At my house, we read Creepy Carrots, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown all the time. Why do my kids enjoy it so much? How do Aaron and Peter succeed in making us laugh and feel a little scared at the same time? What makes me willing to read it over and over? Why do we make references to Creepy Carrots every time we see something orange?
These are the questions we should be asking ourselves as writers every time we read a good book. For me and my kids, reading together teaches us about others and ourselves. As an added bonus, reading picture books also helps us improve our writing!
Carrie Charley Brown had this in mind, when she decided to start a challenge for writers that I’m sure will have a powerful impact on the picture book writing community. I met Carrie in the 12x12 forum two years ago. We became writing partners and fast friends and now she’s running ReFoReMo, Reading for Research Month.
Carrie combined two things that I’m passionate about, reading and learning about writing! I’m signing up for this challenge on February 15th and as a homeschooling Mom, I’m killing two birds with one stone. My kids and I will read a post about picture books that can be used as mentor texts every day of the month of March. Then we will read and analyze 5 picture books a day, simultaneously teaching my children and ME how to write better! What could be better than that?
Carrie was gracious enough to answer a few questions about ReFoReMo for me.
Kirsti Call: What inspired the ReFoReMo challenge?
Carrie Charley Brown: As a writer who has been inspired by challenges such as PiBoIdMo, the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge, and ReviMo, I wanted to give back to the KidLit community by passing on some of that inspiration in another way. Participation as a 2014 CYBILS Awards Fiction Picture Book Panelist, nudged me in the right direction. As picture book writers, it is necessary to read tons of picture books to truly understand the form, the market, and the craft of writing them. While I’ve been reading and studying a wide variety of picture books for over twenty years, first as a primary teacher, and now a picture book writer, I know the market is forever changing. There will always be more picture books to learn from. Why not learn from stellar picture book author-educators? I wanted to share this opportunity with other picture book writers, and ReFoReMo was born.
KC: How has reading picture books helped you with your writing?
CCB: I could ramble on for pages and pages here, so I will just give you a few general examples. When I first get an idea for a picture book, I always want to know what else has already been done with that concept or theme. I check out oodles of books on the same concept and run through a list of questions as I analyze them. What works for these books? What doesn’t? How is my manuscript different in plot, concept, theme, structure, character, and voice?
If I am writing a book from a new point of view, such as second person, I study books that do it well. Or if I want to understand what gives a book the “It Factor,” I read books that I feel exhibit this best.
KC: What do you hope will happen for people who join the challenge?
CCB: My hope is that picture book writers will learn how to use mentor texts while building their reading background. Picture book recommendations from well-respected author-educators in our field will guide our learning. While the ReFoReMo blog posts will be available online and to the general public, registering will allow participants to be eligible for prizes and an optional private Facebook community, as well. Connecting with other picture book writers has been one of the most helpful parts of my writing journey and I hope this will be discovered in ReFoReMo, as well. We welcome you to our community! Registration runs from February 15-March 1. The challenge will take place from March 1-31. For more information, you can sign up for updates here.
Thank you Carrie. I’m off to eat some creepy carrots...um I mean read about them.
Kirsti Call is a homeschooling mom of five. Her debut picture book, The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall, came out last December. Her family band, Calling Out, plays songs written by her children. She contributes to Writer's Rumpus, and Kids are Writers. If you visit her house, you’ll likely find her reading Creepy Carrots. You can find out more about her at www.kirsticall.com.
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