Guest Blog, Picture Books, Writing

GUEST POST: “Henny Penny and Penny Lenny” by Penny Parker Klostermann


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 panic.
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.

Henny Penny with names

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.
Don’t over-lurk!
Be foxy!
And learn from Henny Penny—keep your head in the writing game and you’ll come out ahead in the end ☺

Penny Parker Klostermann-photoPenny 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.


41 thoughts on “GUEST POST: “Henny Penny and Penny Lenny” by Penny Parker Klostermann”

  1. OMG, Penny – I didn’t think you could make it all the way through this post with these characters, but you DID! Brilliant! Your advice is on the money from top to bottom. And it can’t hurt to stay away from the fox’s den, too! 🙂

  2. Outstanding, Penny Lenny! I just loved reading this! And I can’t wait for your book to come out. It’s sure to be a winner!
    Thanks for posting, Laura 🙂

  3. Pure genius, Penny! I could not imagine what you were going to say for Turkey Lurkey, and then you hit on something so perfect for me. Lurking = no writing, it’s so true! I’m a turkey! This is all such sound advice and needs to be shared … so I am going to go do that. FABULOUS analogies and post!

  4. What terrific lessons you taught us from the personality of those characters, Penny! Like Renee, I’m guilty of being the Turkey too. :} Looking forward to reading your book!

  5. Hi Penny (and everybody), Thanks to all for stopping by and I have to say that this week as I both work on a new story and revise another that’s in progress, I’m feeling a strong desire not to be a Goosey Loosey! I just love this fun writerly look through the lens of some old favorite characters. Thanks, Penny for sharing your thoughts with us.

  6. I remember putting on a simple play of this story w/my kindergartners. Great analogies! I, too, like turkey lurkey–I like to spend too much time visiting all the Facebook groups and writing blogs. Must. write! Thanks, Penny! Thanks, Laura, for hosting Penny. I met her via 12×12.

  7. Love the comparison, Penny. I am trying to balance the turkey lurkey in me. I do moderation but honestly, I wish I could cut it out. Congrats on you upcoming book!

  8. Great post, Penny! I agree with what you said about “Ducky Lucky.” Of course, there can be an element of serendipity involved, but I really think we make our own luck through hard work, being aware of the market and industry, connecting with others in the industry, etc.

    And I may have to post a picture of Turkey Lurkey on my board to remind me to get off the Internet and write!

    1. I think you’re right about the serendipity, Carrie. And good idea about posting a picture of Turkey Lurkey! In fact, maybe we should have toy turkeys made that will “gobble-gobble” after a certain amount of Internet time! We could pass them out to all our writer friends 🙂

  9. Penny, I absolutely LOVE this post! I adore great analogies and, like everyone else, am so impressed you related the book to the writing process! 😀 I actually think this is a list worth printing out and keeping handy 😀

    Of all these, the one I’m most guilty of is the major over-consumption of Internet Calories! I knew, before I became more active with social media, that it was going to be a major “time suck”—and it is! I’ve been trying to determine how to do all we’re beat over the head with as far as what we NEED to do as aspiring authors/illustrators, yet still have a life and be able to write. The thing is, I love the info and conversation—the friendships made online, so all of it is addictive in that sense. (That’s why I avoided for YEARS becoming active!) I’m pulling back on all of it so I can get my blogs done and launched, but am actually focusing on submissions before the blogs can be attacked. What’s great is submissions ALways keep me from overdoing the internet 🙂 It’s all about prioritizing, and much like a “gobble gobble,” we should set timers! ANYthing to make us aware of how much time is passing.

    Thank you for this! I’m tweeting the post RIGHT NOW! 😀 And I’m curious about your book! A debut? 😀

    1. Thank you so much, Donna Marie! It is so much about prioritizing! And you know what I do??? I decide I’m going to prioritize and then start searching the Internet to see how others might have prioritized…LOL! It’s really just me using that for an excuse. I have made myself back off of the Internet lately to work on revisions but it is a constant struggle for all of the reasons you mentioned. And those reasons are important-“info and conversation—the friendships made online”. It’s tough to find a balance and I wish you the best as you look for that balance while you submit and work on your blogs.
      Yes, this is my debut book!!!! Big smile 🙂
      And thank you for tweeting!

  10. Fab post! I was eager to see what you’d write for each character. I need to focus more on Henny Penny, and what better way than to learn from Penny Lenny! 🙂

  11. Penny Lenny, your post is silver and gold and all things wonderful for writers to read. It made me smile and giggle. I will remember this as I write. My MAIN problem is the INTERNET. Turkey Lurkey am I. Uh-huh. Will try to do better. Thanks Penny and thanks Laura for having our friend over for a sit-down.

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