Please join me in welcoming guest blogger and picture book author Penny Parker Klostermann. Penny and I met at the Poets’ Garage, an online critique group dedicated to critiquing poetry. I quickly grew to love her excellent metrical ear and her wonderful sense of humor. Her debut book, THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON (Random House), will hit shelves everywhere in Fall 2o15. In the meantime, I know she’s busy writing up a storm and I’m tickled that she has agreed to write a post. Take it away, Henny, I mean Penny!
When Laura asked me to guest post, I decided I wanted to do something with Henny Penny. It seemed packed with good advice:
Don’t follow the crowd.
Don’t believe everything you hear.
Don’t get lured into a fox’s den.
Well maybe not the last one, but the first three were perfect for a blog post.
Another direction I could’ve gone would be to compare this story to what sells in today’s market. I don’t think a fox snapping off the heads of Henny Penny’s friends would fly ☺
But then I started thinking about why I even remembered this story from childhood. The most obvious was because my name is Penny. To be exact, my name is Penny Len. Often I was called Penny Lenny which is so close to Henny Penny ☺ But I loved the other characters names, too. They were so silly and fun to say—Cocky Locky, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, Turkey Lurkey and Foxy Loxy. So, I decided to let the characters lead the way and use their silly names to talk about a few things I have learned related to writing picture books.
Cocky Locky-I shouldn’t be cocky about my writing. I shouldn’t think my first draft is perfection. My first draft isn’t anything more than a first draft. I may feel like it’s a genius story when I write the last word, but really the manuscript is just starting its journey to possible geniusness ☺ On the journey I must be willing to sift through structure and plot. I must be willing to examine each sentence and each word and then revise. I must be willing to listen to my critique partners, which is an essential step in my writing process. They keep me from being cocky. They point out what is working and what is not. I must not get defensive as I read their comments. I must learn from them in order to improve my manuscript. Cockiness will get me nowhere.
Ducky Lucky-Some say that luck is involved in publishing. Maybe it is to a small degree. But I, for one, don’t want to rely on luck. I’d rather take advantage of the resources provided by SCBWI. I’d rather take writing classes and attend conferences. I’d rather follow blogs that talk about all things writing. I’d rather read in my genre and study mentor texts to benefit my writing. I’d rather be writing, writing, writing. Yep! I’d rather rely on hard work than luck.
Goosey Loosey-I need to make sure my text doesn’t run loose. I write picture books, after all. I need to make every word the best word choice. I need to cut text that will be evident in the illustrations. I need to keep a tight rein on my text. As a writer I tend to read picture books with a critical eye. Not in a criticizing way, but in a learning way. I notice when the marriage between text and illustrations works well or seems off kilter. I know I can’t tell my illustrator what to draw, but I think my best bet of ending up with a perfect marriage that will celebrate many anniversaries on shelves is to think through every word as I write my manuscripts. I want to do my best to pave the way for the illustrator to tell their part of the story by keeping my text tight and not loose.
Turkey Lurkey-Writer’s who want to get published can’t just lurk. With the Internet and the abundance of social media, it is very easy to feel a part of the writing world without doing a lick of writing. I can read about writing 24/7 if I choose to. There are plenty of free resources so it’s easy to sit back and lurk instead of spending time with my keyboard. I’m not suggesting that I isolate myself but rather find a healthy balance. I guess it can be likened to eating healthy and counting calories. They say if you really want to know what you’re eating you should keep track of it and make better decisions based on your habits. I know some days I get in WAY too many Internet calories. So I must be aware of this and load my plate with plenty of keyboard time, making sure my portion of lurking isn’t throwing my writing diet askew.
Foxy Loxy- Foxy was hungry. Foxy was foxy. And Foxy was pretty smart, too! He took in the landscape around him and considered it as he made his move to get what he wanted. I want to be somewhat like Foxy. Not that I want to eat a rooster, a duck, a goose, and a turkey . . . but I want to take note of my landscape and consider it as I make my moves and write my manuscripts. I can’t ignore what appeals to editors and publishing houses. I need to watch what is going on in the picture book world. At the same time, I can’t listen to the negative things in my head. If I hear the sky is falling due to rejections or the slowness of the industry, I must focus on my hunger and work smart. I must be foxy!
Henny Penny-It’s her story! She’s the star. So what did she do right? Well, let’s face it . . . she knew how to draw a crowd. When she got hit over the head with a fantastic idea, she went with it. She developed it. Her words were few, but compelling. Repetition and rhythm reigned. The sky is falling! The sky is falling! (I know I’ve felt that way when I’ve been working on a story!) And even though she panicked for a bit, she came out ahead in the end . . . well she came out with a head ☺
And there you have it—the things I halve learned from Henny Penny and her fellow characters as they relate to my writing!
Don’t be cocky!
Don’t count on luck!
Don’t let your text run loose.
And learn from Henny Penny—keep your head in the writing game and you’ll come out ahead in the end ☺
Penny Parker Klostermann writes picture books and poetry for children. Her debut book, THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON, is coming from Random House Children’s, Fall 2015. Penny has been known to hug her favorite picture books and seriously hopes that someday her books will gain huggable status too.