Archive for December, 2011

Write a Picture Book by Reading One

December 21, 2011

One of the best picture books of 2011 is Jon Katz’s Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm.  It surprised me to discover that the author writes adult memoirs, short stories and novels and this is his first work for children. 

Why should this surprise me? Just because someone writes for adults doesn’t mean writing for children will be a natural transition.  Contrary to what many assume, it’s not easier to write a picture book.

I’ve heard when a best-selling adult author suddenly writes a picture book and foists it off onto their publishers’ children’s group, the editors there roll their eyes and run scared.  Why? The prospect of a poorly written project they must face.  If the author well-known and rakes in money for their house, the editor may face a “hands off” policy on the project, allowing the book’s quality to suffer.  

No worries here, as Katz’s editor must have hugged and kissed him. Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm is a treasure from first to last page.

Since the author has a daughter, I think:

He’s read picture books out loud to her.  

Why is this important?  Reading picture books aloud helps you to feel the rhythm of the words.  Picture book writing is like poetry.  Read one thousand picture books out loud before you write one. 

What qualities make this book terrific?  

Here’s the first paragraph:

In the morning after mist has cleared from the path, four dogs go out together for their first walk of the day.  They circle and sniff the wet ground carefully, listening and seeing things that only dogs can sense. 

Katz sets the scene visually; the main characters are in action, showing the qualities that set them apart from their readers. There are NO wasted words

We discover who each of the four dogs are, what their jobs are on the farm, and find out their uniqueness.  The text blends together Katz’s amazing photographs which make the reader feel like reaching out and petting Rose, Izzy, Lenore and Frieda right on the page. 

I want to meet these animals. 

At the end of the book, I realize I have. 

I won’t give away the ending.  It’s simple but very satisfying.  Which makes the picture book just right.

Katz has the rhythm and pacing of his picture book down perfectly.   

Want to learn how to write a picture book?   Read Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm aloud to internalize the rhythm and truth.   

If you don’t want to learn how to write one, read it for enjoyment, or read it to a child.  You and the child will be glad you did.

Turn Your Expertise into a Successful Book

December 17, 2011

                                 Sunday, Jan 22           2 – 4 p.m.                  


At the Lafayette Library and Learning Center

 Three successful non-fiction authors will tell you how they turned their specialized knowledge into successful books – and careers.  Find out from these three pros:


  • ·        How to develop a strong non-fiction book proposal
  • ·        Tips on the best ways to share your knowledge
  • ·        Go beyond the book by building your speaking and online platform


All the participating authors are members of the California Writers Club which is co-hosting this presentation.


Nannette Rundle Carroll is the author of The Communication Problem Solver.  She’s been featured in Investors Business Daily’s “10 Secrets to Success” leadership column and has appeared on radio shows and podcasts as a communication expert and trains professionals in communication and management.



Patricia Evans is the author of five books on dealing with verbal abuse and overly controlling people.  As a specialist in interpersonal communication, she has spoken about managing verbal abuse on more than two hundred radio shows, and 20 national television programs, including the Oprah.  She is also a consultant, speaker and trainer. 


Catherine Accardi is the author of three books in Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series, Walnut Creek, San Francisco’s North Beach and Telegraph Hill, and San Francisco Landmarks. Catherine turned her interest and knowledge of local history into award winning books.  Arcadia Publishing has been awarded the prestigious William C. Ralston Award by the San Francisco Historical Society for these popular local history volumes.     

A Writer’s Place is a program of the Friends of the Lafayette Library

http://www.  AWritersPlace .com

Lafayette Library & Learning Center  3941 Mount Diablo Blvd  Lafayette CA  94549 Q  925/ 385- 3380

Author Suspenseful Imagery and Character Depth

December 15, 2011

It is rare to read a suspenseful novel where words and sentences hold imagery, mystery and character depth.   But Ron Hansen creates this power.  When I read Atticus, I knew I had read a literary master.  After loaning this book out, and never receiving it back, I realized someone else felt the same way!  (Yes, I got another copy.  Some books are meant to be owned.)

Contra Costa County is very fortunate to have the Lafayette Library host Sweet Thursdays, and even more fortunate to have Ron Hansen speaking on Thursday, January 5, 2012, at  7:30 p.m.

Author of
A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion,
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,
Mariette in Ecstasy
The Friends of the Lafayette Library welcome Ron Hansen, the critically acclaimed author of over ten books and the Gerard Manley Hopkins Professor at Santa Clara University.
Hansen will discuss his work, his writing process and the themes that pervade his writing–faith, redemption, and love. From his latest novel, A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion, a fictional take on a true-crime story about a woman who convinces her lover to get rid of her husband, to Mariette in Ecstasy, a study of faith  and the unexplainable, Hansen’s books always take on surprising new subjects but thematically, they stay close to the human condition. 
Born in Nebraska, Hansen earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and held a Wallace Stegner Creative Writing Fellowship at Stanford University. 
He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, as well as a nomination for the National Book Award. 

is a program run by The Friends of the Lafayette Library.

