By Sharon Giltrow
Writers are often referred to as ‘plotters’ or ‘pantsers’. A ‘plotter’ is someone who plans and outlines their story before they write it. Whereas, a ‘pantser’ is someone who doesn’t plan out anything or very little before they start to write. As a writer I question whether we have to be one or the other. We could be ‘planster’. Someone who has a plan before they start to write but is prepared to follow the story on its journey. Whatever type of writers we are, we all need to embrace our creativity to craft stories. We need to think outside the box, embrace our inner child, see the world in an extraordinary way. Dance to the beat of our own drum. This is exactly what the main character in Dani Vee and Alexandra Colombo’s book MY EXTRAordinary Mum does.
My EXTRAordinary Mum
Written by: Dani Vee
Illustrated by: Alexandra Colombo
Published by: Larrikin House , 1st August 2022
My mum's a little quirky, free-spirited and bold. She dances to the beat of her own drum.
A fun-filled adventure and celebration of an extraordinary mum and her daughter who find magic in unexpected places.
We are all extraordinary, sometimes we just need reminding.
Let’s take a look at two of Dani’s favourite spreads to see how the main character dances to the beat of her own drum and how Dani followed her story on its journey.
D- This spread encapsulates exactly who this mum really is! Quirky, spiritual and willing to try anything if it brings her and her community joy. I came across a drum circle at a market when I was doing re-writes for 'My EXTRAordinary Mum' and I just knew that this is exactly what my mum in this book would love! I joined the drum circle with my kids and it was a powerful experience, not just the music, but working together and being in the moment to create something cool! I love how she forgets social convention, like bedtimes, because togetherness and fun trumps all!
Sh – Here we can see how Dani took an experience from her real life and used it to enrich her story and her character’s story. I’m sure Dani didn’t plan to have a drum circle in her original outline.
D- The idea of family and community being family is really important in this book. Families can be found everywhere! I was aiming for an inclusive outdoor BBQ scene where it shows how much my mum in the book loves the people around her. I think it captures her vibe and makes her a great role model for her daughter! She is one of kind this mum!
Sh- Here the strength of Dani’s story can be seen in her characters especially the mum and daughter. The reader falls in love with the character, her uniqueness and her openness. The mum is a great role model to the reader too.
In these two spreads you can also see the richness and diversity that Alexandra has brought to the story.
Love your work Dani and Alexandra!
Next time you sit down to write your story, evoke the ‘planster’ and dance to the beat of your own drum.
See you in September with another great Aussie book.
Remember to share a laugh, and connect with someone today.
Sharon Giltrow grew up in South Australia, the youngest of eight children, surrounded by pet sheep and fields of barley. She now lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband, two children and a tiny dog. Sharon has taught for all of her career. Previously a teacher of children who are hearing impaired and Deaf-Blind, she now teaches young children with Developmental Language Disorder. Her humorous debut PB, BEDTIME DADDY! released in May 2020 - EK books. Sharon’s humorous follow up PB, GET READY, MAMA! released in April, 2022 - EK Books. Her third and fourth PB, LET’S GO SHOPPING, GRANDMA! And LET’S GO TO THE BEACH, GRANDPA! are due to be released in 2022 and 2023 - Dixi Books. SAMARA RUBIN AND THE UTILITY BELT, book one in Sharon’s early MG series – THE UTILITY BELT, will be released in 2023 - Clear Fork Publishing. With book two TOBY KING AND THE UTILITY BELT to follow.
by Bryan Patrick Avery
It’s been a busy summer and I’ve been on deadline for most of it. One the projects I’m working on is a mystery in verse so I thought I’d use this month’s post to share a few of my favorite mentor texts for verse novelists. Up first, a book from one of my favorite poets, Nikki Grimes.
PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL, by Nikki Grimes, follows Joylin, a middle schooler who loves playing basketball, particularly with Jake, her long-time friend. Without warning, Joylin’s world, and body, start to change, leaving her trying to figure out her place in this new, ever-changing, world. Joylin navigates issues at home, problems at school, and even her first crush.
Who it will help:
Everyone! Nikki Grimes is one of kidlit’s most celebrated poets, and for good reason. Her free-verse poems are excellent on their own but really come alive in the context of the story. Her ability to tell a story three a series of poems, including the richness of emotion, action, and suspense are unmatched.
If you’re interested in a writing a novel in verse using more structured poems, check out THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY by Laura Shovan. Emerson Elementary is scheduled to be close and bulldozed over. Ms. Hill’s fifth-grade class pick up their pens and pencils and make one final stand (through poetry) to try to save their school.
Who it will help:
Anybody looking to tell a story in verse using various poetry forms, including acrostics, fibs, haiku, and limericks. Also, anyone looking to tell a story using multiple points of view. In this book, all the students contribute poems using their favorite formats. If you’re looking for examples of many different types of poetry this is a great place to start.
