Monday, November 21, 2011

Author Spotlight : Jan Britland and The Rodger Dodger Series- Self Published and Successful

In case some of you may have missed this posted to my blog, let me share with you this author spotlight I posted for the World of Ink Tour. It is a wonderful example of an author who self-published her stories with great success. I would love to know your thoughts on self publishing, since all the authors who post here and hopefully the readers are interested in getting their work published.

The story of Rodger Dodger Dog.

In 1986 I had to drive my children to a new town to start school at their new school. It was a 45 minute drive, which can become boring. On our drive we would pass a beagle type dog chained to a huge Magnolia tree. On some days we would see the chain hanging down from the tree. I think we just assumed the dog was in the house until one day we realized he was up in the tree. From that day on Rodger Dodger Dog as we called him became a favorite. As we passed him every day I would start telling a story about Rodger Dodger's  adventures up the tree and beyond. Because I am so dyslexic the stories had to rhyme so I could remember them from day to day. They also started the same to get me going.

Years passed and we would often talk about Rodger Dodger Dog and recall his stories. One day in 2008,1 received a phone call from my daughter Kelly who had young children of her own. She was complaining her son Dalton brought home a book from pre-school that didn't make sense to him or her. She wanted me to write down the Rodger Dodger Dog stories so she could share them with her children. I of course immediately sat down and started writing. Thank goodness the stories had been in rhyme. I sent the finished copy to my daughter and waited to get the phone call that would tell me how much my grandchildren loved my stories. It never came. When I called her to ask her, she told me she was embarrassed to call me. Her children were so small they really needed to see illustrations to keep their interest. So being the good Gammy that I am I set out to find an illustrator.

Since the stories were called The Adventures of Rodger Dodger Dog, I wanted to have action in my illustrations. I found just what I was looking for on line in the form of Mike Swaim... a wonderful cartoonist. We connected right away, Rodger Dodger Dog was born. When Mike was done with the illustrations I made up a book to re-send to my grandchildren. Needless to say they loved it. They took it to school and the teachers loved it. They shared it with other friends and they loved it. Dalton's teacher told my daughter to tell me to get them published. I of course wasn't too sure. I thought they were cute and I loved the illustrations but publish?? I wasn't convinced. I had 20 stories and it had been so many years since I had been in school I thought I should at least try and re-learn punctuation. I signed up at an Edison college for a workshop through the local writers association. That night I was the only person who showed up for the workshop... It was great. Professor Hoeck sat down with me and went through my stories with me. After we were done he said I should get them published.   I told him it wasn't in my plans, but he told me to do it anyway.

January of 2009,1 am now a member of SCBWI and The Peace River Center for Writers. I have the Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Market in front of me. I research editors, I send out manuscripts to a select few, only to find out when I get my SCBWI updated magazine the editors I have sent to are gone, downsized, no longer in the publishing business. I was shocked. In some cases even their imprints were no longer in print. I showed my husband what was happening and he urged me to self-publish, which is exactly what I did.

Since my decision to self-publish I haven't looked back. I have four books out with six stories in print. I have a Super-sized Rodger Dodger Dog that travels with me to school appearances.   I have three smaller Rodger Dodgers who travel around the world promoting reading. They get shipped to host families who in turn take pictures of him and write in his journal. They post the pictures on his Facebook fan page. Rodger has been across the U.S., to the Great Wall of China and Costa Rica. He will be leaving for Lochlelly Scotland shortly.   Rodger Dodger Dog is the mascot for The Animal Welfare League of Charlotte County, Florida. He has his own theme song and he was invited up to Best Friends Pet Care at Walt Disney World to shoot a YouTube video for them. They actually read his books to their guests!

What is next for Rodger? Because the stories run like movies in my head I have written two screenplays for The Adventures of Rodger Dodger Dog TV Cartoon series. With 20 stories and counting, I can certainly fill at least one season or more.

I of course plan on publishing several more books.

When other writers tell me I have done everything wrong, self-publishing, getting an illustrator, etc. I just smile and tell them I know but it's how I get things done. I would still be sitting here with a box of manuscripts instead of a heart filled with wonderful memories.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Writing Picture Books... Not the Piece of Cake Most Think

Writing picture books is not the piece of cake that some might think. It is more like pinning the tail on the donkey. You may be blinded by the fact that most picture books use fewer words and seem to have simple concepts. Don't be fooled. A picture book takes the same if not more effort to make the reader turn the page.

Picture books must have the same components as a longer story.
  • A character or characters that the reader can relate to and care about
  • A beginning hook and introduction to the problem
  • A middle with up to three tries to solve the problem with obstacles in his path.
  • A believable ending with the solution or acceptance of no solution
  • A problem that the main character must solve causing the conflict in the story
  • A reason the problem is the problem
If that sounds confusing, it might be if you  don't already understand about story arcs and what keeps the reader turning the page. Even small children must be hooked on the story or the illustrations to want to keep looking at a book over and over again.

No matter how simple the book is with the exception of simple concept books that use one word per page to teach a new idea or object, picture books need an interesting beginning. Hook the reader immediately with a clear problem in the first sentence or at least in the first paragraph.

The wind was blowing and howling. Nathan needed to find the red flashlight, now!

The very first sentence gives you several pieces of information. The character's name is Nathan, he is a boy, he has a problem ( the red flashlight is missing) and he needs it now.

Who is he?
What does he need the flashlight for?
Why is it so  important that he needs it now?
The reader should be led to the next question of What will happen if he can't find it?

The wind blowing and howling helps to put your reader in the setting of the story. What does the wind  blowing and howling have to do with the story? Does it add to the tension or the problem for Nathan or should it be deleted?

As you can see, much goes into the picture book from the very first line. Stay tuned for more as we talk about the middle of your picture book.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Welcome to Writing Picture Books - A Group of Critque Partners and Authors

Welcome to our site. We are a group of writers who love to write picture books. We are also part of a closed critique group for picture book authors. Exciting to be sure. And it is safe to say that we love kids, love writing for kids, and love watching kids enjoy a good story while they learn and are entertained along the way.

We will take turns posting interesting information about picture books, how and what makes a picture book great, how to get published in this genre, and any other fun and helpful tidbits of information that we know or are learning. Our goal is to inspire others who write PB and gather new writer friends who may want to learn and write stories for children. And we won't mind a bit if we gather a publisher or agent or two as well.

Each of us here will share a bit about our personal story and why and how we write. Come along and join the fun. You will be sure to find something helpful to use on your writing journey and by commenting we can learn from you. Feel free to leave your blog or website address in your comments so we can link to you and cruise on over and check out your work.

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