Thursday, January 29, 2009

Children's Poetry

Here is a question for you poetry buffs.

Can you recite Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?
Everyone knows it...or do they?

Here is the entire poem for you to enjoy:


Twinkle, twinkle, little star!
How I wonder what you are,
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

When the glorious sun is set,
When the grass with dew is wet,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

In the dark-blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.

As your bright and tiny spark
Guides the traveler in the dark,
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star!

Taken from
The Children's
First Book
of Poetry

Selected By
Emilie Kip Baker
Copyright 1915

I've said the poem many times,
But only the first four lines.
I never knew the entire poem.
Did any of you?

Listen to the words. It's beautiful, isn't it?

Three old poetry books
The Children's First Book of Poetry - 1915
American Poetry - 1923
A Child's Garden of Verses - 1906

Monday, January 26, 2009

Interview with Author, Lois Casto

Today I am doing an interview with Lois Casto, author of Azariah’s Legacy.

Lois is a retired educator.

Inspirational fiction has always been of interest to her and it is now her goal as a Christian and fiction writer to provide enjoyment and inspiration for others.

She is a founding member of the Appalachian Word Smiths and a successful entrant in several West Virginia Writers competitions over the years.

Lois lives in central West Virginia and is completing two sequels to Azariah’s Legacy.

1. Lois, what audience do you target with your book?

I wrote the book for adults who want a relaxing read with lots of enjoyment and inspiration regarding God's care as a solution to every problem.

2. What inspired you to write the story?

I was inspired by the desire to write a story as a way to present a Christian witness. Hopefully, the reader will identify with some of the characters and become aware of God's care for the character and for them.

3. Do you have a writing routine that you follow?

I do not have a set routine for writing. I had the responsibility of a job when I started the book. When I finished it I was babysitting for a grandbaby from 6:30 am to 6:00 pm, so most of the writing was done in the evening or on weekends. If I had an idea while doing something else, I tried to jot down enough of it to elaborate on it when I had the time.

4. How do you come up with ideas for your stories?

The idea for Azariah came from reading a genealogy. Azariah is actually an old family name and the character did come from Europe on a ship which put him off on the northeastern shore of the United States. After that, the story idea grew as I wrote. I do not have the whole story planned before I start writing. I get ideas from reading the newspaper and books, from talking to people, from situations in the community/state/nation, and from research when I am working on the story.

5. What is the most difficult part of getting published?

The obvious answer is finding a publisher. Ideally, I think an author would be happier being represented by an agent because I had no idea of what to look for in the business side of dealing with a publisher. However, an agent is also difficult to find. I have just finished a sequel to Azariah's Legacy and I am going to self publish this book. I want to be in charge. It was a shock to know most authors must do a lot of the marketing for their books and I want to control this if I have to do the work.

6. What are your goals now?

One goal is to complete a third book for this series. It is already started. A second goal is to make the books I write, books that will be a Christian witness. Some people can sing, others can administer programs, I think writing is a God-given talent and I want to use it to tell others, some of whom may hear it in no other way, about God's love.

7. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

An aspiring author should write. Don't spend too much time planning and reviewing on the first writing of your story, get is down and then you can polish it. You may never sell your story but completing it is a satisfaction, don't worry about selling it.

8. Can you give us a synopsis of Azariah’s Legacy?

Azariah and his younger brother find themselves on Captain Kidd's pirate ship because of the death of their parents. The captain takes a great and unexpected interest in the boys, adopting Samuel and providing Azariah with the training to be a medical doctor. Azariah studies in Angola with an African doctor trained in China, where he comes into the possession of a valuable oriental medical book full of priceless knowledge. Azariah is led to the American colonies where he practices medicine at an almshouse in Philadelphia, becomes a member of Captain Kidd's family, and finally moves to the hills of Virginia. As he meets each situation, he becomes more convinced his mother gave him the most important legacy in the world when she assured him with her last words that "God will take care of you."

Thank you, Lois, for your interview.

I have read Azariah’s Legacy and enjoyed it. You will become attached to Azariah as I did and not want to put the book down.

Azariah's Legacy can be purchased at Border's in Parkersburg, WV or Evergreen Flowers and Christian Books in Ripley, WV or contact the author, Lois Casto, at 304-532-2361.

It can also be purchased at Headline Books and Amazon.

I hope you enjoyed this interview with my friend and fellow writer, Lois Casto.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dressing Up Your Characters

Dressing up your characters so they won't be so plain.

Make them sparkle. Give them personality. Make them interesting.

You know what I mean.
Give them a special name.
Spice up their appearance, make them stand out in the crowd.
Give them special words to utter
Something that sets them apart from the rest.

Some examples are ...

Scarlet O'Hara and her fiddle de dee
Pippi Longstocking and her super strength and crazy pigtails

Spice up your characters with little quirks and mannerisms

Give them a flaw. The fact that they aren't perfect helps the audience identity with them.

Whatever trait you give your character, make it consistent throughout your story.
Or they could be fickle and unpredictable, making the reader never know what to expect from them. This would work good in a children's story.

They could have a certain style of dress that sets them apart from all others.


I saw the shoes under the bathroom stall door. One pink and one yellow sneaker. It was Lucy, no one else in school wore two different colors of shoes. One week she wore red and blue and the next week green and brown. It was no mistake, Lucy was in there. I waited patiently for my best friend.

