into the person I am today. Our road in life isn't always 
easy, but when following God, it's always worthwhile. 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own 
understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which 
path to take.  Proverbs 3: 5-6, NLT (New Living Translation)