The RON HANSEN event will be held at the Lafayette Library.

Lafayette Library
3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd, Lafayette, CA 94549

So You Want To Write a Book

December 10, 2011

So You Want to Write a Book

Four local authors discuss their writing journeys and offer tips for aspiring writers

 Please join us at the Moraga Library as we present a panel of block-buster local authors who will discuss their writing. A Q&A session follows as time permits.  Joining us will be:

 Barbara Bentley (A Dance with the Devil: A True Story of Marriage to a Psychopath).  When life threw her an unexpected curve, Barbara took the experience and turned it into a book to help others understand the crazymaking world of the psychopath.  Her story has been featured on Dateline NBC.

 Jon Cory (A Plague of Scoundrels). Retirement enabled Jon to return to creative writing after a career in business. His debut novel received the 2009 Independent Publishers’ Silver Medal award for popular fiction. 

 Alfred J. Garrotto (The Saint of Florenville: A Love Story)   A native of Santa Monica, CA, Al now lives in Contra Costa County. In addition to his writing career, he serves as a lay minister specializing in adult faith formation in a local Roman Catholic parish.

 Judith Marshall (Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever). The novel won the Jack London Prize awarded by the California Writers Club and has been optioned for the big screen

 If you have any interest in writing and being published this is a “must-attend” event. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012  2:00pm 

Moraga Library 1500 St. Mary’s Road, Moraga, CA 94556  (925) 376-6852

Amazon Buys Marshall Cavendish: Children’s Publisher Morphs into Selling Industry

December 8, 2011

Gulp.  I can’t (puff, puff) keep (puff, puff) up.  I’m running as fast as I can.  The changes in the publishing industry are zooming ahead of me.  I learn Amazon has just bought Marshall Cavendish, a children’s publisher. 

What does this mean for creativity?   In my last post I talked about balance of time.  This time we need to search for balance for creativity. 

Already, the big box stores and Amazon have been successful in making big money-making deals larger and the small independent projects smaller or non-existent. 

Now they’ve gulped a creative source. 

As a person who tries to see the positive in every move, yes, I know this means a new life for books as in e-books for children. 


Another big guy strikes against art. 

Follow the money.

Full Disclosure

December 7, 2011

Since mid November, when I took a trek to a coastal women’s retreat, I haven’t spent a solid day home writing.  This is unusual for me, because my goal is to write all week days  in my home office.  I turn down invitations for coffee, lunch, and “going shopping with girlfriends.”   Weekends are my play time.  

But stuff happens. 

My birthday, appointments, a friend passes away, another friend comes to visit, someone needs help . . . you get the idea.  And Christmas looms so invitations appear that just come once a year.    “Only this time,” I say to myself.


The January deadline appears for two big projects.  

Ah ha.  I did it to myself.   This lack of time.  By saying yes to other obligations and to a fun social life.

We all do it. 

Where is the balance in our lives? 

Between giving to others and to ourselves? Between our household chores and our creative projects?  Between our day jobs and our writing? Between our social selves and our inner lives?  Between the noisy world outside and the life of silence we crave? 

What to do?  Make a list of priorities. 

Mine?  Two, outside of my family and friendsMy writing and helping young writers by way of the California Writers Club, Mt. Diablo Branch’s Young Writers Contest.  If any requests come to me outside of those concerns I will probably say no because I just don’t have the time or energy. 

Next, schedule in your calendar and your daysWhat are you doing, hour by hour?  If you actually don’t know how your day is spent, write down what you are doing, hour by hour.  Took you fifteen minutes to unload the dishwasher?  Write it down.  Took you 30 minutes to sort, load and unload the laundry?  Write it down.  

If you are actually in your office trying to write but NOT writing, what is happening there?  Emailing?  Researching on the Internet?  Shopping?  Cleaning your files?   Keep track and see what you are doing.  Don’t feel too guilty you don’t write the minute you sit down at your computer.  I know someone who has to play computer games for 20 minutes in order to write productively.   Figure out what helps you work best.  Discover what helps you work with the fewest distractions.

I know that at this moment, half of my office is filled with wrapping paper, gifts, and CWC Young Writers Contest stuff.  The other half is my book project.  If I don’t organize my book project half-of-the-room first, I’ll never be able to settle down and write.   It’s how I work best. 

How do you work best?