JAZZ OWLS, by Margarita Engle, tells the story of the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles, California. Young Mexican women gather in jazz clubs to dance with the Navy sailors who’ve come ashore until racism and violence threatens the safety of the once quiet community. JAZZ OWLS is a compelling and honest look at a troubling time in our nation’s history.
Who it will help:
Poets working on novels in verse for older readers. Also, any poet looking for inspiration that will help them develop their own unique voice, create and deliver on a theme for their novel, anyone looking for examples of the most evocative and emotional poetry.
One last resource I’d recommend, even though it’s not exactly a mentor text. My love of poetry began as a small child with the poem Carol of the Brown King by Langston Hughes. After that, I devoured everything Hughes wrote (including the not so kid friendly poems). THE COLLECTED POEMS OF LANGSTON HUGHES collects all of his published work and is an essential resource for any poet.
Well, that’s all for this month. Happy writing and have a magical month.
The pandemic was in full blown lockdown. My fifth and sixth grade students struggled to succeed in our new virtual format. Perched on a chair at my dining room table, I settled in for yet another Zoom session with bewildered faces staring back at me. You guessed it. It was March 2020 and little did I know how much my life’s path would change. Changing from in-person teaching to virtual would be a walk in the park compared to changing from traditional art forms to digital illustration. Along with this transition, I also decided to rummage through some of my old manuscripts and put fingers to keys – ahhh yes! I’m a children’s book writer again. Not so fast!
First, I learned that my passion was a bit ahead of my understanding of the craft of writing for children. After multiple rejections I knew I must learn more about the craft. However, when it came to illustrating, I knew there was much to learn about children’s book illustrations. My training was in fine art and architecture. I attended Parson’s School of Design in Los Angeles back when personal computers, let alone laptops and iPads were rare. I figured it would be too complicated to illustrate in pastel since I usually worked on paper 18X24 and larger. I initially decided I would be an author and not pursue a path as an author-illustrator.
I was active in the children’s writing community on Twitter when I saw a post from Larissa Marantz about one of her drawing classes with OC Art Studios. I applied and received one of her scholarships. Additionally, with extra time on my hands, I decided to break out my pastels and see if I still had skills. I had not completed a pastel drawing in years. Here are a few of my return to pastels drawings.
Once in Larissa’s course I began to realize that many illustrators were using digital tools. I was working with pen, ink, paper, and erasers. Working digitally intrigued me. I had never drawn much of anything digitally. The first thing I did was ask my teenage daughter how to use some digital drawing apps. She just happened to be using Procreate, and that’s where my journey began. I did not know a layer from a mask, or brushes, or any other elements used in digital painting. My first efforts were frustrating. I knew in my mind what I wanted to create, but I could not carry it out digitally. I knew exactly what I would do if I were working traditionally. I knew how I would mix colors and execute certain aspects of my drawing. Do not despair. By and by, my digital illustrations improved. This was in part to Larissa’s courses. But it was also in part through courses with Mira and all the phenomenal co-teachers in Children’s Book Academy. What is even more incredible, is that I found out about CBA from Larissa and received a scholarship to attend a CBA course.
During the course, I continued to work on my digital illustration skills, and I continued to work on my craft of writing for children. I soaked in as much knowledge as I could during those six months from June – December 2020. One of the wonderful culminations of Children’s Book Academy courses is the Golden Tickets one might receive. As it turns out, I did receive multiple Golden Tickets, one of which led to my debut author-illustrated picture book “Old to Joy” with Gnome Road Publishing (2023). Transitioning from traditional to digital meant quite the learning curve, but there are so many courses and videos available to help make that process easier. I continue to take courses and workshops to improve both my writing and digital illustration capabilities. And our children are worth it!
Anita Crawford Clark is a writer and illustrator of fiction and nonfiction books for children. Anita grew up chasing butterflies and fishing crawdads from a nearby creek during scorching Sacramento summers. Her stories and illustrations often reflect those memorable childhood years. Anita earned her BA in Sociology, her MFA in Creative Writing, and MS in Psychology. A veteran K-12 teacher, Anita especially enjoys directing musical theatre productions. The athlete in Anita enjoys shooting hoops. The musician in her enjoys playing the drums, piano and banjo. Anita draws inspiration from her faith, nature, music, history and everyday life. If you visit her during crab season, you might be treated to a bowl of her Louisiana style gumbo - a treasured family recipe.
You can connect with Anita on Twitter (@AnitaLClark), Instagram (@AnitasFavPics) or visit her website at AnitaCrawfordClark.com.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with awesome Aussie debut author and former student Amanda Lieber who will be focusing on Aussie kidlit.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature STEM, STEAM & SEL obsessed author Kourtney LaFavre sharing delightfully dorky, quirky, and fun info.
4th Mondays will be a mystery for right now.
And 5th Mondays we'll be taking a break