Give them outstanding or unusual character traits.

smart-------------- superstitious
forgetful ---------------clumsy
mischievous -----------boastful
messy ---------------excitable
humble -------------- boring
timid -------------- bossy
pitiful --------------curious

What does your character look like?

Close you eyes and create the image in your head. How do you see her?
Try to use other senses, don't rely only on visual description.
If you touched her, what would you feel? What would you hear or smell?

front teeth missing
frizzy hair
smooth skin
gum chewing, bubble popping
continually humming
cracks knuckles
smells like lavender bubble bath

Now using traits and as many senses as possible describe a scene with your character.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Call For Submissions

Hi everybody. Hope all of you are ready to write, rewrite or edit.

I've been to Pelican Publishing.

They have a call for submissions on their web page. They want you to send a query letter, but will usually respond within a month as to whether or not they want you to send them your manuscript. I don't think a month is too long to wait for an answer.

It is a very informative sight. They have their catalogs listed so you can visit and see what type of books they publish.

If you think you have something they might consider, send in your query.

Now, come on, what have you got to lose?

You can't get published if you don't submit.

I have a few ideas. I have a picture book where my story happens in Jackson County, WV. I thought with a little editing it could very well be set in the Louisiana area of the country. They state on their sight that they like regional themes.

So go ahead and check it out. We are here to help each other, so I thought I'd pass along the information.

Read their author guidelines, it is very informative and helpful, and necessary if you are to do it right.

Do you have any information you can share with me and my lurkers?
(Soon to be commenters, I hope.)

Good Luck

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Editing and Searching

I've been using my own advice from the last post and looking over my picture books I've written in the past year and fine tuning them to send out to publishers.

I've been all over the internet looking up publishing companies and their submission policies.
If you go to The Children's Book Council sight you will find an A-B-C listing of the CBC members list. I have a link to their sight on the right of my blog.

Unfortunately many of them say at the end of their listing:

Not accepting unsolicited manuscripts at this time. ....... or
Only accepting manuscripts submitted by agents and/or published authors at this time.....
How do unpublished writers get a foot in the door?

It's kind of like the job listings that say experience necessary. How do you get experience if everyone wants someone with experience?

But if you look long enough you will soon find this:
Currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts.

And, as I posted in my other blog - Joy is Contagious!

TheChildren's Writer's& Illustrator's market is also a must for children's writers.

In addition to book publishing companies, it also lists magazines, clubs and organizations and conferences and workshops. It is also filled with helpful articles and interviews. A new edition comes out every year.

Becoming a published author is not as easy as friends and relatives think.

When inspiration hits, the words and stories may flow, but getting a publisher to look at it and love it as much as you do is the hardest part.

You have to love to write, have perseverance and keep plugging along.

Is anyone else getting ready to submit?

Monday, January 12, 2009


Your story is finished. You've poured your heart and soul into it. It's ready to go to a publisher, or is it?

If you are like me, there are certain words you overuse. Words splattered throughout your manuscript that shouldn't be there. Once you are aware of this, they are easy to notice. They might even bring a grin to your face as you read your story and see those pesky words pop up everywhere in your sentences. The publishers will frown!

One of the words I overuse is just. I did a search on my latest middle grade historical fiction and the word just was everywhere.

Here is a way to find pesky words and , if necessary, delete them from your story forever.

Start at the beginning of your story and search for these words using the 'Find in this Page' tool under 'Edit'. It may take a while, but it is worth the effort.

Words or phrases to look for are:

suddenly (it is seldom needed)
The cat suddenly leaped forward. change to
The cat leaped forward

be - ing (it makes for weaker sentences)
I should be writing more. change to
I should write more.

could - would
I could see her running toward him.
I saw her running toward him. better
She ran toward him. best

there (generally weak and should be removed when possible)

seemed (use only when you want to create an image of doubt)
The fog seemed to disappear. change to
The fog disappeared.

was (and other linking verbs) try to use a stronger action verb

to be (wordiness)
She needs to be studying. change to
She needs to study.

that (a word we all overuse. Sometimes it's necessary, often it's not. Always try the sentence without it and see if it remains the same)


up, down, out (usually unnecessary if it is already implied)
She stood up. change to
She stood.
They sat down on the couch. change to
They sat on the couch.
The quilt was spread out over the bed. change to
The quilt was spread over the bed.

He filled his plate, then ate. change to
He filled his plate and ate.

began, started
He put his hands together and started to pray. change to
He put his hands together and prayed.

felt, feel (weak words can often be replaced to create a clearer image)
She felt uneasy when she stood up in front of an audience. change to
Her knees shook and her eyes twitched when she stood in front of an audience. (notice I also took out up)

instead (Often unnecessary)

What other words can you add to this list?

Have you ever did this to your manuscripts?

Any comments or ideas are more than welcome.

Friday, January 9, 2009

1 2 3 Write!

This is the first post of my new Blog on writing.

I've made a resolution to write more, send in more and learn more this year about the craft of writing.

If we all band together to help each other, I think it can be accomplished. We can get published!

This blog is a work in progress, so bear with me. Input from you will be just as helpful as what I put on the sight.

Hopefully we can share ideas, information and advice.

Spread the word about our blog and come join me in the fun of writing!

Let's get to know each other.

I write mostly children's picture books and middle grade.

What do you write?